marriage Posts

Fixer Upper

What do you do when you’re in the right location but you’ve got the wrong design? You’ve got to fix it up! On their wildly popular show, Chip and Joanna Gaines walk us through the process of transforming dilapidated, but potential-rich houses into showcases. This is an apt analogy for those of us who know we’re in the right family (by God’s sovereign design) but stand in need of help. Every family needs to be fixed up.

In Ephesians 5:21-6:4, God’s Word gives us principles to help us see how this happens.

In the end, here’s the radical truth that will change your family:

 To fix your family up, you need power down.  

Throughout this passage we see the word “submit” and the little word “as”, referring to Christ and His submission to the Father and His love for us over and over. Submission to one another in the family is what makes it work. We are to be “as” Christ in our relationships. In order to stay the course, and not bail when a remodel or redesign is necessary, we need exactly what God teaches us in Ephesians 5. A family that has “staying power” is a family that follows these biblical principles. Our culture continues to debate, define, and re-define the family. We’ve been asking the wrong questions: How can my relationships make me happier? How can my spouse fulfill my needs? How can my children make me happy? How can marriage be more fulfilling for me? What’s in it for me? God shows us a very different perspective on the family because:

God’s purpose for the family is not to satisfy us, but to sanctify us.
“Sanctify” is a word that means, to make holy, to set apart, to be made righteous. God’s original blueprint for us is to be created in His image and display His glory in all we do. We busted that plan up early on. Through God’s rescuing grace, we are brought back to His original design, sanctified. The process of sanctification then, is not becoming something I’m not, but becoming who already am in Him. My identity is secured. I am His “beloved”. The family serves as God’s subcontractors to create the environment within which this process takes place. We need families who will stay the course.

Staying Power

1. Stay submissive to Jesus Christ. (5:1-2) All of Ephesians up to this point is about God’s rescuing grace. The Gospel indicatives always lead to the Gospel imperatives. Paul moves to how we respond to God’s one-way love for us in Christ. Paul says, because you’ve been rescued from your sin, now submit to Christ.

2. Stay submissive to one another. (5:21) What does submission to Christ look like in the family? At the beginning of this entire passage on the family, he says we submit to one another out of reference to Christ. What does it mean to submit to another person? It means I will leverage my assets, my strength, my power, and my time for your benefit. This is Gospel reenactment in the family. It’s all I am for all that you need. Do you want to fix up your family? Power down. Submit to others, serve, and help one another. The radical, guiding question in the home becomes: How can I help? How can I serve you?

3. Stay committed to your marriage first. (vv. 22-33) The key to raising happy, healthy children is to give more time and attention to your marriage than you do to your children. Don’t forget that later is longer. You will be married long after your kids are gone and the days you have with your adult children will be long through the years. Stay the course and keep your marriage first in the child-rearing days. Keep dating. Get away. Keep growing.

4. Stay clear about the family structure. (v. 22-25, 6:1-4) Understand the family structure and communicate it clearly to the entire family. If the key to a great family is mutual submission, then is anyone in charge? This is where it becomes counter-intuitive. Jesus is the Head of the Church and He gave His life for everyone in it. He came to serve, not to be served and He ultimately gave His life away. He was Servant Number One. Husbands are to serve their wives and children in the same way. We feel if we give up power we’ll lose everything but Jesus, who is the Head of Church, is precisely so because He gave His power. He gave His life away. To fix up, we need to power down. Here we see that God’s family flow chart shows us that the husband is the head of the wife (practicing mutual submission in their varied roles) and the parents are over their children. The simple role of the children is clear: obey. Instead, in many American families, children have taken over. We’ve put kids in the corner office. They’re driving the family bus and calling the shots.

Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, once observed this about American families: “The thing that impresses me about American families is the way the parents obey their kids.”

Put your kids first and you can be assured that they will become manipulative, demanding, and unappreciative of everything you do for them. You will guarantee that they’ll grow up believing it is unfair to expect them to do anything and it will further guarantee your child’s unhappiness because happiness is only achieved by accepting responsibility for one’s self, not by believing that someone else is responsible for you. See the health of the family as a unit and it all starts with the health of the marriage. The parents are benevolent dictators. We need are more parent-centered families and fewer child-centered families.

5. Stay close to your children. (6:1-4) Being parent-centered doesn’t mean you don’t spend time with your children. You must stay in close to your kids. Know their friends names, the music they like, their favorite shows, clothes, and sports. Stay near to their hearts. Let dinnertime become a time to catch up and find out where their hearts are. Sit down with your child, do homework together, play together, and pray together at bedtime. You must stay in relationship with them. The old adage is so true: Rules without relationship breed rebellion. Remember to keep the end in sight: emancipation. You’re raising them to leave. And in parenting the days are long but the years are short. Keep in the end in sight.

6. Stay centered in God’s family. Make the church your family’s epicenter. Let the church help you raise your kids. Single parents, and parents who may feel you are, you’re not alone. Just as God has been very clear about our families, He’s also been very clear about His own big family, the Church.

“How great is the love of the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

God invites you into His family. There’s no perfect family, but there is a perfect Father. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in a family.” What does this submission to Christ, submission to one another look like in the home? I think it was Andy Stanley who brought this whole idea of submission down to a single question. I’ve discovered it can change everything:

How can I help?

And as you seek to serve others well, don’t forget this: no horizontal relationship in your life will ever satisfy. And as you seek to be sanctified, remember in Christ you have been made righteous already. You’ve been holied.

And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30

Sanctification is not becoming something you’re not, but something you already are. It’s living out the new identity you now have in Christ. Rest in Him. You’re already loved perfectly and have nothing to prove. And because you now have all the love you’ll ever need in Him, you can love others without any need for love in return. I can power down and love like Jesus.

“For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14

 To fix your family up, you need power down.  

 

The Ten Traits of a Healthy Family

The Ten Traits of a Healthy Family

1.  They have an irrational commitment to each member of the family. 

They display an illogical love for one another, spread lavishly and without discretion.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”  1 John 3:1 Driven by 1 John 3:1, stunning amounts of love, kindness, and forgiveness are shared to family member.           

 2.  They communicate with truth and grace. 

Mom and Dad model Ephesians 4:15 How we treat our spouse (and how we extend grace to our family members) will confirm or contradict what we believe about God. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Ephesians 4:15 Create an atmosphere where truth can be discussed, regardless of how difficult it may be to talk about.

 3.  They affirm the value and uniqueness of each member of the family. 

Each person is loved for free and without judgment.  His or her opinions and feelings are always honored. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 Celebrate the uniqueness of each child in our family. “I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”

 4.  They vow never to abuse, shame, control, or intimidate one another. 

“Oh, children are resilient- they bounce back.” No children are fragile and understanding that children are fragile- no emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is tolerated in any way and is immediately confronted.  Consider the power of words. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5 Unkind words are not tolerated- “We do not talk to each other like that in our family.”  Parents: You must model kind words and challenge this early on.

 5.  They share a strong spiritual foundation. 

Parents recognize that a “mild dose” of God will never cultivate a life that has Christ at the very center, guiding every aspect of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  There is no abdication of spiritual formation- no outsourcing to the church. We create spiritual orphans, spiritual schizophrenics. Complete disconnect! What’s your goal parents?  There’s a big difference between a young person who goes to church & one who is truly sold out to God.

 6.  They teach respect for others. 

Racism, arrogant superiority, or disrespect for people who are different is never tolerated. Jesus added to the Shema that we should love each other as we love ourselves: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’.” Matthew 22:39 When you see a child who is different than other kids ask, “What would it feel like to be that kid?” Teach your children to love and honor all people- adopt Martin Luther King Jr.s’ dream for our nation.  Help your children dream of the day when every person- Hispanic, black, Asian, European and all people will know that they are loved with the unprejudiced, unbiased, and unrestrained love of Jesus.

 7.  They instill a sense of responsibility in one another. 

Each member knows that they must take responsibility for their own actions and face the consequences of their poor choices. Self-esteem does not result from simply heaping large amounts of affirmation and praise. It happens when a child learns to be responsible. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”  1 John 1:8-10 Let the consequences do the teaching.  It’s God’s way- and parents too often get in the way of what God wants to do, simply through the consequences of choices made or not made.  Parents: Do NOT rescue your child. This takes courageous parenting- it takes faith- to believe that God will work in your children’s life as He sees fit.  When you let the consequences do the teaching you place that child in the hands of God.

 8.  They play together. 

This is so important. Laughter and fun mark a family that builds strong relationships with one another. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22

 9.  They celebrate rituals and traditions together.

This gives the family a sense of constancy and permanence.  They know that the love and commitment of the family will never change- this year, next year, and the next. “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you?  Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?”  Job 8:8-10

 10.  They seek help when they come to an impasse. 

They understand that all families have issues that may need outside or professional help and they are not afraid to ask for help when needed. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16 God is very clear about the kind of families He wants us to have.  Let us follow His principles and seek to honor Him in our families.

The Power of a Father’s Presence (or Absence)

There are two ways to measure power. One is to see it at work (a weightlifter breaking a world record, a rocket launching into space, an Indy race car speeding down the final stretch). Another way to measure power is to observe it’s absence.  Some studies reveal that 1/3 of all children in the U.S.A. are being raised in a home where there is NO father.

“Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families…those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated- even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant.” (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (Sept. 2004).

Fatherless homes:

75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes- 10 times the average.

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. Of Health/Census)- 5 times the average.

90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes- 32 times the average.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes- 20 times the average (Center for Disease Control).

80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes- 14 times the average (Justice & Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26).

71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes- 9 times the average (National Principals Association Report).

The Father Factor in Education:

Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.

Children with fathers who are involved are:

  • 40% less likely to repeat a grade.
  • 70% less likely to drop out of school.
  • more likely to get A’s in school.
  • more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
  • High School Dropouts. 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?)
  • Educational Attainment. Kids living in single-parent homes or in step-families report lower educational expectations on the part of their parents, less parental monitoring of school work, and less overall social supervision than children from intact families. (N.M. Astore and S. McLanahan, American Sociological Review, No. 56.

Suicide: 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?)

Behavioral Disorders: 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? )

Juvenile Detention Rates: 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?)

Confused Identities: Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press).

Aggression: In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households.” (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, “Household Family Structure and Children’s Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5).

Achievement: Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation).

Delinquency: Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contract, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married. (Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Social Services).

Criminal Activity: The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O’Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College.

A unique Swiss government study (presented in 2000) revealed:

If the mother & father attend church regularly:

33% of their children will end up attending church regularly

25% of their children will end up not attending at all

If mother attends church regularly & the father does not attend church at all:

2% of their children will end up attending church regularly

60% of their children will end up not attending at all

If the father attends church regularly & mother does not attend church at all:

44% of their children will end up attending church regularly

34% of their children will end up not attending at all. (NOTE: higher than if the mother and father both attend!)

Now look at the numbers from the survey released by the Baptist Press:

If the mother is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 17% probability that everyone in the household will follow.

If the father is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 93% probability that everyone in the household will follow!

God has given great power and influence to fathers. Dads, don’t squander it!

 

The Ten Traits of a Healthy Family

1. They have an irrational commitment to each member of the family. They display an illogical love for one another, spread lavishly and without discretion. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1 Driven by 1 John 3:1, stunning amounts of love, kindness, and forgiveness are shared to family member.

2. They communicate with truth and grace. Mom and Dad model Ephesians 4:15 How we treat our spouse (and how we extend grace to our family members) will confirm or contradict what we believe about God.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 Create an atmosphere where truth can be discussed, regardless of how difficult it may be to talk about.

3. They affirm the value and uniqueness of each member of the family. Each person is loved for free and without judgment. His or her opinions and feelings are always honored.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 Celebrate the uniqueness of each child in our family. “I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”

4. They vow never to abuse, shame, control, or intimidate one another. “Oh, children are resilient- they bounce back.” No children are fragile and understanding that children are fragile- no emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is tolerated in any way and is immediately confronted. Consider the power of words.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
Unkind words are not tolerated- “We do not talk to each other like that in our family.” Parents: You must model kind words and challenge this early on.

5. They share a strong spiritual foundation. Parents recognize that a “mild
dose” of God will never cultivate a life that has Christ at the very center, guiding every aspect of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). There is no abdication of spiritual formation- no outsourcing to the church. We create spiritual orphans, spiritual schizophrenics. Complete disconnect! What’s your goal parents? There’s a big difference between a young person who goes to church & one who is truly sold out to God.

6. They teach respect for others. Racism, arrogant superiority, or disrespect
for people who are different is never tolerated. Jesus added to the Shema that we should love each other as we love ourselves:
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’.” Matthew 22:39
When you see a child who is different than other kids ask, “What would it feel like to be that kid?” Teach your children to love and honor all people- adopt Martin Luther King Jr.s’ dream for our nation. Help your children dream of the day when every person- Hispanic, black, Asian, European and all people will know that they are loved with the unprejudiced, unbiased, and unrestrained love of Jesus.

7. They instill a sense of responsibility in one another. Each member knows that they must take responsibility for their own actions and face the consequences of their poor choices. Self-esteem does not result from simply heaping large amounts of affirmation and praise. It happens when a child learns to be responsible.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:8-10
Let the consequences do the teaching. It’s God’s way- and parents too often get in the way of what God wants to do, simply through the consequences of choices made or not made. Parents: Do NOT rescue your child. This takes courageous parenting- it takes faith- to believe that God will work in your children’s life as He sees fit. When you let the consequences do the teaching you place that child in the hands of God.

8. They play together. This is so important. Laughter and fun mark a family that builds strong relationships with one another.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

9. They celebrate rituals and traditions together. This gives the family a sense of constancy and permanence. They know that the love and commitment of the family will never change- this year, next year, and the next…
“Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?” Job 8:8-10

10. They seek help when they come to an impasse. They understand that all families have issues that may need outside or professional help and they are not afraid to ask for help when needed.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

God is very clear about the kind of families He wants us to have. Let us follow His principles and seek to honor Him in our families.

The Triathlon of Manhood

I’ve learned many life lessons from triathlon and the many life parallels of being a man.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” His point here is not so much about competing against others as it is about the how you run this race of life.  He says race to win. The triathlon is an image or parable of a man’s life in many ways. It’s not enough to start the race, you must finish the race strong.  (In fact, they have a term for it when you “DNF”- did not finish- too many men DNF in life).  Many men start strong but very few finish well.  Along the way you’ll suffer many setbacks, you’ll want to give up, you’ll never win every race, you’ll suffer injury along the way.  You’ll need to train hard.  You’ll need to live a disciplined life, and you will definitely need some men to come along side you and train with you.  As individual of a sport it seems to be, you cannot do it alone.

But here’s the KEY learning: The idea behind “the triathlon of manhood” is this: We must focus on three disciplines in order to finish strong.  A man must do well in all three areas of his life in order to succeed as a man.

The Triathlon of Manhood

1. His spiritual life

2. His relational life

3. His vocational life

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthian 16:13-14 The NASB says it this way: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.  This passage has four imperative commands that tell us how to run and win this race.

Winning the Race

1.  Be on guard. Watch out! Be alert!  Many men are not aware of the schemes of the evil one.  You need know the Word of God, study it, and apply it!  Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Listen: there are moral conditions for spiritual insight.  If you want an ever-expanding and clearer view of God, you must keep your heart pure.  Wake up! Do not give into sin.  .

2.  Stand firm in your faith. Hold tight to your convictions. Real men are unmoveable in their convictions.  Guard your heart, be alert regarding what goes in to your mind, what you see.

3.  Be the man. Be courageous.  The one defining mark of a real man is courage. Real men humbly listen to the audience of One.

4.  Don’t stop loving. Everything you do must be done in love.  We struggle in our culture to combine the rough, adventurous, masculine, barbarian spirit of men with a loving, kind, and tender heart (that’s a tough thing) but it is a potent combination in the hands of God.

The ultimate ironman: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate man and He has finished the race for us.  He becomes, at the same time, our goal and the means (the power) to finish the race strong.  Men, commit to the triathlon of life and you will finish strong!