Fathers and Exasperation

Colossians, Family, Thoughts
The final verse in our short passage from last time reads, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart" (Col 3:21).  The parallel passage in Ephesians 6 exhorts fathers, "Do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). It is a sad observation that the role of fathers exasperating our children is an easy one to fall into.  I have been there myself.  It is also a sad fact of fatherhood that many of us dads park on the discipline and control part of parenting while we seem to overlook the "don't exasperate your kids or provoke them to anger."  How do we exasperate our children? We exasperate our kids when...we punish for childish irresponsibility.  James…
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At Home with a Life of Love

Colossians, Family, Love is ..., Thoughts
Continuing our Colossians chapter 3 theme of a life of love, we come now to what love looks like in family relationships.  "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.  Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperated your children, that they may not lose heart" (Col 3:18-21). These instructions are not a random list of one-off ideas assigned to four groups of people.  They are designed to work together, to work in unison to provide balance in a healthy family.  For example, a focus on "wives be subject to..." without the balance of "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church"…
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Are You a New Testament Family?

Family, Thoughts
Our last post about the lessons learned in the story of the lost son rekindled a spark that has been brewing in my brain for quite some time.  One of the major disappointments I face in family ministry is the number of "Old Testament" families I encounter in the church; families that are not experiencing the beautiful unfairness of grace that we wrote about last time.  What do I mean by an "Old Testament" family? It is a mindset that lifts up the principles of the Old Testament as the norm for living the Christian life today.  It likes the formula and predictability of the Old Testament rules.  "Don't do A, or B will happen to you.  Don't do C or you will be punished.  Don't do D or you will…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Lost Son

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Remember the context of Jesus’ first coming?  His contemporaries viewed the coming kingdom as a national deliverance from foreign oppression and personal deliverance for the righteous.  Jesus turned that idea on its head and proclaimed deliverance for the needy; the sick, the oppressed, the sinner.  The Jewish leaders expected judgment for the sinners, not redemption.  When Jesus ate with those considered “sinners,” it meant acceptance and recognition in their culture.  This coupled with His announcement that the kingdom had come to sinners led to many a protest from the religious leaders. One of these protests is found in Luke chapter 15, “Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Unmerciful Servant

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
In the gospels, Jesus referred to His ministry as "new wine" (Mk 2:22); not just an add-on to the old covenant, but something totally brand new.  In fact, I would say it is beyond brand new to the point of being completely revolutionary.  And one of its revolutions was the overturning of the Old Testament consequence model in favor of God's new covenant model of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Remember, the disciples would have been steeped in the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye model prior to meeting Jesus.  So Peter was actually being quite generous in Matthew 18:21 when he asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother up to seven times.  But Jesus trumped Peter's attempt at generosity by teaching that our forgiveness should be unlimited and illustrates this point with a story.…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Good Samaritan

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus is responding to a question from a lawyer, "who wishing to justify himself", asked, "Who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29).  Jesus answered the question with a parable. A man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he was attacked by thieves and left for dead on the side of the road.  When a priest, travelling the same route, came upon the man, he crossed over to the other side and continued on his journey.  Next a Levite saw the injured man and also passed by on the other side.  Finally a Samaritan - despised by the religious elite who ignored the man - came upon the casualty and, moved with compassion, stopped to tend to his plight.  He bandaged the man's…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Automatic Kingdom

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"And Jesus was saying, 'The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know.  The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come' " (Mk 4:26-29). Lest we become discouraged by the two kingdoms - the wheat and the weeds of our last parable - growing together, Jesus gives us a message of hope in the parable of the automatic kingdom.  And the message of hope is that the good kingdom will not be choked…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Wheat and the Weeds

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the story of the wheat and the weeds (Mt 13:24-30) begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  What is coming next is a word picture describing some aspect of the kingdom of God.  In this parable, the farmer planted wheat ("the good seed") in his field.  At night, his enemy came and sowed weeds.  At first no one realized the sabotage.  But as the wheat and the weeds began to grow together, it was obvious something was wrong.  The confused workers quizzed the farmer, “Did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?” (Mt 13:27).  The farmer recognizes this as the work of an enemy.  The workers respond with a willingness to immediately yank out the weeds.  But…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Humble Servant

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Parenting is the ultimate and varied balancing act.  Balancing love and control.  Balancing grace and truth.  Balancing positive self-esteem and humility.  Balancing giving an allowance and children earning their money.  The list can be as general or specific as we choose.  Today, we are balancing generosity with duty. "Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'?  But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Workers in the Vineyard

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
Today's parable found in Matthew 20:1-16 starts with, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out to hire laborers..."  Let me summarize the story. A landowner has a lot of work that needs done in his vineyard.  Most likely, he needs workers to gather the harvest.  He goes out at six in the morning to the place where the day laborers congregate.  He hires a group of them and agrees to pay them one denarius, the going daily wage, for a day's work in his vineyard. The landowner goes back to the gathering place at three-hour intervals; i.e. at 9 am, noon, and 3 pm.  Notice the agreement he makes with the later workers, "You go to the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give to…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Persistent Widow

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"Now Jesus was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, "Give me legal protection from my opponent."  For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out." '  And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; likewise, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him…
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Parenting with the Parables – The Two Sons

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
"Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, 'What do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, "Son, go work today in the vineyard."  And the son answered, "I will not"; but afterward regretted it and went.  The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, "I will, sir"; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?'  They said, 'The first.'  Jesus said to them, 'Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him;…
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Parenting with the Parables – Introduction

Family, The Parables, Thoughts
As parents, we have a mandate to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord.  "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4).  The backbone for accomplishing this training program is through the pages of Scripture.  And one of the themes that Rhonda and I found particularly appealing in teaching our children were the parables of Jesus. When Jesus was here in the flesh, He primarily taught His followers in three ways: through direct instruction (the Sermon on the Mount), by His example (washing His disciples feet), and by storytelling (the parables).  Each of these methods has an appropriate time and place in how we teach our children. In this upcoming series of posts, we will focus on…
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“Holiness Befits Thy House”

Family, Thoughts
“Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore” (Psalm 93:5).  God’s dwelling place is adorned or decorated with holiness.  It has the aura of holiness.  It has the look and feel of holiness.  It has the taste and smell of holiness.  It is literally filled up with holiness.  Holiness befits God’s house.  Does holiness adorn your house? God has placed us here as a family to be salt and light.  If we “bubble wrap” ourselves and our kids, we are making a mistake.  Jesus was called “friend of sinners”.  He didn't get that title by withdrawing in isolation.  At the same time, I think it is safe to say that Christ was not influenced by the sin He encountered.  While there is danger in being legalistic, of imposing our gray area views on…
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Authority and Friendship

Family, Thoughts
Grace based parenting is about finding the balance between love and control, celebration and responsibility, relationship and instruction, truth and grace.  It is about developing a well-rounded relationship with your children as both their authority figure and their friend.  It strikes a balance between well-meaning, but old covenant, advice that emphasizes your authority role at the expense of any friendship expectation and the experience of parents who error in the other direction.  These parents, desiring a friendship relationship with their children, have abdicated their authority and, not wanting to rock the boat, have lowered the standards at home driven by the desire to fit in better with the world. God has given us a beautiful picture of an authority and friend relationship in none other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus…
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New Identity Parenting

Family, Thoughts
When we have been captured by the message of our supernatural identity in Christ, it will have a dramatic effect on our parenting.  What we bring to the parenting equation in our natural man is a volatile mixture of sin (a self focus), nurture (possible negative influences in how we were raised), and nature (our personalities, natural bent, etc).  These influences generally steer us toward extremes of legalism or license in our parenting.  Extremes of discipline or permissiveness.  When the gospel of Jesus Christ comes into our lives, rather than adding something good to our volatile combination, Christ redeems the mixture and creates something brand new. What this something new looks like in your family is called grace.  It is grace based living.  It is grace based parenting.  Parenting with…
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Being There

Family, Thoughts
You have probably heard it said, "You can accomplish a lot in life by just showing up."  Now this isn't an excuse for mediocrity once you arrive, but it does contain an element of truth.  Especially when it comes to parenting. The number one rule for creating the home that you have always wanted is "being there."  It starts right here and is just that simple.  When that first bundle of joy arrived, you couldn't think of ever not being there.  But life changes.  A temporary busy stretch at work becomes semi-permanent.  Your child's strong will, a natural bent he was born with, feels like a reflection of your parenting quality and you lose confidence.  Selfish ambition begins to compete with your at home responsibilities.  Soon your lofty parenting goals…
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The Happy Dinosaur

Analogies, Family, Thoughts
Several years ago, while attending the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Annual Meeting, I had an opportunity to catch up with an old friend I had worked with in Alaska.  We hadn't made a connection in quite some time, but Dean is the kind of friend you can easily pick up the conversation with no matter how long it's been between visits.  This salt-of-the-earth fellow shocked me when he announced that he was divorced and remarried since we talked last.  As we compared notes about other co-workers from our Alaska days, Dean observed, "I think you are the only one who is still married to his first wife.  How does it feel to be a dinosaur?"  I wasn't sure what to say.  I didn't want to make light of his situation…
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Destroying Walls

Family, Thoughts
The sequence in the following paragraph is meant to be read slowly.  Think about each step and ask yourself, "Has this been my experience?  Have I contributed to taking our marriage in this direction?" Poor communication in marriage leads to a downward spiral of misunderstanding (hurts or offenses left unsettled), which lead to assumptions (private thoughts that are repeated in our minds), which leads to walls (practice in keeping each other at a distance in those tough subjects), which leads to quietness (no longer a desire to find joy in each other's company), which leads to emotional separation ("I don't really need you after all"). How do we break this chain?  By going through the hard conversations that improve our understanding of each other.  Only then will we arrive at the beautiful place…
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“That’s Not What I Heard”

Family, Thoughts
"Good communication only happens when the listener understands the words of the speaker as the speaker intended them to be understood."  I mentioned last post that my number one goal in communication as a couple is understanding my wife, not proving my point.  Assumptions and having a predisposed opinion of what our spouse is thinking or going to say is a destroyer of good communication.  Sometimes we need to dig for the speaker's intended meaning. Let me tap into an illustration from our short story, The Artist and the Minstrel (also available in Amazon's Kindle store for your smart phone or reading device), to highlight the need to understand as the speaker intended. "It’s Friday evening.  Rhonda and I agree that we should spend our Saturday working on the landscaping.  The…
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Talk It Up

Family, Thoughts
Good communication fills the emotional bank account of those closest to us.  Just as we were created for community, we were also created for communication.  Only through good communication can we hope to "know and be known." Good communication in marriage was a slow learning curve for me.  Early in our marriage my goal in communication with Rhonda was to prove my point.  Only as I began to live into the "love trumps knowledge" message of I Corinthians chapter 13 did I reorient my thinking.  Now my number one goal in communication as a couple is to understand my wife, not prove my opinion.  This change has brought a new sense of freedom to our marriage. I am set free from the need to win, the need to have the…
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Psychology and Natural Revelation

Family, Thoughts
There are two broad ways that God has revealed information about Himself and the world He has created and the inhabitants of the world He has created.  The first, His special revelation, is His words and Word.  "All Scripture is God-breathed..." (II Tim 3:16).  It couldn't be more clear;  God has spoken to us through the Bible.  Scripture is literally "God-breathed" to the point that we believe it is the words of God Himself recorded by His servants.  In a specific Word, God sent Jesus, His Son.  "And the Word [which existed with God from the beginning (Jn 1:1)] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).  The life of Christ…
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Reading the Bible Together

Family, Thoughts
Early in our child training years, we started a habit of regular Bible reading and teaching with our children.  Was it an easy routine to keep?  No.  The routine of teaching children is never convenient, but nothing worth having is.  We had plenty of stops and starts and many opportunities to just chuck the whole thing.  I don't know which was the greater accomplishment:  The facts we taught our kids or the lesson to never give up as we kept coming back to the plan of reading and praying together. One of the practical consequences of a regular Bible reading habit as a family was that the Scriptures became our greatest ally in training our children.  Because we went to God as the "last word" in our actions and attitudes,…
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Family Team in Training

Family, Thoughts
Similar to a sports team, one of the most important aspects in developing our family team is to formulate a training program for the participants.  A power packed verse in the New Testament regarding our family training program is Ephesians chapter 6, verse 4.  Understanding the key Greek words that underlie this verse adds great depth to its meaning.  The English version (NASB) reads like this with the Greek counterpart to the bold words shown in parentheses. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up (έκτρέφετε) in the discipline (παιδεία) and instruction (νουθεσία) of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4. EKTREPHO translated "bring up" means "to nourish or feed" PAIDEIA translated "discipline" means "training that regulates character" NOUTHESIA translated "instruction" means "putting in the mind" So an expanded or amplified…
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Building a Cathedral

Analogies, Family, Thoughts
A group of tourists went to visit a marble quarry in western Vermont.  As their tour progressed around the quarry, one of the visitors called out to a jack hammer-wielding worker below, "What are you doing down there?"  The worker snarled back, "I'm cutting this stupid rock into a square!"  Seeing another worker who appeared to be doing the same thing, the visitor called out to him, "What are you doing?"  The second worker, obviously happy in his work, called back, "I'm on a team building a cathedral!" When we view family life through the eyes of the first worker, we are just a group of people living under the same roof.  Your contribution to the effort may go unnoticed in the busyness of day to day activities.  Conversely, you may…
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Living the Message

Family, Thoughts
Yesterday we saw our daughter and son-in-law, Annie and Matthew Dorin, and their girls, Danielle and Lily off at the airport in Houston.  With their stack of boxes, footlockers, and suitcases, you would have thought they were moving overseas; and they were!  Yes, they are off to France for language school in the village of Chambéry on their way to a permanent assignment in West Africa with the mission agency of Wycliffe Associates. It was sad to see them go.  Rhonda and I were getting spoiled with trips to the Houston rodeo, the museum, and the park with the Dorin clan.  And sharing breakfast with those precious girls.  But I have to honestly say there was something almost palpable in the air that lessened the pain of their departure.  Annie and Matthew have heard the…
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Developing Your Family Identity

Family, Thoughts
When I was a kid growing up in a small Indiana town, my father would send me to the local market to buy a loaf of bread.  Sometimes I would pass an old man sitting on a city bench with my dollar bill flapping in the wind.  If he were to ask me "where are you going with that money?" I would have had a ready answer.  "I am going to the store to buy a loaf of bread for my father."  I knew exactly what I was doing with the money because I knew exactly what my mission was.  In the same way, we should be just as clear in our answer when someone asks, "What are you doing with these children that God, the Father, has given you?" When…
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The Christian Family

Family, Thoughts
The balance of truth and grace in a family setting is the theme of  The Christian Family, a highly-recommended book by Larry Christenson.  I especially like the process that brought Larry and his wife, Nordis, to the principles explained in the book. The Christensons were part of a small group of families who in 1963, as parents of young children, came to the realization that standard approaches to family life (at that time centered around a mixture of Dr. Spock, pop psychology, intuition, Sunday School, expediency, Ann Landers, and the-way-I-was-raised) led to a result that was "ten parts frustration to one part satisfaction."  Let Larry himself pick up the story of what happened next from the preface of his book. "So we took a very simple, and, as it turned out,…
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The New Identity Family

Family, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
We now want to explore what the new identity looks like in a family setting.  Remember, our new inclination at its deepest level is to practice our moral resemblance to Christ; to imitate the author of our everything new.  “And the Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).  We want to imitate the "grace and truth" of Jesus Christ in our family life. What does imitating Christ in truth look like in a family?  It starts with a family life built on the truth of God’s Word.  The most succinct explanation of God’s plan for your family is found in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 and Colossians…
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