Friday, August 18, 2006

[Leading The Way] Returning to Patriarchy

My friend Danny wants to know: "Is it possible to "turn" a passive father into an active leader?"

I say, Yes, in the same way a wife "turns" her husband into an active leader… Leaders need followers—submissive followers—those who line up on the same team by choice.

But, where the difference comes in is… whereas a wife has a duty and obligation to submit to her own husband, a grown man does not have that same duty and obligation to his father.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. —Gen. 2:24
We are nonetheless to honor our father and mother our entire lives that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:2-3; cf. Ex. 20:12) So you "turn" your father into a leader by honoring him, seeking his advice as one who is wise. He's lived longer than you have… he's made some mistakes from which he has learned valuable lessons; ask him about them—not in such a way that he'll feel ridiculed, but as a request from a son who wants to learn from the wisdom of his father.

Psalm 78 is a call for men to speak to their children and grandchildren (and through them, their great- and great-great-grandchildren—that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children [v.6]) about the things of God, what He has taught them, what He has done. If your father doesn't acknowledge God's hand in his life, perhaps you can help your children see it… and through them, help your father see it. But, even if your father doesn't acknowledge God, you are building a "story" of God's faithfulness to tell to your children and grandchildren, that you may be the faithful patriarch you are called to be.

To honor means to "place a high value on" something. If you place a high value on your father's wisdom and experience, you are doing what God commands. Follow the example of 1 Peter 3:1-2:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
It's not a long walk to apply the same principle to honoring parents:

Sons and daughters, likewise, be honoring to your own mothers and fathers, that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their children, when they observe your humility accompanied by fear.
As I often tell my children, it is "not your concern" how someone responds to your actions… if your actions are obedient and righteous. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). The same applies to your efforts to love your wife, train up your children, love the brethren… and honor your parents. As much as depends on you means reading only the exhortations to you:
• "Honor your father and your mother…,"
• "Husbands, love your wives…,"
• "Fathers, do not provoke your children…,"
• "Love the Lord your God…,"
• "Impress them on your children…,"
• "I will open my mouth… I will utter dark sayings of old… [and] will not hide them from their children…"
…and not those that pertain to how others should treat you. Focus on your responsibilities and leave the rest to God.

Remember that God gave you your father. And He commands you to honor him. It's YOU He's after!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 8/18/2006 06:38:00 AM

Friday, August 11, 2006

[Leading The Way] The Family Meal Table is "Pure Nostalgia?"

The kids won't behave. We work late. We sold our dining room table. Who wants to cook these days?

And the kids don't want to eat with mom and dad anyway.

Those are just a few of the reasons parents are showing a declining interest in dining with their children.

--John A. Blankenship, Point Blank, The Register-Herald
Blankenship goes on to lament that the afternoon family meal went out "with black-and-white television." One poor misguided mom admits, "It's too much bother to cook a meal nowadays. It's much easier to hit the drive-thru on the way home than it is to plan an entire meal and cook it. There just isn't enough time."

Praise God that He is restoring the family, turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, so that Mr. Blankenship's assessment that "the happy family meal is pure nostalgia" happily misses the mark.

There are many flaws to the arguments for "why" Blankenship believes it to be nostalgia... and even larger gaps in his interviewee selection skills. (Sorry, John, but a couple of colleagues and teenagers hanging out at the mall do not a random sample make.)

For example, he's got it all figured out why families don't eat dinner together anymore. "Reason: Too many parents work. It takes two incomes just to keep up with the mortgage payments." Question: Which came first: the mortgage, or a family economy with both parents working?

And he's a bit quick to sign the family meal table's death certificate. "The American family meal—by which most people mean the evening meal—has been dead for so long that chances for reviving it seem remote at best." Ken and Devon Carpenter, Colin and Nancy Campbell and Doug and Beall Phillips would beg to differ. In fact, their family meal tables are not only continuing to thrive, but are breathing life into dining rooms across the country with their godly example and heritage.

I pray Mr. Blankenship's colleague (at the Register-Herald?) will pick up a copy of "The Family Meal Table" and that she and her husband will reclaim their family; redeeming the evening meal, shaking off past defeat, and raise up a godly generation that will be "the family of [her] dreams."

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 8/11/2006 02:51:00 PM

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

[Leading The Way] Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Today, I was reading Oswald Chambers' daily devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest," and it gives a picture not only of how to actually apply his collection's title, but also how I am to be toward my children.

Chambers instructs us not to see Jesus primarily as Teacher because what He teaches is unattainable. If we look at Him as only "fixing" our ignorance by downloading the way we should act, and then go try to do it in our own strength, we will fail. We must realize that the teaching is intended to lead us to despair of our own ability to perform it. Our sin-rent bodies are incapable of pleasing God, even if we know how to. When we try to do it on our own, we will inevitably break on some obstacle. Then, we may come to Him as paupers, empty-handed, and receive strength and ability to perform what He teaches. As Chambers says:

But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.

This is what Jesus rebukes about in Matthew 23:4. He comes to us and reverses the hypocritical attitude of "do as I say, not as I do" and tells us, when it comes to to obeying the scribe and Pharisees (those who "sit in Moses' seat") we should only do as they say and not as as they do. What they "do" is nothing to help.

My pastor has hermeneutical principle (rule for interpreting Scripture) that he names after himself and encourages people to use when reading the Bible. It goes like this: "When you see someone doing something really stupid in the Bible, do not think, 'How could they be so stupid?' Rather, ask yourself the question, 'How am I this stupid?'"

Here is where we should use that principle as fathers.

Jesus told the multitude and his disciples not to act like the scribes and Pharisees. "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." When training our children, we must not pile burden after burden on them, instructing them to godliness, but doing nothing to help them achieve it. We paint a very ugly picture of our Father in heaven, when we simply download Scripture, precept-upon-precept, "heavy burdens, hard to bear," into our children's heads, admonishing them without nurturing (training) them (Eph. 6:4).

We must not act that way toward them. When we give them instructions, we must also help them do it. This is what training is; showing how to do it. And not in the classic medical way: "watch one, do one, teach one." We need to continue to help until they have so accomplished the task that they begin helping us. That's when we know they don't need our help to accomplish it anymore.

Oh, and by the way, we can't even do that. Again, Jesus is the only Source that can work in us to accomplish this task. And not only do we need to draw from that Source when training our children, but must also point to that Source so they'll know from whence comes our strength.

Only when we trust in Christ alone to help our children trust in Christ alone have we actually trained them to come to Him poor in spirit and give their utmost for His highest!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 7/21/2006 06:54:00 AM