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Family Christmas Letter 2009

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2009 will mark the eleventh Christmas our family has been living in Kingsport. Composing this letter makes me realize that Gail & I have now spent half of our married lives here and seen our children grow up in this house. Speaking of children…

Andrew celebrated sixteen in a big way, getting his driver’s license and his Dad’s Honda Accord. (It was so weird seeing him drive the kids to school for the first time.) He completed a leadership training experience at Doe River Gorge this summer and really loved it. He played varsity soccer for the first time this year as well. We are starting to look to see where God will guide him for the right college and the right major for his gifts.

 Lily at thirteen continues to blossom like a flower, more beautiful with each passing year. She continues to do good work at school, and is becoming a gifted volleyball player. She continues to enjoy photography and hanging with her friends. She has had a lot of fun with her friends doing Cotillion this Fall.
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Michael at eleven is as infectiously joyful as this photo shows! He continues to develop his academic, social, musical, and sports gifts. He loves learning, loves soccer, and loves being with people. He is fascinated with everything and is always asking questions and trying to figure things out.
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Gail continues to relish her role as Mom, and I have been very grateful for the multiple opportunities that God has given me this year to minister as a husband, father, friend, physician & writer.

God has indeed blessed all of our family this year, and I am truly thankful. But I am also keenly aware that the foundation of my joy & my hope should not be in the blessings of family, friends, health, or even ministry. My one and only hope should be firmly fixed on nothing less than what happened in a stable two thousand years ago. Romans 15:12 reminds us that “The root of Jesse (Jesus) will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in Him will the Gentiles hope.” May the reality of Christ fill your hearts with hope & joy this Christmas season.

Book Review: ApParent Privilege

If you haven’t heard the news, the youth of the church are not becoming the men & women of the church.  Multiple studies show that most teens who are active in church lose their faith within a few years of leaving home.  It’s not the “bad” kids, but the “good” ones, the ones leading worship and going on mission trips, yours & mine, that graduate from church as they graduate from high school & college.

What’s the problem, and how do we fix it, for our own children & all those in the church?

That’s the question that many leaders & parents are wrestling with in the church today.  A few years ago youth pastors and parents Steve Wright & Chris Graves wrote  ReThink, a book that sent shock waves through the evangelical community.  In ReThink they persuasively argued that business-as-usual youth ministry was not the answer to the failure of the church to see the youth of the church through to maturity.  Now, their in new book ApParent Privilege they say that business-as-usual parenting is not the answer either.

The book starts out with the testimony of a father:

We truly believed that if we could find a good youth program and keep our children active, then they would continue to serve Christ… our two adult children now in their thirties are no longer walking with Christ… I wish that someone would have told us that the responsibility of discipling our children was ours, not a pastor’s.  I wish we would have known.

That, in a nutshell, is this book: your church, your youth program, your children’s Sunday School teachers or youth ministers have neither the ability nor the responsibility to grow & mature your children’s faith.  Only you do.

But how?  That is what the book deals with, giving both a theological foundation and lots of practical advice.  He starts by laying out that, despite appearances, most teens really do listen to their parents and desire a mentoring relationship with them.  He then moves on to a Biblical theology & foundation of parenting, and what should make Christian parenting unique and distinctive from what is commonly practiced in our culture.  There are also practical chapters on how the church can help parents, specific tasks and tools for parenting, the role of fathers, and encouragement for parents dealing with a prodigal.

ApParent Privilege is well-written, thought-provoking, and practical.  Every parent and church leader will gain both healthy perspective & sound advice by reading it.

What Will Your Grandchildren Say They Learned From You?

I read today a list of five things a grandson states he has learned from his 90 year old grandfather.  He penned this short list with obvious admiration and sincerity.  Here is what he wrote:

1) Humility: He (his grandfather) has always been keenly aware that God is God, and he is not. He has always been conscious of his smallness and God’s bigness, his imperfection and God’s perfection.

2) A love for the Gospel: He has always had a deep sense of his own sin, which has led him to a deep love for his Savior. He has always exemplified the sweet reality that you can never know Christ as a Great Savior until you first know yourself to be a great sinner. God’s amazing grace still amazes him — and that amazes me!

3) Faithfulness: Although he has had the opportunity to do many things, he has never wavered concerning God’s call on his life to be an evangelist. He knows he’s not a scholar or a theologian; he’s never tried to be. He has always remained true to God’s calling.

4) Never show favoritism: I have been with him in numerous places with numerous people, and I have never, ever seen him show favoritism. He treats all people the same, whether they are rich or poor, weak or powerful, socially significant or socially insignificant.

5) Be real: He is normal! He gets mad; he gets sad; he’s fun to be around. His favorite restaurant is Morrison’s Cafeteria. His favorite movie is “Crocodile Dundee.” His favorite drink is orange juice, and he loves catfish. He’s just another man with all of the limitations and idiosyncrasies that the rest of us have — and I love him for it!

When I read over this list, I thought, “When I am 90 years old, what will my grandchildren say they learned from my life?  What is my life teaching those closest to me?”

Think about it: what five things do you want your grandchildren to say they learned from you and your life?   What do you think those closest to you would say they are learning from your life today? Why not make a list of five things you want to pass on, and then make a list of five things that need to change in your life so that you can have that heritage for your grandchildren and all those in your life.

By the way, that list was written by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (I found it here).

You might know his grandfather, who turns 90 this week—  Billy Graham.

Family Driven Faith

Multiple studies have shown that over 80% of all teens that are active in evangelical American churches have completely abandoned Christianity by their 2nd year of college.

What’s the problem?  How do we solve it?

Voddie Baucham has a simple and Bible-based answer:

Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish.

What does he mean by that statement?  At one time Christian worship, teaching, & ministry was primarily a function of the family.  It was considered normal for families to sing hymns together daily, for the father to systematically teach the Bible daily, to pray daily, for the family to look for ways to minister and reach out to others.  The family as a unit was the cornerstone, the basic building block of Christ’s Kingdom here on earth.

Today, however, it is far different.  The center of most children’s religious interaction, worship and learning is the church, from nursery to teen youth group.  Although well intentioned, it is a poor substitute for family driven faith.

This book is a well-written introduction to the concept of family driven faith.  It has chapters on the importance of the marriage bond, family worship, family teaching and education, and what a family centered, family integrated church can look like compared to the ordinary evangelical church of today.  Voddie is passionate but humble, vocal but not argumentative about his vision for families and for churches.  If you have children, this book is must reading if you desire to see your children (and your grandchildren) walking faithfully with God all their lives.

 

More information about this book from Amazon.com can be found here.

A Home of Love

home family love

Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love. Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving, egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves. Outsiders should enter our homes and never want to leave. Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love. The brokenhearted should long to be near us. The downtrodden and the abused should seek us out. Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, “Why can’t our home be like that?” Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, p.52

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

It’s easy to quote a verse like John 13:34-35 and feel nice and warm inside and think, “Yes, isn’t it wonderful how we love each other in Christ?” Warm fuzzy sentiments abound. But get someone to lay down what a Christian home ACTUALLY OUGHT TO LOOK LIKE, and suddenly you can hear a pin drop in the room. When I read the above quote by Voddie Baucham for the first time I was blown away. “Lord, that’s what you want?? That’s the way it’s supposed to be?” As I thought and prayed about having a truly Christian home, one truly “rife with the aroma of love,” I realized that:

You can’t fake it. You might be able to look like “the perfect family” sitting in church or pull it together for a Christmas party, but when you invite people into your everyday life, you can’t fake a home of love.

You can’t legislate it. Pass all the rules you want: “Timmy, you will not speak mean to your sister!” “Suzie, you will not flush your brother’s baseball cards down the toliet!” Family rules, written or unwritten, can help establish a sense of purpose and serve as “guardrails,” but they can’t turn a home of chaos into a home of love.

It’s not spontaneous. “Spontaneous combustion” is when a material will catch on fire without anything being done to it. Well, if all it took to produce a house of love was to put Christians into it and then sit back and watch, we’d be on easy street. But it’s not spontaneous, and it’s not automatic.

It’s not instantaneous. If I go home tonight and announce, “We’re going to be a supernaturally loving family for the glory of God!” nothing is going to happen except some strange looks. A home that is filled with love doesn’t get built in a day— it is a process of growth. Which brings me to my last point:

Even so… a home of love IS ours to have. We don’t have to settle for the status quo; we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say “only super spiritual people could live like that.” Jesus didn’t qualify his statement that way: He wants all of His disciples to be building His Kingdom, and one of the cornerstones of His Kingdom is families that are not perfect, but that are marked by being saturated and empowered by His supernatural love. We have God’s Words & God’s Spirit to guide us. What step can you take today to make a home of love a reality in your family’s life?

Men’s Liberation

 

 

 

Actress Uma Thurman, speaking on being a single Mom to Parade magazine July 2006:

The stay-at-home mom is over not just because of women’s liberation but because of men’s liberation from wanting to be the breadwinners.

I think the consequences of “men’s liberation” are just as dramatic and pervasive in this culture as of “women’s liberation.” 

We have men by either active decision or by passive indecision setting a lifestyle requiring more income than their paycheck, or even worse being so lazy as not to be able to hold down a honest job and de facto forcing their wives to work.

We have men not taking active leadership in their home, leaving their wives to try and fill the gap. We have men not working and leading in their churches and the schooling of their children.  We have men who want to be liberated from any form of marital, fatherly or other masculine responsibility through figuratively or literally walking away from wives, children, job, or any situation, difficulty, or relationship that doesn’t suit them.

For all these men I have a few choice words:

Husbands, love your wives… as your own bodies, nourishing and cherishing (Ephesians 5)

But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  (1 Timothy 5)

Be men of courage, be strong. ( 1 Cor 16:13)

 

 

Safely Home

Safely Home

  

 

I really wanted to like this book.

Its primary thesis is that God has designed humanity so that strong family relationships are the foundation of both strong individuals and a strong society, and that the current state of the typical family in American society is woeful.

So far, so good.  I agree heartily.  What I wanted from there was a cogent exposition of why this is true and the solutions to it.

Instead, Safely Home has some good ideas, but the material is poorly organized and has multiple grammar and punctuation errors.  Arguments put forth often have logical flaws and successive ideas are often disconnected. There is no way that I could hand this book to someone to influence their convictions about homeschooling or other conservative stances; its mediocre style and content would likely hinder rather than help.

I applaud Mr. Eldredge and Vision Forum for publishing on this important topic, but God would have been more glorified if they had employed a good copy editor.