Tag Archives: family discipleship

Making Our Children Ready for Kingdom Battles

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Last year Jeff Pollard of Mount Zion Bible Church invited me to address their annual family conference on the topic of making children ready for kingdom battles. Jeff is a dear friend and one of my favorite preachers, so I was delighted to be asked, especially since this gets right at the core of what we are praying would be accomplished in our local church life.

This message is about 50 minutes long, and it represents the “why we do what we do” with respect to Sovereign Redeemer’s weekly schedule, particularly the outreaches.

Listen to it here.

How Should We Think About Birthdays?

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Studying to preach on Matthew 14 has me thinking about birthdays. There are two, and only two, birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible. The first is Pharaoh’s birthday feast, recorded in Genesis 40:20-22, where Pharaoh restores his chief butler and has his baker hanged. The second is Herod’s birthday celebration, recorded in Matthew 14:6-11 (parallel account in Mark 6:21-28), where John the Baptist’s head is brought on a platter.

Suffice it to say, the celebrating of birthdays is off to a rough start. And why not? Birthdays have always been a me-me-me proposition anyway, have they not?

Now consider the thoughts of John Calvin:

“The ancient custom of observing a birth-day every year as an occasion of joy cannot in itself be disapproved; for that day, as often as it returns, reminds each of us to give thanks to God, who brought us into this world, and has permitted us, in his kindness, to spend many years in it; next, to bring to our recollection how improperly and uselessly the time which God granted to us has been permitted to pass away; and, lastly, that we ought to commit ourselves to the protection of the same God for the remainder of our life.” – Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 14:6

That is a different angle entirely, and one worthy of some reflection. Calvin counsels us to use birthdays as a tool to do three things:

  1. Thank God for life. Life doesn’t result from boy-meets-girl. It is a gift from God. David declares this in Psalm 139:14, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” We have something to celebrate: God gave us life and has sustained us for another 365 days. That is praiseworthy, worth a day of intentional thankfulness.
  2. Reflect on the use of time. There may be no better day for taking inventory. How are we investing these lives God has given us? In Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents, one man exercises good stewardship, turning his five talents into ten, and he is greeted by his Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Another man buries what his Master has given him, and his Master calls him wicked, lazy, and unprofitable and casts him out. Ephesians 5:15-16, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
  3. Commit ourselves to God. Don’t we need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Don’t we want to? Then let birthdays be days of pleading with God for progress, consecrating ourselves to His use in the coming year. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:12b, “…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

It is small wonder that pagan kings use their birthdays for all manner of self-serving wickedness. The people of God, however, are a peculiar people, turning our sights to our glorious God and King at every opportunity. A birthday is one such opportunity. Use birthdays to acknowledge God as the giver and sustainer of life, to reflect on the use of the past year, and to commit to His good pleasure as many years as He would be pleased to give.

How Fathers Transition into Age-Integration

Yessir, this is a topic I know a little about.

It was more than a decade ago that I was teetering on this precipice myself. Janet and I had decided to take our two young daughters and go participate in a family-integrated church plant. Mostly oblivious to what was ahead of us, I was extremely gung-ho, but I could tell that Janet had some unspoken reservations. I couldn’t imagine what they were.

They were me. I was the unspoken reservation. When I drew it out of her, she sheepishly admitted that she was concerned that we might be moving on from a beloved church, albeit one with a flawed discipleship structure, only to have less discipleship anyway. What we had, with whatever flaws, was something, and she needed to be confident that it wasn’t going to be replaced with nothing. Ouch. Double ouch. It pierced because it was legitimate. I knew me. She knew me. And we both knew that there was a lot of the love of the world still left in this young father, and a track record to prove it.

Needless to say it was “game on” (or maybe literally “game off”, but more on that in a minute), not because I was resisting what she was saying but because I was embracing it. It was now so clear in my mind that with this move to a new church, I was now the difference between more discipleship for our family or less, and it wasn’t going to be less.

It didn’t happen all at once, but I did learn to be more and more faithful in my duty before God as a husband and father. I’m not claiming to be the ideal, but there has been real, significant progress, and it has meant the world to the life of the Dohm family. I thank God that He has seen fit to bring us to this point, by making me feel the weight of my Biblical calling.

Looking back, I have a few exhortations to fathers who are teetering on their own precipice:

Institute family worship today

When God gives us light to walk by, we need to act. Not tomorrow, today. In the category of family worship, skip the lengthy planning cycle, forget about the external helps from the Christian book store, and simply gather your wife and children to pray, read the Bible, discuss the text, and sing. Today. I’m not against planning, I’m for it. I’m not against helps, I’m for them. What I’m against is putting off the most important thing in the life of your family until tomorrow, and then the next day, and then the next, not because more time is needed to gather yourself for the mission, but because we all have a natural aversion to pushing beyond our comfort zone. Better to be uncomfortable and a little incompetent today, but to serve notice to your beloved comfort zone, than to chicken out with a transparent excuse. Don’t worry,  every day that you meet the challenge you’ll become a little more comfortable and a little more competent.

One note: If you haven’t been leading family worship for your whole married life, understand that you may need to be patient with your wife. She is going to want to see that this is really a permanent change, and until she does, she might be lukewarm. Blame yourself and be patient.

Make that practice the immovable rock in your daily schedule

Deuteronomy 6:4-7, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

What part of “You shall teach them diligently to your children” do we not understand? And yet, until we are willing to fight hard to establish the pattern, we find that any little thing can bump family worship. Family worship must become that non-negotiable, immovable rock in the schedule around which everything else rotates. Everything. Every single thing.

“My work schedule won’t accommodate it.” Shift your family schedule to make it work. Eat dinner at 8:00, put the kids to bed at 10:30, and let them sleep in to a later time that completes the schedule shift.

“That still doesn’t work.” Then find another job. Radically change your family budget, move into a trailer, and worship God there. “Seriously?” Seriously. Do it because you fear God. Do it for the joy that this established pattern, done rightly, inevitably brings. At the end of your days you won’t regret it.

Having this pattern firmly established will also make Sunday morning a lot better. Your kids will already know the drill, having been expected to sit quietly and attentively during family worship through the course of the week.

Decide to grow up

May I say a few things that everyone knows but no one wants to say? Too many men are just large, hairy boys. When the Dohm family took the plunge and committed to our first family-integrated church, I was still a boy in so many ways. A thirty year old boy, but still a boy. A boy with a steady job and some church responsibilities, but still a boy. A Christian boy, but still a boy.

I was wasting volumes of time doing boyhood things. But my wife needed a man for a husband, and my girls needed a man for a Daddy, and I knew I had to grow up. To my shame, it was long overdue. In a day when Christian leaders want to help us not waste our sports, they should back up, take a deep breath, and tell us not to waste our lives. We all have a window of time to teach our children diligently about our great, merciful, just, and holy God, and that window is shorter than we ever imagined and closing a little every day. Sideline that lawful, unprofitable stuff and get going on things that matter.

Final thought

There are many other things to say, but none of them are as important as these things, at least in my estimation and experience. If you get these things in order, the other things are accomplished readily enough. Without these things, the others don’t matter anyway.

I know these things look daunting from the outside, but I want to tell you that they are so exhilarating from the inside. Give it a serious go and I’ll be proven right. You get a sense very early on that you were made for this, to rally your family around God and His word, so that they might come to know a mighty Redeemer, and then come to know Him and love Him in a deeper way.

Go for it, brothers. There is nothing like it.


Betting the Farm

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Because of our commitment to sequential exposition, we spend the overwhelming amount of our time together on Sundays working through books of the Bible passage by passage, rarely even mentioning how essential family discipleship is to what we are doing.  This is good and right, of course.  The word of God should be central to our gatherings in such a way that the Head of the Church is heard without us narrowing things to any particular emphasis.  That is the beauty of sequential exposition, which is why we think it should be our steady diet.

That said, we dare not lose sight of how much we are relying on the practice of family discipleship.  We are all betting the farm with no “Plan B” in sight.  No one is waiting in the wings to pick up the ball if you drop it.  My view is that this is as it should be, but we need to remain conscious of the implications so that we continue to feel the weight of it.  Fathers – have you drifted from the terrifying realization that God put you at the head of your household so that you would direct everyone in that household to the LORD their God? God said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Genesis 18:19).  God did not pick a faithful man.  He made a faithful man.  And God did it so that Abraham would command his household to keep His way.  Fathers – have you considered that the work of God in your life is in some way related to this? That a significant part of His intent was to build things into you for the blessing of your household? If that is so, what will it be like to stand before God one day having been a poor steward of His deposit?  These are sobering questions.

Mothers – what about you? Have you lost sight of your glorious part in this? God has given you many hours in the day with these precious children entrusted to you.  May those hours be consumed in teaching the fear and love of the LORD, hour by hour, day by day.  Don’t be lulled to sleep by the mundane things that are interspersed with the mission.  Stay the course, be faithful, and the day will come when your children will rise up and call you blessed, and your husband will praise you. “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all” (Proverbs 31:28,29).

Here is the bottom line:  God ought to be worshiped.  There is none like Him in heaven or earth.  His praise ought to be the central occupation of our homes.  We should see to it that we are bowing down before Him in worship every single day, together.  He is worthy.  Has there been a drift away from this in your home? Redouble your efforts.  Reclaim the ground.  Bet the farm.