Archives For Family

We all know that kids, particularly little kids say surprising and funny things, but sometimes they are refreshingly precise. They can cut through the boundaries erected by the mature.

This was the case last night as I was putting my daughter (4) to bed. We were talking about how I was going to visit a family member. She asked me if this person loved Jesus. I told her that I do not think that she is a Christian. Then I invited her to pray with me for her salvation. She complied. Then she sat up, pushed her curly hair back and said, “You know what, you should also go and tell her about Jesus right away. Prayers are good but you need to tell her about Jesus Daddy.” I told her that she was exactly right and that I would.

Here we are reminded about the simplicity of a child and perhaps some of the things that Jesus would have been aiming at when he reminded us of being like a child. She doesn’t have all of the hangups that we often have about evangelism. She hasn’t been rejected, argued with, or belittled. She doesn’t entertain the quiet, embarrassing doubts about the sufficiency and power of the gospel. She just understands, in her young mind, the need for us as Christians to tell unbelievers about Jesus. And she is exactly right.

I share this story because it was so encouraging to me and I think it would be for you also. Further, it reminds us not to overcomplicate things; it is really that simple: someone has got to open their mouths and talk about Christ. The gospel is powerful. It is sufficient (Rom. 1:16). After all, this is how we ourselves came to faith in the Savior.

front steps“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer Spring weather we have children coming in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1 year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.

However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.

As a Dad sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2-18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent, and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom, and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.

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How do you spice up a conference of family integrated churches? Ask a question about Reformed Rap. That’s exactly what happened at The Worship of God Conference from the NCFIC (National Center for Family Integrated Churches). This issue has been significantly batted around the blogosphere since the video posted below went viral over the Thanksgiving break.

As a pastor I now feel that I should address it. It has come to the threshold of our church family. As a church we are supportive of many of the priorities of the Family-Integrated Church movement (family shepherding, priority of the Word of God, priority of the local church, etc). At the same time many of our members (including pastors) regularly bob their heads to Reformed Rap.

So, what happened? It is like Uncle Integrated took a swipe at Cousin Hip-Hop over Thanksgiving Dinner. What do we do? Like any dysfunctional (sinful) family we have to take a step back and respond in love.

The strongest statement from the panel was made by Geoff Botkin who said that those who were driving Christian Rap were “disobedient cowards.” He later issued a statement that seemed to be intended as an apology. The overall tone of the panel was negative towards hip-hop and in some cases, like above, were vehemently opposed to it. Pass the sweet potatoes Uncle Geoff!

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“Bo Will Do It!”

Erik Raymond —  October 2, 2013

photo (5)I often find myself having my theological convictions reinforced and sharpened through parenting. Our youngest child is a hard-charging, intense, resolute little 2-year-old. His first (semi) sentence was literally, “Bo do it.” This is a phrase that he often repeats when people try to help him. “Let me pick you up.” “Bo do it. Bo will walk.” “Let me put your shoes on.” “Bo do it.” “I’ll buckle you in.” “Bo will do it.” He gets a bit excited and animated when attempting to do everything he desires to put his hand to.

This reminds me of the Covenant of Works. God gave the first man, Adam, a job to do (Gen. 1 & 2). He was promised blessing by means of obedience. Of course he failed to do what God required (Rom. 5:12-18) and we all to have done the same (Hos. 6:7; Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23).

All of humanity is wired for work. This work is characterized by working with our hands and minds (doing stuff) but is also more vividly seen through our overall relationship with God. We are bent on working to please God. As a response to this virtually every religion in the world pivots on what we do. Religion is based upon doing all we can to please God. We must undo the omelets that Adam (and us) scrambled up.

When I listen to little Bo exclaim, “Bo do it!” I know that this desire to do will mature. He will eventually grow into a young man who attempts to expiate his own guilt by means of his working. The conscience will clamor so the hands of the soul will become ready to work.

The truth of the matter is that we cannot work our way out of the spiritual bondage we find ourselves in. Like our national debt, spiritual debt just daily increases and any effort to personally lesson it just exacerbates it.

We need a substitute. We need what the Bible calls “the last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15.45) Jesus Christ is that last Adam. He obeyed in every area that Adam failed. It is ultimately his work for us that deals with our conscience and guilt. It by the perfect life of obedience and the sin-atoning death that we may find true rest and rejoicing. By the doing and dying of Jesus we may cease striving and start living.

All of us need to go from “Bo will do it” to “Christ has done it!”

I’ve always enjoyed those scenes in the old Westerns when a guy walks into a saloon. You know what happens next; the music stops, conversations stop, and people turn their heads to look at the alien who just walked into the room. It’s great television. Sometimes I feel like we are living the domestic version of this scene. Our family is considered large by today’s standards. My wife and I have 6 children (ages 2–17). We tend to do things together and when we roll in with the kids the music stops, the heads turn and people’s eyebrows give each-other hi-fives.

We have embraced the freakishness of it. You kind of have to. In a society where families are radically changing, both in terms of size and substance, the freak factor will only increase. We get funny comments ranging from the sarcastic to the sympathetic. It is always entertaining. However, one question that we don’t regularly get is, “What is it like?” Questions usually pivot on the detriment (time and money) rather than the benefit (to us and society). In this post I want to highlight a few of the particular benefits to a large family. We call it the benefit of “pack-life.”

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Recently my family of 8 packed into our mini-van for an early Spring vacation. When I say “packed in” you may be thinking in terms of seats (i.e. a Honda Odessy only has 8 seats, therefore, we were packed in). This is not what I mean. We were packed in. The trunk was filled to the top, the floor had shoes, books, bags, and blankets. The front seat was full of distractions for the little kids as well as entertainment for adults and big kids. We were packed in. But then when we got closer to our destination (10 hours away from home), we went to Costco to buy food for the week. In this we were now officially fully packed in. Kids balanced cartons of eggs, coffee, vegetables, and milk while we finished our course.

The vacation ended and my normal duties resumed last week. I prepared a sermon and then delivered it on Sunday. After I was finished I was reflecting upon it and critiquing various elements of it and I was drawn back to our road-trip.

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This past year I ran my first marathon. As I ran I continued to chart my progress and endurance. Each mile marker rendered judgment against my goals. How am I doing? How will I finish?

The marathon is a fitting analogy for life. With the passing of each year there is a mile-marker of personal evaluation. There is an opportunity to take inventory, evaluate progress, and look ahead toward the finish.

To be honest, I have not done a lot of the latter. I have not looked ahead to the finish line and estimated my time. Like so many others, I like to live “mile-to-mile” making quick adjustments, taking advantage of quick bursts to make up for moments of laziness on the hills of life. While these inventories and adjustments are an integral part of doing what we set out to do they will not compel us in the same way as look at the end.

A look at the end of our life, the finish line, will bring a couple of things into focus:

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With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.

There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.

I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.

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Math Class

Erik Raymond —  November 3, 2012

On Fridays I have the privilege of home-educating our children at The Raymond Academy. It is always rewarding and fun—it is also entertaining! In many ways I can relate to this video.

By the time you reach the age of 36 you assume that you know all of the important details about your family history. Sure, there may be some details that you’ve missed, but overall, you got it. Then a curiously overlooked detail emerges that causes you to pause, muse and ask more questions.

Such was the case the other night when I learned that my great-grandmother was a Baptist. This may not seem like much initially but I assure you it is.

I grew up Roman Catholic. There was not a whiff of evangelical thinking within miles of our family. My parents were not raised with any biblical teaching or preaching. I assumed the case was the same for all of my grandparents and their parents and so forth.

Now I hear that my grandfather’s mom was a Baptist. And apparently not an nominal Baptist. She was a bible reading, bible chewing, bible quoting, genuine New England bible thumper! She was known for her devotion to the Lord. Apparently so was her entire family before her.

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It’s been said before that kids ask the best questions. They often come at the issue from a different perspective. The challenge then is not in the getting of questions it is in the answering.

Our little 10-year-old daughter asked me a question the other day about how the atonement works for people who lived before Christ’s death. She wondered if they were either given a break, out of luck, or something else.

I showed her how in Romans 4 the Apostle Paul dealt with this very question. He showed how both Abraham and David were justified (declared righteous) on the basis of faith. They were not forgiven by law-keeping (doing) but by trusting (faith). This shows the continuity with the New Testament teaching of justification by faith alone. A guy like Abraham, who came before Moses and David, who came after Moses, were both justified by faith in God.

God could promise forgiveness to these and other saints on the basis of his certainty that Jesus would earn it for us all. By Jesus’ doing and dying for us, God is able to justify all who truly come to faith in God according to his revealed word.

To illustrate this I spoke of a visit to an ice cream shop. When we come in with 6 kids there is quite a line. Some go ahead and I stay in the back. As they are ordering their various flavors the workers will usually have handed them the completely ice cream to them before I even get through the line. “How can the workers do that?” I asked. “It is because they are confident that the man with the money is coming through the line.” Jesus is ultimately the one with the money, he is the one who comes through the line to pay for everything his family needs. Every single person who is forgiven, including Abraham and David, are forgiven because of what Jesus has paid for them.

Children are such a precious gift to us. I love how they make us think and work through our answers thoughtfully. Maybe this will help you as you work with kids to teach them the gospel; or maybe it’ll just remind you of the beauty of Christ’s work—either way, it is good to think about these things over ice cream!

Can you imagine a husband making a funny joke and then, at the punchline landing a solid jab to his wife’s shoulder? Of course not. It’s out of place (and perhaps domestic abuse). However, in the context of a male friendship such behavior is widely practiced and acceptable. What’s the difference? (I’m about to get profound here…) Simply, women are different then men. Husbands and wives are different. And this is a good thing, something to be celebrated.

However, it is also apparently an evasive truth. One of the most common non-spiritual, basic, counseling I give to a husband is: don’t treat your wife like a guy. Believe it or not, men seem to forget this fact about as often as we leave our dirty socks on the floor. One of the chief areas this is seen is the area of romance. Many men think that they can woo their wives by treating like men. We think that we can just snap our fingers or just jump right to physical intimacy without any regard for emotions.

Guys, this doesn’t work.

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“Why was that big guy hugging you and Mom in the middle of the road?”

That was the big question from our kids before bed last night. The story that answers it tells us something about us as image bearers.

After picking our son up from baseball practice last night we were headed home. In the grassy median of a busy four lane road I noticed a woman abruptly fall down. We made a quick U-turn and headed back up onto a side street. My wife went out first and then I followed after parking. We were quickly joined by another family. Upon further inspection the lady who fell was clearly out of it and pretty highly inebriated. She was also cut up, bleeding and bruised all over the place. Myself and the other guy were attempting to keep the woman from walking back into the oncoming cars. She certainly would have been hit if we weren’t there. Our new friends joined together with us to be the physical barriers for this woman until the ambulance came. This proved to be a challenge, but we worked together and got it done.

Our kids, watching this scene unfold then saw a perfect stranger, an African-American big enough to be confused with an NFL offensive lineman, hugging Mom and Dad in the median. They asked “why?”

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Imagine you are in the front seat of my mini-van and I ask you to look over your shoulder at the 2-year-old in the back row. As you’d turn you would see a curly haired, brown-eyed, little girl belting out the Great Commission! This is not a one time deal, it is every time we get in the car. Our little Zoë makes her request, “Put on make disiciples..” She not only has memorized the verses but she is enjoying it!

How did this happen? One word: Seeds.

If you have not heard of the Seeds project then you need to. Seeds is a group that puts Scripture to catchy, fun music for kids. The songs engage them and teach them the Scriptures. There are several albums based upon various themes in Scripture and all done really, really well.

Seeds has enhanced our driving and our devotions by teaching the kids the Scriptures. They sing along in the car and do solos in the house. Can you imagine the joy of looking in the rear-view mirror and watching your baby girl’s lips mouth the words to Phil. 4.6-7? It is awesome. If you are a parent, brother, sister, grandparent, uncle, aunt, cousin, or friend of kids then you need to give this a look. I can honestly say it has been a great blessing to our family. This may not be the only way to get your kids to memorize the Bible but it is definitely a way, and a very effective way at that.

Here is a link to Amazon for MP3 downloads and album purchases if you are interested.

And here is a sample video of Phil. 4.6-7:

and then another…

It is one of the most helpless feelings you have as a parent. You are holding your young child and they are gasping for their next breath.

This was the reality for us as a family this week as our youngest son, Bo, came down with RSV, a respiratory virus. We watched him quickly regress to the point that he was laboring for every breath.

My wife had taken him to the doctor prior to this point and they prescribed a nebulizer as well as an antibiotic. He was about 12 hours into the treatment when things seem to be really heading south.

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One of the favorite lines around our house when one of the kids does something wrong is, “What is this going to look like when you are 18?” As parents, our point is that these sins in their toddler stages do grow up and mature. Pigging out and lusting after the cheese dip does mature into a lack of self-control in all of life as you grow. Connect the dots.

Let’s apply this principle to your Bible reading and devotions. If you take your current practices of spiritual discipline, what does this look like when you are 80?

Too many times I hear people talking about wanting to be more disciplined, more faithful, more intentional without being more active. The fact of the matter is, you will be tomorrow who you are today if you don’t make any changes.

So who do you want to be when you’re 40? 50? 60? 70? or 80?

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My kids are growing up. This is filled with all sorts of emotions. Life presents new challenges and circumstances. This is true for any parent. But things are a little different for Christian parents. We actually believe that our kids are not Christians just because we are. Heaven is not an unalienable right like voting at 18. Our children have to actually come to terms with the God of the gospel themselves.

This presents an interesting set of circumstances for parents. We have a responsibility, a mandate even, to raise our kids in the ‘discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ (Eph. 6.4) We understand that in this same book the same Apostle says that prior to conversion we all are dead in sin, and apart from a supernatural work of God’s grace and mercy we would not follow Christ (Eph. 2.1-8).

So what do you do?

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One of the annual blessings of the holiday season are the traditions. It seems that everyone, unbelievers included, have some sort of special and meaningful Christmas traditions.

What’s more, believing families have particularly Christian traditions that they practice. And this is more where my interest lies. After all, the emotional sentiment carried in secular traditions pivot on the enjoyment of general revelation, things created; whereas, Christians enjoy the traditions that are rooted in special revelation, things recreated redemptively through the giving of Christ the Son.

HOW ABOUT SOME HELP?

This is where I turn to you for some help. I am asking what you do as a family to celebrate Advent. Or if you don’t have a family, what did you do growing up or what do you do now? Do you have any special traditions that you do year after year?

WHAT WE ARE DOING THIS YEAR

As for our family we change things up quite a bit. There are some years when we have a tree, lots of decorations, and open presents and other years we do not. This year, no tree and some presents (1 opened each Monday in December–to help the kids slow down and enjoy them). We always drive around the rich neighborhoods and look at Christmas lights too.

In addition we always read the story of the incarnation. Sometimes we do it in one or two sittings, other times we do it over a longer period.

This year we are going through the month of December and highlighting a number of specifics in the Old Testament that helped narrow down who the Redeemer would be. I asked my little girls to make a craft that we could capture each of the descriptions behind a fold-out window. Then at the end, if they can give me all (or a majority of them) I’ll give them a treat. The plan then would be to take all of these labels and show how they converge upon the incarnation and ministry of Jesus.

Here is a picture of the crafts they made. They are ambitious little Biblical Theologians, they have 44 windows! I think there is more than enough.

If you can’t see the first window it says, He is a man. “Gen. 3, He will crush your head and he will bruise your ankle.” (We’ll take it). Then we will look at the fact that the he will come from Abraham (Jewish), then he will be from Judah (Gen. 49), etc.. And on and on we’ll go. I am excited.

Here is a close up of the window:

Again, let me know what you do or are doing. This could be a very helpful resource for Christians (young or old) to get new ideas and enhance their Advent celebrations. I will plan to compile what I get on Facebook, Twitter, and here in the comments into a future post. Thanks for your help!

Several years back I experienced one of those “ah-ha” moments. My wife and I were hanging out together and seemed to be quite enjoying some time of conversation.

Then she lovingly hit me with this forearm shiver: “Did you ever notice that you are always the hero of your stories?”

It knocked me off of my feet. My wife was saying that I routinely made myself out to be the hero in all of our talking about life, family, and even ministry. She mentioned how rare it was to hear of my own vices, instead, she said, she heard of others’.

As we talked about this in the days to come we realized a few things:

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As a family with a new baby we are going through that stage where everyone gets their call in to tell you who the baby looks like. It is always fun for me to hear the observations. As a parent, I too like to play this new-born game.

But the newborn game is not limited to newborns. This is of course, because of one of the more familiar, and yet, amazing aspects of humanity: by in large, children look and act like their parents.

I still find myself freshly impressed when I meet someone new with their children. Whether it is a a new family at church or the parents of one of the kids on my son’s baseball team, I come away almost laughing to myself as I notice mannerisms, appearance, and tone.

This can can be good and bad.

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