Recalibration Needed

It’s been FOREVER since I posted a thought on ABF.  It’s been a month of transitions, and just by way of explanation I thought I would post the text of an email I sent our church family this week. Hopefully this explains some of my absence from the blog, and gives you some insight into where I am in life right now.  I would love your prayers and your thoughts on how to get even better.

““For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? ” (Luke 9:25)

Hi everyone!
 
Just a quick update from me and some clarification.  I feel like I may have been misleading the past couple of weeks and wanted to make sure that I am communicating well.
 
I think that I may have put across the idea that we are not doing very well as a family.  Allow me to say, that is not the case at all!  In fact, I would say that now we are doing better than we ever have.  What the realization over the past month has taught us is that we were spread way, way too thin.  Between my many activities, the kids participating in lots of different stuff, and Laura’s many duties we were so thin that you could see right through us.  And that meant that we didn’t have the time to be together and love one another well.  It meant that we were always rushing to one place or another with no time to just enjoy one another.  It meant that the house was always a mess and that Laura felt like she couldn’t keep up with all of the demands of school work for the kids, house work, her doula clients (which is a huge passion of hers), AND be successful as a follower of Christ and wife and mother.  She realized it, but I was experiencing the same without really realizing it. (she’s always been more self-aware than I am)  And we all finally came to the realization that there were a lot of tasks and activities that are good in themselves, but in the end took us away from who we want to be.  So the past few weeks have been our attempt to clear out the stuff that matters least so that we can focus on the stuff that matters most.  To us, what matters most is that we love God and each other, and we are trying to do that more effectively.  And I think that God is using that in great ways, and with our “margins” and boundaries on our time re-established we are really having fun as a family.  In fact, I think that we are as joyful as we have been in a long, long time.
 
So that said, we cleared those margins not to get away from our church family; just the opposite, really! We want to spend more time together with you.  We want to have our family in Christ in our home, and grow closer with the people who matter most to us.  Yeah, that is primarily Laura and me keeping our marriage strong and healthy (which it is!), and helping our kids love God and love people.  This is why you’ll see us head out camping more, why James and I bought dirt bikes recently so we can do that as a father and son, and just being home more.  It’s brought back joy in my life in fixing stuff around the house, because I have the time to do so and because it is fun again to make something work correctly.  I have room in my mind for it!  It is also building healthy, transparent, growing relationships with our church family.  So look for that in our lives in the coming weeks and months as we focus on the things that matter the most to us.
 
All that to say, the Correia family is doing great.  We are through the “holy moley, we need to change some stuff” time and into cementing those changes to have some room in our schedules and in our hearts and heads to really just be present where we are.  So, please don’t think that we are in a dire straight or coming apart at the seams.  In fact, I think that we are more whole than we ever have been, and it’s been lots of fun to be in our home listening to laughter and talking and getting involved in what matters to our kids. (Laura told me last night that while she and James were cooking enchiladas he told her ALL about the Star Wars Lego world he has built, and all the characters and cities and everything that are in it…I know you’re jealous!)  I want to publicly thank Pastor Mike for being so instrumental in helping us make some of these realizations as a family, and continuing to help us relate effectively and communicate our hearts to one another honestly and clearly.
 
What does that mean for you? 
 
Keep loving us as a family.  We value transparency and authenticity, so we are just living life with you.  Don’t wonder what’s going on or worry that you’re intruding.  We’ll say so if we need space.  And don’t worry you’ll say the wrong thing or that you can’t just have small talk with us.  That’s what we want! Help us enjoy life a little by having lunch with us after church; we might forget to ask, so come ask us!  Let us get involved in helping you find those boundaries as well and make the main thing the main thing in your life.  Talk to us about the little things…we love that stuff.
 
Thanks again for being an amazing church family, where the pastor can just be a regular guy who occasionally needs to recalibrate.  It’s good to be healthier.

The More Things Change…

On June 23rd, 1995 I graduated from US Navy boot camp in Great Mistakes Lakes, IL.  My parents, grandparents, and girlfriend Laura came to see me graduate.  After the graduation ceremony Laura and I went to the mall somewhere north of Chicago and picked out an engagement ring.  I got down on one knee that day and asked for her hand in marriage.  She said yes, not knowing when we would be able to actually tie the knot because we had no idea what the Navy was going to do with me at that point.

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This picture is us after the proposal with my grandparents.  I lived in their home as a young boy; they are both very dear. (Grandpa is a WWII combat-wounded Marine; grandma went home to be with the Lord in 2001)  And for the record, Laura is DEFINITELY wearing one of my old-school Bill Cosby sweaters in this picture.  And I weighed 147 pounds.

Turns out, things moved VERY quickly.  I got to my new command on July 1st, 1995, and they told me that if I was going to get leave to go home and get married it had to be the following week.  I flew home on July 6th (a Thursday), and we made hasty plans for a wedding.  On Saturday, July 8th, 1995 we drove with my parents, my soon-to-be in-laws and grandparent-in-laws, my best friend, and my aunt and uncle to Lake Tahoe, NV for a wedding.  To say that it was a slapdash affair is an understatement, but in the interest of space I will save you the more arcane details.

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At first we were supposed to get married at some place that was called something like “Lake Tahoe Moose Lodge and Wedding Chapel,” but it looked like a dump so I sent my aunt on a race to find us a nice place to say our vows.  We ended up getting married that afternoon at Caesar’s Lake Tahoe, in a pretty wedding chapel off of the casino floor.  (Note the classy video camera and mood lighting “EXIT” sign in the picture!)  Frankly I wasn’t too concerned about the location of the wedding; my attention was focused far more on the beautiful woman who I wanted to be my wife.

Laura was ravishing, and we were just excited to be able to become man and wife before I had to start my rigorous training in the Navy to become a nuclear reactor operator.  We were incredibly young; I had turned 19 in January, and Laura would not turn 19 until three weeks after the wedding.  You know what, though?  That didn’t matter to us.  We were young and in love.

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The picture below is one of my favorite pictures of Laura and me.  This was taken at the dinner that my parents hosted at some local restaurant after the wedding.  When I picture Laura in my mind, this is what I see: (note that I wore glasses at this time [see above pic]; I likely took them off for this pic purely out of vanity)

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We set out on our life together as husband and wife, with everything we owned in our 1989 Honda CRX.  The grand estate we had was that CRX, a bag full of clothes, a set of dishes we had been given as a wedding gift, a 13” TV, and two cartons of cigarettes. (feel free to insert redneck comment here…at least it wasn’t a ‘77 Camaro)  Man, we were living high on the hog!  We were going to move to Orlando, Fl for me to become a Naval nuclear reactor operator and for Laura to take her first professional ballerina position with Southern Ballet Theatre.  She was going to be a prima ballerina and I was going to use a naval career to become President of the United States of America.

My, my…how the years twist and turn our path.  After a year of dancing Laura was fed up with company life; so we decided to have a baby and conceived before we left Orlando.  I was on track to become a Naval Officer in 1998 when I became a Christian and everything changed.  A car wreck derailed my commissioning bid and God called me into ministry rather than military service.  We had three more children after Elizabeth, and rather than pursuing politics I went to seminary and now pastor a church and teach the Bible at a local college.  I can well attest to the truth found in Proverbs 16:9:

The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.

Through all of the ups and downs, Laura has been by my side.  We are in many ways COMPLETELY different people than we were when we said our marriage vows.  When we said “I do” Laura never wanted to have children; now she has 4 and home schools them, plus helps other women with labor and delivery.  I was a staunch atheist when we married; today I am a pastor!  God has changed a lot of the basics of both of our lives, but through it all my wonderful wife has been a source of blessing, help, and joy.

Today marks our 15th wedding anniversary, and through it all Laura has been my steadfast companion and encouragement.  She married me when I was going to be a sailor; she followed me around the country from station to station; she opened the door for me to be introduced to and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord; she carried, birthed, and has raised four amazing children.  She was there to walk me through the dark days after my car wreck and put up with me as I transitioned out of the Navy a couple of years later.  She bore a HUGE burden for three straight years as I went through seminary, working long hours with no pay because I was either in class, at church or at work for 80+ hours a week.  She has truly been “a helper suitable” for me (Genesis 2:18) through the thick and the thin.

I am continually impressed with her willingness to laugh and love.  I am thankful to God that she is so patient with me and with my many faults, sins, habits, and selfishness.  (just ask her how much money and time I have spent on my hobby in the last year…)  We have worked diligently on our marriage over the last 15 years, but I can honestly say that it is her willingness to forgive me and love me that has made all the difference.  I can see so much of the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 in her; she is truly an amazing woman.  Particularly appropriate in my opinion are verses 26-30:

      26       She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
      27      She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
      28      Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
      29      “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
      30      Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

Many daughters have done nobly; I know many men who have wonderful wives.  Laura Marie, without hesitation I can say that you excel them all.  I am the man that I am because God has given me an amazing gift of a wonderful wife.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you for your love for me and for our children.  Thank you for standing by my side for the last 15 years through thick and thin, whether I was lovable or not.  Thank you for helping me grow in Christ, pick myself up when I fall and start again.  Thank you for never giving up on me and for loving me unconditionally.

I know that whatever comes, I have you at my side and we will live together forever in the grace of God.  You provide me a safe place from which I can take big risks in life and in ministry, and for that I am too grateful to put it into words.  I love you, and can’t wait to see what God does in the next 15 years we will have together, let alone the 15 after that and the 15 after that! (heck, we won’t even be 80 yet when we hit our 60th anniversary!)

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Till Death Do Us Part (Part 2: His Responsibility)

So yeah, I blogged yesterday about the concept God has really been leading me with in mentorship, namely the idea of “teaching and admonishing” from Colossians 1:28.  I said there that God had really blessed the discussions I had in the past week or so in this vein.  He honored me speaking boldly and honestly with some men in my life, not only teaching but being strong in warning them about the consequences of their actions.

Tonight?  Not so much on the blessing, at least on the surface.  I had a very, very difficult conversation with a man whose marriage I am “bought into.”  He certainly wasn’t buying what I was selling!  I knew he was going to call me tonight, so I had been praying for wisdom and for grace to speak to him in a way that honored God and helped him live for Christ.  I know I needed to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and prayed for the courage to do so.  I believe that God answered my prayer and that I said what I was supposed to, even if he didn’t want to accept it. 

The upside I suppose is that the conversation reminded me that I needed to post the next entry in this series on marriage.  Part 1 can be found here.  There’s an adage that says that every healthy marriage is healthy in the same way, while every unhealthy marriage is unhealthy in unique ways.  While there are limits to that saying, it does bear a lot of truth.  A healthy, loving, God-honoring marriage comes when we each embrace the truths of Scripture and the responsibility that we bear to honor God with our life and with our marriage.

The place to begin the discussion on responsibility in marriage is with husbands.  Ladies, thanks for reading ABF and I will get back to you real soon I promise.  This post isn’t for you, and frankly you might not enjoy it or think well of me in places if you read it.  So you might want to end your reading of this post here. 

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Guys, let’s not beat around the bush.   Let me say it in plain language: the quality of your marriage is dependent on you far more than it is dependent upon your wife.  Did you catch that?  The quality of your marriage is dependent on you far more than it is dependent upon your wife.  Don’t believe me?  Read what Paul says about marriage in Ephesians 5:25-30:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.

The relationship between a man and wife is compared by Paul here to the relationship between Christ and the church.  The marriage relationship is perhaps the closest human analogy we have to the relationship that we have with our Lord.  Think about this aspect of that analogy for a bit.  Who is more responsible for the relationship between Christ and the church: Jesus or us?  Who is faithful no matter what?  Who provides for whom no matter the cost (His death) or the heartache (our unfaithfulness)?  Who makes sure that the relationship is secure and God-honoring?  The answers are all quite clear.  Jesus is the One who does all those things, whether His bride responds appropriately or not.

This isn’t the only place in Scripture that we see marriage used as an analogy for our walk with God.  God also uses the analogy of marriage to describe His people’s relationship with Him in the book of Hosea.  In Hosea 1:2 God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute as a picture of His relationship with Israel.  Ahem…a prostitute.  In Hosea 3 God tells Hosea to take this woman back despite her continued unfaithfulness as a picture of His faithfulness to His people even with their sin.  He asked Hosea to forgive infidelity, even the prostitution of his wife, as a picture of God’s love for us.

Men, are you getting the picture?  You are called to be to your wife like Christ is to the church.  Like I said, the quality of your marriage depends more on you than it does on her.  Yes, I know that He is perfect and you are not.  I know that you have legitimate needs and that it hurts terribly when your wife disrespects you.  I know that she can make it incredibly difficult at times.  I know that it is an awfully heavy burden to carry, but frankly that’s why God gave it to you and not to her.  Your shoulders are wide enough to carry it!  You’re a man, so act like it.  Love your wife like Christ loves His church.  Love her like He loves you and patiently puts up with all of your garbage, even when you’re being unreasonable and childish.

Is the man in the mirror someone who you can honestly say is making every effort to love his wife like Christ loves the church?  Are you going out of your way to show her that you love her, and in ways that she can accept?  If not, why not?  Follow the example of your Lord and love when it’s inconvenient and painful.  Obey Him in your marriage (Luke 6:46 comes to mind) and see what happens.  I have yet to meet a man who is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who strives to live for Him in all areas including marriage, whose wife hasn’t eventually warmed to him.  Try it and see what happens; prove me wrong, I dare you. 🙂

So what does that look like in real life?  That’s the hard part, obviously.  It’s all well to say that you love your wife, but it’s harder to actually do it.  Here are some tips:

  • Put her needs above your wants.  She needs financial security more than you need new stuff, so quit being a boy and grow up financially.  Save some money, live below your means, and do what it takes to make it.  Sure, real godly men struggle with money at times.  Over long periods, though, a man needs to rein in his spending so that he can live within his income for the sake of his wife and kids, whether he makes $30,000 a year or $300,000.
  • Likewise, she needs your engagement with and commitment to your kids.  All the statistics say that kids with dads engaged in their lives have a much better chance of doing well in life, so get after it dad.  I know the baseball game just started; get a TiVo and go play some catch while you can.  Ask about homework and really care.  Listen and dialog; they’ll only be this age once, and you don’t want to be old and filled with regrets about how you raised them.
  • More than all of that, she needs to know deep down that you’re committed to Christ.  Man up and pray with her at least three times a week, and not over dinner.  Take her aside before you leave for work or before lights out and ask God to bless her abundantly.  Put your nose in the Word, too, and do it with her!  (as an aside, our online Bible study is teaming up for April with the ladies’ study to read the same passage…so join us!)  Work on your walk with Christ and see what that does.  Let Him change you from the inside out and your marriage will follow, I promise.
  • Quit using your headship for your advantage.  God did not put you where you are to be the chief tie-breaker.  Headship is a place of service, so look at it as a position of servanthood.  Use it to steer your family in the direction of Christ, not for your own benefit.  Always ask the question, “How would Jesus respond if He were the head of my household?”

Again, being a husband isn’t easy.  That’s why He gave that responsibility to you, because it isn’t easy!  Through thick and thin, though, as men we must always remember that God has put us in a position to serve our wives and children in a way that is very similar to the way in which Christ serves us.

If all of this sounds like it’s too much, frankly it’s because it IS too much for us to handle on our own. There is no way that a man in his own strength has what it takes to live as a truly God-honoring husband.  That, my friends, is why we need the grace of God and His work on us from the inside out.  When we come to God with our weaknesses and ask Him to take over, then we can agree with the Apostle Paul when he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

For resources, there are few books for men better than these to help a man be a biblical husband and man:

  • Every Man’s Marriage:  As biblical a book on what headship really is as exists.  Not for the faint of heart, but a great read about biblical leadership in the home.
  • Every Man’s Battle: If you’re a man you receive sexual gratification through your eyes.  That’s just a fact.  This book will help you do so and still keep your heart right with your wife and God.
  • The Five Love Languages:  This will show you how she receives love in the most significant ways and help you find ways to express your commitment to her.
  • Love and Respect: This is the cornerstone of my pre-marital and marital mentorship.  The heart of this book is about how to stop cutting each other to ribbons and start building one another up.
  • Wild At Heart: All about being a godly, yet manly man.  Every man has a damsel to rescue, an adventure to have, and a battle to fight! 

Being a husband ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure.  But guys, let’s remember that we chose to be in this position, and chose to honor God.  So let’s stuff the whining and complaining and get after being obedient.  Let’s turn to God with our marriages and ask Him to change us from the inside out and make us into the men that He wants us to be.

Rant…over.

Till Death Do Us Part (Part 1: The Problems)

Boy has marriage been on my heart and on my pastoral schedule a lot lately.  I have seen an increase in the number of marriages that are on the rocks over the past year or so, and I think that is due at least partially to the economy.  When everyone was refinancing their mortgage every two years to buy new cars and take vacations (like their home was an ATM machine), and receiving bonuses for showing up to work on time on a semi-consistent basis it masked significant issues between husband and wife.  Now, though, the economic security has been removed from many and with it the salve on the wounds of many a marriage.

With that said, I actually think the economic crisis is in reality a good thing for marriages, even marriages that are struggling!  That might sound weird, but bear with me.  The problems that many marriages are facing didn’t just show up when there was more month than money; the financial stress just brought to the front problems that were hidden.  The cracks in the foundation were already there, they were just under the carpet!  Now, though, they have come to the surface and refuse to be ignored.  If that’s you, it’s good to remember a couple of important principles when your marriage is rocky:

  1. You aren’t experiencing anything that is totally out of the ordinary.  In fact what you most likely have is a bad case of the normals!  Trust me, there are plenty of couples who are struggling with issues that are similar to yours.  As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Your marriage is almost certainly not broken in a way that someone has not worked through to build a successful and happy relationship.  That’s not to make light of sometimes serious issues, but it is to say that if they could solve it you can too.
  2. While it is never fun to deal with problems in life, when the cracks in the foundation show up at least you can identify the problems and then work on making them better.  When things lurk under the surface there is seldom true joy, but nothing to put your finger on.  Now at least it’s identifiable and therefore solvable.

So if you’re sick of “Saturday Night at the Fights” in your marriage, it’s time to make changes in the way you treat your spouse, marriage, children, etc. to change the dynamic.  And even if you’re not experiencing the terrible screaming matches, pulling your relationship out of the doldrums is possible if you’ll commit yourself to the process of improvement and stick it out no matter what.   No one ever gets married looking to get divorced, so let’s get after the process of making it better!

STEP 1: GET OVER THE MISGUIDED IDEAS

Nothing stands in the way of marital improvement like preconceived notions.  This is especially true of ideas of marriage that are ludicrous but so prevalent in our media that we believe the lies.  Some of the more misguided ideas I have experienced or seen people fall prey to include:

  • The “sitcom” mentality: Thinking that all problems get solved in 30 minutes with two commercial breaks.  We’ve been programmed to see all problems as simple and all solutions as quick and easy.    News flash: life ain’t like that!  Cliff Huxtable (the favorite TV dad of all time…) may have been able to do that…but he wasn’t real!   It took you years to get into this mess; likely it will not be fixed overnight.
  • “Genie in a bottle” syndrome: The belief that as long as you pray about improving your marriage (especially if you end the prayer with the magic phrase “in Jesus’ name, amen”) then it will automatically get better.  This oftentimes comes from a misunderstanding and misapplication of verses like John 14:13, but when we realize that’s not the point of this verse then we realize that God uses prayer to change us more often than He uses it to change others.  God most often uses hard work and sacrifice by both husband and wife to make a marriage joyful and fulfilling.
  • The “Song of Songs” myth: Some couples read Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon…right before Isaiah in that part of your Bible that is pristine because it’s not been read much) and think that their marriage should always sound like Solomon and the Shulammite do.  If the birds aren’t chirping and the bliss isn’t so thick you can cut it with a knife, something must be terribly wrong!  Umm…that’s a love poem.  It’s awesome, but anyone who’s ever written a mushy letter to a spouse can tell you that’s the ideal and an expression of the heart, not the workings of day to day life.  I can just imagine Solomon passing gas under the covers or the Shulammite spending too much money on a designer purse, then the two idyllic lovebirds having an argument over it.
  • The “Incompetence” fallacy: Sooooooooo many couples I know feel like they should know how to live happily ever after without any help beyond their Bible and their wedding vows.  Where we ever got the idea that we should be able, without guidance and mentorship and community and help, to solve all of our problems I will never know.  But too often we feel like we should know how to be happily married by osmosis, like we absorb it through the air or something.  Since we obviously didn’t, we’re a terrible failure and therefore should just give up.  This one usually comes when the first three fallacies have all come to pass.
  • The “One Way Street”: Believing that one or the other spouse is responsible for all of the problems in a marriage.  Certainly one spouse can cause an awful lot of problems, and I am willing to admit that every now and again a husband or wife will go completely off the deep end and torpedo a marriage.  For 99.99% of us, though, our problems come from putting two people who share at least their depravity in close proximity.  (that’s Romans 7:14-25, even among devout Christians, for anyone wondering…) We need to own our part of the problem and especially our part of the solution.

Once we get over the misguided ideas that have stood in the way of real improvement we’re ready to actually make some progress.  By realizing that improvement in our marriage relationship is neither simplistic nor easy we finally come to the place where we can start to make some strides.  Here, where we are hurting inside but unwilling to take the path of least resistance, is where we find that the grace of God can finally take over. 

In the next part of this series, we will start down the path to marital improvement by acknowledging what our individual responsibility in our marriage is and how we can serve Christ by serving our spouse.

Becoming a Spiritual Leader

I have yet to see an arena of life where leadership is not absolutely critical. I was in the Navy for almost 8 years, and of course the direction and example provided by our officers and Chief Petty Officers was critical to an effective fleet. In my business experience, the company rose and fell on the leadership of our managers. In our church, in our schools, and especially in our homes leadership is absolutely critical for success.

No aspect of leadership is more critical in a home than the spiritual leadership that a husband and father provide. I ask couples that I mentor for marriage (what most call premarital counseling) to read several books. His last book is Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s Every Man’s Marriage. It is not a wimpy book; it takes us men on a ride and demands that we consider our commitment to God and our wife as intertwined.

I am reading it as my summer marriage builder and cannot recommend it highly enough. In their chapter on “serving as a spiritual leader” (pages 200-212) they set out a model of what it takes to lead spiritually. Men, as you read these rate yourself in each area on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being you’re all over it and 0 being a colossal failure. For a man to lead spiritually, they argue, he must:

  1. Develop the deepest knowledge of God’s Word: He doesn’t need a Bible college degree, but he should be committed to reading, knowing, and understanding the Bible. It should be a daily commitment (even 5 minutes!), and when practiced brings security to your family and respect from them to you.
  2. Become the best at submitting to Scripture: Along with biblical knowledge must come biblical obedience. A true, biblical man leads in submission to God and to changing those areas that need changing in life. He puts his own goals and desires behind the desire to submit to what God says his life should be.
  3. Be the most comfortable with worshiping at home: God created humanity to worship, and a man must lead his family in that. This means prayer time, alone, with his wife, and with the family. It means spiritual conversations at the dinner table when appropriate. It means spending family time in the Word (and if 1 and 2 are getting done, it won’t be hard). It even means being willing to sing to God at home or in the car. When the man of the house worships all the time it opens the door for the family to worship all the time.
  4. Be the most consistent in your prayer and devotional life: Not only must he be comfortable, he must also be consistent. Consistency brings intimacy with God, and that intimacy with Him will impact every area of life.
  5. Be the quickest in the family to forgive and ask for forgiveness: Forgiveness is the cornerstone of Christianity. (see 1 John 1:8-10 for the model of forgiveness in the Christian life) When we come consistently to God and ask forgiveness for our sin, it frees us to offer forgiveness quickly to others and also makes us seek forgiveness from our spouse and children when we hurt them. A biblical leader is quick to forgive and quicker to ask for forgiveness.
  6. Set the spiritual thermostat in his home: A man must be the one to set the standard of holiness, conduct, and commitment in his home. If he sets the bar low, the spiritual chill in the home will affect other areas. If he turns up the heat, the whole family will be allowed to as well. If dad is cold, though, the whole family must shiver.

So how are you doing? This will only help if you are honest with yourself. If you decide that you want to just give yourself all 5s, no one will call your bluff.* If you put a score of 1-5 on each one, that would mean that your score would be somewhere between 0-30. Where are you? If you were back in high school or college the grading curve might look like this:

  • 27-30: A. You’re doing very, very well. No doubt your wife and kids are given every opportunity to live for Christ and your family life is at least moving in the right direction spiritually.
  • 24-26: B. You are definitely doing well. Your leadership shows and your family is blessed for it. While there is room for improvement, you are leading in a positive direction.
  • 21-23: C. You pass. You haven’t abandoned your post, and your wife and kids know that God is an important part of your life and should be in theirs as well. Perhaps you need to be more proactive in leading your family spiritually, but the foundation is there for you to do so.
  • 20 and less: F. Your family can’t see a significant commitment to godliness and it hurts them. When God is not important to you, He is not important to them either.

No man is perfect…we all need to get better. I am working on making devotions that are not part of my sermon prep a more consistent part of my life, so there is definite room for improvement for me. Take this inventory, though, and ask yourself if you are comfortable with Jesus doing the grading.

Ladies, you too can take this quiz and see where you stand. How would you grade yourself in these areas? Where can you improve to allow Christ to change you from the inside out and make a difference in your marriage, your kids, your work, and your ministry?

As the adage goes, leadership is everything. Spiritual leadership in the home truly is everything.

      *Today that is. One day, though, Jesus will!