Are You Ordinary?

Are You Ordinary?

The purpose of this self-evaluation is simply to get you thinking about where you are in your pursuit of the ordinary disciplines that when faithfully (not perfectly!) practiced make the greatest differences in our growth and the growth of others in Christ.

 

 

How many times in the past week have you discussed something with your spouse that involved a personal struggle and sought to explicitly bring Scripture to bear?

 

How many times in the past week have you discussed something with your child that involved a personal struggle and sought to explicitly bring Scripture to bear?

 

In the last week, how many days have you read your Bible?

 

In the last week, how many days has your family read the Bible together?

 

As a parent, where are each of your children, spiritually? Are any of your children unbaptized or ready to be examined and admitted as communing members of the church?

 

What is a sin area in your life that you are intentionally working on right now?

 

What percentage of your free time is normally spent with another person, communicating face to face (as opposed to being by yourself on a phone/computer/electronic device/TV)?

 

What are two ordinary things that you know you should do but just can’t seem to do?

 

What are two attitudes or distractions that commonly get in the way of you doing ordinary things?

Liturgy of the Ordinary

Liturgy of the Ordinary

Manners and sanctification

Date

Republished from March of 2017

Categories

Marriage

Parenting

Home

Church

The hotel ballroom was packed. I was one of three plenary speakers at a conference for youth and children’s ministry leaders. In commenting on the alarming trend of churches hemorrhaging youth, one of the speakers said, “Kids who grew up in Christian homes feet like second class citizens in the church.”

He went on to explain the basis of his claim. The church, he said, finds the testimony of people who were radically saved out of a life of deep sin (drug addiction for example) much more exciting than the testimonies of Christian children who grew up in faithful Christians homes and avoided those sins. What does this say about how we define what is really important? Michael Horton, in his book, Ordinary, has an answer.

The tendency of the evangelical movement has always been to prioritize extraordinary methods and demands over the ordinary means that Christ instituted for sustainable mission… I am convinced that we have drifted from the true focus of God’s activity in this world. It is not to be found in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary, the everyday… We have grown accustomed to running sprints instead of training for the long-distance marathon.

You may have heard and prayed the Scriptures with your family each day, perhaps even learning the great truths of Scripture with your family each day, perhaps even learning the great truths of Scripture through a catechism at home and at church. Yet in the evangelical culture of the new and novel, none of this really counts. What really matters is the extraordinary spiritual event, that life-changing experience. In fact, your testimony is likely to be regarded as greater—more genuine—to the extent that the experience happened apart from any connection with the ordinary life of the church, like baptism, profession, the Supper, and the communal prayers, praise, laments, and fellowship of Christ’s body.

Real Growth Occurs in the Ordinary

Scripture contains many incidents of people being extraordinarily converted or benefitting from a life transforming moment. Enoch, Elijah, Naaman, the woman with a hemorrhage, Lazarus, and Paul the Apostle immediately come to mind. But the normative plan that God has given for transformation is, well, quite ordinary.

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) is itself a call to the ordinary. When it says, “Go and make disciples” we can read “Go” and wrongly think only of extraordinary events such as short term mission trips or a missions emphasis week. But what is meant is more like, “As you go”. Making disciples is an ordinary process that occurs in the ordinariness of everyday life.

As parents, does it get any more ordinary than Deuteronomy 6:4-9? “Teach your children as you rise up, as you lie down, and as you walk by the way.” Jesus’ approach to discipleship was equally ordinary. His disciples just walked with him. The events in the gospels are mainly ordinary. Even the miracles grew more out of the mundane, ordinary path of life. Extraordinary blessings can be—and usually are—reaped from within the ordinary.

Examples of “ordinary” include:

  • Reading Scripture together, daily, as a family.
  • Calling the kids together for a family meeting and starting off with prayer.
  • Working through a conflict about which lights (white or multi-colored) we are going to put on the Christmas tree this year.
  • Conversations where hopes and dreams, fears and failures are shared with one another.
  • Discussing the devastating impact that a neighbor’s job loss has had on his outlook in life.
  • Taking time to stop what you’re doing to discipline a child.
  • Listening to the word being taught in a small group, Sunday school or sermon.
  • Giving attention to The Lord’s Supper.
  • Being intentional about having a child baptized and/or examined for church membership.
  • Visiting a sick or discouraged neighbor or church member.
  • Writing your spouse an encouraging note.
  • Helping a teenager through friendship struggles and decision
  • Inviting a neighbor over for a meal.
  • Praying with and for one another.

The significance of each of these opportunities is not always found in the moment itself, but in each one’s place as a link to others. There is a dynamic interrelationship that is usually indiscernible but absolutely essential. Collectively they weave together to form a tapestry that is actually rich and full. While we can miss opportunities, the problem comes when missing them becomes a pattern.

We really do need more strength to attend to these ordinary things than we need to do something much more “extraordinary”… and fun. Tish Harrison Warren captures this sentiment well, “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.”

Why God Chooses Ordinary

God is glorified when we pursue the ordinary because it requires that we first be satisfied in God. Until we find our rest in God, our hearts will always be restless. Our attentions will be blinded by our own fleshly ambitions. We demonstrate ultimate satisfaction in God when we set aside our agenda in order to take these ordinary opportunities. God is also glorified when we wait in dependence upon him to do the transforming that he has already said HE will do (Phil. 1:6). This is an active–and expectant–waiting on our part. While we wait, we joyfully pursue the mundane knowing that God is using our efforts.

Two Promises For Ordinary People

Two passages immediately come to mind that provide hope for those who cultivate an extraordinary thirst for the ordinary.

Matthew 28:20. “I am with you always”. God’s Holy Spirit is with us always. He is our Helper in faithfulness. What a wonderful promise that we don’t have to muster the strength on our own because very often, we don’t have the strength for ordinary duties.

Galatians 6:9. “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.” That is a powerful promise that God will work. We will reap. God will accomplish his redemptive plan although that plan is almost never achieved quickly or easily in our lives. This is hard to remember in those situations where we’re in deep with other people.

Growth is really a process. When you think about it, the fact that growth is a process actually a good thing. We can fail. We can get up again, confess our sin, ask forgiveness, and work again toward Christ-likeness. Imagine how hard it would be if our growth and the growth of others was dependent upon us getting it right at pre-selected extraordinary moments? As it is, the ordinariness of life is a great blessing. Let us seek to be more faithful in the ordinary pursuits of the Christian life in the church and in the home.

Consider taking this simple self-assessment test to see how ordinary you are!

Life is War

Life is War

Manners and sanctification

Date

Republished from March of 2017

Categories

Marriage

Parenting

It was one of those conversations where Leslee and I could not seem to understand each other. Though calm, things were not going swimmingly. When she said the sky was purple, I responded that the moon was made of cheese. (At least it seemed that way).

We were trying to dig our way out of a quarry of boulders including why Leslee can’t sleep between 1 am and 3 am, what to do next about two children’s health struggles, menu planning, time to shop for groceries, whether or not one of our boys should play flag football in the spring or play soccer with his older brother in the fall, and why I am too distracted with the meteorites in my own solar system to have time to talk. Yes! We were trying to deal with all of these in—one—conversation.

These are conversations of some alien kind that seem to resemble a scene from Star Wars more than the preferred Norman Rockwell painting. Yes, it seems a lot like a war—and it is—even if there are not raised voices and red faces.

What can be done to help us in these galactic conversations? May I suggest three simple things?

Realize That We Are in a War

First, remember that we are in a spiritual war. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 2:11 that we are not ignorant of the devil’s schemes. One of these schemes is to blind us to the reality that we are in a spiritual war against adept evil, spiritual forces (Eph. 6:10-12). It is no accident that Paul talks about spiritual warfare immediately after he talks about husband/wife, parent/child, and work relationships.

Our relationships are usually the battle fields on which this clandestine war plays out. While we are players, the war is ultimately between two kingdoms: a kingdom of light ruled by Almighty God and a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan (Col. 1:13). Praise the Lord that we can rest knowing that for those who are united by faith in Christ, the war is already won in Christ (John 16:33, Rom. 8:37, Eph. 2:6). In fact, God takes the evil thoughts, words and deeds and is able to use them to do good in our lives (Gen. 45:4-9, 50:20; Rom. 8:28-30). This is as miraculous as it is hope-inducing.

Remembering that we are in a war provides perspective in the moment—and relief through the divinely powerful weapons God has provided, two of which I am now going to mention.

Speak The Powerful Word of God

Quote the word of God to each other. The word of God is one of our weapons (Eph. 6:17). Jesus used this weapon in fighting Satan’s temptations in Matthew 4. The promises in God’s word are divinely powerful and we do well to remember to speak them to each other. This is not what one feels like doing in that moment. But faithfully speaking God’s promises in distressing situations brings peace because God’s word is powerful and it is infallible: it never fails.

While this does not usually fix the specific issues, it does bring peace and the ability to work together—even if it means peacefully ending the conversation and coming back to it at another time. There has never been a moment when I’ve used the word in one of these conversations where it did not bring peace.

One helpful promise is Habbakuk 3:17, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and here be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

When everything seems like its collapsing around us, we can look up in victory because God IS. God will see us through the battles.

Pray Out Loud, Each of You

Finally, pray together. Prayer, even weak prayer, is still a vital weapon. Paul says to pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). When in one of these difficult conversations just stop and pray together. Not one of you, but both, and out loud. Again, it is probably not what you feel like doing. Just be honest! God knows your heart anyway. Doing this is a clear exercise of faith and dependence upon God that glorifies him.

Confess your sin to God. Maybe its a desire to rely on yourself rather than to rely on him in that moment. Remind God of his promises. Beseech Him to act by bringing understanding and peace. This is also a good time to pray in thanksgiving to God (Phil. 4:6). We can be thankful the issues we’re dealing with are not worse. We can be thankful that God has promised to be the third strand in our marriages (Eccl. 4:12).

These are three simple suggestions that will have a powerful impact in the war that we all find ourselves every day. I encourage you to use them with the expectation that God keeps his promises and works all things out for his glory which is also our joy. Fight using the tools he has given. See the victory he can provide. You can win the battle because Christ Jesus has won the war. We stand in his victory.

How the Gospel Frees Us from Regret

How the Gospel Frees Us from Regret

Manners and sanctification

Date

February 13, 2023

Categories

Parenting

Gospel

Marriage

“Mike and Sarah have such a good marriage. Look how in-love they are—even after 20 years! We could never be like them. I regret all the mistakes we’ve made.

“Did I really marry the right guy? I mean he’s been ok as a husband and father, but it sure has been a very difficult road. I sometimes wish I had married someone else.

“Jerry has done so well. I’d love to have the salary, retirement, and the sense of accomplishment he has. I regret that I chose the path I did.

Parenting Regrets

Regrets. We all have them. Whether it’s an unsatisfying relationships or career; regrets cling to us like an old sock to underwear after passing through the drier without fabric softener. One area where regrets are especially painful is in parenting.

We might muse, “I regret not being the spiritual leader to my children that I should have been. No wonder my children are struggling spiritually.”

Many conscientious parents will look back over the years and fall into the fetal position over their mistakes ranging from the silly to the willful. We regret things we have done that were wrong. We regret the things we have not done that were right.

For me, the mistakes that seem to hurt the most are the ones I made in ignorance, i.e. the ones I made because I was young, idealistic, and lacking practical life wisdom. For example, how many men reading this who have adult children wish they had spent more time in the office? I doubt many. I think most wish they had invested more heavily in their children than they did. Finding boundaries during those years is particularly hard. The pressures of providing for a family are like a London fog that makes it hard to see other important responsibilities.

Replaying Our Regrets Over and Over

Whatever the case, do your mistakes play over and over again in your head? Maybe they sound to you like a reworded version of Nat King Cole’s famous song, Unforgettable? Regrettable…in every way…  regrettable… that’s what you are… that’s how I’ll stay…

Stop The Downward Spiral

How do you stop the downward spiral into the black hole of regret?

Forgiveness

First, where our choices were clearly wrong, we are forgiven in Christ. Because we are forgiven in Christ, we can ask forgiveness of God and those we wronged for specific sins. Forgiveness is the Mount Everest of promises that when accessed by faith, provides real freedom that sometimes is enough by itself and at other times the powerful start to a more difficult but hopeful journey. Either way, it can lift us out of the downward spiral of regret.

Things Might Not be Different

Second, it is helpful to realize that there is no guarantee that a different choice would have resulted in a better outcome. You could have made different decisions back then and things could still have turned out the same. “I could’ve spent more time with the kids”, “I could have chosen a different career path” and still struggle the same way. A child could still have walked away from Christ. The same laziness would still beset him. The same lack of direction would still plaque him.

All Things Work Together for Good

Third, Rom 8:28-30. These are verses quoted often but their encouragement is always and especially relevant when crumbling under the emotional elephant of regret. “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” “All” means good and bad. Who are those who love God? Only those who have been indwelt by his Holy Spirit. Those who believe the gospel. This is a promise from God. The truth shall set you free.

Because God is sovereign, he is able to use the bad things for good in our lives. When looking back on mistakes, we are free to ask, “Ok, what have I learned?” Interesting—only people who are at peace with God can honestly ask that question. Because we are in Christ, we are safe. Our poor performance does not reduce our righteousness and thus our standing with God. Working from that security, we can look at the situation, own it, and grow in our understanding of God’s grace and mercy. It may be hard to discern but it is there.

Sojourner’s Mindset

Fourth, we are exiles and sojourners. The mindset of the sojourner is long term. The more long term perspective we have, the more we are able to navigate the challenges of our mistakes and poor choices. Time passes as we seek God, repent of our sin, and aim to walk more faithfully.

Time and Wounds

I don’t believe time heals all wounds. I believe God can heal wounds over time. Real consequences and residue might still remain but God’s grace and mercy are not impotent. They are powerful although the truth of that is measured not usually in immediate relief but the calm, confident assurance that we are going to be ok because we are united to a loving and merciful God through Christ. We are assured of his faith-sustaining presence through to the end—and beyond.

Light and Darkness

The biblical analogy of light in darkness seems a fitting end to my comments. The light of the gospel of grace and mercy outshines the darkness of regret and it does this in a way that also exposes the ultimate impotency of the darkness itself. We have already won the battle through Christ.

As ones who have that hope within us through the gleaming light of The Word ministered by his Holy Spirit in our hearts; we have the power to overcome regret. We can see with new eyes. We can actually experience new life in Christ that does more than give us a brief but doubting smile. It is the key to rising above every situation no matter how small or large.

Checkout our free one week family devotional:
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Enduring Men

Enduring Men

Manners and sanctification

Date

September 13, 2021

Categories

Parenting

Marriage

• A college student’s Philosophy professor argued to the whole class that Christians made Satan and are therefore responsible for evil in the world.

• A cashier was screamed at being called a racist and threatened with a lawsuit simply because she made a mistake and charged a slightly higher price on an item.

• On his first day of school, a 12 year old boy’s class was asked about which pronoun each student wanted to be identified by.

All of those anecdotes are 100% true because they happened either to one of my children or a neighbor. 

But, the most outlandish story comes from Texas where The Temple of Satan is preparing to preserve their member’s right to an abortion by making the case that the “Satanic Abortion Ritual” is protected by religious liberty laws. These are alarming headlines. 

Battling Fear?

As a father of eight, I battle fear for how my children will fare in a an increasingly polarized and anti-Christian society. Will they stand firm and not abandon their faith in Jesus Christ? Will they be able to rise above fear and intimidation and provide an answer for the hope that is within them to the many people who are lost in all of this upheaval? 

Hebrews’ Example

My thoughts turn to the book of Hebrews where the Christians being written to were facing far worse circumstances. For example, some were jailed and some had their property taken away just because they were Christians.

The writer exhorts his audience to endure. But he does this in a way that might seem impractical and even tone deaf to us today.

What The Hebrews Did Not Hear

What they did NOT hear was a political strategy for fighting Rome to stop the persecution. Nor, did they hear a simple 5-Step plan (with alliteration) to deal with the troubles of persecution (not that those are not bad things to do but they certainly are not what he says).

What The Hebrews Heard

Instead, he pleads with them to, “pay close attention to what you have heard.” (Heb. 2:1). Then, he passionately reminds them of what they had heard. He goes into great detail about how much greater Jesus is than the angels, the prophets (even Moses!); he is the final sacrifice, the perfect high priest who continually intercedes for us in heaven. 

To disturbing practical problems, the writer gives a theology lesson. Who in these days would value that that?

Are We Listening?

If Hebrews were a Sunday school class, imagine the conversation on the ride home from church. A teenager pipes up: “Can you believe it?! Like, he spent like the whole Sunday School talking about Jesus as a sacrifice and high priest stuff. I mean, totes, but man, I am freaking about the friends I’m losing after liking that tweet.” 

Is Jesus Enough?

This gets right to the problem we have with our problems. We struggle to see how Jesus is the solution. We struggle to even take time to really look at Jesus; who he was and what he did for us. Doing that is often the overlooked key to enduring trials—says the author of Hebrews. Not because it works like a magic fu-fu, but because an intentionally faithful pursuit of the person and work of Jesus will increasingly fill us with joy and gratitude that causes us to more and more choose obedience (endurance) over sin (failure).

We always want something. We are always trying to get something from our experiences or other people. What are our problems other than things that get in the way of pursuing what we want? So, if what we constantly want is Jesus, then we can always have him, no matter what. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Jesus is superior in value to anything we gain, lose, or face in this life. Is it our aim to remember (and rediscover, if necessary) that and to faithfully proclaim it to ourselves and to our children every day?

NOTE: I am excited to announce a special teaching we have designed to encourage and equip men in this very pursuit. We call it, “Enduring Men in Troubled Times”. This is a simple look at keeping Jesus in view, why it is important, and how to actually do it in your home. There will be discussion and practical application. Please consider this for your men’s group. For more information click here!

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What Does a Young Man Need to Know to be Ready to Marry?

What Does a Young Man Need to Know to be Ready to Marry?

Does the bible contradict itself

Date

September 19, 2022

Categories

Home

Marriage

Parenting

Early this year, one of my adult sons moved out of state. Since then, he and I have talked almost every Sunday afternoon. A few weeks ago, during one of our conversations he asked, “What do I need to know in order to be ready to marry?” I was hit with a wave of emotions. First, who’s the girl?! Second, pride that he was thinking in a wise, mature way. Third, I thought we covered this years ago.

We Want to Hear From You!

I want to share with you what I said but I am not going to do that right now! Instead, I am going to do something unusual. Email me: eric@HomeInHim.org with how you would answer my son’s question.

When we receive enough responses, I will schedule a podcast where I share and discuss your responses (We will share your responses anonymously). I will let you know when we schedule the podcast!

I am excited to see what you have to share! Please take moment to email me your thoughts now.