Storm-Tossed Homes Need Cross-Shaped Habits

It’s possible to accurately teach the message of the cross, but still miss Jesus.

In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of gospel-centered books, curriculum, and devotional resources for families. We’ve emphasized right teaching about gender and marriage, catechizing our kids, and grace-driven principles for parenting. Such tools give us more than biblical morality; they focus on big theological truths—God’s character and his redemptive work.

This cross-centered message is essential, but it must be accompanied by a cross-shaped value system. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, a Christian home may fathom all mysteries and knowledge and have a faith that can move mountains, but if it doesn’t have a cross-shaped love, it’s nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). The gospel message must lead our families to the crucified life.

That’s the chief concern of Russell Moore’s new book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home.

Our Homes Are Spiritual Firing Lines

Moore—president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—reminds us that we’re all part of a family. It’s true whether we’re single or married, no matter if we’re longing for children or if each chair around the table is full.

According to Moore, particular temptations face family members at each point in a family’s lifespan. Indeed, family is “a place of spiritual warfare, a warfare that sometimes leaves us groaning in sighs too deep for words” (295).

And in this war, our enemy is telling us lies.

Sometimes the Devil tempts us to exaggerate the importance of family so that we make gifts like sex or having kids the single defining feature of our lives. A young couple, for instance, may think achieving orgasm has transcendent importance. In a similar vein, consider how a mechanistic parenting culture—one that gives certain parenting choices determinative significance for a child’s future—can haunt a church.

“Something has gone terribly wrong,” Moore observes, “when a Christian [mother] feels she must protect herself from the church, for fear that her daughter’s spiritual crisis will be discussed as part of a debate over whether she should have breastfed longer or . . . chosen homeschooling over public school” (16–17).

The gospel message must lead our families to the crucified life.

Satan can also deceive us into truncating the Bible’s vision of the home. The divorce culture, rising cohabitation, and abortion are all ways our society reduces and devalues family. Moore also points out how the children of immigrants are made “invisible by language—often presented culturally or politically as parasites or as ‘anchors’ for their parents to draw welfare benefits from a wealthier country” (196).

Families Echo the Gospel

How do we stand against these temptations? The answer is found at the cross. “The cross shaped life,” Moore writes, “frees us to neither idealize nor demonize the family” (295). Instead of glory-loading our homes or reducing life’s significance, we need what Martin Luther called “a theology of the cross,” one that simply names the family for what it is.

The family is a signpost (Eph. 3:15). Our homes are designed to point us away from ourselves to the Father whose glory we see most clearly in the face of our crucified Savior (John 14:92 Cor. 4:6).

How does this work practically?

This is the best part of The Storm-Tossed Family. Whether Moore is talking about sexuality, divorce, or aging, he carefully shows the reader what it means for family life to avoid reduction and exaggeration and instead be cruciform.

In his chapter on gender, for example, Moore writes, “A cross-shaped masculinity walks not with Esau’s swagger but with Jacob’s limp. A cross-shaped femininity comes not with the glamor of Potiphar’s wife but with the Bible-teaching prowess of Eunice and Lois” (82).

I could fill pages with more examples.

Safe in Our Nail-Scarred Home

The only safe harbor for a storm-tossed family is a nail-scarred home.

It’s true that sometimes a crucified life is chosen; Paul, for instance, tells us to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). Perhaps more often, though, life’s deaths and disappointments are simply encountered. Storms like infertility, a disability diagnosis, or a cheating spouse may gather on the horizon without any regard for what we choose. Sometimes we’re hung on our own family tree. Moore shares about how his childhood insecurities still drive him (44). He writes about a dark night of the soul triggered by nominal Christians he’d encountered at funerals (267). None of us chooses the home or culture into which we’re born. Moore’s vulnerability about his past drives this point home and then directs us ahead to where a better hope is found.

There is one thing about The Storm-Tossed Family that may be a minor concern for some. Moore is unapologetically a Southern Baptist. If you hail from a denomination that practices infant baptism, then the discussion of child dedication (199) and Moore’s convictional anecdote about baptizing his adolescent son (213–14) may be a stumbling block. But Moore’s sense of rootedness and the openness with which he shares about his denominational upbringing contributes in an important way to the book’s message.

Moore writes, “The only safe harbor for a storm-tossed family is a nail-scarred home” (5). In other words, the only way to find true life is to cling, in faith and love, to the Crucified (Gal. 2:20Phil. 3:10–11). Safe harbor is found when we make our home with Jesus Christ.

This post first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.

E-book Review: 5 Habits of a Healthy Marriage

Whatever we neglect will surely die or be overcome with chaos. Whatever we nurture, by God’s grace, will grow and flourish—your marriage included.
— Ryan Frederick
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Marriage can be tough, even under optimal conditions. It’s one thing to be married and it’s another thing for the marriage to be healthy. When one sinner is marrying another sinner, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when that sin interferes with their relationship. This ebook is a great reminder of what God intended marriage to be and how to help marriage flourish. It’s a good resource for both newlywed couples as well those who have been married for decades.

The free e-book is nice and short as well as easy to read. And it's intensely practical. Each chapter is loaded with practical ideas that are easy to implement. These ideas are things we tend to forget and need to be reminded of. But as we intentionally pursue these habits, our marriages will get healthier.

I plan on recommending this as a resource to any married couple who desires to deepen the health of their marriage. If that is something you’d be interested in, head over to the website for your free download.

Book Review: Fierce Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick

I try to read a book on marriage or parenting at least once each year. This year, the book I've chosen is Fierce Marriage: Radically Pursuing Each Other in Light of Christ's Relentless Love by Ryan and Selena Frederick (fiercemarriage.com). I’ve been encouraged and challenged by this book, and I was happy to be a part of their social media launch team. Overall, I'll tell you that this husband and wife duo will positively impact your marriage. Here's my thoughts on the book.

What I Loved

This book tackled many of the same topics most good Christian marriage books do. The difference in my opinion is that the Fredericks gave a more balanced perspective on those topics by writing together. Upwards of forty percent of the book is dedicated to telling stories. While I know this is helpful for some, this isn't my preference. By the midway point of the book, I found myself simply skimming the stories. Having said this, the meat of the book easily overcomes this weakness. The Frederick's use of Scripture was spot on, and their explanations are easy to understand and readily applicable. Chapter 6, the chapter on communication, was worth the price of the book. This chapter pointed repeatedly to the truth that communication problems are first and foremost matters of the heart, that is issues of pride. Then, the Fredericks went on to give very practical application points for fighting pride in the midst of regular marital communication. Most importantly, Fierce Marriage consistently points the reader back to their need to focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The book shows us our need for this individually and as a couple.

How I Plan on Using This Book

I plan on recommending this book to newly married couples, couples who may or may not have had pre-marital counseling, but may be struggling to grow in their relationship. This book is another faithful guide for marriage, one of life’s most pivotal decisions, since it addresses everything from expectations to handling conflict while staying focused on the gospel.

I recommend this book to you as well. Whether you’ve been married six months or more than sixty years, this book will help you love your Lord and spouse better. Get it as soon as possible and be edified.

Family Friday Links 3.2.18

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Here's the online content that got us thinking this week:

Rooted Families had a post on courageous parenting. In the midst of the fear based society we live in the post reads, "...  the key to courage: courage does not begin with us. Just as it all begins with God’s steadfast character, even the courage He commands us is not something we can manufacture in and of ourselves." The author of this post works through Psalm 27 to illustrate his point.

Scott Kedersha had a post ways to develop martial intimacy. He reads in part, "... intimacy doesn’t happen accidentally. You must be intentional to increase intimacy in your marriage." His list of 10 way to increase intimacy are spot on and worth your time.

Download Youth Ministry had an important post for both youth and children's ministry leaders to think through on the topic of working with parents. In order for ministry to the next generation to be truly successful, we have to involve parents in the process. Here are some helpful hints to be thinking through.

What have you benefitted from online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section and we will check it out.