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.

We Must Be Bad News Teachers

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Before we can understand who God is and what he has done, we’ve got to see our sin. That’s the only way we can see how costly his grace is.

Early on in my ministry when I was leading a children's ministry at another church , I evaluated and changed our curriculum. The old curriculum was lacking in several areas and a change was needed. One teacher in the preschool area was very unhappy about the change. I asked her why she was not a fan. Her response was interesting.

She explained the curriculum started out well enough by teaching about creation. “But,” she said, “it quickly went downhill, because all the following lessons talked about sin…..the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin of Cain killing Abel and Noah and the flood…” I was surprised by her response, and I asked her,  “Isn’t that the Bible?” Her response was, “Well yeah, but it is so negative. I mean Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah…...all the sin. It’s so negative for kids to hear.” Taken aback by her observation I responded, “You are right. In fact, I think it is negative for adults to hear. Sin has to be part of the conversation if we are to see our great need for Jesus.”

Sin is negative. Sin is bad, bad news! That is why the gospel is such good news. Kids, like adults, need to hear about our sin. Kids know that they do wrong, but they need to understand how great an offense our sin is against a holy and loving God. Parents must address not only their child’s behavior, but to delve into the underlying issues of the heart. They need to help their child understand we all have a sinful nature, just like the people read about in the Bible, and we need Jesus. Our kids need Jesus!

What has been your experience teaching kids about sin?

Family Friday Links 4.6.18

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Here's our weekly list of online goodness:

Chad Bird had a post and interesting take on Children's Church. While I disagree with the generalization, I think he brings up a question most churches don't truly think through. He wrote, "Children are not the problem. Adults are. That’s the first, honest admission we need to make: children’s church is not for the children. It’s for the adults." I believe there are ways to have both children participating in worship and have children's church; the problem is most churches don't realize the problems they create.

Jon Bloom was over on Desiring God on the topic of kids NEEDING a crisis of faith. He writes, "Coming to really see, savor, treasure, and trust Jesus Christ almost always begins in a crisis." He goes on to list 7 lessons parents need to understand as they parent their kids through doubt.

Our friend, Sam Luce, had a post on explaining the trinity to kids. He says, "The reality is the Trinity is one of the core doctrines of our faith. It is complicated, so a visual illustration is helpful for kids. In the past, I have used illustrations that answer kids questions about the Trinity but do so at the expense of mystery and what is true." It's important to help kids understand the deep truths of the faith in a way that they can understand.

What have you been reading online lately and benefiting from? Leave us a link in the comment section and we'll check it out.

Family Friday Links 3.9.18

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Our very own Jared Kennedy wrote for Sojourn Network's Blog this week. He wrote a blog entitled, "Helpful TIps for Grace-Based Classroom Management"   Jared writes, "Here’s the truth: The effective formation of our children requires a stable environment. For this reason, it’s important for a children’s ministry to supplement parental training by upholding high standards for behavior, respect, and discipline. I hope these four goals and nine strategies are helpful for you to that end." 

Jill Nelson at Children's Desiring God wrote a post on, " Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God." Jill writes, "One way we can help our children grasp this important attribute of God is to be careful with the language we use. For example, it would be in error to teach children: “God created people because He was lonely.” The implication being that God needed our fellowship. Or, “Jesus chose Peter to be His helper.” The implication being that God needs man’s help in accomplishing His purposes. Instead, use language in keeping with God’s self-sufficiency. For example, “God created people for His glory—to show His greatness and worth. He created us to be receivers of His goodness and love.” 

Kasey Fagan at Doorposts Songs website wrote a needed post about, 5 Things Parents Look For When They Visit Your Children's Ministry. Kasey writes, "I’ve been on staff at my church in preschool ministry for 13 years. When you’ve been in the same place doing much of the same thing for so long, it’s easy to get in a rut, stay in your bubble, and forget what it feels like to walk into your building and experience your children’s ministry for the first time. It’s eye opening to step back and think about what it must be like for that first time guest to walk in your doors, not knowing where to go or who to ask for help."

What have you been reading this week? Leave a link in our comment section! 

Thanks for reading.