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.

Family Friday Links 3.30.18

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Here's what we've been reading online lately:

All Pro Dad had a post on family leadership. It reads in part, "Effective leaders aren’t in it for themselves; they’re in it for the people and the mission." The post goes on to list leadership principles to keep in mind. Dads, this post will help you to dad better.

Children's Ministry Leader had a post on digital tools that will help your ministry. This post reminds us, "If you’re not using digital tools, you’re not keeping up with the people you serve." The post lists both paid and free tools that have to the potential to increase your productivity and communication ... which we could all use.

Club 31 Woman had a post about talking to daughters about sex and what not to do. This is an important topic for parents to consider. The list would work for both daughters as well as sons. It's a helpful post for parents.

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

Legos and Theology: The Joy of Knowing and Experiencing God

One of my favorite things is when my kids are interested in something so much they seek to learn about it for themselves. The more they learn about it the more they grow to love it, and the more they love it the more they want to know. A main way they do this is by looking up their topic of interest at the library. 

High on the list of great loves for my kids are Legos. A book often checked out is the Lego Idea Book. They’ll spend hours looking through it to gather more ideas. They love legos, so they want to learn more about how they can build great new creations. Their love for Legos leads them to learning, and then they put into action what they have learned.  

I want to cultivate that same kind of excitement for my kids when they are learning about God. But when we hear the word theology, many of us fall asleep. The word is almost a hypnotic trigger. What do you think of when you hear the word? Does it conjure up images of a stack of big, dusty books or is there something more?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 ESV

Theology is simply the study of God. It’s a good practice for us all, young and old, to continually be learning more about him. More about who he is, what he has done, what he desires, and who he says we are. Studying theology invites us not only to gain more knowledge, but to align our hearts and minds to God’s way of thinking and living. What an incredible inheritance we leave the next generation when we help them to love and treasure Christ! This is why our families and churches should strive to aid kids in learning about God in ways that are deep, engaging, and captivating. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says:

“We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian Fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything art or science can devise.”

Knowing Him leads to loving Him. The hope in developing a love of God through the study of theology goes deeper than kids purely gaining knowledge for its own sake. We want our kids to study theology because we want them to meet the One they are studying about. Jen Wilkin explains the connection between theology and loving God in her book Women of the Word, “If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see Him more clearly for who He is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God…...The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Loving God will be caught. We must continue to grow in our own understanding of God if we expect to be able to challenge our children to do the same. The temptation for many parents and teachers is to introduce their kids to a list of information about God rather than modeling for them what a loving relationship with God looks like. But theology becomes a joy when it's an experience--like building with Legos. A friend of mine once told me teaching is more than seeing a child as bucket waiting to be filled with information. Kids need to know and experience what they are learning about. We must help them love God with their minds and hearts, guiding them to form a relationship with their Creator beyond knowing only facts and details. If kids know a ton about God but haven't experienced Him personally then all we have accomplished is growing Pharisees.

If our kids have a relationship with God he will change their hearts and they will want to know him more. They will want to start building. They will want to study about Him. And they will want to tell others about the God they know and have experienced.

What practices help your kids know and experience God?

Family Friday Links 9.15.17

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Here's what we've been reading online this week:

Rachel Metzger over on the ERLC blog had a post connecting parenting and theology. She ends it this way, "Good theology ... encourages us to take heart, because God is in the business of rescuing fools and restoring hearts." Parents, our theology should lead us help our kids understand who God is and how to apply that understanding to our lives.

R. Kent Hughes had a post on the Crossway blog about how pastors making time for family. It starts out this way, "It’s easy to feel as a pastor that you don’t have time for your family like you ought to." He goes on to list ways to leverage the schedule in order to protect family time. Pastors, learn from and apply this wisdom.

Ryan Fredrick over on Fierce Marriage had a guest post entitled "What is 'Your Best Us'". He writes, "I believe that our families, our marriages, our unique USs, are what make us significant to God and to each other." In order to find out what he means by that, you'll have to read the rest of the post.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.