Be The Friend

Friends

Thirty minutes later life feels better than good, its great. All it took was a phone call from a life long friend after a home-made banana split sundae. I’d enjoyed an afternoon out with my son to see the preview for the 3D movie, Cirque du Soleil. On the way home we had decided to buy ALL the ingredients necessary to make everyone at home a full on banana split sundae including shaving cream. Yup, that was the running gag on the way home as I kept saying ‘Shaving Cream’ instead of a can of ‘Whipped Cream’. Thankfully we got the right one on the plate.

Now even though a dessert of French Vanilla or Hokey Pokey ice-cream over a fresh banana with fruit salad and whipped cream is simply the sweetener for the night it would have only been the anaesthetic without the surgery of a friend.  Sure, it was even better with marshmallows, Smarties and then topped with berry or caramel sauce but that little bowl of sin wasn’t what made the night complete. Satisfaction came from someone who chose to Be The Friend and called me out of the blue to ask us how we were. As we talked together about the ‘flat-tire’ our life is enduring right now we could hear the heart-felt care and the trembling concern from a beautiful friend.

I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei

This is a unique friendship that was built on shaky ground in the early years. They were the youth group leaders, I was the wandering teenager, and the connection was based on a need to be heard and loved. For many years it felt like I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei. I would often be rehearsing the ‘check-up’ questions in my mind before each visit, knowing I would be asked about various areas of my life, faith and walk.  This was the kind of love hate accountability I wanted and needed but never felt I would survive. I knew my own youthful fallibility so the expectation was a hand written self deprecating prophecy.

The environment that this couple created gave me a trusted space with responsibility to lead and create. It was comfortable and uncomfortable in the same moment as the fun of a youth group created trusted friendships while the Bible studies, and leadership responsibilities called us to grow, examine and review. Nothing stood still and through life, school, celebrations and head over handle bars bike accidents the relationship deepened.

Friendship is powerful to heal

Sadly it wasn’t a consistent journey and the stumbles stand out like eye sores on the memory’s landscape. I don’t understand why so much drifts out of my memory banks like an outgoing tide and yet the faux-pas events that happen on the stage in front of our friends seem to be etched like the dates of war battles on granite. I can clearly recall two events where my selfish motives broke trust, damaged relationships and rippled through time. It wasn’t just the moment, or the act, it was the response. When you know you’ve broken a bond of trust the eyes tell a story of disappointment.

Friendship is powerful to heal and I was on the receiving end in those early years. Friendship can cement itself between the years and visits to change what was a few bricks in the yard to become a place of protection. Today a phone call invited us back to that special place that still stands.

Can I encourage you to listen to the small voice that says; “Ring John” or “Give Jenny a call”. It’s not your advice that’s needed right now, its your friendship. There are two things that you can do and ‘Be The Friend’ that won’t cost you money, an ongoing commitment of your time or a sacrifice beyond the enjoyment of a tall hot latte.

Be The Friend: Ask How Things Are

I remember the advice of Greg Laurie as he spoke about how to speak to someone grieving. He said that ignoring the death is a mistake and to simply acknowledge the loss and repeat something positive that you remember about the loved one who has passed away. While speaking after a death is often the hardest kind of friendship activity this is good advice. If you know what your friend is going through then speak briefly and clearly telling them with empathy that you know and understand it must be difficult. Then ask “How are they going?” This first part stops here. Don’t over-think it or think you can do it better. Take a deep breath and slide on to step two.

Be The Friend: Listen First, Talk Briefly

A good friend knows that listening grows empathy and time means trust. If your friend can talk then just rest into listening and pay attention. Your ability to ask short brief questions based on what they’ve told you will empower  your friend that you are trusting their responses. Be careful not to question their actions at this point. Simply listening is allowing them to process more issues, ideas and paths forward than a night tossing on the pillow could hope for. If there is a moment to share your thoughts try to use phrases like “I’d probably” rather than “You should”. By keeping things centred on yourself you allow them to choose whether they take the idea or leave it with you. By using ‘probably’  instead of ‘should’ it allows your friend to decide on the timing of utilising your idea and making it their own.

This blog post is dedicated to the many people who have chosen to “Be The Friend” to the Pitchford Family over the years. Your listening ears, timely advice and warm welcome homes are what inspires us to be true to life, love and calling.

Thank You!

Now in the words of Ray Parker Jnr; “Who ya gonna call?”

Leadership in the Home – A Godly Man Protects

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This post comes to us from Tim Challies who has graciously allowed me to bring you this new series here. Tim’s blog at www.challies.com is one of the most challenging and insightful you will find. I subscribe to Tim’s RSS feed and encourage you to check it out.

A husband is uniquely equipped to protect his family. There is more to protecting his family than simply being strong and taking the proverbial bullet in place of his wife or children. In this article I want to outline a few of the ways in which a husband is responsible for protection.

Protect Your Family
Protect your family physically. The godly husband is responsible for the physical security of his family. God has given men greater physical strength than women and has also given men a need or desire to be protectors. You are to use this God-given strength to protect your wife and to ensure that she feels secure. She must know that you will protect her even at the cost of your own life. You must be the first into battle, you must be the one who knows that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

John Piper expresses this calling well: “If there is a sound downstairs during the night and it might be a burglar, you don’t say to her: ‘This is an egalitarian marriage, so it’s your turn to go check it out. I went last time.’ And I mean that even if your wife has a black belt in karate. After you’ve tried, she may finish off the burglar with one good kick to the solar plexus. But you better be unconscious on the floor, or you’re no man. That’s written on your soul, brother, by God Almighty. Big or little, strong or weak, night or day, you go up against the enemy first. Woe to the husband—and woe to the nation—that send their women to fight their battles.”

You are to love your wife as Christ loved the church. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). Christ loved the church to the fullest possible extent—to the laying down of his life. He considered his life nothing in comparison with the task God had appointed to him. As a godly husband, you are to imitate Christ in this.

But there is more to it than simply being the first down the stairs when there is a noise in the night. You must also be proactive, protecting your family from predators. You must be constantly aware, constantly on guard against danger your family may encounter. So, for example, you will need to take the lead in ensuring that your children are using the internet wisely, that you have criteria for protecting your children from predators online or offline, that they are not encountering things on television that their minds and hearts are not yet equipped to understand. You will guard and protect your children from sexual temptation or sexual expression while they are dating.

Protect your family emotionally. You do this by refusing to give in to the temptation to dominate your wife and children as an overlord instead of a servant. You must learn how to properly discipline your children so you guard their bodies and their hearts. You will need to learn how your wife is different from you emotionally so you can be tender and understanding toward her (see 1 Peter 3:7 and Colossians 3:21). You need to provide loving leadership that guides and protects with dignity and love.

Protect your family theologically. You do this by developing wisdom and discernment—by pursuing godliness. You need to act like the nobel Bereans of old who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). You must be careful not to introduce to them any false teaching, knowing that as a teacher, the most important teacher your family will have, you will be judged with a harsher judgment for any false doctrine you may recommend to them.

Protect Your Family from Themselves
The godly husband protects his wife and children by helping them flee sin so they do not suffer its painful consequences. You need to know and understand that sin, when it runs rampant, damages more than just the sinner. Seek to guard your family from their own sin. Protect your wife from the sin of the children and the children from the sin of your wife; protect the children from one another.

As a godly husband you may have to intervene in the way your wife disciplines the children, not allowing her to be harsh or even abusive toward the children. You must not allow your love for her or your fear of her to allow you to avoid costly or unpopular leadership. Use your strength and authority even to protect your wife from the children, not allowing them to threaten or abuse her with words, attitudes or fists.

Protect Your Family from Your Own Sin
One of the unmistakable lessons we learn from reading the Old Testament is that a nation can suffer because of the sin of its leader and that a family can suffer because of the sin of its father. When Achan sinned (Joshua 7) by keeping for himself some of the items plundered from Jericho that God had devoted for his own use, it was not only Achan who suffered the consequences. All of Israel was punished for a time through the disastrous battle of Ai which saw thirty-six soldiers fall as the Israelite army was routed. God revealed that one man had sin and eventually Achan’s whole family was put to death for the sin of the father. “They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. ” Think as well of the rebellion of Korah as described in Numbers 16. Korah rebelled against Moses’ leadership, saying that he was exalting himself beyond the rest of the people. God’s judgment was swift: “And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.” In both cases, the husband and father sinned but the whole family suffered consequences.

A man cannot commit himself to sin without his whole family bearing consequences. In the response to a series I wrote on the effects of pornography I received email after tragic email, describing how a husband had sinned against his wife by turning to pornography. In every case the wife was defiled by her husband’s sin, hurt by it, devastated by it. Often even the children were affected as their parents became estranged from one another, pulled apart by the father’s commitment to his sin. Wife and children suffered because a husband was more committed to his sin than he was to his family.

A godly husband protects his family by turning from sin and pursuing holiness. Know that your sin goes far beyond your own life and impacts your children and your wife. Out of love for your wife and children, out of compassion for them, out of a desire to serve them, live a holy life. Flee sin, put it to death, and pursue holiness. In this way you will be protecting your family from your sin and from the effects of your sin. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give your family is a silent, hidden decision to refrain from pursuing sin. Your family would be better off if you’d skip the trip to Disney and commit yourself to holiness.

Protect Your Wife
The godly husband focuses special attention on protecting his wife. And what man doesn’t feel the need to protect his wife? There is something in the very make up of a man that compels him to protect her, to shelter her from the pain life can bring.

Protect your wife physically. As we have seen, a godly husband uses his strength to protect his wife from any physical harm. He puts himself in harm’s way rather than risking her harm. He does not allow himself to feel that he needs to turn his cheek to any kind of abuse of his wife, but reacts with strength even at the risk of his own harm. He will face his own harm, he will face his own death, to keep his wife from suffering at the hand of others.

Allow me a brief aside here. I think most husbands have come to terms with the idea that we need to be willing to die for our wives. There is something noble and chivalrous that compels us to admit this and to romanticize it. “Of course I’d die for my wife!” But I wonder, do you find it equally easy to live for your wife? If you do not live day-to-day honoring and blessing and serving your wife, what assurance would she have, what assurance would you have, that would also be willing to die for her? It seems to me that dying for her is the easy part. You can go down in a blaze of glory and have a great story written about you in the newspaper. But it is that long, daily commitment through fifty or sixty years of marriage that is the true proving ground. Don’t just die for your wife—live for her!

Protect your wife emotionally. The godly husband will protect his wife’s heart. One of the ways he does this is by becoming a student of her. He learns what she loves and learns what she hates; he learns what draws her heart to him and what turns her heart from him. He avoids anything that will damage or scar her heart. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7).

Protect your wife sexually. This is a particular area of responsibility from a husband to a wife. The godly husband will not demand of his wife what she is unwilling or unable to give. He will not force her or badger her into sexual deeds that violate her body or violate her conscience. He seeks to protect her from any kind of sexual harm, including the false messages that can come from raunchy movies or from pornography. When writing about sexual purity I received emails from wives whose husbands introduced them to pornography, seeking to add it as a means of spicing up their love life. What a lack of love, to compound sin upon sin by drawing a wife’s heart after a husband’s own evil desires! As a godly husband you need to understand God’s purposes in sexuality and protect your wife from any violation of them. You need to understand from 1 Corinthians 7 that your desire in sex should be pursuing your wife’s desires rather than your own.

Protect your wife spiritually. Protect your wife spiritually, primarily by your commitment to pray for her, to hold her up before the throne of God. Commit yourself to praying for her every day and even many times a day. Pray for her constantly, repeatedly, unceasingly. Know that your prayers, as her leader, as her husband, must have special value before God. Tell her that you pray for her and ask her what you can pray for on her behalf. Commit yourself to this practice and look for the evidence of God’s response to your earnest supplications.

This series will conclude tomorrow with an article titled “A Godly Man Provides.”

Leadership in the Home – A Godly Man Provides

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This post comes to us from Tim Challies who has graciously allowed me to bring you this new series here. Tim’s blog at www.challies.com is one of the most challenging and insightful you will find. I subscribe to Tim’s RSS feed and encourage you to check it out.

The husband is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the family’s needs are met. While financial needs are the most obvious component of this, they extend far beyond. Here are several ways in which God has called you, as a husband, to provide for your family.

Provide Financially. The husband is to lead in the area of finances. In most cases this means that you, the husband, will be the family’s breadwinner, freeing up your wife to pursue her vocation in the home as wife and mother. It will also mean that you will be ultimately responsible for financial decisions and management. It may be prudent to allow your wife to actually pay the bills and keep financial records, but you must still be involved in the family finances. Time and ability would undoubtedly fail me to provide from Scripture a cut-and-dry case for these rather contentious declarations, but I would point you toward Ephesians 5 (where a husband is told to nourish and cherish his bride—is not provision an important component of nourishment?) or to 1 Timothy 5:8 where we’re told that a man who does not provide for his own family is worse than an unbeliever. I would also point you toward common sense. Common sense should tell us that women are specially created and equipped to do the work involved in raising children and that men are specially equipped to do the work involved in provision. This does not mean that a husband does nothing around the house and a woman never earns a penny. It is simply a matter of priorities.

In an attempt to head off questions, let me say that in this series we are dealing with broad principles and there are times that the principles seem to fall short in specific circumstances. The world being what it is, there are always exceptions and sometimes tragic exceptions. When it comes to theology it is important that we begin broad and go narrow rather than begin narrow and go broad. The broad principle here is that the husband is called to be the provider. But, of course, there are times when this cannot happen. Perhaps a husband is injured or disabled or just plain unable to find work. In such cases the wife may be called upon to be the primary breadwinner. In some circumstances a man may need to defer this task to the church or the government. There may also be times when a wife has to take on provision while the husband is studying or preparing himself for another vocation. Even here, though, he does not need to hand over leadership to his wife or to anyone else. He can still lead in this area even if circumstances prevent him from actually providing through the labor of his hands.

I know people will also wonder whether I am saying that your wife absolutely cannot have a job. I would again point to the broad principle that God’s primary call for women is to be involved in managing the home and raising children. As long as her job does not keep her from fulfilling her other responsibilities (such as a woman who decides she cannot have children because she wishes to prioritize her career), then I don’t see anything in Scripture that forbids it. Ideally I think the husband would wish to be in a position where if his wife works it is because of choice and not some kind of financial necessity.

Provide Sexually. The godly husband desires to serve his wife and to honor God through sex (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). You need to know the importance of sex in your relationship with your wife and know the importance of sexual purity to your own heart. You need to see sex not as something that is merely physical, but as a means of grace within your marriage—an act of love that binds a husband to his wife and a wife to her husband in a unique way. Pursue your wife not only in the act but in all of life so that she is willing and eager to join with you in the consummation of the act. Eagerly and willingly provide for her needs in this way, thinking more of her than of yourself.

Provide Spiritually. It is the husband who must take initiative in leading his wife into deeper and deeper truths of the faith. You need to take the initiative in providing a church home where you can join together with other believers in fellowship and in worship. Take the lead in willingly and eagerly studying the Bible on your own and with your wife. Be willing to encourage her to come before God on her own. Whether your wife is a believer or not, you should live before her in such a way that you put no stumbling block in her path—nothing that would keep her from pursuing God.

Provide Yourself. The godly husband provides himself, which is to say that he provides focused, undistracted time and attention. I think this is an area of particular failing for men today. We are a distracted and busy people who have a difficult time prioritizing what ought to be prioritized. We believe that we are owed endless hours of entertainment—that it is our right to be entertained for hours every day—and we give ourselves to this pursuit. We also recklessly pursue stuff, power, position, prestige and any other number of idols. And often these will come at the expense of your wife or children. As husband you need to provide time for your wife. Some of this time may be spent watching television, but there must be times where you can just talk without distraction, without the need for entertainment. You must provide time for your children, to talk to them, to encourage them, to ask them questions and to answer their questions. Seek to take the lead in arranging regular date nights with your wife; go on “daddy-dates” with your kids as well, finding special things to do with each one of them (alone) on a regular basis (even if that event is no more special than an early-morning breakfast at Denny’s—something I’ve been doing with my kids recently. Kids are remarkably unpicky when it comes to time spent with dad). Help your wife arrange similar dates with the kids so she can spend that focused time with them as well.

Conclusion
I can’t deny as I type the final words of this series that it did not come together quite as I expected. There is probably too much “me” in it. Nevertheless, I do hope that it can prove beneficial to men, and especially young men. I hope they can see in it just a glimpse of the high calling they’ve been given as husbands and that they can find great joy and satisfaction in their task as leaders within their homes.

Resources
I found a few books helpful as I prepared these articles. Among them are:

The Complete Husband: A Practical Guide to Biblical Husbanding

The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective

Being a Christian Husband: A Biblical Perspective

Five things a Leader should learn

Recently I read a post by Scott Thomas from Acts 29 Network. Scott had spent time with Billy Hornsby from the ARC. This church planting organisation was co-founded by Greg Surratt of Sea Coast and are headquartered in Birmingham Alabama.

Along the way Scott and Billy shared ideas that are pivotal in the survival of any leader, particularly where the ‘foundations’ of an organisation are so dependant on the Leaders ability to guide through and not carry the entirety of the burden.

In the post Scott shared five things he learned from Billy. I am sharing with you the headlines and encourage you to visit Acts 29 to get the depth of the advice.

 

  1. Never Complain

  2. Adore Your Wife

  3. Discipline Your Children

  4. Take Time Off

  5. Delegate Quickly

 

Continue the journey in the full post found here.