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Category Archives: Marriage and Family
1. Find a church home quickly. Sanctification of the Lord’s day, sitting under God’s word preached, receiving the Lord’s supper, and caring for and being cared for by God’s people is indispensable to your spiritual well-being and (if married) your family’s. Don’t prolong your search.
Your adjustment may be tough. Don’t be discouraged. It’s part of your preparation for ministry. All pastors work with people who struggle to fit into new church homes. A few years from now, you will too. Therefore, right now, you and your family’s struggles to fit in are equipping you for ministry. They are one of many ways God is at work to make you a sympathetic shepherd of your flock.
2. Don’t pit your studies against your devotional life. During my first year at Princeton, I stumbled upon a copy of B.B. Warfield’s The Religious Life of Theological Students and received perhaps the most helpful counsel of my seminary career: Make your turning to the books a turning to God. Before you open a text, ask the Lord to give you an increased knowledge of his character and of your need of grace. Seek from him a deeper understanding of his word and world. Fill your time in the books with prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and renewal. If you do, you’ll establish enduring study habits to the glory of God.
3. Guard your study time. Most of us only get one shot at seminary; misuse the time, and you will finish your studies inadequately prepared. Even if it were possible to learn later what you miss now, the forfeited opportunity costs are steep. For years you will labor without the benefit of what could have been yours from the start.
On campus and in church, you will be asked to serve in many ways. Before you say “yes,” make sure that your studies are squared away. Take to heart the old adage: “Do what you have to do, then do what you want to do.”
Don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking of your studies as competition to service to the Lord. Right now, your time reading and writing and in the lecture hall is your primary field of service. Should you serve in other ways? Most definitely, but not before you are sure you can meet your academic requirements.
4. Watch your spending. Most of the time, family conflict about money has its roots not in scarcity, but in negligence. Many students and their spouses don’t think carefully about their finances. The consequences can be dire: strained relationships, overwork, and, sometimes, withdrawal from seminary and the abandoning of plans for ministry.
Don’t let that be your story. Spend less than you earn. Get and stay on a budget. Put on paper where your money will go. If you don’t know how, ask for help, and the sooner the better.
It breaks my heart to hear stories of men who prepare for ministry, but then must turn down a pastoral call because their debt makes it impossible. Learn the fundamentals of financial management now, and reap its rewards for a lifetime.
5. Eliminate distractions when you’re studying, at home, and with the Lord. When you set aside time to study, be fully engaged. Turn off email and all notifications; silence your cell phone; refuse to surf the web.
When you return home, give your wife and children your full attention; put your phone, books, and computer away.
During your personal devotions, be fully engaged with the Lord and his word.
When you eliminate distractions and concentrate on the task before you, you’ll be surprised at how much you accomplish and grow in your work and relationships.
Seminary has its share of opportunities and trials. The lessons learned here will go with you to your first church; resolve to make these habits your own, and they too will follow you throughout your ministry
Lynne and I were so impressed with this interview that we ordered an audio copy of The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis – and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance to listen to during our summer travels. Sen. Sasse discusses the tools, work ethic, and mental toughness young people will need to succeed in today’s dynamic work environment.
The seven-minute clip is a part of an extended interview on BookTV.
If I prepared a 2017 summer reading list for parents, this book would be at the top.
Theodore Dalyrmple on the consequences our culture’s paedo-centrism:
“Anyone who has observed a mother in a shop or supermarket solicitously and even anxiously bending over a three- or four year-old child to ask him what he would like for his next meal will understand the sovereignty over choice that is now granted to those who have neither experience nor powers of discrimination enough to exercise it on the basis of anything other than the merest whim, without regard to the consequences. By abdicating their responsibility in this fashion, in the name of not passing on their own prejudices or preconceptions to their children, and not imposing their own view of what is right upon them, they enclose their children within the circle of their childish tastes. In the name of the struggle against prejudice and illegitimate authority, they instill a culinary prejudice that, though self-evidently harmful, is far more restrictive in the long run than any they might have instilled by the firm exercise of their authority; for, in the absence of experience, children will always choose the same thing, the thing that is most immediately attractive or gratifying to them.
“The precocity encouraged by too-early an assumption of the responsibility for making a choice, as if children were the customers of their parents rather their offspring, is soon followed by arrested development. A young child, constantly consulted over his likes and dislikes, learns that life is, and ought to be, ruled by his likes and dislikes. He is not free of prejudices just because he is free of his parents’ prejudices. On the contrary, he is a slave to his own prejudices. Unfortunately, they are harmful both to him as an individual, and to the society of which he is a member.”
– Theodore Dalyrmple, In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas (New York: Encounter, 2007), 19-20.
In 1893 Scottish Presbyterian minister, Alexander Whyte, published his famous lectures on John Bunyan’s characters from The Pilgrim’s Progress. To modern readers, the language and style may seem dated, but his words on patience in marriage are just as timely as ever:
“To begin with, how much impatience we are all from time to time guilty of in our family life. Among the very foundations of our family life how much impatience the husband often exhibits toward the wife, and the wife toward her husband. Patience is the very last grace they look forward to having any need of when they are still dreaming about their married life; but, in too many cases, they have not well entered on that life, when they find that they need no grace of God so much as just patience, if the yoke of their new life is not to gall them beyond endurance. However many good qualities of mind and heart and character any husband or wife may have, no human being is perfect. When, therefore, we are closely and indissolubly joined to another life and another will, it is no wonder that sometimes the ill-fitting yoke eats into a lifelong sore. We have all many defects in our manners, in our habits, and in our constitutional ways of thinking and speaking and acting, – defects that tempt those who live nearest us to fall into annoyances with us that sometimes deepen into dislike, and even positive disgust, till it has been seen, in some extreme cases, that home-life has become a very prison-house, in which the impatient prisoner chafes and jibs and strikes out as he does nowhere else. Now, when any unhappy man or woman wakens up to discover how different life is now to be from what it once promised to become, let them know that all their past blindness, and precipitancy, and all the painful results of all that, may yet be made to work together for good. In your patience with one another, says our Lord, you will make a conquest of your adverse lot, and of your souls to the bargain. Say to yourselves, therefore, that perfection, faultlessness, and absolute satisfaction are not to be found in this world. And say also that since you have not brought perfection to your side of the house any more than your partner has to his side, you are not so foolish as to expect perfection in return for such imperfection. You have your own share of what causes fireside silence, aversion, disappointment, and dislike; and, to what may not now be mended. And then, the sterner the battle the nobler will the victory be; and the lonelier the fight, the more honour to him who flinches not from it. In your patience possess ye your souls.”
Is there a finer contemporary essayist than Joseph Epstein? This morning I read his essay “The Kindergarchy: Every Child a Dauphin,” in which he reflects upon the sad outcomes of a society in which children rule, and are pampered and spoiled like “direct descendants of the Sun King.”
As he’s wont to do, Epstein mixes social commentary with humor. I chuckled at this personal anecdote, I suppose from the 1940s: “I recall only once telling my mother that I was bored. ‘Oh,’ she said, a furtive smile on her lips, ‘why don’t you bang your head against the wall. That’ll take your mind off your boredom.’ I never mentioned boredom again.”
– in Joseph Epstein, A Literary Education and Other Essays.
If there is one trial greater than another, it is the trial of being disappointed in those we love. It is a bitter cup, which all true Christians have frequently to drink. Ministers fail them. Relationships fail them. Friends fail them. . . . But let them take comfort in the thought, that there is one unfailing Friend, even Jesus, who can be touched with the feelings of their infirmities, and has tasted of all their sorrows. Jesus knows what it is to see friends and disciples failing Him in the hour of need. Yet He bore it patiently, and love them notwithstanding all. He is never weary of forgiving. Let us strive to do likewise.
The marriage relation lies at the very root of the social system of nations. The public morality of a people, and the private happiness of the families which compose a people, are deeply involved in the whole question of the law of marriage. . . .
Happy are they, who in the matter of marriage observe three rules. The first is to marry only in the Lord, and after prayer for God’s approval and blessing. The second is not to expect too much from their partners, and to remember that marriage is, after all, the union of two sinners, and not of two angels. The third rule is to strive first and foremost for one another’s sanctification. The more holy married people are, the happier they are.
J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1857, rep. 2000), 199-200.