Defending the Innkeeper at Christmas

Last week, Family Matters published a guest post of mine, called Don't Despise the Faithful Innkeeper. In this last weekend before Christmas, I figured it was worth promoting again.

Why? Because despite most of us being on vacation from school and work, the days are about to get busy. Really busy, and really hectic. And if you are hosting family and friends, you'll probably feel like an overworked and under-appreciated innkeeper.

Remember the innkeeper from the Bible, in the Christmas story? Of course you don't, because he's not in there. There is only an allusion to him in Luke 2:7.

And yet we look down and despise him in all our Christmas plays and stories. And it's time we stop.

Let's look at the innkeeper in a new light. And let's remember that just as he was faithful right where God had him, God has you in a very important role, too.

Read Don't Despise the Faithful Innkeeper, and be encouraged.

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Preparing for Christmas

In case you don't follow 80 (seriously?) blogs and news sites like I do, here's a compilation of some great resources about Christmas:

Let Us Adore Him (David Mathis).  "Christmas is not first about witness, but about worship... But beware your standard of who can come in worship. At Jesus’s own birth, it wasn’t the squeaky-clean, religious elites of biblical faith who bowed the knee in worship."

Christmas Generosity (Dave Bruskas).  During the Christmas season, I must remember to be generous to my family, my church, and the world.

Make This Christmas Unforgettable for Your Children (Christine Hoover).  A great reminder for all of us who feel the pressure to perform and make things "perfect" for our families.

Rethinking Santa (Tony Rienke).  John Piper strongly cautions parents to not include Santa Claus in their Christmas traditions, and I think he gives good reasons why. (However, we have had great friends that do include Santa, and I think they have good reasons why, too.)

A Stress-Free Christmas: 5 Ways to Keep Santa in the Season (Christy Thomas).  On a lighter note about Santa, please read this with the understanding that it was written with tongue-in-cheek!

5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor During Christmas (Ryan Kearns). 
  1. Listen
  2. Draw near
  3. Take the first step
  4. Be inconvenienced
  5. Endure
Advent: The Need (Paul Tripp).  What makes the Christmas story so wonderful is the extent and depth of our brokenness.

The Presence of Advent (Jeremy Writebol).  "As we increasingly consider God with us, we must ask ourselves are we displaying this reality to the world? Are we showing lonely people God with us by our presence with them?"

Goals and Skills: Year-End Reflections

I'm not going to dwell (yet again) on how I did not fully accomplish my goals in 2014. Which is odd for me, since I'm naturally pessimistic and a perfectionist.

So, let me do this. Let me celebrate all that I was able to accomplish this year in my goal of learning new skills:
  • I made it almost through two years of Rosetta Stone Spanish material.
  • I learned how to play the ukulele (on a basic level). 
  • I learned to solve a Rubik's cube in under 2.5 minutes. 
  • My son (Elijah) and I learned some basic computer programming. 
  • I focused more on Bible memorization. 
I didn't master any of these things. But even the little bit I learned was fun, and it was beneficial to me. The processes of having to learn new skills is good for your brain (including language learning).

What's Next?

I'm not sure yet what goals I'll have in 2015. For now, I'm thinking about being more strategic in my journaling. I've kept a journal since I was in college (I think I'm on #30 or so now). But I'm now in the middle of a 31-day journaling challenge, and I plan to do this semi-regularly in the future.

If you want to start journaling, or do it more regularly, I recommend you follow a plan like that to help you get going. Also, check out these articles by:

Also from Art of Manliness, I've been eying this Ben Franklin's Virtues Daily Record and Journal. I don't like the high price, so I may just order the replacement journal inserts. I do not agree with the philosophy that I can just work harder and automatically make myself a better person. But this may be a good exercise for me. At the least, it will remind me how much I need a Savior and how futile it is to earn favor with God.

Not only do I want to journal with more intentionality, I also like Franklin's idea of spending time at the end of each day reflecting on that day's high and low moments.

Thanks for journeying along with me this year. I'd love to hear from you:

What accomplishments from 2014 can you look back on with positivity? And do you have any goals for 2015?

**first image courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt via everystockphoto
**second image courtesy of Art of Manliness

Father to Son

Help! He's getting closer to being a teenager!

Dads -- Do you have father-son talks with you boys? Do you pass on bits of wisdom through a few extended conversations, or do these nuggets of truth come through more regular but smaller talks?

If you are like me, you do both. You have some main topics (such as about salvation, sexuality, education, and leadership) that you cover in detail. But you still sprinkle in brief insights and guide points along the way.

And if you're like me, you are never really sure how much of it sinks in. But that's not the point. Our job is to keep leading our families, to keep training our children, and to keep passing on wisdom.

My Son

Tomorrow, my son Elijah has a birthday. We have had lots of conversations over the past 11 years. I've made my share of mistakes, and have said and done some damaging things. But I know that God has given me much wisdom to pass on to him.

I'm thankful for the resources I've had, so that I can be a good father to Elijah. I've had access to books, parenting classes, friends, mentors, and (most importantly) God the Holy Spirit. But all the resources don't make a difference until I put them into action. And I'm always looking for more parenting ideas and help.

I enjoyed this article from Nick Batzig, Father-to-Son Talks. He explains that the book of Proverbs gives at least 10 father-to-son talks, which can provide a framework for all of us parents:
  1. 1:8-19 -->  Be teachable; resist temptation 
  2. 2:1-22 -->  Seek God's wisdom, and avoid evil
  3. 3:1-12 -->  Trust God (godly counselors, with wealth, in His discipline)
  4. 4:10-27 -->  Pursue righteousness and truth
  5. 5:1-23 -->  Avoid sexual immorality 
  6. 6:1-35 -->  Work hard; avoid sexual immorality
  7. 7:1-27 -->  Avoid sexual immorality
  8. 23:19-35 -->  Avoid drunkenness
  9. 24:13-22 -->  Seek wisdom; avoid wicked rebels
  10. 27:11-27 -->  Be careful who you associate with
(Of course, breaking down the book into 10 talks may not be biblically-accurate, especially since the chapter breaks are a later addition. But this is a good place to start.)

I've never specifically taught my kids these passages, but it looks like something worthwhile!

Some of My Own Words

Here are some things I've talked to Elijah about, over the past year. I hope a fraction of these have sunk in, or at least shaped him in a small way:

As a man, we are called to make things better. Anytime we walk into a room, we should be thinking how we can make it better for others. 

When you elevate yourself and your skills above others, you are elevating yourself above God, who created everyone in His image.

Manhood is when you produce more than you consume. You are called to be a provider.  (HT: Art of Manliness)

Like you, I have doubts sometimes. But we can't get stuck just thinking about them. We have to take action in faith, and then let God verify Himself. 

When you ignore or reject authority over you, you are rejecting God, who gives all authority. When it comes to your leaders, you are not equal in roles. 

When you make the world and your community better, you reflect the image of God, as He is working to restore this broken world.

One day, you may have to fight. But don't fight for yourself. Be ready to step in between an aggressor and someone who needs protecting. You may get hurt shielding that person, but God will reward you, and so will I!
God has wired you up to do something. There will always be things you have to do which you don't enjoy. But there will be some things that you know that God made you for. As much as you can, move towards those things.

(You may be wondering how I remember saying these things to him. I keep a journal for each of my kids. I write in each one a couple of times per month, about what is going on in their lives.)

The Blessing of Teaching My Son  

More than anything, I'm glad that I get to be my son's primary discipler. (Of course, my wife is involved heavily, too, but in this case I feel the burden lies on me.) I am glad that God has entrusted me to disciple my son, and to "train him up in the way that he should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

It is a blessing to teach my son.

Happy Birthday, Elijah!!
"A wise son makes a glad father, 
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother."  
Proverbs 10:1

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Life Decisions: Pick Two

From the Doghouse Diaries. Can you relate to these life decisions?

One way out is to have an army of children who you then could put to work. Hmmm...

My Commentary:  In this context, shouldn't picking "children" count as two picks?

Perhaps Doghouse Diaries answered their own question with this illustration:

Or this one: Why I have no free time.

What Are You Doing for Advent?

I've been trying to figure out what our family will do for Advent this year. More specifically, I want to know how to lead and disciple them in spiritual formation, as we worship the Lord together.

We have used a number of different materials over the years, for family devotions and my own personal devotions. Some of you have traditions that are meaningful for your family.

In my process of figuring out what we will use, I came across this Gospel-centered Advent material from Austin Stone. For a low price of $5, it was a worthy purchase!

The material has two parts:
  1. Personal devotional material for adults (and teenagers).
  2. Family devotional material to lead your children.
    • BONUS: They also give you coloring sheets to make ornaments. 
    • Negative Bonus: I can't stand when illustrators distort the Bible's descriptions, as in the case of these coloring sheets. Our children need better than a tiny Noah's ark and wimpy angels.
I just finished reading through the Bible chronologically, so I may use this personal devotional material. (However, since I've also been writing in my kids' bibles, I may not cover all the Advent material here). And the family devotional material in this book looks great!

Edit: Apparently it's free now. Lucky you!

Other Options

Before I came across this material, I was considering teaching my children about 31 names of God, for the month of December.** However, I can always do that another time. Remember, Don't Be a Seasonal Christian Parent!

And just after I wrote this post (and bought the other advent guide), I learned about the Grace Church Advent Guide. This looks great, and is in a simpler, 5-week format.

Really, anything you use (for the most part) will be beneficial. Just do something!

What will your family be doing for Advent devotions? Is it something traditional, or new?

And if you haven't started yet, it's not too late to catch up!

** If you're curious, here is the list of 31 names of God that I was going to use (and will probably still use in the future):
  1. Theos (New testament) – supreme being
  2. EL, ELOAH: God "mighty, strong, prominent" (Genesis 7:1)
  3. ELOHIM: God “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7) (Genesis 1:1).
  4. EL SHADDAI: “God Almighty,” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5)
  5. ADONAI: “Lord” (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15)
  6. YHWH / YAHWEH / JEHOVAH: “LORD” Exodus 3:14; (Deuteronomy 6:4)
  7. YAHWEH-ELOHIM: "LORD God" (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5)
  8. YAHWEH-JIREH: "The Lord Will Provide" (Genesis 22:14)
  9. YAHWEH-RAPHA: "The Lord Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26)
  10. YAHWEH-NISSI: "The Lord Our Banner" (Exodus 17:15)
  11. YAHWEH-M'KADDESH: "The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy" (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28)
  12. YAHWEH-SHALOM: "The Lord Our Peace" (Judges 6:24)
  13. YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: "The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16)
  14. YAHWEH-ROHI: "The Lord Our Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1)
  15. YAHWEH-SHAMMAH: "The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35)
  16. YAHWEH-SABAOTH: "The Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7)
  17. EL ELYON: “Most High" (Deuteronomy 26:19) (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1)
  18. EL ROI: "God of Seeing" (Genesis 16:13)
  19. EL-OLAM: "Everlasting God" (Psalm 90:1-3)  
  20. EL-GIBHOR: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) (Revelation 19:15)
  21. Other names in Isaiah 9:6. . . .
  22. Word – John 1:1
  23. Lamb -- Rev 5:16; I Cor 5:7
  24. Immanuel  -- Isaiah 7:14
  25. Son of David – Matt 1:1
  26. Son of Man – Matt 8:20
  27. Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End – Rev 21:6; 22:13
  28. Ancient of Days -- Daniel 7:9
  29. Teacher – John 13:13
  30. High Priest – Heb 3:1; 4:14
  31. Redeemer – Job 19:25
If you want this list (and some other notes I had) in email form, just contact me.

Favorite Tweets from November

#tbt to 2009... thankful for these kids!

Of course, there is still a day left in the month. Will there be any crazy good tweets today that need to be added to this list?

Who cares. I'm still digesting food.

From Others:

@itsmikeberryBecoming a Christ-follower is not about cleaning yourself up, it's about giving yourself wholly to the God who can.

@davidpmurray:  "We all want to be happy. The problem is what often makes us happy are the instruments of our destruction."

@EndPoverty“Vote for principle, though you may vote alone, & you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”- John Quincy Adams

@PaulMMCooper"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." - Winston Churchill

@LeeBezotte "He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day." - John Bunyan
@AllProDad:  "Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow." - Reed Markham

@FirstLegoLeague:  "Never cease trying to be the best you can be -- that's under your control." - John Wooden,

@TimHawkinsComic"I don’t understand why the bottom of the heart is the best region of the heart to thank someone from."

@ChrchCurmudgeonDonut wholes > donut holes 

@MZHemingway:  So SNL did it’s first mildly critical skit of Obama ever and it got "fact checked" by mainstream media? That’s *perfect*. PERFECT. Love it.

From Me:

Started by 3 years ago, Mill Community Ministries is growing! Check it out:

"We stopped trying to build a life of SUCCESS, & started trying to build a life of SIGNIFICANCE." Mike Pereyo,