Category Archives: Family

Non sequitur

This article from my local paper is about the Labor candidate for the federal seal of Indi. It’s a political free swing for the candidate, because it’s on same sex marriage (SSM), where opposition is forbidden.

The candidate’s opponents might be grumpy about the easy run he gets, but I am more interested in the incoherent argument. The conclusion in no way matches the points made: a classic non sequitur. It runs like this:

  • Eric (the candidate) has two mums. These mums have been together since 1980
  • One mum, Roslyn, was turned away from IVF in the early 1990s
  • Consequently, Roslyn went to Canberra for IVF, having to lie to get in. She had twin boys
  • The family was nervous about schooling, but “right through school there was never any issue”
  • Nowadays, things have changed and same-sex couples do get into IVF locally
  • The two mums don’t want to marry
  • THEREFORE Eric thinks the campaign for SSM very important

One of these points is not like the others.

The whole article makes it clear that the situation today, as understood by this lesbian couple, is accepting. Medicine, school, and society provide the safety they need. They are not in danger, nor excluded, but fit in well.

So, I would expect, the conclusion is that there is no need for changes in marriage law. Redefinition of marriage – which I argue is a great risk – is simply unnecessary.

But no.

On the basis of everything being fine, legal change is necessary. Couldn’t there be just one question from the journalist testing the strength of argument? Obviously not.




Responding is teaching

Who of you fathers, if his son says, “Hey moron, give me a drink”, would not give him a clip round the ear?

If my children were as rude to me as the above imaginary comment, there would certainly be a ‘serious father-child moment’!

I admit I’ve twisted what Jesus said (see Luke 11:11-13, Matthew 7:9-11). But the above is what I thought after overhearing the following exchange:

Daughter: “[Screech, moan, whine, fake tears. Accusingly pointed finger.]”
Mum: “Well you stood up. He can sit there if he wants.”

That is, there was a conversation where whining behaviour counted as words. And both participants behaved as if this communication was perfectly normal.

How does such a pattern become normal? It’s not normal when the whinger whinges. It becomes normal when the responder responds normally. The reply determines where the conversation will go. In my mind, the power in conversations lies with the person who replies.

That power can be used poorly, or with great effect. When my kids grunt at me, obviously thirsty or hungry, I could choose simply to give them what they want. My power of reply teaches, ‘It’s OK when you grunt – keep doing it.’ You can guess what they will do next time hunger strikes.

Or I could choose to say, ‘I will not get that for you until you use words.’

How I respond teaches what is acceptable. Responding is teaching.

Sometimes this raises a difficult dilemma. The perfect illustration of this is in Proverbs 26:4-5. Both pieces of wisdom are true, but you may only choose one way in a given situation. Nevertheless, the principle holds: responding is teaching.

Where this works out extends to many places. It’s not simply a parent and child pattern. It’s also:

  • How we listen to the boss at work
  • How we treat the referee or umpire
  • The active or passive response we make to advertising
  • Our tone of voice to the teacher
  • The learned dynamics of a Bible study group
  • The way we gain attention (or reward people) in churches
  • How we behave when driving

To go again to the book of Proverbs:

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
(Proverbs 15:23)

So now the power is in your hands. How will you respond?





Lord’s prayer: family devotions

Lurid Lord's prayerBelieve it or not, this is the Lord’s prayer – the form for prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. In this image, it kind of looks familiar and kind of draws attention but we kind of don’t really get what it’s about.

And perhaps that’s just like prayer: as easy as speaking to our Father, mentioned in so many Christian conversations, but not something in which we ever feel mastery.

I decided we’d look at prayer in our family Bible reading. Using the Lord’s prayer, as recorded by Matthew. Here’s how we did it.


Each evening, after dinner (that’s our usual time), I read Matthew 6:9-13. We then discussed one line of the prayer. Then we prayed it together by reading the Bible passage. The next night the pattern was repeated as we moved to the next line of the prayer. By the end, even our youngest non-reader was making a stab at saying the words of this prayer.

To finish the sequence of prayer devotions, we read Matthew 6:5-8 to hear Jesus’ warning about using prayer as a pathway to pride. By this stage we knew the words of the prayer … well, perhaps our five and seven year olds had less accurate recitation!


Here, as far as I can recall, is what I highlighted for each line of the Lord’s prayer. It’s not written in the conversational dinner-time style, but the points are what we talked about.

Our Father in heaven
Prayer starts with God, the Father. We speak to him – we don’t send him a memo or an invoice. He’s Father! What’s more, all who trust him do this, God is our Father. Prayer, then, is a kind of family activity in which the children seek out the Father who is the giver of life. This is very worthwhile, because he is our Father in heaven, the place of real authority –  he is the power above all.

Hallowed be your name
What’s in a name? A person’s character and reputation, that’s what. The name is the whole message and expression of God. And because it’s a word, it is communication. God’s name is spoken to people and received by people. When God’s name is spoken truly, people know God properly. God’s name, in a sense, is all of creation rightly listening to him. That is, God is hallowed, known as holy. That’s exactly what we want to see. So we ask for it.

Your kingdom come
God’s kingdom is not a space on a map. It is God’s rule, unchallenged and right. This line reminds us that God is the only ruler – I am not the king! It’s important to see that these two requests follow on from ‘Our Father in heaven.’ The Father, in the Bible, is responsible for the family. Sometimes even kings are called ‘father’ of their nation. And the kind of king/father we have is holy, because he’s in heaven.

In other words, to pray ‘Our Father in heaven’ is automatically to pray ‘Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
There’s a third prayer request for something about God. What should we pray for as of first priority? For God’s rule and will and ways. The first good thing about prayer is that it rejoices in God’s name, kingdom and will.

Yet there’s a shadow in this prayer. To make these three requests is a reminder: God’s name is treated as mud, his king is ignored, and his will is flouted. This world is not right. So sad! What can be done!? Major news: Jesus shows that God uses prayer as he fixes this world. It’s a mystery how God does this. But we know what we need to know – that prayer, like the Lord’s prayer, is good in a world that does not yet do God’s will.

We can be confident in all these prayers, because Jesus prayed the same thing – three times! (Matthew 26:36-45) And God answered this prayer, through the cross of Jesus. God’s will was that the death of Jesus forgive us of sin. Certainly now God will hear our prayers, for we are his children.

Give us this day our daily bread
God loves us, because he’s our Father. No detail is beneath him. Our bread is a day by day need. Our bread is also a day by day prayer point. At the same time, this is a prayer that skewers greed. Instead of asking to own 1000s of bakeries, we ask for the day’s food. That’s plenty, for we will let tomorrow worry about itself.

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors
Debts are what we owe. They’re expensive, and it’s right to pay. The trouble is, we cannot pay our debt to God because our wrongs are so many. All we can do is ask for God to wipe away the debt.

But there’s more! We ask for forgiveness as we also forgive. Forgiveness, we see, is central to God’s kingdom. Everyone in God’s kingdom is a person of forgiveness: we love it. We love forgiveness from God, we love to show forgiveness to people, we love to encourage forgiveness between others. Everyone who loves God’s kingdom loves forgiveness.

Now look at when we ask for forgiveness: it’s after we speak to God as Father. We were already God’s children, as disciples of Jesus. We do not flip-flop into God’s family and out of it depending on ‘sins.’ When we trust Jesus, we are always in God’s family – always – though we will have to keep coming to God for help with our debts.

Lord's prayer


Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
After prayer, we keep living. As we live, we face temptation. It’s not bad to be tempted – what are some of your temptations or tests? The bad comes from within us, as we follow temptation and take pleasure in evil (or in the evil one). Since we do not want to dishonour God like this, we ask for his help. ‘Please don’t lead me that dangerous way, but help me go this good way.’

We see that prayer for the whole world is also prayer for me and for us. We will be changed by God, as we pray in the manner Jesus taught us.



Family fun: old & new

On holidays up north and I have a couple of photos that include a contrast in age. I could collect more… nah, I’ll share them right away.


A five year old Joash mixes it with All Saints church building, North Parramatta. All Saints was built on land bequeathed by Samuel Marsden. If I remember the sign correctly, it was completed in 1845.


At the Sydney Cricket Ground for the final test of the summer, we are all greeted with a new gaping hole. There is a definite absence of Noble and Bradman Stands. The temporary gap allows a fascinating contrast: the old Members’ Stand and the much newer Sydney Football Stadium. I think they provide a pleasing, and surprising, complementary image.

Hume freeway construction

There’s a freeway through Albury!

That’s old news. But it’s a good road. Especially, I’m sure, for the 4000+ truckies who go through everyday on the road between Melbourne an Sydney.

I have an affection for the road. Not only is it good, but it helped us buy a house. With construction close to commencement, there was not one competing offer on the house we live in. If there was, we would have been out-offered.

While building went on, we took some photos. Attempting roughly the same shot about once per month, still photos were taken from September 2005 to January 2007. I’ve put them into a morph video.


My ministry aim, PS

In this post, I put in writing my personal aim in ministry.

It is:

With the help of my wife, to pass on the gospel to my children

This ‘PS’ to the original post is to mention a couple of indirectly-relevant matters. They would have over-lengthened the original piece.

Is this aim too result-driven?

Specifically, does it depend upon each of my children becoming model Christians? I’m sure you’ve met fine Christians whose children have chosen not to trust Christ. Does that mean they failed in ministry? And if a parent has believing children, do we simply say, ‘They must be good at ministry – see their kids’?

I definitely do not want to inflexibly bind children’s response to the parents’ ministry

For a start, my aim is to pass on the message. To pass on a gift is different from receiving the gift. I avoided saying ‘to make my children believe’, for example.

And yet, there is some connection between parent and children. It’s not a 1:1 ratio, it’s not inflexible. Consider Titus 1:5-6

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination

I think that the words in bold would be better translated ‘his children are faithful’. Meaning, ‘faithful to him’ and therefore not rebellious against his right authority. Hence, they’re not to be uncontrolled (debauched) or anti-authority (insubordinate).

In any case, it’s clear that Paul says: when appointing an elder, include a look at his relationship to his kids.

Is this an excuse to neglect other church people?

In other words, can I now use my ministry aim as a crafty excuse not to visit the new-comer, or to prepare well for Bible study?

May it never be!

To truly pass on the gospel of Jesus, I have to show that the kids are not ‘gods’, or idols. I need to show where they are in the world: created, God’s image, amongst many neighbours whom God loves, fallen, urged to repent, called to serve, etc.

Doing this makes it necessary to say, ‘I can’t read that book now, because I need to do regular preparation/respond to this urgent call.’ It makes it necessary to show what it is to be generous and give, to even bear a cost in following Jesus. It means I want to help the whole church grow in Christ, with them blessed by being part of it.

So, no, I don’t believe this ministry aim provides excuses for poor care for the church.

My ministry aim

It was the usual question from another ’employed ministry’ person. “How is church going?”

I don’t know how many times I have heard the question. I also don’t know how to give an answer that is useful or helpful. It’s not the aim to deceive – merely that I am in the wrong position to give a considered answer. I’m too close to it all.

But I can, at last, say something: my ministry aim.

It’s taken a long time, but I finally can express it. And I think it’s unexpected.

It’s unexpected because my aim is not obviously tied to the employment in ministry. My aim is not to grow Albury Bible Fellowship Church (though I do work to that end). Nor is it to plant more FIEC churches (though, again, I do work for that outcome). It’s not even to have lots of MTS ministry apprentices (though I sure love working with such trainees).

Rather, my Christian ministry aim is: With the help of my wife, to pass on the gospel to my children.

This involves teaching, prayer, discipline, time, comfort, training, … Everything usual in biblical gospel ministry. My desire is that they are better informed about God’s word than I am. That they are more faithful and self-disciplined in living out this word. That they are more amazed at God’s love than I am, and love their neighbour better than I do.

Here’s some of the thinking behind this.

The ministry cliché – which I don’t buy – is ‘family first, then church.’ The reason for this cliché is to avoid the family breakdown caused by minister putting church demands first, so I get it. The problem: it assumes, and therefore perpetuates, the model of inherent conflict between church and family.

Instead, I say to myself that I am to care for God’s church. In other words, church over all. That’s it. Then, under the umbrella of this responsibility, I have levels of contact and care. The highest level is Catherine and the kids. The first aspect of church ministry is spiritual care for my household. So if I have an extra night off, or make the most of my regular day off, it’s not conflict with church. It is church. (The conflicts come when, inevitably, competing responsibilities require a difficult decision.)

Consider also how the Bible insists that appointing leaders requires a look at the family and household. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the overseer must:

  • be the husband of one wife
  • be hospitable
  • manage his own household well

Remember also that God is our Father. So if I totally mess up fatherhood, I will be so much less able to teach people about God.

I feel as if I’ve put myself on the line a little bit here. But that’s good! I can already think of the follow-up post I will write. I also know I will prayerfully need to keep thinking through this whole matter all my life. But it’s where I stand, and what I currently think.

What are your thoughts? What suggestions do you have, what problems do you see? I’m interested to know.

Get professional (not)

One term I really dislike is child care.

Not because I dislike children or the care of children. Absolutely not!

But because child care, when uttered in Australia at least, means ‘professional/paid care for young ones.’ It does not mean non-professional care: mums, dads, grandparents, uncles & aunts, neighbours helping out …

I think the idea of caring for kids has been professionalised, resulting in a downgrade status for us non-pros. This type of care becomes invisible, undervalued and, consequently, under-supported.

This is not in any way to disparage those who do the job. I regularly tell people that teaching and looking after children are fantastic jobs for Christians: loving input into little lives at most influential stages. What a joy and responsibility! It’s simply that this is a role for all, paid or unpaid.

I’ve seen a similar idea inside churches, too.

Someone mentioned that home school families – of which we are one! – are not available for church events. Notice the assumption? Input by parents/family into the lives of their children is not contributing to church. To do real church work I need to run youth group, or something.

Rubbish, of course. When we look after our kids, that serves the church of Christ, too.

Challenge met

In June I invited Nahum and Ruth to accept the challenge. They did. A 40km charity ride, on road. I did not register them until we had done at least one 30km ride without stops. For me, my dad-fear was getting them as safe as possible riding on roadways.

Here’s a very rough map (we did the Weir Wall Waddle, noted here in green):

There’s a better map, and a profile of the ride, on this page.

And here’s the team, pre-ride:

Great work! They did well, well enough to be tired. Being tired helped the memories – they both fell over once (Ruth not noticing us slowing down at give way sign, Nahum while we were standing still at traffic lights 15m from the finish). Next challenge – 50km plus.