What Is a Servant-Leader at Home?

3 Indispensable Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | All Truth is God's TruthAll organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function well without one. But being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin.

Although it’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, that is what being a godly leader entails. Jesus washed his disciples feet, then died on their behalf. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same self-sacrificing way:

  • “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
  • “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
  • “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….” (Philippians 2:5-7)

The best leaders exhibit several qualities: They are transparent; they expect as much or more of themselves as of those they’re attempting to lead; and they put the good of the organization (or, in the case of a husband-leader, the good of the family) ahead of their own interests or any personal gain.

Let’s look at each of these three qualities in closer detail:

  1. First and foremost, a servant-leader is transparent.
  2. Transparency implies there are no hidden agendas. Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals, and those goals are clearly defined and understood. Transparency means honesty, fairness, forthrightness, and above all, accountability.
    Transparency with a spouse can be difficult. Some things are hard to talk about with anybody, let alone with someone we care about, someone of the opposite gender, someone whose admiration and respect we so deeply crave.

    A good rule of thumb is, if you’d be uncomfortable discussing it afterward with your wife, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

    Of course, personality differences can make even innocent discussions more difficult than they should be — I dreaded telling my sentimental wife when I recently traded in an old Ford truck she loved for two small economy cars, even though it made good financial sense to do so — but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

    When it comes to being transparent with our children, that can be hard, too, but it is important that they know our weaknesses as well as our strengths, our failures as well as our victories. Because our kids share our humanity as well as our genes, their weaknesses will often mirror our own, and they’ll benefit from hearing how we’ve overcome various struggles. There is no need to go into great detail about your failings, but don’t pretend you are without faults.

    A servant-leader is quick to accept blame, apologize, and ask forgiveness whenever the situation warrants it. And he understands the importance of maintaining a clear conscience and therefore strives to behave in a way—both publicly and privately—that is honorable, dependable, and above reproach.

  3. Second, a servant-leader is not above the law.
  4. Nor does he consider himself above the law. The US Congress provides a classic example of the opposite of this principle, routinely passing bad legislation from which the lawmakers themselves are exempt.

    With a true servant-leader there is no such hypocrisy. The rules are applied equally to all. He expects as much or more of himself as of the people he leads, for he knows that as their leader, he will incur a stricter judgment.

    The father who smokes two packs a day, but warns his kids to never take up the habit? He isn’t doing himself, his children, or his health any favors.

    I may not struggle with hypocrisy in such an obvious way as this, yet I sometimes expect things of my wife and children that I am unwilling or unable to do myself:

    • I want them to hear me out, although I often interrupt.
    • I expect them to be patient and thoughtful and self-controlled, even when I haven’t been.
    • I would like for them to look their best, even if I skip shaving or look a little shabby myself.
    • I want them to control their emotions and refrain from pouting, crying, or acting moody in any way, yet sometimes I fail to control the temper that provokes such moodiness, sulkiness, and tears.

    And I do these things, despite the fact that Scripture repeatedly warns against such behavior:

    • “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
    • “[Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth….” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)
    • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

    The take-home message? We need to be and do the things we want our wives and children to be and do. We should expect as much or more of ourselves as we do of them. We must lead by example.

  5. Third, a servant-leader thinks of others first.
  6. He puts the good of the organization ahead of his own needs or personal advantage. He leads selflessly and sacrificially. He considers the interests of others as more important than his own. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    I’ve known both styles of leaders: Those who use the organization to serve themselves, and those who use themselves to serve the organization.

    Although I’ve crossed paths with a few embezzlers over the years, embezzlement is not the only way to steal from a company. It’s just the most obvious way. Many people manipulate vacation schedules, work assignments, and tax credits to their own benefit. They are always watching out for number one, always looking for loopholes. Whatever will garner the best perks or put the most money in their pocket with the least amount of effort is what they will do, every time — whether it’s ethical or not.

    A servant-leader is the opposite. He does what is best for those he serves, even when it requires great personal sacrifice to do so. For the family man, this may mean driving mini-vans instead of sports cars, going on family vacations instead of golfing excursions, living in a modest home in suburbia instead of a high-rise apartment in the city, or getting braces for Junior instead of that new flat-screen TV.

    The term “servant-leader” is what Buddhists would call a koan — a seemingly contradictory statement that forces a person to stop and think more deeply about a subject, so as to bring about an even greater enlightenment.

    Yet leaders should serve those they lead. The only reason servant-leadership seems like a koan or an oxymoron to our society today is because we have grown so accustomed to leaders who abuse their power and use it to benefit themselves, often to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent.

    Plato felt that those who most desire to rule are least suited to do so, because they invariably have ulterior motives. His solution was that leaders be conscripted into service the way soldiers are drafted into the military.

    In a sense, the Biblical command for husbands to be leaders in their homes is exactly that — men being conscripted by God to serve their wives and children.

    Unfortunately, most men are not natural leaders, nor do they naturally love their wives in the self-sacrificing, Christ-like way God commands. If these things came naturally, there’d be no need for the associated directives in Scripture. Commands in Scripture almost always run counter to our natural inclinations and underscore our need for the supernatural intervention of a loving Savior!

    Do you long for your wife to shower you with respect and admiration? Do you wish she would follow your lead without arguing or questioning your every decision?

    You will never get the results you are looking for by being harsh and demanding. Even if you were to gain her cooperation, it would be given begrudgingly. That isn’t what godly servant-leadership looks like.

    If you want your wife to follow your lead, then you must walk in a way that is worthy of respect. Lead in a way that inspires your family to follow.

    Lead prayerfully. Lead gently. Guide them with humility, understanding, patience, faithfulness, temperance, and love.

    As a husband, the responsibility falls to you for taking the lead in improving your marriage. Don’t blame your wife for your own failures in this area. You must work to earn her trust and confidence.

    Prove yourself to be a man of integrity, a person who thinks things through — not a man who is shortsighted or rash or vindictive.

    It is a sobering proposition to be the spiritual head of one’s home, to be held accountable before God for the spiritual health and welfare of one’s family.

    We should shoulder this responsibility with an attitude of meekness. Inwardly, our focus should not be, “Alright!! I get to call the shots!” Rather, we should be thinking, “God has entrusted this responsibility to me, and I don’t want to flub it up.”

    Such a heavy responsibility calls for a posture of prayer. Pray that God will enable you to relate to your wife and children as a wise servant-leader should: Love wholeheartedly. Love sacrificially. Love unconditionally. Love extravagantly. Consistently shower your wife with that brand of love, and chances are, it will eventually win her over. She’ll then happily follow you to the ends of the earth.

    But what if it doesn’t? What if she won’t?

    Then you’ve got to keep loving.

    Love her, because God has commanded you to love her — not because of what you stand to gain from doing so. Love her and keep loving her, because you want to be obedient to Him.

    He will receive the glory from your doing so. And that is the only success that will matter in the end.

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A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter

I spotted a photo in my newsfeed yesterday of the T-shirt a feminist father made to explain his expectations to anyone interested in dating his daughter. His “rules” sent a clear message: “What my daughter does is her own business, and you’ll answer to her, not to me.”

As the father of four daughters myself, I found this man’s laissez-faire attitude to be a little unsettling. I believe a dad has a moral obligation to protect his children from harm, to prepare them for life, and to provide wise counsel along the way — all of which calls for a hands-on approach to parenting.

I agree with Feminist Father on his first two points (I don’t make the rules and You don’t make the rules). However, I disagree with his conclusions, so I decided to create a little T-shirt of my own — a Christian Dad’s response to Feminist Father, if you will:

"Rules for Dating My Daughter" | One Christian Dad's response to a "Feminist Father" (alltruthisgodstruth.com)

GOD makes the rules. And His way is better than anything we could dream up.

I know that none of the men who date (or eventually marry) my daughters will be perfect.

I don’t expect them to be.

But I do expect them to have hearts on fire for Jesus. I pray that they’ll follow His example. I want them to love my daughters with an enduring, committed, self-sacrificing love.

All others need not apply.


What sort of rules or guidelines have you set for your sons and daughters when it comes to dating? Tell us about them in the comment section below.

Want a “Dating Rules” T-Shirt for yourself or someone you love? They’re available here in a variety of colors. (Please note that the graphic is on the front of the shirt, not the back).

A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth.


The Seven “P”s of Parenting

Do you want to be a more effective parent? Then don't neglect these seven principles! | alltruthisgodstruth.com
Children may not be born with an instruction manual, but there’s still lots of good guidance available, beginning with the Bible.

Here are seven simple but scriptural principles my wife and I have found useful in raising our twelve children, five of whom are now adults.

  1. Prayer
  2. Never underestimate the power of prayer in the life of your children. Pray for and with them. Prayer is a great way to let your kids know Who is in charge. (Colossians 4:2)

    We actually begin praying for our children before they are even conceived. Our foremost prayer is that each one comes to know Christ. It would be better never to be conceived than to spend eternity separated from God.

  3. Presence
  4. Children spell quality time: Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. Be intentional about establishing everyday routines with your kids, as well as creating special memories with them. If we’ll tend to the hours and days, the years will take care of themselves. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:12)

    We are always surprised by what our children consider the most significant moments in their lives. Often our best talks are ones on the way to the grocery store to grab some milk, and our best “vacations” are the unplanned ones arranged for us courtesy of the US Army Reserves.

  5. Patience
  6. Many of life’s oldest lessons are brand new to your children. Treat them the way you’d treat a technologically illiterate employer how to use the latest computer software update — treat them with humility, respect, and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to invest in their life. (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:29)

    Patience has two varieties: The first is in dealing with the day-to-day stuff that can really get on your nerves. The second type is more in the category of perseverance and involves hanging in there for years at a time while your child slowly finds their place in the world.

  7. Praise
  8. All children long for their parents’ approval. They want to please you — so be sure to let them know when they do! While it’s important that we deal swiftly and consistently with our children’s wrongful behavior, it’s equally important to acknowledge and encourage their good behavior with sincere and appropriate praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 31:30-31; Romans 14:18-19; Philippians 4:8)

    My wife and I were both blessed with parents who always told us we could do anything we set our minds to. Because we believed them, neither of us have ever been afraid to try anything new or challenging. We’ve been determined to pass that same blessing on to our own children.

  9. Protection
  10. Life is full of dangers — both physical and spiritual. Ask the LORD to help you recognize and stand guard against anything that would pose a threat to your children’s wellbeing. Develop a culture of safety and common sense with your kids, and pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, both to you and to them. (John 17:15; Psalm 127:1; James 1:5)

    The Internet didn’t even exist when my wife and I started our family. Now we have a four-year-old who knows how to access learning videos on her mother’s smartphone. Likewise, a hundred years ago, you were more likely to be thrown from a horse than run over by a car. New dangers are constantly appearing on the horizon, and your child’s best tool for dealing with them will be the one resting between her two ears, assuming you train her to use it well.

  11. Provision
  12. Providing for your children’s material needs is important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “More money” does not automatically mean “more happiness.” Provide for your children in all aspects of life, through your example and encouragement, as well as their education. Use areas of personal strength to compensate for areas of financial need. (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 20:7; Psalm 37:25)

    Money is of limited usefulness when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling life. Too little, and life is a struggle. Too much, and life quickly becomes materialistic and vain. The optimal window is actually quite small. Learning to be content with what we have, so we can focus on weightier things, is a challenge for us all.

  13. Preparation
  14. Three of the most important decisions our children will make are choosing Christ, choosing a career, and choosing their companions. Prepare them to make wise choices in all three areas by setting the example, setting standards, and then setting them free. (Proverbs 3:1-6; Romans 10:9; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 13:20; John 13:15; John 8:36)

    God has no grandchildren, only children. Your children’s life and relationship to God is ultimately their own. We are privileged to participate in what God is doing in their lives. To think that we own them is like thinking that we own the earth or the sky or the sea. To quote Kahlil Gibran, “[Your children's] souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Want a free printable summary of this post? You’ll find it here: 7 Peas of Parenting

World-Proof the Child

World-Proof the ChildProtecting our children is one of the primary jobs of parenthood, and the list of dangers seems to be growing exponentially.

  • There is BPA in your bottled water and hormones in your meat.
  • There are predators on the Internet and cyber-bullies on social media.
  • There are addictive drugs and addictive video games.
  • There are terrorists hijacking our planes and the TSA hijacking our dignity.

It makes you long for the days when seesaws and merry-go-rounds were still allowed on playgrounds.

The fact is that new dangers are popping up every day, and it is impossible for even the most vigilant parents to keep up with them all.

That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your children. It just means that doing so will become increasingly complex and require some added intentionality.

There are three general principles that can help guide the process:

  1. SET THE EXAMPLE.
  2. A culture of safety — whether at work or at home — starts at the top. If you want your kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, then you probably should, too. Same rule goes for seatbelts, overeating, cigarettes, alcohol, or anything else. Most values are “caught” not “taught.”

    “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”
    Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)

  3. SET THE STANDARD.
  4. Talk with your kids. Point out the dangers as you become aware of them. Let them know what your expectations are. Set a curfew. Curfews aren’t tyranny; they are parents showing that they care! Then enforce the standards you have established. A rule that isn’t enforced is no rule at all.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

  5. SET THEM FREE.
  6. The ultimate goal of parenting isn’t to have large children, but to have fully functioning adults. The only way to achieve that goal is to gradually shift responsibility from your shoulders to theirs. This is probably the hardest, but most important, part of the whole process. You will never be able to make enough rules to protect your children. They must internalize safety consciousness themselves. They must make it their own. Making it their own often means making mistakes. It can be hard to watch as our children attend the school of hard-knocks, but sometimes “experience is the best teacher.”

    “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

The temptation is to simply be “helicopter parents” — ones that are always hovering, always micro-managing, always trying to smooth the way and make the decisions and manipulate the circumstances — but that is a fool’s game. No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.

Love Your Wife: Revisited

I commissioned my wife to do a little subway art for me this week. Here’s what she came up with:

Love Your Wife | subway art printable from http://alltruthisgodstruth.com

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it might serve as a good reminder for husbands that showing love to your wife is something you should do every day of the year — not just on special occasions.

Want to print a copy to keep? You can click on the image above to download a free printable PDF of the graphic.

You’ll find a matching “Respect Your Husband” graphic on my wife’s blog this week. Follow this link if you want to print that one.

Husband, Listen to Your Wife!

Husband, Listen to Your Wife! | All Truth is God's TruthMy father-in-law used to watch a lot of television. He was a little hard of hearing, so he usually kept the volume turned up pretty loud.

My wife’s mother would sometimes try to talk over the television to tell him something, but instead of muting the program and focusing his attention on her, Dad would just cup his ear and lean in closer to the set. Rather than tuning out the TV, he tried to tune out his wife!

Although we don’t have a television at our house, my wife still catches me “tuning out” occasionally. She’ll be in the middle of telling me a story, and I’ll be staring off into space, mentally rehashing some event or conversation from earlier in the day. Whether the distractions are internal or external, our wives can easily tell when we’re not paying attention.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “It takes a great man to be a good listener.” And do you know what? He was right.

So how can we learn to listen better? Here are five basic things husbands can do to hone their listening skills:

  • First, minimize distractions.

    Kids who are being boisterous should be made to settle down or sent to another room. Televisions and radios should be turned down or completely off. Laptops should be closed and cellphones pocketed. I normally place my phone or tablet face down beside me to physically demonstrate to my wife that she does, indeed, have my full attention.

  • Second, make eye contact.

    It may feel awkward at first, especially if you are accustomed to staring at your shoes or at the newspaper, but this is essential to letting your wife know you care about what she has to say. Look into her eyes, even if it’s hard. One of our sons had a difficult time looking people in the eye when he was younger. Even so, we insisted he do it, because we realized his habit of avoiding eye contact would cripple his ability to communicate and might even make him appear untrustworthy. With practice, he was able to overcome that unconscious quirk and is now one of the most comfortable, confident, and outgoing young men one could ever hope to meet.

  • Third, give frequent affirmation.

    Do you get what your wife is saying? Nod your head in understanding. Do you agree? Let her know that. Say positive things like, “Uh-huh” and “I see.” These things will communicate to her that you are paying attention and following her train of thought.

  • Fourth, ask questions.

    If you don’t understand something your wife has just told you, don’t pretend like you do. Instead, ask insightful, intelligent questions. This allows you clarify any ambiguities in what you think you heard her say (and it also helps her know for sure when she’s gotten her point across).

  • Fifth and finally, summarize.

    Repeat back, in a nutshell, what your wife just told you. This serves to cement what was discussed into your memory and reassures your beloved that she has truly been heard.

Although these five suggestions may seem difficult initially, they will begin to flow more naturally after you’ve gotten a little practice doing them. The best part is that, once you really begin to listen, you’ll be amazed at what interesting thoughts your wife has to share!

Praying for Your Wife from Head to Toe

Praying for Your Wife from Head to Toe
As I mentioned in 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife, praying with and for your wife is a critical component of a healthy marriage.

Here is a companion graphic to go with my wife’s Praying For Your Husband From Head to Toe. She made them both, but it made more sense to put this one on my blog than hers.

Whether you reference this prayer guide or not, I hope you will make it a habit to pray for your wife daily. If you’d like to download a free printable version of our head-to-toe plan to use as a reminder, just click on the image at right. Enjoy.

  • Pray for Her Brain:
  • Pray that God would mold her into a capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman and would keep her thoughts centered on whatever is true, lovely, right, pure, noble, and worthy of praise. (Proverbs 31:10; Philippians 4:8)

  • Pray for Her Eyes:
  • Ask God to give her eyes of compassion, so she could see others as He sees them. (Matthew 9:36; 1 Samuel 16:7b)

  • Pray for Her Ears:
  • Pray that she would listen for God’s still, small voice and would remain ever attentive to the His promptings.
    (Matthew 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:19)

  • Pray for Her Mouth:
  • Ask that God would fill her mouth with skillful and godly wisdom, that the law of kindness would remain on her tongue, and that she would only and always speak the truth in love . (Proverbs 31:26; Ephesians 4:15)

  • Pray for Her Heart:
  • Pray that God would fill your wife’s heart with love and respect for you and with tender patience toward your children. (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Thessalonians 2:7)

  • Pray for Her Arms:
  • Ask God to gird your wife with strength, making her arms strong and firm. Pray that He would bless the work of her hands and that she would do her work cheerfully, as unto Him. (Proverbs 31:17, 31; Colossians 3:23)

  • Pray for Her Womb:
  • Pray that God would bless the fruit of her womb by giving her children who walk in truth. (Psalm 127:3; 3 John 1:4)

  • Pray for Her Legs:
  • Ask God to strengthen and sustain your wife, so that she can walk and not faint and not tire of doing good. (Isaiah 40:31; 2 Thessalonians 3:13)

  • Pray for Her Feet:
  • Pray that her feet would be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace so that she might faithfully pursue righteousness and love. Ask God to lead her in the path of wisdom and truth and to keep her foot from stumbling. (Ephesians 6:15; Proverbs 21:21; Proverbs 4:11-12)

25 Ways to Show Your Wife You Love Her


The key to a successful marriage is putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. Here are 25 practical suggestions gleaned from 25 years of happy marriage.

  1. Listen
    To be truly heard is the longing of every human heart, and your wife is no exception. It sounds simple, but listening can be harder than it seems with so many distractions around us and within us. Set aside some time every day to look into your wife’s eyes and really listen to what she has to say. You may be surprised at what you hear. (James 1:19, Matthew 11:15)
  2. Communicate
    Don’t make her guess what you are thinking or feeling.
  3. Sing Her Praises
    Shamelessly brag about her good qualities and quietly pray about her bad ones. Her reputation is your reputation. (Proverbs 31:28-29)
  4. Pray For Her and With Her
    Praying on your wife’s behalf not only enlists the help of the Almighty, but also puts her and her needs at the forefront of your heart and mind, right where they belong. Praying alongside your wife will strengthen your relationship like nothing else. Studies show that couples who regularly pray together stay together, enjoying a 1% divorce rate compared to the usual rate of 50% or more. (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 18:19)
  5. Value Her Individuality
    Your wife is wonderfully unique. Don’t compare her to your mom, or your ex-wife, or your old girlfriend. Your mom may make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, but unfavorable comparisons won’t win you brownie points.
  6. Put the Seat Down
    Perpetually raised toilet seats are a pet peeve of wives everywhere. And while you’re at it, tidy up a bit. A little consideration goes a long way. (Philippians 2:4)
  7. Throw Your Dirty Clothes in the Hamper
    It’s likely just a few steps from wherever you are dropping them anyway. Make this a habit, and it will let your wife know your don’t consider her your personal maid.
  8. Turn Off the T.V.
    Lay aside the video games, pocket the iPhone, and shut off the computer, as well. It is staggering how many hours we waste gazing at some sort of screen instead of interacting with the real people in our lives. Consciously set limits on your tube-time, whatever form it takes. Use the time saved to invest in your marriage: take a walk with your wife or play a board game together instead. (Psalm 90:12)
  9. Loosen the Purse Strings
    We all have to keep an eye on our budget, but an occasional splurge can be well worth it. Seemingly frivolous things like flowers, jewelry, and overpriced restaurants let her know that she is more valuable to you than a number in your bank account.
  10. Practice Servant-Leadership
    All organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function without one, but being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin. Jesus washed his disciples feet and then died on their behalf. It’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, but that is what being a godly leader entails. (Matthew 20:28, Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 9:35)
  11. Remember that Intimacy’s a Two-Way Street
    Unfortunately, men are notoriously selfish in the bedroom, yet are dumbfounded when their wives are less than enthusiastic in this arena. Make this area of your relationship as pleasurable for her as it is for you and it will pay huge dividends. It may mean washing the dishes or helping with the kids, so that she has energy left at the end of the day. It may mean cuddling and candlelight, so that she can relax and let the worries on her mind drift away. If you aren’t sure where to begin, just ask her, and then listen. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
  12. Give Her Time to Herself
    Everyone needs an occasional break to rest and recharge, and this is especially important for a wife who is at home all day with young children. Yet it’s very easy to neglect this legitimate need unless you regularly and intentionally schedule time for it. (Luke 5:16)
  13. Set Aside Couple Time
    Soak in the tub together each evening or go on a date night once a week — whatever gets the two of you alone on a regular basis. (Genesis 2:24-25)
  14. Be Careful with Female Friendships
    We all have friends and colleagues of the opposite sex, but tread cautiously. Not all affairs are physical ones. Honoring your marriage vows means remaining faithful in thought and word as well as in deed. (Matthew 5:27-28)
  15. Use Good Hygiene
    It is amazing how meticulous guys can be prior to marriage in their attempts to impress a girl, but once they walk down the aisle, all bets are off. Clean up a little; I promise it won’t kill you.
  16. Limit the Gross Stuff
    Few women find burping and farting nearly as hilarious as the typical guy does. Good manners are always a win. (Ephesians 5:4)
  17. Be Patient
    In whatever way this applies to you and your situation, apply it. (1 Corinthians 13:4, Proverbs 14:29)
  18. Cherish Her Children
    A mother’s bond to her children runs immeasurably deep. When you invest time or energy in them, you are investing in her as well. Kindness to them counts as kindness to her. (Malachi 4:6)
  19. Choose Her Over Hobbies and Buddies
    Invariably there will come times in your relationship when you will be forced to choose between your wife and something else that you enjoy. Always choose her.
  20. Provide for Her Needs
    This is so much more than just putting food on the table. It is all-encompassing. Whether it is physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, you name it — do your best to provide. Sometimes life’s circumstances hinder us in one area, but we can compensate in another area. Often the effort is as important as the outcome. (Galatians 6:2)
  21. Dial Down the Anger
    Your caveman instincts are handy on the battlefield, but horrible for a happy home life. Every outburst or flare-up is a relationship setback. To go forward, the first step is to stop going backwards. Learn to control your temper or it will control you, your marriage, and every other aspect of your life. Just because your wife puts up with it and your co-workers tolerate it, doesn’t make your short fuse an asset. Do whatever it takes to gain victory in this all-important struggle that has haunted man since Cain slew Abel. (Ecclesiastes 7:9, Ephesians 4:31)
  22. Cut Out the Condescension
    If you have been blessed with a quick wit, you can either be the life of the party or a pain in the neck depending on the circumstances. Condescension is anger’s younger brother. It isn’t as loud or as dramatic, but it can be equally hurtful and all the more so for its subtlety. Lay off the snide remarks, the sarcasm, and the belittling. Speak to your wife in the same way that you would speak to a respected colleague. She is, after all, your partner in the most valuable investment of your life — your family.(, (Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:19)
  23. Actively Seek Your Wife’s Insights
    Value her input and give it a preferential place in your decision-making process. (Proverbs 19:20; 12:15)
  24. Learn to Forgive
    Freely forgive your wife’s past, present, and future offenses. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and at the heart of every meaningful relationship. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)
  25. Verbally Express Your Love
    There are lots of ways to show your love, but women still like to hear it spoken.

Obviously no list is comprehensive, and one size certainly doesn’t fit all, but hopefully this one will prompt you to compile a list of your own, tailor-made for your own wife. For any women reading this blog, you may be interested to know that my wife has published a similar list entitled 25 Ways to Show Respect to Your Husband. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Also, for those who have requested printable versions of these articles, you’ll find the list for wives here and the one for husbands here, with an option to print either article in its entirety or as a one-page summary.


The Most Important Parenting Book of the Decade

Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherAmy Chua’s little memoire on parenting, BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER, is both fascinating and controversial. I read the Time magazine article and immediately downloaded the book to the Kindle app on my iPhone. I then read the entire book in two evenings with rapt enthusiasm.

The fact that it is so well written, interesting, and easy to digest means it will be widely read. Most parenting books have a limited appeal, which stunts their impact. This book, however, will undoubtedly have a much bigger audience and a correspondingly larger influence.

The fact that it is so provocatively written ensures it will incite debate. The sides of the debate as defined by Ms. Chua are “Western” vs. “Chinese” ways of raising children. As in every dialectic of thesis vs. antithesis, the truth or synthesis is somewhere in the middle, as Ms. Chua partially and reluctantly concedes by the end of the book.

What may be overlooked amidst all the hype are the many important concepts about raising successful children in a modern context that Ms. Chua highlights, sometimes inadvertently.

First, is that affluence can be a handicap when it comes to raising kids. This might seem counterintuitive while reading about all luxuries that Ms. Chua and her family enjoy. However, Ms. Chua knows how intoxicating and ambition-dulling the effects of wealth can be on the children of the very successful. This book is as much an antidote to second and third generation complacency as anything else. It’s an important concept even for those without an Ivy League pedigree.

Second, is that hard work and discipline are essential to success. This is true regardless of the venue. With books like OUTLIERS and GAME ON touting the magic of ten thousand hours as the key to success, who can doubt the age-old adage that “practice makes perfect.”

Finally, is that children eventually have to take command of their own success. The goal of parenting is not to raise large children, but independent adults. This requires the gradual granting of autonomy. If autonomy isn’t carefully measured out, it will eventually be wrested away, or — even worse — never gained at all.

The biggest mistake anyone could make after reading this book is to get too fixated on the details of Ms. Chua’s child-rearing techniques. Every parent makes mistakes. It was brave of her to document her own for the world to read. In most cases, the opposite of parental love is not hate, but apathy. No one can accuse Ms. Chua of being apathetic.

The Road Less Taken

My wife asked me to write the foreword to her first book. Here’s what I wrote.

The Road Less Taken

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14 (NIV)

This is the story of the road less taken.

Are you being herded along the highway of conventional wisdom, jostled by every whim and worry? Are you marching lockstep with hordes of unhappy people to destinations unknown? Are you starting to question where you are going? Why you are going there? And how come everyone seems so miserable along the way?

Then push your way to the edge of the crowd. You may have a bit of a struggle because everyone is packed in so tightly. You may step on some toes. You may get some angry looks as you squeeze by. You may even hear a few harsh words muttered in your direction. Just apologize and keep moving.

Once you break free of the masses, look down the little knoll into the meadow below. Can you see the narrow trail of pushed-down grass cutting through the field of green? Let your eyes follow it until it disappears into the golden wood. Now look at the forest. See the trees as they sway gently in the breeze. Notice the glint of sunshine in the distance, perhaps from a hidden lake, and the little wisp of smoke rising as though from a single chimney.

Turn back around and look at the crowd. Most of the people are expressionless, sullenly tramping along. Some are angry, shoving and elbowing their way forward along the giant conveyor belt that reaches to the horizon. Here and there you see an occasional smile. Your previous companions have moved on and are disappearing into the distance.

Now you face a decision. Do you rejoin the crowd or follow that little grassy trail to see where it leads?

This book is a letter home from someone who took the little grassy trail.

It has been my privilege to hold the author’s hand and walk side by side with her along that trail for the past twenty-two years. Nothing you read here is hypothetical. It is all very real. She has lived out daily every single bit of advice she gives. Although it is packed with scientific studies and Scripture references, her book is as much a journal as anything else: a very personal answer to the question, how do you make it all work?

In fact, this book is just the first of a three-part series answering that very question. Each installment is written in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5, which tells older women to encourage younger women to “love their husbands, love their children, and to be workers at home.” The series gives a detailed description of what each of these three imperatives looks like in a modern context. This first book deals with successful husband-wife relationships. The second book addresses meaningful parent-child relationships. And the third gives practical advice on managing a home.

When you read these books, you will be challenged to step outside your comfort zone. You will be asked to be more than what you are, maybe more than what you think you can be. As you follow some of the advice, you may find yourself frustrated, skeptical, and possibly a little afraid. From time to time, you may even look back over your shoulder, across the meadow, at the slowly marching crowd and wonder if you made the right decision.

Fear not. What awaits you at the end of the trail is well worth it. I’ve been there. I know.

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