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I remember clearly the moment we brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital for the first time. Like all first time parents, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but at least in the hospital we had been surrounded by countless nurses who were glad to help, and also multiple friends and family. However, once we got home we were all alone. I can remember the magnitude of the moment settling in as we realized this beautiful little girl was completely in our care. Her life, both physically and spiritually, was our responsibility. I can remember wondering whether I was up for the challenge. Did I have what it takes to be the father she needed in her life? Could I be what she needed me to be?

There are many things a child needs in life, but one of the important traits is for someone who will lead courageously. Being a leader is not just about making decisions or being in charge. There are times when decisions have to be made, but just being in charge doesn’t make one a leader. Courageous leaders pick a final destination and then point everyone in their care to that final goal. Specifically, courageous leaders pick the end goal of eternal life with God, and then tirelessly work toward making sure that everyone under their care (in this situation, children and family) make it to that final goal. This involves acting like Jesus and being willing to sacrifice for the good of the family. It’s being the first person who doesn’t have to get their way so that what is best for everyone can be obtained. It means loving and serving your family in a way that helps them flourish in life. It isn’t always easy, but it is extremely rewarding.

I’m reminded of Joshua’s charge to the people in his last formal address that is recorded in scripture. It’s the charge, choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. What may be most important is that throughout his entire remarks he repeatedly mentions the false gods that Israel has worshiped at various times. Abraham worshiped false gods before being called by God. Israel worshiped false gods while stuck in Egypt. They were currently living among multiple populations that worshiped false gods. And the challenge was going to be complete devotion to Jehovah God. God wasn’t going to accept part-time allegiance. God wasn’t going to share the throne. There was only room for one ruler. So it was time to put away the foreign gods, and worship Jehovah God alone.

The danger in our own families is often not “will we worship God,” but instead, “what we will allow to compete with God on the throne.” There are many things that compete for dominance in our own lives, or in the lives of our families. For ourselves it’s often career advancement, money or wealth, prestige, or recognition in the community. For our families the false gods may be sports involvement, education, or some fake image. Many times these false gods try to claim most important status in our lives. Our children don’t have the maturity to know when to destroy the idols. Will we be courageous leaders and put God first no matter what? Will we sacrifice job advancement because it’s what’s best for our families? Will we speak up and keep sports from ruling the lives of our families? Will we commit our families to times of bible study, to times of service, and to regularly communion with other Christians? Will we be courageous leaders enough to take the competing gods off the throne?

I am not the perfect leader, far from it. I mess up on a daily basis, and there is always room for improvement. But I’ve also come to realize I don’t have to be perfect. My family doesn’t need perfection, they simply need me engaged in the battle; willing to be courageous enough to help us all put God first. So while I still don’t know what I’m doing, and probably have more questions than answers, I can say I’ve adopted the stance of Joshua. “Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”