Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 3

(To read the first two parts of this series, please see this link.) I wonder how many decisions a dad is faced with each day. The more children in the family, the more decisions will need to be made. Last month we saw how a dad’s pride can negatively affect his ability to make the right decision. This month we will look at one area that can have a great positive effect on our decisions.

It is an area that parents profess to have a passionate bias toward, and yet in practice, we may struggle just as much as our children. Because it is critical for a Christian, we work hard to train our children in it.

This concept is so important that Scripture promises special blessing for children who embrace it since it is foundational to reaching Christian maturity. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Learning obedience is critical for children because it is an essential part of adulthood. Adults must know how to obey. We must obey the laws of our God and our land.

Based on observation of my family and others, I believe that many, if not most, decisions a dad faces boil down to simple obedience. If that is the case, then why is there such turmoil when trying to decide what to do?

This morning one of my children made a bad decision. He saw one of his sibling’s shoes lying near the top of the basement stairs. Since the shoes obviously did not belong there, he graciously decided to help his brother by delivering at least one of the shoes a bit closer to the basement bedroom. This was a good decision. However, the bad decision came along in the delivery method. This child thought the easiest way to get those shoes in the basement was to kick them, one at a time, down the stairs.

Exercising great caution, he listened for a moment to make certain no one was about to come up the stairs before giving the shoe a mighty kick. Off it sailed into the air. The trajectory carried the shoe so that it was still over five feet in the air at the bottom of the stairs. Unfortunately, my quietly walking wife was just rounding the corner and starting up the basement stairs where her face was on a collision course with the projectile. To everyone’s relief, her reflexes were good, and her hand was able to intercept the flying shoe just prior to facial impact. Her hand was sore, but the wound would have been worse had it been her face.

Now, this child knew he wasn’t to throw or kick things like that. If he had obeyed, there would not have been a problem.

On Christmas Eve I was cooking Mexican meat for the family. It still had quite a bit of juice to cook off in the crock pot, so I thought I would help it along. I overruled the check in my spirit that told me I was about to violate the rules of crock pot use. I wrapped a couple towels around it so it would hold more of the heat in and boil off the juice more quickly. It worked great, as I had hoped it would, but as I removed the towels I saw something I hadn’t counted on. The towels were actually scorched, and the crock pot’s plastic feet had melted. The cutting board I had placed it on was split from the intense heat, and the counter top was too hot even to touch. Could it have ignited? I don’t know for sure, but I do know it was one of the dumbest decisions I have ever made.

It all could have been avoided had I “obeyed” the instruction manual. In my heart I knew I was doing something outside of the design of the appliance. Why is it so difficult to follow instructions?

God gave us His Word to instruct us in how to live our lives. Many, if not the majority, of the answers we are looking for are clearly addressed in Scripture.

Then why do we struggle with decisions? I believe there are two primary reasons. One is we don’t know what His Word says. The second is that, even when we do know, we often don’t want to follow it.

To make wise decisions, we must know the Scriptures well. Friend, there is no shortcut. We must be in the Word every day. Read it, study it, and love it! It will guide you. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105).

I recently dialogued with someone who said that modesty was only a matter of the heart. They explained their thinking: that God looked on the heart, and if they were modest in heart, that would please God. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array” (1 Timothy 2:9). Even a quick reading of the above verse would indicate that modest apparel means modest clothing. Otherwise, after Adam and Eve sinned, God would not have clothed them in animal skins; He would have just looked at them and seen that their hearts were modest and left them alone.

One reason we occasionally hear from a wife who doesn’t wear dresses is that her husband likes to see her in jeans. It is not difficult to discern why a husband might like to see his wife in jeans; however, the dad needs to evaluate the decision in relation to obedience of Scripture. If the choice is to be made between what appeals to the flesh and what is in obedience to God’s Word, we must choose obedience.

Often we will hear of wives who are troubled by the types of things their professing husbands are viewing on the TV or computer. Proverbs 6:25: “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids” is very straightforward. It is not a suggestion, but a command. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). We are not just to avoid these things, but we are to make these activities dead and play no part in our lives.

Next time we tell one of our children not to do something, we should ask ourselves if we are applying the same standard in our life. Are they supposed to obey us while we don’t have to obey our Lord? Of course not!

So often I hear from others that all kinds of questionable activities are simply a matter of being free in Christ. That may have a catchy ring to it, but there is no basis for it in Scripture. Would you agree with your child if next time you tell him to do something, he says to you, “I would like to Dad, but I’m free in Christ. I really don’t have to do that”?

Galatians addresses our freedom clearly. We are to be free from the bondage of sin so we may serve one another. We are not free to live as we choose. Galatians 5:13 sums it up well: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Obedience makes the decision process simple. God calls me to obey. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).

Obedience points the way to how we spend our time. It enables us to know how to lead our family. It makes the decision process much easier.

There will be times when our flesh is hesitant to obey God’s Word, but there is blessing with obedience. The decisions will be easier, your family will flourish in the Lord, and your wife and children will bless you. May we be obedient servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From Negativism to Thanksgiving

When I picked up the phone, it was my dad. “I am inviting your children to drive to Post with me to see the chapel that burned on Sunday morning. Your mom says there is all kinds of activity there. I am sure your children would be interested in watching what they are doing.”

Having no doubt that my crew would enthusiastically say “yes,” we made arrangements for the children to walk over to his house since we live next door. Delighted hoops and hollers filled our halls as five children from age twelve down to five heard the plans.

While my children enjoyed an unexpected field trip, I really believe the Lord put together that outing for another reason. I had been struggling emotionally all day. Although I was not falling deeper into the negative spiral, neither did I see victory on the horizon. Suddenly I had a silent house with no responsibilities that had to be fulfilled at that minute.

I headed straight to my rocking chair nook with my Bible and a tissue. I knew I needed time with the Lord. My negative thoughts were so overwhelming that I pulled out a small notebook and began to write down all the areas of my life in which I seemed to be failing. I knew that at least if they were on paper I could realistically evaluate them with the Lord. I quickly filled up a page and a half!

I had decided I would work my way down the list, confessing each area as sin and then reading Scripture that applied to it. As I glanced over the list, however, I saw that my emotions had totally distorted my thinking. While each portion of the list had things I was asking the Lord to grow me in or eliminate from my life, none represented truth. They were all globalized with words like “never,” “nothing,” “won’t,” and “can’t.”

While confessing sin, asking forgiveness, and seeking the Lord for His grace to avoid that sin in the future is part of my normal procedure, that wasn’t where the Lord took me that afternoon. He quickly put in my mind another direction for attacking this problem. Thanksgiving!

Two verses immediately came to mind before I even opened my Bible. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I was most certainly not giving thanks for everything—or really anything at all. Nor did my day represent doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God. It had been a day filled with negative responses to the circumstances around me. Rather than giving thanks and praising the Lord in the midst of feelings and situations, I had turned my focus onto myself and my failures.

Through the early part of the day, I didn’t confess each wrong reaction and wrong thought as sin. Those would have been the right steps. Instead, as the day wore on, I allowed my thoughts to follow a path of self pity. I knew I was not being the wife and mother the Lord would have me be that day.

However, I didn’t want to choose to apply even a small amount of self-discipline to change the pattern and direction. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). I know some might become tired of how often I quote this verse in a Mom’s Corner. It is key, though, in our overcoming the difficulties we struggle with—no matter what they may be!

What I needed to do was to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This takes place in my mind. The Lord has given us His Word about what we can then expect. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

It was true that, during the day I am describing, I was allowing unresolved sin to continue in my life that needed to be dealt with biblically. It was not true that I allowed such unresolved sin every day. It was not true that I never responded sweetly to anything. It was not true that I always criticized and never praised. It was not true that I always felt distant from the Lord.

I began to go through each item on my list to find something to be thankful for rather than unhappy about. My negative emotions were almost immediately overcome with that grateful spirit inherent in praise and thanksgiving. Here is a sample of my change of thoughts. “Lord, I feel like I am doing this all in my own strength,” was replaced with, “Lord, I am so grateful for my salvation and Your never ending work in my life. You have brought me so far and please continue the good work that You began. When I feel like I am doing this in my own strength, I have lost sight that every single good thing that I do is from You. When those feelings overtake me, it is because I have chosen not to be close to You, not to seek You in prayer before thinking or acting, and to allow self pity to overtake me.”

“I never respond to anything sweetly,” was replaced by, “Thank You, Lord, for each of these children. They are truly a blessing from You. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to love them and teach them about You.”

When my children returned from their outing, they must have thought they had a new mommy. Beginning with a simple choice to seek the Lord for help, the negative thinking was dispelled. Please believe me when I say that no matter what is happening around me, it simply isn’t worth a bad attitude toward it. My sinful reactions gain nothing while following the Lord’s direction profits everything!

Dear Sisters, I expect you know all too well what it is like to have days when many, if not all, of your thoughts are negative. You may not have a God-directed appointment to quietly take your heart to the Lord as I did, but remember Susannah Wesley, who would throw her apron over her head to pray. In the midst of chaos, strife, and busyness, we can still kneel where we are, bow our heads, and turn our thoughts to thanksgiving. May I encourage you to take your thoughts captive, bringing them from negativism to thanksgiving.