All posts by Steve Maxwell

Steve, husband to Teri for over 40 years, dad to eight and grandpa to eight, desires to encourage homeschool dads to spend time in the Word, disciple their children in the ways of the Lord, use their time wisely, and be men of God. His five home-school graduate sons are now wage-earning adults, and three have purchased their homes debt-free before marriage. He has been writing e-mails for Christian dads since 1990. Steve is co-author of of a number of books, including Managers of Their Homes, and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. Steve also wrote Buying a House Debt-Free: Equipping Your Son, Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family and Redeeming the Time. Find out more information on Steve Maxwell and his books.

Trust

Buddy was cutting my hair while the owner of the barbershop was giving a twenty-year-old young man a haircut. The man’s wife and six-month-old baby were watching “daddy” get a major overhaul. There was some teasing going on as six inches worth of hair was being moved from his head to the floor.

Blake, the barbershop owner, has had this shop for many years. I suppose when you stand there all day cutting hair, you find ways to make time a little more enjoyable. Blake had just put shaving cream around the young man’s ears and on his neck. Then, with a straight razor in his hand, Blake pointed at the wife and asked her husband, “Do you trust your wife?” This question not only peaked my curiosity, but I saw that she quit bouncing the baby, becoming quite interested in what her husband was going to say.

The husband thought just a moment and said, “I sure do!” With that admirable reply, his wife smiled, put a kiss on the baby, and began bouncing him again.

On hearing the words Blake was hoping for, he held out the straight razor to her and said, “Great! Come on over here and shave around his ears with this.”

I’m not sure I can adequately describe the emotions that husband and wife began to exhibit. Both of them were repeatedly saying, “No!” with enough zeal that Blake was feeling very rewarded.

After the couple relaxed again, Blake said he recently did the same thing to a couple about to be married. The groom-to-be had answered, “I’d trust her with my life.” (Good answer, if true.) However, when Blake tightened the noose that the groom-to-be had just stepped into, the future bride saw her “prince charming” do such a U-turn that she was crushed. Blake chuckled with a little satisfaction as he said, “It really turned into quite a squabble.”

Trust is an amazing thing. It is the foundation for the depth of a relationship. You can have a relationship without love, but if there is no trust, then there is no real relationship. Merriam-Webster defines trust as: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something, one in which confidence is placed.” The more we trust someone, the more open we will be with him and the closer the relationship becomes. David trusted Jonathan and shared information that could have cost David his life if Jonathan had betrayed that trust by telling his father, Saul. That was an example of a friendship between two young men that had a deeper level of trust than the relationship between the son and his father. How sad, and yet that is common today, even in Christian homes.

As the straight razor in my barbershop story put into perspective, trust is only a word until it is tested. David’s trust in Jonathan wasn’t meaningful until Jonathan proved he could be trusted. Our children’s trust in us is a measure of our trustworthiness through the years. We need to guard it zealously.

The issue of whether my children trust me is critical to my effectiveness as a parent. What is their level of confidence in me? A little child initially has deep trust in his parents, but often as he grows that trust is eroded. This can happen throughout childhood, as the child perceives that his parents are making some bad decisions. “Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey” (1 Samuel 14:29). With the strength of Jonathan’s criticism of his father, this was obviously not the first time that Jonathan felt his father, the king, had made a wrong decision. Likely, he had watched his father’s pride lead him to make many other bad decisions.

There are times we, as dads, make bad decisions. There may be other times when we make the best decision, but our children’s understanding is not sufficient to see the decision properly. When this is the case we receive “credit” for a bad decision.

This is one reason I choose to have a weekly private meeting with each of my older children (eleven and up). I cherish that time on Sunday while lunch is being prepared and then cleaned up. The time I meet with each child varies according to what we have to discuss. It has proved to be critical in maintaining and deepening their trust in me. We discuss decisions that have been made and why they were made that way. It gives the child a chance to understand why I did what I did and why I felt the Lord leading in that direction. There also have been times when I confessed to them that I made a wrong decision and asked their forgiveness if it affected them. That way they are able to see that dad can make mistakes, but when he does, he makes it right with them. Both situations are so very important in ensuring confidence in me.

In the area of trust, think about what our poor wives go through. You and I know that no wife would make every decision perfectly if she was responsible for making the decisions. However, there are times when she would have made the correct choice, when her husband made the wrong one. Even if she doesn’t remember the times when she would have chosen wrong, she is likely to remember the times when she was right.

If any wife had reason to distrust her husband, it was Sarah. Abraham betrayed her twice out of concern for his own safety (Genesis 12:11, 20:2). Twice! Yet, she did not rebel against Abraham’s leadership and appeared to continue to trust him (1 Peter 3). She was commended for her faith in God in Hebrews 11, and that is probably the secret of her confidence in Abraham. (All moms would likely learn a powerful lesson in how to have faith in a husband, and that is by trusting in their Lord.)

A wife’s trust in her husband is to be treasured. Husbands can easily damage that trust, and it is difficult to regain. Frequently, we hear of a mom who has discovered her husband is into pornography. Why does it hurt a wife so badly? It is because porn is mental adultery. The husband into pornography or lusting after other women “drives a knife” into his wife’s heart, and she cannot trust him. She knows her husband is driven by lust and therefore can’t be trusted. Once an adulterer, will he ever really stop, and to what lengths will he go?

Repentance is the only way to begin rebuilding trust. The father who reacts defensively when questioned by his wife has not repented. He is only sorry he got caught. But the man who truly hates his sin, is repentant, and wants to change will accept any boundaries and accountability necessary. A man who is repentant will embrace boundaries as an opportunity to show those who love him he realizes his sin. He will gladly avoid all appearances of evil. He will be willing to spend the rest of his life trying to rebuild what he does not deserve. What do you think? Was the young man showing prudence in not letting his wife use the razor, or did he simply not trust her? I believe he didn’t trust her. If he had, he would have thought, “I trust that she loves me so much she wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. I believe that if she doesn’t have the skill to use that razor, then she won’t, because she doesn’t want to take a chance of cutting me.” In the same way, do we love our families so much that we choose to do nothing that may hurt them?

Trust is priceless. Do you want the hearts of your family members? It isn’t possible without trust. Have you damaged trust? Be committed to rebuilding it. We can’t demand it, but we must covet it and seek to always build it.

Spiritually Healthy Children

Reflecting back on all the places Teri and I have lived during our twenty-eight years of marriage, I realized there was one thing consistent with each place: they all had “needy” lawns. I always mowed the lawns on a regular basis, but I had no clue as to what it took to have a truly healthy lawn.

There were times when I would get inspired and think, “If my neighbor can have a reasonable looking lawn, then so can I.” I would go buy a bag of fertilizer and a new drop spreader (the old one had rusted to a point of uselessness by that time) and painstakingly attempt to apply the chemicals to the yard. Then, with significant anticipation, I would watch for the lawn to green up. I can remember the satisfaction of seeing beautiful, green grass. Unfortunately, that satisfaction was always tempered by the disappointment of seeing lush green stripe, pale green stripe, lush green stripe, then pale sickly-looking stripe.

No matter how careful I was to overlap each pass with the drop spreader, it seemed like I missed as much as I covered. At each turn, I would even put a stake in next to the wheel and aim for the opposite stake across the yard. I just couldn’t get it right. I wasn’t sure which was worse, a uniformly pale, anemic yard, or one with deep green stripes accenting the pale stripes, sort of a drop-shadow affect.

Then, eleven years ago when we moved into this house, I decided it was time to do it right. By combining my lawn with my father-in-law’s lawn (he lives next door to us), I could get the chemical treatments applied professionally for less than I could buy them over the counter. With the volume discount, a rich, green lawn was on the horizon. No more striped lawn! A pro was going to be applying the treatments, and all I would have to do was mow. I was so pleased!

I greatly enjoyed seeing the lawn green up as the chemical plan started. I began to take even more notice of the lawn than I ever had. The lawn-treatment company always said that if you weren’t pleased with the results, just to give them a call. They would come back out and take care of whatever they needed to do. So for the first time ever, I had hopes of not only a green lawn, but a weed-free lawn as well.

I wish I could tell you those six years of professional lawn treatments revolutionized our yard. Unfortunately, I can’t because we didn’t have one successful year. My only explanation is that the Lord obviously had a lesson in it for me.

Each year there was always some sort of problem with the lawn. I would discuss it with the lawn-treatment company, and they always had a reason why the yard wasn’t improving. For several years it was because it was a wetter-than-normal year. They told me the fertilizer and weed control were being washed away. Then there were the years when it didn’t rain often enough. They said I needed to water the lawn so it received at least an inch of water every week. Do you have any idea how much an inch of water over the whole yard each week costs? It made what we were paying for the chemicals seem like chicken feed. Then there was a year when they had to treat for grubs two or three times. By the time the grubs were finally conquered—well, actually, “conquered” probably isn’t accurate—I think there was nothing left to eat so the grubs moved on.

After several years, I finally could see that having someone else responsible for fertilizing and weed control was not the answer either. What needed to happen was for me to learn what should be done to properly care for the lawn, and then do it myself.

The first rule I discovered was that a healthy lawn—one that is well-fed and well-watered—will resist weeds. Unfortunately, my lawn was in such sorry condition that it needed much more major work.

The first thing we did was to verticut the yard, reseed it, and apply starter fertilizer. After applying large amounts of daily water, the grass seed sprouted and began growing. It took several years of fertilizing, watering, and some more over-seeding to achieve our current lawn. It has grass that looks nice—not beautiful, but acceptable, by my standards.

In giving you that much detail of my lawn history, I didn’t want to bore you or brag about what little I know regarding lawn care. I felt the background was important in laying the foundation for what I wanted to share.

Brothers, I am deeply grieved by my observation of how many dads are doing nothing to maintain healthy children’s hearts. It is as if, just by giving them a place to grow, these dads believe their children will turn out all right. To me that is like giving grass a place to grow and then expecting it to be a beautiful lawn. I don’t think either will happen.

The next wrong assumption I see is that it is best to turn our children over to the professionals to be properly trained. The experts are supposed to know exactly how to raise children, just like the guys who spray chemicals on the yard are to have your “lawn’s best interests” in mind. However, even if some professionals have more knowledge than a typical dad, they don’t have the heart attachment that a dad has for his own children.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is clear in stating that the responsibility for discipling children rests on fathers. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

The temptation is to let others give our children their spiritual training. We cannot, though, expect Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, or even our pastors to be responsible for our children’s spiritual growth and nurturing. Notice the key word in that last sentence: responsible. We are the ones who will be held responsible for how our children have been spiritually fed. Others may supplement what we are feeding our children, but we will not stand before the Lord and say, “It was his fault that my children weren’t discipled.” As long as the chemical “pros” were responsible for my yard, I was hardly even willing to water it. That was my fault and not theirs! Just because we take our children to church does not mean they are being trained in the way the Lord wants them to be.

The chemical “pros” give every lawn the same treatment. That is why it took three treatments of increasing-strength chemicals to deal with the grubs that one year. Even within a family, each child needs individual care and nurturing. There are times when I’m choosing to give one child much more attention than others, because that is what the child needs at that time. I wish we were able to train each child in the same way as it sure would make raising children easier, and we wouldn’t have to work so hard. That is my preference, though, and not the Lord’s. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fact that we feel inadequate and uncertain about how to raise our children is a good thing and will motivate us to pray. Then God gets the glory for everything that is done.

The essence of having a healthy lawn is to nurture it. That means, at a minimum, we give it proper food, water, and cutting. Weather will always be a factor in how much we do of each of the basics, so we have to be observant. In the same way, we must be observant of our children’s needs. The storms of life will come and go, and they have an effect on how we are going to care for each child. This will vary from year to year, and maybe even day to day, as needs will be different depending on the conditions.

One thing is certain: food and water are a must. Dads, that is why we must be serving our family a healthy portion of the Word daily. It may be a larger serving at some times, but they need God’s Word every day. If you don’t want them to grow in the Lord, not leading your children in a daily time of family worship will accomplish that goal. Your children will not grow and mature spiritually if you don’t spiritually feed them! Are we relying on the experts to feed our children? Please don’t if you really care about your children!

In John 21:17 Jesus said to Peter, “. . . Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said to him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Men, if we love our children, we must feed them. May we not stand before the Lord someday admitting we didn’t feed His sheep.

(Steve has a 2 CD Set on the importance of daily, family Bible time, how to practically accomplish it, and actual samples for our family devotions. Please see Feed My Sheep.)

“Lawn Care,” How Is Your Lawn?

I am able to go for a walk six mornings a week, four days with Teri and two days with her father. We walk roughly the same route every day. Strolling week after week along the same path gives me the opportunity to observe the yards we pass by.

It is amazing the variance in people’s lawns. Some are beautiful, lush, green yards; then there are those that look quite nice. Others could use improvement. Finally, there are yards that are complete disasters. They look absolutely terrible!

I’m thinking of one appalling lawn in particular. It is on the corner so you can see both the front and back yards. In the spring I noticed clover lightly scattered around the yard. Over time the clover spread like wild fire and finally took over the whole yard. From a distance the lawn looked pretty good, but as you drew closer it became obvious that it was all clover rather than grass. When the summer heat came, the clover died. That would be good, except the clover had already totally killed the grass. Then the homeowners didn’t have to mow (not that they did much before) because nothing was growing in the bare dirt except a few low weeds.

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34).

The above verses tell me that I have the opportunity to learn a great deal from observing others. We try to take advantage of this in the Maxwell home. I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to learn from someone else’s mistakes. “Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). I don’t mind identifying with the simple if it means I can avoid a trip to the woodshed.

Over the months as I observed that lawn, I was struck with how similar it was to some aspects of raising children. First, I never looked at clover as a threat to my lawn. As a matter of fact, in some ways I have always liked clover. I have fond childhood memories of summer play times in fields of clover. Clover hasn’t seemed like a weed to me, and it isn’t ugly like many weeds. Maybe that was the initial attitude of the homeowner whose lawn was destroyed by clover.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a new or old yard, clover still presents a danger when you are trying to grow healthy, beautiful grass. In the same way, whether our children are young or old, there are situations for which we must keep our eyes open. I think most of us will notice recognizable weeds that sprout up in the lives of our children. What about those things that appear innocent, just like that clover? Will we spot areas that have negative impact on our children, perhaps ones that the world (and even the church these days) calls good and beneficial? There are certain harmful behaviors and activities, innocent in appearance that our children may take up. By the time we become concerned, they are much more difficult to address.

Let’s see what Scripture says. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Paul was warning Timothy to flee youthful lusts and replace them with righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Many would quickly recognize youthful lusts as being immoral lusting for the opposite sex, pride, and the desire to be in control. There may be others, but there is one in particular that most would not put in the category of youthful lusts.

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5 Paul describes evil men in the end times. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” As you read that list it should be pretty obvious how harmful most of those listed “weeds” are. However, if you reread the list, you should spot some “clover.” What about those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”?

Look at the company “lovers of pleasures” is keeping in the list: lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection (sodomites), trucebreakers, false accusers (liars), incontinent (no self-control), fierce, despisers of those that are good (they love evil), traitors, heady, highminded, LOVERS OF PLEASURES more than lovers of God. How many Christian parents do you know who are as concerned and careful that their children don’t become “lovers of pleasure” as there are parents concerned that their children don’t become sodomites? Raising a child who is a “lover of pleasure” (or being one ourselves) is very serious and should not be taken lightly. Then why is it not even questioned or rebuked in Christian circles?

“Lovers of pleasure” so characterizes our society. Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year on seeking greater thrills, chills, excitement, and fun. Why? It is pleasurable! Movies, automobile races, football, baseball, soccer, hockey, a myriad of other sporting activities, alcohol, and drugs—to name only a few—all produce pleasure of sorts. In our area, when there is a Kansas City Chiefs game, even the professing Christians dawn their red apparel. It isn’t because they are trying to relate to the other fans with the hope of winning them to Christ; it is because the excitement of the game is pleasurable.

So what does one do about clover? Some (the world) let the clover take over. I read how a Canadian group actually promotes clover lawns. Many take that approach with pleasure. “Why fight it? Embrace it!”

For our family, we take “clover” very seriously. I’m careful what types of fun our family enjoys. The children ride bikes and have wholesome toys and healthy play (less as they grow older).

There are certain things we just don’t do. For example, we would not even consider going to a movie theater, a professional sporting event of any kind, or amusement parks. For us, there is nothing redeeming about any of those activities, and much that is negative (that is for another Dad’s Corner). In addition, there is the potential if we participate in those areas of creating the intense appetite for more. Please don’t get me wrong; we have fun as a family, and much laughter is heard in the Maxwell home. However, it is the desire of my heart to raise children who are “lovers of God” far more than “lovers of pleasure.”

We would all do well to treat pleasure as the dangerous drug that it is. Yes, God did give us the ability to enjoy pleasing things, but Satan is the one who wants us to take pleasure in nonprofitable things. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). How’s your lawn?

What’s Your Excuse?

I have an audiocassette of a sermon by David Ring that he preached during a Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week. He wove the testimony of what Christ did in his life throughout the message. What set his message and life apart from any I’ve heard is that Brother Ring has cerebral palsy.

He shared the tremendous struggles he has had in life. He talked of how the children made fun of his stammering speech and his difficulty in walking. Most of us have had others tease us at some point in our life, but it is likely that very few reading this have ever experienced the mockery that David endured. Children can be cruel and can delight in making fun of anyone, no matter how “perfect” they may be. But let children see someone who has a real physical challenge, and they will swarm to attack like killer bees or sharks in a feeding frenzy. Can you imagine what it would be like to be around children and have great difficulty speaking clearly? What about not being able to run and play like the other children, but instead to have a leg that hinders you from walking normally?

If that wasn’t bad enough, both of David’s parents died when he was a child. I believe his father died first, and David was all the more dependent on his mother. When his mother died, he was devastated. One of his sisters loved him deeply and took him in. She showed him incredible kindness and patience as he was struggling greatly with the loss of his mother and the way others treated him.

School was awful for him, and he wanted to give up. His sister kept encouraging him that he could do it, while others said that he would never amount to anything. I’m not sure of the exact sequence, but he was finally saved. God began working in his life, even giving him the desire to be a preacher. He shared, to my amazement, that other men studying to be preachers would tell him he would never make it. He completed college, married (and now has several children), and travels the U.S. as a full-time evangelist.

Religion may provide some degree of outward conformity, but Jesus Christ not only saves a person from hell, He also changes lives. Jesus Christ can take ashes and make something beautiful. Jesus Christ did a wonderful work in David Ring’s life. He took a man who was full of despair and bitterness and made a new creation. Jesus Christ took a man who was predisposed to a life of failure and rejection, and appears to be using him as a powerful instrument to glorify Himself and challenge others in their walk.

There were several things I noticed in particular from his message that encouraged me as a father. First is the influence we can have on those around us when we are encouragers. It is easy to point out every time our children fall short. The Lord used David’s sister in a mighty way. She believed in her brother and conveyed that to him over and over. When I’m not with my children, will their thoughts “hear” me correct them or tell them they can succeed at something? Are they likely to see Dad as the one who most believes in their ability to succeed? When they think of Dad, does it give them a feeling of assurance? Those are my desires for my children.

Along similar lines are the voices of those who told David he would never amount to anything. Have you ever heard yourself say, “You always . . . ?” I sure have, and I wish I could take back every one of those times. The positive affirmations we make to our children can be quickly forgotten by our negative global statements. If we are going to make a universal statement, may it be one of blessing. “Son, I want you to know that every time I see your face my heart rejoices.”

Everyone on the face of the earth has areas of weakness. As I listened to David Ring, I realized the great need to be extra patient and understanding with the mental and physical limitations of my children. It is easy to let their weaknesses become irritants instead of stimulants for us to bless them more. These are the areas in which they need us most. Yet, those are often the areas where we will lose patience first. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

I suppose the greatest challenge I received from David was his desire to be used of God despite any difficulties he faced. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10). David Ring longs to be used by God for His glory. In David’s physical limitations, God gives grace. David is willing to receive God’s strength and be used as an instrument of righteousness.

For those who are saved, we have been bought with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are no longer our own, but His. We are not on this earth for our pleasure and entertainment, but to serve our Lord. “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). We have daily opportunities to serve our families. The needs of our wives and children are to come before ours. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

May each of us take a sincere appraisal of our life. One way might be to review how we spend our time each day. Who or what is it spent on? Are we being obedient to the Lord? Are we serving Him in gladness of heart? Are we serving others outside the church? Are we responding with peace and patience to the tribulations that come our way? Are we welcoming them as opportunities for God to show Himself strong? If not, what is our excuse? David certainly had a good excuse, and yet he chose to be used of God. May we be men of God and let Him be glorified through our willing, cheerful obedience. What is our excuse for not being used of God?

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 8

(To read the prior parts to this series, please see here.) A short time ago while Teri and I were on our morning walk, she said, “I’m feeling like you have a critical spirit toward me lately. Is that true?” I didn’t enjoy hearing her question because that told me she was not feeling loved. Even worse, she was sensing a negative, critical spirit on my part.

“No, I don’t think so,” I responded, and the conversation drifted onto other things.

I’m not sure of the exact chain of events, but over the next few days the Lord started speaking to my heart. He convicted me of times when I had allowed negative, judgmental thoughts in my mind about Teri. Yes, I finally had to admit it; I did have a critical spirit toward her!

“Mr. Webster” defines critical as “inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably.” Criticize “implies finding fault especially with methods or policies or intentions.” It was true. I was looking at Teri with the predisposition of finding fault. I was allowing myself to criticize certain actions and behaviors of hers in my mind. When I was looking at what Teri did through a magnifying glass, was she able to do anything to my satisfaction? Was she hearing praise and gratefulness for all she did in our home? Clearly not!

Perhaps some might wonder what is wrong with having a judgmental spirit, as long as the negative thoughts aren’t expressed. If you are going to be critical, might it not be acceptable to do it secretly? I suppose in a similar way we might justify being angry on the inside or having secret lustful thoughts, as long as we don’t outwardly show them. The problem is that we can’t be one thing on the inside and another on the outside. We truly are what we are in our hearts. If we lust in our hearts, we are adulterers. If we are angry in our hearts, we are angry men. If we are critical in our hearts, we are critical people. “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). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee” (Proverbs 23:7).

Just like Teri noticed something was wrong, the person our judgmental spirit is directed at will not feel loved. It poisons our thoughts about them. It will affect our words, actions, and attitudes towards them. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:10-12). What is in our heart directs our speech. “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).

Harboring secret, negative thoughts will damage a husband’s love for his wife. If you have been struggling with loving your wife deeply from your heart, evaluate whether you have a critical spirit. A judgmental spirit will also put up a barrier between you and your child. As loving as we may try to be to them, our spirit will be shouting even louder that we don’t accept them the way they are, we aren’t happy with them, and they’d better change.

Think of a possession that you have that means a lot to you. It very likely isn’t perfect, as few things are. However, for some reason or other, you really like it. Maybe it is your car since men often have some attachment to their vehicles. When you think of it, why is it pleasing to you? What aspects of it come to mind? When you are thinking pleasant thoughts about it, are you thinking about anything negative concerning it?

For example, I spend a great deal of time with my computer every day. I appreciate it, and I am very pleased with it. I seldom think about its negative aspects. It is fairly slow by today’s standards because it is only 450 MHz. It doesn’t have a large hard disk so I have to be reasonably careful with what I store on it. The display has a very large footprint and takes up a great deal of desk space as opposed to the sleek new flat panel displays that are out. It’s in my office in the basement where I don’t have any windows, and it gets quite stuffy in there with the door closed.

Now, what if I started thinking about how slow my computer is, the small hard disk, the clunky display, and how stuffy it is in my office? Would I still have pleasant feelings toward that computer? Of course not! That is the way with anything we allow ourselves to think negatively about. Concentrating on what is not pleasing will erode positive feelings.

We may think we are doing this in secret, but just like hidden anger or lust, it always shows. It comes across loud and clear, as I realized when the spirit of love that Teri normally felt was being dissolved away.

So what do we do if we have a judgmental spirit? How can we stop it? I will share what I did to be free from it. First, I was convicted that it was sin. I am to love and cherish Teri, to die for her if need be (Ephesians 5:25). I am not to sit in continual judgment of her. I confessed this to my Lord Jesus and asked His forgiveness. Next, I went to Teri and confessed that she was right and asked her forgiveness. Then, I asked the Lord to convict me of judgmental thoughts when I was allowing them into my mind. I also asked that He might give me an attitude of gratefulness. I purposed to cast every negative thought down. Not only has Teri not had a husband who is looking at her with faultfinding eyes lately, but she now has a husband who has found a new sense of appreciation for her.

A critical spirit is a cancer that will destroy your ability to delight in the one it is focused on. It isn’t healthy, and it certainly isn’t enjoyable. Do you want to rejoice in the wife of your youth? Purpose to love her and not judge her. What if instead of loving me, Teri were to concentrate on my faults? Now that is a scary thought!

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 7

(Prior parts to this series can be found here.) I was looking for my glasses in the kitchen when I realized and then said that they were still in the van. John immediately headed for the door to the garage, announcing that he would get them for me. I was grateful for his desire to serve, but told him that I had better retrieve them because I didn’t want them dropped. He assured me that he would be careful, and off he went.

Seconds later John came flying back into the kitchen with the glasses in hand. As he closed the door with the hand holding the glasses, the handle caused him to loosen his tender grip on the glasses, and they headed for the floor. The speed at which he was coming in the door gave the glasses momentum. I watched with no little distress as they went sliding across the tile floor—lens down.

I have been working at laying down anger in my life. Therefore, when I felt anger welling up inside of me, I turned to the wall behind me. I raised my hand and placed my palm against the wall. I didn’t smack the wall, but it was obvious that I would have liked to. With my anger now under control, I turned to face a sweet eleven-year-old who had tears brimming in his eyes. He apologized and said he didn’t mean to do it. He was very sorry.

I told him that was why I didn’t want him to get the glasses as he is always in a hurry and prone to accidents like that. I said it was okay and thanked him for his desire to help. He had something to do after that and went off.

Most would say I did a great job of controlling my anger. I was not harsh, and I didn’t discipline him. Yet, I was angry. Teri observed the situation and could tell I was angry. Several days later I spoke to John about it. I asked him if he thought I was angry. He said, “Yes,” and that was why he started to cry, because he was afraid. Ughhh! How that broke my heart.

Dads, that is why if we want to be good leaders of our homes, we must, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away . . .” (Ephesians 4:31). Our children know when we are angry, and it drives a wedge between them and us. They are afraid of us when we are angry, which is not conducive for having them turn their hearts to us.

The fact is, at that moment, I thought more of my glasses than I did of my son. That is something to repent of before God. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous to you? Yet I wonder how often that happens with other dads as well.

What causes you to respond angrily? Maybe it is a glass of spilled milk, the refrigerator door left open, tools lying in the yard, bikes in the middle of the driveway, lots of screaming and yelling, toys left out and tripped on, doors slammed, a child hurting another child, a child being disrespectful to you or your wife, a child not obeying you, a child mocking you, or any of a limitless list of ways a child could make us angry. We need to step back and ask ourselves, “Does anger achieve God’s results and make us good leaders?” “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

There was a time when I allowed myself to be visibly angry because the children responded so much better when I told them to do something. But it soon became apparent that I was driving a wedge between their hearts and mine. If we desire to raise up godly seed (Malachi 2:15), then anger—visible or invisible—must have no part in our lives.

I expect if we were to put our heads together we could write down a fairly lengthy list of ways our spouses can make us angry. I have noticed that when I’m angry with Teri, it does nothing to improve our relationship. Have you experienced that in your marriage as well? There is something about anger that causes the other person to pull back. They don’t want to open up and become close, because they don’t know that they can relax and not be on the defensive. Anger, even a spirit of anger, will cause the one receiving the anger to put up a shield of emotional protection.

My controlled anger with John that night was as harmful to our relationship as if I had yelled at him. He sensed the internal anger and admitted to me that he was afraid. He had no reason to be afraid as I was calm on the outside, but he sensed my spirit. It was angry. We have everything to win and nothing to lose if we will purpose, by God’s grace, to put away all anger.

Scripture is very clear about putting away anger. Read the following verses.

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (Psalms 37:8).

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment . . .” (Matthew 5:22). Even if there was to be a cause, we need to consider Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Notice all anger is to be put away.

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). Again, all anger is to be put away.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Look at the other qualities that wrath (anger) is listed among. Would we excuse any of the others in our home?

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). Do we want to pray effectively?

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Our anger will not lead to righteousness in our life or those to whom our anger is directed at.

Out of all the verses in the Bible telling us to put away anger, some will still cling to Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” as giving them freedom to be angry. Yet, they ignore that five verses later we are told to put away ALL anger. When we look at the above verses, it makes it extremely difficult to justify any anger.

As I said earlier, I have purposed to put away all anger by God’s grace. If there is such a thing as anger, with a cause that the Lord would approve of, I can’t imagine experiencing it. I can see what Scripture says about anger and how anger destroys intimacy in the home. It is difficult enough to win the hearts of my family members; I do not want to allow something in my life that will destroy what I’ve worked so hard for.

How about you? What place does anger have in your life? Have you seen anger’s harmful effects on relationships in your family? One resource that was very helpful in my life was Dr. S. M. Davis’ audio, titled Freedom from the Spirit of Anger. Dads, this really is a serious issue. Will you ask the Lord to search your heart and discover how He might remove anger from it? Will you trust Him to give you the grace needed?

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 6

(To read the other parts in the series, please see this link.) Last month we looked at Lot’s life to see what insight we could glean from it. We saw that Lot was a selfish man who made decisions based on what was good for him. Yet, Lot was referred to as a just man and was still better than the pagans around him. But, was he God’s man?

Based on observation, I find many professing Christians who seem to have a saving faith, yet their walk bears great similarities to Lot’s. We must each ask, “Is it I, Lord?”

The man we are going to look at this month was quite different from Lot, yet he had similar circumstances. Let’s look briefly at Abraham’s life and compare our life to his.

In Genesis 12:1-4 we read, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him. . . .”

What a promise of incredible blessing that was! I find it tempting to think, “How could anyone not act on that?” But let’s look at this more closely, and see if we think we would have obeyed like Abram did.

First, God is telling Abram to leave the security of his extended family. In those days, living by your family was much safer than living by yourself in a foreign country. The men in the family would join together in opposing those who might attack them. By leaving, Abram no longer had that security. Abram trusted God with his life.

God didn’t even tell Abram where He was sending him. Abram was told not only to leave the security of his family but also to go someplace unknown. Most of us would ask ourselves, “What if I don’t like it there? Is this really God’s direction?” There is just something unsettling about not knowing. Oftentimes, we can handle good or bad news; it is the not knowing that “kills” us.

Years ago, at a training clinic for marriage enrichment leaders that Teri and I attended, each spouse blindfolded the other and led him or her around the building. I remember how uncertain I felt (okay, I’ll admit it, even a little fearful at times) as Teri enjoyed leading me on a very strange journey, up and down stairs, in circles, and through different rooms. It was natural for me to want to know where each step was being placed and where I was going to end up. One aspect the exercise demonstrated was how important it was to be able to trust the person leading you. It was much easier to blindly be led about because I trusted Teri and knew she would not take me anywhere that wasn’t good for me, yet because I couldn’t see, I still had an emotional response. Abram not only trusted God, but his expectation was in Him. Abram was not told where, but he went.

What an incredible beginning to Abram’s walk with God. It reminds me of the old saying where one says, “Jump!” and the recipient of the command says, “How high?” However, with Abram, he didn’t even ask how high. He simply obeyed. It is the desire of my life that if God says to do something, I will do it.

Abram traveled to the land of Canaan. Then in Genesis 12:7, God spoke to Abram again and said, “. . . Unto thy seed will I give this land. . . .” God did not give the land to Abram right then, but He said He was giving it to Abram’s seed. I wonder how many of us would be happy if all the blessings God was going to give us were to go only to our children’s children. We would not be able to enjoy them ourselves but would have to be content knowing they were coming. Are we willing to make decisions that will reap a harvest of righteousness only for our children and our children’s children?

As we read about Abram’s life, we are surprised twice by decisions of his that are not representative of a good leader. In fact, we would expect Lot, not Abram, to have made these decisions. God records these events for our benefit. What can we learn from them to help us be good leaders of our families?

In Genesis 12:13 and 20:2 Abram (now Abraham), like a good leader, was “looking down the road” ahead of their travels and thinking about situations they might encounter. Sarah was very beautiful, and Abraham was concerned in his heart that Sarah would be taken to be part of a king’s harem. It must have been fairly common that if the woman was married, the husband was killed and the wife taken. Therefore, Abraham reckoned that he was going to be in serious danger, and he asked Sarah to deceive them by not admitting that she was his wife, but to say that Abraham was her brother (he was her half brother). Deception is not God’s plan.

A good leader should be alert to danger, but he must seek the Lord for the right solution. Abraham’s plan of deception was not of the Lord. God “stepped in” and protected Abraham and Sarah, and there appeared to be no consequences for the deception.

We may be tempted to think the lesson Abraham learned through these situations was to trust God for protection. I believe, though, that an even greater lesson would have been to ask God first before proceeding. I could find no mention in Scripture of where Abraham sought God’s direction prior to traveling to those two areas that got him into trouble. Look how those failures could have been avoided if Abraham had prayed before he went down those roads.

“And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels” (Genesis 12:16). We read how Pharaoh gave Abraham gifts in exchange for Sarah. Then we read in Genesis 16:1, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.” Then we read how Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham as his wife so Sarah can claim Hagar’s children as her own. Here is another creative human plan laden with consequences. Yes, it was Sarah’s plan, but Abraham agreed to it and, therefore, owned the consequences.

Now we see that had Abraham not decided to go to Egypt, Hagar would not have been given to them, and she would not be part of Sarah’s scheme for children. Had Ishmael not been born, is it possible that the Arab-Israeli conflict through the centuries could have been avoided? Only the Lord knows, but it is an interesting question. How bitter the fruit we may serve our family when we aren’t following God’s direction.

Do you ever neglect to ask God for direction and then cry out to Him to fix the situation when the road leads to trouble? How much better for us and our families if we cry out to the Lord for direction prior to going down a certain road.

Abraham was God’s man and did so many things right. He had incredible faith in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. He was obedient to God to the point of being willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. He was satisfied with his descendants receiving the blessings of a homeland, instead of having the blessing himself.

May we be like Abraham in his good points and learn from his failures. May we seek God every morning and at every decision. May we be totally dependent on the Father to direct our lives.

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 5

(To read the first parts in this series, please see this link.) I had to drive to Kansas City this afternoon to deliver some software to a client. I invited Teri to accompany me. We were enjoying our ride as we traveled down a four-lane section of highway that had a sixty-five mile per hour speed limit and several traffic lights.

I could see the light ahead of me turn red and along with the two cars behind me, we began bleeding off speed as we came to a stop. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw a burgundy car still traveling at the speed limit, or more, bearing down on the intersection in the left lane next to us. I quickly glanced ahead and saw two cars beginning to pull into the intersection, on their green light, in a collision path. Just then, the burgundy car’s driver slammed on the brakes, and the car began skidding. There was absolutely no way that car was going to stop or even reduce his speed enough to matter.

I quickly looked forward, and the two cars were now approaching the same point on the pavement as the “red-light runner.” The two legal cars hit their brakes and were able to stop before venturing into the path of the speeding car. Obviously, they had seen this car flying down the road and were entering the intersection much more slowly than they might have under other circumstances.

Thankfully, I have never witnessed a fatal accident, but I came as close today as I would ever care to come. Tragedy was averted because the lead car was being observant, looking ahead for danger as he proceeded. Had the driver not been attentive, it likely would have been terrible for all those involved.

What kind of driver are you? I’m not talking about your skills behind the wheel, but your methods as leader of your home.

Old Testament Lot was a man who reminds me of the person driving the burgundy vehicle. If it hadn’t been for God’s grace, he would have reaped more serious consequences than he actually did.

In Genesis 13 we read that there was strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. Abram asked Lot to pick where he wanted to live, and Abram would go somewhere else. “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other” (Genesis 13:10-11).

Lot chose the best for himself. He was a selfish man. Because of decisions like this one, his family would know that most of his decisions would likely have a selfish motive to them. This would cause them to question his leadership of their family. We see this questioning clearly when the Lord was about to destroy Sodom. Lot tried to convince his sons-in-law to leave the city. However, since Lot had not demonstrated real leadership, they would not listen to him or follow him. Instead they thought he was joking.

I believe we see that Lot was also lazy. He was a shepherd, but he ended up living the easy life in Sodom. His motives are later confirmed when the angels tell him to flee to the mountains, but Lot wants to live in another city of his choice. Because of Lot’s laziness, he was willing to raise his family in the morally corrupted environment of Sodom. He knew it was a wicked place; that is why he wanted to protect the angels from sleeping in the city square. Yet, Lot would not take his family away from there for their own good.

May we not be of a like mind with Lot. I struggle with laziness, and that is one small reason why we don’t watch any TV. I know my own sin nature and how tempted I am to watch what is a snare to my soul and would corrupt my family. Sure, a dad can justify the desire to be entertained by feeling he deserves a mindless break and that he will be careful about what he watches. However, regardless of your efforts to avoid damaging shows, you will still be bombarded with lewd and inappropriate commercials. Even news bites present things done in darkness, which Scripture says are not to be spoken of: “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). Watching television will have an affect on the dad’s soul and the children’s. Dads, which are we more concerned with: our pleasure and entertainment or the purity of our families? What other harmful influences may there be that we have been too lazy to protect our family from?

Lot was willing to sacrifice his daughters for others. At first that may seem noble, but is it? A noble act would have meant being willing to sacrifice himself for others. That is our example in Christ. (Certainly, Christ would have us sacrifice our selfish entertainment and pleasure to keep our family pure as we serve Him.)

Often parents tell us how they desire to reach the lost by using their children to evangelize in different places and activities. Frankly, as I observe their decisions and listen to the justification, it sounds much like the excuse I believe Lot would use for being willing to send his innocent daughters out to appease a lust-incensed mob. Dads, the result will be the same. I believe you will either lose your children, or they will be corrupted by others’ influence and never be what they could have been. We are to evangelize, but we are to be the ones doing it. May we not sacrifice our children, but protect them as a father should (John 10).

God’s priorities were not Lot’s priorities. In the morning the angels urged Lot to arise, hurry, and flee the city. (How many of us think we would be in bed if we knew our city was about to be destroyed?) In Genesis 19:16 we read that Lot “lingered,” and the angels took hold of his hand and those of his family members, bringing them out of Sodom. If Lot had been in tune with the Lord when he was told to leave all the angels would have seen was his dust. Lot was not a godly leader of his family. We also see this confirmed when his wife looks back after having been told not to. They both loved the easy life, but she was not strong enough to only look forward.

I wonder if this isn’t analogous to dads who choose not to spend time with the Lord Jesus in the beginning of their day. Most often the “reason” is they are too busy. That just isn’t true; we all take time to do what is important to us. Most of us will not go without eating, because we feel it to be important. If our time with the Lord were seen as critical to our walk with Him and leading our family, then we would do it every day regardless of our circumstances. The truth is that we consider other things more important than spending time with our Lord. We are relying more on ourselves than we are the Lord, otherwise we couldn’t bear not to spend time with Him. May we not be found in bed (like Lot) when we have the urgency of meeting with our Lord first thing in the morning.

When the angels had brought them outside the city, they instructed Lot to flee to the mountains. Next, an amazing thing happened. Lot argued with them by saying, “. . . Oh, not so, my Lord” (Genesis 19:18)! This absolutely floors me! He had just been delivered by God’s mercy, after he lingered, and now he wanted to go to another city. What a picture that is of what it takes to pry sin out of our grasp. It cost him most of his family and everything he had. God had given him clear instructions, and he didn’t want to follow them. AUGHHHHH!

I wonder if that isn’t a major reason so many dads really don’t want to begin their day with a quiet time with the Lord. Could it be they don’t really want to hear what the Lord is telling them? Could it be that they don’t want to get too close to the Lord in case He might give them instructions they really don’t want to hear or obey? What price, men, are we willing to pay to have it our way? It may cost us our family as it did Lot.

May we be men of God and not live after Lot’s selfish and lazy example. Whatever it costs us, may we lead our family in paths of righteousness, protect them from evil, and obediently follow God’s direction for our family. May we not endanger our families like the driver of the burgundy vehicle and Lot did theirs.

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 4

(To read the first parts of this series, please see this link.) The Thursday night prior to Nathan and Melanie’s wedding, we had a “friends of the groom” fellowship. At one point in the evening, two brothers in the Lord were discussing a bit of their common past, while several of us were listening.

They are both West Point graduates and were reminiscing about some of their experiences there. In particular, they were sharing several of their more distressing situations. One told how on occasion he was given orders to do things that were impossible. The one giving the order knew it was impossible but did it to hone the young cadet’s obedience. Both brothers confessed they had wanted to quit many times, but they would not allow themselves to do so. Isn’t it interesting that the military believes that to be a good leader, you must be obedient?

Our neighbor, who is a city police officer, had just finished his dinner break when he walked across the ice-covered street to comment on Nathan and Melanie’s wedding the previous Saturday. He said he appreciated being invited and how much it meant to him. I told him we weren’t sure whether to invite him. Because of his busy schedule, we were concerned the wedding invitation might be an imposition. He said that he loves watching our children grow up, and when he is old, he wouldn’t miss one of their weddings even if he had to be pushed in a wheelchair. He went on to say how he takes great pleasure in our children, as he is involved with children every day who don’t know how to obey.

Not only do the lives of those in the military depend on their ability to be obedient, but our children’s lives do as well. I doubt anyone would question the truth of that statement. However, how aware are we that the lives of those in our family are greatly affected by our ability to obey as well. Drive at speeds exceeding the law, and your family is in danger. If you choose to cheat the government and lie about your taxes, you may go to jail—now that will affect your ability to provide your family with food and housing! If a dad won’t obey his boss, he is at risk of losing his job. Men love their freedom, but often the family suffers consequences if Dad doesn’t obey those he should.

It is impossible for a dad to be a good leader if he isn’t obedient. First, his family knows he is a hypocrite if they see Dad being disobedient while he tells his family to obey him. He may get away with it for a while, but he will eventually lose his children.

Saved dads are both children and soldiers. We are children of God and soldiers of Christ. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

It was no accident that the Holy Spirit led Paul to refer to those saved as both children and soldiers. There should be no doubt about the importance of obedience in our lives as we endeavor to lead our families. However, do you also get the feeling that obedience is a “dirty” word in Christian circles these days? Begin talking about obedience, and freedom fighters will start crying, “Legalism, legalism!” I hear much talk about freedom in Christ and very little about obedience. Has political correctness neutered God’s Word in the church?

Those who are saved are to obey the Lord Jesus and His Word. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21).

Just to be certain there is no misunderstanding, obedience does not earn us salvation in any way, shape, or form. It is, however, evidence of our salvation and love for the Lord. The verses just read confirm that obedience gives evidence of our being saved. The point that the freedom fighters miss is that we obey because we love the Lord Jesus. We don’t obey to earn salvation, but we obey out of love for our Lord. The One Who is our Model and Lord was obedient unto death, and He expects our obedience (Luke 17:10). Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” That is really very simple, isn’t it? Those who love Him little, obey little.

A father’s level of obedience will affect how he leads his family and how his family follows him. First, Christ said obedience reveals one’s love. If we love Christ, we will obey Him, but if we don’t obey Christ, we reveal our love for ourselves. The family knows Dad better than anyone, and as soon as they know anything about Scripture, they are looking to see if Dad is obedient. If Dad isn’t obedient, he will be seen as a hypocrite, and his family will not want to follow what he says. They will tend to follow his example.

A father’s obedience to Christ gives the family confidence in his decisions. They will see that Dad makes decisions based on his obedience to his Lord and Scripture. They will respect Dad as a man of God.

Unfortunately, the disobedient dad’s family will not have confidence in his decisions. Dad’s self-love will cause the family to suspect his motives when he makes decisions. Selfish decisions are easy targets for whining, complaining, and arguing against. If the family member can make Dad miserable enough, then selfishly, Dad may reverse the decision to give himself a little peace.

Obedience makes leading a family much easier than disobedience. Decisions based on the Bible and God’s direction are pointless to attack, as those assaults would have to be directed toward God. It changes the whole attitude in the home.

Obedience will protect your family from sin. In Exodus 24, Moses, Joshua, and the elders went up Mount Sinai as the Lord instructed them. God told the elders to wait at one place while Moses and Joshua climbed higher. Then Moses left Joshua alone and completed the climb to the Lord.

Moses was with the Lord for forty days! I find that absolutely incredible. There is so much more I would like to know about that time. They weren’t told to bring any food, and we can only assume that God intended to somehow sustain them for that long. Moses fasted the entire time and so did Joshua.

But what about the elders? “And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them” (Exodus 24:14). The elders were told clearly to wait for their return. Yet they did not obey (Joshua did obey and look how God later used him). As a result they turned to idolatry by worshipping the golden calf, were immoral, and many were slain. There are tremendous blessings with obedience and chastening with disobedience.

It is likely that many reading this Corner are experiencing discipline from the Lord as a result of disobedience and thereby causing the whole family to suffer. Brothers, repent of the disobedience and wrong choices, and God will pour out His blessings.

Each of us dads, who is a child of God, must take the Bible seriously and obey Him out of love for the Lord Jesus. May we say, “Lord, I will do whatever You tell me to, when You tell me to do it.”

May each of us pick up our Bibles and prayerfully read them every morning as we begin our days. Then we should obediently apply the lessons to our lives daily. It will make leading our families so much easier, and it will cause each of us to strive to keep our lives clean and pleasing to the Lord.

“These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

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.