Who Has the Prettiest Feathers?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

In our relationships a lot of us like to strut around and show who has the prettiest feathers. What I mean by this is:

  • When somebody tells you something you already know, how do you respond? Do you have to make sure it is known that you already know this, and that person is not giving you any new information?
  • If someone uses your idea, do you have to make sure it is widely known that it was your idea?
  • In a dispute, do you find yourself pushing your opinion, raising your voice, interrupting, and pressing your way until the other relents and gives in?
  • If someone doesn’t do things your way, and it bombs, do you have to make sure he or she knows your advice wasn’t followed?
  • When you do good things, especially for your wife around the house, do you have to make sure she knows you did it?
  • Do you have to instantly make a conversation about you when someone starts sharing things with you? In other words, that friend is sharing a trial he or she is facing, and you instantly switch or compare to what you are going through instead of really trying to understand the other person.

Aren’t those feathers pretty?

We are not roosters or peacocks…God expects us to have a spirit of humility that was shown wonderfully in the person of Jesus Christ. If anyone could have walked around and strutted, it would have been Jesus, but He counted others as more significant to Himself.

Just a reminder that it ain’t about us.

Try restraining that urge to say, “I already know that.” See how it works. Do good deeds and don’t say anything about them (see Matthew 6). If someone uses your idea, bite your tongue and say a prayer in your head of giving glory to God (hopefully it was a good idea that you shared!). Let’s not try so hard to break our elbows patting ourselves on the back!

Jacob and Esau

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
(Genesis 25:29-34)

Esau – Esau traded something very valuable for something of very little value. A simple bowl of lentils…he traded his birthright for one meal. All Esau could think about was how hungry he was at the moment. There was no regard for the high cost and consequences of his choices. Hebrews calls Esau a profane and immoral man (Heb. 12:16-17); Genesis says he “despised his birthright,” meaning he treated this amazing blessing as firstborn as if it had no value to him.

Jacob – He was called Jacob because of the circumstances of his birth. He was grabbing the heel of his twin brother Esau as Esau was being born. Jacob was called the supplanter, which means to take the place of another by force or treachery (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). Jacob took advantage of his brother at a weak moment. Instead of showing kindness and brotherly love by offering a meal to his hungry brother, he seized his opportunity to get what he wanted. He was an opportunist. Through the next couple of decades, Jacob will see others treat him the same way. His future father-in-law, Laban, will seize his opportunities to take advantage of Jacob. Jacob’s own sons will also by treachery take advantage of their younger brother Joseph and will sell him into slavery.

This kinds of character traits that we see in Jacob and Esau are displayed in all kinds of relationships. We see them all around if we think about it. In business, politics, sports, family, etc. we see men and women like Esau who give up some incredibly valuable things for a cheap meal. On the flip side we see opportunists like Jacob everywhere, waiting for the right moment to gain the advantage over someone, even if it means exploiting the weaknesses of others.

What does this kind of relationship look like in a marriage? What happens when men and women have mindsets like Jacob and Esau? One spouse displays qualities like Esau in that he or she is so focused on the bowl of stew that the marriage and family suffers. A lot of families have been torpedoed because of a cheap bowl of stew. Another spouse is like Jacob and seizes the opportunity of the other’s weakness to gain an advantage. Is it possible in our marriages that we seize the opportunities of our spouse’s weakness to gain the moral high ground? Aren’t we really doing the same thing Jacob did?

Something to think about. Let’s not be Esau’s and trade the most precious things God gave us for what doesn’t even make a cheap substitute. Don’t get mesmerized by the bowl of stew. And let’s not be Jacob’s either, waiting for others to show weakness so we can show our superiority.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:1-5)

Getting a Brain Lock

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

We’re told here by the apostle Paul that we are to bring every thought captive in order to obey Christ. But we know that our mind can really go downhill in a hurry. Someone just gets under our skin, and we just can’t let it go. It affects how we treat that person, just like Joseph’s brothers got to a point where they could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:4). Then how we treat others is affected because we are really upset at someone else (Heb. 12:15). I’ve heard the expression, “I’m so mad I can’t see straight.” That’s exactly right.

So, what are we to do when our brain gets locked on something negative? What I mean is someone at work did something that bothers or irritates you and you just can’t seem to get your focus off it. Or you have perceived that your spouse was insensitive to your needs and you just can’t let it go. It ruins the whole day and puts everyone in a sour mood. Or maybe you are on a sports team and the referee makes a bad call. It just seems to overwhelm your thinking and you go into a mental downward spiral. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point.

How do we resurrection ourselves when our brain gets focused on something that really bothers us?

Recognize the source. We have to recognize that this is one of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The wrath of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20); instead, we become instruments of the Devil to do his bidding. Sinful thoughts lead to more sin (Matthew 15:19).

No excuses. God has told man from the beginning that we have the power to control our thinking and we can harness and redirect our emotions (Genesis 4:6-7; Jeremiah 4:14). Cain hated his brother and was very angry, and God told Cain to “rule over” his anger. Again, no excuses, no blame-shifting.

Take a moment. Even Jesus went out to the mountain to pray. Jesus had time alone with God. You may have to take a minute to yourself, go out and cool down. There is a time to speak and a time to BE SILENT. You may have to tell those around you that you need a few minutes to yourself and think things through. It may be that the more you talk the more you make a mess of things, so it would be best to be silent and chill for a bit. This is not the silent treatment, this is taking a few minutes of silence so you can later give the right treatment.

Meditate on these things. Read Philippians 4:8. I’m not saying this is a quick fix, but when our brain is at DEFCON 1, you need a go-to-place for your mind. Passages like Philippians 4:8 are Holy Spirit-given guides to tell you WHAT to think about. Imagine if you took a few minutes to thank God for 50 amazing things about your wife instead of getting OCD about the one thing that ticks you off? And, what really upsets you may not have even been a good reason to be upset in the first place!

Talk it through. In the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). Walking through it with a wise, godly older person will help you see that you were really silly in being so upset about this. Or even if you do have a good reason to be upset, that wise person can give you the calm guidance to work through it.

Learn to see it coming next time. A wise man sees danger and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). With wisdom and experience should come the ability to see the warning signs that your brain is going down the wrong road. God knows the inclination of our hearts and he wants us to warn ourselves of attitude problems that may come up (for example see Deuteronomy 15:9). Daniel knew what kinds of things he would be asked to do in Babylon, and he prepared his mind on what to do beforehand (Daniel 1:8).

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7)

Trust – Confidence

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
(Philemon 1:21)

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.
(Hebrews 6:9)

In a relationship, trust is irreplaceable. Without it, do we really have a relationship? Yesterday, we looked at one aspect of trust in that we need to give up our obsession with having all the facts and details and info. If I trust someone (God or man), that means I don’t have to have all the info in order to believe in what he or she is telling me.

Today, I want to talk about the concept of confidence, specifically, the confidence we have in another person’s obedience to God. Look at the two passages above and see that with Paul and Philemon and with the Hebrew Christians, there was a confidence that the other person would do the right things.

Is your expectation that the other person is going to fail? And when he or she fails, we see it as we were justified in what we thought all along? They certain met our expectations because we were holding them in a box of failure. That certainly isn’t the mindset of Christ, is it?

“Love bears all things, believes all things endures all things…” (1 Cor. 13).

What is the assumption we make of others? It really says more about us than it does about them when we assume they are going to mess up.

If this is a problem for you, then take some time today in prayer and ask God to forgive you for making wrong assumptions of people (Eph. 4:30-5:2). Pray for His strength and His grace to fill your heart, and to extend that grace to others. May His love fill your heart, so that you can, like God, see the best in people (Eph. 3:19).  Sit down with a wise brother and discuss these things and pray over them. God can transform our hearts and renew our minds so that we can indeed be trusting and loving people who see the best in others (Eph. 4:20-24).

The heart of her husband trusts in her

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain (Proverbs 31:11).

Trust. The husband of the virtuous woman here in Proverbs 31 is said to have complete trust in his heart for his wife. Let’s think about what that means, and what that looks like.

Many of you have probably taken part in some training seminar or camp where they made you do the “trust fall.” It’s really difficult for a lot of us to trust that when we fall backward, that the person behind us will be there and be able to catch our fall. In order to do that, we have to give up some measure of control. We also have to assume that the person behind us will do the right thing.

The fact that this husband trusted his wife means:

  1. He didn’t have to check into all her actions, decisions and words. She didn’t need a babysitter.
  2. He didn’t make all of the decisions. Look at all of the decisions, both in her business and in her home dealings; she made lots of choices on her own without her husband having to think for her.
  3. He assumed that she was doing the right thing and he wasn’t away from her worried about how she was going to behave.
  4. His heart was at peace when it came to his wife.

Sometimes we have trust issues, because we don’t trust ourselves. When we are not at peace in our own souls, we look at others assuming that they have the same problems. We try to control others because things are out of control in our own hearts. But this husband was not that way toward his wife. He had his life, and his business and his relationship with God, and it seems that he was at peace with it. He didn’t have to overreach into her life and try to micromanage her life to appease his own troubled conscience.

So, think about this husband today, men, and consider how much he truly loved his wife to let her be her own person and make her own decisions. I do not mean that we live in our marriages as complete individuals and that we are not in union and accountable to each other. But we also must remove the desire to control and manage, and trust that others in our lives, specifically our wives, will make the right decisions.

Hebrews 6:9 – Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation

Different, Not Wrong

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(James 3:13-18)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12:18)

Strive for peace. Be open to reason. Live peaceably with all men. Those are directives from Jesus, and they apply to marriage, don’t they?

Are there occasions where you and your wife fuss about things that are really a matter of opinion? Dumb question, I know we all do that from time to time. How the house gets cleaned, and in what order…opinion. Whether the toilet roll feeds from the top or the bottom of the roll…opinion. Do you squeeze the tube of toothpaste it the middle of the tube or from the end of it? Opinion.

It may be that you have a very passionate and convincing argument as to why things have to be a certain way, and you may be absolutely convinced you are right, but what if your wife has a different opinion? What if she makes decisions that are different that what you think should be done?

We should ask ourselves, is it wrong, or is it just different?

Do we find ourselves bringing up our viewpoints often in various ways to remind our wives that we don’t like their opinions and ways of doing things? Are we making fun of and using sarcasm to take shots and how they are doing things different than what we would do? Is this a control thing for you that you need to get right with Jesus? If so, then the spirit of Christ needs to rule in our hearts. His peace must also reign supreme. I believe that if we are truly at peace with God, then someone else’s alternative opinions and approaches would not bother us so much.

Before we say something or bring up how our wives do something different and not in line with our approach to things, let’s come to the throne room of God and ask for His wisdom and peace in the matter. How about talking to a wise godly brother in Christ and consulting him privately about it? And by the way, don’t just pick someone you know will agree with you. 🙂

Different is just that, it’s different. It might make you irritable or uncomfortable, and it might even challenge you to restudy your own convictions. But different many times is not wrong.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)

Joseph, Being a Just Man

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25)

Here are a few quick observations about Joseph:

  1. They were betrothed, but they had not “come together.” Joseph showed honor for Mary and for God by keeping their relationship pure (Hebrews 13:4).
  2. Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame. When he found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he did not cast off his love and respect for her. He thought of what was best for her. He didn’t want to make a public spectacle of her. Joseph refused to put her to shame.
  3. But as he considered these things. He was not hasty in judgment. This young man took his time to really think about what to do. I’m sure all kinds of thoughts swirled around in his mind, but with God’s help and with patience, he deeply contemplated the next step.
  4. He listened to God and did as He was commanded by the angel. God was asking him to do some hard stuff, and Joseph was really walking by faith here. He had to trust God and Mary’s word, and he did it.
  5. Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” Even now that Joseph is officially married to Mary, and has every “right” to participate in the sexual relationship with Mary in marriage, he did not do so. He waited for months and months until after she had given birth. Joseph truly was a man of honor and conviction.

 

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

The Proverbs 31 Husband

I’m looking at Proverbs 31 today with a perspective not on the virtuous woman but on the husband who loved and supported her. Take some time to read through the chapter and learn about the man who was married to this wonderful woman. What kind of man was he?

He was a husband who has been taught and come to understand the precious value of a woman who fears God and walks with Him.

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
(Proverbs 31:1)

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
(Proverbs 31:10)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30)

He was a husband who “safely trusted” in his wife. As a husband, he did not hold her back or discourage her from expressing her talents and pursuing her dreams. This man fanned the flames of encouragement. She knew he trusted her. It was clear that he supported her and was her biggest fan. He took leadership in the home among his children; those kids saw their father praising and lifting up their mother. The kids followed suit by imitating their father in praising their mother.

The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
(Proverbs 31:11)

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
(Proverbs 31:28-29)

In verses 28-29, the husband is comparing his wife to other women, but notice how he is doing it. He doesn’t point out how other women are doing things she isn’t or that they are doing it better. He lifts her up on a pedestal and makes her the queen of the castle with his words.

Look at the verbs connected to the virtuous woman. She seeks, works, brings, rises, provides, considers, buys, plants, girds, strengthens, perceives, stretches, holds, extends, reaches, is not afraid, makes, supplies, opens her mouth with kindness (vs. 12-27). As this godly wife was doing all these things, her husband trusted her, supported her and praised her.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:31)

She may not be sitting in the gates with her husband and the other leaders/officials of the land, but her influence is truly felt there. Her own works praise her in the gates.

How do we talk to and about our wives? Do our children see an example of a man who rises up and calls her blessed? When we are “in the gates” are we lifting up our wives in praise? Do our wives know and fully understand that our hearts safely trust in them?

A Rat Wall

As many of you know we are in the process of building a new barn. The barn is a pole-barn structure. According to our township ordinance, we have to dig and pour a concrete “rat wall.” This is a 4 inch thick by 24 in deep concrete barrier that goes underground from post to post. As the name suggests, it’s intended purpose is to keep varmints and rodents from burrowing underground into the barn. Our concrete guy says its pointless and it just makes him more money, but we have to do it.

It was a lot of work, too, to dig that rat wall. Anna gathered the nephews, nieces and friends, and they worked hard for a whole day digging that trench for the rat wall. We have a lot of clay to dig through, so it can really get exhausting doing all that digging.

But it got me to thinking. The concept of creating a barrier that keeps bad critters from coming in is certainly a good idea, at least in theory. Our 5 barn cats are probably the best “rat wall” we have, though.

In our marriages, we need to think of the barrier that must be created to help keep the Devil’s varmints from invading and destroying our space. The rat wall will take a lot of hard work, and we have to dig deep and sometimes it is exhausting to go through the effort. In the end, however, it’s worth all the hard work.

In order to put a good barrier down to critter proof your marriage from Satan’s rats, here are a few things we need in that rat wall.

We need honesty and openness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16)

We need love.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:14-15)

We need forgiveness and freedom from bitterness.

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:19)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32)

Men, are you willing to dig deep with your wives and create an open and honest environment with them? Are you willing to pour that barrier of love that will protect against the biting and devouring rats of sarcasm, cynicism and cheap shots? Don’t we all need a good foundation of forgiveness and love to keep our hearts from becoming bitter from past hurts?

I may not be convinced that a rat wall is needed in a barn, but I certainly know we need to dig down a create a solid barrier in our marriages to shelter our precious and sacred relationship from the Devil’s critters.