When You Don’t Listen to God First

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:1-2)

Abram and Sarai were promised a child. They were old. It had been 10 years. After a while a person starts to have all kinds of ideas. Maybe we can help this along. How about Hagar? Let’s try having a child through her! You might not appreciate what Sarai proposed, but try to imagine how desperate they were to have a child.

But just because we are desperate, impatient and wondering why God has not come through on His end of the deal, does not give us a green light to go outside His will. Abram and Sarai, just like so many of us, had to grow in faith and learn to wait on God.

We have to see, though, that there are consequences to not listening to God first. There are doors we open and things we set in motion that are irreversible when we listen to others first and forget to consult God.

Consider just a few consequences of Abram listening to Sarai first instead of God:

  • Think of the strain that put on Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Sarai quickly realized what she did was wrong, but there was no going back. Her husband slept with her handmaiden, and that could not be reversed. This is an example of how we can make a time of hardship into a real crisis. Yes we can appreciate that Abram and Sarai were sad, hurting and waiting for God to fulfill His promise, but what they did created a real crisis in their family.
  • Look at the strife that came between Sarai and Hagar because of this. Hagar began to despise Sarai, and then Sarai really treated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away. God even took note of how badly Hagar was treated by Sarai.
  • What about what the problems that came in between Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants? For generations to come, these families would have problems, and all because of one weak moment in Abram and Sarai’s life. Because they did not listen to God first and wait on him, their families suffered strife for generations.

Listen to God first. Wait on Him, even when all other things are falling apart around you. Trust in His promises. Do not waver. Learn from the lessons of those like Abram and Sarai. Be cautious of letting your impatience turning an already hard situation into a very bad series of events.

Daniel – They, their children, and their wives

Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
(Daniel 6:23-24)

Today’s passage from Daniel is a sobering reminder of the consequences of our actions as men and how it affects our children and our wives.

These men had “maliciously accused Daniel.” They wanted him out of the way and even if that meant he was killed, the ends justified the means. Because of their hatred for Daniel, they even went to great lengths to manipulate the king into making a law that would be adverse to Daniel’s faith. They set the king up and used him like a pawn so they could dispense with Daniel. Once the king was wise to all of this, he was full of righteous wrath and threw every one of these men and their families into the den of lions.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
(Proverbs 26:27)

It is a serious warning for us today that our envy, pride, anger, lust and hatred can wreak serious havoc on our families. That was a horrible day for all of those families. Imagine how awful the sight would have been to see those wives and little kids being thrown into the very mouths of lions. And this was all because hubby/daddy had a malicious heart that craved power.

I got a Christmas card in the mail this week. It made me so sad for that family. Here is another woman now without her husband having Christmas pictures taken with her kids. Where’s daddy? He’s not there anymore because other things/ladies took his heart away from them.

Take your role seriously, guys. Where you lead as men will either take your family to green pastures or to the lion’s den. It’s your choice.

Getting your house in order

Today is a everyday practical application on how to love and honor our wives. It’s about getting our houses in order.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'”
(2 Kings 20:1)

Anna and I went to a marriage retreat recently in Branson, and we really enjoyed it. I highly recommend it. Among the many relationship lessons we learned, there was a session about getting our house in order. It was led by a brother in Christ who serves as a shepherd in a congregation. He also works as an attorney. This brother really hammered home the urgency of getting your financials and legal stuff in place. I certainly got my toes stepped on and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you all.

What happens if you die today? What is in place to make sure that your wife and kids have financial security? Maybe you and your family already have everything like wills and life insurance put in place, and that’s awesome, but I’m pretty sure that is not true for every home. After listening to this attorney and hearing of all the horror stories he deals with on a daily basis of those families who were not prepared…it’s pretty obvious that a lot of folks aren’t ready for what God says will happen to every one of us. We will die. A link below to caring.com will show you that 6 in 10 adults in America do not have a will!

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you have life insurance? And is that life insurance policy sufficient to cover your wife and kids?
  • Do you have a will and other legal matters in place? What will happen to your kids if both you and your spouse pass away?
  • Does your family know your expectations of things like funerals, burials/cremations, end-of-life decisions, etc.?

It’s something to take seriously and to make an urgent matter. Even if Christmas presents have to be a little light this year because we have to get a few financial/legal things in place, that is one of the best gifts we could provide for our families.

Here is a link to Dave Ramsey’s website where you find guidance on getting life insurance and other matters in order for your home.

The Importance of Making a Will by Dave Ramsey

5 Life Insurance Mistakes by Dave Ramsey

Estate Planning by the Numbers – Caring.com

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:22)

Are you praying with your wife?

Here are a few thoughts today about praying with your wife.

Praying with your sister in Christ.

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).

Think of all the passages in Scripture that encourage and teach about God’s people coming together to pray. Don’t just apply that to what goes on at the church building! Those same passages can be applied to you and your wife. We get kind of compartmentalized in our application of Scripture sometimes and miss the obvious.

Laboring in prayers

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12).

A brother named Epaphras was mentioned in Colossians by Paul. What I find very interesting is that Paul wrote that Epaphras was laboring, struggling or wrestling in prayer (depending on which version you read). The early Christians had to “devote” themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). This is a spiritual war in which we are facing the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-18). He does everything to oppose God and His people, including our efforts to pray together. You try to pray consistently with your wife and see what happens. There is amazing good that happens, because God is at work. But be on guard because the Devil will do everything in his power to keep you and your wife from praying together. It is war. You are wrestling with Satan and his forces of darkness. But with Jesus you will overcome (Revelation 12:11)! Don’t give up!

Arrow prayers. 

At a practical level, one thing that most likely will discourage you from having regular prayer time is the unrealistic expectation that you have to have a marathon prayer session every time you pray. This is a trap that I believe men fall into even at the church building. We feel like we have to cover every base every time we pray. Please don’t try to cover the whole “prayer list” every time you sit down to pray. Pick one or two specific things each day and pray about that. Rotate it around. Don’t make a rigid schedule. Be flexible and merciful to yourselves if you miss a day or two. Keep trying, don’t give up!

Do not be harsh

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

Here is a note on that word “harsh” from Robertson’s Word Pictures on Colossians 3:19: “Stop being bitter” or “do not have the habit of being bitter.” This is the sin of husbands.

The natural condition of man if left to himself is found in Romans 3:10-19, part of which is “their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” In the book of Acts, we see an example of a new Christian, Simon the Sorcerer, who was full of bitterness. Peter told him, “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). If you have ever processed your own meat and accidentally sliced the wrong organs, you will know what Peter means. This green liquid gets all over the meat, staining it with its nasty bitterness. If you sliced Simon the Sorcerer, all you would get is green nasty bitterness that stained everything and everyone around him. In order for Simon to be right with God, he would need repentance and prayer!

Bitterness and harshness affects not only ourselves, but all our relationships, especially the marriage relationship. 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). That is why Paul spoke to men about not being harsh and embittered toward their wives.

God expects His people, especially those leading others, to be gentle, not harsh and bitter.

First of all, God himself is gentle. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). You can’t find rest in bitterness. Because Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart, not bitter, we can find rest, assurance, peace and comfort in His arms. That is the picture and the model of what we are to be as husbands. Can our wives find rest, peace and gentleness (not weakness) in our arms? Here’s a simple question, why do many wives not want to talk to their husbands? Because they have learned by experience that they probably won’t find acceptance, understanding and gentleness. Again, what kind of leader is Jesus? Isaiah wrote, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11).

Those leading His people are to be gentle. The apostle Paul was a gentle-man. “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). One who serves as an overseer in the church has to have this qualities: “…not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” (1 Timothy 3:3).

The priest was to be able to deal gently with others because he himself had his own weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2). Before we get harsh and call down judgment upon our wives we had better take a very good look in the mirror with God. Our merciful Lord, full of lovingkindness, has forgiven us all our sins and deals with us gently. When we deal harshly and bitterly toward our spouses, we forsake the mercy of the Almighty. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Remember that our prayers and our relationship with the Lord is directly tied to how we behave towards our precious wives (1 Peter 3:7).

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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 4:29-32).

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 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).

Lessons from Leah

My daughter, Lindsay, went to a young ladies camp this past summer, DOV Camp (Daughters of Virtue). She heard a lesson by a sister named Emma about the life of Leah. The points Lindsay brought up from that class really helped me a lot, and I had never thought about Leah like that. So, thanks to sister Emma and the Lord for this lesson!

A Woman Who Didn’t Measure Up

Leah was not as pretty as her younger sister, Rachel (Gen. 29:17). Even though she was the older sister, Jacob came into town and swooned over Rachel. Jacob worked seven hard years in order to be married to Rachel. On Jacob and Rachel’s wedding night, Leah’s father (Laban) used Leah like a pawn to trick Jacob (Gen. 29:20-27). Think of the position she was put in! From the very moment she woke up with Jacob, she was a disappointment to her. She was bound to a man who did not love her, cherish her or accept her (Gen. 29:31).  Her father used her, her sister was always better, and her husband didn’t want her.

Yet Leah’s heart and faith shines even through this!

When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing. (Gen 29:31-35)

Leah’s faith is seen in several ways.

  • In her desire for her husband (like Gen. 3:16 – “your desire shall be for your husband”). Look at the first three sons and what she says about Jacob. She desperately wants him to love her, accept her and be attached to her. Even in a horrible situation like this, she wanted to have a loving relationship with her husband. That’s an incredible heart!
  • In the naming of her children. See the focus on God and on her heart for her husband. By the time Judah came, the 4th son, she seems to stop asking for Jacob to love her, and she completely focuses on praising God. Several children have been born to her, several years go by, and still Jacob’s heart toward her has not really changed. So, her focus is on praising and drawing near to God, even when what should be hers (love, acceptance and affection) is not there. What do you do when your situation does not change, even after years of praying for it to change?
  • In her focus on, trust in and praise of God. It’s already been stated, but her heart was first on God. That’s what got her through this mess of a family relationship.

And God saw (see Exodus 2:25):

“When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” (Gen. 29:31).

Just like the Israelites when they were being killed and enslaved in Egypt, God saw (Exodus 2:25). God knows what Leah is going through, and He is going to bless her richly even though Jacob will not accept her or love her.

  • God gave her at least 7 children (6 sons and 1 daughter) before Rachel had one herself.
  • God gave her Levi – The priestly line would come through Levi (Moses, Aaron).
  • God gave her Judah – The kingly, royal line would come through Judah (David).
  • God gave her the Messiah – Jesus would come through Judah, son of Leah (Matthew 1). God often chooses to exalt what men have rejected (1 Sam. 16:6–13; Acts 4:11; James 4:10). Jesus came through the rejected and unloved wife, not the favored and accepted wife!
  • Leah, not Rachel, was buried next to Jacob (Genesis 49:31). Maybe, just maybe, by the end of his life, Jacob realized the awesome blessing he had in Leah.
  • Together, she and Rachel, built the house of Israel (Ruth 4:11).

Think about the kind of woman that lived bound to a man who did not accept her or love her. His eyes were always on another woman. Yet her heart was to please him, be loyal to him, do good for him. And this woman’s mindset was squarely focused on her trust of God and her faith in Him. Even when she did not get what she should have out of a marriage, she still praised God. This is a powerful and piercing lesson in so many ways for us.

A “Help” Created for the Man

We just finished up a great weekend! On Saturday, we had about 20 guys gather together to have discussions, studies and prayers on how to grow as a husband. Steve Bockmiller led us in these studies, and we are very thankful for the time he shared with us.

This week we are going to focus on the marriage relationship.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:18-23)

God fashioned a woman out of man’s side in order to come to his side as a helper suitable for him. That miracle happened in the Garden of Eden as part of God’s love for mankind. It also was because of God’s knowledge of man – God knew man needed a helper.

Man and woman were both created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and yet we are very different. Generally speaking, we are emotionally different, physically different, hormone-ally different. Every cell of a man’s body is different from every cell of a female’s body. Yet, God created a woman to complement the man. Like I said, she is also created in the image of God, and her emotions, value, perspectives, wisdom, talents and abilities come directly from God.

What does it mean to be a helper? I heard some lessons recently from Mark Broyles and Ralph Walker that talk about this word “helper.” It doesn’t mean slave, or the person to do your bidding. The word used in Genesis 2:18 for help is the Hebrew word, ezer. Look up how that word is used in the rest of the Old Testament. It is used for God. God is our help.

Here are a few examples:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! (Psalm 20:1-2)

A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

The Greek version of this word is used in John chapters 14 through 16 when Jesus talks about the “Helper” or “Comforter” who is the Holy Spirit (parakletos). He literally “comes to the side” to our aid. This very image of God coming to your side to help you is the image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God created a woman like Him to stand by the side of Adam and help Adam.

That to me is a powerful image to behold. Husbands, do you see your wives that way? If every husband who has a godly wife would see that, he would fall to his knees and thank the Lord Jesus for this incredible gift. She is not the dishwasher and dinner-maker, she was fashioned by the Lord to come to your side as His helper for you.

Husbands, if we see this, we will see everything differently. We will see our advice from our wives in a totally new light. If God gives you advice, you certainly would take it without arguing, right? Well, what about when God sends you advice through His helper, your wife? We will see the work around the house in a new light. This isn’t her job, it’s our job. God put her on the earth for something far more valuable than vacuuming carpets. We will see other women differently. To lust after and flirt with other women is to thrust a knife into the very side of God. You will see communication with your wife in a brand new way. Would you talk to God as your Helper in the way you talk to your wife who was given by God to you as your helper? You see, this changes the whole ballgame.

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.

Avoiding the Chore War

Hey guys,

Here is a daily broadcast from Focus on the Family about “Avoiding the Chore War.” It features Greg and Erin Smalley.

Definitely worth listening to today.

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, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:1-8)

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 2

Last Tuesday, we took a look at our egos, and some signs our egos are getting in the way. You may call ego something like “pride” or “selfish ambition” from a Biblical perspective.

Here are some additional thoughts about our desire to get the credit, the praise and the approval.

We are complete in God through Jesus Christ, period (Colossians 2:10). If man’s praise, acceptance and approval have become our obsession, it is a sign that we are not truly and safely resting in the grace and shelter of God’s arms. Yes, it is great to have the acceptance and approval of others, but that must not be our end goal, because that is such an empty, vain and painful way to live. It will make others around you miserable, too. What are you and I lacking in our relationship with God that we seek to fill with the praise of others?

At a practical level…today:

  • Pray for God to keep our big mouths shut. Enough said. Keeping it shut when we are right. Keeping it shut when someone tells us something we already know…aargh, this is tough.
  • Do things around the house and for our wives without telling them we did it. Yikes, is this possible? Read Matthew 6:1-4, 16-21.
  • Have a chat over coffee and in prayer with a wise godly man who can help you navigate these thoughts. Find a mature man who is comfortable in his own skin because of Jesus.
  • Let’s do some meditation, prayer and study on the grace of God, and that in Him through Jesus Christ we are fully accepted. “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” If we never feel good enough, we will seek man’s praise, but if our sufficiency is truly from God, then one day man’s praise won’t be so attractive to us.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)