Entertaining Little Foxes

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”

Song of Songs 2:15.

As men, our drive is often to conquer and have dominion over the things in our lives. But once we have conquered them, we often neglect to give the attention needed to the very thing our heart so desperately drove us towards in the first place. In fact, it is usually the things closest to us, such as our wife and kids, that we take for granted the most, and thus easily neglect the most.

In the dating or courting season of our drive to conquer (figure out if she’s the one and to marry her), all we can think about is the woman God has brought into our lives and she captivates us. Yet over the course of our married lives together, it is easy to become focused on other needs. If the “vineyard” represents our marriage and love that has been cultivated, then the “foxes” are all the seemingly little things that can draw our time and attention away from the care of that vineyard. It could also represent the small steps we take away from our brides and towards sin. And once you have allowed these seemingly small foxes into the vineyard, they come to know the weaknesses in your vineyards walls and foundation. Then they systematically exploit those weaknesses to invade the vineyard and leave it devastated.

But I enjoy watching the little foxes scurry around,” you may say… “Or I do not see the harm in my little sin.”Surely such a seemingly insignificant thing cannot destroy the beautiful vineyard my wife and I have cultivated.” Yet remember back to King Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes: he did everything he could to satisfy the desires of his flesh. His conclusion was that it was like chasing after the wind. The reason was, even if he gained a temporary satisfaction, it was a fleeting moment. The stomach always wants more, the eyes always want to see more, the flesh always craves more.

So, the end result of this matter is to choose a path from this cross roads of decision you have now come upon. One path is the daily, and some times every minute, decision to fear God and keep His Commandments (as King Solomon concluded). The other path is to try to prove King Solomon wrong, and play with the little foxes. Put another way, it is to either risk the condition and beautify of the garden/vineyard that God has blessed you with, or to inspect the walls and foundation and perform construction if need be to remove the foxes.

Interestingly, there was a man once placed in a perfect garden, and God blessed him with a helper suitable for him… This man entertained the seemingly little fox (serpent) that entered his garden, chose to listen instead of chasing the fox (serpent) out of the garden to protect his wife, and the end result was that he lost the garden and a permanent separation came between he and his wife. The decision is before you.

 

Crossroads:

What are the little foxes that have entered your garden and begun to eat of its fruit?

Are there any actions you need to take in your own life or in your marriage to remove the foxes, and rebuild the walls to protect the garden?

Are you walking towards a life that is chasing after the wind or one that is spiritually fulfilling? Which one do you want to live?

Challenge: permanently remove anything from your life that would be considered a little fox. Build the necessary walls or repair the walls that have been compromised, in order to permanently keep these little foxes out.

Training to Run the Race

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

 

This verse does not represent a guarantee or a promise, as it has often been used to portray. If it were that simple, then it would over rule your child’s (and yours from once being a child) free will. Instead of considering it a promise, let’s consider the implications from a different arena: sports.

An athlete preparing for competition does not just one day pick up a sport, and walk onto the field to compete in the Olympics. While there are natural talents that propel a aspiring athlete into more serious training, even the greatest athletes were and still are trained. In and of itself, training is physically and mentally demanding on the trainee. It requires new levels of discipline as he or she must harness the body to physically surpass limitations, and mentally to overcome barriers of doubt. Additionally, it takes a large investment of time and must become the focal point around which his life rotates. For an aspiring athlete to truly succeed and enter the arena of greatness, he or she must come to the place of being consumed by the sport and possess a coach that both loves the sport and encourages the athlete.

Training our children is in many respects like being the coach for an aspiring athlete. In order to succeed, we must possess a more in depth understanding of the ‘sport’ than our child, but train them in such a way as to instill values and the drive to propel them to master the ‘sport’ more than we have. Additionally, We must be willing to immerse ourselves in further study in an effort to improve our understanding and application of every attribute of the ‘sport.’ In the same way that a sports coach can only teach his athletes what he knows and has applied himself, so a man can only teach and truly convey to his children what he knows and has applied.

Of course that does not mean a man who is a new Christian cannot impart spiritual truth and train his children, in the same way that there is no guarantee that a man who has been a Christian forever will automatically succeed in this endeavor either. One of the fundamental keys which is often neglected, is the aspect of going beyond verbal instruction. If you are striving to instill and train a belief structure and value system in your children’s lives that you do not apply to your own and model for them, then you are a hypocrite in their eyes and they will ultimately rebel against the training. We are called to be salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16. Explaining the salt or light to your children is not enough. Light must be seen to be appreciated and salt must be tasted to be of any use.

One last thought to ponder: King Rehoboam (found in 1 Kings 12) was King Solomon’s son. Solomon was given incredible wisdom, but Rehoboam seemed foolish in the outset of his reign. While the conclusion of all of King Solomon’s searchings in Ecclesiastes is: to fear God and keep His commandments, and that everything else is chasing after the wind (Eccl. 12:13), that wisdom and lesson was not engrained or trained into his son. What his son saw from his father’s life out weighed what he might have been told – he saw his father happily acquiring gold, women, parks, and everything his heart desired, and this training is what began to guide Rehoboam when he became king, ultimately costing him the kingdom.

 

Crossroads:

What role do you take in the training up your children in both a physical and spiritual sense? (if you don’t have children how are you preparing to train them?)

What can we, as Christian men and father’s learn from the relationship (or lack thereof) between King Solomon and his son King Rehoboam?

Is there anything you need to do to become a better equipped coach and trainer?

Challenge: work to immerse yourself in the knowledge and understanding you need to be the coach and trainer of your kids

Beyond Plain Sight

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:12,13

One of the attributes of men that can be both a blessing and their downfall, is that we are visually oriented. While at times it can be good at equipping us to fulfill our roles as protector and provider for our family’s needs when we see the danger arising in front of us, since we are far less likely to react to a danger that we do not perceive. Society has done an excellent job of convincing the world that what we see is what exists. In other words, there is no God, since we cannot see Him, and everything we do see comes from Millions of years of evolution (so they say). Put another way, we smartly created ourselves. The church, on the other hand, has largely failed to remind us that there isa lot more that exists that we do not see, than the little amount that we do see.

Being or becoming the spiritual head of your household means becoming aware of the realm that exists beyond our natural sight. Just as God and angels exist, Satan and his demons exist too. The real battle that rages on around us has very little to do with the temporary creation that exists all around us. While the physical can be used to bring pressure upon our flesh and spirit in order to compel us to question God’s very existence, it is the eternal that is truly at stake. The book of Job provides an excellent example of the physical being manipulated by Satan in an attempt to convince the spirit within him to turn from God.

In Ephesians, Paul instructs us as men to actively become prepared for this battle, just as a soldier becomes prepare to enter combat. This should signal to us that the battle is not only real and should be taken seriously, but it is also intense and fierce in nature. It is only by the firm foundation established in Christ that we are then able to stand firm against the enemy of God and the enemy of our souls.

Crossroads:

Is your visual orientation a help or a hinderance to your spiritual life?

Are you keenly aware of the battle being waged by Satan against God and His creation?

Do you stand up, putting on the full armor of God, to pray over your family and protect them from Satan’s plans and schemes over them?

Challenge: determine to prayerfully protect your family. Take this spiritual battle seriously and equip yourself in scripture to protect yourself and your family.

A Daily Decision

“Choose this day who you will serve…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15)

Easier said than done. When Joshua called all the people to himself and made this declaration, all the people with one accord declared they would serve the Lord too…

Yet history reveals otherwise. It’s far easier to say we will follow the Lord, than to actually live that statement out. Maybe sometimes we really mean: we will serve God how we want to, how we think it is right to worship Him. Or, if God wants to bless my plans and steps, then I will serve Him. After all, it is back to the choice of self-worship or God-worship.

In many ways, this is where the fear of the Lord comes in. If we do not fear God, why would we do what He says and commands? If our children do not both respect and yes, even fear (in a healthy way) us as their parents, then they will live lawless lives, even under our roofs. The reason being: they do not have a healthy understanding of the consequences both we and natural law will bring upon them for their behavior. And their behavior is the natural overflow of what they have installed in their hearts.

There is an example in scripture of a family where one son chose to worship, respect, and fear God by the methods He prescribed. The family’s other son chose to worship on his own terms and ways, expecting God to be happy and accept his way of doing things, instead of God’s.

Which family is this? Adam and Eve’s two sons: Cain and Abel. You see, in the course of time, both Cain and Abel came to worship God. Abel came with what God told them both He would accept as an act of worship, the blood and fat portions of the first born of their flock (mirror image of the instructions He gave to the Israelites). Cain, on the other hand, came with some fruit from his garden. Thus, Cain knew what God had said, but he decided God was being closed minded, and Cain chose to prescribe his own terms and ways he wanted God to accept worship. He did not fear or respect God.

When God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s, he got upset and angry. Why? God didn’t accept what he had chosen to do to worship God. God told him point blank: you choose to worship Me the way that I taught you to, and you will be accepted… If you continue in your current path, you will follow your hard heart into sin, which will further separate you from Me. What does Cain do? He kills Abel – after all, if he gets rid ofthe person whose worship God accepted, God will then be forced to accept his offering his way.

            How could he?! We cry out, yet we do the exact same thing. We say to God: ‘My house and I will serve you as long as it fits into our schedule and our way of doing things.’ “This generation acknowledges me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6). Do we come to worship God on His terms or ours? And I am not just talking about Sunday mornings… We choose to serve God with our lives the whole week, or we choose to serve something else. Joshua knew the fear of the Lord and chose to lead his household to wholeheartedly serve the Lord. Choose this day how you will serve.

Crossroads:

Do you come to worship God as Cain did or Abel?

Have you previously declared, as the Israelites did “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord,” only to find yourself slip back into sinful routine?

Is there anything ion your life that must be changed in order to walkout that declaration (if you even want to make such a statement)?

Challenge: If you choose to follow and serve the Lord, do just give it lip service because it sounds good… Devote your heart and life to it. It is a daily decision.

Inspecting Our Foundation

“Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem… And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and it’s gates which were burned with fire…”

(Nehemiah 2:12,13)

“Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and it’s gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach”

(Nehemiah 2:17).

When the need was identified, the first thing Nehemiah did when he arrived in Jerusalem was to privately go inspect the wall to fully understand it’s current condition and the work that had to be done. Then when he motivated the people to invest in rebuilding the wall, he did not overwhelm them by giving them a guided tour of the entire wall and everything that needed to be accomplished. Instead he assigned groups and families to parts of the wall that would mean the most to the protection of their families. The rebuilding required dedicated focus, the ensuring that the foundation was solid and would hold the weight and stresses placed on it by the wall. The rebuilding would also require the faith that God would give them the strength and protection they needed to reach the goal.

As men, husbands, and fathers, we must be willing to privately inspect our walls and foundation in prayer. Asking God to reveal to us where cracks exist, where walls need to be built or even where the structure must be torn down and the foundation firmly established. Often, as men, we try to accomplish too much, or don’t want to face the sins or areas in our lives that require the most attention. It is far easier to pave a skim coat over the top of that broken, pot-hole filled road, than it is to dig down to the foundation beneath it, in order to properly fix the causes of its deterioration in the first place. If we choose the easy path of applying a skim coating, all we accomplish is the temporary covering of our sins or deep needs for the transforming work of Christ in our hearts and life. Eventually, the hidden cracks will resurface, or the wall will fall either under it’s own weight or the stresses around it.

We are not doing ourselves, our wives and kids, or our God any service by pretending to be strong, temporarily covering up our issues, or failing to humbly kneel before our Savior at the Cross. In fact, our chosen path will act as an example to be imitated by our wife and children. Either we lead them by example to the Cross and to Christ’s restorative work in their lives, or we sin by leading them, by example, away to wonder in the wilderness. Our deepest need is to fully realize that each of us are not perfect, and we were never expected to be perfect. A perfect person does not need a Savior, and the only one to fill that description becameour Savior.

Crossroads:

What did you find upon inspection of your walls?

Is the foundation in support or opposition to the walls that have been built?

Do you cover over issues and sins, or do you fall to your knees in repentance and devote yourself to real and lasting change?

Challenge: focus to build a proper foundation in scripture, and tear down any walls to rebuild that are not supported by this foundation. Repent where needed.

A Sure Foundation

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Luke 6:47-49

            What is the foundation on which your life is built? Does your foundation support what you live for? Where do you turn to and on what do you lean when storms come?

The things you’ve invested your heart and mind in are the very things that will either help you through the storms of life, or become your ruin when they fail you maybe even pulling you under.

It takes hard labor and focused investment to dig deep enough to ensure a strong foundation is firmly planted on the rock. This investment must be made in the foundation long before the storms come that threaten the buildings very existence. A wise builder takes this process seriously, as the foundation gives support and shapes the entire house.

The same is true in the Christian’s life. For a Christian husband and father to be able to stand firm, weather the storms, trials, and devastations of life, he must have already laid a deep foundation before the difficulties come. Additionally, this previous investment directly affecting his ability to provide strength, encouragement, and point his family to Christ. This comes through the investment of energy in seeking God and a careful study of scripture in order to understand and build a strong foundation. It also comes from a life on his knees in prayer for his family and his own life.

The thought of trying to study scripture to cultivate ones own life is overwhelming enough at times, not to mention extending that to the point of ministering to the lives of your wife and children, as the pastor of your home. Many men fail to realize that their pastors job at the church they attend is not to fulfill that role of spiritual head and director in his family’s life, but to train and equip the family’s husband and father to fulfill his God-given role as priest of his own household.

Society as a whole has slowly reverted the mindset of Christians to believe that although we each are supposed to have a personal relationship with God, pastors are supposed to be like Moses was to the Israelites. By Exodus 20 God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt with the signs and plagues, including the Passover meal in which the first born of Egypt died. Now, after seeing the Red Sea part before them, walking across on dry ground, and walking through the desert, the Israelites found themselves in front of Mount Sinai.

God’s presence descended on to the mountain, and Moses stood before God. But the Israelites were afraid of God and didn’t want to stand in God’s presence. So, they told Moses to go before God for them, and tell them what God told him to tell them. Thus Moses became the priest and intercessor… The go-between. But in the process, the Israelites gave up their personal interaction with God, or being able to see His presence.

If Christian men are not careful they do the same thing by looking to the church’s pastor like Moses, instead of focusing on their own relationship with God, through Jesus. Even at Mount Sinai, God’s desire was for every one of the Israelites to see His presence and have a deeper relationship with Him as a nation of priests, but the Israelites chose differently. What relationship have you chosen?

Crossroads:

What are the building blocks of your foundation? Where does its strength come from?

What beliefs or patterns of life are giving ultimate support to your life?

What drives your decisions?

Challenge: begin to search through scripture to establish a basis for your foundational beliefs. Come to understand why you believe what you believe and how to defend it. Build a strong foundation. Apply the concepts and foundational beliefs by formulating and writing down a family mission statement (such as: what is important to your family, core beliefs, treatment of one another, etc).

Plans & Blueprints

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you a hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

 

This verse has been used for many a sermon. But let me ask you, have you considered what God’s plans may be for you and your life? Are they different from your own plans?

Before a builder starts the construction on a home or other project, he begins with the blueprints or plans that the owner has provided. Without these plans, the builder might envision a finished product that is completely different than the owner commissioned him to build. And who is the one who determines what the building should look like and the use it should be designed for: the builder or the owner? The owner of course.

In the same way, individually we must choose whose plans we want to employ as our lives are designed and lived out. The two choices are clear: Either we choose the plans that God has for our lives, or we choose to do and live the way we think is best. If we choose God’s plans, then we are trusting Him with our lives, it’s outcome, and ultimately worshipping Him as Creator, Savior, and King. If we choose our own ways, we are ultimately worshiping ourselves, because we have raised our own plans above God’s.

As men, and young men, we are established by God to be the head of our households. But we will also answer for that position when we stand before our God. Jesus modeled a servant-leadership against the grain of this world, so we must also live and model a life of servant-leadership to our wives and children. Submitting our lives to God, and surrendering our goals, plans, and dreams to follow His plans for our lives can cost us everything, but rewards us with far more.

So the ultimate question for you to ponder and pray about is: who is it you are living for and who are you worshiping? Don’t just call yourself a Christian, be a Christian.

Crossroads:

Whose plan for your life have you chosen to follow, God’s or yours?

Who do your words and actions indicate you are devoted to or worshiping? Is this different than who you want to be devoted to and worship?

Where is your foundation established? Do you need to renovate or rebuild?

 

Challenge: Through prayer (and fasting if needed) seek God to determine where your foundation is established, whether your require renovation or a rebuild. Firmly commit to establishing the foundation God wants for you and walk the path it takes to gain it.