Protecting Your Family in the Battle
About the Guest
Marriages aren't built on a romantic balcony but, instead, are built on a spiritual battlefield. Today on the broadcast, Major General (Ret) Bob Dees talks with Dennis Rainey about bringing in reinforcements of love, leadership, and the Word of God to protect the family from Satan's arrows.
Marriages aren’t built on a romantic balcony but, instead, are built on a spiritual battlefield.
Protecting Your Family in the Battle
Gen. Dees: It's really critical to observe Jesus Christ. He is the best role model of leadership, and so leading like Jesus is critical, and I would also offer that the Bible is the world's best leadership manual. If every business would just train their leaders in that regard, we would have incredibly powerful consequences across our country.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 29th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll learn some principles of leadership modeled first on the pages of Scripture. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I'm going to see if you can …
Dennis: Now, wait a second, what do you see?
Bob: You can do this. I'm going to give you a sentence, and I want you to fill in the blank at the end of the sentence.
Dennis: Oh, I thought you were going to ask me to do something from memory. You love to ask me questions about songs.
Bob: This is kind of from memory, but I have no doubt that you'll be able to do this.
Dennis: Oh, okay, good, good.
Bob: Marriages today are not being lived out on a romantic balcony but instead they're being played out on a …
Dennis: … spiritual battlefield.
Bob: See, I knew you would nail that.
Dennis: Well, I wrote it. Why shouldn't I remember it?
Bob: Well, we've been talking about that at Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences across the country for a number of years, but the reality is most couples don't stop to consider that the marriage relationship is a challenge. You shouldn't expect it to always be like the eternal first date, where you just gaze lovingly into each other's eyes forever and ever. Marriage is hard work.
Dennis: It is hard work, and it doesn't take place on that romantic balcony. It takes place in a culture that is fierce and that takes no captives. In fact, it's destroying a lot of marriages today.
Bob: And so if we're going to live out our marriages on a spiritual battlefield, we better have some spiritual soldiers who are ready to do the work, do you think?
Dennis: Who know how to lead in the midst of battle, and we've got a general, a two-star general, who joins us on FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Standing at attention, sir.
Bob: Calling the troops to order here.
Dennis: Standing at attention, General Robert Dees joins us on FamilyLife Today. Bob, welcome back.
Gen. Dees: Good to be here, Dennis and Bob.
Dennis: It's a privilege to have you back. You know, I had some coffee, Bob, and …
Bob: You didn't know – see? It's just – he can't leave it alone.
Gen. Dees: Here it comes.
Dennis: I couldn't let this go. You know, General Dees has become a pretty good friend, and I – Keith, our engineer helped get some coffee, and I noticed that General Dees – I mean, this is a Ranger. This is a guy who was in infantry. This is a guy who is hardened, tough, operative Pentagon.
Dennis: He puts sugar and cream in his coffee.
Bob: General, what do you have to say for yourself?
Gen. Dees: Well, all I can say is that you're not the first one that's given me guff, but I'm just going to enjoy this coffee while we're talking.
Dennis: You know, you're a good man because you're not going to let it bother you, and I'm going to enjoy my coffee, which is black. All right? It is straight stuff here.
You've been in the military since 1972 until you retired in 2003. You and your wife, Kathleen – well, your marriage took place on that spiritual battlefield as well as a real battlefield, and you've learned some principles of leadership that, really, every marriage can make application of if they understand them.
Where do we start if we're going to have a marriage that goes the distance in the midst of this spiritual battle?
Gen. Dees: Well, a lot of my thinking is informed by one of my last assignments on the demilitarized zone in Korea. I'd thought about these things many times during my career, but they were really crystallized when you're in a crucible of leadership of challenging circumstances.
The first principle I would give, Dennis, to all the families of America, frankly, is readiness never takes a day off. We used to say that in Korea – readiness never takes a day off on freedom's frontier. And husband and wife just have to recognize that, that the enemy will attack when you're least expecting it through the least expected direction, and we have to be really cautious as husband and wife to diligently be stewards of the relationship God has given us.
Bob: How does a general make sure that those who are under his command stay alert? I mean, the natural tendency is to relax after a while.
Gen. Dees: Well, exactly. In Nehemiah it said, they emphasized security and it said, while they were rebuilding the wall, they didn't focus totally on the wall because they couldn't. It said they kept one hand on the weapon and one hand on the work.
So incredibly important to continue to emphasize readiness, and a general does it by being ready, by exhorting others to readiness, and then there are systems that you would have. I would maintain that a way to maintain readiness for the traveling businessman is a spiritual code of conduct. So when he's on the road, he has this traveling code of conduct, and he has a checklist of things he does. That's how you maintain readiness.
It's not just a hope or an aspiration, but you have to have some specific techniques, tools. A lot of those are in God's Word, a lot of those have been passed along by other wise men that know a lot about marriage. I just ask everybody, you know, we ought to appropriate every bit of this to be ready.
Dennis: General, for you, you travel.
Gen. Dees: Sure.
Dennis: What are some of those items on the checklist for you?
Gen. Dees: Well, I think, first of all, the Word of God is alive and powerful, and the first thing I do is when I enter that room, I get out the word of God, and I lay it out and there may be a Gideon's Bible or not, but that's the first thing, and if I have time, I, in fact, get in the Word of God immediately.
And then, obviously, the TV is a big trap. So you just stay away from the TV. If you have the option, you block the channels, and you do other things just to have more creative enterprise.
For some the Internet is a temptation. You've just got to not go there. And there's Internet accountability tools that some have. Clearly, those are to keep honest people honest, to keep righteous people righteous, if you will, and help avoid temptation.
They can be defeated, they can be circumvented by somebody that really is seeking who has his face turned toward sin and temptation, but honest people can remain honest by using some of these well-proven tools and techniques.
Bob: One of your favorite verses, I know, is in 1 Corinthians, I think it's chapter 16, verses 13 and 14 that says, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, and let all that you do be done in love." And I'm thinking about that alertness that General Dees is talking about. We have to live in our marriages and in our families and in our day-to-day lives, we've got to live with our guard up.
Dennis: We do. And it begins, I think, with the husband.
Gen. Dees: Right, exactly.
Dennis: Bob, you asked General Dees as a general how do you lead the troops? Well, as a husband, the question for us is how are you creating a state of readiness in your marriage and in your family? And I think one of the ways you do that additionally is through daily prayer together as a couple. That is a practical, spiritual protection against the attacks of the enemy coming at you, and I think it's the wise parent and the wise husband and wife who makes this a daily spiritual discipline in their lives.
Gen. Dees: Exactly, so you have to have a strong external defense against these temptations. It says Satan seeks to devour whom he may, he prowls as a roaring lion, and we see that against families. Families are targets.
Dennis: What else can we glean from your experience as a leader in the military about how we protect our families in the midst of a spiritual battle?
Gen. Dees: Well, I would offer, for leaders, whether you're a military leader in command of hundreds, thousands, or whatever, or if you're a leader of a family or a leader of a sports team or a leader of a ministry group – it's really critical to observe Jesus Christ. He is the best role model of leadership, and so leading like Jesus is critical.
And I would also offer that the Bible is the world's best leadership manual. Apart from the spiritual dynamic of the Bible, if every business would just look at the Bible as their leadership manual and train their leaders in that regard, it would have incredibly powerful consequences across our country.
Dennis, you asked about principles – one, I used to give my leaders in Korea some acid tests. One of them was do your people know your voice in the dark? It's a powerful military metaphor. If they do, you've probably shared trusting confidence with them. You have this bond of commitment, and they're willing to do almost anything for you, and that comes out of John 10 because Jesus modeled this for us.
He said, "My sheep know my voice." And so it's really powerful that that leader is conversant with those that follow him.
Bob: You're really talking about the foundation of a relationship that is build during normal times so that when the bullets start to fly, you've got a foundation from which to operate. I've heard you talk, many times, as we raise teenagers about the fact that if you haven't invested in building a relationship with your child, when things get rocky there's no foundation there.
Dennis: Right, and it's from the relationship that you can end up being able to give orders. If you give the orders and the directives in time of war when there's a battle taking place, and there's no relationship, it's pretty tough for the troops to follow.
Gen. Dees: Oh, exactly.
Bob: And I would think in a military setting, if the guys in the foxhole don't know that their leader is for them and loves them and cares about them; that he is on their side, then when the orders come, they're either hard to follow or easy to follow based on that relational context.
Gen. Dees: Oh, that's exactly right. It's the relationship that counts, we know that in parenting, and when I played high school football it was pretty amazing – 10,000 people in the stands, but I could always hear my mother's voice. I don't know why that was, supernatural, perhaps, but my mother was always a big fan, and I knew she was there cheering, and she was loud and clear in my life.
Dennis: You know, that is a great image that every parent ought to pick up on and, for that matter, every husband and wife for one another. Life's a tough challenge. I mean, it has some twists and turns, some valleys, some tough mountains to climb and along the journey all of us need someone who is cheering us on, who is a comrade in the midst of the toughness of life to give us some attaboys, some kudos, keep going, don't give up. I mean, it's amazing how powerful a little e-mail can be in the middle of the day from a friend.
Gen. Dees: True.
Dennis: Or one I can send Barbara or one she can send me just to say, "Thanks for last night," or "Thanks for doing this," or "Thanks for being my husband," and how that fuels my soul to be able to tackle the stuff of today.
Gen. Dees: Right. These are emotional high-fives that put strength and put steel in our backbones when we really are encountering tough conditions that life offers.
Dennis: Yes, I agree with you, and in the midst of this, you're always communicating the value and the respect in the other person, right?
Gen. Dees: That's exactly right. I've found that it's really important. A second acid test of leadership is do your soldiers, do your family members, does your spouse know that you need them? If they know that you need them, then they feel understood by you and respected, and it's really an important characteristic. Every human desires that – to be needed, to make a difference, and so that's what we need to do as leaders, as parents.
We recognize that the four-year-old son maybe can't sweep the floor with such precision as we might be able to, however, it's well worth the investment that that young son is understood, valued and respected. And so that's a critical principle of leadership, and it makes all the difference in the world.
I've seen soldiers in difficult circumstances that were willing to die for me, or they could care less, and the thing that made the difference was that I understood, valued, and respected them, and then they're willing to die.
Dennis: I've never seen any research that could validate this, but having raised six teenagers quasi-successfully, I might add, through the teenage years, not without a lot of ups and downs and bumps and bruises along the way – both Barbara and I were of the opinion that teenagers need to be needed by the family.
I think one of the problems of our materialistic age today is that families can exist without depending upon their children. They can exist – there's a dishwasher to do the dishes. Now, they've got to get in the dishwasher, obviously, dishes have to be put in there, which sometimes can be a bigger chore …
Bob: … than just washing the dishes …
Dennis: … asking the child to put the dishes in the dishwasher. There's the garbage that needs to go out to the curb or the top of the hill, as it was at our place and, you know, I really believe – I think it's a small thing, but I think children today, through the adolescent years, really need to be needed by their parents and by their family so that they have some sense of value and not just for what they do, but for who they are and what they contribute to the family. That's what you're really saying here.
Gen. Dees: Oh, you're exactly right. Understood, valued, and respected is critical, and it makes a world of difference in these children's lives. I think also you're talking about teenagers. Well, every teenager is different, I found with my teens. And so Jesus modeled this as well. He showed that He understood the people that He led, and it really comes out of Mark 8. It's the great story where, you recall, he healed the blind man. But in this case, He didn't do it immediately the way He could. He did it gradually, and one application of spit to this guy's eyes, and it said "I see people walking around as trees."
And then another application, and he was perfectly healed, he saw with great clarity. But then Christ, pretty profound there, He grabs him by the hand, and He took him out of the city to a quiet place. So Jesus Christ knew people's personalities, He knew what they could handle, what they couldn't handle, and so he would minister to their individual needs just the way we need to recognize our teenagers, our children, as individuals and deal with them in that way.
Dennis: General, you've had some tough assignments as a leader over the years, and I have a feeling, undoubtedly, there are some husbands, wives, moms and dads who, right now, are facing some tough assignments in terms of leadership. You were asked to go to the DMZ in Korea, right?
Gen. Dees: That's correct.
Dennis: And give some leadership to a situation that wasn't operating very effectively. It was facing some challenges and perhaps some dangerous situations at points. Coach those husbands and wives, moms and dads, who are facing real difficult situations in some of the leadership principles you learned in Korea.
Gen. Dees: Sure, well, I'll talk to that story, and then I'll make the applications – nine days' notice to go to command one of the Army's 10 divisions. That's something that usually takes a year of preparation and charm schools and this and that. I got a call one day because they had a crisis in Korea. They'd had a 100-year flood. They had 72 inches of rain in three days. It had really created Nicaraguan flood conditions, and there was a serious issue there.
Secondly, they'd had a leadership crisis in the division. The current leader had fallen out, they needed somebody there immediately. So in the face of this, the first comment to parents is that I recognized I was not adequate. There was no way that my wife and I were going to do this. We fell on our knees. We say, "Lord, we cannot do this. It is humanly impossible."
But God, at that time, said "Remember Nehemiah." And so I was directed back into the Word of God. I remembered a passage that a chaplain 10 years before had talked about, and I went in there, and it didn't become an inspirational blueprint, but an actual blueprint, appropriating what Nehemiah did in rebuilding the wall to rebuilding this division, this Army division, on the demilitarized zone.
We were afraid the North Koreans might take advantage of the situation and attack. So I just followed that blueprint. It said to emphasize security. They kept one hand on the weapon, one hand on the work. It said Nehemiah did a reconnaissance, and he kept things in his heart. Sometimes parents, sometimes coaches, sometimes ministry leaders need to keep things in their heart. They can't always say what they know as they encourage others and allow the others to stumble through mistakes that maybe they have made.
And so as you walk through that, it was just the power of the Word of God that was so relevant, and so I would say to the parent, to the other person that is facing a difficult circumstance right now, go to the Word of God, read the Word of God, and it will be powerful and active, and it will allow you to become strong in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dennis: There were two things Nehemiah did that have always struck me – one is after he had prayed, he got resources, and then he went to the place where the wall had been broken down, and it says he got up in the middle of the night, and he rode around the wall and took an inventory of the problem. He got a good look at it when there was no one looking at him.
And then the next day the second thing he did was he called the people to work. He had a plan. He had kept those things in his heart, but he had a plan at that point, and he called the people to do the work that God had set before them, and I think in families today, in marriages today, when we do know what to do, we need to call our wives, our husbands, our children, and we say, "Let's go. Let's get after it. Let's start growing spiritually. Let's become a family who is submitted to Jesus Christ and follows Him regardless." That's what's needed.
And if your marriage and your family are going to exist in this spiritual battlefield again, remember, it's not taking place on a romantic balcony. It's going to survive the spiritual battlefield that we all live in. It's going to take this kind of leadership.
Gen. Dees: And, you know, regarding this leadership, I think of Joshua 24:15 where he says, "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord," and it reflects back in my memory to when I was a youngster, six years old, all of a sudden, one day my father just packed up the whole household – my brother, my sister, myself, mom – we went to church, and we didn't miss church, as I can recall, for the rest of my time in that household.
Dennis: You hadn't been going to church before that?
Gen. Dees: We had not been. We were not a churchgoing family. My mother was a very spiritual lady, but my dad didn't lead. And, all of a sudden, something, I don't know what it was, God worked in his life, and he just said, "All right, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," and we marched off, and it just changed – my brother and sister soon thereafter came to faith and were baptized, and it was a powerful time in our family's life.
Dennis: And he never shared with you kids the reason why, all of a sudden, your family started going to church?
Gen. Dees: I don't know. We just saluted. We didn't know what the reason was, but we knew there was a change.
Bob: Your dad led?
Gen. Dees: He did, yes.
Dennis: And the kids followed.
Bob: Yes, that's right.
Dennis: And you know what? There's a real lesson there. It really doesn't matter what led your dad to do that.
Gen. Dees: Right.
Dennis: The point is, he was a leader. He stepped out. He didn't do what the masses and the multitudes wanted him to do. He did what he knew was right, and he did what we thought was urgently important at the time, and as a result of that, it really changed the course of your life, didn't it, General?
Gen. Dees: Well, it did. I would not be here talking about what we're talking about, were it not for that momentous time my taking leadership.
Dennis: Yes, and today you lead the military ministry, which literally touches tens of thousands of soldiers and men and women around the country and around the world.
Bob: Well, and you're training those servicemen and women to do spiritual battle and to provide spiritual leadership in their homes and in their battalions and their companies in their sphere influence both in the military and in their family, and we're really thrilled to be able to partner with you. In fact, we've developed some resources together, a couple of Homebuilders studies that we put together for military families so that married couples who are in the military can get with other military couples and begin to strengthen their marriage relationship and their families.
And then there's a brand-new book that we've just published together called "Loving Your Military Man," written by Bea Fishback, who was a military wife, and who faced some of the unique challenges that military wives face in supporting and loving her husband in the high-stress situation that a military wife finds herself in.
All of these resources are available on our website at FamilyLife.com, and if you go there and click the red button you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go," that will take you right to an area of the site where you can get more information about the resources that are available. You can order them online, if you'd like. There is also a link to the military ministry website, if you'd like more information about all that God is doing through the military ministry, you can go there as well.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. You click the red "Go" button, that takes you to the broadcast page, and you can find out about the resources we're talking about today, and you can order them online, if you'd like, as well.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent to you.
Dennis, let me say a word of thanks to those folks who help sponsor the ministry of FamilyLife Today, those who make financial contributions so that we can not only be on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country but can also do things like we've talked about today in our partnership with the military ministry. We appreciate your financial support that makes that possible.
Between now and Father's Day when you make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we would like to make available a thank you gift to you. It's a DVD that features a message from Dennis given at a recent Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference where he spoke to men about our responsibilities as dads.
This would be a great DVD to watch together at a men's group or as part of a Sunday school class or just to view on your own, and we're happy to send you a copy as our way of saying thanks when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. You can make your donation online at FamilyLife Today.com, and if you do that, when you get to the keycode box type in the word "dads" and that way we'll know to send you this DVD.
Or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone. That's 1-800-FLTODAY and be sure to mention that you'd like a copy of the DVD with Dennis Rainey, and we're happy to send that out to you, again, as our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we want to invite you back. Ken Ham is going to join us. We're going to hear about the grand opening that's about to take place of the new Creation Museum just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, and we're going to hear a little bit about Ken's background and his family; about what his father did to plant a love for God's Word in his son's heart. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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