Friday, 23 July 2010

NIH Confirms that the Bible is Right

Dr. Terri Orbuch was commissioned to do a study by the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency. The study which began in the 1980’s was originally scheduled to last a few years, the topic - “the early years of marriage”. In fact the grant has been extended for over 20 years, during which Dr. Orbuch has followed the same 746 individuals (started with 373 couples). A number of the couples divorced, some found new partners and remarried, but the individuals remained in her data base and part of her study. Her book Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great is a recap of her findings.

The last chapter of the book summarizes, among other things, “what Husbands need”. She writes, “One of the first and most astonishing (emphasis mine) findings from my NIH research was that the presence of affective affirmation plays a major role in husbands’ happiness over time.” Upon reading this, two thoughts rushed to my pea size brain and almost collided.

My first thought was how interesting, the nation’s medical research agency lends its approval to what the Apostle Paul wrote over two thousand years ago in Ephesians 5:33. My second thought was, I wonder how many millions of dollars we spent to prove that God knew what he was talking about on the subject of marriage.

I wonder if the NIH would commission me to study the effects of adultery on marriage. I can tell you in advance that one of my conclusions would be that committing adultery is not advisable. Or maybe I could get a grant to study how being loved makes a wife feel and the effect it has on a marriage. Once again I could be accused of biasing my results, having read God’s Word on the subject. I’ll bet my findings would indicate that every time I identified a wife that felt that her husband loved her as much as he loved himself I would find a very happy and contented wife. How about being paid to monitor the affect of going to bed angry with your spouse as it effects intimacy? I am beginning to see my retirement plan unfold before my eyes.

I would suggest that before you go out and buy a self-help book on marriage you dust off the one that is sitting on your coffee table and go to the Book of Ephesians, chapter five, verses 21 through 33. It stands to reason that if God is who He says he is; if Scripture is God’s Word; and if God is the creator of marriage then you probably need look no further for how to have a great marriage.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Surrender All - Are You Nuts?

I heard a pastor say, with tongue in cheek, that he was considering charging $250,000 to do a wedding because the lawyers are making that on the back end to undo the wedding. Our culture has taken the Bobby McFerrin lyrics to heart, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” It is all about me, my happiness, my fulfillment, my desires, and my needs.

I am still convinced that self-centeredness is the single biggest problem in most marriages. Finances, children, sex, family of origin, etc. can provide areas for disagreement and conflict but conflict usually arises because I don’t get my way. The heart is the root problem those other topics are the surface issues.

As usual the Bible is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Ephesians 5:21 says “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Not only did God command us to be other centered but Christ modeled it. Philippians 2: 1-8 brings it home, i.e. provides the game plan by which we can have a love that lasts. Verse 3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Furthermore we are told to have the same attitude as Christ when it comes to how we are to relate to one another. i.e. to “make ourselves nothing taking the very nature of a servant.” Surely you jest.

I “jesteth” not. If there was anyone on this earth who was always right and who had all the powers of persuasion, (not to mention a legion of angels at his disposal) it was Jesus. Yet he “…made himself nothing…humbled himself and became obedient to death.” This is exactly what we are called to do – all but the death part.

Granted this could have its own set of complications. If we actually deferred to one another it could take days to decide where to go to dinner, weeks to decide which movie to see, hours to decide who was going to put the kids to bed, do the laundry or cut the grass. “I’ll do it”; “No, I’ll do it”; “But I’d be glad to do it”; “No dear – let me, please”.

Okay that may be a little over the top. Deferring to someone else doesn’t mean you lose your identity, your voice or your opinion.

What it does mean is that you seek to understand the other’s point of view and you seek a win-win compromise where both parties feel heard and honored in the final decision.

It does mean that if such a compromise is not readily apparent that you give up your position, not as a martyr, but as someone who is attempting to act in a selfless way.

What do you think - can this work?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Choose Your Words

Every once in a while a passage of Scripture jumps out at me and I think to myself, “self, this is not a new passage, it has been around a few thousand years.” But for some unknown reason the Spirit heightens my awareness. Such was the case as I was reading Ephesians 4;29 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

All righty then how many married couples do you know who apply this piece of Scripture to their daily dialogue? Did the number zero come to mind! Let’s dissect this passage to get the full impact.

Unwholesome talk – usually inflicts pain, intentionally or unintentionally. Most often unwholesome talk is “me-centered”, i.e. what is said has no higher purpose than serving me in some way. Do not let “any”( that means none, zilch, zero, nadda, a big goose egg) such talk come out of my mouth.

Helpful for building others up – infers that what I say to you is in some way beneficial to you. The qualifier “only” means that I know you well enough to be highly selective and share specifically those insights that will be helpful to your spiritual growth.

According to their needs – not according to what might benefit me but what I perceive will be of specific benefit to the other person. This seems redundant so it must be important. For if it is truly helpful for building the other person up then it would stand to reason that it would be according to their needs.

Benefit those who listen – we’ve covered the benefit part but “those who listen” adds a new dimension of complexity. This suggests to me that I need to choose my words carefully along with the time and the place if there is any chance the other person is going to listen to what I am saying and be open to the potential for change.

My initial thought was this was written by a guy who wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. Then I quickly remembered it was inspired by God. Checkmate!