Friday, 13 July 2012

Where Have All the Flowers Gone

A group named Peter, Paul and Mary,  because the artists names were Peter, Paul and Mary, popularized a version of a song entitled “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”.  It was kind of a sad song, lamenting the passage of life.  It could almost be the theme song for many couples in our culture who hold the belief that romantic love is all important to have a full life but that it almost never lasts.  A second and related belief is that marriage should be based on romantic love.  As Tim Keller, author of The Meaning of Marriage says, “Taken together, these convictions lead to the conclusion that marriage and romance are essentially incompatible, that it is cruel to commit people to a lifelong connection after the inevitable fading of romantic joy…”

It seems as though if you start out with a faulty premise it is highly unlikely that the resultant answer will be correct.  Equating romance with love leads to some very unhealthy conclusions.  It is the consumer’s view of love which says, “Make me happy, fulfill me, make me complete, help me to realize my full potential as a self-actualizing individual.”  In a consumer relationship the individual’s needs are more important than the relationship. Get real!

My wife would probably be the first to tell you that I am not very romantic, but if you asked her if I loved her I think you would get a resounding yes!  Love is described in first Corinthians, chapter 13.  Love is patient, love is kind, it keeps no record of wrongs, etc.  Love is sacrificial giving.  Love is putting your partner’s needs and desires first.  To be truly loved is to be truly known with all the wrinkles, blemishes and flaws, and still loved.

It is easy to conjure up romantic ideas; all you need is a computer.  I’m sure there is a romantic ideas website for starters.  This is not to say that romance and passion aren’t part of a marriage that would glorify God, it’s just that they are by-products that often naturally flow out of a relationship that is more concerned about giving than receiving.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Overflow of the Heart

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34 NIV)

We all have those moments in life of which we are not proud.  One of my many occurred a few weeks after I married Kathleen. I’d love to bore you with our story but I’ll exercise some restraint.  This was my second marriage as my first wife of 38 years had died of cancer.  This was Kathleen’s first.

I had come home for lunch and the phone rang.  The caller was Kathleen’s former landlord.  To infer that this gentleman redefined “sleazebag” would be a gross understatement.  After a fairly brief exchange I began screaming as loudly as I could.  Though he was some 70 miles away he was probably able to hear me without benefit of the phone’s receiver.  At the time I was somewhat amused that this man who didn’t have an ethical bone in his body was telling me, an elder and employee of a church, to calm down.

To my dismay the look of horror on my new wife’s face was one I will never forget.  She had to be thinking “is this the mild mannered, kind, gentle, caring, Godly man that I was dating?  If so, where did he go?”

To make matters even worse, though this was not one of my finer moments, I rather enjoyed my rant.

Now I could give you all kinds of rationale about why this weasel deserved whatever verbal abuse I could muster but I’d be hard pressed to defend why I took so much pleasure in this combat.  It made me look at my heart.  What did I expect to accomplish by yelling at the top of my voice?  What kind of example was I setting for the way a Christian behaves under stress?  Where did that anger come from?  Why didn’t I trust that the Lord would work this out?

Most of us have people in our lives that push our buttons. We let them get under our skin, we let them into the core of who we are and the outcome is not pretty.  So if you find yourself yelling at someone, using harsh language, and/or saying unkind things the verse in Matthew says we need look no further than our hearts.  Our heart consists of our mind, will and emotions.  We need to ask ourselves when we are out of control, “what is it I want?” and “why?” 

Was my pride wounded?  Am I concerned about what someone else will think of me?  Do I just want things to go my way?  The list of questions is endless but rest assured that when you respond in a negative way or experience a negative emotion your heart is sending up a warning flag.  If you truly can’t pin point the issue ask God to reveal it to you.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Are You Filled With the Spirit?

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Ephesians 4:1

In chapter five of Ephesians, beginning at verse 15 Paul lays out what is included in living a life worthy of our calling.  First you have been called to be a child of the living Lord.  If you are married, you have also been called to be a husband or wife.  As Christians we are to be wise, making the most out of every opportunity (verses 5:15-16); we are to seek to understand the Lord’s will for our lives (verse 5:17): and we are to be filled with the Spirit (verse 5:18b).

What many fail to realize is that these passages precede Paul’s dissertation on marriage (verses 5:21-33).  As Christians Paul is assuming we are filled with the Spirit.  This is no small assumption.  For unless we are filled with the Spirit what follows in verses 5:21 through 6:9 is virtually impossible.

Because what Paul lays out in this section of Ephesians is how we are to live with one another, be it as husband and wife; parent and child; or boss and worker.  And how we are to live is beyond our capability unless we are filled with the Spirit.

It is virtually impossible for me to love my wife as much as I love myself, without the intervention of the Spirit.  In my humanness I am self-centered, it’s all about me and my kingdom of one. My wife, as fantastic as she is, cannot pay me the proper respect without the prompting and guidance of the Spirit.  Sadly she is as self-centered as I am.

If God created marriage to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his bride (the church) then God created marriage to also reflect the incredible sacrifice made on Calvary.  The husband must be willing to “give himself up” for his wife (Ephesians 5:25).  In a practical sense this doesn’t mean he must be willing to throw himself under a bus in case one happens to veer off the road and come through his home.  It means he must be willing to die to self, i.e. put his wife’s needs, desires, and wants ahead of his own.

Before you ladies stand up and cheer too loudly God has commanded you to notice your husband, regard him, honor him, prefer him, venerate and esteem him; and that you defer to him, praise him, and love and admire him exceedingly. (Ephesians 5:33 Amplified Bible).

Are you filled with the Spirit?