Friday, 4 January 2013

Christmas Gifts and Marriage

I can remember, as a young boy, the incredible anticipation with which I looked forward to Christmas Eve and more specifically the opening of my packages. There were times however when my enthusiasm was quickly dampened, as what I had hoped for was not in the box.   In some ways I think this is analogous to my expectations of what marriage would be like only to find out that I did not get what I had hoped for.

 Even a good marriage by current cultural standards can leave us wanting more.  In both instances my focus was wrong and therefore I was disappointed.  As a boy my focus was on the presents that I was going to receive.  As a man my focus was on what having a wife would do for me. 

I had grown up in a non-Christian home.  My parents seemed to love each other very much.  They became my paradigm for what marriage looked like and that is what I wanted.  I became a Christian a few months before my first wedding because being a Christian was a requirement of the church in which we were married.  While I accepted and understood on an intellectual level who Christ was and what He had done for me there was no personal relationship.

I’m also reasonably certain that I had no idea of what “for better or for worse” meant but I was to learn.  A few years into our marriage my wife began exhibiting the signs of bi-polar illness with a touch of schizophrenia. We were married for over 38 years until she went to be with the Lord.  As for my faith, I had spurts of spiritual growth, but to say that Christ was at the center of my life, let alone the center of our marriage would be misleading at best.

It was at this point that my life changed dramatically.  I left a major corporation after 35 years and after a few turns in the road wound up working at a church.  My spiritual life had already begun to grow.  The Lord blessed me with an incredible wife, whom I met on line.  I know what a difficult marriage can be like, I also know what a marriage that has God at the center can be like.  The latter is far superior. 

 What I have come to realize is that my first wife was and my current wife is a gift from God. God knows who or what the perfect gift is for me and for you.  Assume that your spouse is exactly who God wants to use in your life to draw you closer to Him and to transform you into being more like His Son.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

I Need to be Committed - Part II

In Part I I shared with you that Paul Tripp visited our church and laid out five essential principles that a grace filled, evangelical church must be committed to.  As I wrote them down I couldn’t help but think the principles are also ones that are essential for a marriage that would glorify God.  See Part I for principles one through three – (1) have a commitment to patterns of confession and forgiveness; (2) have a commitment to growth and change; and (3) have a commitment to Biblical communication.

 Principle #4 – Have a commitment to a relationship of love

Paul Tripp defined love as “ a willing self sacrifice for the good of another that does not demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.”  Since self-centeredness is the single biggest problem in most marriages the notion that I must willingly sacrifice anything for the good of my wife is a huge commitment.  Yes that means that if I am watching the fourth quarter of a playoff game involving my favorite sports team and my wife wants to go for a walk just then I would turn off the set and willingly go for a walk.  Furthermore I would not expect her to do something for me in return, nor does it mean that she has done anything to incline me toward being other-centered.  That is sacrificial love. IJohn 4:7-8, 11 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  There is a direct correlation between our ability to love another human being and our relationship with God.

Principle #5 - Have a commitment to representative authority

Paul Tripp
As Christians our ultimate authority is God.  We, on earth, are His ambassadors, i.e. we represent Him on earth.  We are to make His authority visible.  This is particularly important for those of you with children because as parents you can make God visible.  As husbands we are called to be servant leaders, protectors and providers.  Wives are called to submit but I contend that she will have no trouble submitting to a husband who is truly God’s ambassador. In a God glorifying marriage there is rarely a time when the husband has to make the final call and when he does the wife is assured that her husband has considered her needs, prayed to God, been in the Word and sought Godly counsel.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Apart From Me (You) Can Do Nothing

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”—John 15:5

It seems as though I am consistently bumping up against Bible verses that are most convicting.  If someone asked me if I thought that I was remaining in the Lord, I would answer with little hesitation (and in all humility) “of course “.  If the same person asked me a second time, “Are you remaining in the Lord?”  I would begin to get suspicious.  This is beginning to sound like the challenge the Lord offered to Peter three times, i.e. “do you love me?”

Before I answer a second time I need to consider two important phrases in this verse.  Am I bearing much fruit, with the emphasis on much?  Oooouch!  Okay how about some fruit or an occasional piece of fruit? 

Feeling less confident I consider the back part of this verse, “apart from me you can do nothing”.  Intellectually I know that I can do nothing worthwhile or good without the Lord’s direct intervention.  But let me tell you I can do a lot that is bad without the Lord’s help, thank you very much.

I recognize that when I get upset when something minor goes wrong I am incapable, or at least it would seem so, of responding calmly.  I can fret about not having enough for retirement but to no avail.  I can become impatient with things that don’t work right and with people who obviously don’t share my values.  I can be judgmental and critical when someone is not playing the game of life according to my rules.  As for self control, it kind of comes and goes.  Then I’m reminded of the verses that say “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” and “do not be anxious about anything”.  Apart from God I can’t respond to trials of many kinds in a way that would bring glory to him.

In the context of marriage there might be trials of many kinds and there might be times when your anxiety level is high.  These are times when you must turn to God and acknowledge your need for Him.  As husbands and wives we are to glorify Him but apart from Him you will be unable.  I must continually remind myself when faced with something that does not bring out the best in me that God just might be using this event as a teachable moment.  He may want me to learn something about my heart or just to reinforce my need for Him.  In either case I am dependent on Him.