Tuesday, 31 December 2013

One Thing

“… let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.  Hebrews 12:1  The Voice

This blog was inspired by Andy Stanley’s sermon entitled “Just One Thing”.  Many of us are notorious for making New Year’s resolutions, most of us who do give up early in the race (usually by the end of January).  Andy’s challenge to his congregation was to settle on just one thing they would pay full attention to this year, one thing that would dramatically improve their life, their relationships, their health, etc.

I would ask that you narrow your choice to the one thing that would most impact your marriage in a positive way.   For husbands that might mean paying special attention on how you can go about loving  your wife as much as you love yourself.  What would that require?   For wives it might be how you can be less critical, i.e. disrespectful.  What would that take?

However that does not rule out a number of other categories that could affect the quality of your marriage.   Perhaps you are struggling financially and that is causing much stress in your marriage.  What sacrifices might you have to make to get your finances under control?  Perhaps you are in poor physical condition.  Being in better condition physically can pay a lot of benefits, in particular a better quality of life together.

Perhaps you have an irritating habit or mannerism.  How can you eliminate it?   As the husband you are to be the servant leader, protector and provider.  A part of the leadership responsibility includes leading your family spiritually.  In particular husbands and wives should pray together every day.  For many men this is a true challenge.  Many of us did not grow up with our fathers modeling such behavior.  Many men feel ill equipped and often not as learned as their wives.  There are many helps out there if this describes you.  There is actually a newly released book entitled “The Seven Minute Marriage Solution.”  

The seven minutes is comprised of  reading a biblical passage (that is usually part of a devotional guide), read the devotional, comment on what had the most meaning to you, and then pray together.  That whole process can easily be done in seven minutes, obviously  more time would yield even better results. There are many such devotionals that are free downloads on the internet, there is no shortage of material.

 What’s the one thing that you need to do in this upcoming year that will make your marriage the best it has ever been?

Friday, 27 December 2013

What if?

Bronx subway platform
Did you ever stop to think about how a single decision might have changed your life?  What if you would have moved to a different city as you were growing up; what if you had made a different educational decision at age 18; what if you had chosen different friends; what if you had made a different career decision somewhere along the line?  In fact we know one couple who believes that the Holy Spirit directed them to a specific subway stop in the Bronx (NYC).  Two strangers struck up a conversation and the rest is history, they have been married for 25 years.  I know another couple very well, who found themselves on an on-line dating service.  The man stumbled into the site by accident in the middle of the night and the woman renewed her membership the same night just to respond to a message.  They have been married almost ten years.  I know of a young man who accepted one of three jobs offered to him purely on the basis of the starting salary, thirty-five years later he retired from that company.  What if he would have made a different choice?

The decisions that we have made over our life time have contributed to where we are today.  Some of those decisions have been huge in the scheme of things while others have been a matter of deciding to stay up too late and finding ones-self on a dating website.

Where a Christian’s free will collides with God’s ultimate will is speculative at best.  Certainly from a Christian perspective if we have been in prayer about a particular decision one would hope that it would align with God’s will.

Then of course Romans 8:28 which says that, “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”  That is a game changer.  God can change the outcome of every decision if it is not in accordance with his ultimate will.  God can use the decisions we make and transform them into decisions that can ultimately bring him glory or at the very least contribute to our spiritual development.

In the final analysis the “what if” question is somewhat superfluous for a Christian because God will use all of our decisions to help us to grow to become more like the Son.  So if you are finding yourself in a particularly difficult situation because of a decision that you made yesterday or twenty years ago, know that God is working on your behalf to make the outcome that which is ultimately best for you.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Created for Good Works

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” Ephesians 2:10

I’m going to make a rash assumption that God does not expect that before He calls me home I will have won a Pulitzer Prize, discovered a cure for a rare disease, or written a book that changes the lives of millions.  However todays’ verse would suggest to me that He had some fairly specific things in mind for me to accomplish when He created me. 

So the way I see it, I need to continually seek His will for my life, to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my decisions and actions, and to love Him and love my neighbor as myself.  Furthermore I assume that because of the experiences that I have had, He wants me to do everything I can to help couples to have a marriage that will glorify Him. 

Did you ever think that one of God’s purposes for you and me is to be a Godly husband/wife.  As a husband God has every right to ask me “Did you love your wife as much as you loved yourself?”  I’m hoping He grades on a curve. 

Since marriage is potentially a showcase for God’s love, a vehicle by which non-believers can see the desirability of God being the third strand in the marriage (as referred to in Ecclesiastes 4:12), perhaps that is His plan for you and me.  Perhaps in a country which is in moral decline we are to be the light on a hill.   

In Colossians we read that we are to be filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we might live a life worthy of God, please Him in every way, bear fruit in every good work and grow in our knowledge of Him.  We were designed to bear fruit in every good work, may it be so.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Who’s in Charge?

“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will reserve it.” Luke 17:33

I recognize “Who is in charge?” can be a provocative question.  What I am specifically questioning is who is in charge of your heart each moment of each day?  I’d love to say that it is the Holy Spirit, I’d love to but I can’t.  I find that the more hectic the pace of life, the less I turn to the Spirit.  The more my routine is disrupted the more easily I get perturbed over stupid stuff. 

During busy times I find that my “To Do” list references another “To Do” list.  I find myself attempting to multitask no matter what I am doing.  If I am sending an e-mail out I might have two or three going at once.  If I’m helping to get breakfast ready in the morning I’m also taking the garbage out, putting out the food for the birds and squirrels while attempting to make coffee and empty the dishwasher.

Perhaps I suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or LOCS (Lack of Common Sense).  The problem is that the more frenetic my pace the less I tend to rely on the Holy Spirit.  In turn that means that I am most likely going to make a bad decision, offend someone I love, or to be tempted to do something I ought not.(in my case eat something with sugar)  

The associated problem is that if for some reason I don’t do something idiotic, and I don’t hurt someone’s feelings and I resist the temptation to eat half a mince pie I begin to think I can handle life on my own.  I know that most of you were with me until the mention of mince pie.  As long as I’m out of the closet regarding my food preferences, I am also a devotee of fruitcake.  But I digress.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature” Galatians 5:17

The reality is, whether I realize it or not, I am in a spiritual battle and will be until the Lord takes me home.  Whether I acknowledge the enemy, i.e. Satan, or ignore him, he is present.  The war is going on around you and me whether or not we choose to take up our armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) and join the fight.
The weapons we have are the Word, the shield of faith, God’s truth and the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit who resides in the born again believer, who guides us and enables us to make the right decisions, act in a loving way and avoid temptation.  I want Him in charge.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Wealth Unclaimed

Most of us have read a story about someone who lived a very modest life style, if not near the poverty level only to learn upon their death that they were sitting on a fortune.  Sometimes the fortune was not obvious, i.e. a rare painting, etc.  At other times the person hoarded their wealth not connecting the dots between their seemingly arduous life style and the wealth they had accumulated.  Occasionally there is the unclaimed lottery ticket.

What if your partner represents a huge fortune that God has graciously given to you.   Instead of recognizing him/her as the treasure that they truly are, you fail to recognize their value.  In fact you’re more inclined to feel exceedingly poor, at least in an emotional sense.  At times you feel lonely even though you might be surrounded by a husband/wife and children.

There are several things going on if this describes you.  First it would seem that your partner is not meeting your expectations, needs and/or desires.  They are most likely not connecting with you on an emotional and/or physical level.  Secondly your spouse’s irritating mannerisms, their total disregard for your feelings, their annoying habits, and/or their personal form of addiction have drained the love out of your marriage.

How on earth do I have the audacity to refer to such a spouse as a treasure?   It is easy IF you are both born again Christians, because if you are it is merely a matter of re-focusing your priorities, allowing God’s desire for your marriage to prevail.  I am NOT saying this is easy but it is at least possible.  Philippians 4:19 tells us that ”God will supply all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

The vast majority of all of our problems are heart problems stemming from what is inside of us not what is on the outside.  Here is where the born again part fits in.  As descendants of Adam and Eve we are totally incapable of bringing glory to God without the help of the Holy Spirit.  If a person is not born again they do not have the Holy Spirit as a ready resource to make the heart changes that are so necessary.

As born again believers God will use your spouse’s strengths AND weaknesses as an instrument in His hands to grow you to become more like the Son.   This growth is what is referred to as “sanctification”, a process whereby believers continue to grow to become more like the Son throughout their lifetime with the help of the Holy Spirit.

This is why your spouse represents a hidden treasure.  Our purpose on this earth is to glorify God, not to have all of our needs met.  He has given you your spouse as a means by which you can fulfill God’s plan for your life.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

God Has a Plan for Your Life

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

If you asked me if the Bible, in its original form, was God’s inerrant Word I would say, without hesitation. “absolutely”.  If you asked me whether or not I believed that God would never go back on His promise, I would answer “most assuredly.”  I would be just as quick to acknowledge that He was all knowing, all powerful and the epitome of love.

Having acknowledged the most basic facts that most evangelical, born again Christians would acknowledge I’m forced to go back to the top of this blog and read Jeremiah 29:11.  Do I act one hundred percent of the time as though God has a plan for my life that is born out of His love for me?  Is my behavior consistent with my intellectual assent that He is all powerful, all knowing and that He would never go back on a promise that He has made?

The answer to both questions would be “no”.

How about you?  What do you believe to be true about God AND are you living your life in accordance with what you claim to believe?

And by the way, where does free will enter the picture?  God’s plan for my life is most likely perfect but the same cannot be said for choices I make.  God has that covered, that’s where Romans 8:28 enters the picture.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”

To connect all this rhetoric to marriage, I can say that over the years I have had numerous partners say, “I never should have married him/her” or “I married the wrong man/woman” 

Because God puts a premium on our free will it is possible that the person you married would not have been God’s choice for you?  However the moment you said “I do” in God’s eyes you are, you are married to the person that God desired that you be married to until death do you part.

In such cases God puts Romans 8:28 into play.  He will use the person that you have chosen to shape you and mold you into the person that He wanted you to be, granted it might be more painful than if you had married His choice for your life.

So the question should never be did I marry the wrong person but am I letting God use this marriage to make me into the person He wants me to be?  Or am I constantly fighting against his plan for my life?

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Ideal Gift

Perhaps Christmas is a time when more than any other time of the year we tend to reflect on what we have or do not have.  For those who truly know Christ as Lord and Savior we realize that we have been given the greatest gift that anyone could ever hope to receive.   It is a gift that will keep on giving into eternity. 

Over the years many of the gifts that we have received have worn out.  In some cases we just become tired of the item or a newer, better version is a coveted replacement.  In some cases we try to figure out how we can gracefully get rid of the gift without hurting the feelings of the giver.

God’s gift seems to grow in value the older I get.  It not only never wears out, it is more valuable to me today than the day I first received it.  There will never be a newer, better version of this gift.  I will never look for a way to discard this gift.

If you are someone who sends out Christmas cards, why not pray for each person and/or family as you address your envelopes.  Consider at least one person who you think may be discouraged, lonely and/or feeling hopeless and pray for them AND call them and just ask how you can help them or just listen to them.

Pray for God to bring someone across your path over the next week with whom you can share God’s precious gift.  Remember He willingly gives it to all who ask.  Revelation 3:20 tells us that Jesus is “standing at the door and knocking.  If anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in…”  What a blessing to be in cahoots with God’s Spirit in helping to dispense the gift of eternal life to someone you know or just meet by “chance”.

This can be a season of frenetic activity, some of which can be stressful even for the most joy filled among us.  Here is where our light can shine.  People watch how we respond to life, and a positive response even in the most trying of times might just be our greatest witness.  Chances are that we will run into more than our share of harried, rude, pushy people over the next week.  How we respond to someone else’s inconsiderate behavior will speak volumes about who we are in Christ.

Finally, if our husband/wife doesn’t see Christ living in us, it makes our professed faith seem rather phony and shallow.  Being cheerful and kind to those outside the family but not inside reeks with insincerity and hypocrisy.   

Friday, 13 December 2013

When God’s Word is Perfectly Clear

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 1Corinthians 7:3

Greek Alphabet
I know the meaning of some passages in Scripture allude me.  I am not one to study the text in Hebrew or Greek to ascertain which bible translation does a particular passage the most justice when compared to the original language.  What is disconcerting to me are the passages that are particular clear, i.e. I have no doubt what it is saying, yet I treat it as though it might as well be in a language with which I am unfamiliar.

When it comes to marriage God provided some reasonably clear instructions.  “Men love your wives as much as you love yourself.”  Ten simple words, in fact only one is more than one syllable.   Which word (s) as men would we not understand?

Perhaps the first Peter verse is confusing, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…”  Being considerate does not merely mean to open the car door for your wife, it means get to know them exceedingly well, know everything about them.

To wives He wrote “…the wife must respect her husband.”  I’ll accept that the word respect may be somewhat unclear.  May I suggest that nagging, constructively critiquing or in any way treating your husband as a home improvement project would most likely come under the category of disrespect.

In 1Corinthians7:3 the wife is encouraged to fulfill her marital duty to her husband.  I recognize the term “duty” is ambiguous.

Just a few simple statements as to how husbands and wives should approach one another.  If we as married couples did no more than what God instructed in these few verses we would experience much joy. 

What we have managed to do with marriage is the same thing the Jewish religious leaders did with the Ten Commandments.  As if ten were not good enough the Pharisees and Sadducees added over 600 laws for the Jewish people to follow in addition to God’s Ten, how presumptuous.  In the same way thousands of books have been written on the subject of marriage.  Marriage still boils down to love and respect with the biggest deterrent to doing either being self-centeredness.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Lazarus and Your Marriage

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

John, chapter 11 is the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Just in case you are not familiar with the story I’ll give you a condensed version.  Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary.  Jesus was apparently extremely close to all three.  Jesus himself had referred to Lazarus as the one he loved.  Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus that their brother was extremely ill and asked him to come.  Jesus was about a day and a half away.  Instead of rushing down to Judea Jesus intentionally waited an additional two days before departing.  The sisters were most upset, since they believed that had Jesus come when they called for him their brother would have been spared.  As it was Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  The bottom line was that Jesus in fact called Lazarus out of his tomb.

If Jesus had come immediately Lazarus still would have been saved but it might have been viewed as an ordinary healing of a man who had been sick.  Frankly it took more faith than the sisters of Lazarus or the disciples of Jesus could muster, to think Jesus could resuscitate a dead man.  And that is precisely why Jesus waited.  He wants us to depend on Him.  He wants us to know that nothing is beyond His healing power.  He wants us to know that He loves us as much as He loved Lazarus and that whatever befalls us will ultimately serve His purpose for our lives.

Some of you are in a marriage that is dead, at least your feelings are dead.  Is it remotely possible that this same Jesus could resuscitate your feelings and/or your marriage?  Obviously the answer is yes.  And you, much like those at the Judean grave site, have given up all hope.  From your vantage point there is no way that your marriage will come back to life.

However it is possible, for with Christ all things are possible.  Philippians 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through him who gives us strength.  Most likely you will have to make some changes, even if you feel as though you were the victim and had little if anything to do with the demise of your marriage.  Even if you are only one percent to blame you must work on the one percent.  You must be repentant, broken and humble.  You must seek the Lord with all your heart, asking him to resuscitate your marriage.  This may seem unfair but you can only change you.  God can change the heart of your spouse.

Monday, 9 December 2013

How Bright is Your Light

14 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15 Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. 16 You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it.  Matthew 5:13-14 The Voice

After reading these verses during my morning devotional I began to wonder whether or not I am being salt and light to my wife and to those I come in contact with each day.  More specifically the portion of Scripture that says “let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me…” challenged me to examine how I am or am not being an ambassador for Christ.

This requires that I be other-centered, that I pay particular attention to my wife’s mood and be attentive to what may be bothering her.  This means that when I am in a store or restaurant or with a co-worker I should listen more carefully for clues that might allow me to encourage the individual.

This also means that I am working on my vertical connection to God, that I am spending more time with Him in His Word and in prayer.  The stronger my vertical connection, the stronger my love for God and the stronger my love for my wife and others in my life.
At times I feel more like a dim flicker of a candle than a bright light.  It is at times like this that I have started to ask myself, “Self –what is going on in your heart?  Why the grumpies?”  For I have learned that even though I can’t always identify what is preventing me from being the beacon that I’m called to be, the answer lies within me.  Most likely I am feeling negative about a particular situation.  During times like this I find that seeking God helps me to pull out of my funk and put my focus back on Him where it belongs.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Let Your Child Out

I find that the hectic pace of life seems to keep “my child” locked in his room.  Before you contact the police and report a case of child abuse let me clarify that statement.  When I speak of “my child” I’m not talking about one of my grown children, I’m talking about the little child that still resides in me.  And frankly sometimes it is a case of neglect more than abuse.

I often suspect that most of the couples I work with suffer from the same malady.  Many of them have not been on a literal date night in years.  More importantly many of them haven’t been spontaneous or silly since Ronald Reagan was President.  Humor is almost non-existent.  Not surprisingly their intimacy is more perfunctory than pleasurable, not to mention infrequent.

There are numerous studies that would indicate the importance of laughter, humor and allowing your “adult child” out to play.

There is a good chance that when you dated you had a lot more fun.  It might have been as unimaginative as getting two scoops of double chocolate chunk ice cream on a sugar cone or as silly as laying on the ground in the winter and making snow angels.  When was the last time you skipped?  Have you flown a kite lately or spontaneously packed a lunch and gone on a picnic?  Have you and your spouse gone on a scavenger hunt recently? 

When was the last time you laughed so hard that tears rolled down your face?  Can you laugh at yourself?  Do you and your spouse have some “inside” jokes that only the two of you understand, that brings a smile to your face whenever they are triggered?

The frantic pace of life combined with the natural stressors of everyday life can suck the joy out of even the most optimistic of people.  Matthew 6:34 tells us “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
As a child of the living Savior we have much to be thankful for.  While each day has its challenges make it a point to find some joy.  Make it a point to laugh, to giggle, to do something that you haven’t done for years, that used to bring you pleasure.

A couple that plays together stays together.  I doubt that this corny saying is original with me but I’ll bet there is much wisdom and truth in it. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Time to Get Serious

I did not grow up in a Christian home.  However as I look back the environment was such that it very well could have been based on Biblical principles.  From my vantage point my father appeared to love my mother deeply and my mother seemed to respect my father greatly.  I now know that appearances aren’t always what they seem.  Fast forward.

1Corinthians 10:31
Over the past several years my appreciation for a Christian marriage, not in name, but in actuality has increased immensely.  You’re probably thinking “well of course, you’re a pastor of marriage, you work in a church.”  Let’s just say I’ve grown into the job.  I am begrudgingly willing to admit that a non-Christian couple can have a good marriage but I strongly suspect that if they do, they are applying Biblical principles without realizing it.

Actually I am getting more and more entrenched in my opinion that the purpose of marriage is to glorify God, not to make each other happy or fulfill one another’s desires, etc.  1Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whatever we do we are to do it for the glory of God.  It would only make sense that marriage would be in the category of “whatever we do.”

“Why is the divorce rate among Christians the same as for non-Christians if that is the key?”  Identifying one’s self as a Christian is not the key. The key is where is the person’s heart?  God is the sole judge of who is and who is not a Christian.  Matthew 13 and Matthew 7:23 give some indication that not everyone that thinks they know Christ as Lord actually does.  Is there evidence of the fruit of the Spirit? Does the couple spend time in the Word and in prayer, individually and together?  Would the couple’s check book and calendar suggest they were Disciples of Christ? Are they more other-centered today than they were two years ago, Etc.?

Stephen Arterburn has written a book entitled The 7 Minute Marriage Solution.  I will now commit one of the all-time unforgivable acts.  I’m going to tell you how the book ends.  In the last chapter, sixteen, Steve gives us his formula for transforming your marriage into one that honors God.  It starts with a focused seven minutes.  During a seven minute period he instructs the couple to read a devotional together, read a verse or two from Scripture, discuss it, and pray together.  He is not adverse to the couple spending more than seven minutes but that is a start.  Apparently he has co-authored a thematic Bible and may have even structured it in a way that takes you through this seven minute process.  I just ordered a copy, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, 2 December 2013

In Spite of

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 1Corinthians 5:14-15

Andy Stanley’s series on families (futurefamilies.org) is triggering a number of thoughts for me to ponder, which is apparent from my recent postings.  One of the things that I was not prepared to deal with as a new counselor were the number of clients who were struggling in their marriage, who at the same time had some significant issues with someone in their past.  The wounds they carried may have been inflicted by one or both parents, a sibling, another relative or someone they dated.

Often the anger the person was harboring toward the person who wounded them gets expressed toward their spouse who had nothing to do with the hurt.  In previous postings I have talked about the need for us to forgive those who have left a negative, indelible mark on us.  One reason is because our lack of forgiveness creates a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) in us that often manifests itself in a relation with someone else.

The verses for today remind us and challenge us.  As a born again Christian we should feel “compelled” to love even the unlovable.  Why?  Because in spite of our continued transgressions Christ has forgiven us.  Christ died on the cross even for the one who has so grievously hurt you.

In turn verse 15 basically says, “get over yourself, if I (God) can forgive you for your sins, past, present and future; and endure the pain, and humiliation of the cross, for you and the one who sinned against you, who are you to not forgive such a one?”

We as Christians can be so glib when we acknowledge that Christ died for us on Calvary.  Jesus not only died an excruciating death for you and me, He was separated from the Father and incurred the Father’s wrath, for a brief period in history when your sins and mine were heaped on His shoulders.

In these verses God is saying, my Son died for you so that you might die to yourself.  And in dying to yourself you would be willing to at the very least reach out to the person who has sinned against you.  After all that is what my Son has done for you.

Forgiveness is a must or it will eat away at you, physically or emotionally over time (Matthew 6:14-15).  You are not expected to forget or condone in any way what was done to you.  However Christ’s death should compel you to attempt to reach out to the one who hurt you.


Friday, 29 November 2013

The Infamous “S” Word

“21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” Ephesians 5:21-22

Thank you Jennifer Kring for calling my attention to Andy Stanley’s outstanding series entitled the “Future Family”.  In the second of the series  Andy adds clarity to Ephesians 5:22 which causes much consternation on the part of some women.   The reality is that there are any number of verses in Scripture that if taken out of context could make the reader uncomfortable.  Ephesians 5:22 is perhaps one of those verses.

I’ve always fancied myself as being good with numbers which would lead me to believe that if there is a verse 5: 22 there is most likely a verse 5:21.   Verse five, twenty-one tells us that we, i.e. all Christians, are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  This is a powerful, overriding verse.  Thus out of our deep gratitude and appreciation for what Christ has done for us we are to leverage all that we have and all that we are for one another.  Romans 5:6 provides the anchor for why we should willingly submit.  It says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Ah, there is probably another term that many of us find offensive.  Who are you calling “ungodly”?  That would be you and me.  As sinners, saved by grace, we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrificial, unconditional love. He gave us his all and we are to do likewise for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

If that is the case, and it is, then in a way verse 5:22 is somewhat redundant. This assumes of course that the husband and wife are both Christians. Andy would go on to expand the definition of mutual submission to mean that we should be willing to leverage our time, talents and assets for the benefit of one another.

Perhaps if that were the end of this section of Scripture it would still be a little unsettling since it appears that God is telling the woman to submit not only once but twice.  Ephesians 5:23 through 5:33 adds further clarity to the Biblical role of husbands and wives. As the servant leader, protector and provider the husband is to love his wife as much as he loves himself and if the bar isn’t high enough the husband is to love his wife as much as Christ loves you and me.

All I know is that if I am submitting to my wife out of reverence for Christ and if I am attempting to love her as much as Christ loves his bride, the church, most likely my wife will have no problem submitting to me.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Says Who?

29 Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them. Ephesians 4: 29 The Voice

Do you consider yourself an expert in dealing with human relationships?  Are you able to read minds?  Are you able to foretell the future?  Do you like to feel emotional pain?  Do you enjoy being disappointed, frustrated and hurt?

My guess is that the vast majority of you answered “NO” to the above questions.  So let me ask you another question that will take a little more thought.  What do you say to yourself as you go through each day?
Let me clarify what I am asking and why.  We all talk to ourselves throughout the day.  Research suggests that 77% of our self-talk is negative.  Such talk fits into the category that I call “self-inflicted wounds.”  For unless you are able to read minds, foretell the future, like emotional pain or enjoy being frustrated, disappointed and hurt why on earth would you spend so much time dwelling on the negative?

Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we are to offer “fresh words that build others up when they need it most.”  Why then would you let “rotten words seep out of your mouth” when talking to yourself.

Let’s get more specific.  How often do you have negative thoughts about your partner?  If, as you go through your day, you are thinking “he doesn’t do this”, “she always nags me to…” “ I wish she would get off my case”, and “I’ll bet other husbands don’t spend all their time…” then you are creating a mental quick sand that will just draw you down deeper and deeper.

To satisfy your own curiosity record your self-talk for one day.  At the end of the day see how many of the thoughts were negative and how many were positive.  What topic comprised most of your negative thoughts?   Whether the negative thoughts are about your spouse, your kids, your work, etc. you are subconsciously sabotaging your future.
This is not meant to suggest that when you are in a negative situation you should become a Polly Anna, i.e. approach life as if it were a game that consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation.

However as long as you are going to talk to yourself, and you will, why not dwell on the positive AND when you must consider something that is negative think about how you might make it better.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Two Classes of People

“The way you have been treated has more to do with who you are than what you believe.” Andy Stanley

At first glance one might take exception to the quote above.  Surely if we are devoted followers, i.e. disciples of Jesus, one would think that our allegiance would be to Him, to His way of living, and that we would live our lives in accordance with what we believe.

It is my opinion that what Andy may be saying is that if we were to define “believe” as intellectual ascent then it is quite possible that it is not reflected in our behavior.  Let’s be honest when you strip the Bible down to its most essential component it is very easy to understand, i.e. “love one another as I have loved you.”  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  You don’t have to take a class in hermeneutics, Greek or Hebrew to understand what we are called to do as Christians.  I suspect I just told you something that you already know and hopefully believe.  The reality is mere knowledge does not necessarily change our behavior. 

In his compelling series entitled “Christian” Andy Stanley drives home the point that as Christians, love must be the dominant lead foot. John 13:34-35 clearly spells out that we are to love one another just as He (Christ) loved us, and by our love people will know that we are His disciples.

So who are the two classes of people and what do they have to do with who we have become?

2 Classes:  (1) Those who hurt you and (2) Those who loved you

Only you know if this is a true statement for you.  Are you carrying some deep wounds from the past and have they helped to shape who you are?  Were you neglected or abused as a child?  Are you the product of a broken home?  Did the adults in your life fail to keep their commitments to you?  Were you made to feel that your performance in the class room or on the athletic field was the basis for the love you received?

I think you can begin to see that such negative experiences may shape who you have become more so than an intellectual ascent that we should obey the Great Commandment.  What if we wanted to exhibit the love of Christ to our husband / wife or neighbor what would it look like?

Most of us, even if we had a very difficult childhood can point to at least one person who treated us with love.  That person also influenced who we have become, they became a ray of hope in what may have been a very dark place.  You may have been fortunate enough to have experienced much love, be sensitive to the fact that there are many people who did not.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Whatever You Do

" So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1Corinthians 10:31

I have referenced this verse often.  My approach to marriage counseling is built on this verse as a platform for transformation.  Now I think this verse is perfectly clear.  For I am never in doubt as to whether something I say, or don’t say; or something I do or don’t do is glorifying to God.  There is never a doubt in my mind when my tone of voice or my body language conveys something that is not honoring to the Lord.

I must admit however that some people would like something a little more directive so here goes:

(1)   Don’t do anything that will hurt you.  Understand that you are at once a child of God and a representative of the living Jesus Christ.  If you do things that are harmful to you, i.e. continue in an addictive behavior, etc. you are not a good reflection on the King of Kings.  Your witness as a lamb of God is tainted.

(2)   Don’t do anything that will hurt someone else.  It stands to reason that if hurting yourself grieves the Spirit it will also grieve Him when you do something or say something that hurts someone else.  Nor does it matter whether or not the person you hurt is a brother or sister in Christ.  We are all children of God.

(3)   Don’t be mastered by anything or anybody (other than Christ).  If something masters you, you serve it like a slave.  We can become a slave to power, to wealth, or to possessions.   Some of us have become mastered by our kids or yielded to temptations that control us.
Your Master?
The three categories listed above are from Andy Stanley’s series entitled “Christian”.  I think they make the phrase “to glorify God” very understandable.  Surely we know if we are doing something that is harmful to ourselves whether it is smoking, drinking too much, working too much, watching pornography, etc.

Sometimes it is a little more difficult to determine if we are doing something that will ultimately hurt someone else.  For instance some of us who are people pleasers become enablers.  This is to the detriment of those who need to experience boundaries.  Some of us smother our children, refusing to let them grow up, etc.
If I haven’t meddled in your personal life thus far, perhaps the third category will push you over the edge.  In the US it is very easy to become mastered by any number of things.  Be honest with yourself.  Look at your time management and your finances, two of many good barometers of whether or not you are being mastered. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Tina Turner
What’s love got to do with it?  Around 1980 Tina Turner popularized a song by that name.  However the answer to the question was given to us 2000 years ago.  The answer to the question of “what’s love got to do with it?” is everything.

John 13:34-35 says:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In the book of Romans, chapter 13, and the book of Matthew, chapter 22, we are told that we are to love one another as much as we love ourselves.  In fact in the Romans passage it tells us that by doing so we fulfill all the commands of the law.  In addition to the Ten Commandments there were over 600 laws that the Sadducees and Pharisees (the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel) added to the original ten.  In addition there are several more commandments found in the New Testament.  However this one command “love your neighbor as yourself” fulfills them all.

Practically speaking, as a husband, as a wife, you must ask yourself “What does love require of me today?”  Perhaps you need to ask your spouse to forgive you for something you have or have not done.  Perhaps you just need to give your wife a hug and tell her how precious she is to you.  Perhaps you need to tell your husband how much you appreciate his hard work, and his provision for the family.
Love is the central theme of the Bible.  From beginning to end it is the story of God’s redemptive plan for those He loves.  The cross was the epitome of His love.

There is another song, one made popular around the year 2000 entitled “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love”.   If we were to video tape the way you and your husband/wife relate to one another day in and day out would the viewing audience come to the conclusion that you were Christians?

P.S.  I have noticed a fair number of readers of this blog are from outside the US.  Are there cultural differences that make some of what I write difficult for you to put into practice?