Friday, 30 May 2014

Contagious or Contentious

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1 NIV

I want to be very careful that I don’t miscommunicate what I am trying to say.  It would be easy to misread what I intend.  I have had the opportunity to meet with many couples who were struggling in their marriage.  Most often neither the husband nor the wife have much of a vertical connection with the Lord, i.e. they come to church with some regularity, normally for the kids, but God has little impact on how they lead their lives on a day to day basis.  This makes it difficult as a counselor who wants to rely on what the Bible has to say about marriage to help them.

While it is difficult to work with such a couple, at least they are starting at roughly the same spiritual level and they have come to a church for help.

On occasion I have a couple where either the husband or the wife knows as much Scripture as a seminary graduate.  They have a verse for every situation and they are quick to spout it off and hit their partner over the head with it.  They basically beat their spouse into the ground with the Bible.  This is not only not very helpful, it is a total turnoff.  Such an approach of self-righteous indignation would drive me about as far away from Christianity as possible.

If we are living a life that would bring glory to God our demeanor, character and behavior would be contagious.  We would be filled with joy, eager to get up in the morning to see what the Lord has in store, and certainly demonstrate some form of compassion to someone with whom we come in contact.

The person who is so full of themselves because of the amount of Scripture they have memorized and the theological knowledge they have amassed only intimidates others.  There is no humility, no transparency and very little empathy in the lives of such people.  There is little love but a great deal of judgment and condemnation. 

The partner who truly has been born again understands how imperfect they are.  They see the plank in their own eye before commenting on the spec in the eye of another.  They recognize that they are a sinner that needs to change.  They have a growing understanding of how much they have been forgiven.  When both partners come to counseling, when they are both repentant, broken, contrite and humble they can make great strides

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Guilt Free

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
    you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you
    and you’re holding nothing back from him.” Psalm 32:1-2 the Message

Okay let me say at the outset that while I prefer this particular translation of these two verses, I dislike the use of the word “lucky”.  Luck plays no role in the Kingdom of God.  Other translations start with “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven…” which better appeals to my sensibilities.  So you’re thinking “Then why did you use the Message version?”  You were thinking that weren’t you?  The reason is because I prefer the words that follow, i.e. “you get a fresh start…” and “God holds nothing against you…”

Most of the couples who come to see me as a counselor have many things in common.  Let me name two.  First, the problem with the marriage always resides in the other person and secondly each partner comes in with their own list of grievances of how they have been hurt by the other.

My approach to counseling is more prescriptive and it stresses being future focused.  If I keep replaying in my head all the ways my partner has hurt me how helpful is that?  Do you think those messages are coming from God?  If so, guess again.  God doesn’t forget our sins but He chooses not to remember them.  “The slate is wiped clean.”  The more we understand God’s grace toward us the more ready we are to forgive someone else.

As I see it couples who are struggling in their marriage have a few choices.  Seek fulfillment somewhere else, find the one person in the universe, who doesn’t exist, who will make you happy.  Or you can stay together, live parallel lives, and try to minimize further damage.  OR you can do everything it takes to have joy in your marriage, which would be God’s desire for you and your spouse.  But you don’t know what my husband/wife is like.  Your right, I don’t but I have seen enough couples that I know it is pride and self-centeredness that is often what derails couples from making their marriage work.

First you each need to have a vertical relationship with the Lord.  The stronger the vertical relationship the stronger the horizontal.  You need the Holy Spirit!  Secondly you need to be able to approach your marriage as though you are the biggest problem in your marriage and are willing to change, even if you think you are only contributing one percent to the problems.

Why the Holy Spirit?  Because without Him it is unlikely that you will be able to make the changes that each partner will need to make.  That’s why those who enter marriage as a covenant relationship will do the work because they realize that there is no exit strategy and they are not willing to be miserable for forty more years.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.  Psalms 139:14 ESV

When you wake up in the morning do you thank God because you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”?  Do you thank God that your partner for life is fearfully and wonderfully made?  I didn’t think so. 

I for one always wanted to be much taller, have hair, have a great singing voice, have a photographic memory and be able to play music by ear among other things.  It is interesting that as I’ve gotten much older I’m just thankful that thus far none of my original parts have been replaced. 

However I can say that I have been incredibly thankful for the way God has made my wife.  She is wonderfully made.  He has given her wisdom, an incredible ability to figure things out, much creative and artistic ability, and what seems to be an incurable infatuation with me, for which I am most thankful.

In my line of work I normally hear couples grumbling about one another.  “If he would only…; if she could only …” News flash – each of us was fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are as unique as a snowflake.  Your husband / wife was “hand crafted”, so to speak, by the ultimate Designer, the Creator of the universe. Shame on us if we have overlooked the incredible attributes of our spouse while focusing on some flaws.

I wonder what would happen if over the next 30 days we looked intently for a different, positive quality, or trait, skill and/or attribute AND at the end of thirty days presented the list to our spouse.  The first week this might be easy but most likely it will become increasingly difficult as you approach 20 then 30.

Try to stay away from such things as “he can dress himself and tie his own shoes” which may have been flattering when he was three.  Each day thank God for your husband/wife and in particular thank Him for having given him/her the trait you selected for that day.