Friday, December 18, 2009
Sometimes it's the gifts that we didn't expect which bring the most meaning and satisfaction. It's that gift that I never thought about that someone who knew me well knew I would love. I'll never forget the time I bought Bev a gift unannounced. It wasn't Christmas or her birthday. I just found myself wanting to get her something. She liked Fiesta ware and collected the antique dishes. I bought her an antique pitcher and gave it to her one evening.
You would have thought I hung the moon!
With tear filled eyes she told me that was one of the nicest and most romantic gifts I had ever given her. (Note to self: buy more Fiesta!!!) It's amazing what a little forethought and genuine love and appreciation can do to a soul. Especially our spouse.
The Christmas season has become a celebration and also a good excuse for gift giving. The down side is that too often it feels more like an obligation than a privilege. We check off names and hope they like the gift we've chosen. The "safe" gifts are the ones we know they'll like and not have to think too much about. That's not necessarily bad but in my case it can be an excuse to not think too long or creatively.
The beauty of God's gift this Christmas season is that it is the culmination of an eternal plan. He has been planning before the foundations of the world to give the most creative and needed gift the world would ever know. And more than that He chose us to be the recipients of that gift. "...before the foundation of the world...he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ..." Ephesians 1:4,5
It doesn't get any better than that. His gift is exactly what we need.
I want my marriage to be a perpetual reflection of the creative love of God in Christ. I want to put aside my desires for gifts and think more about what would be encouraging and affirming to my wife. Gifts that would last not just for a season but for eternity.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Opening a door for someone to go into a home is putting that person first while telling someone to walk out onto a frozen pond first is more self serving!
So much of life is more about being first. We want to be the first to get a new product or to be recognized as the first choice for a position or honor. We wouldn't necessarily say it that way but when push comes to shove we want to be first. This is also true in our conversations, we want to go first. "Let me explain myself first and then you'll understand."
The scriptures are filled with warnings and instructions about striving to be first. Jesus himself said the first shall be last. The Apostle Paul instructs us that we should be more concerned about the interests of others rather than ourselves. Putting others first is not in our nature. It means we have to deny something, whether it's our opinion or our rights. That just feels wrong.
What's that got to do with your marriage? EVERYTHING!
The challenge is not who gets to go first but who is invited to go first. The gospel is not about being served but serving. The call is to see your husband or wife as a gift from God and the recipient of working out that call of Jesus in your own life. That 24/7 presence in your life is there not to manipulate but to be the object of the love of Christ. A Christ-centered humility must be a growing reality in our marriages. We become more and more desirous to put Jesus first rather than making sure my needs are met first.
Think about it - the beauty and power of the gospel is that God went first. "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins...We love because he first loved us."
I John 4:10,19 Isn't that the uniqueness of this Christmas season? God came first to us before we came to him.
If he did that for us how should that look in our lives and particularly in our marriages? It should free us to be the first to put someone else first. A heart being changed by Jesus is a life that is reflecting Jesus.
YOU GO FIRST.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Beyond all the trappings and trimmings of Christmas the church calls people to come and adore Jesus. Everybody is busy. Everybody is distracted with important things. Yet not everybody is adoring Him.
There is no better calling in life than to come and adore him who is Christ the Lord. And there is no better way than to do that adoring together. Our neighbors should see us as people who love to praise God for the gift of His Son. A gift that has forever changed our love and lives.
This call to worship the newborn king together should be the same for our marriages. Our identity should not be in our circumstances or children but in this primary call, "O Come Let Us Adore Him." A Christian marriage is not simply the bringing together of a man and a woman in union but a brother and sister in Christ as well. The call that brings us together is the call that unites us for the rest of our earthly lives , to come bring glory to the Savior through our lives.
This advent season for those of us who are married should also be a catalyst to call us back to our first love. Jesus has brought you together for a reason. He has come not primarily to help you but to save you. Your heart belongs to him and that love is to be uniquely shared with your spouse to more clearly and effectively adore Him.
"Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning:
Jesus to thee be all glory giv'n;
Word of the Father, late in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord."
Now go and celebrate the season with a renewed desire to have your marriage be a picture of the church's highest calling;
"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!" Psalm 34:3
Monday, November 30, 2009
The holiday season has started and for many that means the pace of life picks up. More shopping, more phone calls, more cards to send, more cleaning and cooking than any other time of the year. And all at the same time!! This is definitely the season to remember our tasks list and all the important things we have to take care of in a few short weeks.
It's also a time to remember our blessings.
Do you remember when you first met your spouse? Do you recall some of those early conversations and how excited you got as you got to know each other? And that wedding day when you exchanged vows before God and those witnesses - the seriousness yet the excitement of sharing the rest of your lives together. Those are good memories. Whether you've been married 5 months or 50 years it's a good thing to remember.
One problem for many couples is that they forget to remember. We can all too easily get caught up in the needs of the day and seasons of life and forget what brought us together in the first place. Hopefully we have matured in life and there are probably some things we should forget but not the blessing of shared love and God's tender providence and blessing.
As professing Christians we serve a God who loves to remember. He never forgets His covenant to His children. Even when we forget Him he never forgets us and more than that because of Jesus - "He remembers our sins no more."
I think deep down inside of us we all want to be remembered. And that is especially true in our marriages. I don't want to be taken for granted or forgotten. I want to believe my husband or wife loves me and loves to remember me daily. Not empty sentiment but true gratitude.
This is the beauty of the gospel. Those who trust in Him will never be forgotten. No one understood this more quickly or clearly than the thief on the cross next to Jesus. His dying prayer was simply, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." To be remembered by Jesus is even more precious than the best of spouses.
Today as you remember and give thanks for the blessing of your husband or wife be even more thankful that God has remembered you.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Psalm 103:2
Monday, November 23, 2009
That should cover it. I have used that over the years in my marriage to try and let Bev know I care about our relationship. That usually lasts about ten seconds! She looks at me with that convicting smile which let's me know she hears me but knows that's not okay.
I hate confrontation and I hate having my sin exposed. Whether great or small it just hurts and I'd rather avoid it. Added to that shame is that fact that I have personally offended someone, especially my wife. There is a specific sin that I have committed intentionally or unintentionally that I have to take responsibility for. I can't play the card of, "I'm sorry for everything I've done wrong."
Marriage is one of the most powerful contexts for my sanctification. The place where my sin is most clearly exposed and the place where forgiveness is most clearly appreciated. The more I hold onto that unconfessed sin (great or small) the more our relationship becomes one of survival rather than growth. I need her love and acceptance but I also need her forgiveness. When we are not right than life is not right.
That sounds alot like our marriage to Christ. Jesus has come not merely to give me love and acceptance but to grant me forgiveness. He has taken away the guilt and the shame. I am free. I don't need to hide nor pretend. Yet when I hold on to those sins things are not right.
When we are not right than life is not right.
The daily call of the gospel is to a life of continual confession and forgiveness. No secrets. No games. His unconditional love is always there not to pity but to restore.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5
May our earthly marriages truly be a reflection of that heavenly marriage. A place where sins are confessed and forgiven. A place where you can truly be sorry and truly forgiven.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The vows we make at the beginning are statements that involve trust. That means I can rely on and have confidence in the fact you will take care of that which I'm giving you. We make vows to love, honor and cherish.
Those vows are exciting yet scary at the same time. Not only am I entrusting my life to someone but they are dong the same to me! What if we don't handle that trust well? We are trusting each other with many unknowns, like the future and our struggles in life. I'd like to believe we'll be able to handle every season of life by trusting each other but what if that trust is broken or challenged?
Here's a news flash: You can't be fully trusted!
We are sinners who at the end of the day are more concerned about our needs than others. We would never state that boldly but it really is our tendency. I can be better trusted when you take care of my needs first. That is not a statement to excuse our sin of selfishness but to keep the reality of the struggle on the table.
The beauty of a truly Christan marriage is that you are entrusting your life to a sinner who is even more concerned about trusting Jesus than just keeping you happy. If I have trusted Jesus with my life there will never be a time when I can't fully rely on him to keep his promise. His commitment to love, honor and cherish is pure and forever - he will never leave me nor forsake me. He has taken my broken promises and shame upon himself and given me his perfect obedience.
The call of the gospel in our marriages comes not from our spouse but from Jesus. It is that same call from beginning to end - "Trust Me." The chorus of the old gospel hymn calls us back to our first love,
Trust and obey for there's no other way
to be happy in Jesus
but to trust and obey.
Today, let's try and be as concerned, (if not more) about our trusting relationship with our Lord than even our spouse.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6
Monday, November 9, 2009
It can also feel invasive.
I fear one of the greatest hindrances to marriage is not necessarily the blatant ones as much as the subtle ones. Like the fact that so many of us have our own "private" world in our minds by which we process life. We often feel this unspoken pressure to resolve things in our lives without involving others, even our spouses. We get use to having a separate world where we go to deal with life and then selectively reveal the process and results.
One of the greatest fears wives have is that their husbands are living in two worlds. They have their world at home with them but then this "other" world they know little about. It doesn't mean they are thinking the worse, i.e. pornography, or adultery - they just want to know what we've been thinking.
When a husband and wife get used to processing life on their own then it becomes a habit. That habit can create an unintended consequence of being more concerned about survival than growth. That partner in life becomes another burden to bear rather than one to bear burdens with. Too many of us get to the point that we feel alone in our marriage. We have our own private world to help us cope with the disappointments and seasons of life.
Not only as a married couple but especially as professing Christians we must live lives of integrity and honesty. We should be known not for our secrets but for our truthfulness. "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Ephesians 2:25
So how do we alter this or prevent it from happening? Try asking this...
"What Are You Thinking?"
But don't stop there. As important as it might be to ask the question it's just as critical to answer it. We show our love and commitment by how we answer as well as how we ask.
Think about it.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
He shared an incident in his family life when one of his children, who are now adults, made a statement about their dad. He was working a lucrative job that demanded he travel frequently. At a parent/teacher conference the teacher shared a response one of his children gave to the question, "How many people are in your family?" The child said five when the teacher knew there were a total of six. When the teacher followed up with the question of why the child said five the response was, "Dad is never home."
It was one of those piercing and convicting works of God's Spirit that would literally change his life. Within a month he had given his notice to the company to change positions. He needed to be home during the strategic season of his kids lives and was willing to sacrifice his own career success for his wife and children.
The point here is not to say if you travel for your work you are messing up your family!
This follower of Jesus knew he had made his career more important than his family. He wanted to make a different statement as a result.
Life really is short and we shouldn't loose the opportunities that God gives us to pass on to our children a legacy that is seen in our lives as well as our words. Jesus knew that what we do with our today's will have an effect on our tomorrows. There are so many daily distractions that take our eyes off the real issues of life.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
Our marriages are the first place our children look to understand what it means to to follow Jesus. May you be partners in life who share that common goal of the honor of Christ. An honor that is willing to say no to the things of the world for the sake of the gospel.
I just thought I would pass on a Good Reminder.
Monday, October 26, 2009
We each carry burdens in life that bring unique stresses that affect everything else in our lives. A hard day at the office, a nagging illness, an argument with my spouse, a bad mood, the demands of children, etc.
Where is my stress relief?!
In a real sense a first place of stress relief should be in our marriages. It should be a place where I can be stroked physically and emotionally. A place for someone to not only bear the burdens of life with me but to help me rest in the midst of them. To know my husband or wife wants to not only hear my cares but to identity with them can bring a unique stress relief to my soul.
That looks alot like the gospel. Isn't that why Jesus came? He has come to bring rest in the midst of this sinful and stressful world. The most critical stress relief he brought was to remove the guilt of our sin. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."He has not only identified with that stress but he has literally taken on the responsibility of that stress.
As professing Christians in marriage our primary task is to remind each other of the rest we have in Jesus. Not only to remind but to reflect that love. I want to love as I have been loved, to care as I have been cared for. Even the best husband or wife can only sooth my stress to a limited degree. I need Jesus.
I want to be lovingly pushed to Jesus. I want to run to the one who alone can bring the stress relief to my soul in the midst of this sinful world. I want to respond to his ever present invitation, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28,29
Today, as that husband or wife bring stress relief to your spouse. It can be that back rub or listening ear but whatever, bring Jesus to them. May God make your home a true oasis for rest and relief as you rest in him.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
How's this for an equation? The more I feel isolated and disconnected the more I need someone to listen to me before I can listen to them. The opposite therefore could be true, the more accepted I am the more I can listen.
Which comes first, being listened to or listening?
James is calling us as followers of Jesus to be first and foremost, good listeners. People who love to hear and understand. People who are known for a slowness in terms of speech and anger. People who legitimately care about the interests of others more than themselves.
The implication for our marriages is very powerful. What are we communicating to our spouses, verbally and non-verbally when it comes to listening? Are we approachable enough so when they say, "Have you got a minute" they don't have to be threatened by our response? Too often, to our shame, especially as husbands we can make our wives feel like they need royal permission to come into our presence and even then not guaranteed a listening ear. Of all the people to be listened to our God-ordained partners in life must know we WANT to hear from them. We cannot be what we are called to be without their involvement and they cannot be involved unless we are open and approachable.
I would suggest the deeper issue is our own marriage to Christ. I wonder how many times Jesus says to us, in essence, "Have you got a minute?" If we are not in the habit of listening to him through the Word and prayer why are we surprised when it becomes hard to listen to others? Jesus loved to listen and because of that people loved to talk to him. And then they wanted him to do the talking!
Your marriage is a powerful catalyst and witness to the work of Christ in your own home and the world around you. We are a people who cried out to God for forgiveness... and he listened. He then spoke words of hope and comfort that would forever change our lives.
Take a minute right now to stop and listen to the Lord.
Now go and listen to your spouse!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Bev and I recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Southern California. I spoke at a church retreat and then we drove down the coast to San Diego. We stopped off for a while in Hollywood.
The Walk of the Stars, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, the studios, and all the time looking for someone famous. We all have that inner drive to be recognized and influential. Whether it's a reality T.V. show or a talent contest we want our 15 minutes of fame.
Everybody wants to be known.
Our culture seems to be obsessed with a desire to have a life outside the routine of our daily existence. "If more people know of me than the more significance and fulfillment I will have." There is nothing wrong with wanting to be appreciated but when that desire becomes an idol than the world and people around us become commodities.
I can't help but think that is part of our problem in marriages today. Schedules, kids, diapers, jobs and the demands of life are not as glamorous and recognized as those in the media. We can somehow feel cheated and envious. Life is hard and that surreal world of T.V. and movie screen can seduce us into believing there is a better life to be offered in this world.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world." I John 2:15,16
The gospel is primarily about living in a broken world not utopia. Jesus has come to give what the world can never give. His death and resurrection have given us a recognition by the highest of all audiences. God himself has unashamedly adopted us as his children and one day the world will be envious. That should be enough to stop us from looking to the world but instead keep our eyes on Jesus.
But...everybody wants to be known.
May God help us this day in our marriages to walk humbly before God and our spouses and may Jesus be center stage for all the world to see.
Monday, September 21, 2009
What do people say and think about your view of life together as a married couple? In an article in Newsweek magazine they interviewed adult children of divorced parents and one person said this about his friends parents, "Most of my friends had divorced parents, and the ones that weren't should have been divorced."
What causes marriage to have such a bad rap? We do.
When we succumb to just surviving and putting up with each other we look alot like the world. Everybody is trying to put up with someone but it's usually with people we are not "stuck" with. Too often the reputation of marriage is that it has a great beginning and the rest of it is filled with regret.
It's hard to be excited about the institution of marriage when you see so many high profile people no sooner starting with great fanfare but ending all too quickly with bitterness and disillusionment. Add to that the reality of so many of our friends and relatives coming to the same conclusion.
It's almost contagious!
The world needs to see marriage as one of the most challenging yet rewarding crucibles of life. A place to work out the issues of life for the rest of your life. And particularly a place where the reality of the gospel of Jesus is increasingly visible. A place where the reputation of Jesus is more important than our own.
Isn't that a lot like our Christian lives? Too often we see life more in terms of survival than growth. To hang on with regret rather than to grow with confidence because of Christ. What reputation of the Christian life are we giving as well?
Paul's reputation and identity was that of one who was always striving and struggling. His desire was not to survive but to press on. "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:12.
May God make our marriages places of attraction with a reputation that others will desire for the honor of Christ.
Monday, September 14, 2009
This past weekend I played into the final hand of a surprise my family had been planning for two months - a 60th birthday party that was something I'm still processing! There were friends and family from every season of my life and even my mom who is now 88 years old!
My heart felt like it stopped when they all yelled SURPRISE! and I started visually taking in the people who had come. Family and friends from every season of my life were there. From high school to my years in Philly ... faces and stories that brought back a rush of memories and a heart filled with praise to God for his blessings.
Then there is my family.
In that "out of body" experience I found myself looking at my wife and children. There they were - the one constant throughout every season of life. Meg, Mat, and Erin. My children are now adults, married to spouses who love Jesus as well, growing in their own seasons of life. Each one has a special place in my heart. A place no one can replace and only God knows how much they mean to me and how grateful I am to Jesus for blessing me with each of them.
Then there is Bev.
The mother of my children. The woman in my life who holds a unique place in my heart. God only knows what I would be without her. We grew up in the same place, same schools, same friends and because of her - the same God. And we are both 60 years old! It doesn't get any better than that!!
Then there is Jesus.
He is the constant in my life that no one can replace. Even the precious gift of my wife and children. I have been blessed by them because they are a gift from him. Jesus was the ever present guest at my party and I couldn't help but see him as well.
The "shock and awe" of my party still lingers but so does this, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I John 4:10
Thank God for the blessings he sends and especially your spouse and family. Yet let those blessings lead you once again to the source of all blessings and be thankful!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Another song from my past that not only brings back memories but is a good reminder as well. The perpetual challenge to marriage in every season of life is to not give enough thought to our spouse.
Our lifestyles do not allow very much time to think.
Even taking time to read something like this blog too often means we have to give up something else. Our minds are preoccupied with our checklist of things we have to do before the day is done. The demands may be legitimate but don't allow much room to seriously consider other things or people. The economy, our children, community interests...too much to do, too little time to think! Even with our marriages we can go through an entire day without thinking about our spouse. If you do this too often you have a marriage that is more concerned about survival than growth.
If I'm honest, many of my marital frustrations come because I haven't taken the time to give one little thought to Bev. My interactions too often are reactions to her rather than proactively moving toward her in love and appreciation. What she is feeling is common in many ways to most marriages.
We take our partner for granted.
Their love, support and understanding will always be there so the temptation is to presume on that commitment and not appreciate it. I don't have to "think" about what her love means to me - just enjoy it!
The implications for us as Christians is pretty significant and especially in our marriage to Christ. We can go through a whole day of activity without ever thinking about the love and commitment of Jesus. We presume on his love and perhaps take it for granted. We then go throughout life reacting rather than appreciating. We become more concerned about surviving as Christians instead of growing.
Could it be that Jesus is saying to us the same thing this song implies, "Once in awhile won't you try to give one little thought to me...?" It's amazing how quickly you can renew your heart's love for the Lord by simply stopping and thinking about him. Why not take 2 minutes right now just to thank him for his steadfast love for you. And for the fact that he is ALWAYS thinking about you!
Monday, August 31, 2009
"O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" Psalm 39:4
I'm still processing the experience. It's a good time to reflect on past, present and future issues. The older I get the more I appreciate God's sovereign watchcare. He was clearly watching over me and drawing me to himself. One of the constants in my life throughout the years has been my partner in life and marriage.
We are childhood sweethearts. We have been married for 36 years but I have known her at least 50 of my 60 years of life! I don't want to take that for granted. The Lord, in his sovereign wisdom used Bev and her family to show me Jesus and lead me to him.
Isn't that to be the purpose and goal of our marriages? To show Jesus to each other and the world. Life really is too short to be spending so much of our time and energy on things that won't last. Eternal issues become more important and necessary as we grow older. And there is no better place to be reminded of those things than in our marriages. To have a partner in life to share not only the adventures with but to remind each other of our eternal hope.
Our marriages don't last forever but our relationship with Jesus does.
I love Bev more now than I did before. Not simply because of all the experiences of life we have had together and the fact that she has put up with a lot! We have precious memories of life together in each season. Starting out with little money but lots of love. The blessing of children and lots of worries about doing things right. Saying goodbye to our adult children and facing a new season of life alone again.
Yes we are older but richly blessed with memories of God's faithful love.
Getting older can be unsettling in our youth obsessed culture but there is a blessing in age and marriage that can't be matched. Truly knowing that the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Whatever season of life you are in your marriage - keep building it on the promises of God fulfilled in Christ. Thank God for that partner in life who is also your brother or sister in Christ and make the most of the years he gives you in this fleeting life!
Friday, August 21, 2009
I love to remember things and people. I think it is wrong to romanticize the "good old days" but we should not forget them either. I've been having the urge to go back and organize some old photos and look at the home movies we made. My problem is that I can't get very far without spending a lot of time just looking and remembering and not organizing!
I want to pull Bev aside and tell a story with each photo. Do you remember when we took this trip? Do you remember the nick names we gave our kids and why? Or how about this picture of us all at Disney World in the cold rain wearing ponchos and 3-D glasses with your parents?!
Some pictures are seared in our minds and not in printed form. Like the first "real" argument we had in our marriage that ended in spaghetti all over the floor amidst tears and laughter.
I think it is important to have tangible reminders of the past. The primary reason for us as Christians is to remember how faithful God is to His commitments. The bible is filled with examples of remembering the things God does for His people. One clear example is in Joshua 4 when God tells Joshua to pile 12 stones together after he stopped the waters of the Jordan river. The only reason given was so that when the children ask what do these stones mean the story of God's salvation would be recalled to the next generation.
That's a good practice for every season of your marriage. It can be an encouraging tool that the Holy Spirit uses to remind you of His faithulness especially when you feel discouraged or weary.
Try it today. Pull out an old picture or look again at the rings on your fingers. Remeber how God blessed you and be thankful. Look ahead and make new memories as well.
Don't forget to remember.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I just returned from performing another wedding. This one was for my niece which made it even more meaningful. Watching this young couple starting their new adventure with excitement and wonder brought back a rush of memories. They were entrusting their lives to each other in the presence of many witnesses and especially before God. That can be scary as well as wonderful! What will the future be like? How will we really get along?
As Christians our foundation and hope has to be in the promises of God in Christ whether we just got married or have been married for 30 years. Lord willing, this couple will have many years ahead of them in which to grow more deeply in their love for each other and particularly in the sufficiency of Christ's love to help them not merely survive but to thrive.
At the same time this couple was beginning their lifelong commitment another marriage was ending. A couple that started with the same dreams and desires have come to a place where those vows were just a memory. They professed the same love for Jesus and trust in Him.
The statistics are unnerving. The fact that we see this as, just the way things are, is even more upsetting.
At the risk of sounding overly simplistic I think the problem is not always our spouses or our circumstances but the fact that we have lost our first love. I fear the gospel in our marriages has become more medicinal than life changing. It's more about how Jesus fits into our lives than how we MUST live in Him.
The growing obsession for my niece and her husband must be to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." As soon as we begin seeing our commitment to Christ as an appendage or another way to help us stay together we begin to undermine the very vows we took at the beginning.
Don't wait for a ceremony but renew your vows today. In the presence of your spouse and your savior remind each other of what you have declared. "To love, honor and cherish til death do us part." It's not a survival tactic but a biblical mandate sealed with the blood of Christ.
Do it for Jesus' sake.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
If the sky is falling or the building is collapsing it is not the time for determining how people are feeling or different ways to handle the situation - just run!!
Yet when it comes to our marriages I believe we too often ignore the opportunities for the little things as we wait for the big things we expect to face. What if we don't have enough money? What if our kids get rebellious? What if we loose that lovin feeling?
Sometimes we focus on the things that we can't control and forget about the little things. If I practice on a daily basis caring for the little things in my spouse's life I think we would be more apt to handle the big changes that come. A word gently spoken, a helping hand without being asked. Those little things we do to and for our spouse can actually be powerful tools of encouragement that remind us we are in this together.
We will all face big things in life that require immediate attention. Yet let us not loose sight of the little things that we should be about today. This is not to be a checklist of routine obligations but a more second nature desire to love in the little things. We can't do this unless we give some time thinking about it. Take two minutes today to think of something specific that would bring refreshment to your husband or wife. What could you do that would make them know you had been thinking about them and wanted to show some expression of appreciation?
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8
Your partner in life is a gift from God and worthy of thoughtful love. Love your husband or wife in little ways that reflect a heartfelt gratitude to God. Know as well that your savior Jesus does that for you each and every day. He loves you in the little ways as well as the big.
Because, little things mean a lot.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
There is a definite downside in making assumptions. "Why do you always assume you know what I'm thinking without even asking?!" That has too often been Bev's reaction when we are trying to work through a problem. I assume I know what the problem is for her and how she can resolve it. I assume the problem has to do with other things and people in her life. It really has nothing to do with me.
Maybe I need to start making another assumption. My motives are not always as sincerely driven as I think they are. Perhaps if I'm honest with myself I don't really want to listen to my wife and worse yet, assume some kind of responsibility for her struggle! I'd rather just "fix" her problem and with my gifts and abilities help her get back to living. My subtle pride and arrogance leads to a patronizing attitude that only adds to the frustration.
How's this for another assumption? I need to take to heart the biblical mandate to be, "quick to listen and slow to speak." and to be genuinely more interested in others than myself. If I don't do that in my own home with my wife I really can't do that with others. That's hypocrisy.
May God make us husbands and wives who assume we need each other to be all that we are called to be in Jesus. "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:4
Monday, July 20, 2009
One of the effects which can occur is that a couple starts to feel there is some fatal flaw in their marriage that is holding them back. It can also lead to growing feelings of jealousy and regret. We almost start coveting other spouses thinking we could have a happier life with someone else!
Once again the church can be a place where we are reminded of our brokenness and hypocrisy not by the preaching of God's Word but by comparing ourselves to other people. It's more important what people perceive about us than who we really are. In a culture that is so image driven the church too often can function like the world. Instead of an oasis it's just another place to pretend.
Having an image becomes more important than having humility.
In Galatians 5 Paul is comparing the fruit of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. Those more concerned about themselves, that is the flesh, will produce things like jealousy, rivalry and envy. On the other hand those who walk in the Spirit are known by things like peace, patience and self control.
It all starts in the heart. It has to be seen in the home before it can be appreciated in the church and the world. I have to stop pretending in my marriage and live with integrity and humility before my spouse. I have to make my daily prayer what David cries for in Psalm 139:23,24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Let's go to church not to view others but to be viewed by God. And in turn let's look for ways to build others up in Christ rather than wonder how others see us.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"You have a very understanding wife!"
When my job or ministry becomes more important than my wife that's when erosion sets in. It's not always visible at first. A little here, a little there. We're still standing but the foundation is beginning to crumble.
Why is it that we get so use to the fact that our spouses love and support us that we all too easily take that commitment for granted? We almost unintentionally take advantage of their love and wonder why they feel unimportant at times. And then when we are confronted we immediately turn it back on them accusing them of not supporting us!
The erosion takes the form of a growing emotional separation. The one are becoming two. Not quickly or immediately but gradually. You just start getting use to the fact that, "that's just the way life is." The next step is then to start being more concerned about yourself and your needs than those of your spouse. We justify it by believing we really can't give to him/her unless they reciprocate. The final conclusion is then that they are actually hindering me from becoming what God wants me to be.
What a mess that husband or wife has made of my life!
Could this all be a masquerade to hide from the fact that I'm not taking my first love seriously? Why is the gospel and the honor of Christ not more important than the support or lack therefore of my spouse? Why do I let other "important" things get in the way of my love for her and in turn my love for Christ?
Maybe I need to get back to being truly motivated by the love and Christ and stop taking advantage of it.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." Ephesians 5:25,28
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I'm doing fine. I'm eating okay and getting caught up on things and people. It's actually been fun and productive. Independence has it's benefits.
But something is missing. I'm just not myself. Maybe I'm a closet wimp and don't want to admit it!
I really am dependent on Bev. These times remind me just how much a part of my life she has become. It's more than just "meeting my needs." Her smile, her comments, her idiosyncrasies all are a part of her life that I not only have become accustomed to but even dependent upon. Although I can live alone I'm just not myself without her.
That's exactly what life in Christ is all about. There is a direct correlation between the metaphor of marriage and the Christian Church. Life in the body of Christ is the same as a Godly marriage and vice versa.
We are called to trust in Christ alone but never to live alone.
I cannot be who I'm am called to be in Christ unless I live dependably on the body of Christ. I need the gifts, the presence, the voices of my brothers and sisters not simply to meet my needs but to become all I'm called to be and unable to be without their involvement in my life. It becomes second nature to depend on and look forward to growing with those closest to me spiritually. I want to have my identity in Christ but not apart from the body of Christ.
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." I Corinthians 12:12,27
I love my wife and can't imagine my life without her - EVERYDAY.
I love the Church of Christ and can't imagine my life without her - EVERYDAY.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've promised to love my wife when she is beautifully healthy (No Problem) and when she is unattractively sick (Help!) It's a lot easier to love someone when a problem is quickly addressed but when it takes more energy or interrupts my life then my true character and commitment are challenged.
How would you advise a new couple about to be married? What one piece of advice would you give them? How about:
*Put Jesus first
*Pray together daily
*Go out on dates
*Learn to listen
How about: "Take your vows seriously"
Our wedding vows are some of the richest and moving commitments anyone could declare. Especially, "before God and these witnesses."
It's about a single-minded obsession to do whatever it takes to nurture, build up and truly love my spouse until I die. No matter what the cost or condition.
That sounds an awful lot like the love of Christ to His bride. The Apostle Paul was obsessed with getting believers to understand just how seriously Jesus took His vows. He would do whatever it took to present His bride as beautiful and glorious before His Father. Paul used the metaphor of marriage to show believers what it means for God to love His people. The passage in Ephesians 5 is the classic instruction book for husbands and wives but I fear at times we see it more as a handbook for our roles rather than as a picture of the gospel. Even the Apostle qualifies it when he says, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." I would argue that the context of Ephesians 5 is that Paul is more concerned about us understanding the love of God through Christ than "how to get along in marriage."
Here's a suggestion: Go back and review your vows of marriage.
Better yet - go back and review your vows of membership and commitment to Christ and His Church.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I love to look at people in different gathering places. Whether it's in a shopping mall, a sports event or church it's interesting to watch people. Perhaps that's why I minored in Sociology - I'm fascinated with people!
Sometimes that can get you in trouble when your wife or worse yet the people you have been staring at say, "What are you looking at?!" I need to be more subversive and sly about how I stare but it's intriguing to me to look and wonder what that person or couple are really like. If you are close enough you can even hear the language and see the facial expressions. This can reveal a lot about how people relate and especially married couples.
In one way or another we are all in the public arena. People are looking at us. People like me are watching people like you! How you shop, the way you dress, the reactions you give at the check out counter, etc. your character comes out.
This is especially true in our Christian lives. People are watching. How does one who professes to be a follower of Christ handle life? What does it mean that Jesus Christ is Lord of every aspect of my life? What does it look like?
Those of us who have made a public profession of Christ have made an exciting yet serious commitment. In essence we have invited the world to stare at us. I have always been intrigued and convicted by the Apostle Paul's statement in I Corinthians 11:1 when he says, "Be imitators of me (or followers) as I am of Christ." In other words he is telling others to look at his life and live as he lives.
Think of the implications if we all remembered this aspect of the call of the gospel. Not only in our individual lives but I would argue especially in our marriages. What does the gospel look like in a marriage? The world should be invited to look at every Christian marriage and see, not perfection, but the reality of a joyful struggle in living for Jesus.
WARNING: This is not about keeping up the image of "Christian" but about the reality of working out our own salvation daily for the glory of Christ.
You and I who are Christian and married should not be offended when we turn around and find someone has been staring at us. They have every right to and every need to see what true God-ordained love is to look like - they should see Jesus.
May God make us a people who are true to our calling in the world as well as the church.
"What are you looking at?!"
Monday, June 1, 2009
Too often we wait until things are almost at a high stress level or crises before we see our need for help. Our culture and our nature are prone to wait until we run out of our own energy and wisdom before soliciting support.
The Bible's basic message from the Lord is , "Take My Advice."
The wise person is the one who is in the habit of seeking advice in order to grow in life not merely reacting to it. A young man recently approached me with the phrase, "I'd like to get your advice." He had been married less than a year and wanted to talk about the place of the church in their lives. He had ideas but he also had questions. His desire was to establish a pattern of spiritual growth early on in his marriage to build on a foundation that would be a source of strength through every season of their lives.
He's a wise husband.
It took me back to my first year of marriage as well. I remember clearly two pieces of advice that came directly from scripture. Neither passage dealt directly with marriage but as I look back I realize they had everything to do with marriage. The first came by way of my best man, my brother, who gave me a gift with a simple verse, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) Jesus has a way of saying things that cuts to the heart of the matter. That advice has been a haunting and powerful reminder for us as to the ultimate purpose of our lives and our marriage.
The second piece of advice came from the book of Proverbs, 3:5,6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths." Bev and I committed ourselves to this passage when we were young and naive but it has proven to be some of the best advice we ever received. We have learned many hard lessons when we realized we were more concerned about our hearts desires and wisdom than the glory of God. In the same way we have seen how Jesus has grown us in our love for Him and each other.
The key for all of us is to get into the habit of seeking advice. Godly counsel is a wonderful desire for every believer and every marriage. To cultivate the attitude that says to the Lord and His Word, "I'd like to get your advice on...."
Don't take my word for it - take the Lord's advice.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Can I trust my spouse with the knife? What if it really hurts? Maybe it would be better to live with the disease!
Trust is a hard thing.
I have to trust not only my spouse but the God who brought that one into my life. That imperfect vessel can actually be used of God to bring about perfection in my life. I want to find reasons not to listen or let my wife "cut" me open. I want to determine when the surgery is needed and how it is to be administered. I want to be the one who says, "Trust me, I know What I'm Doing!"
Yet if I can't trust my spouse in the spiritual realm at times than how can we grow in ways that truly reflects Jesus and not some religious subculture? The one another passages are as relevant to our marriages as they are to the body of Christ.
"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:15,16
We can't do that unless we can trust each other, unless we are willing to listen and believe that the Sovereign God can and will work through others he brings into our lives.
It's not so much that we have to listen to our spouses as we do the Lord when he says, "Trust Me I know What I'm doing!"
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
It was like an out of body experience. I was listening to these young men talking about loving their wives and at the same time remembering my early years in marriage.
Where did the years go?!
I asked them what they had learned so far about marriage and their response was almost in unison, "it's hard work!" As we talked it was obvious they were not regretting being married but honestly and maturely expressing their feelings. They were learning the necessity and the benefit of learning to say no to some of their own desires for the sake of their spouses. I think we left feeling we had more in common than we realized and encouraged to work even harder.
We also realized we were not just talking about marriage but the call of Christ.
That brief time was a powerful reminder to me especially as to how the Lord has used my wife as an instrument of sanctification. The character issues of the gospel are more clearly brought to bear when you have to listen to, love, and learn from someone who is always in your life. The Christan life, like marriage, is hard work but in the grace of Christ both will produce growth in life and glory to God.
I pray these young men will continue on in this joyful struggle in marriage and the Christian life. I pray as well that they will continue to have man to man talk with other men and especially the Son of Man for the rest of their married life.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The above quote is from When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey. In the book he highlights the challenges and the blessings of being married to another sinner - in Christ.
There is a lot to think about in his quote.
What if I really believed that God intentionally chose my spouse for me from the foundation of the world? This was His design for me that my spouse would bring out the issues of life in Jesus in a way that was perfectly suited for me. Your husband or wife is primarily an instrument from the hand of God to be used for your sanctification.
In a real sense your partner is there to protect you from yourself. The tendency is to see life from your own needs and perspectives and then determine how everyone else fits into that worldview. The fact that we get on each others nerves at times is not necessarily bad but could actually be part of God's plan to make us deal more directly with Him.
The Apostle Paul in Romans 12 tells followers of Christ, "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment..." To have a true biblical view of ourselves we need only go to the cross. You and I had nothing worthy of God's love but because of our condition Jesus took that judgment on Himself. To reflect on the price paid for our sins on Calvary will produce "sober judgment" as to how we view others and especially our spouses.
Our marriages are the place where the cross is to be seen most visibly.
We can't really reflect the gospel if we are more concerned with ourselves than growing with our partner in Christ. Be thankful that God, who knows best, saw fit to bring that person in your life to help you fall more in love with Him than yourself!
Monday, April 6, 2009
The power of the movie screen is seen when the camera pulls back to reveal all the other factors involved in the scene or story. Whether it's a military battle, or landscape scene the story line is much more engaging and exciting.
I need a panoramic view of life!
As a Christian who believes God's word, the Bible, I am reminded in 2Peter 1 that "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." The problem occurs when I loose that perspective. Peter addresses that issue a view verses later when he gives an answer as to why we are not growing in Christ as we should. "For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind..."
There's that narrow lens again. When I only see what is in front of me I loose sight of the big picture which in Peter's view is to loose sight of the cross. The greatest daily challenge is not to see or worse yet, forget that "I have been cleansed from my sins."
What does that have to do with marriage?
I think we need a panoramic view of our marriages. To see as God sees. There is a lot more going on in our homes and marriages than just getting along. God is endeavoring to do a deeper work in our hearts that is centered not on us but on His Son. The purpose of our marriage is the same for the Christian life - to bring glory to God by becoming more and more like Jesus. The daily challenges and blessings are part of a bigger script and we need to be reminded of the eternal perspective of all that is happening. My husband or wife is a part of God's plan to bring about that work in my life.
What difference would it make if I knew that the script had already been written from all eternity? God had carefully and compassionately planned for my salvation and my sanctification. My role is not to rewrite the plot but to rest in Him and try to see the big picture every day. To believe that "for those who love God all things work together for my good and His glory."
May God make us husbands and wives who are even more concerned about the big picture as much as we are the daily scenes in our lives.
Monday, March 30, 2009
A second purpose is to place us in a situation in which change is demanded.
Our differences _when understood, appreciated, and allowed to be used by God - are those things God created for the great purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son (or, as Proverbs puts it, to sharpen one another). What do you get when iron rubs against iron? Heat. Sparks fly. But if the pieces are rubbed in the right way, they inevitably sharpen each other."
This quote comes from a book, Opposites Attract by Jack and Carole Mayhall. It's been a great reminder for Bev and I as we work through issues and in particular the place of the gospel in our marriage. Too often our differences become the problem and we end up attacking rather than sharpening each other.
What if we truly believed our differences were actually ordained of God for the purpose of growing us in Jesus personally as well as corporately? If we believe God is sovereign then that means He brought us together with our differences intentionally. He wants to do something to and with us that is more important than us. We "get on each other's nerves" not because God is out to make us miserable but to make us more like His Son.
I think we give up too soon.
It's hard work. Who wants to admit to sin and pride? It's easier to put up with or tolerate our spouses than to put on Christ and learn from them.
The Apostle Paul had great concerns for how the gospel was to honored among those who claimed the name of Jesus. Romans 12 is a clear picture of Paul's passion for the honor of Christ personally and relationally. For example when he says in Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment... and again in verse 10, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. These are not mere platitudes but expected out workings of the gospel in our lives. I love the phrase, "Outdo one another in showing honor." The implication is to think more about the other person than yourself. What would that look like in a Christ centered marriage? How would that affect the way we see our differences? To see as Jesus sees, to love as Jesus loves, not primarily for our sakes but for Jesus' sake. All of this occurs in the context of Paul describing the body of Christ as consisting of many different gifts and how we are to view each other.
What better context to work out and appreciate differences than our marriages?!! May God grant us a renewed desire to appreciate our differences and use them for His glory.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
And we need, above all, a definition of love that can help us to live and love with, rather than against, the natural course of time and human nature."
This quote is not from a Christian counseling book on marriage but rather from a book I've mentioned before, The Marriage Benefit by Mark O'Connell. He is a secular psychologist who exposes a screaming need in marriage that only a biblical view can truly satisfy. We need a definition of love that spans a lifetime which is rooted not in our own happiness and needs but in the journey of working out love in the context of a partner who shares that commitment.
Easier said than done. If it's not divorce it's emotional suicide. The statistics of broken marriages are depressing and distressing. And the response of our culture as well as the church? "That's just the way life is."
We need a new definition of love.
"...and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I John 4:7,10
For too many of us as professing Christians this is an appendage to our marriages rather than the essence of them. How often do I yearn and hunger to understand my identify with Christ? One who has been born of God. One who knows God. I cannot truly know love apart from God, in Christ and the more I know and understand Him the more I will reflect his love out of gratitude not mere obligation.
Perhaps to our shame we as professing Christians have looked for love more to the world and ourselves than to the scriptures. We want quick answers to our disappointments rather than believing the all sufficient love of God in Christ.
The implications are serious and demand hard work.
That's a theme for another blog on another day!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
What then proceeded to happen was one of those molehill to mountain events. I assured her I had her welfare in mind and she challenged me about the sincerity of my motives. "Maybe you were actually thinking more about yourself than me which is why you didn't even bother to ask."
Ouch! In the name of good intentions and sincerity I was actually more concerned with my needs at the time. A little thing, sure, but it escalated and I found myself defending my sincerity and not really listening. Then do you know what happened? The more we debated the situation the more I found myself questioning her motives and assuming she was the problem. How did we get to the level of arguing over a "little" thing like turning off a TV?
As I reflected back on that night I realized the problem wasn't the remote control. The problem was that once again other things crept in to interrupt the habit of us having daily communication. When you don't take time for each other you tend to rely on your intentions and assumptions thinking your spouse knows what your thinking. Granted, there can be seasons of busyness that seem to crowd out your relationship but that can't be an excuse for neglect.
Marriage is hard work. Walking with Christ is hard work. That doesn't mean it is not rewarding but the rewards are not primarily comfort and security but a love that reflects our savior. The more we assume the perfect love of Jesus the more we are free to give the love of Jesus.
"...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires."
Friday, February 27, 2009
Perhaps one of the most intimate and thus painful contexts for that sanctification is in our marriages. Listen again to a secular marriage counselor's observation as to the reason for this difficulty. "...we have deep and inbred capacities to change and grow, and that taking shared, creative risks with someone loved and trusted enhances these capacities. But let's not fool ourselves - marriage is hard. And if there is one single factor that makes our marriages hard, it is that they become crucibles for our own individual pain."The Marriage Benefit, Mark O'Connell
Biblicaly speaking that crucible is the place where eternal issues arise. We want to know Christ and to make Him known. That means we want to see as He sees, listen as He listens, love has He loves. What's going on in your marriage right now? Where does Jesus fit in? Not as a medicinal tablet to ease some pain but to grow you more into His likeness.
Le't not run from the struggle but belive that God has brought our spouses into our lives to bring out Jesus more clearly and fully. "Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1,2. It's really not about us but aobut Him and the call is to bring out the fragrance of Christ in our relationships, and especially in our marriages which are to be pictures of the gospel we declare to be our first love.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The unspoken values of our culture control us more than we would like to admit. You don't have to be an insightful Christian to be able to see it's effects. The author I mentioned before who deals with marriages in our culture states it this way, "We live in a culture that promises us Teflon-smooth lives lived with a minimum of hardship and a maximum of gratification. We are, it follows, quick to substitute grievance and blame for acceptance when times get tough."
Our spouses quickly become the focus of our life's disappointments. If my life is not working out the way I planned than surely the problem is outside of myself. Something or someone is hindering what I desire and deserve.
Where does the gospel of Jesus fit into this? I would suggest the first place is within our own hearts not our marriage or circumstances. Am I willing to first determine the blind spots in my own vision that might even be hindering the very work of the gospel?
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Here is a major premise of his work, "...in this age of fast and easy gratification giving things time is becoming a lost art."
I found myself convicted throughout the book as to how I have been shaped more by my culture and my own desires than than by the call of Christ. Just that one thought alone, "giving things time" is a haunting reminder to me of what is too often lacking. I hear more about why people want to give up on marriage than on how to make it work. Could it be because it's just too hard to truly grow in that relationship?
In a culture where we are obsessed with youth and euphoria we need a clear reminder to endure or "give things time." There is a direct parallel again between marriage and the Christian life. Jesus calls us to bear patiently or to give things time rather than assume His promises will not hold true. I fear that's also becoming a lost art in our Christian lives.
I'll be quoting often from this book in the future but for now remember this more important quote, "...let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..."Heb.12:1,2