Monday, June 29, 2009

In Sickness and In Health

Wonderful words with weighty implications.

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

What Are You Looking At?!

It's not polite to stare.


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

Take My Advice

Who do you go to for advice? What makes you seek out understanding of things?

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.