Monday, November 29, 2010
Some things we can sort of let slide by but when it comes to important things like anniversaries or birthdays or special needs that are forgotten - it hurts. What hurts even more is when that spouse comes back a day after promising to remember and says, "Would you remind me again of what we talked about? They have a general recall but can't seem to remember the details. There might be some legitimate reasons but it still can feel discouraging.
Yet there can be some times when the pleas to help someone remember can be a good thing. Like the son who called his father after having a hard day simply said, "Dad, you don't have to give me a talk or sermon, would you just remind me that life is really about Jesus?" He wanted to be reminded of some things he forgot. Like the fact that God still loved him and was still in control.
What would a marriage be like if the two who loved Jesus were asking each other on a regular basis, "Would you remind me again?" when it came to the things of God? The motive would not be laziness but humility. Knowing how prone we are to forget the Lord is actually a sign of maturity to ask to be reminded. The Apostle Peter was really working off that assumption when he told fellow believers, "I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder." I Peter 1:13 What better thing in life to be reminded of then the love of Jesus? I can forget a lot of things but I really don't want to stop being reminded of my first love. And what better way to build a marriage than on the love of Christ and the privilege of encouraging each other to remember Him.
As a Christian what do you want to remember today that you know is true about Jesus that you too easily forget? Now, go ask your husband or wife that same question!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
An emotional button gets pushed that brings out all kinds of "junk." We start saying things that really have nothing to do with driving. We are suddenly arguing about the deficiencies we see in each other. The platform of driving becomes an excuse to bring out all the dirty laundry we have been collecting. Any psychologist would have some ripe fruit to pick from in discussing our relationship!
So what does the gospel have to do with that moment in my marriage and driving? EVERYTHING.
It's a biblical fact that these are actually God ordained moments to see the relevancy of Christ. They are designed to give you what you want most as a Christian - that the things of Jesus would be more second nature in how I live before the world but especially my spouse. "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." James 4:1,2
I don't want to be so effected by things outside of me that I actually bring shame to the Savour who lives in me. One way to prevent that from happening is to literally and figuratively "pull over." To ask for forgiveness and to ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see what's really going on in the car.
You can take turns driving but you should never take turns striving to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The problem for many young people and adults is that this game takes on new meaning that is not fun. We spend much of our life hiding and not because of the thrill but the fear of being found. The childish innocence has been replaced by betrayal and hurt. Scars and wounds that never seem to heal. Pains that seem better to deny than to face or relive again.
Then we get married.
We desperately want that intimacy and trust that allows us to be found. To not have to hide anymore. Not only that but to know that there is someone who will always be seeking us for all the right reasons. A healthy marriage is a safe place. A place to hide not from each other but from the world. A spouse that knows me so well that even when I try to hide they will always find me. A love that is not only haunting but comforting. A love that won't let me go.
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?" Psalm 139:7 There is a deeper love that we need even more than the closest spouse. There is a place to hide that is safer than the safest marriage. God is a jealous God and wants us to run to him even more. We will never have to hide from him but he wants us to be "hidden" with him. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3
If you as a husband or wife can truly be hidden with Christ you will be free to love with that same love. You will constantly be seeking you partner for all the right reasons. You might even get more competitive not to hide but to seek. To seek the best in each other for Jesus' sake and to be a picture of a love that truly sets you free.
My you never stop finding each other and may you never stop seeking Jesus.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
We also live in bodies that are bearing the effects of sin. As Christians we have hearts that are changed and now are places of residence for the very Spirit of Jesus. Yet all around us is the struggle of sin that still resides. "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand." Romans 7:21
Why is it that so many of us have such trouble living in this tension of a "joyful struggle?" Could it be that we all too quickly look at the struggle and ignore the stability we have at the core? What holds a marriage together is not the happiness of the moment but the commitment and vows made at the beginning. The knowledge that at the core my husband or wife will never leave or stop loving can actually bring a freedom. A freedom to struggle more realistically and maturely - not selfishly.
In the same way look at how many of us as Christians live in that joyful struggle of life in Christ. When trials come and disappointment surrounds us we all too quickly have an identity crisis. My identity is now what surrounds me not who is within me. We can feel as though God has left us or his commitment was not as sure as we thought. There is no joy but only struggle.
Yet when we pause to cry out he is faithful to answer and remind us of his love. "This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." Psalm 119:50 Jesus' love, at the core, is permanent, forgiving, pursuing, and unconditional. Struggles will come and go but his love is unbelievably unchangeable.
What a marriage commitment our Savour has to his bride! May our marriages be based on that love and in turn, reflect that love.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
There are moments in life we would rather forget but there are also those cherished memories we never want to loose. When you look through that photo album it's amazing how many feelings as well as details come rushing back into your heart and mind. Things you thought you forgot are now fresh on your mind. You can relive the story as though it just happened.
Our marriages are also filled with special memories. Many of them are in pictures hidden away in some closet collecting dust. But who has time to just sit and remember?! There are SO many other things to do with our time than to stop and reminisce.
True, but when was the last time you both looked at what a shared picture meant in your lives? Recalling the details you start remembering things that bring fond memories of the event. You end up talking about more than the picture but rather what made it so important to remember. It's amazing how taking time to recall a common experience can actually renew your desire to take more pictures in life.
This same issue is true in our Christan walk. There are pictures in our lives of what Jesus has done that we have sealed in our hearts. Too often they are tucked away and almost forgotten. It's a biblical practice to remember and it is dangerous to forget. Even the Apostle Peter suggests the reason so many of us aren't growing as we should. We forget to remember. "For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins." 2 Peter 1:9 We forget to look at the picture. The picture of our dying Savior who gave his life so we might live.
I don't want to ever forget that.
Be grateful for those picture moments in your marriage that you should take time to remember. But be even more grateful for the eternal picture of the love of Christ that will never fade and we should never tire of remembering.
Monday, October 11, 2010
How many times have you said or heard in your marriage discussions a sentence beginning with, "You never..."
Those absolute statements seem to trigger an immediate reaction of frustration. It can feel like you are an absolute failure. To be told you never listen, care, or try to understand seems to go to the heart of our pride. The discussion quickly erodes into a point-counter point argument. We no longer are listening but now are more concerned about defending ourselves.
The problem is that there often is some nugget of truth in those absolute statements. We are not as kind and thoughtful as we think. We can take each other for granted and excuse our laziness or sin. It can expose the fact that we don't really want to grow or change as much as we think. It hurts to change sometimes and some of that pain comes when we are told there is a level of hypocrisy in our lives.
Christian marriages should ideally be a place where healthy and mature sanctification occurs. Where you receive criticism and concern in the right spirit. And where you also give that loving rebuke in the Spirit of Christ. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Proverbs 27:6 We are called to speak the truth in love and to receive it in love as well.
Never stop loving.
Never stop listening.
Never stop growing.
Never stop wondering whether I should start that sentence with "You never..."
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
"I'm in a bad mood so it's probably best not to talk to me." or "Man, I'm in a great mood, let's go have some fun!"
How many times is your life and your marriage affected by your mood?
Some of us are more expressive than others but we are all affected by things around us and within us. Unmet expectations or unexpected interruptions can wreak havoc on our mood. Our mood can be pretty clear when we walk through the door or when we sit down at the dinner table.
Too often I fear we build our marriages on the moods we are in rather than the unchanging foundation of the gospel. A good mood doesn't guarantee a good marriage. Nor does a bad mood equal a bad relationship. These actually can be teaching moments where a husband or wife can share issues that have personally effected them and bear them together.
I've seen many spouses, (especially wives) "walking on eggshells" waiting to find out the mood of their husband or wife for fear of making things worse. The way we handle it can actually isolate us more than unite us. We are almost saying, "It's my mood therefore it's my problem."
That might work in other spheres of life but not in a Christian marriage.
We need each other to process the things that effect us, good and bad. A Christian marriage is a partnership, "in joy and in sorrow" where we don't deal with life alone. It's to be a picture of the work of Christ to his people. The finished work of Jesus is the only foundation that will NEVER be effect by mood or circumstances.
"What can separate us from the love of Christ?" Jesus did not let his mood determine his faith but instead held fast to the promises of his Father. Paul's call to us in Romans is not to find hope in our mood but in the work of the risen King.
Think about that more than 30 seconds and it will REALLY put you in a good mood!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
A young couple starting out with excitement and anticipation and a young life that was snuffed out in an instant.
Everybody has a perspective. It's how we process life and the things we deal with each day. The small things as well as the life changing issues. How many times have you heard it said, "You never know what each day will bring."
If you are like me we tend to take things for granted. Like another day of life. I don't want to sound morbid or promote an unhealthy anxiety about life but I fear we don't have a healthy enough fear of God. Each day really is a gift from him and we should have a perspective that effects how we live each day.
How does or should that effect my marriage? Am I taking for granted another day of life with my spouse and even taking for granted their faithfulness to me? You don't have to wait till you are at death's door to appreciate your partner.
It's all in your perspective.
How is this for perspective? "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." Jesus was saying there is no more important perspective than God's kingdom. When I look at everything through his eyes it should put everything in perspective. My life, my wife, my job, my children...all are from him and for him. How I think about and respond to these things and these people is a direct reflection on what controls my heart.
A biblical perspective is one that prepares for each day. We don't primarily wait for life to happen and then respond. This short life we have here on earth is really preparation for the eternal life we will have with Christ and his people. How is my preparation each day for my marriage a reflection of my preparation for that eternal marriage?
It's all in your perspective.
Monday, August 16, 2010
For a growing number of couples it is better to be roommates than married. To them it seems the institution of marriage can actually hinder rather than inspire growth. That might be something down the road but it's not necessary to do the formal, "socially acceptable" way of living together.
It's just easier.
What a sad commentary on marriage! It's as if the institution is the problem that gets in the way of a good relationship. It is seen as a restrictive way to live together rather than providing freedom. Where do they get this idea?
I'm afraid if we are honest it comes too often from those of us who are married. We can give the impression to others that we are Excellent Roommates rather than partners in life. You have your world and I have mine and we can take it or leave it. If it hinders my happiness than there is a serious problem. In many ways marriage is the most challenging of relationships. 24/7. You make vows to make it work, to never give up, to not stop caring. That's all well and good when we get along and I'm happy but....
In many ways marriage is also the most rewarding of relationships. It forces me to deal with my own shortcomings and to have to care about someone more than myself. I might not want that but I know in my heart I need it.
As a Christian I have a unique focus that the world can not understand. I care about my spouse more than myself not because of some archaic institution but because of the love of Christ. He cared about me more than himself not to be an excellent roommate but to be one in every way.
Christian, if you are married you know in your heart of hearts it is not primarily about you. Your marriage is to be the context where the love of Jesus is worked out and seen more and more. Even Paul when he wrote his instructions on marriage was careful to bring it all back to THE focus, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:32
Be more than great roommates but be a great picture of the gospel that is based on and lives out of his love.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Surprises can be unnerving. Like when the young husband thought it would be fun to jump out from behind a door and surprise his wife. The bruises on his body will prove to be a good reminder that he might want to try something else!
The most pleasant surprises are often the little, unexpected things.
A card or note sent not because of a special occasion but just to surprise your spouse with love. A surprise romantic dinner with all the arrangements made ahead of time. Just doing something you were not asked to do that you know would be a grateful surprise.
The sad and subtle path of many marriages is that they seem to loose that surprise element of their relationship. Each spouse seems to be increasingly consumed with legitimate responsibilities that make it difficult. It almost feels childish to play the surprise game when there are so many adult things going on!
What a difference a surprise can make!
Is this not similar to our marriage to Christ? The element of surprise was an almost daily blessing in the beginning. Jesus was pursuing us with that creative love to find new and surprising ways to show us his love was real and always present.
So what happened?
It's what happens in so many of our marriages. We tend to take each other for granted. We presume on their creative love and not surprise them with ours.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." I John 4:7
Let's get back to our first love and be renewed and surprised that we might surprise our husband or wife with the surprising love of Christ.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
So much of what is written regarding marriages is in response to the endless problems that seem to plague them. Whether it's adultery or a breakdown in communication or kids, you could get the impression that everyone is on the verge of some kind of catastrophe.
Is there something wrong if there are no big wrongs to deal with?
The statistics bear out the fact that almost half the marriages are in trouble. But what about he rest? What do we say to those who are doing well?
Too often we don't say anything. We don't encourage and affirm the good things we see and how they are growing together in life and love. Especially as professing Christians who are endeavoring to take the gospel seriously in their lives. They need to be thanked and affirmed in their faithfulness. They are a picture of what many of us want to pursue in our own marriages.
They in turn are an important catalyst in the hands of the Holy Spirit to spur us on. There is something that "rubs off" when we are around people who are trying to take Jesus more seriously in their marriages.
But here is a personal challenge to those who are doing well:
DON'T KEEP IT TO YOURSELVES!
The Bible clearly calls those of us who have been blessed to be a blessing. To paraphrase Jesus in Luke 12:48, "To whom much is given much is expected in return." If God has blessed you with faithfulness in your marriage and love then give it back to the body of Christ!
You have more to give than you realize. Go out to dinner with another couple. You don't have to do some big public teaching just be an object lesson for us. We need to see the joy of your love for each other and for Jesus. Don't let us put you up on a pedestal, just hang around us more often.
In a world that is so complicated we need a simple focus. We need to see that IN CHRIST it's easier than doing it ourselves.
May God make us couples who have increased confidence in Christ and may your church be filled increasingly with couples who are doing well for all the right reasons.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
They really are a beautiful picture of the gospel. A radiant bride being ushered in and presented to her husband. A nervous excitement and anticipation of formally and publicly committing themselves together.
As a minister I especially enjoy leading them in their vows and then presenting them as husband and wife. That sealing moment in the ceremony when they are officially married. It's the culmination of everything they have dreamed of and yet it's just the beginning!
Though their circumstances and experiences will change the commitment they make to one another should never change - only deepen. Ask any couple who has been married for several years and they will confirm the fact that there were things that happened in their marriage they never anticipated. What made them grow through those changes was their mutual commitment not only to each other but to God.
Marriage is and should always be a growing picture of the Christian life. It starts with that initial commitment to Christ and grows through the seasons of life. Yet it is always based on that first commitment to honor Jesus no matter what.
The Apostle Paul was always calling us back to the foundation of our faith. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."
All of our commitments in life should be seen through the filter of our initial commitment to Christ. This is especially true in our marriages. They must reflect Jesus. The primary reason to work hard in our marriages is to be a part of that greater marriage bride that is presented to Christ when He comes again.
Picture this, Christ waiting at the end of the isle seeing us, his bride, coming to him - loved by him and all the angels of heaven singing with great joy something like this:
"Here Comes The Bride!!!!!!"
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The response is often, "Sorry I was thinking about something else. I wasn't trying to ignore you."
That works once in awhile but it can be a little unnerving!
In a world where there seems to be an endless pit filled with things to think about it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. It is also difficult not to feel guilty when the husband or wife feels neglected because you are somewhere else even when you are right in front of them!!
The details of what you have to deal with each day would fill a notebook. Whether it's shopping or schedule responsibilities or demands at work our minds are always engaging in something. And it doesn't stop there. Many issues are unresolved or more additions have complicated an already complicated mind.
Some of us are more wired to be preoccupied than others.It could be a burden you are bearing for another person or a challenge at work that you need to resolve. It's hard to let go and you almost feel irresponsible if you don't get it taken care of before you sleep. The problem comes when we become so preoccupied that we fail to see what is right in front of us. Your husband or wife needs to know you are preoccupied with them as well.
It might be as simple as sharing what it is that is weighing on your heart. Follow that up with a simple prayer for that person or issue and it can bring a refreshing freedom at that moment to be more occupied with each other.
The Apostle Peter saw this dilemma in our relationship with Christ as well. When we become so preoccupied with our own life and efforts we become oblivious to what is right in front of us. We often do not grow as we should because we are preoccupied. "For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins." 2 Peter 1:9
In other words we have forgotten the cross. Don't be so preoccupied with life today that you neglect not only your spouse but you also forget your savior.
Monday, July 12, 2010
That's a bold statement but like many of us in this culture endurance and commitment are more conditional than we would like to admit. We are quick to justify our attitudes and actions but slower still to own our own sin at times.
A marriage counselor makes this observation, "And in this age of fast and easy gratification giving things time is becoming a lost art. This is particularly true when it comes to love." We are more easily frustrated and disappointed than we should be. That does not mean there are not times and seasons of hurt, pain and fear. Yet the call of the gospel in our marriages at those times is to grow stronger in our trust and relationship with Christ. When we don't get what we need from our spouse it is not the time to leave physically or emotionally.
Being forced to work through your pain and disappointment can actually make you stronger and more in love than before. That's hard to do when the "escape clause" is always in the back of your mind. When I don't feel like I'm getting what I need at that moment I start justifying attitudes and actions that in reality don't honor but shame Christ.
I think many of us as professing Christians give up on the Lord too soon. Many of those times when we seem to hit the wall in our marriages I believe are more about our sanctification than our happiness. Those are the times when God in his sovereign wisdom is actually manifesting his jealous love.
Jesus is not in the business of competing for our love. He's in the business of being our love.
If we were as obsessed with the honor of Jesus in our lives as we are with being understood and loved in our marriages would that make a difference? I am not making light of some of the pain many of us face but I am lovingly challenging the focus.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:38,39
What does that have to do with marriage? Don't give up until you figure it out.
It's Worth It.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Shared secrets can be fun in your marriage. Like nicknames or embarrassing moments that no one else needs to know! We can laugh at these and feel like we have that trusting relationship with each other that makes us feel even closer.
Our little secrets can also be some pretty serious challenges we are bearing for each other. There can be some unique pains physically, relationally or spiritually that we need to bear privately with each other. In God's providence it actually becomes a means for us to grow together in Christ. To know my husband or wife is lovingly bearing my painful secret and praying for me actually gives me courage to want to trust Jesus more.
The down side of all this is the possibility of thinking we have to handle all our troubles alone. It's not always intentional but we think we are only to share those secrets as a last resort. This is true in marriage as well as individually in the Christian life. Exposing my weakness or struggle is only a confirmation of my immaturity because - Christians are supposed to be strong!
Let me share a little secret with you: THAT'S A LIE!
Sharing my weakness with my wife as my sister in Christ actually makes me stronger and more in love with her as I see her love for me. The thought of having to live this life alone without anyone by my side is a formula for fear and despair.
The Apostle Paul shared his secret struggles with us in writing - for all the world to see! He pleaded with the Lord three times to be rid of a particular struggle. He came to the conclusion that there was actually strength in weakness. "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses...For when I am weak, than I am strong." 2Corinthians 12:8-10
So go ahead and enjoy those "little secrets" together but don't be afraid to share some of those secrets with others. You might be surprised just how much you have in common and how much stronger you will be because of it.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
How many times have you said to your husband or wife, "I'm tired" and really meant it! Whether it's the job or the kids, life can be exhausting. The honeymoon ends, the responsibilities increase and before you know it you feel like you are on a treadmill trying not to fall off!
We shouldn't be taken back by this but rather be sure we have realistic expectations. The increasing demands of life and marriage are not symptoms of problems but God-ordained opportunities for growth. Being tired is not nonspiritual but it can and often does make you vulnerable.
I had a friend tell me early on in my christian life when I really wanted to "grow in Jesus" that the best thing for my spiritual life was eight hours of sleep! I laughed but soon found out there was some real wisdom in what he said. Rest is an important part of life and that means physically as well as spiritually.
But who has time to rest!! That can be one of the best gifts you give to your husband or wife - or each other. It might take some creative planning but the results can be refreshing.
It also means we have to be realistic in our expectations of each other. When you ask, "How was your day?" you have to really mean it and be ready for the answer. It's not a time to determine who has the harder life but the need to empathize with each other and then determine how to mutually bear the burdens. "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2
There is something very spiritual and refreshing when you know your partner is carrying your burdens as well. There is often a unique work of God's Spirit that brings strength to the weary soul and even renewed strength to the body.
Christ came to bring rest to the weary and heavy laden. A rest in the midst of fatigue that comes not from us but from Christ in us.
Go rest in him and give rest as well.
Monday, June 21, 2010
That happens in other places as well and not always with dominoes. Sometimes it can be pretty destructive like when a spark ignites a small twig which then lights another and before you know it there is a blazing trail of fire that not only knocks things down but destroys them as well.
Chain reactions are not limited to nature but we see them in the lives of people all around us. Almost everyday someone is setting off a reaction with someone else and that in turn effects others.
That's not always bad.
It's part of the dynamic of relationships that make us effected by one another. Some more than others but no on is neutral. Everyday you are effected by someone and are having an effect. We can not avoid it because we were made in the image of our Creator which is to relate with others.
You know where I'm going with this don't you?!
Your marriage is a daily context for actions and reactions. Yes they can be negative but they can also be incredibly positive and encouraging. That affirming word in the morning can make all the difference in the day. In many ways it all starts with our internal chain reaction. To think about my spouse with the mind and heart of Christ will have an effect on how I initiate love and not just react. What I think and believe determines the kind of "dominoes" I set up and the kind of reaction as well.
"...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."
Go start a chain reaction!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I recently returned from the funeral service of a dear friend, Allan Tibbels. His wife Susan said goodbye to her partner in life who spent the last 20years of married life in a wheelchair.
How can you have a happy marriage in that condition? Statistically you can't. The overwhelming majority of marriages in that condition end in divorce. Not in this case. It would only end when the Lord would call one of them home through death.
Their commitment wasn't to some shallow sentimentality of love but to the God of love. They had to learn even more deeply what it meant to be committed to Christ for Christ's sake.
And they did.
They had the common call of giving their lives to those most broken by life. In body and in spirit. They lived and loved in Jesus' name in the poorest section of Baltimore city. You can't rise above your circumstances until you lay down your life for Jesus. You have to give up your pursuit of happiness and sacrifice it at the altar of service for Christ. Both Allan and Susan would tell you it didn't come from them but from God. Their collective eyes were focused on others who needed Jesus and they wanted their marriage to reflect that commitment.
And it did.
Countless lives have been affected by a marriage that was broken in body but oh so powerful in spirit. Homes and hopes were restored and marriages as well all in the name of Jesus.
This is an extreme example but the principle is the same. If we say we love Jesus it MUST be seen in our marriages and lives. Personally and collectively we all have the same call. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 12:1,2
I want my life to be like Allan's. I want my marriage to be like Allan's. I want to be like Jesus - how about you?
Monday, June 7, 2010
I'm looking at a picture of our wedding day - who are those people!? We also attended a wedding this past weekend of a young couple who were just staring their pilgrimage. What will they look like in 10,20 or 30 years? Not just physically but in their maturity.
We all want to look good but we also want to grow good.
Picture this. A couple who endure together and grow together for decades and "look" better than when they first started out. One author says it this way,
"Merely making our relationships last is just not good enough. Our relationships can change us. Our relationships should change us. Our relationships will change us for the better - if we are willing to take the risk."
As we commit to the long haul we actually become more mature individually and as a couple. We sharpen each other and grow even more in our love for each other. We have to daily commit to our vows which really is a commitment to self-denial and love. Like a song in my younger days says, "Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind. It's not often easy and not often kind. Did you ever have to make up your mind?"
But picture this. What if your marriage actually started looking more and more like Jesus? What if your commitment to Christ was not merely a compartment of your life but the very essence. What difference should we as Christians have as compared to the rest of the world? Should it not be that there is an ever increasing picture of an image of Jesus that others are drawn to?
One of the greatest prayers found in scripture is in Ephesians 3 and one of the greatest requests is in Paul's phrase, "...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith..."if that was the heart cry of every Christian couple there would be some beautiful pictures out there.
Picture this. A newly married couple coming up to you and asking to take your picture because they see something in you they want in their own marriage. The camera doesn't capture it but there is something in your lives that shows it.
May the picture of Jesus be seen in your marriage today.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
There is something powerful about Christians working through life together and especially with different generations. We really do need each other spiritually more than we realize.
This is a plea to the next generation.
The way you deal with life in the presence of Jesus is having an impact. Marriages continue to fall apart and believe the lie that there is no hope even with the gospel.
The young father and husband I visited spent time alone with me and we talked about the call of Christ in our lives and homes. He shared first hand how his marriage and parenthood has been used of God to REALLY sanctify him! I could see how he was wrestling not just with "good works" but with the honor of Jesus in his life. It was a joy to watch him care for his little girl and pour out on her a new father's affection. At the same time he manifested a precious love for his wife as he served her that was both convicting and encouraging to me.
This is a plea to the next generation.
Your influence can be eternal. Encourage others in their own pilgrimage as you walk through yours. Others are watching you whether you know it or not. They need to see the joyful struggle of the gospel. I beg you, in Jesus' name, don't take lightly the call of the gospel in your marriage. There is a generation right behind you watching you. (Maybe some of us older ones could be watching and learning too!)
What I saw in this young marriage and family is what I long for in my own. It looks a lot like what the Apostle Paul calls us to as believers, "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."
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
On the other hand 24/7 can feel inconvenient.
Like the surveillance cameras that watch your every move. Or the cell phone that gives people easy access any time of the day or night. Or cyberspace. Is there such a thing as true privacy anymore?
Then there is marriage. When it's convenient, this 24/7 relationship is a true blessing. When we are in harmony we can't get enough of each other. We want to process all of life together and learn and grow with each other.
What happens when it's inconvenient? When we feel like we can't get away. When we are angry or depressed and the last thing we think we need is to have someone in our face all the time! You can feel stuck or smothered and think the best solution is to stop the 24/7 surveillance. Some seasons in our marriage are difficult and we get to the point we "feel" like escape is better than reality. Yet our vows call us back.
Is this not a picture of our marriage to Christ? When it's convenient it's great but what do we do when we don't "feel" like being married? Our relationship to God is unlike any other. There is no privacy with him. "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?" Psalm 139:7 David knew he was under God's surveillance and there was NO escaping it.
Praise God our relationship with him is not primarily dependent on us. His commitment is permanent and constant. He is conveniently inconvenient.
That relationship is never more clearly seen than through the love of his Son. The love of Jesus has sealed our marriage vows with God. He will never tire of us nor forsake us. His commitment is 24/7. "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 11:20
Thank him that today you have the convenience of his constant love because of the death of his Son. Live in his presence in the 24/7 of your marriage.
Monday, May 10, 2010
You can literally breath easier just knowing those filters are in place. After awhile you take them for granted and no longer worry about not being protected. All you have to do is to remember to change them and they'll do the rest.
I like filters.
The reality is we all need filters. We also all have filters. Not the external kind but the ones that cover our hearts. No one is born without a filter. We read and respond to life based on the filter that lets things in and out. The Bible is pretty clear that there is no middle ground on this one. We either see life through the filter of God and his word or we process it through our own eyes.
What's that got to do with my marriage? As Christians this relationship is the place where the weird creatures and ugly molds spores have got to be cleansed through the filter of Christ. How I listen to and respond to my spouse should come through that grid. It should be second nature for the purity of Jesus to be seen and anything that is harmful to be kept out.
It's so hard to remember that when I'm feeling legitimately misused or abused. When life is not cooperating and I'm having trouble breathing. I want to pass this problem on to someone else and thus cleanse myself.
If I would but recall the fact that the filter of Jesus never needs changing. Nothing comes to me that doesn't first come through him. He will use all things to further cleanse me and thus have more purity come out of me.
How's this for a marriage filter? "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:30
Monday, May 3, 2010
Whether it's that first grey hair or the growing waistline, we don't want to believe what we see. The billion dollar industry of fitness is too often our futile attempt to keep us looking young in the name of being fit. The image seems to be as important, if not more so, than keeping ourselves healthy. The fear seems to be that the older we get the less fulfilling life will be.
"Let's desperately fight the inevitable."
Look around and see how style and appearance have become SO important to us. Look as well how it has crept into our marriages. Wives wanting to feel good about their appearance yet sometimes having an underlying fear that the competition is winning. Husbands wearing outfits that would work better in a circus than on the street!
Don't get me wrong. We need to take better care of ourselves than we do. Our eating habits and lack of exercise have produced some embarrassing people! Yet as in so many situations the issue is more about motives than outcomes. Why do I want to take better care of myself - really? Too often, if I'm honest, it's more about me than my spouse or my God. I just want to feel good about myself. We all want that but in the end because of the effects of sin we all loose because we all die.
So what's the purpose of "staying fit?" As I get older I realize even more that I want to get the most out of this life physically and spiritually to prepare me for eternal life. I want to grow through every season of life with my wife and be able to see how God has been faithful to us in every way. I want to take care of my body as a vessel of the Spirit of Jesus so He might more fully be seen in me. I want my wife to be attracted to me for all the right reasons.
I also want to look into the mirror of God's law more than the mirror in my bathroom. I want to spiritually exercise so I can truly be a doer of the word and not a hearer only. "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like." James 1:23,24
Let's look good so that Jesus looks good. Let's care how we look as a couple for all the right reasons. May Jesus be exercised in you both today and may the world be attracted to you because of the Christ who is in you.
Monday, April 26, 2010
It can also be a personal and probing question as to our motives and actions. "Why did you just say that?" or "Why did you just do that?" If you are like me I can handle the first round of why questions pretty well, it's the follow up "whys" that can unnerve me. When I am forced to look more closely at my actions and motives I seem to feel more threatened and get defensive.
Who has the right to question my motives and actions? In a marriage that is endeavoring to center on the glory of Christ it should naturally be the right of our husband or wife to ask the why questions. Yet too often we get annoyed and even caustic in our responses. The "nagging wife" or the "controlling husband" becomes a label we put on our spouses to make them stop the questioning. That partner in life is also your brother or sister in Christ and therefore a necessary instrument in your own personal sanctification.
This questioning on a human level should be a picture of what should be taking place on a spiritual level with the Lord himself. Who has the right to ask you ANY question and expect a true answer? The Lord himself who knows our hearts better than anyone. One of the many roles of the Holy Spirit is to ask us the why questions. He has the right to "get on our nerves" and to protect us from ourselves.
The Spirit's primary role in the believer's life is to make us look and act more like Jesus. Which is perhaps the greatest need in our marriages today, to see Jesus.
A true follower of Christ has that mindset of wanting God to ask the why questions, "Search me, O God, and know my heart..." Psalm 139:23.
The probing question is "Why?" Why aren't our Christian marriages more Christ-like? Why don't we believe the gospel? Why are we not more free to love and live in the power of Christ? Why don't we care enough to fight sin more personally? Why do we respond more out of guilt than of grace? Why don't we like people asking so many questions? Why? Why? Why?!!!!
I better stop here because I think I'm getting on my own nerves! It's time to go and practice what I preach!!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
"We were just getting used to each other and growing together...then the children came!"
It really does test the fiber of our marriage and brings about a further refinement of our commitment to the Lord and each other. The basis of our marriage can not be our mutual love and harmony but the sovereign love and mercy of God in Christ. That is not a mere platitude but an exciting foundation on which to build in every season of life. Our love and nurture of them is a direct reflection of our relationship with Jesus in how we teach them to be disciples of Christ.
I recently observed a couple dealing with a boy about 7 years old. He seemed to have a form of autism and was having difficulty controlling himself. His groans were loud and his mind restless. I was struck with how patient and sensitive the parents were with their child. The strain must be heavy on their marriage but there was also a clear mutual commitment that went beyond their personal happiness. They loved their son and were committed to him.
God loves his children.
He is not in the business of primarily making us good parents but rather true children of him and co-heirs with his son. "See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." I John 3:1 If we understand our primary identity in Jesus it becomes the filter through which we deal with all of life - including parenthood.
Our marriages are one of the richest contexts to grow in our sanctification and when God blesses us with children it becomes that much richer. In the Lord's sovereign wisdom he brings those little ones into our lives to do big things.
If you are married with children or anticipate having that blessing may our Lord continue that work he has begun in your heart and marriage as you share this journey together for your growth and his glory!
Friday, April 2, 2010
We have a lot of differences as Christians, even in our marriages. We also have some powerful things in common. Jesus died. Jesus forgave. Jesus rose from the dead.
When the world and my life seem out of control and the voices are drowning out the peace what is my focus? When I feel like I'm misunderstood or frustrated in my marriage where do I go? It's during those times that our differences become even more apparent. We feel like we are fighting our own private war without our partner.
The Apostle Paul didn't often have the luxury of time to work through issues and relationships. There were a lot of things pressing in on him personally and circumstantially. What he needed most was not a quick resolution but a quick reminder. "Jesus Christ and him crucified." That's what he had in common with other believers and that's all he needed to know. Life was too short to get so distracted with other important things that he would loose sight of what he needed most. A savior.
What's needed most in our marriages today? I would suggest it's not primarily a resolution but a reminder. As professing Christians who are married we have the most powerful hope in all the world. Jesus died and rose again for me. Because of that Paul could be so bold as to say, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
What's that got to do with your marriage? Everything! What your spouse needs more than you is to be reminded of Jesus. Almost to the exclusion of everything else. If the passion of our hearts is to know nothing more important then the crucified Christ it will show in how we live, love and honor one another.
Go live in that resurrected power and may the world see a hope - a love that is unlike any other.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Two words: Healthcare Bill.
The issues are real and the concerns valid but listen to the words. We dare not gloss over our disagreements and learn to communicate those challenges. The language we use is the primary means by which we make those issues known.
But words have meaning.
I've been struck again by the place of words in marriage. Communication. How we say something is just as important as what we say. It requires forethought and self-examination. In a world that seems wholly given over to impulsive and impassioned verbal expression it's become harder and harder to listen. Also harder to learn.
If I saw a more direct and spiritual connection between my mouth and my heart, would that make any difference in my marriage? Jesus made that line clear when he declared, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) Jesus chose his words carefully because each one had meaning. The way I use words with my wife conveys something about the message I'm trying to get across. The words in my home and marriage have to be seasoned with the grace and presence of Jesus. There are no idle words. No words without meaning.
That doesn't mean I am to be paranoid and frozen with fear about opening my mouth. Language was and is God's idea. It's a primary way to share ideas and emotions. As believers in Christ we should reflect to others the kind of communion we have with God. I think I could have an even better line of communication with my wife if I was more consistent with the Lord. Words of comfort and conviction that come from my lips to my spouse would be more second nature as a result of the Spirit of God dealing with my own heart.
This is not another call to "bite your tongue" and live a life of regret. Rather it's a call to use this precious gift of language to the glory of God. Think of how powerful our words could be if they were increasingly brought through the filter of the love of Christ. Not out of guilt but gratitude we would use our words wisely, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:20
Thursday, March 18, 2010
When we start out reciting those vows at the ceremony they are THE filter for which we are to view our relationship for the rest of our earthly life. I have promised to love, honor, and cherish my wife for the rest of my life. I declared before God and others that I would make her the focus of my affection. I would lift her up privately and publicly. I would hold her close to my heart as a precious gift that I would never want to loose.
These are not merely romantic ideas but exciting and critical commitments.
They seem easy to keep early on and even natural for awhile but what happens when "things change." It's amazing how quickly we seem to put a condition on that promise that at first was unconditional. The relationship got harder. My needs weren't being met. I felt like I was doing more "loving, honoring and cherishing" than my spouse.
It's easier to start out than to continue.
Isn't that similar to our Christian walk? We start out very excited about our commitment to Christ and His love to us. We have an "unconditional" commitment to him and his will in our lives. Then "things change." If we are honest we feel like the relationship with Christ has not turned out to be all we thought it would be. Yet the call is to love, honor and cherish him.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."I Corinthians 13:7
I can do this only because of the unconditional love of Jesus. My love for my spouse must flow first from his love for me and not for what I am getting from my partner. As a Christian couple our love has to look different from the world. Our love is not based on ourselves but on God's love. Therefore, in Jesus I not only can keep my commitment but I can actually grow in that love. A love that looks more and more like Christ and his church.
May the world see Jesus today in your marriage by how you "love, honor, and cherish" one another.
Monday, March 8, 2010
In a culture where we take so many things for granted we almost assume we are entitled to what we have. Little things like food or health, friendships and jobs. We are truly a blessed people and therefore, potentially an ungrateful people.
Which is worse, an insincere thank you or lack of thankfulness?
The famous theologian, John Calvin, wrote in the sixteenth century that the greatest problem he perceived among Christians was a lack of gratitude. Believers were taking for granted their salvation. They were too often living their lives without a conscious awareness of what Christ had done for them on the cross. They were presuming on the blessings that flowed from his sacrifice.
Not so much as a daily "Thank You". Why do we do that? The things that are right in front of us become all too oblivious.
Like our marriage.
My spouse is a gift from God primarily for my sanctification not my happiness. He or she is the chosen instrument God brought into existence and shaped to be used of him to bring out Christ in my life. No husband or wife can fully meet your needs. There is only one Messiah. He alone can give you what no one else can. Forgiveness. A forgiven soul is a free soul. A chosen one who is able to love freely and point others to Christ.
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you...because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." Philippians 1:3-5
Your spouse is primarily a partner in the gospel. Give thanks to God you are traveling together in this broken world with the effects of sin in and outside your home. Be thankful too that Christ is sufficient for all your needs. We too quickly and easily forget.
Stop even now and give thanks. "Thank you Lord" for ......... and may that gratitude be an increasing part of your daily life.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Or how about in child rearing when that little one needed to be forced to stop what they were doing and you told them they needed a "Time Out." It was a loving discipline to help your child calm down and practice self-control. You wanted them to think about what was going on. They were being controlled by life and their desires which lead to selfish outbursts.
Have you ever applied that to your marriage? "We need a Time Out!" How do you catch your breath? It doesn't have to be in the midst of an intense discussion or argument but you just might need a break from the daily demands of life.
And that doesn't always mean a break from each other!
A "Time Out" could be as simple as a ten minute coffee break or a date night. Just an opportunity to be together for the purpose of your relationship and not primarily to solve another problem. As husbands and wives we each have our own unique daily challenges but at the same time we are to be in life together. We might not have the luxury of a weekend away or a daily hour-long debriefing session but we do have the obligation to stay in touch.
As professing Christians we have the same dynamic in our relationship with Christ. The scriptures call us to have a consistent need for a "Time Out" with the Lord. We see that in the life of our Savior and all throughout the Bible.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
We're all busy but the Lord is always available. To take a ten minute coffee break with Him could literally change our outlook on the day or our own life. Our spouse needs to know intuitively that we are in the habit of taking Time Out with Jesus.
May God give you "Time Out" with Him today and with each other.
Monday, February 22, 2010
I want a clear conscience before my world, my wife - but especially my God.
The true priority of life is not intimacy with my spouse or integrity before the world but rather a heart that is clean and clear before God. If Jesus is not engaging my heart and consistently testing my thoughts I am setting myself up for a dangerous "independence." I can actually start processing my thoughts and actions without asking God to test my motives and exposing my heart.
It's a hard thing to be vulnerable enough before our spouse, to invite them to examine our hearts' motives but it's even more important to have that humility before the Lord. In our heart of hearts as believers in Jesus we want our lives to be a reflection of Him. That can only happen as we cry out to him to keep our hearts in check. To protect us from ourselves.
Your husband or wife is a direct gift of God to do just that. To be an instrument of His grace to affirm, convict and push you to the Lord. Your spouse cannot be ultimately responsible for your growth in Jesus but they must be a catalyst to drive you to Him.
What if followers of Christ who are married truly took this passage to heart? The implications are profound. There would be a growing obsession to honor Christ in thought, word and deed. Pride and defensiveness would be dismantled. A freedom to love with humility would lead to deeper intimacy as God designed. And the list goes on.
You can only fake integrity for so long. Who do you answer to?
We must be a people who are in the habit of asking God to honestly, "Take a Look." Because of Jesus I can have a clear conscience before God. Because of Jesus I can have a clear conscience before the world and my spouse.
May that be your life today. A spouse whose first love is the call of Christ in your heart that affects everything else in your life.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I love the sign in the Doctor's office that asks you to assign a level to the pain. They even have facial expressions to help you pick and choose!
Pain hurts whether it's physical or emotional. Pain can't be denied or ignored. It's always present. It's a reminder that something is wrong. Something is in need of repair or relief. A gnawing, haunting presence telling me that all is not well.
Not all pain is due to volitional sin. We live in a broken world. Disappointment and pain are lurking everywhere. We can't avoid it nor can we deny it. Things just happen that are beyond our control that bring hurt to our body or soul. These are all reminders that something is critically wrong with this world. It also points us to a hope for a world where there is no pain or sorrow.
There is pain in marriage.
It hurts to feel misunderstood or unappreciated. It's a pain to admit I was wrong. There is soreness in the soul when anger or bitterness takes hold. Some pains are deeper or longer lasting. Others just seem to hang on. Then there are those things outside our situation that bring discomfort, like the loss of a job, a sudden illness, a rebellious child. The pain just doesn't seem to go away. There is no quick fix or medicine to take. We have to live with it and through it.
There is no such thing as a painless marriage.
Yet for Christians who are married there is no such thing as a hopeless marriage. We share a common bond as believers to a Savior who left a painless world and took on our pain and punishment. More than that He took on the final enemy of pain and death. Therefore, as those who have trusted the finished work of Christ there is no pain too deep or unbearable that Jesus has not conquered. No effect of sin can separate us from his love.
What does that have to do with our marriages? We have to remind each other daily of the fact that our identify is not in our pains but in the presence of Jesus. We can't let our pains get in the way of Jesus but to bring Him into our pains.
Go read Romans 8.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good...." (8:28) or "If God is for us, who can be against us?...nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (8:31,39)
May God make you partners in this life who, because of Jesus, can rise above your pain and not run from it. May He bring you relief that brings eternal joy that actually makes you stronger in faith and life.
Monday, January 18, 2010
What if we really had the time we wanted to make our relationship stronger?
What if our children grow up to love and serve the Lord?
What if we were married as believers and living in Haiti?
We have the luxury to work through and deal with many issues that we face daily. We even have the freedom to whine about how bad things are and how our marriage and service to Christ could be a lot better if we didn't have such pressing pains. Life is hard.
Then I turn on the T.V.
Husbands and wives within a moment of time lost everything. Their homes and their children. Some marriages were literally torn in two when a collapsed building took a partner's life. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are going through the unimaginable right now. They don't have the privilege of sitting in a comfortable home with all the trappings talking about the future for their children and themselves.
All they can do is mourn and cry out for God's mercy.
I say this not to promote guilt but to call us to do more than survive. We must hold fast and intimately to each other and the promises of God. What would you do? What would I do? What holds our marriage together today so that we have hope for our tomorrows and even during the tragedies of life? The promises of God which are fulfilled in Christ have to be more than token verses on our refrigerators. We need His promises in all of life and in death.
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
Pray for the church in Haiti . Pray for the gospel in your own marriage.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Another year. Another decade.
How many good intentions will go by the wayside? What resolutions will I be able to keep?
"I want to work harder on my marriage." Can't go wrong with that!
Yet what does that mean? Will I try not to get so angry so quickly? Maybe I'll try and be more thoughtful and not take my spouse for granted. Perhaps I'll resolve to pray more for and with my spouse to keep our focus on the Lord. Our overall desire is to be more consistent and grateful in order to grow.
The call to love and live out the gospel in our marriages should not be reduced to an annual commitment or resolution. It should rather be an assumed fact based on our vows to God and those witnesses. It should also be based on God's commitment to us in Christ.
Instead of working harder on our marriages perhaps we should rest harder in the love of Christ. So many of us today appear more restless than confident in the love of Jesus. His marriage to us is based on an unconditional love. His call to us is not to "try harder" but to rest. His death on the cross was a direct statement to us.
Forgiveness. Forever loved. Adopted. Never abandoned.
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:31,32
Here's a resolution not just for this year but for the remaining years of your life:
"I resolve to be more in love with my marriage to Christ."
The deepest resolve of our souls should be to be so grounded and embraced in the love of Christ that everything in our lives flows from Him. The world, the church, our children, should see a people who love because they are loved. Their identify is not in the success or failure of earthly relationships but in the finished work of Jesus that has truly set us free.
Go rest in His love and have a Happy New Year!