Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons of Life

Life is one big classroom.

This can be especially true when it comes to the institution of marriage. Every season seems to bring unique challenges to learn something new. For example, you discovered early on in your "marital bliss" that you are not as unselfish as you thought. Some personal habits of your mate became personal conflicts and you had to learn what it meant to compromise.

Some lessons we have to learn over and over again. Like commitment or being true to your word. As a married couple you took vows. The essence of those vows is that you commit to learning and growing together. For many husbands, an ongoing lesson is that words are not enough. We can take our wives and their needs for granted. We need to learn to love them practically and creatively. For wives it might be the ongoing challenge to respect and submit. When a wife becomes too focused on what might be lacking in her husband it can hinder her ability to see the strengths he does bring.

When do we stop learning?

I'm in a lesson learning or relearning mood lately. My mom died a few weeks ago and it is still fresh in my mind and heart. Dad preceded her by about 12 years. They are both gone. Their earthly marriage is over. At the same time there is an elderly couple in our church and the husband is perhaps in his final weeks or months of life. What lessons have they learned that will carry them through this final season. They have been married over 50 years and I have had the privilege of watching them and listening to them. The have learned some precious lessons in life.

Two of the many lessons they have been teaching me is that life is precious and brief. They are working even harder now to make the most of the moments and days the Lord has left for them. She knows she will be saying goodbye so she wants to reaffirm those vows she took many years ago. "In sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, til death do us part." They have learned and relearned those vows over the years so they can rest in that love even now.

The other lesson that comes screaming through is their quiet confidence in Jesus. He indeed has been their foundation. In life and now in death they have learned that their hope is not primarily in their marital love but in the love of Christ. There is sorrow and fear but there is also faith.

They are learning anew what they learned many years ago. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me..." Psalm 23:4 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

May we be couples who learn the gospel. Over and Over again. And may others see that our ultimate hope is in the one who never changes, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Quiet Marriage

Everybody wants to be seen, heard and remembered.

That often takes the form of making your voice heard or picture seen in the market place. Just look at the social networks out there and all the information given. The friend base that we have can subtly be seen as our fan club and the need to keep ourselves in front of that network. Our identity can be more in who knows me "out there" and remembers me than who I live with every day.

Yes, we all need friends and people to encourage us but we can get so caught up in maintaining those relationships that we ignore the ones right in front of us. Just ask my wife! I love people and thrive on personal interaction. This can too easily make her feel that our relationship is not enough. There is something unique and God-ordained about the marriage relationship that should be different from all the rest. It can't simply be one of many wonderful connections in my network but must be a special connection that I don't have with anyone else.

The quiet marriage is the restful marriage. It's a place where I don't need to showcase or network myself or have my voice heard. It's a place where I can rest in the love of my spouse and give that same restful love in return. Ideally, because we know each other so well and know the Lord I can assume a love that is constant, forgiving and ever present. In the purist sense it is a place that I can't wait to come home to. A quiet refuge where less is more.

That kind of marriage can only come out of our marriage to Christ. His uniqueness in our lives will bring a unique love to our union with our spouse. A love that is "...patient and kind...does not envy or boast...is not arrogant or rude...does not insist on its own way....is not irritable or resentful...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I Corinthians 13

Yes it takes hard work but for all the right reasons. Your marriage is not just another social arena but it is to be the place where the essence of the gospel is to be worked out and seen. May your quiet marriage be a place where the voice of Jesus is heard and the love of God seen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Today and Tomorrow

How does today affect my tomorrows?

Each day seems to have its own agenda. I can plan my day but what about the interruptions? We are called to make the most of our today's but what do we do when our today's make a mess of us?! Too often we end the day feeling like we have wasted it rather than used it well.

If you have too many days like that it can definitely effect your tomorrows. You start assuming things that actually hinder hope instead of renewing it. Call it stress, depression or disappointment it just makes it harder to try harder.

One of the fist places this is seen is in our relationships. It can be hard to give to those closest to us when we feel like the day has literally sucked the life out of us. A bad day at the office or a bad day at home can be a formula for a bad tomorrow in our marriage. Instead of seeing our marriage and home as a refuge it feels like another burden to bear. Granted, there can be some legitimate issues of the day that wear us down but the subtle and dangerous assumption is that my marriage is another arena of challenge rather than a mutual oasis.

The call of the Christian life is to bring the presence of Jesus to bear on every relationship in my life and especially in my marriage. I want to live my life "in Christ" before my spouse believing that Jesus really is with me and is in control. The problem is I can't do that tomorrow unless I have been practicing living in his presence today. To merely put up with life until I come home doesn't really prepare me for bringing Christ home.

Jesus' promise is that he is with every one of our today's and there is no better hope for our tomorrows than that guarantee. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27 Jesus' peaceful presence is not another pill to take when I need help but a rock solid presence to rest upon every minute of every day.

Work as hard at living in his presence today as you do in surviving each day and watch what he does with your tomorrows.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who Are You?

What I do determines who I am. Whether it's an engineer, a teacher, a doctor, a painter, a carpenter or even a minister. We often find our identity primarily in our functions.

A secondary place we find our identity is in our relationships. A son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a good friend and the list goes on. Where would we be if we didn't feel like we belonged to someone?

Yet in so many marriages today we limit our identity to our role and relationship with our husband or wife. We each need a special place of significance in our relationships. What happens when there is disappointment in one another? When a husband or wife does not live up to our expectations? There could be a silent war in the soul thinking I could be happier if he or she would only....

The constant battle in the Christian life is to look to something or someone else for my identity besides Jesus. That might seem like a "no brainer" to many of us professing followers of Jesus but I think the battle is deeper than we realize. It's not only deeper but it's daily. I am tempted every day to find myself in my world rather than in the gospel.

If it goes unchecked it will suck the life out of a marriage and even kill it. That's a pretty dramatic statement but I believe it's that serious. If you get in the habit of expecting your mate to meet your needs in a way that only Jesus can you will dry up and give up. Every day we are tempted to turn our eyes away from Christ. To find identity in what's in front of us rather than who has gone before us.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus, found his identity in Jesus not only as his brother but especially as his Lord. There was no earthly relationship that could compare. No one else was to be his life or Lord. James opened his letter with a bold statement of his identity. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ..." He could have listed his many functions and relationships, including his brother Jesus but he wanted the world to know the relationship that transcended every other one.

Jesus as LORD.

Husband or wife - Who Are You? May today and everyday be one in which the Spirit of Jesus reminds you of who you really are. And may that identity be seen not only in your marriage but in every arena of your life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where Were You?

Where were you on September 11th 2001?

Virtually all of us can remember what has felt like our Pearl Harbor. To be attacked so violently and shockingly felt like the end of the world. Our "secure" country and world was now vulnerable and literally crumbling down beneath us. I was at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia glued to the TV watching in disbelief with several students who were from New York city. There were tears, prayers and a day long mourning of what we were seeing unfold before our very eyes.

I'll never forget where I was.

Significant events often produce significant memories. They don't always have to be tragic ones either- graduations, weddings, the birth of a child. The photographs in our minds quickly recapture the feelings of those days. And not only the feelings but especially the people we shared those moments with. Friendships and relational bonds become all the more precious as the years go by. As relational beings God has designed us to go through life together. To share those joys and sorrows together.

One of the many blessings of marriage is to have your partner in all of life's experiences. To know that in every season of life I have a God-ordained husband/wife to share the journey with. To know that we will be able to look back on those momentous events in life and not have to ask, "Where were you?" Instead to know that he or she was there all along.

One of the strongest themes of the Bible is God's constant reminder to never forget. The history of God's love to his people is filled with very significant events. Whether it's crossing the Red Sea or watching the walls of Jericho come down, the Lord wanted them to remember where they were and who they were with. Even Jesus himself would tell his disciples to take common and ordinary elements of bread and wine and tell them to remember him - to never forget.

Yet one of the tragedies and limitations of life is that we can't always be with each other during some of those life-changing events. No matter how hard we try we just can't be there and that can be very disappointing. Yet one of the richest benefits of our marriage to Christ is the guarantee that he will always be there. Even the best marriage can never give us what we ultimately need. A forgiving love that can never be lost or taken away.

Only the love of Jesus is both the means and the end. A marriage built on his foundation will produce a life of memories and a legacy of his faithfulness. Cherish the years you have together and the vows you have made but don't ever forget the greatest promise ever made by God to his people and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of his Son, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.' Hebrews 13:5

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Blessing of Children or "From Cruise to Warp speed!"

The blessing and presence of children in a marriage typically puts life in higher speed that only seems to accelerate with each passing year. Most married couples look forward with nervous anticipation to the day when God would bless them with children to nurture and disciple. To hold in our arms that gift of love and to play and grow with this life is one of the highest callings.

Yet at the same time one of our greatest fears is realized. We have less and less time for each other. The focus has somewhat shifted from us to our children. That is not necessarily bad but it can feel weird. We no longer have the luxury of sitting down and processing life with just the two of us. Someone in the other room is crying or calling us and suddenly we are making the first of innumerable life adjustments!

How do you maintain and grow your marriage with children around and not simply put it on hold? The pace of life picks up, the demands on time increase and we are just plain tired!

In God's providence could one of the reasons for children be that we actually appreciate each other more? Rather than taking each other for granted we become even more grateful for the times we have together. As I look back on life I am amazed at how much time I have wasted not only on myself but with my wife. I should have been more creative and thoughtful to make the most of those in between times.

A little bit can go a long way.

Yes, the presence of children sets you on a new trajectory for much of life but it doesn't mean you set aside the closeness you desire and need from your husband or wife. You can and should do two things at the same time.

As Christians our marriage to Christ has similar demands and challenges. Life is so demanding and so fast yet we are called to do two things at the same time. To "be in this world but not of it" and as Paul calls us daily to "Set you minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:2

Let's renew our commitment to make the most of lesser moments we seem to have with our spouse and our Lord and watch how He blesses a lot with a little.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Need Help

That phrase can mean something as minor as drying the dishes or as major as an immediate crisis. We all need help. Sometimes that help will be more long term while for others it is immediate.

The blessing and challenge of the Christian life is that you are at the beckon call of others. You want to be there when needed but sometimes the challenge comes when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet those needs. Again, it can be as simple as assisting with a church supper or as difficult as a marital crisis.

Any good relationship is built on dependability. Will you be there when I need you? There is something powerful and freeing when I know that someone cares for me in the little things as well as the big. This is especially to be true in the Church, the body of Christ. There is such a thing as healthy dependency among Christians. We need each other and we rightfully bear each others burdens. I must not only be willing to help but to be helped as well.

There is no more beautiful picture of that kind of love than in a Christian marriage. A place where help is so readily given and received. Yes, we are messed up people and our sin and selfishness all too often get in the way. We use our needs for manipulation rather than growth. We should be helping each other to depend not primarily on what I can give but on what Jesus has given. A good marriage is a giving and receiving marriage. We give because he gave. We help because he has helped us. In his ultimate calling Jesus did what no one else could "help" him do. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

The more we understand the cross the better we will be as husbands and wives. It will become more second nature to help and be helped because of what he has done for us. Perhaps we have forgotten the depth of what Jesus actually did when he died. And when we do remember we truly become partners in life who love to help each other for all the right reasons.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped..." Psalm 28:7

Now go help your husband or wife.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Pray About It

To pray is to depend. It is acknowledging the fact that I am not alone and should not handle life alone. God has designed us to be in relationship with him and thus always in touch with him through prayer.

"Just Pray About It" can be some of the best advice ever given or taken. The Christian life isn't always about finding answers but finding rest. Sometimes prayer is the last place we go when it should be the first. Embarrassingly we tend to treat it as a last resort we go to out of desperation.

It was second nature to Jesus. Whether it was feeding 5,000 or alone in a garden he wanted to be aware of his Father in heaven. He assumed God's loving presence in all he was and did which made it all the more natural. As followers of Jesus we all have that same privilege. The very Spirit of God lives in us as he does his Son.

As the Apostle Paul described some common qualities of believers in Jesus he listed this phrase as well, "...be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12, to just pray about something was not a shallow cliche but part of the very essence of being a follower of Christ. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we now have full and welcomed access to God's throne.

One obvious application of these thoughts for us who are married is simply this:

When was the last time you prayed for your marriage? Not only that but when was the last time you prayed together?

Could some of the challenges in our marriages be a result of a shallow view of prayer? We tend to live from crisis to crisis rather than faith to faith. Prayer then is that rarely used gift that we only pull off the shelf in times of emergency. Jesus had a mindset of prayer in all things. He prayed before - during and after things in his life.

I wish I did more of that early in my married life. But it's never too late!!

So let me give you the obvious advice if you want to have a God honoring and Christ centered marriage:

"Just Pray About It."

Friday, June 24, 2011

What A Blessing

I recently had breakfast with some men and asked them to talk about the blessings of being married rather than the challenges. We too often start with the negative and try to figure out how to make the most of our difficulties. Sometimes it is better to start with what is good and to appreciate how God has blessed us with our wives.

There were four responses I thought were very insightful as to what it means to be married:

1. Being Known, This husband found great comfort in the knowledge that his wife knew him well. He could trust her with his struggles and knew she loved him still.

2. No More Dating!, The security of having a committed relationship took away the pressure of playing and pretending. He now has someone to be with in uniqueness for the rest of his life.

3. Never Alone, as God's creation we were designed to live in relationship with others. Marriage is one of those precious arenas where we can appreciate the Lord's observation, "it is not good for man to be alone."

4. Checks and Balances, This husband was quick to declare, "I've learned more about God through my wife than anywhere else!" He saw how God was using this relationship with his wife to grow him and sharpen him in every way.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that this is what we find in our marriage to Christ. The main difference is that Jesus gives us what no spouse could ever give. Our marriages are to be more about Him and to reflect His love rather than what we get.

What does that mean or look like? Read Philippians 2:1-11 and see that Jesus' primary concern was not his needs or desires but the glory of his Father. The Apostle Paul put it succinctly in verse 5,"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Yes, thank God for the blessings of marriage but let those blessings lead you to a higher calling in your marriage to Christ and may that be seen in your lives today.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Normal Christian Marriage

With all the emphasis on vital marriages today it's easy to feel abnormal or even subnormal about our own marriage. Charismatic couples who are on the speaking circuit seem to have incredible intimacy and endurance. Even in our churches we look around and feel like everyone else is doing fine but us!

Why can't we be like them?!

It's good and important to be challenged in our relationships but too often the message can be to model others in personality and practice and you will live happily ever after! We start believing the normal christian marriage is more personality driven than Spirit driven. This doesn't always happen intentionally but subtly we start trying to be someone we are not.

We feel guilty and frustrated because the harder we try the more discouraged and even angry we become. Real change is hard to come by and too often we assume the best years are behind us. Our hope sadly becomes in now trying to survive rather than continuing to grow as a couple in Christ.

So what's the solution? Do we just, "Let go and let God?!" There is some truth to that phrase but it can also be empty. It's not just throwing your arms in the air and giving up and waiting on God to do something. It's more about owning the struggle of how God is at work in us. The problem is not primarily a personality flaw but a heart flaw. God is in the business of making us look more and more like Jesus and we have the privilege of doing that as partners in this life.

This should be the normal call for all of us, "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 The challenge of the normal Christian marriage is the same as the normal Christian life. Too often we take our eyes off Jesus and look to the world for our example and motivation rather than on him and his promises.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

90 Years Of Life

My Mom turned 90 this past weekend. She still has a sharp mind and reasonably good health for her age! She was surrounded by family and friends and was obviously enjoying the blessing of seeing her heritage. Children, grandchildren and 5 great children!

As she reflected on this milestone she would often say, "I never thought I would be this old one day!" The thought of outliving family and friends was not in her plan.

She has seen a lot and been through a lot.

Psalm 90 is an appropriate reflection by someone who also outlived many of his peers. Moses said many good things in this brief Psalm that are worth remembering, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations...For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past...So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."

So what does this have to do with our daily routine in marriage?

What would a marriage look like that had it's dwelling in the Lord from the beginning? It would look like a couple who increasingly valued each day and lived it as though it were the last. Not in a morbid fear but with gratitude. It would be a love that, "...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I Corinthians 13:6

To number our days is to not take them for granted. Although we can't assume our tomorrows we can rest on the promises of God today. Promises like John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." or John 16:33, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

My friends if you have trusted in Jesus and are living for Him let it be seen today in your marriage so when people talk about you when you are gone they will talk about a couple who had God as their dwelling place and numbered their days for Jesus' sake.

Monday, May 23, 2011

You Got It Wrong

The world didn't come to an end after all. Harold Camping was so sure.

He got it wrong.

It has to hurt in more ways than one to be so sure of something you would even bet your life on it only to find out you were mistaken. It rocks your world and in this case ruins your reputation. Who would ever believe him again?

It is pretty amazing how we can get so consumed by ourselves and our take on things that we become blind to reality. We are SO sure of what we perceive that there is seemingly no room for correction. We work so hard building our airtight case that the views and advice of those closest to us are discarded because "they just don't get it."

The same dynamic happens in too many of our marriages. It's most clearly seen when it's too late. Statements like,"You never..." or "You always..." are simply another way of saying, "You Got It Wrong." Little things become huge barriers that make a case for each to give up learning and loving, instead we become focused on winning. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that my husband or wife will never understand me so we build our case on that premise.

One of the hard lessons that Bev and I learned early on in our marriage was that there were not as many issues in life worth going to the wall for as we thought. In other words, our petty differences were not the problem but our pride. We were more concerned about what divided us rather than who united us. By God's grace we learned to listen, love and forgive.

A verse that has become increasingly precious and practical to us is from
IPeter 4:8, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." Isn't that to be the hallmark of the followers of Christ? Those who are quick to forgive and to be more concerned about the other than themselves? Jesus wants us to always remember that because he died for us he took our wrongs and made them right. That's got to be more important than our obsession to be right.

To truly trust in Jesus and live daily for him is what is right. And won't it be an overwhelming blessing when we see him face to face after our struggles to hear him say "Welcome home - You Got It Right!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Who's Leading Who?

If we are honest much of our marital struggles are around leadership. Who makes the decisions and why? I think this and you think that. Now what do we do?

I remember a pastor friend describing a time he had with a couple who were having serious struggles in this area. The husband in particular was accusing the wife of not submitting to his authority and always challenging him. The pastor asked the couple a simple question, "Who is the head of this home?" to which the husband quickly replied, "I am!" He then asked the same question again and got the same response. After asking the question several times the pastor finally responded, "the head of this home is no other than Jesus."

As professing Christians they had obviously lost their own focus. Jesus is first and foremost the one who is to do the leading. His call and command is to follow. Not to question his integrity and wisdom but to submit to his call.

So what does that look like in our marriage? Does the husband lead in all things and the wife follow or are there other options?

Who's Leading Who?

The beauty of a Christian marriage is that it is not primarily about each other and who is doing what but rather about Christ and what he has done. A Christian counselor said about his counseling Christian marriages that if they would be as concerned about the honor of Christ as much as they were about their roles he would not see half the couples he sees.

Our marriage to Christ is far more important than our earthly marriage and Jesus makes it clear what he asks for, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:27

When was the last time you asked Jesus, "What do you want me to do today as a husband or wife?" Yes, the confusion is real and the struggles legitimate at times but what is the filter that determines my reaction and commitment?

Keep talking to each other about how to make those decisions and to trust each other in the process. Just be sure to remember that the ultimate question is not "Who's Leading Who?" but:

"Who's Leading You?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How's Your Credit?

We recently made a major purchase and it was really encouraging when the salesman told us, "you have excellent credit." He was basically saying that over the years we had managed our fiances well. We paid our bills on time and had a consistent reputation of reliability when it came to managing our finances.

I wish I could take the credit but anyone who knows me knows it is my wife who keeps our financial reputation solid. She has been good at making sure we don't live beyond our means and yet keep up with our promises.

What's that got to do with marriage?

What if there were people like financial examiners who could analyze the credibility of our marriage? What would be the criteria for determining if we had a good "credit score" when it came to our relationship? Many of us work hard to be consistent when it comes to managing our finances but how does that apply to the efforts (or lack thereof) when it comes to working on this relationship that God has given us?

In many ways it's easier to manage our finances than our marriages. Money doesn't talk back! To build credibility within our relationship you have to take personal time to listen, learn and forgive. The more we invest the greater the return. If I know my husband or wife doesn't want to just take the relationship for granted but to always be building and growing it makes me want to give more.

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I Corinthians 13:7

Just as we would never advise someone to wait until a financial crisis to begin managing their money we who profess Christ should not wait until we have trouble in our marriages. We should be working every day to keep short accounts and to build credibility into our marriages. The more credibility we have the more endurance.

Wouldn't it be exciting to hear someone say about our marriage as well as our finances, "You have excellent credit rating!"

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Did You Expect?

We all start out with expectations when we first get married. Some of those are spoken ahead of time while others get unmentioned. Everything seems to go along fine until one of those unknown expectations does not get met.

"How come you never call when you know you will be late?" or "I just don't feel like talking about my day when I come home."

The list can go on but the surprises can also mount up. It can even make you feel you don't really know each other if there are SO many different expectations. Is marriage just one new discovery after another of things you didn't know about each other?


That's not always bad. Marriage is also an opportunity to get to know each other better in each season of life. No one is ever fully prepared for the surprises in marriage but that is also part of the underlying expectation in our vows. I am committed as a husband or wife to get to know my souse better in every way. It's a lifelong learning experience. I want to know what my spouse expects physically, spiritually, emotionally and in every other way.

The problem is that we are both messed up people. We are not as objective and sincere as we might seem. We really want our expectations met. A favorite book of mine on marriage says it all in the title, When Sinners Say I Do.The default is too often more of what I'm not getting from the relationship rather than how I can get to know my souse better and love him or her more deeply.

Once again there is a clear parallel to our marriage to Christ. We are not trying to avoid surprises in our relationship with Jesus but to grow in our knowledge and love of him. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made know to you." John 15:15

No surprises but opportunities to get to know each other better. To be one with Jesus as He is one with His Father.

Shouldn't our marriages be something like that? May the world see you two becoming more and more one in every season of life and may you look more and more like Jesus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Totaled

I was in my first significant accident. My car was totaled.

I saw it coming and knew there was nothing I could do to change the outcome. The impact was frightening but thanks be to God we both walked away. But we both lost something at that moment. I really liked my car. Seeing the condition it was in made me sad but seeing the condition that both of us as drivers were in put it all in perspective.

Accidents happen.

The mystery of life is that "accidents" happen on a daily basis. These collisions can have a great impact on us and not just physically. It doesn't have to be between cars. It happens between people. Bad news about health, job, children, the world...

The daily challenges in our marriages can seem like serious collisions as well. A misunderstanding. A financial crisis. A decision made without consulting our spouse. The impact is painful and frightening. "Why didn't you look where you were going?!" The mess is obvious and the solution is not. The temptation is to declare all too quickly, "It's Totaled."

Not too many people in life, let alone marriage, go around looking to cause accidents. We think our intentions are good but can't always see the impact it is about to have. How do we walk away still together when we have been impacted by something? We have to asses the damage and then move on. We see and feel the pain but we also forgive and strive to pay more attention.

The woman who caused my accident and made my car be totaled was clearly frightened and undone. She kept pleading with tears saying she was sorry. I had to continue to assure her that I did indeed forgive her and that he Lord was truly gracious to us. We both still had our lives and family.

What about you? How do you process those "accidents" in your marriage? Do you harbor bitterness and pain and stay at the accident scene? Jesus calls us to not only seek forgiveness but to forgive. "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8 Granted, that attitude isn't always easy but it is always necessary.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Is this real? Can this actually be happening? It looks and feels like a movie instead of reality.

Once again an overwhelming tragedy is happening right before our very eyes. A nation was going about the routine of life and within moments it would be forever changed. What was is no more. The past is gone and there is no future. No hope. Only destruction and despair.

The power of God's creation is beautiful and frightening. The oceans can literally engulf and swallow peoples and nations.

Lord have mercy.

What can I hold on to today that I might loose tomorrow? Even the good blessings God gives can be lost. My home, my job, my wife, my children. What can I cling to in the midst of a tsunami or nuclear meltdown? Honestly... where is my hope in the midst of despair?

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26

What holds your life and your marriage together today? If it is anything you can see or hold in your hands - brace yourself - you will loose it. Whether today or tomorrow. The deeper question is who is holding you today and tomorrow? As Christians our hope is in the Lord and specifically in Jesus, our risen King. And because of that hope "nothing can separate us from him."

I want my marriage to be built on what I can never loose. I want my children to grow in that eternal hope in Jesus. I want the world to see that our marriage, our lives can be built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. This world is so filled with tragedy and disappointment. In God's providence it is time once again to examine my own heart and marriage. Who or what am I living for? What can I hold that I cannot loose?

May God sober our hearts today as we pray for the nation of Japan. May our marriages be more about Jesus today than our tomorrows. May His mercy be even more precious.

Lord have mercy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Will You Marry Me?

What was I thinking?!

Who is able to make that kind of a commitment? To vow to give yourself to another - until you die. To promise that noting will ever stop not only my commitment but my love. As a future husband asking that question I am asking my wife to be to entrust her life to me. I am telling her she can trust herself to me body and soul. I will do only that which builds her up. Her fears of the future can be put to rest because, "in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health" I will always be there for her.

What was I thinking?!

I want to believe I can be that kind of husband but in my heart of hearts I also know I'm selfish and insecure. There is this hidden and submerged fear that I might let her down. I might not be able to keep my vows. Good intentions don't always guarantee good results.

As Christians who believe the Bible we know there is only one who can keep that kind of commitment. Jesus has not only made that promise but has kept that promise. And he has kept that promise for people who initially didn't want to me married to him!

What was He thinking?!

His unconditional love was so strong he was able to fully take on our sorrow, our sickness and especially our sin of unbelief in a way no husband or wife ever could. His marriage to us would prove to be the only basis of hope for any earthly marriage. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin..."
2 Corinthians 5:21

I want my wife to know that my promise to love her can only be done in the power and presence of Jesus who first loved me. I want her to know that I care deeply for her but there is a deeper love that I have which is anchored in the love of Christ. The more I know his love the more I will be that love for her.

You know what makes this all so compelling? Not that she said yes (which I'm glad she did!!) but that she feels the same way!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If I Had It To Do Over Again

You don't.

Everybody would say they would be better off. "If I knew then what I know now..."

In a real sense no one ever gets a second chance. We have only one life to live. We may get second or third "opportunities" but only one life. Many of us live with regrets of our past that seem to choke our ability to live life today or even be hopeful for tomorrow. Everything we go through is another chapter in the growth of our life. They are all connected.

As Christians we believe that nothing in life is "coincidental." All things are part of God's mysterious plan for this world and for our lives in particular. He is not in the business of second chances but in giving new life. His desire is to bring new life through his Son and to make us look more like Jesus.

This is especially true in our marriages. Sure, we could be better husbands or wives if we had it to do over again.

We don't.

The primary purpose of our marriages is not to finally get it right but to look more and more like Jesus. Every season of our lives is another opportunity to grow more in the grace and knowledge of Christ. That happens on a daily basis. The past has it's regrets and the future it's unknowns but today we have all we need to honor Christ. To build a stronger foundation of life and love which will give us greater confidence.

The beauty comes in knowing that God has been working all along in every season of lour lives - whether we have seen it or not. Because of the death and resurrection of his Son we can be confident and have true hope for the future.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

Look again at what he has done and press on not so much to start over but to carry on that work he has begun in you and will complete.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Here comes spring!

It's been a long winter and any signs of spring are warmly welcomed. I do like some parts of the winter season. The beauty of a snow covered tree. A crisp starry filled night and all that the Christmas time brings are unique to the winter season.

But...after awhile I find myself yearning for a new season. Signs of new life and warmth to replace the chill and lifeless feelings. Each season has those unique attractions but change can be good.

Our marriages take on a similar image. We go through seasons of change. Those early years are filled with enthusiasm and idealism. A perpetual honeymoon. But then you yearn for more than just having fun but to grow in mutual faith and partnership in life. Children may come, jobs may change and your lives take on a new dimension. Change is not always bad and in God's providence it is all part of his sanctifying work in our lives. Our confidence should not be in our surroundings but in the God who surrounds us. To know that no matter what the season or change he is still unchanging and is still working.

If you have the privilege of knowing a couple who are married at least 50 years and love Jesus, ask them about being married in those seasons of life and change. Listen to them. Hear more than practical advice but hear the love that has actually grown and become more the foundation of life. The more they live the more they want to grow.

Should that not be our heart's cry as Christians? The more we grow in our seasons of life with Jesus the more we want to be with him. Jesus wants us to be increasingly excited about our partners in life and grow in that love but he also wants us to be even more excited about our "marriage"to him.

Our spouse will not always be with us but Jesus will.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

He truly is the one constant in every season. The more we are grounded in him the more we will be like him. The more things around us may change the more there will be something that stays the same. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

Think about it. The more we are grounded in the changeless love of Jesus the more we will grow in every season of change. May you be one of those couples married 50 years who not only talk about it but truly show the love of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remember Me

Whether it's a birthday card or a phone call it's nice to be remembered.

Just to know that somebody likes to think about you and appreciates you is a great encouragement t the soul. In a world that is crowded yet lonely a gentle reminder that someone is thinking about you can literally change your day and your life. Some of us need it more than others but there is something healthy and biblical about taking time to remember one another. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you..." Philippians 1:3

The implications are pretty clear and important when it comes to marriage. When we say goodbye to one another in the morning and go off to our daily tasks and responsibilities isn't it reassuring to know that we will remember each other throughout the day. To know without asking that I will think about and with gratitude remember my spouse. I don't mean some sentimental obligation but a genuine and intentional reminder that my husband or wife is a blessing form God. In addition to remember their particular burdens and to pray for them by name. I can be involved in my wife's world even though we are apart and I want her to know that.

In many ways that is the heart of the Gospel. We as Christians should be a people who love to remember. First and foremost we should love to remember Jesus. A daily reminder of his love for us and his call to honor him should be part of our daily DNA. In turn, that love is reflected in how we remember one another. In a world that is not our home we must remember and remind one another of our first love. Just knowing that my brothers and sisters in Christ are remembering me today is a true gift of the Holy Spirit.

Our marriages should be a picture of that love.

Jesus himself set the example and the priority at the Last Supper when he held the elements before his disciples and told them simply, "Remember Me." Whenever you partake of this super, truly remember who I am and what I have done for you.

Today, let's not forget to remember. May the heart cry of our Savior be the theme of our lives and our marriages.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Stand Corrected

I hate being corrected.

Why does it have to hurt so much? And especially coming from my spouse?!

It doesn't have to be some big confrontation but even the little things can hurt a lot. If I'm honest too often the pain feels deep because my pride is deeper than I'd like to admit. I don't want to believe I still need ongoing correction. I want to believe that at my age I have somehow "arrived" and don't need the ongoing medicine of correction.

I wonder if we spend more time trying to avoid correction in our marriages than welcoming it? I would rather question my spouse's motives and deflect the pain rather than think there is something legitimate I need to hear and deal with. Yes, both of us are messed up and don't always speak the truth in love but if I really believed my husband or wife was an instrument of God's sanctifying love in my life I must look beyond that and welcome the correction in Jesus' name.

The bigger issue here is not my spouse but my God.

The ultimate purpose not only in our marriages but in all of life is that we would become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. That can't happen without correction. God's commitment is that He will do whatever it takes to bring about that refining love in His children. "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves..." Hebrews 12:5,6 We can question everyone else's motives but when it comes to our God there is only one motive He has when correcting His children - LOVE.

That might be hard to remember in this selfish world but if it is true that He is doing the same thing in my partner's life than I have the privilege of sharing in that together. Your primary role in your marriage is not to be the corrector or even the encourager but to be more and more like Jesus in their presence. You live for Him who died for you.

May you find joy even in the Lord's correction and may you even enjoy saying, "I Stand Corrected."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goodbye 2010

A new decade.

What will the next ten years look like? In my younger years I was regularly counseled to have a five year plan. What do you want to accomplish in the next few years? To not plan for anything is to not achieve anything.

Plans are good and even necessary but not if they blind you to what's in front of you. "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9 The paradox is that we can work so hard at where we want to be that we loose sight of where we are today. We really have no guarantees for our tomorrows but we do have have God's promises for today.

How should that affect our marriages for this coming year? As we say goodbye to 2010 what do we want to say hello to this coming year? I don't think you can do better than a renewed desire to seek the Lord together. I don't think there is as better verse for marriage than the Psalmist's call in Psalm 34:3 "Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!"

All the dreams and commitments for this coming year, this coming decade and for the rest of our lives has to start today. What if today were your last day? How would you want to live out this day? The bible is clear as to what God's will is for each day, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

The new year is already upon us. Let's plan now to make the most of the days He gives us in this coming year. Let's make our marriages more than comfortable and trouble free but instead let's be hungry to live each day for and in Jesus.

Resolve not to wait for tomorrow but begin today. Lord willing, may this be a year as never before in your desire to make the most of your tomorrows as you rest in Him today.