Friday, May 27, 2011

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

Nuclear Explosion, image courtesy of Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

What’s the worst that could happen?

It’s a question often posed when we are faced with uncertainty. It’s similar to the expression,

What have you got to lose?

As a man, I’ve often feared the worst possible outcome of a given situation; I call it the Job Syndrome:

"What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true."1

It’s my worst fear that what could happen has been initiated, I am no longer under the protection of God, and my situation has spiraled out of control. I wanted my wife to live up to an ideal of what I needed. I wanted to feel needed and wanted by her; I did not. I wanted her to hold my hand when we walked together; she would not. My wife wasn’t comfortable being openly affectionate towards me, and that bothered me; a lot.

But what I failed to see was what God was saying to me:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…2

God commands me to love my wife unconditionally; I didn’t. I was unwilling to give myself up for her. I know in the world of logical, intelligent thinking people, obedience to God is archaic, but that shouldn’t come as surprise because God declares that to the world His ways are foolish.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.3

What does it mean to love my wife as Christ loved the church?

I’ve come to realize that I was so focused on what my wife didn’t do that I robbed myself of the daily opportunity to truly love her for the woman she is. I was stuck in an endless loop of conditions.

I was afraid. I was afraid to love my wife

As a man, this is an uncomfortable admission, but I was afraid of not being loved enough. I wanted what I was supposed to be giving her. God has helped me see that I was guilty of being selfish. I say this because; I know I never have a problem loving me. Some may have that problem; I’m not in that group. I take no solace in the belief that many other men have fallen prey to this fear. Men can be quite hurtful to a woman. Men can say things that are hurtful. Men can do things that are hurtful, but men can only do one thing that is necessary:

Love their wife.

A wife needs to be loved.

I’ve got to believe that God created women in this way for a reason. Women have such a capacity to love, yet they have a greater need to be loved. I could talk about how Satan perverts this need in a woman, but I’d rather focus on what happens when a wife is genuinely loved by a husband committed to obeying God.

We get hung up in the terminology of the scriptures.

Just as many men get tripped up in obeying the command to love their wife, some women are skeptical of committing to God’s command that says:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.4

We both fear the worst if we commit.

The result is that I refuse to love my wife. I’ll love my job, or I’ll love things, but I won’t love her. I’m afraid to love her for a million reasons that are rooted in mythology:
  1. She may not be the one.
  2. She might reject my love.
  3. She may tell her family and friends what a dope I am for loving her.
  4. She may love somebody else.
But God didn’t give me options for extenuating circumstances, He didn’t provide me with conditions to love my wife; He simply commanded me to love her. I realize that I was given a tremendous honor by God to love my wife (which by the way I rejected). We men have been created by God to fulfill the need in a woman; the need to be loved.

A wife can love herself, but it is a poor substitute for the love of her husband. A wife can buy herself fancy clothes, expensive jewelry, shoes, and furs, but what is it if her husband doesn’t love her? A wife can get a pedicure, or manicure, but there's no cure for the absence of a husband's love. She can get implants, liposuction, tummy tuck, or a reduction, but there is no cosmetic surgery to give her the love of her husband. I can give her the one thing she desires, but is incapable of obtaining on her own; my love.

I can love my wife, but I’m too afraid.

What’s the worst that could happen in choosing to love my wife?

What’s the worst that could happen in choosing not to love my wife?

A wife needs to be loved.

What about you? What are the reasons you believe a wife needs to be loved? I look forward to reading responses from you.

I can think of three reasons why a wife needs to be loved, and next week, I'll begin to break down those reasons.

Almighty God and Father,

I have been ignorant of many things in this life; the greatest is why I need to obey Your word. I pray for the many husbands who are afraid to love, afraid to commit, and afraid to obey. Loving my wife should not be difficult, but we complicate the simple act of obedience. We fail to understand how neccessary it is for a wife to be loved by her husband. Open our eyes that we may see. Remove the gunk from our ears that we may hear. Melt the hardness that encases our hearts so that we may love. I want to obey You Lord. I don't want to live in fear anymore.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Footnotes:
  1. Job 3:25, NLTB
  2. Ephesians 5:25, NASB
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB
  4. Ephesians 5:22, NASB
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  5. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  6. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Does It Take?

Marriage in crisis, image courtesy of christianmarriagesite.com

I tried, I tried,
I tried, I tried,
in every way I could,
to make you see how much I love you.
Ooo, I thought you understood.

So you gotta make me see,
what does it take to win your love for me?

I’m not a big fan of cookies. Oh, I’ll eat a cookie, but it’s just not my first choice of indulgence. As a kid, I was fascinated by the various shapes of cookies. Cookie cutters allow you to create cookies in shapes that fill a child’s imagination with wonder and awe. Unfortunately, marriages and relationships don’t have a cookie cutter form that allows people to shape the marriage or relationship into what they want it to be; people aren’t just formless globs of dough.

Marriages and relationships require a choice, a commitment, and an investment of one’s life to an extent that many often find is too high a price. This reminds me of when Jesus said:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.1

It’s as though Jesus is drawing a line in the sand and saying the words of Joshua:

Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."2

The success of marriage must be established upon three principals:
  1. You choose to love someone.
  2. You commit to love someone.
  3. You invest your life in loving someone.
When that happens, the beauty of creation is revealed because we see the purpose and capacity which God equips us to love another. We are given a glimpse of the unsurpassing love of God.

God loves me unconditionally. Why can’t I love like that?

For God, choice is not difficult. Commitment is not a conflict of interest with God. Investing Himself in my life is not a high risk for God.

Choice is difficult for me because I have self interests. Commitment for me conflicts with my objectives. Investing myself in the life of another comes at a cost that for me is too risky. Selfishness is an aspect of our fallen nature; it inhibits my ability to truly and completely love another. Show me a discarded marriage or relationship, and somewhere in the rubble will be the selfish thoughts, words, and actions of a person unwilling to love. Men and women are unfaithful. They face personal problems of drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Some have issues of self-esteem. Some are materialistic, while others may be overly miserly. The underlying layer in all these elements is selfishness.

Often, the response of a spouse is to try and love a selfish spouse, but there is something missing in the marriage.

Father God,

So many men, women, and children have been hurt by divorce, fractured relationships, and marital discord. You command us to love, but we choose not to. I am amazed that You love me and the rest of humanity even though we choose to disregard Your wisdom. Oh Lord, may we humble ourselves before Your throne of mercy and cry out in repentance of sin and disobedience. Teach us to love unselfishly; to choose this day, to commit our life, and to invest ourselves into the life of Christ, our spouse, and others. May we find grace to open our hearts to give. You gave the greatest gift I could ever receive; the life of Your Son. I give my life. I pray for spouses, children, siblings, relatives and friends, that they find the truth that, "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." I pray Your blessings upon marriages and relationships. Heal the damage in our lives Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. John 6:51, NIV
  2. Joshua 24:14-15, NIV
References:
  1. What Does It Take, Lyrics by Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua, Vernon Bullock, from the album Home Cookin', released April 25, 1969, Sung by Jr. Walker and The All Stars
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA


Friday, May 13, 2011

Let It Be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.....

Lyrics written by
John Lennon and Paul McCartney

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"1

I have no idea how many husbands and wives are struggling today with the thought that they can no longer remain with their spouse. As someone whose marriage ended, I want to appeal to you before you make that decision.

Don’t do it!

Certainly it will not affect your salvation; only faith in Christ can save one from sin and condemnation. But what impact will it ultimately have on you as a follower of Christ? Again, I am not speaking to anyone who has already committed to ending their marriage, many of whom have re-married; I appeal to those struggling in their marriage.

Last week we celebrated Mother’s Day (and rightly so), for the many women who have given birth; nurturing their children into adulthood. Women do this from a place of love that no man can ever fully understand, but men are not without the ability to understand love. Love is something we all are capable of giving birth to, and yet in a marriage, many find it easier to abort love; rather than nurture love.

Why is that?

A wife will never love her husband in the manner she loves her child, and a husband will never love a wife in the way he loves his mother, but each is capable of giving birth to love one another.

Why does a marriage end in failure?

If I were to ask a hundred couples I’m certain I would hear more than two hundred reasons, but I believe most of us are simply dissatisfied with the person we chose to love. The thing is, I’m not dissatisfied with me, only my spouse. Words like,
  1. My spouse is the reason why the marriage failed,
  2. My spouse didn’t,
  3. My spouse wouldn’t, and
  4. My spouse could not
are too often used to blame one's spouse for my own dissatisfaction and inconsistencies.

I hold on to these thoughts and I value them above the life of my spouse. I give birth to these thoughts and as I nurture and protect them, my spouse becomes more and more insignificant to me. It’s unfortunate that I will never put forth that kind of value, passion and desire for my spouse. I chose to abort my spouse, and I’m left with my thoughts which I can exalt and offer to God the thing which I’ve come to value above the life and love He birthed in me.

I’ve come to realize that marriage isn’t a battleground, although it often becomes a battle of wills. Marriage isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, although there will be times when both a husband and wife are wrong. No, marriage is about forgiving and loving someone in spite of the fact that they aren’t perfect.

A woman may not be a ravishing beauty, but as her husband you see such beauty in her life. A husband may be as stubborn as a mule, but as his wife, you see a man determined to get you; to accept you for the woman you are.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t want God seeing me as a flawed person that isn’t worth loving. I want God to love me in spite of my flaws.
But that doesn’t mean I want to remain flawed.

I may never reach the place where a flaw in the man I am, is perfected, but I still want to be loved by God.

I want that, but I’m unwilling to give that.

Your wife will never be everything you want her to be, but will you love her for who she is? Can you accept her for the flawed woman she is and will continue to be in this life? Or will you nurture the things, those condemning thoughts you gave birth to?

The bible says,
… I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.2

I wonder what happens when someone aborts the love of a spouse. Is there sadness in the presence of the angels of God when a husband leaves his wife? What do the angels do when love is aborted?

Paul wrote in Philippians:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus3

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus4

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]”5

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.6

Are you capable of having the mind of Christ in your relationship with your spouse?

You don’t know my spouse MTJ! She doesn’t respect me! I don’t even think she knows how to love me.

Are you capable of loving her to the height, depth, length and breadth of God’s love for you?

I want to but she won’t let me.

Will you love her for the woman she is?

I just can’t MTJ!

What will you do then?

I’ll cling to these thoughts, replacing her life with my nurtured thoughts of her failures. I’ll value them above her life, and the love I once gave birth to. In the end, I will come to know what really matters to God.

What do you think?

I think you should let it be.

What do you mean by,let it be?

I think you should give birth to the mind of Christ and love your spouse.

Almighty God and Father,

We live in a world of division, anger, bitterness, resentment, and pain, but we are not of this world. We are citizens of heaven. You have demonstrated to us what love is. You didn't give us a concept, philosophy, or inkling feeling. You clearly demonstrated to us what true love is. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. I plead before Your throne of grace and mercy to bring healing to troubled marriages and relationships. Relationship problems between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and those we once called friend. May we humble ourselves before You as Chrsit has demonstrated. May we obey Your command to love and forgive. May we obtain healing in our hearts and mind. In Jesus name. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Footnotes:
  1. Philippians 2:5, NKJV
  2. Luke 15:10, NASB
  3. Philippians 2:5, NKJV
  4. Philippians 2:5, NIV
  5. Philippians 2:5, Amplified
  6. Philippians 2:5, Message


References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Jerusalem Bible, Edited by Alexander Jones, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, ISBN 0-385-01156-3
  3. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


Friday, May 6, 2011

God is on my side!

Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother's Day!

Note: Let me first say thanks to all who read this blog, many of whom are mothers. This Sunday is the day set aside to acknowledge and honor the many women who give birth, nurture, and raise children. There is no way a child can repay the sacrifices a mother makes, the love she freely gives, and the grace she extends. Yet, I do believe that a mother can be honored by the life I choose to live. In living for Christ, I offer to God and my mother the greatest honor I can give; my life. To mothers everywhere I say:

Happy Mother's Day!


This I know: God is on my side!
"God causes everything to work together for the good"

I’ve read them before as I sure many others have, but somehow the words echo in my thoughts. Perhaps it is the Holy Spirit providing me with gentle reminders that God hasn’t given up on me. I think most of us experience some measure of defeat in our life, moments of discouragement, a loss, a hurt, some degree of sadness.

I was thinking how God feels at times, when I didn’t trust Him, when I gave up on Him, or when I didn’t believe His word. The bible speaks of God repenting that He made humanity. How painful it must have been for the God who loves us so much that He gave His only Son, to regret His creative acts..

Yet God moves beyond His regrets and extends grace to all that would receive it.

…when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!1

How do you know God is on your side?

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.2

I can’t think of any words more affirming and assuring. Words proclaiming that The Living God cares about my life, every facet, aspect, and moment that He invests His love and life in me:
  1. The Holy Spirit is the investment which declares that we have been sealed: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…3
  2. Jesus Christ is the redeemer who answers the demand of punishment for our sins: “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…4
  3. God the Father is the adopter who defines us as His own children: “…so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.5
I can doubt, but God doesn’t. He is certain about my position in Christ; for Him, I am secured. His word provides me with assurances, but I must trust and believe Him.

...God is on my side!

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.6

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 56:9, NLTB
  2. Romans 8:28, NLTB
  3. Ephesians 1:13, NIV
  4. 1 John 2:1-2, NASB
  5. Galatians 5:5, NASB
  6. 1 John 5:14, NASB
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  4. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896