Spreading the Good News at Home

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:19-20)

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

There’s a lot to ponder on when it comes to this text, as there is any time Jesus said anything. What I want to focus on for today is that Jesus asked this man to go home and tell the good news. Talk about how good God is. Speak of His mercy. Jesus charged him to use his formerly demon-possessed tongue to express the things God had done for him.

Go home and do this. He didn’t say go to a strange location, talk about this to people you’ve never met. Instead, He said go home and tell this to your friends.

That leaves me thinking, and I hope you are thinking about it too, what kinds of things are we talking about at home? What kinds of conversations are we having with our wives and kids?

Often we talk about telling the good news to the world and talking to others at work, at school, and in the community about Jesus. But are we spreading the good news at home? Do we talk like thankful people at home?

You see, Peter’s speech betrayed him. He claimed not to be a friend of Jesus, but his thick Galilean accent betrayed him (Luke 22:59; Matthew 26:73). In the same way, we can claim to be followers of Jesus, but the way we talk at home may tell a completely different story.

Is there “faith talk” at home? Are we constantly talking about the problems, the business, and the negativity that we fail to focus our thoughts and speech on all the good things God has done for us? Are we remembering to say good things about God out loud to our wives and kids?

Jesus told this man to go home and do this. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12)

Isn’t Jesus asking us to do the same?

The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.
(Isaiah 38:19)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

Do you have good news to tell at home? Do our wives hear us as God’s men telling the good news? Are we thankful men, grateful for life and God’s blessings? Do our wives see thankfulness on our faces and do they hear God’s praises coming from our tongues?

Go home and tell the good news.

Digging a New Channel

We dig channels or trenches to get water going where we want it to go. At home we have a pasture that has a big pond in it in the spring, and I need to have a trench dug this summer so we can better direct that water to the ditch.

I’ve been thinking about channels in our brains. No, I’m not a psychologist, but I know that through a long time of thinking a certain way you can create a channel in your brain where you will lead all future thoughts. That can be bad or good. Paul had learned to rejoice and be content and to see God’s working in all things (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:11). Where at one time he struggled with covetousness (Romans 7), he learned from God how to direct his thoughts through a new channel, contentment.

It could be that because of a long time lusting, you direct all thoughts through that dirty channel and corrupt any good thing. Paul talked about that as well (Titus 1:15). He also taught that through God’s grace we can be trained “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,” so that we can “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). We can dig a new channel with God’s help that will direct thoughts through a pure and holy channel.

But we also can dig a channel of malice. In our relationships, we can over a period of time look at all the faults and hurts that someone has directed our way, and we can dig a channel that leads any thoughts about that person into a channel that puts the worst construction on him or her. No matter what he or she says or does is run through that channel. Even his or her good deeds and genuine kindness is discolored by going down this trench we’ve created in our minds about them.

In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers created a channel for Joseph. I don’t believe that Joseph did anything to deserve it, but they just could not see a positive thing in him. That channel was so well dug that any good Joseph said or did was taken negatively. It went so far that they could not even speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:4,11), in fact, they either wanted him dead or gone.

Listen to what Paul taught concerning this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Can you relate to this? Have you seen this happen in relationships? Do you need to dig some new channels in your mind? Please consider it prayerfully. Take some time to talk these things over with a godly brother in prayer. God can teach us to direct our thoughts in a holy, loving and godly way. He can help us dig new channels.

Graves of Craving

Take some time to read Numbers 11 and Psalm 78:10-32. It records a time during the wilderness wanderings that Israel gave themselves up to intense craving (lust). Manna wasn’t good enough for them. They were not thankful for all that God had already done for them. They spoke of Egypt like it was a resort vacation spot, talking about how great they had it back there. “We want meat!”, they cried.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!
(Numbers 11:4)

So God tells them, “Ok, I’ll give you meat…till it comes out your nostrils” (Numbers 11:20).

Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (GRAVES OF CRAVING), because there they buried the people who had the craving.
(Numbers 11:31-34)

This is a needed reminder from Scripture to help us see the power of cravings and what they can do to God’s people. What can it do to marriage? What can unrestrained lust do to all our relationships?

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
(Proverbs 6:23-29)

A whole bunch of people were buried in a place that was forever remembered as “Graves of Craving.” Just like Arlington National Cemetery, you know what that place means. At Arlington we commemorate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. At Kibroth-hattaavah (Graves of Craving), they commemorated those who gave themselves up to lust. We do not want to create a graveyard that memorializes how we destroyed ourselves and others because of our lusts and cravings.

As God’s men, we must be committed to conquering lust with the power of Jesus Christ and with the help of other godly men in our lives. Help and grace is always there at the throne of God because of Jesus.

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. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(Ephesians 5:1-11)

You are not far from the kingdom of God

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
(Mark 12:28-34)

Mark 12 records a great deal of the confrontations that the Jewish leadership had with Jesus on that last week before His Crucifixion.

In this section we see a scribe having a moment of honesty and reflection. What did this man understand? He concluded that loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself were the two greatest commands ever. He also understood that doing these two things matters far more than any “sacrifices” we can offer to God.

To which Jesus replies, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” If we all could understand those two greatest commands then we can really get down to the foundation of what God’s kingdom is really all about.

So, for today, let’s apply this concept to our marriages. If we as men have as our foundation the desire to follow these two commands of Jesus, then how will that help our marriages today? Most of our marriage “problems” are not that complicated, most are pretty simple to sort out (once we calm down all our emotions and attitudes!). It usually comes down to in some way we are not following God’s two basic commands. What is marriage all about in the kingdom of God? It is fundamentally built on the two greatest commands. If you love God with all of your being, and if you love your wife as you love yourself, you are building a kingdom marriage.

Lessons from Dog Training Classes

Anna and I have been taking our new puppy to dog training the past month and a half. It has been a very new experience for both of us. Neither of us were really involved in the dog training world before. We have had dogs, but we never went to dog training classes. Our eyes have been opened to a whole new world.

But we have also enjoyed this time as a couple. We have grown through it. Not only was it fun to just go out and be together, but it was very helpful for our relationship to get into this as a couple.

I used to hear people advise that if you wanted to get to know a girl and see if the two of you were able to work together, then try and go canoeing. I’ve heard others say that if you really want to test a marriage, then wallpaper a room together. But I see the point in all of this, including these dog training classes, as giving us opportunities to learn better communication, and chances to work together for a common objective.

For example, at this dog training center, I saw a couple that clearly had marital issues, and the dog training revealed it for everyone to see. The dog wasn’t the problem, the owners were. Another person was getting very frustrated with her dog in another area, and the trainer said “Hey, the puppy’s not in trouble, the mom (owner) is!” The trainer was working on the owner’s attitude, not the dog’s. It can be nerve-wracking to try new things with your dog while everyone including the trainer is watching. And if your dog is going berserk with all the new dogs and smells, then it can be particularly stressful as you want to try to focus on training. Add that stress to two people trying to work together, and it can show some areas we need to work on ourselves in our marriage!

I guess what I’m saying in all of this ramble is to take opportunities (if you are not already doing it) to get involved in something fun and challenging together as a couple. It will be great to spend time together, for example we took this opportunity to get a coffee on the way there and french fries on the way back! Okay, junkie I know, but it was a fun date night for us. We plan on continuing classes at that dog training center, and I’m looking forward to spending this time with Anna. It is helping me as a husband to think differently. Train the human (me) first, then the dog.

Things to Remember

I’ve been learning a lot more recently about Alzheimer’s Disease. It seems to be a cruel joke to take away someone’s mind and memory, but I understand that this is part of the curse of sin and death on this world, and that one day the faithful in Jesus Christ will have a glorious body made without hands, and there will be no more pain, sickness, sorrow or death (Revelation 21).

In observing the person who is going through Alzheimer’s, there are things he or she remembers with crystal clarity (usually something in the past), while something from 2 minutes ago is completely forgotten. Some of that is just normal aging, but with Alzheimer’s it is accelerated.

There are things I am sure we all would like to forget. But there are also many things that we need to remember. And the only way to continue remembering those things is to keep them always on the forefront of your mind.

Remember how foolish we were, and how merciful God is to us (Titus 3:1-7; Ephesians 2:12). Remember that God doesn’t remember our sins (Hebrews 10:17). Remember from where we have fallen and repent (Rev. 2:5).

Remember “Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Don’t look back, don’t pine for the good ole days (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus and His apostles (Acts 20:35; John 15:20; Jude 17; Rev. 3:3).

Remember the poor and the helpless (Galatians 2:10; Colossians 4:18; Hebrews 13:3; 2 Timothy 1:4). Look around, you are not the only one hurting. Remember them in prayers (Philemon 4).

Remember our leaders and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

Hope this helps. Let’s be better at remembering these things.

God Has Given Them Work To Do

For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:26)

We all have work to do, whether we are righteous or wicked. God keeps us busy. But in the Scripture we see that God keeps the wicked busy preparing money and things that will in some way end up in the hands of righteous people. This is not to mean that we as God’s people sit around on our duffs and wait for God to take away money from others and give it to us. Nor is it to mean that because we are Christians we are going to be blessed with tons of money.

What it does mean is that God will take care of His people, and sometimes that means He takes care of His people by “transferring funds” from the wicked. How the Lord does that is up to Him, but we see lots of examples of this in Scripture.

What it also means is that the wicked think they are busy taking care of themselves and heaping up riches, but they are only busying themselves in vain. Their purpose in life is selfish and focused merely on getting more stuff. All that stuff eventually goes away, and it is through the merciful hand of God that He directs it toward caring for His children.

Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver.
(Job 27:16-17)

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21-22)

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
(Proverbs 28:8)

The Israelites walked out of Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians. It looks like a lot of that wealth ended up being used to build the Tabernacle (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36; 35:21-22). God’s house was built with the wealth of the Gentiles (compare with Isaiah 60:5,11). Moses’ mother, Jochebed, was paid wages from Pharaoh’s house to nurse her own son (Exodus 2:1-10).

Let’s end with two more passages, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms. Why did God pour out the wealth of the Gentiles upon Israel? Look at the following passages.

He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 105:43-45)

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest–when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end–then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Let’s not forget our purpose! Let’s not forget why God put us on our earth. If we are busy, let’s remember God in the busy-ness! Otherwise, we are just busy heaping up stuff that will go to someone else.

Created With Purpose

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

When God created water, it was given a purpose, and that is to water the earth. When God said, “Let there be light,” it had a purpose. Because of light we have life, growth, seasons, years, etc. Everything God created had a purpose.

The Christian is a new creation. We are His workmanship. God took what was dead and lifeless and breathed new life into it (Ephesians 2:1,5). He spoke into the darkness of our souls and said “Let there be light” (2 Corinthians 4:6). He turned a valley of dry bones into a massive spirit-filled army (Ezekiel 37). We are that army (Ephesians 6:10-18). God created us as new creatures, but just like light and water, we have a purpose. God created light in our souls because He wants us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). God didn’t create water just to sit in a lake, nor did He do such amazing things within us so that we fail to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

So, thinking of all this, why did God create marriage? What is the purpose of marriage? How is God glorified through marriage?

Marriage is to be held in honor among all (Hebrews 13:4). By living in a relationship that God created and supports, we are honoring God and teaching the world about God’s ways and how His ways are best.

Marriage mirrors the relationship that Christ has with the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). In marriage we learn so much about love, respect, and submission to each other in very similar ways to how the church interacts with Jesus.

In marriage, God wants us to enjoy the marriage and grow old joyfully together (Ecclesiastes 9:9). It’s sad to see Christians be so miserable in marriage. When those who don’t even believe in God have better relationships and communication in marriage than those who should know better, it doesn’t say much for the Christian’s claim that God’s ways are best. God’s name is reviled when God’s people don’t behave as they should in the home (Titus 2:5). Sometimes the Christian couple is just miserable because they don’t like each other, but can’t divorce. God wants better for you, and that isn’t pie in the sky religious talk, it’s true. Marriage, God’s way, should have joy and peace. When we are miserable in marriage, then we are not fulfilling the purpose for which the relationship was created. Get help from godly Christians who can sit down with you and guide you into a better marriage.

God seeks godly offspring. One way God is glorified through marriage and one way we accomplish the purpose for which marriage was created is to bring godly children up in our homes (Malachi 2; Psalm 127-128). Just as water is created to help bring life into the world and  continue to nurture that life, we are given the blessing of marriage to water our precious children’s souls.

A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
(Psalm 128:1-4)

Learning from Potholes

Michigan roads are just lovely…aren’t they? The freeze-thaw cycle reveals quickly what kind of roads we have. The flat tires and bent rims are aplenty.

I got to thinking about potholes and how extreme cold followed by heat is able to create such destructive craters in the road. The roads are not safe to travel on because the roads are not built to handle adversity and change. Others are paying high prices in repair shops because of the damage done to their own cars as they are just trying to drive to work and school.

Of course, we’re going to get philosophical, but trials and extreme changes in life can reveal the potholes in our character and in our relationships. Money problems, career stress, health problems, relationship stresses around us, severe loss, etc. all can take a toll on you and your marriage. You start to see big gaping areas in your life that need some serious work. And a quick patch slapped on it won’t fix the problem.

Those potholes in our character and relationships become a hardship for others, too. Just like the road becomes dangerous to travel on, we become harmful to others. We start flattening other people’s tires and bending their rims. Maybe because we are less patient, more defensive, and more reactionary…we just become too tired to be kind. If you have ever driven on a road full of potholes you know how scared to death you are to drive on them. You have to go 5 miles an hour (exaggeration maybe) because one wrong move and WHAMMO your tire is flat. And that’s how we are to others when we have all those potholes in our character. People are moving slowly and cautiously around us, walking on eggshells because they don’t want anymore axles broken.

The trials are good, though, very good, because they expose those areas in which we need to grow (1 Peter 1:7). This is not all negative. In Michigan, everyone is talking about the roads, including those in power. Here is the opportunity for those who have the power to do something about it…to actually do something about it. Patches and quick fixes are unacceptable. In the same way in our marriages and in our individual lives; we see those potholes and we have several options, don’t we? We can give quick fixes and patches that only temporarily mask the real underlying problems. We can ignore them, but it will only get worse. Like our politicians we can continually point the finger of blame at others for the problems. Or we can get real and honest and say, “Let’s get some help to help build a better road that others are safe to drive on.”

Are you tired of potholes? Then fix the road.