Beatitudes of Marriage

In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon first talks about the uselessness of selfish toil and then the vanity of it.  He then talks about the value of a friend in verses 9-12:

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?  12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.  And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; NKJV).

A threefold cord…like in our marriages…where there is husband, wife, and God.  If that describes our marriage, then we are truly blessed and secure.

With this in mind, read through this list I came across in my notes.  It is titled “Beatitudes for Marriage”.

BLESSED are the husband and wife who continue to be affectionate and considerate, loving after the wedding bells have ceased ringing.

BLESSED are the husband and wife who are as polite and courteous to one another as they are to their friends.

BLESSED are they who have a sense of humor, for this attribute will be a handy shock absorber.

BLESSED are they who love their mates more than any other person in the world and who joyfully fulfill their marriage vows of lifetime of fidelity and mutual helpfulness to one another.

BLESSED are they who attain parenthood, for children are a heritage of the Lord.

BLESSED are they who remember to thank God for their food before they partake of it, and who set apart some time each day for the reading of the Bible and for prayer.

BLESSED are those mates who never speak loudly to one another and who make their home a place where seldom is heard a discouraging word.

BLESSED are the husband and wife who faithfully attend the worship service of the church and who work together in the church for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.

BLESSED are the husband and wife who can work out problems of adjustments without interference from relatives.

BLESSED is the couple who has a complete understanding about financial matters and who has worked out a perfect partnership with all money under the control of both.

BLESSED are the husband and wife who humbly dedicate their lives and their home to Christ and who practice the teachings of Christ in the home by being unselfish, loyal, and loving.

This might not be your list, so I encourage you to think about the blessings you have in your marriage.  Don’t let it stop there and share your blessings with others as an encouragement and a testimony to God’s awesome power in our lives, our relationships and our homes.

Safely With Her

In yesterday’s post we painted an image of a safe place in Jesus and how hard it is sometimes for us and others to take that last step towards Him and abide in Him and be safe.  In the passage we considered, Jesus taught that it is good to know what is expected, but what matters is what we do with it.  I want to take both of those thoughts and consider this section of scripture in the context of the relationships we have with the women and/or girls in our lives.

 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33; NKJV).

I know this is a familiar passage to many of us in terms of studying marriage and roles therein.  There is a lot going on in this section of scripture, but I want to focus on a couple thoughts.  First, consider the word “submit”.  This can seem like a harsh term to some.  It is a military term and has to do with rank and file and in my mind, it has to do with order.  Our God is a God of order and in the marriage, He is calling wives to submit to husbands.  This is the order of things and a woman who is endeavoring to be a Godly wife will submit to her husband.  So, this is all her responsibility…right?  No, of course not because husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church…giving Himself for it…dying for it…willing even to go to the cross.  There is a great responsibility for husbands and that is where submission begins.  In order for our wives to submit to us, we have to first submit to Jesus.  In order for our wives to be safe in a Godly marriage, husbands must first be safe in their relationship with Jesus.  We have to take those last couple steps first.

So we have to KNOW this and then we have to DO this.  We can’t expect our wives to come to us and take those last steps if we have not first done that with our Savior.  We have to submit to Jesus in order to be the husband He has called us to be so that it is safe for our wife to come to us, to submit, to be fully engaged in a Godly home.  It isn’t a “you shall submit” that we command but an attitude and life lived in Jesus that calls her to us and we abide together in Jesus and His love, His power, and His safety.

In doing so, we also demonstrate to our daughters the kind of man we would want them to look for, a man who loves Jesus more than he loves them.  Many husbands love their wives and it is beautiful.  But how much more beautiful is a husband who first loves Jesus and because of that love truly loves his wife.  And how much more beautiful is a wife who loves her husband because he first loved Jesus.  This is a safe place.  This is what Jesus wants us to know and to do.  When we live in this safety, we can then call our wives and our daughters to us and they will see Jesus in us and come because they first loved Him.

There are a lot of times I am barking at the door “get in here” when I should be silent and stand with Jesus.  Opening the door of my heart to Him who will make room for my wife and for my daughter.  I pray that God will take down the barriers I put up so that I can nestle into the loving arms of Jesus and abide in Him.  I pray my wife and daughter see Jesus in my life and find safety in that.  Jesus will take care of the rest and what a beautiful thing when my wife and my daughter are there with me because we love Jesus and He loves us.

Insecurity in Marriage

As a man, I will admit that I have been afraid to fail in my marriage.  I was afraid to fail in what God has called me to be and to fail in the eyes of my wife.  For a long time, this fear really took a toll on my wife and my marriage and the worst thing is I didn’t even see it.  Again, this fear I am talking about is the same thing as insecurity.

As I saw firsthand what this insecurity was doing to my wife and my marriage, I had to take a step back, take a hard look in the mirror and really evaluate what was going on.

First and foremost, I had the wrong Person in the center of my marriage and had the wrong perspective on who was really going to make my marriage great.  I was putting everything on me and that was the last thing God expected me to do.  What He wants is for me to put Him right in the middle of my marriage and to know that He is for me and for my wife and is working for us.  This is something that seems so easy to understand but I was really making a mess of it.  With all the sermons, studies and talks…for some reason I was taking away that I had to do it all  Don’t get me wrong, I understand I have a role that God expects me to fulfill but I get my strength and ability from Him and I can be secure in that.  I don’t have to be afraid of failure and I don’t have to be threatened by my wife.

That’s right…I said it.  There were times that I was threatened by the fact that my wife had different strengths, opinions, perspectives, etc.  I can’t really put a finger on why…other than I was not secure in my own position and relationship with God in order to be vulnerable and to assume the best of her even when we disagreed or she was better at doing something than I was.

David told God, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalms 139:14).  If this is true of David, it is true of me.  If it is true of me, then it is true of my wife.  But I certainly didn’t tell her how thankful I was for her…for her uniqueness, for complementing me, for the fact that God purposed us for each other and joined Himself to us when we joined ourselves together in marriage.

So I missed the boat.  Instead of taking the perspective of thankfulness and praise towards God for my wonderful wife…I was insecure and threatened.  I didn’t tell my wife how thankful I was for her even though we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on every situation.  As I wrote yesterday, when I get afraid or insecure I can become angry and when I become angry that is not going to create unity in my home.  It does not demonstrate a man following Jesus and working to be a strength in the home.

What I have learned in all that is to celebrate my wife, to consider prayerfully her perspective if it is different than mine, to draw upon the strength she brings when I am weak, to love the tenderness she brings when I am stubborn and the list goes on.

God made men and women differently, but perfectly for each other.  Just as every organ in our body serves a different purpose to keep us healthy, every distinction between men and women fulfill their own roles for making two better than one.  The differences in our organs enhance our health, and the differences in our marriage can enhance our relationship! (1 Corinthians 12:14-26, James 1:19-20).  We don’t have to be afraid of that.

The First 60 for 30 Challenge

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

How do you start your day? The alarm goes off, maybe you hit snooze or maybe you get right up. You head to the bathroom, taking your phone with you. Perhaps you head to the kitchen for the first cup of coffee and you sit down with your phone to get caught up on social media or email, and review your schedule for the day.

I don’t know what your mornings typically look like but I’ll bet the first hour includes your phone or tablet in some way. Jim Kwik is a leading expert on speed learning, memory retention, and how the brain works. He emphasizes the need to protect the sovereignty of the first hour of our day.   We need to develop habits and routines that allow us to frame our mindset and set the course of our day. One thing he stresses is to avoid the phone for the first hour. When we immediately grab our phones and start looking at social media and email, we surrender our thought process to the demands of others.

So I have a 30 day challenge for all of us. Let’s call it The First 60 for 30 Challenge. For the next 30 days, start off your day like this:

  • Get out of bed and stretch for 5 to 10 minutes, concentrating on taking deep breaths
  • Head to the kitchen and drink a big glass of water
  • Put on some comfortable shoes and take a 10 to 15 minute walk. Don’t put in the headphones, just listen to the sounds around you
  • Upon returning to your house, get another big glass of water and sit down at the kitchen table
  • Make a list of 5 to 10 things you are thankful for. Things that money can’t buy
  • Say a prayer, focusing on thanking God for the things on your list
  • As you get your third glass of water, read for 20 minutes
  • Do all of this before you touch your phone

Our brains need certain things every morning to help us be at our best all day. We need to hydrate and we need to increase blood flow. Drinking water, deep breathing, and movement will help jump start our brains and remove the morning “fog”. We also need to train our minds towards gratitude.

Do this for 30 days. You’ll find that your attitude is improved, interactions with others is improved, and you have less stress throughout the day.

“We form our habits and then our habits form us.” – Jim Kwik

Be Steadfast–He Will Not Forsake You

1 Let brotherly love continue… 5…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1, 5-6)

1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved….13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:1, 13)

This week, I want to focus on these verses.  I would encourage you to take time and read the entire chapters and even the books of Philippians and Hebrews.  These verses are taken out of context of larger discussions but I have used them to keep me focused in my life of service to God and others.  Because I am forgiven of my sins through the blood of Jesus and have been reconciled to God the Father…I am different.  Keeping these verses in mind helps me to remember that and remember that I am only a soujouner here even though the activiites of the world will get me off track, overwhelmed, and keep me from living “blessed” so that I can be a blessing to others.

The women in our lives are important and have a powerful impact on our lives.  Whether mothers, daughters, girl friends/friends, wives, or sisters (in Christ or by birth); the women in our lives can bring us great joy or bring us great sorrow…and visa versa us to them.  They are powerful relationships with powerful emotions.  We can even elevate them to hirer place than they should hold and we can put them at the center of lives where God belongs.  We are to honor and respect them for sure and we certainly should seek their affection, love, and approval.  However, that is not the source of our love.  That is not the source of our identitiy.  That is not the source of our contentment.  That is not the source of our hope.  We can’t start with them.

We start with our Father and our Savior.  In that, we can know that we are safe.  We can know that we are loved.  We can know that there is a greater relationship in play.  In that, we are free.  We are free to love and to offer ourselves and open ourselves up to be hurt because we have confidence in our Heavenly Father and He will not forsake us and we have confidence in our Savior and He will give us the strength needed to love no mater what…all things are possible.

This seems simple…but with real emotions, real relationships, real tragedy, real betrayal, real hurt, real problems…we can get off track and we can become toxic and so can our relationships with our women.

If we first start with God and Jesus, we can then be filled up and freed to then pour out love, grace, mercy, longsuffering as we have received it.  We can do all of that for God…to the benefit to the women in our lives.

This has been a powerful realization and shift in my life and it came at one of the darkest of times.  Since then, thought things haven’t always been easy, I have felt more full and effective in my marriage, my parenting, my fellowship…in all aspects of my life with the women in my life.

Take some time and think about how you might be putting a woman in your life where God should be, the grief it is causing you and her, and go to God and lay this at His feet and meditate on how He would want you to go for the benefit of all involved.

Loneliness

Recently I came across a sermon about Loneliness and in reading through it I thought about a lot of different times I had felt alone in my life and thought how in the end the way I came back from that wasn’t more people or more attention from the right people.  The way I came from loneliness was coming to understanding that God is with me and won’t forsake me…so I don’t have to feel alone and am free to be present and to love even when others are not.  Here is what the preacher said…see what conclusion you come to.

Loneliness is not the absence of faces but the absence of intimacy.  Loneliness doesn’t come from being alone; it comes from feeling alone.

David knew the feeling of loneliness.  “Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.” (Psalm 25:16; NASBU).  David was no stranger to loneliness.

You aren’t either.  You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely.

Loneliness is a gift from GOD.  Perhaps loneliness is GOD’S way of getting our attention…

GOD wants you to hear His music.  One by one He removes the options until all you have left is HIM.  He wants you to discover what David discovered and to be able to say what David said…

“You are with me.”  (Psalm 23:4)

The discovery of David is the message of Scripture:  The LORD is with us!  And, since the LORD is near, everything is different – EVERYTHING!  Death, unemployment, debt, family problems – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

From Lonely to Lovely.  When you know God loves you, you won’t be desperate for the love of others.  When you discover GOD’S perfect love, everything changes!

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18; NKJV)

Loneliness – a gift from GOD…could it be one of GOD’S finest gifts?

If a season of solitude is His way to teach you to hear His song, don’t you think it’s worth it?

God says “I am with you always…”

…so how can we be lonely?

If we first understand that “God is always with us”…won’t that make a difference in the lives of those we love?  If we bring God with us everywhere we go…maybe others will grab hold of Him and not feel quite as alone themselves.

Bitter Trap

Consider this description, this portrait of bitterness provide by Carol McGalliard in the Discipleship Journal, Issue 141, May/June, 2004.

“Long ago someone hurt you.  Your shoulders hunch up when you think about it.  You set your jaw and get a bad taste in your mouth.  When you talk about the hurt, your voice sounds crabby no matter how carefully you choose your words.  You hope God will get even with the one who hurt you, but you dream about your own revenge – just in case He doesn’t.”

Strong’s defines bitterness, or the Greek word “pikria” as acridity (especially poison), literally or figuratively.  If you are like me, you might not know exactly what “acridity” is so I looked that up too…and it means sharp or biting to the taste or smell; bitterly pungent…exceedingly caustic.  That…when I think about bitterness…makes sense and hits home.

So with that in mind, think about some qualities of a bitter person?  Someone who endlessly replays a wrong in their mind in detail (and perhaps exaggerated).  Someone with selective memory who might focus only on the bad times.  Someone full of self-pity or who is self-righteous…thinking they “have a right to be bitter”.  Someone who is only has cynical (and sometimes irrational) comments or who is only harsh with others.

The Psalmist gives us a pretty clear picture of bitterness.  “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.” (Psalm 73:21-22; NIV).  A brute beast.  That is a powerful image and one I am ashamed has described me at times…before my God, my wife, my children and pretty much everyone that has meant something to me.

Bitterness is a dangerous thing and it can destroy a family.  As a husband, I am told “do not be bitter toward my wife” (Colossians 3:19) and in general we are to avoid “any root of bitterness springing up” in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15).  Bitterness leads to wrath, wrath leads to anger, anger leads to clamor, clamor leads to evil speaking, evil speaking leads to malice.  (Ephesians 4:31).

The key to overcoming bitterness…or wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, malice?  The key is a deep conviction with reference to the existence and nature of God, a deep confidence in God and faith in God who can be trusted in all circumstance!

God has forgiven you and me in Jesus.  It is right that He expect us to grow and to show the same grace and mercy to others.  In Him we are safe and free to love.  In that safety and freedom, we can cast the burden of bitterness on Him and know that He cares for us and will not forsake us…even when it feels like the people most important and special to us have.

So why bring this to you today?  I bring it to you today because I know that bitterness can be a very real trap in our lives laid out by Satan to separate us from those we most care about.  I have heard it said “it hurts the most when it’s someone you know” and the hurt can be a number of different things.  I have been bitter and I have let that bitterness drive a wedge in my marriage, my relationships with sisters in Christ, with my own sister…with my friends.  It has disarmed me of any grace, mercy, love or other spiritual tool and blessing and has in some circumstances created a long road to come back from in terms of reconciling a relationship and truly looking to God for my strength and my peace.

Bitterness is a trap.  It can be avoided if we keep focused on our Abba Father.  It’s still a very real trap…so be careful where you step.

The Master and Us

Whatever your role as a man, you have responsibilities.

Today we are considering our role(s) as it pertains to the women in our lives…husbands, fathers, sons, brothers…and this is whether we are single, married, widowers, divorced…there are women in our lives and we have responsibility to them because of our responsibility to Jesus.

How well we fulfill our responsibilities depends upon our view of the Master of the House.

As we start with the Master…let’s define the word “master”.  The Greek word is “kurios” and means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he as the power of deciding; master, lord.  This is used universally, of the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner.  Kurios is a title of honor, expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master.  (Thayers)

Just to be clear.  When we talk Master we are talking about Jesus Christ.  The Savior.  The Messiah.

Because of Who He is…The Lord of Lords!  Because of What He did…Sacrifice!  Because of What He is Doing…Intercession!  Because of What He is Going to Do…Glory!

He is our Master and therefore we are to “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:21; NASB).

“Subject” is to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection.  “Fear” is reverence, respect.  “Christ” is the anointed of God, the Lord of Lords, the Master of the House!

So when we live our lives and find ourselves saying “I can’t do this or that for a particular woman in my life”; let’s change the question and ask “Can I do this or that for the Lord?”

Because, the truth is, what we do we do for Jesus whether we mean to or not.  If we are looking to Him and endeavoring to follow (be subject to) Him, then He will lead us and we will be the man we need to be and He will be glorified.  If we live like that, then the women in our lives will notice and it will make a difference.

The reward in living like this is a reward for all.  If we lead by example and live our lives subject to Jesus then it is likely those women in our lives who we care about, seek to influence, or work along side will be impacted for good.  If we live this way, then together with the women in our lives we can seek out and expect the reward God is offering.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24; NASB)

Strive for the crown of life promised by God for you in Heaven…and hold tight to the women in your life and don’t let them go…serve them because Jesus is worthy of our service no matter what or who we might be dealing with.

Read Your Own Mail

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”  Ephesians 5:22-24

I just finished listening to an excellent series of lessons on the letter to the Ephesians that Andy Cantrell delivered to the Cason Lane Church of Christ.  The link for the series is provided below.  Andy made a brilliantly simple observation when he got to chapter six verse 22.  How many generations of men have come to this passage and focused on the subjection of the wives and the headship of the husband?  How many of us anchor on this spot and then direct the focus of our relationship with our wife around our position of authority?

Who was this instruction given to?  The New Testament does not instruct the husband that he is the head of his wife.  The New Testament does not tell the husband to subject his wife to his authority.

Read your own mail!

The husband is instructed to “…love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.”  Ephesians 5:25-28

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”  Colossians 3:19

I have a feeling that if I focus on my part, showing Christ-like love to Kristine, then the headship thing will probably work itself out.

Let’s stop getting wrapped up in what everyone else “should” be doing and read our own mail.

http://www.casonlanechurch.org/sermons?title=&y=0&se=0&sv=0&sp=80

A Loud Voice Early in the Morning

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
(Proverbs 27:14)

How can a blessing be counted as a curse? In this particular proverb, there are a few ideas to consider.

For one, it may be that my timing is off. Having a loud voice can be annoying at anytime in the day, having a loud voice in the morning may lead to gunfire, no matter how good your intentions are. I don’t want to violate the context of Ecclesiastes 3, but Solomon did say there was a time to speak and a time to be silent. We do have to know what time it is! A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23).

Secondly, my approach may be completely turning a positive thing into a negative thing. “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Why would you have to shout it early in the morning to get your point across?

Thirdly, I need to consider my motives in why I’m gushing and lavishing praise on someone. When someone is just heaping an unusual amount of praise and adoration on another, it naturally leads the recipient to suspect the motives behind it. Is this really a genuine blessing, or is something behind all this cavity-causing sweetness? Remember as it is often said that compliments are like perfume, you are to sniff it, not swallow it. I don’t mean that we are to constantly call into doubt our motives or the motives of others, but there are times when the amount of praise, the timing of it and the volume in which it is exclaimed can really turn into a curse in the end. Solomon sure had a lot of wisdom, didn’t he?