Have this attitude in yourselves

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

Have this attitude in yourselves…

Husbands, today, let us use Philippians 2 in our prayers to God.

Lord, teach me to maintain the same love with my wife as we grow in our love for you and for each other. May we be united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Father, help me to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit in my marriage. Please humble me, and guide me in regarding my wife as more important than me. As Christ looked out for my interests over His own, may I do the same for my wife.

God, I ask for you to cultivate within me the attitude which is in Jesus Christ. Jesus left His place in heaven for us and became a servant for us. Help me to not take pride in my position as “head of the home.” Destroy any feeling of superiority whatsoever in my heart. Develop His humility within me. As He emptied Himself, may I empty myself. Lead me to the same heart of obedience that Christ showed on the cross. May I have the same selfless and sacrificial love for my wife that Jesus has for me.

Amen.

Bite and Devour

But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).

Paul’s warning almost 2000 years ago is still as relevant to us today. Heavy criticism of each other in relationships is destructive. It will consume us, one bite, one dig at a time.

Bite and Devour:
  • Criticism destroys intimacy and creates a toxic environment. If we are in a marriage where we are constantly jumping on every word and deed, the relationship will crumble. Your wife will not feel safe to come to you about her thoughts and concerns. It is truly a toxic environment. If you have not lived it, I am sure you have seen others live like that. Miserable. God did not design marriage for that. You want to create an emotionally safe place for your wife.
  • Criticism comes from an insecure heart. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but if I am full of insecurity, I can’t love as I should. It goes back to the old junior high school stuff; we are all trying to pick on the other guy to make ourselves feel better and look good. If you were comfortable in your own skin with Jesus, you would not criticize your wife as much.
  • Criticism comes from meditating on our wives’ faults. Paul wrote that we are to love our wives and not be “bitter” toward them (Colossians 3:19). Bitterness is a root that wraps around our hearts and chokes out any goodwill we may feel toward others. When we focus our thoughts on our wives’ shortcomings constantly, that affects how we see anything she does. Dwell on what is good about your wife. Thank God for her spiritual qualities. It might even help to write her positive attributes down so that you can visually see them.

More on this later.

An Indistinct Sound

For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)

The apostle Paul, in his discussion regarding speaking in tongues, illustrated the importance of sending clear signals. To his point, if someone in those days was miraculously speaking in another language, but no one in the congregation knew what he was saying, then the speaker was merely talking into the air (vs. 9). You are not teaching or edifying when no one understands the message. Furthermore, if a bugler in an army made “an indistinct sound,” then the soldiers in the army would not know which action to take.

So, in the army, and in the church, if leaders and teachers make an indistinct sound, people cannot follow them. We need to send clear signals and distinct messages. The same is on the baseball field: the pitcher and catcher have signals that each knows and understands. The manager and the base coaches have signals that everyone on the team knows and understands.

Now, let’s apply this principle to marriage…do I send confusing and mixed messages to my wife?

Do I make an indistinct sound?
  1. Do I have one set of rules for me and another for my wife?
  2. Do I show support for my wife’s efforts and dreams one day, but on another day make it very difficult for her to believe I am supportive?
  3. Do I send mixed messages on whether I am fully devoted to her, and to her only?
  4. Do I make a consistent stand for God and for His ways, or does the situation at hand determine my ethics?

Something to think about today, men. If you are the head of the home, and your wife is to follow you just as she follows Christ, then are you sending her clear messages?

Give it some thought.

Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled (Hebrews 12:15).

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

I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 recently, and I’ve been thinking about plants, vines and branches, soil, nutrition, and root systems. If we want the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) in our lives (and marriages), then we need to do some farming. This particular farming requires we “walk in,” “live in,” and are “led by” the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26).

But what happens if you are trying to plant God’s word in your heart so that you can be led by Him, and in your heart you already have a “root of bitterness”? What does the above passage in Hebrews 12 say about it? Is there “fruit” to a root of bitterness? There sure is…trouble! The fruit of the root of bitterness is that it “springs up” and “causes many to be defiled.”

Bitterness comes from past hurts, unresolved conflicts, years of piled up resentment because of abuses, neglects and hurtful words. That root of bitterness means that we are holding on to some things in our hearts and minds. Things we need to resolve, work through, and forgive (release).

How does that affect a marriage? Notice the above passage from Colossians, that Paul tells husbands to “love” our wives, but we also are not to be “embittered” toward them. You cannot truly love your wife if you have a root of bitterness toward her in your heart. If you have bitterness and resentment toward your wife, it will affect how you listen to her. It will affect how you talk to her and treat her. It will affect how you see any thing she does. It will affect how you receive any good thing she tries to do for you.

It will also affect the kids. When the Hebrew writer says “many will be defiled,” he means many! When there is a root of bitterness in your marriage, many are going to be affected. People at work see it. People at church are affected by it. Your neighbors see it. This plant gets big quick and its poisonous fruit plants the same root in the hearts of others.

So, if you find yourself having bitterness in your heart, it is time to do some aggressive farming and plant management. That root needs to be completely removed. This may mean you have to sit down with your wife and begin to do some uprooting in prayer. Sit down as a couple with a godly counselor, maybe an older couple in the church. It may mean that you as a husband need to sit down with a wiser, older Christian man and work through your struggles and resentment in prayer with him. It certainly means that we fall before the Lord and beg for His strength and wisdom to uproot this nasty and destructive plant from our hearts.

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you” (Luke 17:3-6).

What kind of woman is she – part 2

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22).

Young men, single men…are you praying for the Lord’s blessing and wisdom to help you find a wife? I would encourage you to pray that the Lord will help you to find a woman who loves God more than she loves you. If she loves God more than she loves you, when you are weak, she will help to lift you up.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

I also would encourage you to look at Scriptures for examples of the powerful influence of a wife, both for bad and for good. Consider how women like Queen Jezebel stirred up King Ahab to do great wickedness (1 Kings 21:25), but also look at how Queen Esther influenced her husband the King of Persia to save her people the Jews. A godly woman will have an incredible impact on your life, and on the lives of your children, but if you marry a woman who is not godly, she can wreak havoc in the home (Proverbs 14:1).

Again, as I mentioned in last Tuesday’s article, we are not looking for a perfect woman, because that would assume that we as men are perfect. WRONG. We are looking for spiritual qualities, however. Does she have a teachable spirit? Is her heart soft toward God and His word? Is she willing to admit her mistakes? Is she willing to stand up for God, even if that means going against you? Is her mind on spiritual things? Does she seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Does she have a servant heart, or a “me-first” heart?

Lots to think about. Take your time. Pray hard. Get wise counsel. Use your soul and your mind, not your emotions to make such important decisions.

What kind of woman is she?

So, what kind of woman is she?

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1).

If you are single, and you are looking for a spouse, I encourage you to look at what the Proverbs has to say about various character qualities of women. Certainly, I would encourage you to read what the whole Bible has to say about it, but start in the Proverbs. Also, if you are a father and a grandfather, teach your children what to look for in a spouse. Marrying a godly person will be the greatest decision you have ever made next to becoming a Christian, but if you marry a person who does not walk with Jesus, you are choosing a relationship that will bring great heartache and pain.

Proverbs provides wisdom to help you steer clear of:

  • A foolish woman. A foolish woman tears her house (family) down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1). Are you looking at how she handles life? Where is her focus? What is really important to her? Listen to what she says and observe her choices. Remember she is going to be the mother of your children. She will either build up a family or tear it down.
  • An adulterous woman. The wisdom from God in Proverbs is specifically designed, according to Solomon, to “keep you from the evil, adulterous woman” (Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:3-20; 6:24-35; 7:5-27; 22:14; 23:26-28; 30:20). If you are interested in a girl, ask yourself “Why?” Is it because she’s really attractive? Is it because she is after your attention and your body? Get your mind out of the physical (1 Samuel 16:7) and look at how she behaves around other men. Listen to what she is saying to you and how she is behaving toward you. Is she trying, like Potiphar’s wife, to get you into bed (See Genesis 39:6-20)? Or is she more concerned with your soul and helping you get to heaven?
  • A contentious woman. The Proverbs repeatedly says that the argumentative, contentious woman creates a home environment that is completely miserable. It is annoying and agonizing, like a constant dripping (Proverbs 19:13). In fact, it is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop or in a desert than to live with her (Proverbs 21:9,19). She is like rottenness in the bones of her husband (Proverbs 12:4). The earth quakes and cannot bear up under a hateful and unloving woman when she gets a husband (Proverbs 30:20-23). Be observant. How does she treat her co-workers? How does she respond to people who disagree with her? How does she treat her parents? How does she talk about people in authority? Is she always right, and everyone else is an idiot? Steer clear of her, because if you marry her, you’ll be the idiot in her eyes.

Please understand that this does not mean that you are looking for a perfect woman with no flaws, because that will never happen. We all, men and women alike, are sinners fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). But what you are looking for is someone with a heart for God, who seeks to grow and draw closer to Jesus and to walk with you as you both draw closer to Jesus.

Pray about this often, single men.

More about this next Tuesday, Lord willing.

See, I Have Listened To You

Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request” (1 Samuel 25:32-35).

Please read 1 Samuel 25 to get whole context of this discussion between David and Abigail. But for now, let’s quickly summarize what happened.

David was the anointed next king of Israel and he was being chased for his life by the current king of Israel, Saul. If you read everything about David up to this point, you can see why God called him a “man after His own heart.” David showed, up to this point, great faith, courage, humility and trust in God. But we come to 1 Samuel 25 and David snapped. Have you ever snapped, men?

A very rich and self-absorbed man named Nabal had treated David and his men with utter contempt and complete disrespect. Nabal by the way, was Abigail’s husband. Up to this point, David had shown great restraint and patience in God, but when Nabal treated David and his men the way he did, David went off the deep end. He was ready to slaughter the whole household of males by morning light (vs. 22). He geared up 400 of his soldiers and they were laser focused to deal out death and destruction.

In comes Abigail. Again, you will have to read 1 Samuel 25, but Abigail quickly came to David and his men and put herself in harm’s way to reason with him and call him down from this path of destruction. She reasoned with him about God’s working in his life, and about the dangerous consequences of the actions he was about to take.

David listened to Abigail! Any man who has ever been charged up with testosterone and adrenaline can understand and appreciate how hard it is to come down from that course and calm down…but David did. I do not want you to underestimate how amazing this was for David to stop, listen to Abigail, calm down, and change his course. Men, there is a great example for us in this.

  • He acknowledged God’s working in and through Abigail.
  • He recognized her discernment in how she handled this situation.
  • He admitted the course he was on was destructive.
  • He was willing to back down and calm down in front of his men.

Men, if you have a good, godly woman in your life…number one, thank the Lord Jesus for her! Secondly, listen to her. She just might save your life, and your soul.

If You Married a Daughter of the King

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)

How do you see your wife? What makes your wife of value? If you married a woman who has given her life to Jesus, then you married a daughter of the King.

She is inherently special. She is by design valuable. Your wife was made in the image of God. If your wife is walking with Jesus, then she is a heir to the inheritance of her Father in heaven. If you married someone who is a daughter of the King, then guys, you married a rich girl!

She is a weaker vessel. Your wife is to be your prized possession, not that you own her, but that you are a steward of God’s possession. She is the Father’s daughter.  She is a daughter of the King. Handle with care. Treat with the upmost respect and honor. One day she is going back to the King, and one day you will go back to the King as well.

How you treat the daughter of the King affects your relationship with the King. Notice how Peter said our prayers will be “hindered” if we do not treat our wives with honor. That’s serious stuff. If you mess with one of my daughters, you will have a fight on your hands. Think of how God views His daughters. If we as husbands do not treat them as valuable, as precious, as heirs of His grace, then He will not hear our prayers.

How you treat your wives is directly connected to how you view and value your wives. Pray for God’s guidance to begin to see your wife as He sees her. Only then can you begin to really treat her with the honor she deserves as a daughter of the King.

Conflict Resolution: Marriage

Please refer to Monday’s article for the broader context of this discussion.

Reference Text:  Romans 5:6-10

Using God as our ultimate example in conflict resolution, let’s consider our marriage relationships. The marriage relationship was intended to be the pinnacle of human relationships, even used as an analogy for Christ’s relationship with the church. In our marriages we should be able to be completely vulnerable, feel safe and secure, and experience true intimacy. However, marriage is often where we experience our greatest conflict in this life. We will explore one aspect of God’s example in resolving conflict and apply it to our marriage relationships. I don’t expect that any of this content will be new or overwhelmingly insightful. Instead, I hope to ask some tough questions and challenge each of us to act on the truths that we already know.

God sacrificed, to His own hurt, to resolve the conflict because He loved:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” At great personal cost, God provided us the path of reconciliation. Jesus willing handed Himself over to be mocked and crucified so that we could be saved from the wrath we deserved.

Ephesians 5:25-31 uses Christ’s sacrifice for the church as the example and tells us that we should “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” and that husbands should “love their wives as their own bodies…nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” When in conflict with Kristine, is that how I think? More often I have thoughts like this:

“She ALWAYS does this…”

“Why should I bother, she’s just going to_________”

“I’m not going to __________ until she ____________”

“If she does that ONE MORE TIME I’m going to _____________”

“Here we go again. It’s always the same thing.”

Here’s the challenging part of any conflict; who do I control I can raise my voice and puff out my chest and intimidate Kristine into fearful submission but is the conflict actually resolved? I can pout and sulk and play the silent game and guilt Kristine into action but is the conflict actually resolved? I can cower and avoid confrontation and give the false impression that everything is alright as bitterness takes root but is the conflict actually resolved? The only person I can control in any situation is me. I can defend myself, justify myself, exert my “rights”, get puffed up in self-righteousness and continue to drive a wedge in the relationship. Or I can choose to love her as Christ has loved me. I can sacrifice to my own hurt, doing what is best for her, in an effort to resolve the conflict.

Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” As far as it depends on me? How far am I willing to go to resolve conflict and be at peace with my wife? Will I allow myself to be mocked? To be ridiculed? To be nailed to a cross? Jesus did.