Overcoming Our Ego, Part 2

Last Tuesday, we took a look at our egos, and some signs our egos are getting in the way. You may call ego something like “pride” or “selfish ambition” from a Biblical perspective.

Here are some additional thoughts about our desire to get the credit, the praise and the approval.

We are complete in God through Jesus Christ, period (Colossians 2:10). If man’s praise, acceptance and approval have become our obsession, it is a sign that we are not truly and safely resting in the grace and shelter of God’s arms. Yes, it is great to have the acceptance and approval of others, but that must not be our end goal, because that is such an empty, vain and painful way to live. It will make others around you miserable, too. What are you and I lacking in our relationship with God that we seek to fill with the praise of others?

At a practical level…today:

  • Pray for God to keep our big mouths shut. Enough said. Keeping it shut when we are right. Keeping it shut when someone tells us something we already know…aargh, this is tough.
  • Do things around the house and for our wives without telling them we did it. Yikes, is this possible? Read Matthew 6:1-4, 16-21.
  • Have a chat over coffee and in prayer with a wise godly man who can help you navigate these thoughts. Find a mature man who is comfortable in his own skin because of Jesus.
  • Let’s do some meditation, prayer and study on the grace of God, and that in Him through Jesus Christ we are fully accepted. “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” If we never feel good enough, we will seek man’s praise, but if our sufficiency is truly from God, then one day man’s praise won’t be so attractive to us.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 1

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
(James 4:1)

Here are a few questions about what we call the ego. This article is not intended to answer all these questions fully. 

  • What is the “ego”? (It is not a pre-made waffle that you put in the toaster, that’s spelled EGGO).
  • What is a biblical way of describing the ego?
  • How does my “ego” and the need to care for and tend it affect my marriage?

When do we see our egos raise their ugly heads and cause problems?

When we feel insecure or not good enough. Your wife is complimenting someone else in an area where you are not as strong or talented. How you deal with that? Her father is really good at something that you’re not very good at, and it isn’t that your wife is reminding you of that, it’s just that you are having a hard time with your own insecurity.

When we are criticized or corrected. Certainly criticism and correction can be done in a way that really hurts and stings, but what if the correction is done in love, do you receive it well? Do you have to remind the one correcting you of his or her faults so that you can feel better (or so that we can all feel equally awful/guilty)? Is always being right or always looking good more important than our spiritual growth and having healthy relationships?

When someone else gets credit for your idea/work. If our egos are in the way, we can really let this destroy us. Because of our pride, we are driven to be noticed and credited for our good ideas, designs and accomplishments. But can we be okay if we do not receive the kind of accolades we long for? Jesus said if we are looking for men’s praise, then we have the reward we are seeking (Matthew 6). It is not a good thing, though, because like any addiction we will keep seeking that praise and the good feelings it brings, but it never truly satisfies.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:3-5)

More to come next week, Lord willing.

Be Patient

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
(James 5:7-11)

Take some time today to look at this section of James and apply it to the marriage relationship.

Be patient. Be patient with each other. Be patient in trials and adversity. Be patient with yourselves. Be patient knowing that growth in relationships takes time and growth will always happen as long as we’re alive. Be patient knowing that God is always there for us.

Think of God’s purpose and His character. We see how it was displayed in the lives of the prophets and in the life of Job. God blesses those who endure. God is merciful and compassionate. God has a purpose and a plan and He works within our lives and in our marriages for His glory and for our good. We can use this to “establish” our hearts and our marriages!

God is coming. The Judge is standing at the door! Notice how James connects this to our relationships. You know we always seem to follow the speed limit when we see a police officer, and we always want to show off our best work while the boss is looking! James reminds us that the Judge (Jesus) is standing at the door, and that He is always watching, and one day our date with eternity will be set. All the more reason not to grumble against each other, especially in marriage. We grumble against each other because sometimes we lack the compassion and mercy that God shows to us. May we be reminded that when God comes, we will want mercy and compassion, so let’s show that mercy and compassion to others today.

Article About Recognizing Controlling Behavior

Here is a good article for your consideration about recognizing controlling behavior in relationships.

20 Signs Your Partner is Controlling

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:13-15)

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

Married Under the Influence

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
(Proverbs 5:15-20)

Anna was listening to a radio program the other day, and shared with me a great point that the speaker made. It goes something like this, “Satan does everything in his power to get us to be physically intimate before we are married, and then everything in his power to break that physical intimacy after we are married.” So true.

The passage above in Proverbs talks about being intoxicated. We can be drunk and led astray into the arms of forbidden love, or we can be drunk in love of our bride. God created the sexual relationship to be very fulfilling, to draw us closer to our spouse than we are to anyone else on the planet.

That is why this union is designed exclusively for marriage, when it is taken outside of marriage, it defiles everything and everyone it touches. When it is kept within the covenant relationship of a husband and wife, it brings joy, unity and an intimacy unparalleled in human relationships.

Solomon is directing the husband’s senses (ears, eyes, hands, nose, mouth, etc.) to be directed fully toward his wife. When he starts looking at other women, smelling their pretty perfume, and listening to their flattering words, he will become drunk in other women’s love. His hands and arms are to be devoted to his wife, not to any other woman. Just read the first 7 chapters of Proverbs to be reminded of how Solomon teaches and warns about sexual sin.

But in those warnings are also passages like the one above that talk about the joy and intoxication that can be found within a committed relationship between a husband and his wife.

Have you lost that at home? If so, what happened? And then, how can we get that back again? There are no quick easy answers to these questions. If you have been married long enough you have more than likely found yourself in the situation where the sexual relationship is not the joyful union God designed for you to have.

There are a lot of reasons this happens in a marriage. Health reasons, life stresses, past hurts, arguments and bitterness piled up, unrealistic expectations, the kids, or we are just flat out tired, etc. It also could be that other people have drawn away our affections in some way. Can we come back from these things that have tried to destroy our physical intimacy with our wife? Yes. Otherwise passages like Proverbs 5 wouldn’t have been written.

The question is men, what will you do about this? Have you sought out wise counsel on this matter? Are you directing all your senses toward your wife, or are you being pulled away in your affections to other things and people?

Think about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7

But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,
(1 Corinthians 7:33)

I don’t believe Paul meant this in a negative way. It’s just a reality. If you are married, your attention should naturally be toward how to please your wife. Included in that is the sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). It is your job and your life, and God wants it to be your joy. Seek to please your wife, all the while seeking to please God as well.

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.

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.