Monday, July 16, 2018

Value: Attributed worth, usefulness, or importance

     We all want to be valued; in fact, mankind’s search for significance has driven men and women to seek to establish their value and prove their importance in a variety of ways through the ages. When dating and newly in love, people express their appreciation of the person they are focused on, but after marriage, that appreciation - that attributed worth usually is not expressed very often, if at all. In our busyness and pressures of daily tasks, we rush through the day and tend to devalue our spouse more than value him or her. We react out of our stress and what we perceive must be done and often hurt rather than help our spouse.
     Paul’s admonishment to the Philippians applies to us also: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). We are to live humbly and consider all people better than ourselves, especially our spouses. We are not talking about tolerating the sin of others - we are talking about having an humble attitude that values others. This isn’t difficult, but requires that we stop and do something to demonstrate our spouse’s worth, usefulness, and importance to us and our marriage relationship.
     How much time does it take to stop your spouse, look him or her in the eye and say, ‘I appreciate you, you make my life better.’ I’m going to give you all a challenge - a challenge that I am taking up also; do at least one thing daily for the next 30 days to express your spouse’s value. (Perhaps we all can make a comment on the Fortified Marriages Facebook page or this blog and relate something that came of this challenge.) Every day for 30 days, make it a habit to
value your spouse; acknowledge verbally, or by a written note or card, that he or she has worth, usefulness, and importance to you

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Holiness: Set apart – Living by God’s Standards

     The Apostle Peter quoted the book of Leviticus when he wrote that Christians are to be holy as God is holy.  This call to holiness is a high calling, critical to our walk with the Lord and to healthy marriages. It means, as the Apostle John wrote, we are to be in the world, not of the world. We are to be set apart - different that the world - living by God’s standards, not the world’s standards. Jesus, the Apostles, and saints throughout history demonstrated what it meant to live holy lives. It is Christ’s death and resurrection that makes us “holy” before God; it is the Holy Spirit’s work in and through us that helps us walk in sanctification - aligning our lives with who we are in Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 that we are to be sanctified (or holy), that we should learn to control our own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable.
     Author Gary Thomas wrote that contrary to the world’s view, marriage is
not meant to make us happy, but to make us holy. God wants our growth more than our happiness; in fact, Jesus said we would have trouble in this world. When we face the troubles we experience as a husband and wife team, not only will those troubles be easier to face, but they will work to our benefit - growing us in our faith. Marriage is one context in which Spiritual growth occurs. BUT, we must embrace the opportunities for growth, not fight against them.
     We will not do this perfectly, but we
must pursue this sanctification, this holiness, living by God’s standards, not our own and not by the world’s standards. We have to obey God’s Word, not obeying a list of rules, but seeking to live according to the heart of our Lord. Dying to self, giving of ourselves as Christ died to Himself and gave of Himself - to the point of death. Who are you going to serve? Self, pleasures, your own wants and desires? Or are you going to serve God, your Creator, the Lover of your soul? Seek holiness in your life, follow hard after the Lord our God - whether your not your spouse follows after Him. Living that set apart life has a way of drawing others toward it. Live by God’s standards.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Loving God's Way

     Most people (I’m included in this) marry to be loved. We fell in love with another person and decided we wanted to spend our life with him or her. Friends, this is not God’s way—not God’s plan! Jesus gave Himself for us (demonstrating love), while we were still sinners (see Romans 5:8). Loving God’s way means giving of ourselves. We talk about this and most of us would say that we do love God’s way—that we do die to self, but really? Who truly dies to self and follows Christ’s example of giving their very life?
     We hear about dying to self and giving of ourselves regularly in Christian circles, but practically, what does it really mean? Like Christ, are we to be crucified on a cross? Often, when we try to get serious about this, people take things to the extreme. Dying to self is very simple, yet very difficult and it seems that the change in attitude is the most difficult part—to have a truly Christ-like attitude (see Philippians 2:1-11). People are so stuck on  themselves. We have to quit thinking life is about us! The world does not exist to make you happy and fulfilled and worth-while, you exist to be used of God to make others happy, fulfilled and worth-while. So many people have told me in essence, ’if I die to self and just give, my spouse will take everything.’ So what? What if they took “everything.” Wouldn’t your life be better without all that stuff? Yes, you need to have boundaries, it is not ok for a spouse to be abusive or treat you badly, but, when one spouse begins giving freely, without holding back, the other will also begin giving.
     Christians have to stop being so self-righteous  - so pharisaical - so hypocritical! Jesus said “if you love me, you will obey me.” Obeying Christ means that we must love God with all of our heart, mind, and strength and love others as ourselves. This love is a selfless, sacrificing, unconditional love. When was the last time, you sacrificed anything for your spouse? Just did what he or she wanted to do, without complaining or a bad attitude. Love God’s way; loving your spouse completely, without reservation—giving everything, even though they don’t deserve it. Christ died for you when you were a sinner, love your spouse  unconditionally.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Skip Christmas - Celebrate Christ!

     There are many views of Christmas - from those who say it is a "pagan" holiday and shouldn't be celebrated, to those who want to "keep the 'Christ' in Christmas," to those who say, 'what's the big deal? We know it is 'Christ' we are celebrating.' Some will angrily argue their view point and even use the Bible to back up their opinion. Others happily just go on with the exchanging gifts and celebrating in one way or another.
     Many years ago, it dawned on me that as a family, we were just trading our wealth by exchanging gifts at Christmas. We purchased and received things that we didn't need or often even cared about. I wondered what we could differently to, perhaps, make our Christmas more Christian. We began providing "Christmas" for another family each year. At times, we did make a difference, but in reality, the question has to be asked, was this what God wanted from us?
     Jesus Christ came to earth to give His life to save humanity from their depravity. Should there be a "holiday" to commemorate this event? Shouldn't we skip the holiday - and just celebrate Christ? Instead of spending money on the trappings of Christmas - i.e. decorations, parties, the traditional Christmas food, shouldn't we do what Christ commanded: care for the poor and reach out to the lost? Instead of singing "Christmas carols" - such as "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," (why would anyone living in Arizona sing such a song?), shouldn't we give our praise and adoration to the One who left the glories of Heaven to come to this messed up world and give His life for us?
     There are a great many things we can do to celebrate Christ instead of spending enormous amounts of time and energy preparing for a "holiday." We could quit being so selfish in our relationships and give of ourselves as Christ has commanded us. We could carry each other's burdens and love others as Christ wants us to. We could turn from sin - the addictions and problems we are bound up in. We could shape our marriages, families, and even churches more into the image of Christ; displaying the love of God to all those we come in contact with. We could humble ourselves, pray and seek God's face and turn from our wicked ways - that would be celebrating Christ!
     I would even take thise a step further and say that if you are not willing to love Christ by obeying Him, you should stop celebrating Christmas, or just admit that you are not celebrating Christ, but using the holiday to your own selfish ends. Think about it...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Happiness: A state of well-being and contentment

     The authors of the American declaration of independence wrote that "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"  are "unalienable rights" guaranteed to all people. While that contentment or feelings of well-being certainly is a good thing, it seems that our society today has made the pursuit of happiness the ultimate goal in life. The Bible says to “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love…” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and certainly, our Heavenly Father desires peace, joy, and happiness for our, His children. The writer of Ecclesiastes also wrote “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (7:14). We all like to be happy, but what happens when we experience the trouble that eventually comes in this broken, sin-filled world?
     The commitment to marriage to often is based on whether or not a person is happy. One writer of a relationship book went as far to define commitment as the product of a person’s satisfaction in the relationship plus the investment they have in the relationship less the quality of alternatives available to them. This idea is prevalent in the Christian church today and it is diametrically opposed to God’s view of commitment! The 80% divorce rate for couples who experience long-term illness or lose a child proves this to be all too true. Many people today abandon their marriage if they aren’t happy and believe that they will find happiness with another person.
     Happiness is a good thing—that well-being and contentment we feel when times are good is wonderful. We must remember that when times are bad, we can get through those times easier when we work together as husband and wife. Happiness is circumstantial, God is bigger than the circumstances. Rather than pursuing happiness, we are to pursue God and walk in obedience to His word. One researcher found that 80% of unhappy couples experiencing problems and remained together, found happiness together after they worked through the problems. Enjoy the good times and work through the problems and trouble you encounter. Make an effort to bring happiness to your spouse; it is likely that act will bring happiness in your own life.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Patience: Tolerating inconveniences or enduring through adversity

     Two Greek words are translated “patience” in the Bible and both are important in marriage. Hypomone is an endurance through adversity—being patient in affliction as Paul wrote in Romans 12:12. Hypomone has to do with things or circumstances. Makrothymia, on the other hand is more about people. This is the toleration of others or longsuffering with others. Makrothymia is listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit and means that we are to give grace to people rather than contempt because they inconvenienced us. The difference between the two types of patience may seem trivial, but if we consider the distinction between the two and apply the Biblical principles to our marriage relationship, our marriage will improve.
     The fact that 80% of couples who experience long-term the illness of one spouse or the other divorce demonstrates that far too many people today do not have “hypomone” or endurance in their lives. People today often don’t persevere in marriage, yet, the Bible admonishes us to persevere or have patience through the troubles and adversity we experience in life. No marriage is perfect and when we work through the problems we experience, our will marriage grow.
     Couples also need to be patient with each other—to have “makrothymia.” Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with, among other things, patience or longsuffering. Who tends to be most annoying to us? Our spouse! Our differences can be trying sometimes and we need to give grace to each other—to accept and tolerate our differences. Proverbs 16:12 says that “a fool shows annoyance at one, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” Being patient with our spouse will help us avoid looking a fools, and more than that, we demonstrate love for God and our spouse by being patient with him or her.

     Do you have both kinds of patience with your spouse? Are you committed to your spouse no matter what and work with him or her through the adversities you face? Do you also bear with your spouse? Tolerating your differences and seeking to connect even when he or she is annoying? Surrender to the Lord and in His strength bear with your spouse and patiently love them—clothing yourself with patience.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Collaboration: Working as a team to resolve problems or accomplish goals

     The marriage relationship, according to God’s plan, is a relationship of unity and common purpose. It is a relationship where husband and wife work together as a team to resolve problems they encounter and accomplish their goals. They use their differences to better meet the challenges and fulfill God’s purpose for them. In short, they collaborate. That collaboration, that working together doesn’t happen without being purposeful and deliberate as recorded in Amos 3:3; “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
     Collaboration is a great concept for marriage - when two or more people collaborate, they are working together toward a common goal. We know there are going to be many challenges and some definite problems in life and when we collaborate, we are utilizing our differences, our individual strengths and abilities to meet those challenges and problems. Whether we face financial difficulties, problems with children, job or relationship problems, or anything else, we will better meet those difficulties when we face them together as a team. It doesn’t mean that we will necessarily agree on the best way to resolve problems, but it does mean that we will focus on the problem, not each other. We won’t allow our differences to become the problem.
     To effectively collaborate we must drop the ‘my way is the way to handle the problem.’ It requires a humility and acceptance of the fact the our spouse has valuable input into the resolution of any problem or the accomplishment of any goal. One person may be a “financial expert” while their spouse has no training in the area, but if the “expert” doesn’t at least objectively consider what his or her spouse has to say, they are perhaps missing a point of view that may save loss and pain down the road.
     Will you collaborate with your spouse? Will you work with him or her to discover the best solution to problems you encounter? To achieve your purpose and goals a couple? The challenge is to put aside your pride and preconceptions to seek healthy resolution to the problems you encounter. Be purposeful and deliberate about walking together with your spouse.