Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Love: Unconditional Giving to One Another

     LOVE: Something we all want; in fact, something we all need. We are created to love; first God and then others. Jesus responded to the question of what is the greatest commandment; with, 'Love God and love others.' Everything else is based on these two basic premises. YET, do we truly love? Our spouse? Children? Friends and family? Those we are in conflict with? Too often the answer is, 'no, we don't.' Perhaps you protest that you do love your spouse; you provide for her or take care of him. But do you really love him or her? Do you give unconditionally and sacrificially? Do you seek his or her good in all things? Biblically, we are not to seek to get love, we are to seek to love; to give unconditionally and sacrificially.
     1 John 3:16 tells us what love truly is: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Love is giving of ourselves—with Jesus Christ as our example. He left the glories of heaven to come to earth to die a horrible death for you! We tend to think that Christ’s death on the cross is all there is to His work. Jesus died to self and gave of Himself every day for the 33 years He was on earth heading for that cross. Yet, we tend to balk at any and every opportunity to quit thinking of ourselves and give sacrificially to our spouse.
     What would happen if you stopped trying to get your needs met? If you stopped telling your spouse all the wrong things he or she does and sought to love him or her the way Christ loves you - dying to self and giving all without expectation of any return? Perhaps, for the first time, your spouse would see Christ at work in your life and thereby be drawn to you, rather than repulsed by you. Forget trying to change, correct, or fix your spouse! Love him or her unconditionally and sacrificially.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Spirit of Christ in the Movie The Grinch

     Reluctantly, I went to see the new Grinch movie - my mother wanted to see it and my grandkids wanted to see it for a second time. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie in several respects. Yes, it was a quality movie; with action that kept it moving and a well-written story, but I was surprised by the bottom line message of the movie: Christmas isn't about the stuff - it's about giving and celebrating. The Grinch stole Christmas (the presents and decorations) from the Whos, but he didn't really take Christmas from them and it did not change them - they celebrated without the stuff. 
     So, are we about the stuff, or about giving and celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ? Are you like the Grinch; allowing pain and past hurt to keep you down and wallowing in your own problems? Or are you like the Whos; focused on giving and celebrating Christ rather than the stuff - the presents and trapping of Christmas? Yes, the world is a terrible, scary place full of danger and problems and pain, but Jesus Christ is bigger than all of it! Live your life for Jesus - seek to give of yourself as He gave His all for you.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Submission: Aligning one’s self with another

     Submission, unfortunately, is an extremely polarizing word in society today. Criticized both within and outside the church, people simply do not want to hear that they are to submit to anyone, much less a woman submitting to her husband! One “Christian leader” even has stated publicly that he just throws the word out of the Bible. Yet, the Bible clearly states that people are to submit to God, fellow Christians, and the rulers God has put in place - and that wives are to submit to their husbands. Submission should be a positive part of every Christian’s life. Abuses of the Biblical ideal of submission are not a reason to discard the principle.
     We are to obey the authorities God has put into place (1 Peter 2:13), those over us (Ephesians 5:33, 1 Peter 2:18), church leadership (Hebrews 13:17), and other Christians (Ephesians 5:21). Christians are called to submission! Often couples don’t realize that submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) applies also to husband and wife. We submit to each other as we would submit to other Christians, honoring and respecting each other, and humbly accepting each other’s admonitions that help us grow and mature in our walk with the Lord.
     In marriage, the wife consents to being led—she is not forced. She respects and honors her husband; she is not his slave. She supports and encourages her husband, rather than mothering him and trying to make him into something she thinks he should be. As the husband leads by submitting to God and loving his wife sacrificially, the wife aligns herself with him; and then, working together, they go in the direction God intends for them. The world needs to see husbands and wives submitted to God and loving each other by giving of themselves for each other; not arguing about who is in charge. Are you living in submission to the Lord your God and loving your spouse as the Lord would want you to love him or her?

For more information, check out: 

           by Denise Larson Cooper
   SixThings Submission Is Not by John Piper
          by Jack Wellman

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Champion: A person who fights for or defends a cause

        We must contend for marriage! It is the foundation of the family, the church, the community, and the nation. Marriage is the first institution created by God and holds the very fabric of society together. It is a visible representation of the relationship of Christ with the Church and representative of the Gospel. It is up to us, the Church—the Body of Christ—to stand up and defend the institution of marriage. Yes, people will oppose us; the culture does not believe in God’s plan for marriage. We must speak up and say that marriage according to God’s plan is important!
        There are many things we can do to defend marriage, but first, we must live out God’s plan in our own marriage. To quote a character from a popular movie, “Gays aren’t the problem with marriage. You people are!” When “Christians” do not demonstrate God’s plan for marriage, why would the world want what we have? The non-Christian world will do whatever seems right to them; Christians must obey the Word of God. Demonstrating true Biblical marriages will draw people to Biblical ideals. Too many Christians speak out in support of marriage when their own marriages are not testimonies for the God they claim to serve.
        Couples who have a God-fearing, strong marriage can be used by the Lord to help others and give them hope. We must continue to work on our own marriage, but there is a time when God will call upon us to be used in others’ marriages. Our availability is more important than our qualifications. The Lord empowers those He desires to use—you don’t need a counseling degree to share what you know about God’s plan for marriage. Whether it is confronting someone about to leave their marriage or encouraging a couple experiencing problems, you can help other couples. Be a champion for marriage - some one who fights for and defends Marriage as God designed it.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Rest: refresh oneself, or recover strength

     The Law commanded a Sabbath, a rest from work to refresh and recover strength for the coming week. Christians today tend to set aside the Sabbath as something from the Old Testament and not applicable to Christians. But realize that when Jesus said that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), He was not abolishing the Sabbath, but putting it in proper perspective. The religious leaders at the time took the Sabbath God has commanded and built a whole religious system around it. They weren’t concerned about people or the meaning of the Sabbath, they were concerned with their rules and regulations - their religiosity.
     Rest is important to our lives. It is interesting that the Bible records God resting after the Creation. Did God really need to rest? I am not a “theologian,” but I would think that an all powerful God did not need rest. He rested to provide an example for us. Our hectic lives and busyness too often gets in the way of rest and people are paying for that lack of rest with health problems and not being able to work to their fullest capacities.
     Rest is required in marriage also - not rest from the marriage, but rest together as a couple. Carmen and I are on a long overdue sabbatical, relaxing, enjoying each other, and refreshing ourselves in the Lord and in each other. We all
must stop and take some time for each other; stop the frenetic pace of life and just spend some time resting together. Pastor and author, Ted Cunningham wrote that we need a daily disconnect, a weekly withdrawal, and an annual abandonment. Spend a few minutes disconnected from the technology and stuff of life to connect with your spouse on a daily basis. Withdraw weekly to spend some time together; resting, dreaming, and again, connecting. Finally, annual abandon all of the rigors of life to spend a weekend, a week, or even more relaxing with your spouse. Fight against the natural drifting apart to remain connected and growing together. Take the time to rest - to refresh yourselves, and recover your strength so you can better meet the challenges of life - together.

Other information to check out:
     5 Benefits of a Day of Rest (For You and Your Marriage) –
     Ted Cunningham (Daily Delay, Weekly Withdrawal, Annual Abandonment)
      If Your Partner's in Bed, You Should Be, Too by Erin Leyba
Finding Rest Together: 5 Steps Toward Sabbath with Your Spouse by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

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.