Monday, November 1, 2021

Walking in the Truth in Your Marriage

 Do you believe God wants you to have a flourishing, growing marriage? A marriage beneficial to both you and your spouse? Psalms 84:11 says; "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor - no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Yes, the Lord does want us to have strong, growing, even flourishing marriages! But we must walk in His truths and be willing to do OUR part. We know the truth, believe the truth and walk in the truth and THEN the feelings will come. It is a matter of being the person God created us to be; dying to self and loving our spouse selflessly as God would want us to. It is NOT about what our spouse does or doesn't do (of course we set boundaries and don't accept sinful behavior), but is about us taking ownership and responsibility for our part and doing what WE can to build a great marriage. Romans 12:18 reminds us that; "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Do YOUR part!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Resolve: A firm determination to do something

      We often think of resolve as solving a problem; meaning that we resolve a conflict, but there is another way to look at this word - it also means that we are determined to do something. This is much more than a desire or making a decision to do something - it means that we are going to see it through no matter what. Generations past worked through the problems they faced because they were resolved to remain together and face whatever challenges came their way. There was a firm determination that they were together for life. Too often that resolve does not exist in marriages today. Adversity comes and one or both spouses walk away from the marriage. That is not God’s plan for marriage - it is not upholding the vows one made on their wedding day.

     Consider Daniel in the Old Testament; he resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine - he had a firm determination that he would focus on God and live on water and vegetables. Daniel’s resolve led to his sentence to death, but God saved him and turned things around on his accusers. Do we have such a resolve to serve God? Would we be so firm in our determination if we faced a sentence of death for our commitment to the Lord? Do we have the resolve to live out our wedding vows as we promised on our wedding day? My friend Pastor Diego did that - at his funeral, his wife announced; “today, Diego has fulfilled his wedding vows.” He took care of his wife, loved her, and was faithful until death separated them. Are we resolved to be that kind faithful spouse?

     1 Corinthians 16:13 tells us to “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” We must do these things in our walk with the Lord and in our marriage. It requires resolve - a firm determination to not let pride or the flesh or the cares of the world shatter our marriage. The Lord will help us, but we must firmly make up our mind that we are going to do what it takes to walk with our spouse through all the troubles we will face in life. Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher in the early 1700s made a list of 70 resolutions that would guide his life. He did this when he was a teenager! Take a look at his list and incorporate some of those resolutions into your life; or make up your own list. What are some things you resolve to do in your life? A couple of suggestions could be: resolve that you will work through conflict in healthy ways; resolve that you seek to connect with your spouse daily; resolve that you will remain faithful and true to your spouse in every area; resolve that you will demonstrate love to your spouse every day - the list could go on; it is important that you resolve - that you make a firm determination that you will do what it takes to build a strong marriage.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Life-Long Commitment to Marriage

 Marriage seems to fall into the same category today as people's clothes, cars, appliances, phones, computers - really anything - if it doesn't make me feel good; if it isn't the latest and greatest; if it doesn't fit in with my life-style; just get a new one. Most of our counseling is not for serious problems; couples come for counseling because they have "grown apart," because of unmet needs, because the relationship just isn't working for them any longer. Western culture is now the culture of the disposable. If it just doesn't "do it" for us, get rid of it and find a replacement. The problem is that you don't just dispose of a marriage - the "two becoming one" means that there has been an indelible stamp of that other person on your life. Additionally, if there are children, you don't get rid of that person - they are in your life - for life! 

Couples promise on the wedding day that they will remain in the marriage through the troubles, through the problems - no matter what - for life! My friend Pastor Diego did that. At his funeral, his wife, Mery, said, 'today, Diego fulfilled his vows. He loved me and took care of me until death parted us.' That, friends, is a testimony of a life long commitment. There are other inspiriational stories of that kind of commitment; click HERE for a downloadable document of "True Stories of Marital Commitment." Make that commitment now that you will love your spouse for better or worse until death do you part!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Peace amid the Conflict of our Soul

 A good friend posed the question about how we could have peace, how we could experience the lying down in green pastures, the refreshing waters, and the refreshing of the soul found in Psalms 23 when we have this war between the spirit and the flesh? Paul also experienced this anxiety, expressed in Romans 7:15 when he wrote that he didn't do what he wanted to do, but did what he hated. He continued writing about this battle between the flesh and the spirit with him and concluded with; "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25) John 16:33 records Jesus saying; "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We know that there will be internal and external strife for us to deal with - we deal with either by turning to Jesus - surrendering to Him, living for Him, focusing on Him.

Our church has begun an initiative to "behold" God for 21 days - to not just focus on Him, but to truly see Him for who He is. To behold is to fix our attention upon the Lord; to attend; to direct or fix the mind on Him. Our rest, our peace only comes from the Lord - we can only experience serenity of Psalms 23 through the Lord. We first must have peace with God; that comes through surrendering our lives to Him and living for Him. Then we can have the peace of God; this entails trusting in Him, focusing on Him and day by day - sometimes moment by moment acknowledging Jesus and giving Him whatever situation we are facing; whether it is temptation, internal conflict, or external troubles. Finally, we can experience peace with the world because we have the peace of God. We can experience the serenity of Psalms 23 through all the chaos we experience in our soul and in the world. 

Matthew 11:29 records Jesus saying that we are to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him - then we will find rest. The picture here is of how oxen are trained by yoking an inexperienced ox to an older, experienced ox. The yoke keeps the two oxen tied together and the younger ox "learns" by literally having to do whatever the older ox does. In this same way, Christ wants us to learn from Him and learn to live a spirit controlled life by walking closely with Him. Jesus experienced all the turmoil we face and more; yet, He remained focused on the Father and His purpose for His life. We must pull away from the busyness of life and stop and focus on the Lord as Jesus did - prayer, worship, and fellowship with believers will help us enter into His peace.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Division: Separation by difference of opinion or feeling; disagreement; dissension.

      Yes, there is division in our world today - in our nation - in our churches - in our families - in our marriages. Through this season of pandemic, we have done a lot of counseling. Couples are at home together, but experiencing division, often because they are not accustomed to having that much time together. There are reports of increased marital strife and even domestic violence due to couples and families being “cooped up together.” Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!
     God’s plan for marriage is for two very different people to come together in the oneness of the marriage relationship. God’s plan is for marriage to be an earthly representation of the oneness, closeness, and unity seen in the very nature of our God. The Bible speaks of unity among the family (biological and church) from beginning to end. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Paul appeals for unity among believers. He wrote to Titus (Titus 3:9-11), that Titus was to warn the person who stirred up division and if they didn’t quit, he shouldn’t have anything to do with that person. Remember, peace is not the absence of conflict, it is resolving conflict in peaceful ways. God commands unity in marriage and in the church.
     Satan sows division - he wants to see couples, families, churches, and even the nation in terrible times of upheaval and division. He has been doing a really good job of egging on the division in today’s environment! The question is, “are we going to allow Satan to divide us? Or are we going to stand firm in the Spirit and work through the problems we face together - even growing through the adversity we face. It is really our choice; the prophet, Amos asked, ‘Can two walk together unless they have agreed?’  The Lord will empower us to work through our differences, but we must make the choice to work together rather than allowing differences to cause division and even ruin our relationships.
     What are you doing? Are you sowing division or involved in divisive conversations? If so, please see Romans 16:17-18 and Proverbs 6:16-19 - the Word of God speaks quite strongly against divisiveness. Are you growing in unity in your marriage? Or are you allowing division to tear your marriage down - even tear it apart? Yes, we must stand for truth, but God calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20). He desires that we seek unity in our marriage, family, church, and our nation - be an ambassador of reconciliation.

See also: Spirit of Cooperation vs. Division in Marriage  by Gary Emery  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Trouble: Experiencing problems, difficulties, or adversity

      Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life.” We live in a broken world - a world crying out for the return of the Savior. Trouble is a fact of life, yet when most couples experience trouble, they react as if they can not believe trouble could happen to them. Statistics show that couples believe the fairy tale that they will marry and live happily every after. Divorce rates skyrocket for those who experience financial difficulties, long-term illness, or loss of a child. For heaven’s sake, people are now divorcing when they experience the difficulties of aging. This is not what God meant for marriage! Marriage is meant to be a natural support mechanism when we experience trouble.
     Jesus told us that we would experience trouble in the world, but that we could take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Problems, difficulties, and adversities should not surprise us and should be a time when we pull together as a couple, not allow those troubles to drive us apart. Carmen and I have experienced tremendous difficulties throughout our marriage. Sin within our marriage, trouble with children, financial loss; the list is quite long. We haven’t make it through the troubles because we are such great Christians; at times, it has been very difficult, but by God’s grace and strength, we have faced the troubles together. We have grown (in our faith and in our marriage relationship) because of and in spite of the trouble we have faced.
     There isn’t some secret that we can impart to you for working through difficulties; there isn’t some formula of seven steps to working through adversity. It is a matter of knowing that trouble will come in life and then trusting the Lord and focusing on Him through the trouble. Get help; through trusted friends, the church, counseling if needed, we are not meant to walk through trouble alone.
     Couples can also prepare before the adversity comes. Preparation involves building the foundation for a strong, growing marriage and continuing the work of building relationship:

    Pray together daily
    Build and maintain healthy boundaries
    Use healthy communication tools

    Grow in intimacy
    Meet each other’s needs
    Connect with others

     You cannot avoid pain and loss in life. How will you handle it? Will you run from adversity or depend on Christ and grow through it?

Monday, March 16, 2020

Faith: Belief that leads to action

       Faith is part of the Christian life from beginning to end. Christians say they have faith - that they trust in God, but do we see that faith in their lives? In their marriages? Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The writer goes on to say that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God.’ We are saved by grace through faith, but that faith should be seen in how we walk in life, and again, in our marriages. James brought this point out even stronger when he wrote that “faith apart from works is dead.”
      Faith is an active trust in God, a belief in what He says is true that results in action. So, whether we are dealing with uncertainties in the world - which will always be the case, as the world groans for the return of our Lord and Savior, or are dealing with problems in our marriage and family, we are to remain focused on Christ - the author and perfecter of our faith. The Saints before us demonstrated their faith through their actions and we are to do the same - to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run the race marked out for us with perseverance (Hebrews 12).
      The order of Scripture is to: know the truth, believe the truth, walk in the truth, and then the feelings will follow. We may feel tremendous uncertainty - we must walk in the truth that our sovereign God is in charge and knows what He is doing. Do we take precautions? Certainly! Do we just march into danger as if the Holy Spirit were some sort of magic cloak protecting us? No! We serve a God greater than any circumstances that we may face in this world; we must trust in Him and walk in that trust. We cannot allow fear to rule our lives. Through knowledge of God’s word, prayer, and walking in the Spirit, we can live lives empowered to walk boldly in our Lord.
     Faith enables us to walk victoriously unified as husband and wife. It helps to keep us focused on the Lord when we experience difficulties in life or in our marriage and family. Faith lived out in action helps build strong marriages that will withstand the storms that will come in life. Where is your faith? Are you shaken by the troubles seen in the world? Does fear immobilize you? Stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ and encourage and build up your spouse helping them to focus on the Lord, trusting in Him. Walk and stand together.