14
Feb
17

Love That Grows

Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Titus 2:3-4 (NKJV) the older women likewise, …— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

As we read these scriptures, it may seem strange that they command both the husband and wife to love each other. You may be thinking and asking, “How can love be commanded.” This type of love that God commands has little to do with feelings but everything to do with actions. It’s called agape love or the God kind of love and is unconditional in its consistent application and devotion. The best definition we have come up with is: “Doing what benefits the other person.”

Obviously, you cannot command feelings, but you can command that one behaves in a manner that blesses or benefits the one loved. Agape love requires a clear determination and purpose of will and judgment with the help of God. This is the type of love displayed by Christ when He gave His life for lost mankind. Jesus didn’t come from heaven to save us just because we were cute, but He based it on a covenant commitment and desire to rescue and restore the benefits of our relationship with Father God. Jesus came because He and Father God loved us, and His love demanded action on His part to save us.

This is the type of love that grows with time as we live our lives together in a love-purposed marriage. Yes, we can and do have feeling for each other; but true and lasting love grows from obedience to God in doing what helps, blesses, or benefits your spouse. Exercising the “God kind of love” will prevent us from behaving selfishly or pridefully diminishing each other.  The hurtful things said or done will be eliminated when filtered by a desire to benefit your mate and not promote self.

Have you ever wondered how strangers can be put together in marriage and develop a bond that last a life time, and yet, people who join in the name of so-called “love” can’t tolerate each other after a few months or years.? I believe the latter is because the love they are basing their relationship on is not agape love, and therefore, will not grow or last the test of time and familiarity.

Follow God’s command of love in your marriage and the feelings of love will be sustained and grow. Remember that anything we do in obedience to God can only be done with the help of God. Trust God to make and keep you victorious in all your endeavors to please Him.

14
Feb
17

I do, Again

Ruth 1: 16-17

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Many years ago, there was a news report about the marriage breakup of Seal and Heidi Klum. Trust me, I am not a big follower of celebrity gossip, but one thing struck me about them. It was reported that every year this couple would renew their vows. When I heard that, I was dumbfounded! How do you renew vows so often and still manage to break up?

After ruminating about it for a bit, I finally came to a conclusion: The vows they spoke were mere words – just something that sounded nice, but had no real meaning; or that they did it so often, they didn’t really hear the words spoken. That appears to be the case in many relationships. I sometimes wonder why some people even bother to include vows in their marriage ceremony. They seem so arbitrary when difficult times occur.

Someone once asked me if Adrian and I were going to ever renew our vows. My response at that time was, “No, because we meant it the first time.” I still hold to that, but with so many failed marriages, I think it would behoove every couple to at least review their vows once in awhile and remember what they signed up for.

When we wed, and make promises or vows to each other, we are making a covenant between each other with God as the witness. A covenant is usually a formal, solemn, and binding agreement. It’s more than just a basic contract.

What did your vows sound like? Most are variations of the following:

I, __, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife), my constant friend,

my faithful partner and my love from this day forward.

In the presence of God, our family and friends,

I offer you my solemn vow

to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health,

in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.

I promise to love you unconditionally,

to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you,

to laugh with you and cry with you,

and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

I almost wish people would be more honest and change that last line to say, “…and to cherish you for as long as I like you, or for as long as you stay fit and trim, or until you get on my last nerve, or until someone better comes along.” You get the picture. In all actuality, although they are not written like that, that’s what many intend based on so many disposable marriages.

I challenge you to take your vows out and reexamine them. You may be surprised what you said. If you can’t find a copy of your original ones then, perhaps, make some new ones and keep them visible. It may serve as a reminder of how much you really mean to each other and encourage you to work that much harder to keep those promises.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

07
Feb
17

How can I Help?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

One day a friend of mine was sharing with me the condition of her mate’s current health and spiritual situation. As she provided details of the pain and discouragement being experienced, she indicated that the circumstances were beginning to get her, personally, down also. The most hurtful aspect of the couple’s dilemma was that the mate didn’t know how to help or even pray regarding relief. The implication was that sometimes people are so close to the situation that they don’t want to appear to be nagging, judgmental, or preaching to their spouse because of the intimate knowledge frequently possessed by the partner.

The scripture above tells us that two are better of than one because they can help each other succeed. Who better to know the area where assistance is needed than our life partner? Sometimes we will be allowed to come along side and help directly but pride and frustration can prevent this straightforward assistance. This is where the assisting mate must believe the scripture above and turn to the third partner in the braided cord of Christian relationships, God. One can, and must, always turn to God as the stabilizing and binding component of your marriage in prayer.

God has brought you alongside in marriage or friendship to know the hurt, pains, and the identity and location of the wounds that need healing. If you can remain focused on the truth and promises of God through Jesus Christ to not only meet but also exceed your needs, you can guard your mate’s back, provide warmth, lift, and support them as life tries to make them fall. This can be done through prayer to the only one who can guarantee results to strengthen you – Jesus Christ – while delivering aid to your partner. The knowledge and concern that you have must be shared and left with God. Help if it is in your power to do so directly, but in all cases, turn to the source found in the third-braided cord of your relationship, your invisible, devoted partner, God.

07
Feb
17

Let God Do the Changing

I Thessalonians 5:11a (NLT), So encourage one another and build each other up…

In most of the premarital and marital coaching we do, it amazes me how the theme is so often the same: One spouse wants the other spouse to change. They will sit alongside each other sharing about their situation; and based on the things that are stated, it’s very obvious that neither really believes that himself or herself is the problem. I can recall only one woman who called for help and said, “We just need help! If that means that I’m at fault and need to change, I’m willing to do that.” It takes a spiritually mature person to say, “Lord change me.”

When we speak with those who are embarking on the journey of marriage for the first time, we’ll ask them, “If any of the things that bother you about your fiancé right now were never going to change, could you live with that?” We ask them that because we want them to realize that getting married is not just another “home-improvement project”.

There will always be things about each other that can get under our skin, but it is not our job to change our spouse. Many times, we will criticize, cajole, bribe and even manipulate to try to bring about those changes. Those things may work on children, but adults want the opportunity to make up their own minds on what, if any, changes will be made in them. Even the Holy Spirit, when He deals with us about ourselves and areas in which we may be falling short, always give us the choice of making the changes because of the free will God created in us.

The only assistance God needs from us is to encourage, edify and love unconditionally. Encouragement goes miles longer than any criticism you can think up. Dr. Larry and Judi Keefauver wrote in their book, Seventy-Seven Irrefutable Truths of Marriage, “Change always happens from within. Pressure to change that comes from without – a spouse or another person trying to force change – simply doesn’t work. Besides when change comes from God’s Spirit, the power to grow in that change also comes from God.” When you encourage each other’s gifts, strengths and talents, you inspire a desire to change because nearly all of us want to be well thought of by our mates.

Let’s determine to allow God to do the changing while we become great encouragers and cheerleaders.

31
Jan
17

The Anatomy of an Argument

I don’t actually know the title of it, but the words to one of my favorite hymns say this:

Peace, peace. Wonderful peace

Flowing down from the Father above.

Sweep over my spirit forever I pray

In fathomless billows of love.

Unless you have been living completely off the grid or under a rock, I’m sure you are aware of the tremendous chaos our world is experiencing, right now. Peace is something most of us want, but lately, it seems like an elusive pursuit. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

Believe it or not, there are many instances where we have control over how much peace we experience. It’s all about attitude and choice. This is especially true when it comes to conflicts within the marriage. Here is the typical scenario when disagreements breakout: Your spouse is careless when addressing you about an offense you may have caused. He yells or uses a tone several octaves above his usual – a clear sign that he is not happy. You, of course, in turn, are offended because of his approach and feel the need to defend yourself using an equally dissonant tone. He attacks, you counterattack. Now a full-blown argument is in progress. Not only is the battle quite heated, but you are actually arguing about who started the argument in the first place. How foolish!

Take a look at what Romans 12:18 says: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” That includes your spouse! That’s telling us that one or the other could have taken the high road and made the choice to not launch into the stratosphere as your mate did, thus completely diffusing the situation.

How do arguments continue or end? Proverbs 15:1 tells us, A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Here’s more: Pro. 20:3, Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling
and Pro. 21:23, Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,
and you will stay out of trouble.

Scripture is pretty clear, and so we always have a choice whether we are going to let our pride take over or obey God’s word. Let’s let the craziness of our current society stay outside our doors. Instead, let’s allow “the peace of God that passes all understanding” be the controlling factor in our homes. And if we experience enough of it, perhaps, we can spread it around to help those outside our peaceful dwelling so others can have a taste.

31
Jan
17

Identify Your Goliath

1 Samuel 17:45 (NKJV) 

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Today just might be one of those days when you forget who you are in Christ. We can sometimes become like Saul and the army of Israel when they were facing Goliath on the battlefield and forget that we belong to God Almighty. If you will read 1 Samuel 17, you’ll discover that the battle lines between God’s people and their enemies had been established for days; and the Israelites refused to confront or address the threat to their peace. Many times, we decide that this is not a battle we can win and retreat, as we say, “to fight another day”.

But God always has a way of reminding us of His promise to never leave us or forsake us. Just as we may face challenges in our marriages, families, personally, or on our jobs that look overwhelming, remember you are not alone; and God has declared you to be a victor in the arena of life through Jesus Christ. In the scripture above, Goliath is described as having many weapons of destruction as he came out to face David. The situations of our lives can appear to be insurmountable, but we need to be like David and identify who our enemy represents.

David recognized that Goliath was not just coming out against him personally but that Goliath had aligned himself in defiance of God Almighty. When we can have confidence in our relationship to God – and remember His promised devotion to us – we can boldly face our greatest adversaries with the assurance that we are not alone in our battle. David’s confidence came from knowing that God was for him and was more than capable and willing to establish His will in David’s life.

To know God’s Word – His will for his people – enables us to identify the Goliath-like conditions and attacks that confront us everyday. To be able to know and say that failure, unforgiveness, marital discord, sin, financial need, illness, and lack of peace are conditions that are in defiance of God’s will for you, will inspire you to fight with conviction as David did. Many of us look at our struggles as a personal problem instead of a shared life event with the odds stacked in our favor because we name the Lord of Hosts as our God. Know that anyone or anything that defies our God is already defeated!

17
Jan
17

The Umpire

Colossians 3:15 (NLT) And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

True peace in life is the peace that is a gift from God that is established and accompanies His grace provided through Christ. This peace is a personal blessing meant to also establish peace in the body or fellowship of Christ. The word rule used in the above scripture means to umpire, as its original meaning came from an athletic setting.   So, what is being said here is that peace is to be the umpire in our lives when it comes to making decisions regarding issues of disputes and establishing priorities or direction. In the same manner that an umpire, during a sporting event, settles questions regarding proper play, peace should the deciding factor in our personal and interpersonal affairs as Christians.

The meaning of the word peace speaks of being bound together, that is to be unified into integrated oneness. The context of this scripture was speaking to the unity of the body of Christ, but I believe God is also very interested in the unity of our marriages and families. Christian relationships are not, hopefully, directed person-to-person but are always conducted through our personal relationship with Christ. Because of our appreciation of the peace experienced with God and our desire to share and maintain this wonderful gift, our challenge and goal is to seek God’s will and purpose for all our relationships.

By being mindful of the grace and peace provided by God through Jesus Christ, we will let peace guide and umpire our actions. God desires us to be united in oneness, and we need to ask, “Will our attitudes, decisions and resulting actions bring us closer to Him and each other?” Setting God’s peace as our priority will change our personal lives and help to shape the environment in our homes and wherever we go. Let peace be the umpire – the deciding factor – in how you pursue life’s relationships. This will not always allow you to avoid conflict, but make peace your objective. Be thankful for the gift of peace you have received from God, and let it inspire you to be a peacemaker.