Christian Husbands and Fathers

What does it mean to be a good husband and father? How does the Bible define the role of a Husband and a father? As a man who has been married nearly ten years now, and with three kids, these questions are extremely important to me. I’ve spent the last nine and a half years trying to become the man that my wife deserves and the husband that would honor our marriage, and the last six years trying to be the godly father my children deserve. I have failed many times but I have also learned a lot along the way. I’ve known several men who have demonstrated what it means to be a godly husband and father and for their example, I am very thankful. While watching others live it out is important, nothing can replace knowing the Biblical roots for the calling of a husband and father and choosing to live them out ourselves. At some point, we ourselves need to become an example for others.

I think the Bible lays things out pretty neatly for men. The calling on husbands and fathers is to lead, to love, and to lay down our lives. Looking back through history, men as a whole (the church included) have not followed God’s design for being a husband and father very well. The male dominant societies throughout the centuries demonstrate a real misguided view of the value of women and children and men’s role in the lives. While there are clear passages in the Bible that address the role of husbands and fathers, it seems they get lost in translation a lot. This is not an indictment, it’s a rallying cry for me and my brothers out there to step it up and show this world what God designed us to be. We can’t rely on media or even the pulpit to show us the way. God has already done that. The rest of this post is about what I’ve learned along the way and the standard I want to be held accountable to.

The Bible sets the man up as the head of the household. The head is the one who takes the lead. So what exactly does it mean to lead? Leadership is not domineering. While the husband/father is the Biblical head of the family, he is not the dictator. The best leaders in life are those who lead by example. They never ask of others what they are not willing to do themselves. Every value they hope to cultivate in those they lead, they first cultivate in themselves. A leader listens to the voices of those they lead. They seek what is best for those they lead. And a leader never views themselves as any more important than anyone else. A true leader is humble. As husbands, we must involve our spouses and children. We must invest our time, more in them than in any job or career. As husbands, our highest calling is in our homes.

A husband/father is not just a provider for the family, they are a nurturer as well. I know a lot of men who believe that their job is 9 to 5 and then check out the rest of the time. Male chauvinistic societies have unfortunately bread generation after generation of men who view life this way. All of a sudden fictitious gender roles are created. The wife takes care of the home and the children and the husband brings home the paycheck right? False. That is not the Biblical design. The home and the children belong to both the husband and the wife. They are jointly responsible for their wellbeing. While some women are geared more towards gentleness and nurturing, it is no less the man’s responsibility to be tender and kind and invest quality time in his children. Our wives should also get more of our energy and affection than our hobbies or careers. If we went to our jobs and sat around in a lounge chair and watched tv or scrolled our phones all day, we’d get fired. So why do we think it’s a good idea to do that when we walk in the door of our homes? Our wives and our children deserve our best, not our leftovers.

Back to the concept of fictitious gender roles…whoever said it was the wife’s job to cook, clean, and do the “dirty work” of taking care of our kids? It certainly wasn’t God. The best leaders are willing and able to do the hard stuff. They don’t delegate it. Just look at the greatest leader of all time: Jesus. He came to Earth to serve. From day one, He laid down His life, all the way to His last breath. If Jesus can stoop to wash the feet of sinful men, then we can stoop to do any task that can help ensure the success of our homes. If Jesus could lay down His life, and bear our sin on the cross, then we can lay down our pride to wash the dishes, take out the trash, cook dinner, clean up the kitchen, change the diapers, vacuum the floors, and on and on. These are the responsibilities of a parent, not a wife. As the head of the house, it is our charge to share the load, in whatever form that may take. If we want to be a great leader then we need to look for ways to take the burdens off of our wives’ shoulders. If we want to lead the way Jesus did, then our lives need to be far less about ourselves, and far more about those God has placed in our care.

There is no one who can ever take the place of dad. More than anyone else, they are the ones who will give their children their first and greatest impression of what God is like. More than anyone else, they are the ones who can impress value and worth on their daughters and sons. To be a dad is to carry a heavy responsibility but it is a role to be cherished. Men, don’t find your fulfillment in your work. That’s empty compared to your role as a father. Our children need us to step up. Our children need to see us love their mom deeply. Our children need us to be there for them and with them. They couldn’t care less about how much we make. They want us. Our time and our affection. They need to hear us say “I love you” often. More than that, they need us to show them we love them often. We cannot abdicate our role to anyone else.

Men, our wives need to know that they are a priority. We should never stop pursuing them and showing them they are our greatest treasure. Chivalry is not dead. Honor is not dead. When we get married we should do more to win over our wives than we ever did when dating or during the engagement. We cannot let our vows be empty promises. They are a promissory note stamped on our hearts sealed for life. Our love must endure the hardest of times. A fragile love is not real love. They need to know we are in it for the long haul, not to simply make it, but to thrive and to love greatly. Men, let’s love greatly.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Love IS: Forever

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Love is a complex idea. It isn’t something that can be tied down to a single expression, feeling, or relationship. Love goes beyond all our boundaries. It takes us to all new heights. And love makes life worth living. In this final post of the series, I want to talk about how love is meant to outlast everything. First, one more time through our verses:

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.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

So many relationships come to an end because people “fell out of love” with one another. But we can’t fall out of true love. That’s because true love outlast every hardship. True love does not despair. True love can carry any load.  According to verse seven, love bears, believes, hopes, and endures ALL things. The ultimate evidence of this is not how we’ve been loved by others, but how we’ve been loved by our Maker. Think about it…God’s love has endured a sinful and broken humanity for thousands of years. And you know what? His love has never diminished.

Praise the Lord! He is good. God’s love never fails

Psalm 136:1 (CEV)

Instead of looking at each of us to define love, we should really look at the one who invented the concept. I’ve loved imperfectly. You’ve loved imperfectly. But God is perfect love. Not only is God’s love never ending, but He continued to rescue humanity from their weaknesses and mistakes, purely out of His love. Eventually, He would show His love to the point where He would come to earth to die for those who had even despised His love. At our worst, God’s arms were stretched wide open.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:5 (ESV)

Look around. We aren’t worthy of His love. Not a single one of us. We all sin, whether in thought, words, or actions, every single day. We’ve all turned our backs on Him at some point. We’ve all tried to live life independent from Him at some point too. But He is the picture of what true love really looks like. God’s love isn’t extended to just those who deserve it, but to every single human ever created. God’s love has just been given to you and me when we were at our best (whatever that looks like). God’s love has endured all of our shortcomings. Out of His love He has bore our sins. Out of His love he patiently desires the salvation for every human being. Out of His great love, He carries the grief of our sinful deeds.

Because we are people of God, we should be people of love. Not a love of our own imagination, but a love as demonstrated by God himself. Those in your life, even your spouse, may not seem worthy of you love. But that isn’t what matters. A godly love is one that transcends worthiness. Don’t let people’s faults get in the way of your love for them, especially when it comes to your spouse. I’ll end with a quote from American author and theologian, Frederick Buechner, because I absolutely love it!

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Love others. Love your spouse. Love them deeply. Be patient to the very end, no matter how long, and always reach for kindness as your expression of love. Never seek to do what is wrong, or to see revenge or hurt in others, but shower your marriage and all other relationships with truth. Set God as your example and love those around you with an unending kind of love. May your marriages, and all your relationship blossom into beautiful expressions of heaven.

Love IS: True

Welcome to part three of a four part series on ways to define love according to the bible. In part one, we explored some of the emotional do’s and don’ts of love. In part two, it was all about acting out our love for others through kindness. This post is more focused on the foundation of love. Before we jump in let’s look at our series verses.

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.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Right in the middle of this passage is this statement about love: “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” According to the dictionary, truth is something that is proven based on fact and reality. But in this context, truth corresponds with what we do because the opposite to truth is wrongdoing. So truth is a correct way of living based on a correct way of thinking. Wrongdoing is a false way of living based on a false way of thinking. We all know that how we think is how we will live. To rephrase the previous statement: love wants nothing to do with falsehood and bad living but celebrates the truth and the right way to live.

The person who deceives us the most, is us. In the church atmosphere there is a lot of talk about how Satan deceives us. He is the father of lies and the first of anyone to lie. It is his main weapon against humanity. However, his work is easy because of humanity’s propensity to sin and gravity towards rebellion against God. Rebellion against God is rebellion against truth. In essence, it is to rejoice in wrongdoing. In the book of James we’re told that this wrongdoing occurs when we are led astray by our own desires. We are the masters of lying to ourselves. We can justify about any action. Humans, because of our sin nature, have an ability to make wrong, look right. This can easily happen in any relationship, especially a marriage. Anything we do in marriage that is contrary to biblical principles is the equivalent to rejoicing in wrongdoing. That might sound harsh but it’s true.

When we care about someone, sometimes we can give them the power to convince us to do something we know is not right. When we love someone, we can fall victim to the idea that we just want them to be happy and we’ll let them pick their path. We don’t intercede because we don’t want to make waves. I’ve known a lot of people who have had convictions in their own hearts about something, but they’ve allowed their spouse to derail their pursuit of those convictions. That’s why it’s important to have open dialogue with one another, no matter the issue. And we have to know that condoning others in doing wrong, or participating in something we know to be wrong, is not showing love, it’s showing the exact opposite.

True love has to be founded on truth thinking and true living. A relationship that includes secrecy of any kind is on shaky ground. It’s the equivalent of telling your spouse that you don’t trust them. How can that be love?

A relationship where either person seeks to get revenge, make the other pay, or intentionally harm them emotionally through words or actions, has disaster written all over it. A heart of love for another never seeks their harm but always their wellbeing.

True love is love built on truth. Right way of thinking, leading to the right way of living. What is a true way to think about our spouse? They are a gift, unique, with gifts and talents too. They have dreams and a purpose. They are your spouse, but first and foremost they are God’s child. We should treat them like the prince or princess they are, even when they don’t act like it. We control how we see them, and we control how we love them.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Love IS: Other

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAVLAAAAJGZiMmY2OWU2LThmNjYtNDQyMi04NDQxLTExM2VjOGRiNzM2YQThis is part two of a four part series titled “Love IS”. Throughout the four posts we will be breaking down the extremely well known passage out of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

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.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

In the first post I talked about the emotions that can be used to test our love. Four of them were emotions not to feel and only one was one that true love feels towards others. This post will be more about how we affect others by how our emotions play out. Just like last time, Paul tells us more ways that love should not manifest itself and gives us one more loving attribute to demonstrate in our lives. Once again, lets start with the naughty list.

Love should not be boastful, insist on its own way, or rude. What do each of those things have in common? They are all self-centered actions. No thriving relationship can ever revolve around one person. The root of, probably most conflicts, is when one person demands their way and won’t budge. The act of insisting on our own way is a form of boasting. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I know what’s best and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But boasting certainly goes way beyond that. Last time we talked about people being arrogant. Arrogance is the emotion that leads to boasting. Another word for arrogance is pride, which is not a positive attribute, no matter how society tries to promote it.

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 (HCSB)

Boasting is anything a person does to draw attention to themselves. It’s putting yourself at the center of whatever relationship you’re in and setting your wants and needs as priority. People who are boastful are generally rude, especially when their demands or expectations aren’t met. They can’t seem to understand why others don’t view them how they view themselves. When the bible says that pride leads to destruction and a fall, it’s not a warning to take lightly. Relationships shatter, churches split, teams fail, and lives are ruined all because of pride. Pride in oneself and true love cannot coexist. They are enemies of one another. Instead of being self focused, love is a reflection of a person’s heart that seeks the good of another.

The act of being kind, requires a person to regard the feelings of others, to look beyond themselves, and to intentionally influence another for their good, even at their own expense at times. Showing kindness to someone can save a relationship, end strife, and even save lives. Other words for showing kindness include: affection, warmth, gentleness, concern, and care. When we’re rude, it shows that we value ourselves above all. When we’re kind, it shows that we value others above ourselves.

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.

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

If we want our marriages to thrive then we need to be more concerned with what our spouse’s needs are than our own. We need to making a real attempt to show them kindness every day. That can take several forms. For some, the simple act of asking about their spouse’s day or how they’re doing and genuinely listening is a big step. Or how about asking them what you can do to help them or make life easier for them. Kindness can be seen in a warm embrace or a gentle response. Kindness is setting our own emotions aside out of concern for what the other is going through. In the last post we talked about how patience requires humility. Well, so does kindness. In fact, the patient person is far more likely to be a kind and caring person. The kind person is one who goes through a day thinking of others. The kind person is a concerned person. The kind person is sad for those who are grieving, and celebrates with the victories of others. The world of a kind person is so much bigger than themselves. The act of being kind is a tangible reflection of love. Make it a priority, every day, to show kindness to your spouse. Not just when it’s convenient, when you feel like it, or if you feel they deserve it, but always. Because love is kind.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12:15-18 (ESV)

Love IS: Emotional

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Today is part one of a four part series titled: Love IS. For every part of this series we will be focusing on a familiar set of verses out of the first of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Many people have these verses inscribed on wedding invitations and champagne flutes, but the focus is going to be on living them out in our marriages. My hope is, for you and me, that our love for our spouse (now or in the future if you’re not married) will be described in this way:

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.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

I’m going to be jumping all around these verses over the next four posts so hang in there with me. I’ve tried to group all of these into four basic themes rather than going through each individual word. The first theme I chose is based on certain emotions that we should and shouldn’t have in love. Love, by itself, is not an emotion (despite what many cultures will say). On the other hand, love does produce many emotions. We’re told of five emotions, four we shouldn’t feel, and only one that we should if we are loving authentically. Let’s start with what not to feel.

Some people will say, “I can’t help the way I feel.” Not true. Not even close. The Cognitive theory states that emotions are not fixed, but flexible. We can actually train our minds to have certain responses. We can also control our responses based on a basic understanding of our chemical responses to emotional onslaughts. Negative emotional responses come from perceived threats. Those can be threats to our time, our bodies, our goals, our preconceived ideas about something, our intelligence, and so much more. That’s why people get so ‘fired up’ about politics and religion. When our minds detect a threat, our bodies react. Those chemical reactions can sometimes create negative emotional outbursts, and worse yet, lead to some people bottling up their emotions so that they erupt like Mount St. Helens later on down the road.

This passage says that to love is to not be arrogant, irritable, envious, or resentful. All of these are emotional responses to something that the person has perceived as a threat. When people are irritable, they are lashing out for a variety of reasons. It could be that things simply aren’t going the way they planned, they aren’t getting to do what they want, or maybe they aren’t being treated the way they hoped. Perhaps pressure at work (threat to money, time, performance, etc…) is causing a person to treat their spouse with shortness or harshness. Maybe you don’t feel good (threat to our health and energy) and you take it out on your spouse. How about resentful? So many marriage crumble because of this nasty little “R” word. People become resentful when things are not how they think they should be, generally over a longer period of time, or their spouse isn’t who they want them to be. This is a harmful dagger that has driven a wedge between so many couples. Lay the dagger down.

The other two come from either a feeling of inferiority or superiority, both of which we create in our own minds. A person is arrogant because they think they are better than their spouse (yes some people actually think that). If you’ve ever thought that your spouse is lucky to have you or that they don’t deserve you, then you’ve been guilty. Or someone can be envious if they think their spouse has something that they should. For example, a spouse becomes envious because their loved one has achieved their dreams and they themselves have not. On the adverse to a previous example, if you’ve ever thought that you don’t deserve your spouse or how could they ever be with you, then you’ve been guilty of this.

It’s obvious that love should never produce these things in a marriage. What all four of the previously mentioned emotions do is simply divide people. Love is meant to be a bond. Love unifies. So, divisive emotions should not exist in a loving marriage, or any relationship for that matter. And when you’ve lost someone who is close to you, it becomes blatantly obvious that these emotions are a complete waste of time and energy.

Now, we are left with one commendation from Paul on emotions. He tells us to be patient. For most of us, that is a constant work-in-progress. Practicing patience is hard enough. Patience places unity above our own perceived rights. Patience is a flexible emotion that can respond well to whatever circumstances arise. One of the synonyms for patience is the word stoic. The picture of a stoic person is one who can endure whatever trials, backlashes, criticisms, and all the previously mentioned negative emotions, and  aren’t shaken or riled. They are constant and steady. But the patience that the bible is talking about goes way beyond being stoic. Patience in this sense means loving others from a heart at peace regardless of what is happening to you.

The patient spouse puts the expectations on themselves to treat the other with love and honor instead of demanding that their spouse meets their expectations. The patient spouse is willing to drop their ‘to-do’ list in a heartbeat to meet the needs of the other. The patient spouse always meets their loved one half way, and if needed, will go the rest of the way. The patient spouse slows down, is present, and is calm through the changes in life. Sounds like a pretty high bar doesn’t it? One word carries with it so much. For one, a person needs to be extremely humble in order to be patient. And I’m not talking about outward patience here. I’m talking about the inward, sincere form of patience. Because those who display outward patience only are steaming below the surface and harboring ill feelings. That won’t last, and it’s not fair to either partner. Outward patience is not humble, it’s fake. It’s masking one’s true feelings. I know people who are sweet and gentle on the outside, but underneath are their true feelings which generally come out in gossip sessions or person bashing with a friend. The patient person sees no need to vent because they don’t hold on to ways they’ve been wronged. They can take each situation in stride no matter how hard it  may be.

I’m willing to bet that no one reading this fits the description of a truly patient person. I certainly don’t. That’s why this has taken me weeks to write. But the good news is, that it gives us a bar to shoot for. But not on our own. To be sincerely patient, we need more than our own strength, we need Jesus to change our hearts. Then we can love people, no matter how they love us. The effects of that kind of patience in a marriage can be exponential. It can keep a marriage together. It can make a marriage flourish. But this love needs to be present in all of our relationships. That really difficult coworker, the unfair parent, the two-faced friend or relative…we should love them all with the humble patience that should mark a follower of Jesus.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

The Lily and the Apple Tree

fireheartA lot people avoid the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon, depending on your translation). It makes people blush, and rightfully so. I haven’t seen any bible study small groups quick to make this their selection. But, if it’s in the bible, it must have something very valuable to teach us right? I personally enjoy the book because of its raw, unapologetic description of love. It’s a beautiful dialogue that expresses the heart in a unique way. Just check out this small section:

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NIV) [my emphasis]

That’s intense right? Death is not something any of us can overpower. We can’t step out of the grave on our own power. And if you’ve ever seen a large powerful fire you’d know it’s unstoppable. It consumes everything in it’s path. To describe love that way is incredibly moving, especially in the context of a marriage.

My wife and I chose these verses for our wedding invitations over 7 years ago. I’d like to say that the past seven plus years have been fueled by a love like this but that wouldn’t be true. Many moments definitely have. But that’s not the case for every one of the nearly 3000 days that we’ve been together. So while passages like this are very moving, they’re also very convicting.

Don’t you think God meant for our love for our spouse to look this way? To be unstoppable, unquenchable, fierce, and powerful? Our love can actually be strong enough that no speeds bumps of life could ever dowse the flames. This is a passionate love that I think every marriage needs, and every spouse deserves. It’s a love that we have to fight for and make every conscious effort to maintain. It’s love that fully adores our spouse no matter how they are acting or if its a good day or not. It’s love that sets our spouse as a priority. It’s a love that serves as often as possible. It’s love that puts the needs of the relationship above either individuals personal needs. It’s a love that withstands any temptation. It’s a love that refuses to dull into oblivion.

Here, check out another one:

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest

    is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
    and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
    and let his banner over me be love.

Song of Songs 2:2-4 (NIV)

This is passion. These are two people who adore one another. Our marriage should be a love poem that would read like this. Our spouse should know that we are head over heals for them. The butterflies never have to stop fluttering in your stomach when you’re out on a date with your significant other. You never have to stop being captivated by the one you chose to spend your life with.

When’s the last time you felt a deep passionate desire for your spouse? Anyone struggling to answer that question should also know that it’s not too late. That fire can be rekindled. With God, all things are possible. But we have to want it.

In a way, to lose our passion for our spouse is equal to devaluing them. If you know the story of Solomon, you know that he eventually went astray. He had to devalue his bride to go after other things and other women. All marriages are susceptible to this. We start to lose that passion when we allow jobs, ministry, other relationships, money, goals, hobbies, and even kids to get in the way.

I think Solomon’s sad story pushes some away from reading his love poem. I hope for you, that’s not the case. We’re told that all scripture is profitable and inspired by God. Which means, He wants us to know the words of the Song of Songs. Because that passionate love that we’re meant to have with our spouse reflects His heart for us. There is no power in existence that can stop our God’s love for us. And that is an encouraging thought.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Be encouraged

Be loved

Love passionately

 

How to Fight Selfishness in Marriage

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I was doing some homework at breakfast, planning to meet a close friend and mentor the next morning. And I needed to be ready. I love connecting with him, but every time I do, he asks me the same question: “What has God been teaching you lately?”

I don’t always have an answer, and I wanted to prepare a theologically deep and appropriately pithy response. And then, just as my brain was getting into a groove, Erin interrupted me.

“I’m going to Denver next weekend,” she said, “and I was wondering if you’d bring Annie (our 10-year-old daughter) up to meet me so she and I can have a special date. There’s a fun play in town that I know she’d love.”

What? I mentally gasped. That’s, like, almost three hours of driving! Plus it’s on a Sunday … my day of rest. The Broncos are playing a really good team. The nerve of her asking for such a sacrifice. It’s ridiculous!

I didn’t say that to Erin, of course. I simply said, “Really? That would be a pretty long round-trip drive for me, plus the show tickets are really expensive.”

Erin could see she wasn’t going to get much traction with me and dropped her request. No big deal, right? Now I could get back to thinking about my friend’s inevitable question: What has God been trying to teach you lately?

Hmmm, I thought. Not much.

I was still in that same frame of mind on the way to breakfast the following morning and just about to conclude that God wasn’t trying to teach me anything, so tight the two of us were. Things between my heavenly Father and me are going pretty well, I thought. No big lessons for Greg.

And then, at that exact moment, God tapped me on the noggin and reminded me of Erin’ request.

What had God been teaching me lately? I had a clear answer as I slid into the booth for breakfast: He’d been showing me my own selfishness.

Since that morning, God has made me more aware of how my selfishness causes issues in my marriage. And, just in case you might act selfishly on occasion, too, I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned.

First admit — to yourself and your spouse — that you’re selfish. How do you know when you’ve been selfish? Look for the following signs: You’ve ignored your spouse’s feelings and interests and insisted on having your own way. You’ve made demands, not requests. You’ve withheld sex or thrown tantrums if your wishes haven’t been fulfilled.

Remember your spouse’s incredible value. The more you treasure your husband or wife, the more likely you will be to approach him or her selflessly and sacrificially. As Jesus told us, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Learn to make sacrifices. The ultimate weapon against selfishness is sacrifice, and a happy marriage is often predicated on two people trying to out-serve each other. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” we read in Proverbs 3:27.

Ironically, even an act of sacrifice can turn into an act of selfishness. Here’s a personal example:

Erin is a counselor in an office a few minutes away from our house. She often sees clients in the evening, and if she sees a strange car in the office parking lot after the sun goes down, she’ll sometimes be nervous about leaving the building. So Erin will call and ask me to drive over — just to make sure she gets to her car safely.

It makes me feel valued, and that’s a great feeling. But a while ago, I remember a sense of superiority slipping into my thoughts: Look at what a good husband I am. Erin had better remember how I gave up my time for her.

Act in humility. If you need help finding reasons to be humble, follow Dr. Tony Evans’ example: Meet with your spouse every week for an hour to hear where you’ve messed up. Just listen during that time. (If your spouse struggles in this area, too, switch roles.) These types of meetings can train you in the art of humility.

The fight against selfishness means shelving the “me” and stressing the “we.” Make sure that your marriage has room for both of you: Embrace your interdependence — your inherent need and love for each other.

Finally, remember Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NIV).

When we remember that we are indeed God’s chosen — clothed in kindness — a little drive up the highway doesn’t seem like such a big thing, does it?

An article from Focus on the Family

640x480Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author of several books.

Marriage on Display

Every marriage has an audience. Whether it’s your children, the next generation, church members, nonbelievers, coworkers, or other couples, your marriage is sending a message to those around you.

I heard a pastor this last weekend make a statement that shocked me. He said that a marriage can either convince people that hell really exists, or that God really exists. I literally said, “Oh my gosh” out loud in my truck when I heard it. But after some time of really thinking about it, I believe he’s correct in what he said.

So now for the hard part. If you’re married, what does your marriage put on display to others? Does it show more of the brokenness and hurt in this world? Or does your marriage reveal a God who is loving full of mercy? Does it show the pride and the ‘me-centered’ attitude that originated with Satan himself. Or does it show the sacrificial love that lays one’s life down for others, like Jesus did on the cross of Calvary? Is it full of anger and bitterness or radiating gentleness and forgiveness?

If your marriage story isn’t what it should be, don’t lose heart. God redeems lives and He can redeem marriages. I know you haven’t been perfect. Neither have I. No one has other than Jesus Himself. We will all have good days and bad days. But as a trend, our marriage should speak life and love. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, then our love should be most evident in the one we’ve chosen to join our lives too.

Peace to you and your marriage!

Marriage Series #5: Don’t forget your number one.

8707cdffe7ce97f7b12e28f43b64a864--marriage-tattoos-mothers

For some reason, when people get married, life together can get muddled very easily. This final post in the five part series takes us deep into just how highly we hold our marriage relationship among the things of life.

Arguably nothing distracts us more from our spouse than having children. All of sudden, there is another little miracle to focus on, and before we know it, we’ve forgotten to focus on an even more important relationship: our marriage. That’s right, your spouse is your priority. Not at the neglect of your children, but because your children need your spouse to be number one.

We are given children to raise, and nurture, and help mold into godly individuals so that they can go out into the world to do the same. In a nut shell, we have kids with the goal to give them away at a later point in their future, and to prepare them for when that day comes. The marriage is way different. We join with a spouse for life. Our goal is never to prepare our spouse to leave one day. That would be crazy! Our goal is to draw more closely together in the union as one. But unfortunately, so many parents neglect their marriage for the cause of their children. They pour their time and effort out and have nothing left for the one that matters most. Don’t get me wrong, I have two little ones and I know the time and energy that it takes to raise kiddos. I also know the special place they hold in my heart. But I had a wife first, and I need to make sure she remembers that she had my heart first.

Children aren’t the only drain on marriage fun. For men especially, work can exhaust even the most hardy individual. Sometimes people fill their lives with work out of necessity. I’m a realist. I get it. I have a career as a teacher, I own a window washing business, and I coach wrestling. My life is full but out of the need to provide for my family. God has been so good to provide each of those opportunities for us. I could easily allow them to drain the life out of me and have nothing left when I get home. But that would be neglect. That would be sinful. Yes, sinful. God paired me with an amazing woman and I owe her my service, my love, and my affection. To deny her any of these is to shortchange the greatest treasure in my life. I will be the first to admit, that I have come up short, more than once. But each day is a new day for me to show her how much she means to me no matter how busy I am.

On the other hand, some people pour their lives out for their careers out of choice, not need. Why? Jobs can be controlled. Jobs are safe. And lets face it, jobs are way easier than relationships. So a lot of people retreat into their work where they can have more success. There’s no other way to put it…this is a cowards way out and it’s pathetic and crushing to a marriage.  Even with that said, it’s not too late to reset your priorities in life and to re-calibrate your heart back to your spouse.

There are many things that can take our eyes off our marriage. Worrying about bills, struggling health, stresses caused by others, etc…Whatever the case may be, it is possible to always have our marriage on high priority. It’s a choice…a constant one. I have a few ideas on how we can make sure we keep our spouse as our number one love (other than Jesus of course).

#1-Continue dating

Make it a point to go out with your spouse. If you have children, make sure you have some dates without those bundles of joy. If you can afford it, try once a month. If you can do more, do more. Dates don’t have to be expensive either. There’s plenty you can do for under $10 or even free. The effort makes the difference.

#2-Never stop adoring your spouse

To adore our spouse is very much a choice. Circumstance can certainly affect us but we get the power to choose whether we stay head over heals for our significant other. Remember how you loved them once. Remember how you never wanted to be apart. Hold on to that. That never has to change, we just allow it to. We should be way more in love with them at the end of life than we were the day we got married.

#3-Remember that they are a gift

I know that this can be hard right after an argument. But you don’t deserve them. They don’t deserve you. Your spouse is a symbol of God’s amazing grace in your life. God created the system of marriage as a way to help one another in carrying out life’s purposes. Don’t forget that or take that for granted.

#4-Don’t forget who your spouse belongs to

God made your spouse. That’s a fact. Treat her like the princess she is. Treat him like the prince he is. Even when they don’t act like it.

#5-Keep the communication lines open

There’s lots of ways to do this. Set specific times to talk. For my wife and I, that mostly happens after 8:30 when the kids are in bed. But we also need to make sure we don’t act on important things without including our spouse. Remember, we are one in marriage and they need to be the one we go to first and most.

#6-Have a lot of fun

My wife and I are best friends. We love to laugh together, be playful, sit by a fire in our backyard, watch movies, and so much more. Marriage is awesome. It’s a never ending sleep over with your best friend.

#7-Be intimate

Guys, this is more than just physical intimacy. Ladies, this is more than just emotional intimacy. To be intimate includes both and so much more. We can’t deny each other our hearts. We need to be playful, and physical, and open with our fears and dreams. We have to share, and share deeply.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine

Song of Songs 6:3

The marriage relationship is so important. That cannot be stressed enough. We cannot treat it like a secondary relationship. We can’t put our spouse on the back burner until our kids are out of the house or we meet that career goal. There are always going to be sacrifices on the part of each person in the marriage, but we can’t afford to sacrifice our marriage, not even a little.

Marriage is amazing. God made it to be amazing. You’re spouse is an absolute treasure. Make sure they know that. Peace to you and your marriage!

Follow Up: Use these questions for your own reflection or to engage in a discussion with the love of your life.

1- How often do you and your spouse go on dates?

2- Are you placing anyone or anything above your spouse (children, work, something else)?

3- Do you make time regularly to have conversations with your spouse about more than just surface level things?

4- Are you physically playful and intimate with your spouse?

5- What are signs that your love and affection for your spouse is growing? Is it growing? How can/do you nurture your affections for them?

Marriage Series #4: This Means War

spiritual-war

I heard once that the marriage relationship is meant to tell the truth about who God is and how He loves. That concept comes from passages like Ephesians 5:25 that states that our love should reflect the way that Jesus loves. There are also several verses that compare the church’s relationship with Jesus as a marriage union where Jesus is referred to as the Bridegroom and the church is the bride (I know that’s weird if you’re a guy). A couple of those verses to check out are Isaiah 61:10 and Matthew 9:15. Also, one day in the future we’ll be invited to a marriage feast with Jesus as the host. In the bible it’s referred to as the marriage supper of the Lamb where the church will be joined with it’s Bridegroom(Jesus). That story is in Revelation 19. Check it out:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Revelation 19:6-10 (ESV) [my emphasis]

How cool is that? If marriage reflects our relationship with Jesus then it must be the most important relationship we have outside of our relationship with Jesus himself. You can be sure that if a marriage carries that weight of importance, then it is going to be opposed. Why do I say that? Because God is opposed and the same one that opposes Him opposes your marriage.

In the last post we talked about how strong a marriage union can be when it includes the third cord who is God. So not only is a marriage meant to reveal qualities of God, it also includes God. Any relationship that He is a part of will be a high priority for the enemy of God. You’re a target! Your spouse is a target! Your family is part of a spiritual hit list that the enemy of God will do anything to bring down and tear apart. That’s the bleak reality, but it doesn’t end there. We’re under assault but from a defeated enemy. Which means, if a marriage has God, then a marriage has the victory already. But it’s not a passive victory. It has to be claimed.

A lot of marriages don’t experience the kind of victory I’m talking about because they don’t join in the fight. They might not even realize there is a fight. They might think they have a fight but that their the opponent is their spouse. It’s not…ever…no matter what the issue is or what they’ve done or said. Your spouse is NOT the problem. And neither are you. Remember what we’ve already talked about. You and your spouse are meant to be one, laced together in a powerful three cord bond with the purpose of serving and loving one another in a sacrificial way. That is marriage and it is beautiful. I know people fail and come up short. I know that sometimes people make a complete wreck of things. But nothing that our spouse does will ever make them the enemy of our marriage. There is another. One who is behind it all. One who wants nothing more than to split you up.

He goes by several names: Satan, the Devil, Prince of the power of the air, ruler of this world, and many more. He is not the fictitious little red man with horns and a pitchfork. He was once the most beautiful angel among the hosts of heavens. Then he lead a revolt against God and he’s been trying to destroy God and those close to Him ever since. He’s been described as both a vicious dragon and an angel of light. Whatever form he takes, and whatever name he goes by, he hates you and he hates your spouse. He hates your marriage. And he has an entire army at his command to engage you in spiritual combat.

His strategies are subtle. It’s the lures of attraction he uses. It could be a career that he wants us to place as priority over our spouse or family. It could be a relationship with someone of the opposite sex that starts innocent enough and spirals into a full affair. It could be pride that causes us to refuse to say I’m sorry or meet our spouse half way. It may be control that propels us into demanding our own way. It could be selfishness so that we seek what we can get out of our spouse rather than what we can do for them. It could be busyness which takes us away from our spouse and then the silence creeps in and intimacy fades. It could even be the delusion that we need to change our spouse and that’s why God gave them to us. His strategies are the harsh words spoken in the heat of an argument. He loves both the silent treatments and verbal abuse. He loves for either spouses to not be physically intimate and he loves physical abuse. Satan isn’t just a bully. He is the full embodiment of evil and there is no tactic below him. Napoleon wasn’t the originator of the strategy of divide and conquer. Where do you think he got it from. Satan wants to drive the wedge between us and our spouse, in any way that can be achieved.

So much of our energies are wasted. We have all the weapons at our disposal, and we all need to fight this battle, but rarely do we. We need to be praying over our spouses, every day. We need to be very choosy about what we allow into our relationship, meaning the movies, music, and other extracurricular activities. We need to serve our spouses more. We need to lay our lives down in sacrificial love towards them. They need to experience grace from us. They need to know that we love them no matter what. We need to engage them in deep and meaningful conversations. We have to be an open book. The marriage home can afford no closed doors, no ridicule, no shaming, no exclusion. You and your spouse are one, glued together by God himself. You have to keep the glue in the relationship.

I love the movie titled the “Ghost and the Darkness.” It came out back in 1996 with costars Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. The movie is all about these two lions in Africa who are terrorizing this railroad building project. They strike at night, killing workers in their tents or who have wondered off from the camp. It’s a pretty intense movie and few scenes are more intense then a dream sequence that Val Kilmer has while nearing the end of the bridge construction.  In the dream, Val is getting the opportunity to see his wife, and newly born child, who he’s been away from for months. Picture the scene. Val is in the middle of a large crowd as they work laying the rail lines. In the distance, Val sees his wife and child on the rail platform having just arrived. Val is ecstatic. He begins making is way towards his family when all of a sudden something catches his eye. As Val scans the tall grass that surrounds the platform, he spots a tail waving just above the golden tips of the grass. He begins to hasten even quicker but it is extremely difficult to make his way through the crowds. He shouts for his wife to go back into the train depot but the noise from the workers drown him out. The next moment is heart stopping. In a matter of seconds, the massive lion darts from his cover and lunges for Val’s wife and child. At that moment he is startled awake. Intense right? Well, satan is that lion, waiting in the tall grace, ready to devour your family. He’s waiting for his opening.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We can’t afford to ignore that he’s there. The cost is far more than any of us can bear. Don’t let this cause you to freeze in fear of what he may do to your marriage. Use this as a means to understand what stands against you. The best way to defeat your enemy is to know his strategy. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Nazi Germany wrote a book on strategies in warfare in 1937. Unfortunately for him, American commander General George Patton, read the book and used his strategies against him during the course of World War II. The same applies for our marriage. We know his tactics. And more than that, we are armed with the greatest firepower in the world in order to defeat him. Imagine if Val Kilmer had a machine gun and couldn’t mowed that lion down to protect his family, but then chose not to use it. That’s the equivalent of us choosing not to partner with God by including him in all our decision and using the power of prayer for our spouses and children. And lets not forget ourselves in this equation. We definitely need to be covering ourselves in prayer and spending our days devoted to loving and serving God. Nothing disarms our enemy more than a heart poured out for the Lord.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ESV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV)

Follow Up: Use these questions as reflection or a discussion between you and your spouse. God bless my brother’s and sisters!

1- Have you ever viewed your spouse as the enemy? If so, take the opportunity to ask them for forgiveness.

2- How are you actively fighting for your marriage?

3- In what ways does your marriage reflect Christ’s love for His church?

4- What is one new thing, or renewed thing, that you can do regularly to fight for your spouse (and kids if you have them)?

5- What ways has the enemy of your marriage subtly tried to drive wedges in your relationship? I suggest committing to praying over these areas with urgency and consistency.