There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me.
UCFM Evangelistic Association
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Walk With Me Awhile
I sometimes talk of my illness, but seldom in much detail because I want the emphasis to be on God’s mercy and grace not my difficulties. The fact is that among other things I am suffering some sort of neurological condition that includes symptoms of dementia and erratic body movement as well as frequent loss of emotional control without known cause. Dementia causes me to forget most of the negative events of my illness and in that way might be considered a blessing by some, but it is not. When I am myself I can see the hurt and grieving on the faces of those I love and I know I have done or said something so hurtful that they refuse to tell me about it. Despite the hurt I feel over hurting them they will not tell me what I have done as they believe my reaction would be so much more painful to me if I knew what I had done. Many are the days and nights that I weep in the arms of my God and know no hope except eternal life in Him for I cannot undo or prevent the things I have done and the things I will do that so hurt those around me.
Along with the dementia is something called aphasia. There are times that I do not understand what people are saying to me or what a word means or understand words written on paper. The worst part of this is that there are times that I cannot read my Bible or understand what is written there. This often occurs when I need the comfort of God’s word most. I most often find the strength to keep on by reading God’s word and seeing how He has interacted and continues to interact with us for our good and His glory. Without the comfort of God’s word the darkness of loneliness slips in and I am overwhelmed by my loss. I truly understand the dark night of the soul, but I cling tightly to my faith in God no matter how distant He may seem at times. Even as I cling to my faith, I am still worn down by my grief and loss.
Erratic body movement and neurological pain create physical limitations that mean I am bound to my home most of the time. I am unable to play with my children or spend much time with my wife. By the way if any one wants to know what it means to keep your wedding vows you need only look at my wife. She went from stay at home Mom to our seven children to primary provider, homemaker and caretaker. She has never considered leaving me or putting me in someone else’s care. The burden she bears seems to me to be greater than my own and I know she weeps over her loss of the love of her life as I do over my loss of the things we once shared so wondrously together.
My greatest loss has begun occurring recently and for this I ask your prayers. I have been having trouble praying. Prayer is my most important bulwark against the depression that lurks around the corner for every dementia sufferer. Without being able to talk to God I sense an aloneness that is so horrifying I cannot describe it. I cannot imagine spending all of time being unable to talk with God. Even as I struggle with this I find myself grieving for those destined for an eternity of such loneliness. I cannot imagine any greater suffering than being unable to talk to God for all eternity while knowing such was once available to you.
I am growing weaker again as I did this past year. We hoped that the lung sugary resolved that, but now know that part of my weakness was being caused by the neurological problems. My muscles have atrophied so much that recently I tore my right triceps and my right rotator cuff muscles by merely turning my arm. My calves and thighs are now smaller than my biceps once were large. Walking is very difficult again and I may have to go back to using my chair again. I am disappointed that I am not doing better, but I still trust in my God that He will use this experience of mine for His good and glory and that there is purpose here even if I do not understand it.
The last symptom I mentioned was emotional control. I now lose my temper over nothing at times, but far worse is that I find myself weeping uncontrollably for long periods of time even though I do not know what I am weeping about. I am told that this is another neurological symptom since the weeping is without purpose. If I were weeping over my conditions, which I have done at times, for an extended period that might be depression but I am not depressed in that way. As I weep I call out to God for comfort and understanding and I know someday He will answer, either here or there, but He will answer.
Despite all this negativism, I have something that is very positive to say here. I was just able to read 2 Samuel chapter 15 as David and his entourage flee Jerusalem because of the revolt by his own son Absolam. David passed over the trickling brook that sits at the bottom of the Kidron valley in despair and tears. This was truly the darkest hour of the great king’s life, yet in the midst of his sorrow he stopped to offer sacrifice to God and to send the Ark back into Jerusalem. Win or lose, He knew the Ark belonged in Jerusalem where the people could continue to worship God. “If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.” 2 Samuel 15:25b
The Kidron valley is shallow and the brook that runs through it is dry much of the year. Mainly it was a pathway for the sewage of Jerusalem. Surely it must have seemed such a great distance to David that day and the trickle must have seemed to have been so foul to cross. Jesus also crossed that small valley many times going in and out of Jerusalem. Even that last night after supper he crossed over to the Mount of Olives to pray and weep tears of blood. All of us must cross the Kidron in our time. Neither David, God’s Anointed One nor Jesus, God’s Son, nor any of us is free from trouble and sorrow. If God’s Anointed and God’s Son cannot escape affliction, why then should we expect to escape it? At sorrow's gate, God’s most faithful have stood with ashes on their heads, why then should we complain as though some unfair thing had happened to us?
The King of kings Himself was not favored with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the bottom of the Kidron valley through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed and gave no complaint that one of His stature should have to walk there. What is your Kidron this day? Is it bereavement over the loss of one loved? Perhaps you have had a dream shattered? Whatever it is the King has passed over all of these. Bodily pain, persecution, poverty or contempt-- it does not matter what your Kidron is. You can cross it again and again just as He did because He has already done the same. In all of our afflictions He was afflicted. The idea of the unfairness of our trials must be banished forever for He who is the head of all saints has known our grief and suffering by experience even as He became sin for our sake.
Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city and David’s awaited Lord arose from the grave on the third day victorious. Let us then be of good courage for we also will win the day. We shall yet with joy draw from the wells of salvation though we may now for a season walk in waters noxious and filled with sorrow. We must hold onto our faith and our courage as soldiers of the Cross. The King himself triumphed after going over Kidron and so shall we all!
As I struggle in this valley for a time, I ask for your prayers. Please help me be strong in faith and patient in hope. Pray for me as I pray for you all.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Finding Peace When Its All Going To Pieces
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
Come now, let us leave.”
There is much pain and uncertainty.. There are people who are suffering deeply. Beyond Katrina there are relationships that are strained. There are debts that feel like they will drown us. There are schedules, demands, deadlines hanging over our heads. There are suspicions that our government organizations have failed us and some may have done so deliberately because the people suffering most were poor or racial minorities. In Louisiana and Mississippi children are out of school and businesses are closed for no one knows how long. In Texas there are people wondering how they will live after the temporary housing gives out. In hospital corridors throughout the south families pace, hoping that the ones they saved from the floods will not now be taken by infection. Everywhere you turn there seems to be turmoil, heartache, and brokenness.
It has been a busy week around our country. It has been a terrifying week for many. Not long ago a survey was conducted in the United States by a leading polling agency. Questionnaires were distributed to people of various ages and occupations. The key question was this: What are you looking for most in life? When the results were compiled, the analysts were surprised. Most of them had expected answers that would suggest materialistic goals, but the top three things that people wanted in life were love, joy, and peace. Isn't it interesting that these are the very three things that are the first results the Spirit of Christ has sent for our lives.
Someone once said that if you speak to the pain in people's lives you will never lack for an audience. They were right and that's what Jesus does in this section of the Gospel of John.. He makes a statement that speaks directly to our aching hearts. He speaks to us about what we really want most. He tells us we don't have to see our lives fall to pieces He offers us the opportunity to enjoy His peace instead. Three questions I had to answer in order to find that peace, even if only part-time. 1) What is this peace?; 2) How is this peace manifested? 3) How can I get this peace?What is this Peace?It is something the world cannot give us
Do you remember the commercial where the woman was being bombarded on every side (by children, spouse, employer, the phone) and this woman looks into the camera and says "Calgon Take Me Away". In the next scene she is laying in a bathtub surrounded by bubbles. This is the world's answer to our cry for peace. Eliminate all distractions and enjoy a warm bubble bath. Actually, what the commercial does is extend that world view that says peace is all about me and the lack of peace in my life is all about others.
The world in which we live says to know peace we must either: go someplace (head to Tahiti or that bathtub), buy something (a luxury car which shuts out the harshness of the world or a plasma TV that allows us to hide in fantasy), or ingest something (get a prescription for a sedative or the perfect meal). The peace that Jesus offers is different from the world's peace. The world's peace is temporary and external. The peace we crave and Jesus offers is more than that.It is something that only Jesus can give
Jesus tells us that it is HIS peace that He gives to us. He alone has the authority to extend this peace. It is unique to Him. It cannot be created by any means. It is part of Christ Himself. He extends it from Himself to us. It is not something we can grasp for. It is a gift of grace like everything else He gives us.Christ's peace adds something to life rather than subtracts something
We are used to thinking of peace as the absence of conflict, or the absence of stress, or the absence of worry. The peace that Jesus talks about is the Jewish concept of peace. Peace, or "Shalom". It includes the absence of churning and distress but it also includes the presence of blessing. Jesus is offering a peace that is a settled sense of well-being and security. It is a peace that surrounds us in the midst of the turmoil and the havoc.THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THIS PEACEWe have peace with God
In Romans 5:1 we read, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."
Paul tells us that we have peace with God because we have been justified by faith. Fancy words but what do they mean? When we are "justified" we are pronounced "not guilty", we are declared to be "good" or “holy” in God's eyes. Justification means we are declared to be unstained by sin. How is this possible? It's possible because Christ paid for our sin and credited His goodness to our account. This is His grace, His undeserved gift.
How do we become justified? We must have faith. What is faith? Faith is active belief . It is a trust that reveals itself in action. True faith believes in Christ's promise of eternal life enough to rest in Him for our eternal hope and follow Him in our daily living. Faith is hoping for things that we know to be true. It is not wishing for things that are not present, but accepting things as being present because God says so.
Do you understand what this means practically? Our past is dealt with. The sins of the past are forgiven. We are free from the stupidity and rebellion of the way we used to live. Our failures are overcome. We are set free from the failures of the past. Though the scars of the past may remain we are no longer held prisoner by the past.
Our future is certain. We don't have to fret about eternal life any more. Jesus says, "whoever believes in me WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE." Paul reminds us, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6). God makes it possible for us to know peace in the depth of our being; peace in our soul.We have peace in difficult circumstances
Jesus tells us that He is superior to our circumstances. Later in this final discourse of our Savior, Jesus says: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John. 16:33)
Jesus tells us that even though life has its irritations, He is superior and victorious to our conflicts. The world does not overcome Him. He overcomes the world. Our Lord is not caught by surprise by the conflicts of our lives. He has authority and power over our circumstances. We may not understand why those circumstances need be, but we can know that they fit into God’s eternal plans or which we are only a miniscule part.The Bible tells us that our trials and difficulties are purposeful
Continuing in the Romans 5:3 passage, Paul wrote: "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Peter wrote something similar, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)
In both these passages one thing is clear, for the child of God there are no "accidents". The difficult things that come into our lives come for a reason, a good reason. We may not see that rhyme or reason but there is one. We are not promised that we will understand at this time what God’s reason or will may be, but we are promised that some day we will understand.
Spurgeon said, "the Christian is content to take just what his Father sends him, knowing that his Father understands him better than he understands himself. He gives up the helm of his ship to the hand of a gracious God;" [Treasury of the Bible, p. 549]
I cannot remember where I read this story and so I cannot tell you for a fact that it is true. I can tell you that I have had similar circumstances occur in my life as I have struggled with disability and disease. It is the story of an evangelistic meeting in Ireland. The speaker ended his sermon with the worlds “For this we have Jesus,” which he repeated several times. He then asked for testimonies from his audience. At that point the young women who had played piano for the evening stood up and said, “I have to leave shortly so I want to be first to give testimony. Before tonight’s meeting I received a telegram that my mother is ill and I must hurry home. At the same time I knew that tonight’s message was meant for me. For this we have Jesus. I will never more deny that.”
Some time later the evangelist heard from the woman that her mother had died shortly after her arrival home. God had been kind enough to let them pray together at the last. She wrote him, I know that for this I have Jesus. No matter what may occur Jesus is with me and with those I care about. I will never forget those words, for this we have Jesus.”
If you are struggling right now, I know this sounds trite. I know when things are falling apart it doesn't help for someone to say, "Don't worry, it's going to be alright." But please understand it is not me who is saying this, it is God! Your life is not hurtling aimlessly out of control. There is purpose in what is happening. You may not know the exactness of that purpose, but God does and He will show you just how important those events were to His greater plan someday. Trust in His will and your life will be calmer and happier.
I don't know why a teenager dies less than a week before their graduation. I can't imagine the pain of those parents. I don’t know why thousands must lose loved ones in a freak hurricane or an unpredictable tsunami. But what I do know is this, God will bring them through this time if they will let Him. He will see you through as well. Even in the midst of fierce trials you can know peace. For such difficult times as these we have Jesus.
We've heard the testimony time and time again. Someone was in a terrible time of trial and they asked for prayer. They then report that as people began to pray they sensed a peace and strength sweep over them. They were able to stop worrying and start resting. That's the peace Jesus offers. That’s the peace that I received last May as I lay, apparently dying, in the hospital. Yet as I lay there I was surrounded with God’s peace and my only sadness was that I might not be able to tell everyone I loved good-bye before I left. I knew I was in God’s loving hands and that no matter what happened I was in His blessed will. I knew His peace.We have peace with each other
The peace of the Lord is a peace that restores relationships. All throughout the New Testament we see barriers lift between people: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. We are continually urged to maintain (not create) the peace with others. I think there is a logical reason why we know peace with each other through Christ.
First we understand that we are all in the same boat. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot overcome circumstances by our strength alone. We are all in need of grace and mercy. We are all beggars showing other beggars where to find a break. There are no race, gender or class barriers in Heaven or in suffering. There is only the hope we share in Jesus.
Second, We belong to the same family . We are made ONE body in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. It is imperative that we work out our differences. It is necessary for us to forgive and to listen. We are family.
Thirdly, we are heading to the same goal. Each of us in the family of God is moving toward Heaven. We each are seeking to glorify Him in our lives. We are not competing with each other we are working with each other.
C.S. Lewis points out in several of his writings that we are all headed for glory. He suggests that this realization alone should change the way we relate to one another.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship it or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmares. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. You have talked to potential saints and to potential denizens of hell. Next to God Himself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way that Christ is holy, for in him also glory Himself is truly hiddenHow Do We Get This Peace?
You must turn to the source of peace. This peace is not found in Meditation, Drugs, Achievements or Honors. The peace you yearn for is something that can only be found in Christ.
It may be that the very reason you are reading this is because you know that you need something for your life. Things are getting out of control. You know there is an emptiness, a missing something that you once knew. You know you need something.
Dear friend, what you need is not something it is SOMEONE. You are looking for Jesus, the Jesus who once put your hungry soul at rest, this same Jesus who came to earth in order to free you from sin. Will you believe Him for eternity and trust Him in the present? If so, peace is yours.When you feel the churning as a believer one of several things is usually true.
You are being assaulted by one of the Devil's forces. Satan will work hard to disrupt our peace. There is nothing more powerful than a calm saint in trying times. Satan wants to keep you churning. He wants you to doubt God's promises. Child of the King, you must remember Satan can afflict you but He cannot defeat you! Claim the victory! Stand in Christ! Resist him faithfully. Your peace will return and it will increase.
Perhaps you are engaged in sin. There is nothing that will rob us of peace faster than turning our backs on the Giver of peace. Every time we do what is outside of God's will we turn our backs on our source of peace. Brother, sister, in all love let me warn you to turn from whatever sin is blocking you from God’s presence and come back to the Father.
Perhaps you have allowed a faulty view of God to develop in you.. This is where most of our churning comes from. We forget the nature of God. We forget or distort the truth. In the early years of school children are taught how to react if their clothes catch on fire. They are to STOP, DROP, AND ROLL. I have watched all seven of my children practice that maneuver. Maybe a similar thing needs to be applied to believers. When you find anxiety building and your peace is leaving you it is important that you STOP, RECALL AND REST. Remind yourself that God is Sovereign (He is in control). Remember that He Loves You (He has your best interest at heart). Remember that He never, ever makes a mistake. (And He is not going to make one with you.) Re-align your theology and rest in His arms.
You see, we don't have to live our lives constantly feeling like we are falling or being torn into little pieces. We don't have to escape to the bathroom or hide in some faraway place. What we need is to place our hand in the nail scarred hand of Jesus. We need to look to Him when the times are overwhelming, the future is uncertain, or we feel lost. If you look carefully you will see in His eyes: a love, understanding, confidence and strength that will set your anxious heart at rest.
Even as I write this I am just beginning to enjoy the return of God’s peace. My illness took another bad turn and in my grief I lost sight of the source of my peace. I cannot be what I want to be either for myself or for Him in this life, but I can be His and I can have His peace. For this we have Jesus.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Finding God's Will For Your Life
Isaac and RebekahGe 24:1 Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. Ge 24:2 He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. Ge 24:3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, Ge 24:4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
Ge 24:5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
Ge 24:6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said.
Ge 24:7 “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. Ge 24:8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” Ge 24:9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
Ge 24:10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. Ge 24:11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
Ge 24:12 Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Ge 24:13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Ge 24:14 May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
Ge 24:15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Ge 24:16 The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
Ge 24:17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
Ge 24:18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
Ge 24:19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” Ge 24:20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Ge 24:21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.
Ge 24:22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. Ge 24:23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
Ge 24:24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milcah bore to Nahor.” Ge 24:25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
Ge 24:26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, Ge 24:27 saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
Ge 24:28 The girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Ge 24:29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. Ge 24:30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. Ge 24:31 “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
Ge 24:32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. Ge 24:33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”
“Then tell us,” Laban said.
Ge 24:34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. Ge 24:35 The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys.
Ge 24:36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. Ge 24:37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, Ge 24:38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
Ge 24:39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’
Ge 24:40 “He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. Ge 24:41 Then, when you go to my clan, you will be released from my oath even if they refuse to give her to you—you will be released from my oath.’
Ge 24:42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come.
Ge 24:43 See, I am standing beside this spring; if a maiden comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,”
Ge 24:44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the LORD has chosen for my master’s son.’
Ge 24:45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’
Ge 24:46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.
Ge 24:47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’
“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to him.’
“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms,
Ge 24:48 and I bowed down and worshiped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Ge 24:49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
Ge 24:50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD? we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Ge 24:51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.”
Ge 24:52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the LORD. Ge 24:53 Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. Ge 24:54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”
Ge 24:55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”
Ge 24:56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”
Ge 24:57 Then they said, “Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.” Ge 24:58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
Ge 24:59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. Ge 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
the gates of their enemies.”
Ge 24:61 Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left. Ge 24:62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. Ge 24:63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Ge 24:64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel Ge 24:65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
Ge 24:66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done.
Ge 24:67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:1-67 NIV)
It is a shame that so many great books are no longer studied in school as they once were. The use of language and irony were so important to our growth and understanding as we approached life in general. One of the great examples of that is the story of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It was one of my favorites until I would much later stumble upon C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.
In Alice’s story she came to an icy fork in the road. Panic stung her as she stood frozen by indecision. She lifted her eyes toward heaven, looking for guidance. Her eyes did not find God, only the Cheshire cat leering at her from his perch in the tree above. "Which way should I go?" blurted Alice.
'That depends, . ."said the cat, fixing a strange smile on the confused girl.
"On what?" Alice managed to reply.
"On your destination. Where are you going?" queried the Cat.
"I don't know, . . . " stammered Alice.
"Then," said the cat, with a grin spreading wider, "it doesn't matter."
Many of us feel like Alice in Wonderland, we stand at some crossroads in our life and don't know which road to take. The difference between us and Alice however is that we DO know where we are going. We are children of the King and we are headed to eternal life in His presence. But, you see, that is part of the problem. It would be easier to look at the decisions of life and conclude that it didn't matter which way we choose. But because we belong to Him, it does matter. We know that when we live according to His will, we will know His blessing and experience His joy. Jesus says, "he who does the will of God is my brother and sister." (Matthew 12:50); Jesus also tells us to pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
Some decisions in our life are major: where should we go to school? What job should we take? What home should we buy? Which person should we marry? What commitments should we accept and which should we decline? How does one discern God's will for our lives in these times?
In the scripture I quote at the beginning of this writing, we see a long story of the arranged marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham sends his trusted servant back to the homeland of his family in Haran to get a wife for Isaac. It is in this story that we find some principles for finding God's will for our lives.CHECK GOD'S WORD
Abraham based his request on God's promise to Him. He knew that God intended to give this land to his children. He knew that it was God's intention to judge the Canaanites. Certainly there were many beautiful women in that area. But Abraham knew that God had called the Jews as His special people. Isaac could not marry a Canaanite woman because it would lead to a compromise of faith. So, right at the beginning this servant had certain parameters to work with. He knew that he was looking for a woman that was from Abraham's family and one that would return to Canaan with him. God's promise had given the servant a good start.
The Bible is where we get our good start when it comes to finding God's will for our lives. In the Bible we find commands to direct our lives and principles to guide us. If you were driving on a road and a sign said "Speed Limit 55" that would be a command. If it said "Use Caution" that would be a principle. The Bible has both kinds of directions in the Bible. God gives us certain commands:(1 Thessalonians 4:3) "It is God's will that you should be sanctified and that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body."(1 Thessalonians 5:18) "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."(1 Peter 2:15) "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God."
He tells us we shouldn't lie, we should respect our rulers, we should honor our parents, we should worship regularly, we should put God first. These commands and clear and are meant to be obeyed. They tell us specifically what to do in a given situation.
There are also principles that apply to all situations and circumstances such as: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." We are told to be "kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ has forgiven us." We are told that we are to honor the Lord with our lives.
The commands and principles of Scripture will point us toward God's will.
We find someone we are interested in but they are not believers and we fret over whether this could be the right person for us. But the Bible tells us that we should only get involved with believers. (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)
We wonder whether we should declare all our income on our tax forms. The Bible is clear, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's"
We question whether we should do what God says or whether we should obey our employer when we are asked to do something illegal or immoral. The Apostles answered that in the Book of Acts, "We must obey God rather than men."
Our marriage is struggling and we meet someone that "seems to care for us" and we feel drawn to that person and don't know whether it is right. It's not! The Bible says "do not commit adultery".
It is essential that we read the Bible in it's proper context and not make it say what it does not say. When God's Word speaks, we must follow that guidance. But what if the guidance we get is still not enough?ASK FOR GUIDANCE
Sometimes the simple principles are the most profound. Look at the servant praying:
Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” [12-14]
If we want God's guidance we have to seek God's guidance. James tells us if "anyone lacks wisdom he should ask of God who gives to all men liberally". But we must be asking sincerely.
Let’s take a minute for some direct honesty. Most of the time when we ask God to show us what to do, we are really saying "let me know that what I want to do is O.K." If we truly want to find God's will we have to keep all options open. Before we can find God's will we have to trust that God's will is the best. We must understand that what God chooses (even if it is not the choice we would have made) is always the right choice. We must be willing for God to change our direction, or to say "no", or "not yet". We must trust that a closed door is not designed to defeat us or discourage us, it is meant to move us in a better direction. God will answer if we ask sincerely. It is certainly true that we will never be open to God's direction until we can pray with Jesus, "not my will, but yours be done."WEIGH YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES
The servant watched what was happening. One of the best things that the servant did is found in verse 21, "Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful." Consider the circumstances that the servant watched:
would she offer to bring water for the camels ?
would she be a relative of Abraham ?
would she go with the servant ?
If any of these circumstances had gone a different direction, the servant would have concluded that he had not found the right woman.
Sometimes God directs us by a closed door. I remember when we were looking at several different churches to attend I asked God to close all the doors except the one that He wanted us to pursue. If none of the churches were His choice then He should close all the doors. Guess which door remained open? The one I found here at Sylvan Oaks Christian Church remained open because it’s Pastor, Mike Cook, refused to deviate from the Word in any way while we were talking. That he was the only one who found himself capable of that is both the saddest and most gratifying statement I can make about that journey.
Sometimes God directs by giving us a great opportunity (but we must always check it by the Word and prayer); Sometimes there is a sense of peace (again, check this out carefully. It is possible to have peace because your conscience has become deadened which isn’t really peace but rather insensitivity).
One of the best aides God gives to us is our Christian brothers and sisters. Sometimes what seems cloudy to us is crystal clear to the one we are talking to. But again there is a caution: you should check things out with someone you feel has the spirit of God in them. We want someone who is committed to Christ as we are, and who is also being objective. It is too easy to find people who agree with us. We're not looking for agreement but guidance.
This servant asked God for a specific sign. Is it appropriate to ask God for a sign? Throughout the Bible we see Biblical characters discerning God's way in many different fashions.
Some had God speak directly to them in a dream or vision
Others cast lots (even the disciples in Acts 1)
Some asked for other signs (Gideon and the fleece in Judges 6:37-40; Moses was given a special miracle (Ex. 4); Hezekiah and his shadow in 2 Kings 20:9)
But before we start demanding that God give us a sign we need to keep a couple of things straight, First, these Biblical Characters did not have the advantage of God's Word or God's Spirit to guide them. Today we can check God's Word for guidance and we have God's Spirit living within us to guide us into all truth. Asking for a sign when God has spoken clearly is an act of sin, not faith. That is like the young couple who ask God for a sign that it would be alright for them to “start early” on their marriage activity. That is simply asking God to make it alright for you to sin.
Second, we must beware of signs that are set up to get what we want. For example, we know that we should visit a person but we don't want to. So, we pray, "Lord, if you want me to talk to this person make me run into them as I walk to the Post Office." Sometimes we will ask for an extreme sign before we are willing to do what we believe God is calling us to do. This too is sin. You should also be ready for what you will say to that person at the Post Office!
Third, we must choose the sign carefully. Sometimes people will say, "Lord, if you want me to do this, have the light stay green until I get through the intersection" or something of that nature. That is superstition, not faith. Look at how carefully the servant chose his sign.
How could the servant determine quickly which of the girls that would soon be arriving would have the qualities necessary for Isaac? It would be necessary for him to make the first approach toward conversation, and the obvious thing would be for him to ask her for a drink of water from her pitcher. However, almost any girl, out of common courtesy, would agree to such a request as that, so that act alone would not be sufficient. If, however, she would then, on her own initiative, offer to help in some further way, going a second mile as it were, this would definitely be a good sign. Perhaps the most severe test would be whether she was willing not only to give him some water, and perhaps even his attendants, but also his ten camels. Surely, if she would do this, without grumbling, it would go far toward proving that she was the kind of wife Abraham was seeking for his son and that she was also the one God was providing for him.
Drawing enough water to satisfy the thirst of ten large and tired camels would be a hard and wearisome task, to say the least. Each camel could need as much as twenty to twenty-five gallons of water each to fill itself, depending on how long it had been since they had last been watered. He couldn't really ask a girl to do such a thing. Nevertheless, if she would do it voluntarily, it would be a strong indication that she was the right one.
There are other times when we "sense" God speaking to us. We have an "impression from God." When God gives an impression He almost always also gives some verification. All impressions must be evaluated carefully by the clear and authoritative teaching of Scripture. Like in the game rock, paper, scissors . . . paper wins over rock, scissors wins over paper, and rock wins over scissors. In this case -- Scripture wins over feelings. If Scripture does not speak to the issue we should check with godly friends.WALK IN FAITH
When all is said and done we must walk by faith. The servant of Abraham went to Haran trusting that God would lead the way. He asked God for direction and when it was given, he acted. When he got to Rebekah's home he didn't even pause to have dinner. He wanted to find out if Rebekah was the one first. He continued to walk by the light God provided.
God generally guides one step at a time. Before we can see the second step we must take the first one. Let's not forget that God has given us His Spirit to guide us. He has given us minds to think and to weigh options. Sometimes we have to trust our "sanctified common sense". Sometimes we have to trust the brains and the Spirit God has given us and make the best decision possible. We must walk by faith that God will send his angels ahead of us just as He did Abraham's servant.
As a result of this servant's faithfulness, Isaac married Rebekah. Two children were born to that union and they named them "Jacob" and "Esau". Jacob's name was later changed to "Israel". This faithful servant played a key role in God's plan of redemption.
Our decisions won't affect the plan of redemption but they are significant. We should strive in our lives to implement these simple steps
check God's Word
seek God's Help
pay attention to your circumstances
walk faithfully each step God reveals
Two final issues that have pressed forward: I mentioned that God reveals things one step at a time. For some of you, the first step may be to take that initial step of faith. Maybe the reason you feel outside of God's will is because you are outside of His grace. God guarantees guidance to all those who are His children. You can be faithful in church attendance and still not be one of His children. You can be a leader in the church and community and still not be one of His children. You can be trying your very best in life, and still not be one of His children. I don’t often mention these things on the website and I think I should do so more often Too often I have developed relationships with people I assumed to be Christians only to discover that they had never made that most important step.
A person becomes a child of God when they have admitted that they have lived as enemies of God. They have disobeyed His commands, they have ignored His importance, they have only been concerned about themselves. In other words, you must first admit that you have sinned.
They acknowledge that there is nothing they can do to rectify this situation. All their good works, all their best actions are tainted with selfish motives. And even if we were able to do some things that are truly good . . . it would never be enough to "pay for" the sin.
They recognize that Jesus Christ is God become man who died as an innocent man, for our sin. He literally came back from the dead making it possible that anyone who really trusts Him to be forgiven and to live beyond the grave.
They make a commitment to trust what they have come to believe is true. Lot's of people see that Jesus is good. Many could tell you He died for sin. But it is only when we place our hope in Him, only when we are willing to bet our life on Him and orient our life toward Him that we can truly be said to be a child of God.
If you have never taken this first step. Stop right now. Close you eyes. Talk to God. Tell Him that you are willing to trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sin and from yourself. Tell Him that you believe and receive His promise. Ask Him to take control of your life. And then thank Him, because He has promised that anyone who comes to Him will NOT be rejected. Once you have settled this ultimate issue the others will come easier.
One final thing about finding God's will for your life. God loves us so much, that even if we make a wrong choice, He can get us back on course. He may have to shut a door, or place obstacles in our path, but He will lead us in the way that we should go. He promises to lead us home and He will do so even if He has to go and get us after we make a wrong turn. Live boldly and faithfully in the confidence that God will direct your paths,. just as He promised.
If you have made a decision to be Christ’s and to serve God with your whole heart, soul and mind – then let me know by leaving a comment here so I can get in touch with you. I will pray for you and provide you with some information that will help you get started on this new, life changing journey.
In the meantime, until we speak again, pray for me that I will always do as God wills in my life and that I will always make myself available to His use for His glorification. For we need always to remind ourselves that is not now nor has it ever been about me. It is now and always has been about God glorified and honored by His creations.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The Troubling Truth of Sodom and Gomorrah
Any evening you can turn on your television set and see some crime solving drama that uses the latest technologies to resolve what appeared to be unsolvable crimes. Probably the most popular of these shows is “CSI”. The show’s theme is to go into one crime scene after another and to surprise us, the audience with the amazing bits of evidence they discover that solves the crime. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could really solve crimes that easily? Unfortunately, most of the magnificent equipment and skill used on CSI either does not exist or at least is not available in this time of tight government budgets.
Using the tools at our disposal let’s take a look at the remnants of this crime scene. What a minute! Was there even a crime committed here? Is there still ancient ash blowing back and forth in the desert wind? It leaves no permanent memorial just an occasional thought that passes by each man’s soul from time to time. If this ash is what is left then it is evidence in part that the patience of God can come to a close and when it does His judgment is swift and final. Just as swift and final as it was for those who mocked Noah. Just as instantaneous as it was at the tower of Babel.
Some objector’s will raise their voices and say, “Wait a second. Why should we be thinking of two cities that burned to the ground thousands of years ago? What has that got to do with us today? It is because God has chosen these cities as examples. As we lay our measuring rod alongside we can see how far we have come and how very far we have to go. Sodom is just a sign along the road. You see road signs all the time. US Interstate Highway 80, Junction Highway 60 ¼ Mile Ahead, Casino Ahead – Food – Lodging – Recreation. Just another sign on the road.
Sometimes signs indicate distances to the next area of rest or lodging. Sometimes signs warn of possible dangers on the roadway. “Slippery When Wet.” “Long Grade All Drivers Check Your Brakes.” “Beware of Black Ice.” What might some of the signs near Sodom have been like? “Beware Sexual Temptation.” “Avoid Sins of Pride.” “Caution do not trust anyone.”
These aren’t what the warning signs were really like, but there were signs and they were so bright that they got God’s attention. Abraham and his cousin Lot had once traveled together, but they had a parting of the way. Abraham generously allowed Lot to choose the richest land for himself and Abraham to the more challenging property. Because of this separation Lot ends up being kidnapped as a prisoner of war whom Abraham must rescue. In the course of that rescue he also helps bring about the defeat of the enemy kings who had started the war. It is here that Abraham becomes known as Abraham the Hebrew, a man due great honor and respect. Yet when Abraham is offered riches by the king of Sodom, he politely refuses it explaining that he has been greatly blessed by his God already. He does take time to offer one tenth of his spoils to the king and prophet Melchizedek. He would not take the tainted goods from Sodom city of sinfulness, but he would certainly honor God by giving a tithe offering to this one king, Melchizedek, who worshiped the Lord God Jehovah with all his heart.
Finally a time comes when three come to Abraham and he serves them a meal. This is not just sharing food as it is in our society today. Serving food to a stranger was considered a duty and an opportunity to be blessed by God. Abraham wants to serve these men with the greatest respect and honor. Eventually Abraham suspects these visitors are from God and in fact one of them is God. Even God displays Himself as capable of having intimates with whom he shares his thoughts and desires. Abraham was one of those chosen to be God’s friend. God does not hesitate to share His concerns about Sodom with Abraham.
Abraham knows that his God, the Judge of all that is right would never judge wrongly. So he comes confidently before God arguing for the souls of any possible innocents that may be there. When God ends the conversation, Abraham breaks it off filled with the knowledge that God can be trusted completely. Abraham has interceded for the faithful and now God’s angels will do the same.
When the angels reach Sodom, they are greeted by foul invitations and suggestions that they participate in immoral behavior. These angels could have destroyed those who wanted to assault them, but first they were examining the populace in response to God’s conversations with Abraham. It is clear that at least part of the great sins of Sodom was sexual depravity in many extremes. Lot even offers to give his own daughters over to be raped by a mob in order to protect the guests in his house, the angels. The angels did not need Lot’s protection. They were looking for evidence of his faith. What did they find? Lot was to selfish to accept the rescue being offered and asks that they spare the town of Zoar so they won’t have to flee so far or give up so much. His daughter’s betrotheds refused to go with them and dishonored the daughters by breaking their engagements. Lot’s wife desired al the finery and excitement of Sodom that she turned back and became a pillar of salt. Finally even Lot’s own daughters tricked him into sexual activity with him so that he fathered his own grandsons. Sodom is one of many great warnings in scripture that tells us what may happen if we disobey God.
When Peter writes to those suffering for their faith under oppressive Roman rule, he warns them that some things may appear tempting to choose, but that they will lead to harm in the end.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly and if he excused Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desires of the sinful nature and despise authority.” 2 Peter 2:4-10
“Though you already know all this, I wanted to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions or authority but abandoned their own home---these he has kept in great darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Jude 5-7
Of course most of the people living in our world today would say the same as the people of those days said, “Well, that can’t happen to us!” However Peter is not done warning us about what could happen to us:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:10-14
So today Sodom is a flashing red light on the page of scripture to warn us of the impending judgment that is coming on this world. Some might ask if I enjoy being a prophet of doom. The answer is of course that I do not. However I have been called and you have been called to spread the good news of Christ’s salvation to warn of the impending wrath to come. It is not a matter of talking about one or the other. We are called to talk about all of it. If I knew a tornado was coming, how selfish and uncaring I would be not to warn people.
Five witnesses are recorded by name in the Bible as having seen Sodom or participating in its destruction in some way. Let’s see what we can learn from looking through their eyes.
“So Abraham said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. It not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.’ Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Jordan.” Genesis 13:9-12
What did Lot see at this new home? Did he see a city of sin? Well, he might have said something like, “Well, we do have certain lower element in or society.” But Lot saw a city not that very much different than some of the cities we see in America today. This was a major city for its day. There were probably public gardens, magnificent homes, private and specially decorated yards. There were schools and intellectuals, places of commerce, labor unions, well paying jobs. It was a vacation playground of its world. Maybe it was like Las Vegas in the Middle East. Lot became a powerful local figure, a judge and politician. His daughters were engaged to rich local young men with great financial futures ahead of them.
What did Lot gain by his association with this major city and powerful kingdom? Nothing! He lost everything. His family, his home, prestige, position, power, wealth, his happiness, his self-respect, his fellowship with God’s chosen one, Abraham and God’s people, but most of all he lost his fellowship with his Lord-God and Creator. He became so wrapped up in the comforts of this world that he forgot where his first loyalties belonged.
Lot’s wife saw Sodom with wide open desirous eyes. She did love Lot, but the lot she loved was a lot of Sodom. She was probably a social climber in the town. After all she had a responsibility to support her husband’s political career. She probably belonged to everything in town; they were members of the country club, the garden club and even the missionary club. They were probably well respected members of the Presby-Methodistic-Unitarian-Baptarian Church of Holiness. Her whole life was wrapped up in Sodom, her affections, her family, her friends, home, desires, aspirations, hopes and loves. When Lot told her that God was going to burn the whole thing to the ground, she wouldn’t accept it or believe it. God told her not to look back because he wanted her to be looking toward God and not at her past.
Lot’s wife looked back because she did not believe that God would do what He said He would do. Too many today will look back at a judged and burning world they have put al their hope and dreams into
Abraham saw a different Sodom. He saw a judged Sodom. “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” Genesis 19:27-28
Don’t get the wrong idea about Abraham. He was not a prude nor was he judgmental. He was a good business man and tribal leader. He was wealthy and God had blessed him in many ways. Christians do not have to hate themselves or live in poverty. There is no virtue in being poor for the sake of being poor. There is no virtue in depriving yourself of good things. It is not wrong to possess things, it is only wrong when things possess you. I pray everyday that I do not own anything that I would not readily hand over to God because it is His,
That is why some people have problems in their giving. They give from the viewpoint of “I’m giving away what belongs to me – my stuff – my money.” If we recognize that everything belongs to God in the first place and that it is His stuff and His money, it becomes far easier to give away something that belongs to someone else. That is why it is so easy for politicians to give away stuff. What their giving away is not their own.
God looked on Sodom. How grief stricken He must have been. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” Genesis 13:13
“And the Lord said, ‘Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous;’” Genesis 18:20
We must remember that God does not see sin the way that we see sin. We may see some sins and be offended by them, but most of the sin we actually notice we are tempted toward. We examine it more closely in our minds. We give greater consideration to the possibilities we might make of that temptation. God’s heart aches for both the sinners and those upon whom they inflict their sins. Yes, His justice requires recompense for sins against God, but His great loving hear requires mercy and the opportunity to repent.
“Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroy them all.” Luke 17:28-29
It is most interesting to note what the Lord saw as the sin of Sodom. Jesus was perfectly placed to rage against sexual sin and homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sin against one’s self and against one’s creator, but that is not the sin that Jesus listed. He said they were eating, drinking, buying, settling, planting, building. The great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was ungodliness. The great sin of America, the great sin of Sacramento, the greatest sin of anyplace is ungodliness. It is that basic rejection of God that brought about Sodom’s doom.
There is one more particularly stunning warning about Sodom. It is a view of Sodom that each of us must take. Let’s listen to what the Word of God of says.
“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” Matt. 11:23-24
Over and over we are warned throughout scripture to pay attention to all the miracles that are being performed around us; to see how God uses them for His glorification. As we become more and more adept at glorifying God and praising Him for all the wonderful things He does for us. God is without obligation to any of us, but He still pours His grace down upon us. He was wiling and able to that for Sodom, but Sodom and Gomorrah had God figured out. They decided that God was to serve man instead of man serving God. I have learned the hard way that serving God is the best way of living and for knowing the full intensity of His presence in your life.
Friday, August 19, 2005
One Nation Under God?
I have written on the concept of one nation under God many times. Most of those times I have met with much disagreement because I do not believe that the United States is in fact one nation under God. At one time it may have been, but it no longer is and any hope that it may be again is remote .
It may be true that at one time this was a Christian Nation. It was founded on Christian principles. The church and state though separate, worked hand in hand. In fact, the church was the primary center for education. Most students learned to read the Bible as one of their first books. But that is no longer the case, except where it is being used as a text book for students learning English as a second language.
Now, if you asked your average school students to read the Bible you could be open for a lawsuit. The Bible's influence is carefully being removed from education. Increasingly Biblical values are being dismissed for personal preference. It would be much more accurate if our motto was: "You do your thing . . . and I'll do mine." We are living in days similar to the days of the Judges when God's indictment was this: "everyone did what was right in their own eyes."
But I am not writing today to whine about the problems we face. I want to be an agent of change. I have chosen to speak to you about a man who lived in a very similar time as ours. He lived at a time when it was said of the people, "every inclination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5) I speak to you about a man by the name of Enoch.
There are three references to Enoch in the Bible. The first time we read about Enoch it is in Genesis 5:22
"And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (5:22-24) "
We don't read about Enoch again until we get to the book of Hebrews 11:5
by faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away for before he was taken he was commended as one who pleased God.
The most informative reference to Enoch is in the book of Jude verses 14-16
"Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. "
From these references to Enoch let me draw some principles for what we need to do and remember as we seek to bring our country to that point of being one nation under God.Enoch Believed Fully
Enoch lived at a time when the world was going the wrong direction. It was early in the life of earth. He was the seventh generation after Adam. So, everyone was related to him. (A lot like living in a small town!) It would have been easy for Enoch to adopt the party line. But instead he chose to be loyal to God rather than to the world he was living in. This probably did not win him many fans.
When God brought Enoch's son into the world He was named Methuselah. There is some debate as to the meaning of his name. It could mean, "Man of the Weapon." or "Man of the Javelin" but it also could mean, "he dies, a sending forth" or "When he is dead, it shall come."
I know what you are thinking. You are saying, "Who cares?" Let me give you the words of the commentator James Boice,
"Enoch had a revelation at the time of Methuselah's birth of the destruction to come on the earth by flood. God said that the flood was to come after the death of that son. So either at God's explicit direction or as an act of his own faith, Enoch named the child Methuselah- "when he is dead, it shall come." While Methuselah lived, the flood will be held back. But when he died, it would come. (Genesis p. 292) "
Now if you read Genesis carefully you will see that the flood which destroyed the entire earth came in the same year that the oldest man in the Bible died. Coincidence? Or fulfillment of prophecy?
My point is that Enoch began to walk with God after He was told about the coming judgment. He took the message to heart and spent the remainder of his days warning people of the judgment that was coming.
In the same way, you and I must begin to do more than believe in God. We must learn to BELIEVE GOD.
We must believe Him when He tells us,
that "He is the Lord our God and Him only shall we serve"
His definition of right and wrong is the only definition.
That there is coming a day when he will judge the world.
That all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ can and will be saved.
That God is at work in EVERY situation of our lives
That God will provide for all our needs
That this life is not all there is.
I still know what you are thinking. You think, "We do believe these things." But I have to ask, "Do we?"
Would we neglect the reading of His Word if we really believed these things?
Would we be so slow to pray if we really believed these things?
Would we be so reticent to share our faith if we really believed these things?
Would we be so prone to rely on our power and strength if we really believed these things?
Would we be trying so hard to merit salvation if we really believed in His grace?
Would we waste so much time worrying if we really believed God's promise?
You see, one of the things that makes Enoch such a good example for us is that he believed God.
He believed Him to the point that His life was irrevocably altered.
Enoch Spoke Clearly
Listen again to Enoch's message:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
As you can read, Enoch didn't mince words. No one wondered what the message was that Enoch was trying to get across. Four times he calls his world, "ungodly". He is warning of impending judgment and I suspect he also advised immediate repentance. Although these writings of Enoch no longer exist except in reference by Jude in his epistle, the importance of what they say still remain.We must also speak clearly to a world that is ungodly
1. We must call sin, sin.
We call sin "failure," or we say we've made "a mistake". We call pride "self-esteem", selfishness "fulfillment," lust "an instinct." If we cheat in business, we call it "protecting our own interests." If we commit adultery, we call it "an attempt to save the marriage." We call murdering an unborn child "terminating a pregnancy." What hypocrites we are! How offensive we must be to God, who is obviously not taken in by our reinterpretations but who calls sin, sin and evil, evil.
I'm not advocating that we become obnoxious people who are always pointing our bony finger into someone's chest. I would suggest we start with ourselves. We need to be honest about the sin in our own lives and in our own churches.
Here are some questions for your personal lives:
Am I blaming others for my sin: my lust, my anger, my competitiveness, my gossip, my materialism, my neglect of my family? Am I saying it is because of genetics, or society, or circumstances? Take responsibility for your own behavior!
Am I rationalizing my lack of compassion or divisiveness by calling it "taking a stand?"
Am I talking about trusting the Lord while spending most of my time fretting about circumstances?
Do I talk about the need to love others for Christ's sake while at the same time writing some people off as "unreachable"?
Do I sidestep necessary tasks and issues by saying, "I'm waiting for the leading of the Spirit?" Have you ever thought the Spirit may be waiting for you to do what is obvious before He takes you further?
And here are some questions for our churches:
Have we confused "drawing a crowd" with successful ministry?
Are we guilty of putting on a show rather than entering the presence of God?
Are we trusting market research and "sure fire programs" more than the Word of God?
Are we proclaiming the tenets of psycology more than Scripture?
Those who have been broken by the realization of their own sin, are much more compassionate and loving when dealing with others about their sin. When the world knows that we are facing up to the rebellion and wrong in our own lives, they will be more open as well.
2. We must speak in a language people understand:
Do you think there was anyone who misunderstood what Enoch was saying? Just this week I heard a very encouraging comment but it saddened me at the same time. A young man said, after visiting our church for worship: "If there was someone nearby that spoke like that near where I live, I would gladly get up each week to worship there." What was it he found attractive? He said he appreciated the fact that we spoke in a way everyone could understand.
Let me be clear. I love words like: justification, righteousness, total depravity, millennium, rapture, tribulation, covenant, sanctification. I also appreciate and cherish phrases like: "born again", "spirit-filled", "anointed", "heard from God". But the world we are trying to reach does not understand those terms. Just because we close our eyes tight and really want to reach the non-Christian doesn't mean that we will reach them if we don't find ways to communicate with them.
If you don't know much about computers . . . let me ask you how you feel when you are listening to two people who love computers talk? All the talk about Megahertz, legs of lamb, floppies, hard drives, modems and the Internet mean almost nothing to you don't they? And ask one of those people to teach you how to run a computer. . . . forget it. You can't follow their directions because you don't know what they are saying and they are saying it way too fast.
Jesus told stories. He related spiritual truth to common events. He described God in human terms. He said the Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed. He said evangelism was like sowing seeds. He said Israel was like a tree that did not bear any fruit. Jesus spoke in a way that people could understand.
Do you enjoy reading Shakespeare? If you are like most people you don't enjoy it, because you don't understand it. If we don't understand Shakespeare, why do we present the gospel in the language and terms of Shakespeare?
Let me meddle a little more . . . let me suggest three possible reasons why we continue to use unfamiliar vocabulary when we talk of God.
It makes us feel superior. We like knowing the code words. It makes us feel more holy.
It gives us power. The only person that understands is us . . . people have to come to us to gain understanding . . . giving us power and influence
We don't understand the terms well enough to translate them. If all we have done is memorized certain code words and phrases and people don't know what they mean . . . we have not converted them, we have indoctrinated them!
Think through your testimony and your witness. Work to speak clearly so that the people you are seeking to reach will understand.Enoch Walked Consistently
Finally, notice these wonderful words In Genesis, "Enoch walked with God" And if America will ever again be a nation that is under God . . . individuals like you and me will need to walk with God in our daily lives. This is different from visiting God on Sundays, or for the more spiritual, fifteen minutes every day. This is walking with God day by day and moment by moment.
Friends, let me tell you something as plainly as I know how. Our calling is not to go to more meetings . . . it is to know God and walk with Him! We can learn a hundred choruses and still not have a relationship with God. We can memorize whole books of the Bible and still not know God! We can attend seminars and have experiences and still not be walking with God! We can go to worship five nights a week and be a leader in the church . . . but still not be walking with God! We can be loyal to a church body and still not be walking with God.
At a recent Promise Keepers Revival Summit, it was reported that there has been NO increase in the proportion of adults who are born-again in 15 years --in spite of American churches devoting more than $500 billion to domestic ministry during that time! What's going on? We keep talking about "winning the lost" but we don't seem to be getting the job done. Let me tell you why I think that is. People are not looking for slogans or presentations. They are looking for people who are walking with God.
1) They are looking for evidence of a changed life. People stop smoking for several weeks. They give up drinking for a month. An abusive husband will be nice to his wife for a couple of months before the next explosion. Should we believe these people because they say they are changed? No. The proof of change is seen over the course of time. The world is looking for someone who not only has an experience;.they are looking for someone who has genuinely been turned around.
2) They are looking for consistency. Walking with God means allowing him to touch every element and aspect of our lives.
They want to see how our faith effects our business ethics and quality
They want to see how our faith affects the consideration and love we show to our family
They watch to see how we handle those who disagree with us.
They want to see what we are like with our friends.
They want to see how we handle the difficult times of life
They want to see how we react at a close ballgame
They want to see how we respond when someone wrongs us
In short, they want to know whether we are walking with God or whether we are just paying Him a visit now and again.
3) The are looking for people who show the compassion of Jesus:
“I was hungry
and you formed a humanities club and you discussed my hunger. Thank you.
I was imprisoned
and you crept off quietlyto your chapel in the cellarto pray for my release
I was naked
and in your mindyou debated the morality of my appearance
I was sick
and you knelt and thanked Godfor your health
I was homeless
and you preached to meof the spiritual shelter of thelove of God.
I was lonely
and you left me aloneto pray for me
You seem so holy;
so close to God.
But I'm still very hungry
and lonelyand cold.
So where have your prayers gone?
What have they done?What does it profit a man to page through hisbook of prayers when the rest of the world is crying for help? “
-M. Lunn, 1,500 Inspirational Quotes and IllustrationsConclusions
I wanted to give you an example. An example of one man who stood faithfully in a corrupt world. Because, I believe this is what we are called to do as well. I hope you have seen that as Enoch believed fully, spoke clearly, and walked consistently so must we. If we really want to be one nation under God we must live under God's rule in our own lives first.
But one more thing . . . notice that Enoch, though faithful, did not save his people from destruction. His faithfulness and the fact that he "pleased God", was not contingent on his "success." And we must not measure our efforts by the worldly success or appearance either.
Enoch, who appeared to be a failure, so pleased God that God "took Him". Enoch didn't die . . . he went straight to Heaven! We can imagine that it happened this way as I borrow freely from the writings of Martin Luthor.
I believe one day God said to Enoch, "Enoch, tell you what . . . tonight let's go home to my house." The Bible doesn't say that Enoch died . . . it says God took him. And unless you believe that God took him by force, we need to realize that God gave Enoch a choice. Enoch chose Heaven even though he had never been there. His relationship with God was so strong that he chose to be with Him.
What would you choose if God gave you that choice today? Hold it! Don't give the correct answer . . . give the honest answer.
We should certainly work hard to bring renewal in our country. We should be the best citizens this country has ever known. But . . . we must always remember that our goal is not renewal in America. Our goal is to bring honor to the Lord and one day go home to the Father's house like Enoch did.
If we will believe God's Word and communicate it clearly to the world by our words and our lives, then we may find that there are those who would like to make the journey with us. And if enough people decide to place their trust in the one who died in their place . . . we might one day be able to declare that the United States of America is indeed, "one nation under God" and for the record . . . . I'd use an exclamation point!
Thursday, July 28, 2005
THE GREAT MYSTERY OF MARRIAGE
When we talk about the mysteries of God, so many come to mind. There is the very mystery of God Himself. He is the only eternal being. He has always existed outside the boundary of time. In fact, He invented time when He created. The moment of creation was the beginning of time. Time will come to end, but some of us will not end with it. That leads us to the grace filled mystery of the Gospel. The sacrifice of Christ that opens the door for our relationship with God and our potential entry into eternal life with Him. There is one mystery of God’s that constantly amazes me and about which I am enlightened more each day. Paul calls it “the great mystery” in Ephesians. I prefer to see it as the great gift, marriage.
Those of you familiar with my website or my e-mails know that the road I have traveled and am traveling is filled with pits and valleys, but overwhelming covered with grace and joy. One of the most important sources of that joy is my wife. I wasn’t perfectly healthy when we married, but I was in pretty good shape. I was a hard worker and a loving spouse and father. It was not that difficult for either of us to promise to love and honor in sickness and health until death do us part. It should have been more difficult for my wife to keep that vow by the world’s standards, but by God’s grace it was not. Why not? Because we both discovered what the mystery was all about. The secret of marriage isn’t about what you get from it. In fact that is the least important thing about marriage.
Examples of this truth abound in my life with Rhonda. I remember discovering that I had dementia and feeling my wife’s hand slip into mine as the doctor spoke with us. Despite the tenderness of that moment, she turned to me and quietly said, “Don’t suppose that will excuse you forgetting my birthday.” Those weren’t her exact words, but hers were similar in tone. We both laughed as did my doctor. We have laughed together at this disease ever since. I remember awaking from a coma and seeing Rhonda looking me in the eye as she said, “You’re not going anywhere and neither am I!” As I awoke after surgery recently, she sat beside my bed holding my hand and said, “I still love you and I am still here.” She has expressed her vow to love until death do us part under the most strenuous of circumstances you can imagine and it has never been a strain for her, because the love she has for me is the same love she has received from God. She once said, “How could I leave him? Don’t you suppose God’s heart would break as much as mine would?”GOD’S APPROACH TO MARRIAGE IS THE BEST APPROACH TO MARRIAGE
I don’t remember where I read this story, but it surely represents today’s society. A little girl was discussing the story of Cinderella with an adult friend of her mother. The friend said to the child, “I know what happens at the end.” “What?” asked the little girl. “They lived happily ever after,” the lady replied with a smile. “Oh, no they didn’t!” exclaimed the girl, “They got married!” Reality in this child’s world and the world of most children in America is that marriages do not go on happily ever after. What a sad statement on our world. What a sad statement about ourselves.
“Wives submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19 NIV
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, and present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church – for we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:21-33 NIV
God’s approach to marriage is largely dismissed in our culture today.
People say that sexual purity before marriage is “impractical”.
More and more couples are choosing to “live together” without benefit of any
commitment before they get married. After all, what difference does a piece of
Any suggestion that marriage should be confined to one man and one woman is
met with cries that we are being “judgmental”. Of course we are not being
judgmental – those are God’s standards not ours.
You can watch television talk shows every day that parade experts telling people to do “what’s right for them”. These so called experts are offering wind instead of substance, useless theories instead of wisdom. The world is running faster and faster, but it is still only running in circles pursuing the same ideas and concepts that proved themselves failures in earlier civilizations.
One of the reasons for where people are today is the lack of intimacy. We buy products that focus on me and my needs and my self image. We are taught how to make others believe things about us that are not true. No one is teaching us to be honest about ourselves or to ourselves. We have not been through a sexual revolution. We haven’t! What we have been through is a desperate search for a substitute for the intimacy that we naturally crave. Most people do not want the physical aspect of sex. They have just been taught to substitute that for the caring they desire. They want someone who truly cares for them and they truly want to be able to care for someone else. They want intimacy. We have allowed our culture, our society to dictate to us that the only way you find intimacy is through the physical. That is just not true! Ask couples who have been married for a length of time and they will tell you that sex is an important part of their relationship, but it is not the most important part. The most important is found in the quiet times when hands reach out to each other and two people share with each other from the depths of their souls, often doing so without making any sound at all..
If you have a problem with your computer who would you rather talk to about it: a friend who owns a computer or the manufacturer of the computer you own? If you have a problem with a machine at work, where do you turn for help: to someone who has read a lot about machines in general, a person who has talked to lots of people who have these machines or the person who designed and built the machine you are using? If you want to talk about home runs do you talk to a TV commentator or Mark McGuire?
All these answers are obvious, but what about marriage. If you have a question about how to have a good marriage do you want to talk to a social scientist who has studied marriage, a friend who has been married previously, a counselor who has read books about marriage or the one who invented and designed marriage? Again the answer should be obvious.
The biggest problems in marriage stem from one thing and one thing only: disobedience to the one who has instructed us about marriage. We have ignored the designer and tried to remake marriage in our design. God has clearly told us the approach to take. When we ignore His counsel we are in rebellion against God. Perhaps if we were more attentive to the instructions from the designer we would find that marriage works much better. The best marriage is the one built on the foundation of God’s word.PAUL’S PRINCIPALS ARE NOT CULTURAL
Whenever people start looking at biblical instruction about marriage someone is bound to say “these instructions are clearly the cultural preference of the day.” This is not even close to being true.
Under Jewish law a woman was a thing; she was a possession of her husband, just as much as his house or his flocks or his other material goods. She had no legal rights whatsoever. Under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any cause, while a wife had no rights to initiate a divorce of her own. Both under Jewish law and under Greek custom, all the privileges belonged to the husband and all the duties belonged to the wife. Roman culture was just as chaotic. The Jewish Historian Jerome wrote about a woman who had married her 22nd husband and she was his 21st wife!
These are the people Paul wrote to. To all these cultures Paul’s words were not the norm but were a radical departure from the norm. Paul was not talking about the contemporary view of marriage. He was confronting it with a Biblical alternative. He tells the Roman women they need to respect and encourage men in the area God has placed them. He tells the Jews and the Greeks that women are not mere objects but individuals who are to be cherished, nurtured and enjoyed. Paul was not denigrating women, but elevating them! This was a revolutionary concept then and continues to be so today.
If you want to start a revolution, tell someone that you are going to try things the Biblical way. That will start the gossip mill! There is nothing revolutionary about refusing to submit or refusing to love in a sacrificial way. In our self-absorbed society this is the prevailing public opinion. When you take a stand for Christ, you are bucking the trend for sure. Many people dismiss God’s teachings on marriage because they don’t think they like the teaching. I would contend that those who do not like what Paul teaches have not understood what he is teaching.MARRIAGE IS MORE ABOUT GIVING THAN IT IS ABOUT GETTING
Whenever men and women look at these passages husbands and wives tend to focus on the wrong things. The husband hears Paul’s word to wives and says, “Alright! This is the way I like it. I am the Boss and she does what I say.” But that means he has never read beyond to the commands God has for him! The wives hear the teaching to them and say, “You don’t know my husband. Why should I submit to him. I am equal to him in every way and superior in most!” Then the wife points to the teaching for men and says, “If I had a husband like that, I would follow him anywhere. This kind of man does not exist.”
Rather than come into these passages with our boxing gloves on, we need to come seeking to understand what God is directing us to. Where is He leading us? Soon you see that marriage is not about women serving men, it is about men and women serving each other! If we focus on what the other is supposed to do for us we are missing Paul’s point by several football fields. The emphasis is on what we give to each other. When each of us focuses on what we should be bringing to the relationship, that is when the relationship really begins to work. As someone once said, marriage is not a fifty –fifty relationship; it is a one hundred – one hundred one instead.
Let’s take a look at Ephesians 5:21 and the following verses. Paul begins his instruction with the direction that summarizes what it is all about: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The context of these commands is mutual submission. The focus is on giving not getting. Contrary to the mistaken view of Biblical instruction, the Bible teaches that marriage is not one-sided. It is not about women being servants of men. It is about two people working hard to give of themselves to enrich and encourage each other.
In 1 Peter 3:1 we see similar instructions, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands.” Notice verse 7 “husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives.” What should be our key question here? The “same way” as what?
In 1 Peter 2 Peter tells us to submit to authorities (13), and show respect for everyone (17). He tells slaves to submit to their masters with all respect and then he tells us that our example of this attitude is Christ.
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25 NIV
After describing the sacrificial way Christ lives he says, “Wives, in the same way” and “husbands, in the same way…” Jesus did not live for what He could GET from others. He lived His life and GAVE His life so that we might KNOW Him and therefore we might know life.
The Biblical teaching about marriage urges us to put the other first. Our concern should be what we can give to the relationship. This is the same for men and for women. This is what made the teaching unique and revolutionary. The same is true today. We live in a time when everything is about self. What’s in it for me? What do I get? How does this make me feel? Jesus wants us to change that focus. When we do, we become more and more like Him and we experience what He was talking about when He said He wanted us to have life more abundantly.
Finally, let’s take some time here for self examination. Are you self-absorbed? Be careful here. I would contend that most of us are self-centered in our marriages for the most part. We are still sinners and still fall short of the glory of God. We all readily notice what we have been denied.
He should have helped me clean up
She should have been more receptive to my idea
He does not meet my needs for intimacy all he thinks about is physical
She never has my clothes ready when I need them
These are the common kinds of gripes we tend to voice in relationships. The truth is we tend to think of others as if they exist to make our lives complete. It’s not just men. It’s women too!
What would happen if everyone began to turn things around? What if the complaints were something like this:
I am having trouble finding more ways to demonstrate my love
I’m struggling looking for a way to be more encouraging to my mate
I am frustrated that I don’t do more for my spouse
I wish I could love him/her more completely
Spouses would be more responsive, attentive, appreciative and loving toward each other. They would walk around smiling and telling others how wonderful their spouses are.
Does all this sound too simple? Frankly, it is simple. Everything about Christ is simple if we will let it be so. On July 9, Rhonda and I were married eleven years. We celebrated eleven years of being gifted with a relationship we did not realize was possible. It is a relationship that would not have been possible without Christ and most importantly without us trying to imitate Christ to each other.
Before I depart this topic I want to be sure to clarify something. I know divorce happens. It happened to me. Sometimes one person is committed to giving everything they have and the other isn’t. Sometimes one person is committed to being faithful in marriage, but the other isn’t. Sometimes one person is living responsibly and the other is living recklessly and putting family members at risk. I truly understand that divorce happens.
I also know that divorce is painful. I don’t want to increase that pain by making anyone feel condemned or that they are failure. Such thoughts are not from God and it is not my intention to bring such thoughts to this discussion. As I write about marriage, I am less concerned about what has been done wrong in the past or what has been done wrong to anyone else than I am about where each of us is going from this day forward.
When I was married before, I did not live my married life the way Christ would have me do. Without Christ as master and king of my life, how could I have expected anything I did to succeed as it should? It was only in making Jesus the KING of all that I am and all that I do that I had any hope of getting the intimacy and love I so desperately desired.
God brought Rhonda into my life and when He did, we both realized that the other was a gift we should cherish for they were a gift from God. All I have wanted since the day I fell into her emerald eyes is to give her all the love I ever wanted for myself in this life and more, to give her all the love I knew I was receiving from God as well. I did not place her on a pedestal. God is on the pedestal and the throne. She is the gift He gave to me in my need and one that I return to Him each minute of every day as my necessary worship. Each time I give to her I gain. Each time I give her back to Him I gain even more. That is the simplicity and the secret of marriage - God’s way.
This coming week my wife and I will be apart physically as I go to spend a week with thirty teenagers from our church. Mostly I will cook and clean and pray for them all. Pastor Eric will lead Bible studies and worship. Others will supply worship music. My ministry on these trips is generally quiet and simple. I look for those who are hurt and see if I can help them find their source of healing. I respond to the ones who are hungry for more than food. I listen to those who need to be heard. I pray, all day, every day, constantly, that His Spirit will stir in all of us that which needs stirring. Pray for us during this time of growing and learning to be servants of the King.
As always, I am yours in Christ.
01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005
01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005
01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005
01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005
02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005
02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005
02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005
03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005
04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005
04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005
04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005
06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005
06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005
07/03/2005 - 07/10/2005
07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005
08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005
08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005
08/28/2005 - 09/04/2005
09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005
09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005