Friday, July 27, 2012

Dropping the Stones

I have felt under a lot of conviction the last couple of months.  It seems that Christianity has been under attack from all sides here lately.  And I have been on the attack back.  But not in the way that I should.  I have used phrases such as "They will get what's coming to them", "They make me sick", and even "Society would be better without them."  However, my feelings and words towards them was way out of line.  They do not fall into line with my Christian beliefs.  What was in my heart towards these people and individuals was hatred.  I began to have a change of heart with some study.

John 8:1-11
"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “ He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “ I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

What I had done, was carry a stone in my hand.  I looked at the sin in peoples lives and allowed myself to be judgmental of them and their lifestyles.  And I began to realize, what do I expect them to do?  It is obvious they do not have Christ in their lives.  They are unable to see the sin in their lives.  And they do not understand when we debate them because there is no way they can understand.

1 Corinthians 1:18
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

To enter into a debate with them is of no use.  Even scripture teaches that they cannot understand.  Does it make it okay for them to live in this lifestyle.  Absolutely not.  Everything that we know and believe teaches that it is wrong.  But, are we truly any better?  We have sin in our lives and sin everyday.

1 John 1:8-9
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The only thing that separates us from the ones that hate and persecute us is that we have confessed our sins and asked forgiveness for them.  Every time that we pray, we ask forgiveness of our sins.  We want Christ our Lord to look at us through grace.  And by grace receive forgiveness.  And yet when we look at the lost that continue to persecute us, we look at them through the law.  We do not always see them in the same light as Christ saw us before we were saved.  Christ loves us, all of us.  Not just His church, but all of the world.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

He loved the entire world.  Those that would believe and those who would not.  Christ died for everyone.  We need to see that it is the sin in their lives that makes them this way.  It should break our hearts for them when we see them, because we know what they do have.  And we know where that will lead them.  And that is never a good thing, no matter who they are.  We need to love them, show compassion to them, and most importantly, share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This needs to be our mission in life.  We need to share with them His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection.  We need to pray for them daily, and make Jesus the center of all conversations with them.  And we need to let the stones fall from our hands.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this week! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Happy Christian Marriage

Hello everyone.  It has been a long time since I have shared some encouraging thoughts and devotionals.  I apologize for my absence in writing.  I have been on a much needed vacation, helping deal with sick babies, and working on a bible study of my own.  I also have been blessed with another anniversary with my wife.  We have been married for 8 years.  She is the love of my life.  And not a day goes by that I do not praise the Lord in heaven for sending her to me.  Other than my salvation, she has been the biggest blessing in my life.  Now I know that I might be sounding mushy and all, and it sounds like we have the perfect marriage.  But we still have our issues.  A good marriage needs constant work.  And it is hard sometimes to find time to work on it.  With work, children, and responsibilities, it can be hard to find time to work on that marriage to make it better.  And where there is a lack of work, marriages can sometimes become strained.  And both individuals need to come to the table to work.  Listed below are some things in my life and study that I believe that are essential to understanding what a marriage is and means.  Now, I am no expert.  I do not have a PhD in counseling or anything.  These are just my opinions and scripture to go along.

1.  The Marriage is About Husband and Wife
One of the biggest things that can cause problems in a marriage is involving other people in things that are between husband and wife.

Genesis 2:22-23
"The man said, “ This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

I know that a lot of problems can be compounded by running to mom and dad when things are going like you planned.  And sadly, most parents will side with there child, and cause a larger strain within the family.  The same is true with siblings or anyone else in your family.  If there are issues, you need to keep them within the marriage and work them out.  Now, if you need someone to vent to occasionally,  find a friend that will be honest and objective about all situations.  A pastor may even be a good choice.  But going to your family with all your problems is not a good thing.

2. Follow the Bible Plan
I am amazed at the people who say they have a good Christian marriage, but have no sense of the biblical aspect of that.

Ephesians 5:22-30
" Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body."

Now this is the big one.  Let me start off by saying that I do not believe in the putting down of women and they are not slaves to us men.  Allow me to extrapolate these verses.  First of all no one can understand what a true marriage is, and be happy unless they are saved.  I get this reasoning from the scripture.  Every time it tells something for the wife to do, or the husband, it gives a reason based on God and Christ.  So the first thing we should do is look at our relationship with the Lord, before we focus on our spouse.

Lets start with the wives (men I will get to you in a moment, so no snickering).  Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord.  What does that mean?  It means that you are to be willing to serve your husbands the same way the you do our Lord.  Why?  Because the husband is the head of the wife just like Christ is the head of the church.  How could you truly understand how to serve the Lord properly if you do not try to do the same for your husband?  Now, this does not mean that you are a slave to your husbands.  But your role in the marriage is to serve and support your husband.  He is the head of the family.  You took his name, not the other way around.  You should look for ways to serve your husband the same way that believers look for ways to serve our Lord.  Instead of looking at the faults of your husband, because he definitely has them, look for ways to make him happy and feel respected.  For respect is the thing that most men crave.  If a man feels happy and respected in his own home, he is more apt to be a stronger man.  Both in his place of work, and at church.  He will have the confidence to make good decisions for his family, and will seek to keep that happiness at home.

Men, it is your turn now.  You should love your wives just as Christ loved the church.  How much did Christ love the church?  He sacrificed His life for it.  Now I know it would not be hard for you to jump in front of a bullet for your wife.  I think most of us would.  But do you love her enough to sacrifice other things for her.  If she were to ask you to stay home with her one night instead of hanging out with the guys, would you do it?  If she really needed your help one day, would you give up your golf game that day?  Are you willing to sacrifice what you want, in order to make your wife happy?  Do you want your wife to submit to you willingly?  What have you done to show her the love that she needs?  Do you love her like Christ loves you?  How could you really understand the love Christ has for his church if you do not try to do the same for your wife?  Women need to be shown love.  Saying it is great, but what have you done to show her.  They have things that are important to them.  When you show her, show her in a way that she will see it, not the way you would see it.  There are things that say I love you to you, but it may not say I love you to her.  Sacrifice for your wife, and show her how much she means to you.

3.  How to Properly Change When Change is Necessary
One of the biggest complaints that I hear from friends and other people when they complain about their spouse is how much they need to change.  What does the Bible say about this?

Matthew 7:3-5
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

I know it is common place for people to look at the faults in their spouse and try to tell them how to change.  Why?  It is definitely not biblical.  If you want your spouse to change something that is problematic in the relationship, then you need to change yourself first.  We all have our issues.  We all have things that we know bug our spouse.  What we need to do is sit down and make an honest list of the things that we do that we need to change to make our spouse happier.  And we need to make every effort to do that first.  If our spouse sees that we are trying on our own to change ourselves for the betterment of the marriage, they will be more apt to do the same themselves.  We must take a proactive step in the right direction, not tell the other how to get started.  No one likes to be told all the ways that they are wrong, and they will probably tune you out.  So, remove the log in your eye first.

4.  Stop the Arguing
Nothing can kill a marriage and stop the flow of love more than an argument.  So why do it?

Matthew 7:12
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Do you like to be yelled at?  Do you like having all of your faults brought out?  Do you like being put down?  I was reading some of Gary Chapman's work on marriage.  He said that in an argument, everybody loses.  Someone will win the argument, yes.  But, then that person has to live with a loser.  Feelings get hurt, words are said that should not be, and you tear each other down.  And for what purpose?  To prove that you are right?  Whoopie!  Arguments never solve anything.  They just create more problems.

So what do we want?  We want to be listened to.  We want others to consider our opinions.  We want harmony and love.  So, do it.  When there is a disagreement, talk about it.  Listen to each other.  And I mean listen to each other.  Not sit there and wish the other would be quiet because they don't agree with you and think of a quick comeback that would further drive home your point and drive the other person away.  Listen to what your spouse has to say.  Repeat what they said and make sure that you understand their feelings and point of view.  Then work to a compromise.  Show your spouse the love and respect in times of disagreement that you wish to receive.  Then your spouse may be more likely to do the same for you.  And if they don't, do not fire back at them.   You still show them that love and respect, and it will become contagious eventually.

Now with all of my opinions put together, the biggest thing to keep in mind, is that these are not quick fixes.  These are things that we should continue to do in order to have a happier marriage.  In the Ephesians verses above, the Apostle Paul taught about the similarity between husband and wife and Christ and the Church.  Christ will love the church forever, not just for a short time.  We must do the same with our spouse.  We must look at these things daily, whether times are good or times are bad.  You get married for better or worse.  Sometimes its better, and sometimes its worse.  And we should be looking at all times in how to make our marriage the best that it can be.

I would love to hear your feedback if you would like.  You can comment below.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this week!