Friday, January 23, 2015

Defending Your Marriage in Ministry

Here's a jump-start on Valentine's Day. I don't know how to say it more delicately so here goes:

Men, there are needy men who admire your wife. Women, there needy women who watch your husband. They are not seeing the tousle-headed, morning-breath person who leaves dirty socks on the floor. They are seeing the spiffy, get-up-and-go-to-church-with-a-Colgate-smile person. This is not the man or woman you live with (granted).

courtesy of

Said another way, Men, your wife may be one of those needy women looking at other men. Women, your husband may be one of those needy men looking at other women.

The way you love and treat your spouse reflects your love and respect for our Savior. Read it again. The way you love and treat your spouse reflects your love and respect for our Savior. If Jesus was your spouse, would you talk to Him that way? Talk about Him that way? Treat Him that way? You are the first line of defense for your marriage. If you aren't loving and serving and caring--if you aren't the best deal on the planet for your spouse--you stand to lose a great deal. Your marriage and the way your live with your spouse is a better reflection of your spiritual health than any other ministry.

This does not (NOT) mean that you are at fault if your spouse has committed adultery. We make choices and live with the consequences. That spouse made a choice. God allowed it. And I cannot express  in words how sorry I am for your loss and chaos. God hates divorce because He loves people.

For that reason, those of us who are married need to take one another seriously. If we love and serve the Lord, we will seek to love and serve our spouse biblically: men will love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. Women will submit to and follow their husbands the way the Church is called to submit to and follow Christ (Ephesians 5:24-25).

So what does that look like in ministry? I hope many of these are self-evident:

1) Love God first and foremost. When God is my priority, I spend time with Him--reading His Word daily and praying. By living to please Him we fulfill our design in all parts of life and He meets needs we didn't know we had! (Matthew 6:33). You and I are also more attractive to our spouse as we draw close to the Lord. There's something irresistibly sexy (if I may) about a godly man or woman--especially within marriage!

2) Love your mate.  Don't check out already. This seems obvious so let me ask, how does your spouse know you love him/her? God showed us His love by giving His Son. He gave. He sacrificed. He continues to give in tangible and intangible ways (Romans 8:32). So how (or what) have you given your spouse recently that was costly? Time? Attention? Thoughtfulness? A personalized gift?

3) Stand by your man--or woman. Literally. Women, sit with your husband in church and at gatherings. Husbands, sit with your wife during worship services and small group. Needy people are watching and interacting. Again, that doesn't make them bad, but they are looking for a place to belong. Let them belong with both of you.

4) Give the same message. If someone were to ask either of you a question, the answer should be the same regardless of whom they ask. If you know your husband/wife would disagree, ask for time and confer privately. Others need to see you make unified decisions-and you need to practice submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

5) Serve together. Yes, you are individuals and you probably have different gifts. Use them to make a unified contribution to your local church and community, not separate ones. Believers form incredible bonds of friendship as they serve together--that's the way God intended it (Ephesians 4:13). Don't squander the opportunity to grow with your spouse (or make provision for someone else to form that relationship in your place).

6) Don't serve the opposite sex as an individual. There are women looking for (and thinking they need) a surrogate spiritual  husband. Some men are looking for appreciate, attractive surrogate wives. To serve someone of the opposite gender without the very real, physical presence of your spouse should shout, "Warning! Warning!" even if it's done in public. Guard the length and depth of conversation with members of the opposite sex (Proverbs 4:23).

7) Follow your God-given roles and responsibilities. Sometimes (many times?) it seems easier to just do what needs to be done. But that's not what honors God. Our trust is evident in our willingness to obey His design and commands, leaving the results to Him. Men lead. Women follow. It's not wrong. It's not bad. It's counter-cultural. Functioning within our roles and responsibilities shows His glory, not ours (which is paltry and flaky at best).

8) Speak well of one another. When you speak poorly of your spouse, it makes other men/women feel sorry for them (really!). Women will sympathize with your husband; men will sympathize with your wife. Your spouse will appear more long-suffering and forbearing than you realize because they live with you: the one who's complaining (Philippians 2:14-15). Keep faults where they belong: in the loving, caring context of your life together.

Your spouse is a "one another." The closest one another you have. As a husband or wife, you have an obligation and calling to keep your relationship pure and protect it.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

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. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.(Ephesians 5:15-33 NASB)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Cup of Cold Water

Are you thirsty? This time of year--in the American Midwest--we're not thirsty as often as we are in the summer, but after shoveling snow or chasing around the house? Sounds good.

Life can leave us a little parched, dry-mouthed, panting even. We made it this far, but looking back our journey feels insignificant. small, shallow. Looking at the world around us increases that sense of worthlessness. What then? Instead of looking out, look up. Look to the One who saw you in eternity past, who knew you and called you by name. Look to the One who left glory and clothed himself in the flesh of a human body--then gave it all up. For you. That is your worth. That is your value. Not you, per se, but Christ.

Here's some perspective; a cup of cold water for your day:

"...and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (1 Peter 2:24-25).

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:1-6)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

But I Don't Want to Go to Cancun!

A couple of years ago our family was invited to a resort in Cancun. Some of our children went, the older ones (who had a choice) didn't. After seeing the pictures and hearing the stories I think they wish they had. The truth is, they were more content with what they knew (staying home) than going away. They didn't know what they were missing!

The same is true as it relates to God. We don't know what we're missing! It's much easier and more comfortable to continue where we are, with what we have than to strike out and risk loss, rejection, the unknown...

In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself when He rescued Israel from Egypt using Moses, Aaron and multiple plagues. He didn't leave them, but parted the Red Sea and continued to meet their needs despite complaints and mutiny. That's the kind of God He is. Once a slave people, He gave them laws and ordinances to govern their behavior and provide forgiveness of sin. But it wasn't enough.

Over time they turned to idols and idol worship--can you say nightclub? Buffet? Immediate gratification? Distraction?! We all have our go-to comforts and joys; things that fulfill us momentarily, things that change our behavior because we want more or we want to avoid them altogether. Yes, these are our modern-day idols. And guess what, when you're happy with staying home, you won't want to go to Cancun either.

But, God says, when you see Me, you won't need petty distractions and escape mechanisms. You will have Me and you will see your treasure much differently. "Precious" rings turn your fingers green; lewd comments  taste like coffee grounds; front-row seats are as cages.

As in the New Year's entry on HeartQuencher, the key to seeing life as it really is is not to work and toil and extend effort to escape the things that hold us back. The key is to look to Jesus as He really is, to long for and read His Word and see Him. It is as we see Him that the "things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord...bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)

This blog came to mind as I've been working my way through John Piper's list: 9 Ways to Pray for Your Soul.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

When It's Not About New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Day 2015--and I would greatly benefit from a number of changes in my life. It would be great if I could drop a few pounds, get in better shape, organize my closets and storage, be a better mom and wife. If only I swept the kitchen floor more diligently or got rid of out-dated clothes, I would feel better about myself. And that's what a New Year's resolution does--it gives me a tool to feel better about who I am and where I'm headed. But what if it's not about me?

This morning I discovered a different tack. My morning Bible reading had me in 2 Chronicles 31. I started but realized I'd missed something important--and had to back up to chapter 29. If you haven't read that recently (and who has-? really?), I would highly recommend it. Blow off the dust and read that ancient story because it could change your world.

Life changed for a nation--life changed for the better--and people got excited. In fact they spent a lot of time rejoicing. And in the middle of the joy and celebration came destruction of old practices, evil lifestyle patterns and establishments. Isn't that what we're looking for? A way to cut the apron-strings to those things that hold us back, that set us up for destruction, that cause pain and misery? How does that happen?

In the life of Hezekiah it didn't happen because he woke up one morning with a new set of resolutions for the coming year. He began by opening the doors of the house of the Lord and repairing them (2 Chronicles 29:3). Here's the point: you and I will never leave behind or turn our back on those things we hold dear until we find something (or Someone) who means more.

Hezekiah treasured the Lord more than his reputation. He valued the Lord more than his relationships. He sought the Lord over and above personal comfort and acceptance. He wanted God more than anything else. He loved God more than he loved himself. So he set his heart to serve the Lord--and revival took place. It wasn't because he was such a great guy (though we remember him that way). It was because his heart was set on the Lord over and above all else.

"Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered."(2 Chronicles 31:20-21)

New Year's Resolutions will come and go--much too quickly--but those who turn and seek the Lord will find they've not only turned their backs on things that used to haunt them but they've found the greatest treasure of all. As we love God more than ourselves, more than our go-to saviors, our world will change in ways we never thought possible and our hearts will be full of worship, praise and joy.

PS--it's not possible without Jesus. There's no way to be right with God, to seek Him, to be diligent and steadfast with humbling ourselves and asking for God's forgiveness through Jesus. We can't do it on our own (haven't you tried and failed enough times to figure that one out?). We need the Holy Spirit's help. We need cleansing, forgiveness, and a new day--each day. We need, must have, are desperate for, Jesus.

"Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works." (Psalm 73:25-28)

Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15:1-11)