runandstuff

Family, Faith, and Running

Raptor Run 5k 2012

This morning was the third annual Raptor Run at the Creation Museum.  This is the first time I’ve run the same race twice and was excited to see a real apples to apples time comparison to see if I’m really getting faster, or just running easier courses.  Of course just last Sunday I had the half marathon catastrophe that was the Iron Horse.  So, with the short turn around I was also curious just how quickly my body would recuperate and allow me to perform at a level I know I’m capable of.

My suggestion for next years shirt…

I felt great even though the weather was much colder than the previous year.  It was also wet, not raining, but just moist out, thick air.  Being surrounded by people I know from work is always a motivator to dig a little deeper in this race as well.  Competition was much stiffer this year as well. Even though there were less people who actually ran, and the fact that I did in fact crush last years time of 24:08, I still ended up getting beat by more people.  That isn’t a complaint.  I’m actually satisfied that there were more people around and ahead of me. It made it easier to tell my head to shut up and run when there are people around me staying at the same even pace.

All in all, it was another great race, and it looks like I’m going to try and make it an annual measuring stick of my running progress.  Official finish time of 22:44 earned me a new PR to shoot for in my next race!

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October 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Race That Almost Wasn’t

Well, I did it. I finished my first half marathon this past Sunday.  Months of training, staying injury free, all culminated on a very windy Sunday morning in Midway Kentucky… But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.

As I said before, this was my first attempt at a half marathon.  My previous attempt at a long race, the Flying Pig last spring, was cut short due to some knee issue that curbed my running for a while.  Then, with the new addition to our family, getting back on the road seemed much harder to do with any amount of frequency.  But when a friend at work told me that he had signed up for the Iron Horse, and I checked it out, I knew I wanted to go for it.  My training was sporadic at best, but injury free, and I continued to see gains in endurance and speed throughout the months leading up to the race. I felt really good about knocking off two of my running goals in one swipe; my first half, and sub two hours.

So, race weekend was finally here.  It happened to also be my daughters’ fall break from school, so we decided to do a weekend camping trip as well, and I would just go race from there on Sunday… No big deal.   I had made sure to pack my race bag, I had everything I needed so that when the alarm went off, at 5:30, I wouldn’t have to think, I could just go.  The plan to wake the children and take the whole family down quickly changed to the sounds of deep sleep in the camper.  I headed south, coffee in hand, a few minutes ahead of schedule.  (or so I thought)

Midway is a small town.  One main road, a few small off shoots for it’s residents and if you blink you’ll miss it.  As I rolled through, I knew I was going to be hard pressed to find a good parking spot, (one that wouldn’t require me walking another mile to my car after running 13.1) but as I turned into a residential neighborhood I found a spot quickly enough.  I made my way, on foot to the starting area and when I came upon it I realized something was a bit off…  There were no people, tons of cars lined every street, but where was everyone?  I met a man looking for a cup of coffee and asked where the race day packet pick-up was?  His look was worth a thousand words, ‘Uh… the race started about 20 minutes ago.’  Why hello stomach, you don’t belong in my throat.  The biggest fear that anyone who has run a race has, just became my reality.  I thought it was a 9am start time, but that was an hour behind…

I quickly made my way to the starting line, which no longer existed.  And after a quick stop at the port-o-let (the coffee had done its job) I decided that I was going to run this race no matter what.  Knowing that the race had a maximum pace of 14 minute a mile and not knowing exactly how long ago they started I decided to forgo getting my Iphone set with my music and Nike+ and just start running.  If I didn’t catch the pacer by the 7 mile mark, I would be pulled from the course and not allowed to finish.   I have no idea what my pace was, but with the adrenaline pumping, I took off.  As I passed the spectators who lined the street awaiting the runners to come back from the first turn around the sporadic cheers I heard echoed my own confusion.  About a mile into the race I met the front runner coming back… he was half done already…  So, I tried to do the math in my head, and quickly gave that up.   The looks from the rest of the runners were just as confused as the spectators had been.  But I kept on.  I met and passed the lady with the flashing red light on her back around mile 5.  I would be able to finish no matter what.

I tried to slow my pace and find my happy place, but it wasn’t much use.  My legs were screaming and I still had 7 miles to go.  As I passed more and more runners (walking mostly) I told most ‘good job’ and received the same in return.  But I’ve never run a long time without music before… man my mind wanders.  Around mile 9 a thought occurred to me.  I didn’t have a bib on.  (Or a chip to get my official time.)  Not worried about my time, but the bib might cause an issue at the finish.  What if they don’t give me my finisher’s medal cause I don’t have my bib?  If anyone has seen the medal for the Iron Horse you would know my trepidation.  That thing is sweet lookin’!  I fretted about that for about a mile or so, until my legs turned up the volume on their pain.

The last 3 miles were terrible.  My left leg was cramping,  I head felt light.  The people who I had once been passing with ease began to be my running partners.  The worst part came when a woman went flying past me around mile 11.  What the heck? Where did she come from?  After the race I found out that she was the women’s overall winner, and had re-run the last half of the race to find her friend and help her finish… Humble pie doesn’t go down very smooth.

I found my fears unfounded at the finish line. The smiling face congratulated me and handed me my finisher’s medal.  My first thought was ‘why did they have to make it soo heavy?’  I tracked down the gentleman exchanging race shirts for different sizes and explained to him what had happened. He also, happily gave me a shirt and luckily for me, he also had my bib in his truck as well.

So, I’m still trying to process the entire day.  Yes, I finished my first half marathon.  That in itself should be something to hang my hat on… However, the way everything went down left me thinking I could have done so much better than the very un-official time of 2:07:37.  And I’m left feeling un-fulfilled, yet un-motivated to jump right into another race of that distance.

Oh, well.  The Thanksgiving Day 10k is right around the corner… maybe I can beat last years time and it will help to motivate me to try again in the spring.  We shall see…

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Running | , , , , | 4 Comments

Small Group Week 11

Living the Life

“Do as I say. Not as I do.”

This widely used, mostly sarcastically; quotation has been around for hundreds of years. Sadly, it was first used to describe preachers in 1654. And it probably still describes a number of those who stand behind a pulpit yet today. But does it describe you? Have you ever been in a place that you have had to say that, or at least felt like saying it, to one of your children? I’m honest enough to answer, ‘yes’. But is that acceptable, for christians, as well as parents.

The teachings of Jesus proclaim the exact opposite of what this quote stands for. Jesus has called us to be living examples of our faith each and everyday. And, following His own words, Jesus lived his teaching out loud so that everyone could follow not only his words, but his actions too.

John 13:5-15 “Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘ Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’ So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

 

That is quite a passage of scripture. There are at least 3 life lessons that can be drawn from these ten verses. The one I’m focusing on though is the example that Jesus was living. Let’s be sure to understand why the act of washing the disciples’ feet was such a big deal. The practice of foot washing was a regular event during Jesus’ time. Sandals were the main footwear at the time, and when a guest would arrive at your house it was customary to offer water and a servant to cleans the dirt from your travels from your feet prior to relaxing around the dinner table. Certainly, the disciples had experience their feet being washed many times before. This time was different though. The task was, more times than not, carried out by a servant, on of the lowest in the household. The example Jesus sets for his disciples, and us for that matter, is ground-breaking and clear. As followers of Christ, we were to lower ourselves and serve others just as Christ had shown. It wasn’t enough for us to teach Jesus to others, we needed to live Jesus for others to see.

Paul took this lesson to heart as shown in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ‘Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.’ I’ve long been at awe of this verse. How can a man possible say to other men, ‘do like I do, because I’m doing it right’? Perhaps, my faith isn’t strong enough for such a statement, but this is exactly the lesson Jesus was teaching as he washed the dirt from his disciples’ feet.

So, what does this have to do with parenting you ask? Good question, I’ll tell you.

 

If, as Christians, we are called to live a life that enables us to say to others ‘follow me’ confidently enough that we will lead them to Christ. How much more should we be able to say those words to our children? We talked last week about the very small window that we, as parents, have, to be the major influence on our children. Ask anyone with a school aged child and they will probably tell you the first time they noticed their child had learned something new at school, that wasn’t part of the curriculum. It is a scary thing to know that you are no longer the source of all of your child’s knowledge and learning. If you haven’t spent the time during those early years; teaching, and leading your child, this realization becomes even scarier. There is no time for mixed messages. Our words and actions have to line up; with each other and the Word of God.

Teaching your children with your words one lesson and with your actions a separate lesson causes more problems than just living with no regard for the consequences at all. The power of truth disintegrates when it is spoken by those who don’t themselves follow it. So when your child is grown the truth they may hear from someone else will also have less of an impact because of the false testimony they were shown when they were young. Again, this is a very heavy burden to bear as a parent.

It’s not enough to teach your child bible stories on Sunday morning if Saturday night is a blur. It’s a failure to them if you teach, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,’ but they hear you bad mouth your boss at the dinner table. It does no good to tell your child not to watch violent or sexually charged movies, when they see you turn them on every-night.

“Actions speak louder than words.”

This lesson could have been much shorter if I’d have just started with that statement. Our children are learning from us, listening to us, and watching us. Are they hearing and seeing the same lesson being taught? Do they know truth when they hear it because it has been lived out loud every day in their home? Do you lead a life that says, without words, ‘Follow me, because I follow Christ.’?

 

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 10

Effective Parenting

I hesitate greatly to begin this series of bible studies. The main reason being; I’m still very new at being a parent. I’m a father of three, but my oldest is only seven: the jury is still out on what kind of job I’ve been doing in raising them. But maybe that is exactly why God wants this to be our new topic of study. To help me before it is too late! So, I’m going to learn right alongside each of you as we take a look at what the Word of God says about the importance of effective parenting.

I always like asking, ‘Why?’. (You can ask my parents if you don’t believe me, or my boss for that matter.) Even though I may take it to the point of being a fault, it is an important question for me. Why is it important to study ‘how to parent’? Why does it matter? Proverbs 22:6 says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ That answers my question fairly simply; we, as parents, only get a few short years to influence our children, and teach them in the ways of truth, and of right and wrong. I also like to take biblical directives and think of them backwards to see what happens when we fail to follow God’s plans. My take on the opposite of Proverbs 22:6 goes something like this, ‘If you allow a child to choose their own path when they are young, they will have a difficult time finding God’s path when they are old.’ You see, if we don’t take the valuable time that is given to us as parents seriously and use every tool we can to set our children on the right path, we are essentially leading them away from God and all His blessings that he has planned for their lives, or worse keeping them from experiencing eternity with Him in Glory. That is a heavy responsibility we are given as parents, but a responsibility that is out-weighed by the blessings a child brings into your life tenfold.

Another reason I hesitate to begin this series is because of the vast amount of materials out there on this subject. If I search hard enough, I’m sure that I can find someone, somewhere that has written a book or done a study that re-enforces my personal beliefs. That isn’t what I want to do. I want to find out how God wants me to raise my children, not how scientists, or sociologists say I should raise my children. So, to this end, I’m going to try my best to stay close to the Word of God while I look at three main areas of influence that we have over our children. I’m sure there are many more, and I may look into them as we go, but for now, we are going to look at; Power of our Words, Being Living Examples, and Biblical Discipline.

This week we are going to look at the power of our words. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!’ is a favorite schoolyard comeback line. But God’s Word tells a different story. The power of our tongue is proclaimed throughout the bible.

Proverbs15:4 ‘A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.’

Proverbs 10:31-32 ‘The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted.’

Psalms 37:30 ‘The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.’

James 3:8-10 ‘But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be this way.’

From these scriptures, we can see the responsibility we have in keeping our tongue and minding closely what we say. This is an important lesson to learn in general, but when we put it in the perspective of how we talk to our children it increases the urgency to keep our words under control. Children are, by nature, easily influenced especially by people who they know, love and trust. If we allow emotions to control our tongue and speak with frustration to our children, we are running the risk of ‘crushing the spirit’ of our child.

So, what can we do? The scripture says, in James, ‘no one can tame the tongue’ how are we expected to keep our children safe from our own speech? We have to call upon God and heed the words found in James 1:19-20, 26. ‘This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of a man does no achieve the righteousness of God…. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.’

We are called, every day, to control our emotions and ‘bridle our tongue’ for fear of ‘crushing the spirit’ of our children as well as others. We have only be mindful of this and strive to contain our words when we are speaking to our children to be successful in this endeavor. Remember, we will never be able to truly ‘tame’ our tongue. We will slip up, and allow our emotions to get the better of us from time to time. However, we are expected to keep a bridle on our tongue so that if it does begin to get away from us, we are able to reign it back in.

The term ‘bridle your tongue’ immediately reminds me of riding a horse. If you have never ridden a horse, the bridle is the device that is placed on the horses head that enables the rider to control the animal that is vastly more powerful than them. However, just because you have a bridle on a horse, doesn’t mean that it will automatically be tame and allow the rider to direct it where ever they please. First, you have to train the horse to give in to the bridle, before you can expect the bridle to control the horse fully. In the same way, if you are not using a bridle on your tongue and try to start tomorrow, don’t expect it to give in easily and to fall in line. It will take time and training to ‘reign in’ your tongue that has been running free.

Another point that needs to be made about watching your tongue in front of your children, I’m sure any parent of at least a 2 year old can tell you; they are little mocking birds. And even when you think they aren’t paying attention, they hear the words you say, and will repeat them. Not only what you say, but how you say it. If you are having issues with what, or how your child is speaking to you or other people, perhaps you should re-evaluate how you speak to them, or other people. One truth is evident when it comes to parenting, your children are mirrors. They reflect the qualities of the people closest to them; good or bad, they don’t know the difference yet.

If you have been guilty in the past of not bridling your tongue, not only do you need to start, today, but you need to speak to your children about your past words and how hurtful they may have been to them. We can never think too highly of ourselves as parents to keep us from asking forgiveness from our children when we have failed. However, it was brought up during our meeting, kids are very intuitive.  If your apologies are not authentic, and they don’t come from a heart that truly wants to change, they will know and it is possible to do more harm, and callous them even more.  It all starts with a heart change in you, and the mistakes we make along the way have to be dealt with accordingly, not the other way around.

Take time out this week and speak to your children. Praise them for things they do well, and pray God’s blessings upon them. Praying with your children, for your children is a powerful way to bring about a change, not only in them, but in your heart as well. There are power in your words, the only question is; is it being used positively or negatively?

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 9

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

If you have ever tried to talk to a non-believer about the love of God, I’m sure you have heard this question posed to you. I’m also sure that if you are honest with yourself, there have been times when you yourself have pondered this as well. Luckily, God’s word has a lot to say on this question that has been posed, not only today, but all throughout history.

First thing, we need to do prior to digging into the word for God’s answers to this question; we need to take a close look at our motivation for asking it in the first place. More than likely the non-believer who we were speaking to, wasn’t asking this question to gain a better understanding of God, but rather to try and stump you or throw off the topic of conversation. We need to approach this question very humbly. We need to make sure that we have not lost our perspective, and have placed ourselves above God.

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking to highly of ourselves as a part of God’s creation. Yes, we are the pinnacle of that creation, but when we compare ourselves honestly to our Creator God our true rank becomes clear. Paul tells us in Philippians 3 where our earthly titles and awards rank pretty clearly. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be a loss in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them all but rubbish so hat I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him…” (Phil3:4-8)

The list of accomplishments may not mean much to us at a glance, but let me assure you that in the standards of the day, Paul had just made himself out, in verses 4-6, as a man’s man, and a Jew’s Jew. He had the bloodline, the training, the work ethic, everything that, on the outside, made him appear to be ‘somebody.’ However, he dismissed that train of thought with the next few verses of scripture. Everything that made him appear to be a ‘big-shot’ in the world’s eye, he actually says is a loss, or even rubbish, if it interferes with our relationship with God. So, what do you have in your life that you hang your hat on? Do you think too highly of your education, or your lineage, or your financial status? Does the above question come from that background? If so, you need to repent of your sinful pride, and humble yourself before God before moving on in this lesson. The reason being, if you don’t have a humble heart, that is truly just in search of a better understanding of God, rather than a reason to blame God for your hardships the remainder of this lesson will do nothing for you; except maybe make you more upset.

So, with a pure heart, and a desire, not to question God, but to learn more about His ways, lets look at some of the reasons that bad things happen to good people.

Our attachment to this world may be to blame for this question popping up. You see, as Christians, we aren’t made for this world, our home is in heaven. So, if we attach ourselves to this world when worldly losses come, we have the tendency to be upset, or experience self-pity. Paul’s letter to the Philippians once again deals with this issue. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil1:21)  Did I mention that, for Paul, death was just around the corner when he wrote this letter? He was in prison and for all he knew his life could end with the word of the judge. Think about that for a moment… I’ve heard this verse used, and quoted many times before, yet I’ve never understood the circumstances that surrounded Paul writing it. Death was a very real option for him at that time. How awesome is his perspective, that he can say these things, when at any moment his life could be taken from him. We need to learn from him when we try to weigh out what constitutes ‘bad’ things. According to Paul, death doesn’t qualify. If death, the biggest fear most people have, isn’t ‘bad’ then what is? Financial losses? Sickness? Personal relationships that are strained? What about the death of someone close to you?

The book of Job tells a story that encompasses all these ‘bad’ things, and they all happen to one man.

Read Job 1-2:10 Job is tested by God, by allowing Satan to take all the earthly possessions that he had accumulated, by killing all his children, and by inflicting him with ‘painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.’ This is he ultimate, ‘why do bad things happen to good people story’. Job was a good man, even God says, ‘There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil’ TWICE! (1:8 and 2:3) But we soon learn that being a ‘good’ man sill pales when compared to he holy perfection of God. Read Job38-41. God finally answers Job’s cries, with a series of questions that leave little doubt about where we as humans rank in the grand scheme of God’s creation. God reveals through these questions that He alone has the right to give and to take, and all of the earth is His to do with what He wishes. But Job had it right in the beginning when he said, ‘Naked I cam from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and he Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ 1:20b

The moral of the story is this: struggles and suffering is part of life here on earth. But we are in no position to think that we should be spared from the suffering all around us. Even so, if we are spared we need to guard ourselves from callousness toward those who are dealing with suffering. Everything is the Lord’s and He will do with it as He sees fit.

But to get back to the question that started us off, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself if you find yourself in the midst of suffering.

  1. Am I being punished for sin?
    • Romans 6:23 says ‘The wages of sin is death…’ We have to remember that our sins, even after the forgiveness that we can claim from the cross still hold consequences. Our choices sometimes lead to pain in our lives. If this is the case, you need to confess that sin to God and repent, and ask God to forgive you.
  1. Am I the focus of an attack from Satan?
    • Just like in Job’s story, Satan can sometimes be the author of our suffering. 1 Peter 5:8 ‘Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ If this is the case, calling upon God’s strength is the only way to resist he attacks of Satan.
  1. Am I being purified by trials to strengthen my witness?
    • Sometimes God wants to use you in a great way, but in order to do so, He has to put you through a trial so that you can better understand your role in God’s plan for you. To help quicken the process, don’t fall into the temptation of self-pity. Try to seek the Lord’s will, and learn the lesson that he has for you the first time. My pastor always likes to say, ‘God doesn’t ever let you fail his tests. He will always let you re-test.’ Try to keep from ‘re-testing’.
  1. Is my suffering from natural causes, that I do not have a direct affect on?
    • We need to remember that the world we now inhabit is not the ‘very good’ world that God created at the end of creation week. Our sin has corrupted the earth more than, I think, anyone will ever really know this side of heaven. Due to this, suffering sometimes happens to us for no other reason than we are part of the corrupt world. But just remind yourself of Jesus’ words he gave his disciples just before his arrest, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John16:33b Our suffering on earth is just a drop in the ocean of eternity that we as Christians will enjoy with Jesus.

So, are you suffering? Are ‘bad’ things happening to you? Ask yourself some honest questions, and then take heart! Christ has overcome the world and all its suffering, and as His child He promises to never leave you to go through the suffering alone.

May 10, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 8

Here we are in our eighth week studying marriage from a biblical perspective. I pray that you all are starting to see the fruits of your labor as you put in the work to better your relationship with your spouse. I can honestly say that the conversations that my wife and I have had throughout this study have grown us closer and given us a better understanding of each other, and I hope you all can say the same. I don’t think for a minute that we have arrived, but instead believe that this study, for me and my wife personally, has been just the catalyst needed to reinvigorate our marriage. I look forward to continuing the work and reaping the rewards from our labors.

When thinking about this lesson, I knew I wanted to try and wrap up everything we’ve talked about thus far and leave you with a charge to continue the work that we have started. However, I was reminded that there are still a few more ‘pitfalls’ that marriages can get trapped in that cause destruction to the relationships, so I feel led to discuss those first.

We spoke about our rolls as men and women in marriage, and we learned that ultimate responsibility for the health of the marriage falls on the husband. This includes but is not limited to the financial health. We talked about how society is actually hindering this process by allowing boys to remain boys into their late 20s or beyond and we end up having boys marrying women and viewing their wives as caretakers to enable them to continue the life of adolescence that they are comfortable in. However, I don’t think we spoke about the flip side of this coin. Many times, men can fall into the trap of believing they have to work 10 hour days 6 or 7 days a week to make sure their family is provided every financial opportunity the world has to offer, but women can also be lured by this tempation.

While working to provide for the needs of your family is a clear directive from God, working to provide for the wants of your family is not. If you or your spouse could be described as a ‘work-aholic’ and hardly ever has any free time to spend with your family you may need to ask yourself one important question. ‘Why?’ Why all the long hours and the missed family events? Why work on weekend? Why have multiple jobs that keep you from your family? Answer these honestly, is it to provide for your families needs? Or is it so that you can continue in a life of financial abundance or even gluttony?

The bible teaches us that we need to be able to be content with our needs being met.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 says, ‘For godliness is a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’

Are we working the extra so that we can afford the big house with all the empty rooms? Or a new car when our old one is running fine but doesn’t look good anymore? We need to test our motives if this scenario is one that describes us. We have to understand that we are not called to conform to the worlds standards, this includes our financial status. If you ask yourself these things and find that your extra work is providing for more than just your needs as a family, I urge you to prayerfully consider cutting back and investing in something more than just worldly desires.

Jesus even speaks to this topic in Luke. He is asked a very important question by a ruler at the time. Luke 18:18-23. “A ruler questioned Him, saying, ‘Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments…’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

I’m not sure about you, but when I see someone who, on the outside at least, looks to be rich I don’t assume that they got their money honestly. I don’t think they stole it or anything, but I just assume that they may not be the most honest person in all their business deals or what have you.  I may be the only one that feels this way, but I’m just being honest.  But this isn’t the case with the ruler in the story in Luke. This was a good guy. By this short conversation, we can assume that he gained his wealth honestly and wasn’t an oppressive ruler. However, his heart wasn’t where it needed to be in order to obtain eternal life. This is the same trap that we can fall into today. We can get so caught up in gaining material things, we forget about eternal things. And the eternal is all that really matters. We have to keep our focus. If we get pulled into the ‘rat race’ of trying to get ahead, or ‘succeed’ in life we run the risk of losing the things that are truly most important.

There was a story told in our session tonight that I thought illustrated this point exactly, I’ll try to relay it to you the best I can.  ‘I was stopping in at Kroger on our way here. And I saw an acquaintance that I knew years ago.  For whatever reason, I really hoped that our paths wouldn’t cross while in the store.  As I ran in with my son to get some cookies for the group, we didn’t run into the other lady.  However, we happened to be leaving Kroger at the same time, and while pulling out of the lot, we met in the same intersection at exactly the same time.  There I was sitting in my 03 Toyota, and she was in this very nice, very new Lexus SUV, and I started feeling pity for myself.  When will I ever be able to have a nice car like that? I ended up pulling out first with self pity flooding my head still, until I checked the rear-view mirror and saw my son in the back seat.  This other lady had no children and wasn’t married.  I realized in that instant that I wasn’t missing out on anything, but rather, she was the one who should wonder when she could be lucky enough to have my life.’ (paraphrased)

Yet another example is a radio commercial for a divorce lawyer that turns my stomach each time I hear it. It is aimed at the guy who ‘worked hard to provide a future for his family, but now is at risk of losing it all to a divorce.’ I’m pretty sure that this guy has already ‘lost it all’; at least all that is of value. What good is providing for a future when there is no family to provide for any longer? And I wonder to myself; if that man would have worked half as hard to ‘provide a future’ for his family and twice as hard at loving and caring for his family if he would have needed a lawyer at all?

Cutting back, and living on a lower income takes tremendous faith. It takes honest soul searching and the ability to put away the excuses that we have used to support our lifestyle habits in the past. Being reminded of the God that we serve and the promises He has made to us can help in this endevour. Philippians 4:19 says, ‘And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ It is important to know the context of this verse so that we don’t misunderstand God’s promise to us. Paul wrote this promise to the church in Philippi after expressing his gratitude for the gifts that they had sent to him to sustain him on his missionary journey. This is a promise directly to those who are generous with what they have. Just as eternal life was promised to the young ruler if he would only give away his riches, we too have the promise of eternal blessings when we are generous with our worldly possessions. And I believe that having a strong family and healthy marriage is one of those eternal blessings that we can enjoy here on earth.  This promise with a condition of generosity, I believe doesn’t stop at finances, but is all-inclusive.  It covers; our time, our service; our faith.

An example of what being generous with your faith looks like in a marriage is briefly spoken of in Acts 18:1-3. A couple, Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned by Paul as offering their home to him when he came to there hometown. The bible tells us that they were tentmakers by trade, and not only shared their house with Paul but also offered him work while he was staying with them. As Paul moved on we are told that Aquila and Priscilla traveled with him for a time and even helped to teach Apollos ‘the way of God more accurately.’ Acts.18:26. When then know that when they returned home they continued their service to the Lord by hosting a church in their home. 1Cor.16:19. Paul even goes as far to say that the early church should be grateful to Aquila and Priscilla for their start. This is high praise for a couple who used seemingly small acts of service to make large eternal impacts. Had they been too caught up with making a buck, or trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’’ not only would they have missed out on the blessings that God had in store for them, but also the young Christian church would have suffered because of it.  The real lesson that I want you to take from the life of Priscilla and Aquilla, is that they didn’t go out looking for ways to serve God or manufacture mission opportunities in order to be generous with their faith, they waited for God to show up and then simply said yes to the opportunities as they were presented to them exactly where they were at that point in their lives.  They were simple tent-makers and God used them to bless and build the early church into what we know it is today.  Are you willing to serve God right where you are?  Or are you putting limitations on God and yourself; thinking that God can’t use you cause you are too busy with ‘life’?

We’ve spent 7 1/2 weeks talking about the internal work that marriages need, and how to have better relationships with our spouses. But I believe that if we left it at that we would be failing what God really has planned for our marriages.  Remember, marriage was created to bring glory to God.  We need to start looking outward as our inward work, begins to bear fruit. How can we serve God in our everyday life?

So, are you content? Are you generous? We need to remember these two things as we continue down this path of marriage so that we can; first, avoid pitfalls of greed, and second, take hold of the promise God has made to provide for us according to His riches in glory.

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May 3, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 7

Biblical Sex

 Alright, the time has come, the lesson that I have put off and excused away. The lesson that inevitably will cause me to have a flush face throughout, the lesson on sex within marriages starts now.

Growing up, *ahem, conservative, left little room for talk of sex. (I’m still waiting on the ‘birds and bees’ talk from my dad…) Some of you may be from the same background and know what I’m talking about. Some may have come from a ‘freer’ background and sex was never a ‘big deal’ and didn’t call for a lot of attention. While some may be somewhere in the middle of those two. I’ve been told that this subject is personal and that teaching it in a semi-public setting wasn’t a good idea. While I agree that the subject of marital sex is very personal and should be a topic of serious conversation between spouses, I wonder how many of you have sat down across the kitchen table from your spouse and had an open and honest conversation on the topic. Its a hard topic to bring up, this lesson, I pray, will be a conversation starter. Use it to kick start the topic of sex in your marriage.

I believe we need to start this lesson with a section that clarifies sex for husbands and wives. (Please indulge me as I paint with a broad brush, individual cases may vary.) It is important to understand that sex carries very different meanings for men and women. As a guy, I can honestly say that sex is like a marital thermostat for most guys. If we are having frequent passionate sex with our spouse we can conclude that our marriage is good, and healthy. Women, mostly, have a reverse view of sex. When their marriage is viewed as good and healthy, they feel more comfortable having frequent passionate sex with their spouse. This is an important distinction and understanding to make for most couples. This very different view of sex in marriage can cause dissension and frustration to well up in your marriage. Hopefully, when we are done with this lesson, you will change your view of sex from one of these to what God had planned for it originally.

Let’s go back to the beginning, Genesis 2:22-25. “The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 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 mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” The first marriage scene as described in the bible. God walks Eve down the isle, and just like earthly fathers, the Heavenly Father gives away the bride. Then He proceeds to oversee the wedding ceremony, which was promptly followed by the consummation of the marriage. And the bible points out the fact that both Adam and Eve were naked but not ashamed, an extremely significant point. How many of you honestly feel no shame when you are completely naked with your spouse? Silly question? I think if we answer honestly we all have felt shame, or at least awkwardness at some point with our spouses. God describes a ‘very good’ marriage to be free of shame. So, how do we get rid of the shame. First we need to understand the different ways that people view and use sex.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, in his book Real Marriage, uses three categories for describing how sex is typically viewed; God, Gross or a Gift. The first one I’d like to talk through is Gross.

Did you know that even today there are religious sects that view sex, even within marriage, as a ‘necessary evil.’ Only to be permitted for the procreation of children. They believe that sex without the explicit goal of reproduction is a sin, not only that, but if too much pleasure is realized even with ‘pure’ intentions that too could be a sin. This is an extreme example of viewing sex as gross. This view of sex as gross, has lead to a drastically conservative interpretation of the book Song of Songs. Originally, Song of Songs was read literally by Jewish teachers, it was a love song between husband and wife that also paralleled as an illustration of the relationship between God and man. It was even sung at the parties following weddings. The Christian church began omitting the literal interpretation and focused only on the parallel. This view may have been rooted in the teachings of the ancient philosopher Plato. He made a case that human beings were dualistic; meaning, they were split between a material body and a non-material spirit. Assuming that the soul is the spirit and wholly good and pure lead him to assume the body was nothing more than an evil cage that held the spirit captive until death. Since sex is a physical act, he believed that it was inherently sinful. Early Christians who were steeped in Plato’s teachings may have brought this view over with them to their interpretation of scripture.

But when we break it down, viewing sex as gross and sinful really makes no sense. Proverbs 5:18-19 “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love.” This doesn’t sound like God views sex as gross. And when we step back and remember that God was the creator of our bodies, inside and out, it seems hard to imagine God creating clusters of nerves being placed where they are, if He didn’t want us to enjoy sex with our spouse.

Being raised in this belief isn’t the only way to find yourself with a view of sex as gross. Sexual sin or abuse, whether you are the one committing it, or have been the victim, can also result in one having a view of sex as gross. Take, for example, a woman who has been a victim of rape. No matter how much prayer and time has passed it will always be a part of her subconscious. This means that her husband needs to take extra care to not be overly dominant during sex as to not bring up past hurt, but how can he if he doesn’t know about her past. For those who have this background, only God can break down the walls that have been built up by sin. But opening up to your spouse about your past and asking for them to be your helpmate and understanding partner through the process of overcoming sin or abuse is also necessary. Just as Genesis teaches, after marriage, the two have become one flesh. Sexual sins or abuse that you are dealing with affect your spouse, even if they don’t know what the cause of the tension is. You have to be open with your spouse and trust that God with help you both not only conquer your issues but grow closer together in doing so. If you are not open with them as to the cause of the issue they will be left to devise the reason for themselves and in my experience human imagination is often worse than truth.

Also, this view of sex can be seasonal, just after having a baby many women experience discomfort during sex, or just have no desire to engage at all with their spouse. This again needs to be talked through openly, it is nothing to be ashamed of, but many men don’t know this. And how can we if we aren’t informed of it. If you, wife, want your husband to sympathize with your situation you need to be able to clearly communicate what you are going through, and why. Again, if left to our own imaginings, guys tend to take the worst case scenario path.

The next and vastly different view of sex is as a god. Viewing sex as a god looks different in different people, but the root is the same. The person has a very selfish attitude toward sex. Always desiring greater pleasure or a more exciting experience drives them to explore avenues in sex that cease being used as a unifier between husband and wife, and becomes nothing more than a way to ‘get theirs.’ Anytime you use sex to fulfill a need or desire, rather than to share intimacy with your spouse you are practicing idolatry in the form of sex. The bible teaches that the act of worshiping anything other than the one true God is idolatry, sex is no different. Sexual addictions; such as pornography, fall in this category. Most addicts will tell you that it was a gradual decent to addiction, almost unnoticeable. The same is true for sexual addictions but the bible actually explains why sexual addictions occur.

Back in Genesis 2:24 says ‘…and they shall become one flesh.’ This is more than a physical picture of consummation. This is a very real, God created, connection that is formed when you have sex with your spouse. The reason, as if God needs one, is that sex in marriage is actually meant to psychologically bind husbands and wives together.

Yet again, science is just recently catching up to the teachings of the bible. Dr. Stephen Arterburn’s New Life Ministries says, “Sexual pleasure is one of the most intense human experiences. Physically speaking, when a man or woman reaches sexual excitement, nerve endings release a chemical into the brain called ‘opioid.’ Opioid means opium-like and is a good description of the power of this chemical. Apart from a heroin-induced experience, nothing is more physically pleasurable than sex. This is a wonderful thing in a committed marriage relationship, because it helps to bond two people together and bring joy to living together and building a relationship.” This very real bond is one of God’s in marriage to help strengthen our relationship with our spouses. However, when we misuse sex we inadvertently use the gift of this bond as a chain of bondage to our addictions.

Viewing sex as a god leads only to destruction. For a very real example of this fact, just look at the life of King Solomon. Here was the man who God granted him wisdom beyond any other human before or since has possessed. Song of Songs describes a beautiful relationship with his wife, a beautiful and sexually free woman. This didn’t satisfy him for long though. He ended up worshiping his idol of sex, and marrying over 600 pagan women. His writings in Ecclesiastes show a much different man, remorseful and repentant from the sexual sin that had lured him away from his relationship with God. Broken by his addiction, he writes, “All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure…and behold all was futility and striving after the wind…” Ecc 2:10a-11b

So, do you have the tendency to view sex as a god? Changing this is more than just making up your mind to stop, although that is part. You need to take your addiction to Jesus, only He can release you from the addiction that you have formed via your sin of sexual worship. But don’t leave your spouse out of the loop, remember you are one flesh, they deserve to know what you are going through because they are already being affected by it.

God created sex. He formed Eve from Adam’s rib. He made her physically different to enable and encourage sexual unity in marriage. He placed nerve centers in our sexual organs to increase the pleasure experienced during sex. He even created a chemical release to help unify and bond husbands and wives together for a long enjoyable marriage. God gave us sex as a gift. This gift is given to us to care for and to use to fulfill His purposes. When husbands and wives share open, honest, frequent sex with one another they are inviting God’s blessing into their marriage. Sex as a gift produces; pleasure, children, unity and oneness, comfort, and protection in marriages.

  • Pleasure: We need to remember and guard our hearts against falling in the trap of trying to gain pleasure from sex. But instead we should practice service to our spouse through sex, by focusing on their pleasure.
  • Creating Children: Although all types of birth control are not inherently sinful, the bible continually refers to children as a blessing.  You and your spouse should do your homework on types of birth control, and choose one together that doesn’t violate God’s Word.  Practicing birth control with a selfish motivation so as to not ‘rock the boat’ of your life that you have formed may be a sin.
  • Unity and Oneness: We spoke about the chemical reaction to sexual climax that binds husbands and wives together. It is only logical that the more often you and your spouse engage in sexual intercourse the stronger that bond gets.
  • Comfort: There are times when words fail. Pressures of the world try to tear apart marriages at every turn. The ultimate closeness of sex with you spouse may be exactly what is needed to remind you both that your marriage has been ordained by God and that it is still healthy.
  • Protection: I’ve heard many guys talk about sex in this context. They take the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to force their wives to participate in sex so they don’t stray. Saying “We need to have sex more often or else I can’t be held responsible for what I might be tempted to do…” What a crock. While the scripture does say that abstaining from marital sex may open the door for temptation, the root cause is not the lack of sex with their wife, but rather their lack of self-control. This passage does, however, warn couples from depriving their spouse of sex, in order to manipulate them somehow.

To fulfill our main purpose of marriage, to bring glory and honor to God, we must have an accurate view of sex within our marriage. When we start to view sex correctly our relationship with our spouse is blessed by the openness that we share through sex. Like I said at the beginning, I hope and pray that you use this lesson, not as a weapon to say, ‘I told you so,’ but as a conversation starter; a stepping stone toward the goal of having a God honoring marriage. A common theme that I have tried to weave throughout this lesson is the importance of open, honest communication. We need to be understanding and compassionate with our spouses when it comes to sex. If we hide things; past sins, abuse, or even what we feel sex means to us, then we are setting our marriage up for hard times and frustrations. Please, take time this week and beyond to have a conversation with your spouse about God honoring sex in you marriage.

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April 19, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Small Group Week 6

Speaking Love to Each Other

(and listening too)

So, here we are. Six weeks into our study on marriage, we’ve covered the importance of strong marriages for society, the importance of being friends with our spouses, and even some conflict resolution. You’ve put things that God has shown you into practice, and you’ve noticed a difference, but are things still just not quite right in your marriage? Does it still seem like you and your spouse are sometimes operating on different wave-lengths? Do you find yourself getting frustrated because you are trying to ‘speak love’ to your spouse but they don’t seem to hear you? Let’s see if we can help with these issues this week.

The Bible tells us exactly what love is in 1st Corinthians chapter 13. This is a wildly popular passage of scripture read at weddings, and for good reason. Starting in verse 4 ‘Love is patient, Love is kind; Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.’ What a great passage to base your marriage on. I believe that if your answers to the above questions were a yes, it isn’t because you and your spouse aren’t in love with each other; or even because you don’t say it or show it to each other. But rather, it is because when you say ‘I love you’ to your spouse whether with words or through actions, you may not be speaking the same language as your spouse.

I will share an example:  The other day I decided that I would clean out my wife’s vehicle.  We had recently gone camping and it was full of dirt, and rocks, and dog hair and what-not.  I know she appreciates a clean vehicle and I enjoy speaking love to her by acts of service, so I made my way to the garage and jumped right in.  As I folded and unfolded seats to find all the hidden ‘prizes’ inside I envisioned her face when she found her vehicle vacuumed and cleaned out better than it was before the camping trip.  I was full of love for my wife while I ‘spoke’ love to her via my service.  All the while, she was busy inside catching up on laundry as well as watching my two youngest children.  It was almost noon, and I was wrapping up on my cleaning when the garage door opened and, with a baby on her hip, my wife leaned out and said, ‘Hey, you taking Morgan to school.’ To which I responded, ‘What are you doing?’  You can imagine how that conversation went downhill quickly from there.  I was left frustrated that she didn’t even notice my act of service, and she was in the similar position.  We were both speaking love all morning to each other, but neither of us heard the other one and it ended in an argument.  (We talked through everything and all of the appropriate apologies have been made and accepted.)  But the situation could have been handled so much differently, if we had just stopped for a moment and considered each other’s motivations before jumping to conclusions.

Gary Chapman, a pastor and marriage councilor from North Carolina, has a book called The 5 Love Languages. This lesson will cover some of what is in that book. In his book, Gary points out what we started this lesson with; sometimes, two people are madly in love with one another try everything they can think of to ‘speak’ their love to each other, but are left frustrated because their significant other ‘just doesn’t understand.’ He attributes this to people speaking different languages of love. He claims that all acts of love can be sorted into 5 major categories; Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Receiving Gifts. And just like we all have a primary language, the one we learned as a child, and as we grow we sometimes learn other languages to help us better converse with a wider variety of people, we too have a primary ‘love language’ that we learned as a child and that we prefer to use when speaking love to our spouse. The problem arises when you and your spouse have different primary love languages. You still may be able to understand each other, just like I could communicate with a Spanish speaking person by using enough hand signals and grunts to get my point across, but clear communication takes both spouses to understand the language that is being spoken.

The first part of 1st Corinthians 13, speaks to the importance of love being the motivation behind our actions. ‘If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing.’ This passage is making a clear point; that if you are a success in every way imaginable, but don’t do it with love as your motivation, it is all worthless. But lets read this passage again not from the perspective of the one doing the deeds mentioned, but from the person who the deeds are being done for.

“If you speak in tongues of men and angles, (Words of Affirmation) but have not love, all i hear is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if you have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if you have all faith, so as to remove mountains,(Acts of Service) but have no love, you are nothing to me. If you give away all that you have,(Receiving Gifts) and deliver up your body to be burned,(Quality Time/Physical Touch?) but have no love, it means nothing to me.’ You see how it could work that way as well. Even if the act is done with love being the motivation, if the person receiving the act doesn’t see the motivation behind it, doesn’t interpret the action correctly, the greatest display of love imaginable becomes worthless.  What should be a way to draw closer to your spouse, and grow your relationship ends up causing frustration and pain. We have to learn to hear our spouses speaking love to us, and we need to learn how to speak love in return to them.

When sharing with my wife about this for the first time, she made a clear statement. ‘I want to be loved all those ways.’ I, of course, couldn’t agree more. This lesson isn’t about leaving out the acts of love that don’t resonate with your spouse, as much as it is about honing our ability to realize when our spouse is speaking love to us through their actions. Yes, also want to be loved fully by my wife, which would mean in every category. However, for me, Words of Affirmation carry more weight than Receiving Gifts, one good compliment is worth more than the best birthday gift she could afford. That isn’t a green light for my wife to forget the B-day presents, but instead a call for her to pay more attention to the words she speaks to me, and be sure to vocalize her love for me with affirming words. For her, that Quality Time and Physical Touch are her two favorite love languages. I know this because those are the things she asks for from me. Back rubs and time; that’s how I speak love to my wife.  I like to think of the love languages as a ranked list. Number 1 is special to me, but number 5 doesn’t hold quite as much meaning.  It isn’t that number 5 is completely worthless, it is just that number 1 gets more ‘brownie points’ than 5 does when my wife is ‘speaking’ love to me.  Your list and your spouses list will probably look drastically different.

The frustrations come when one spouse doesn’t see the act as being motivated by love at all. And it happens both ways. It is very easy to get frustrated, if your love language is Acts of Service, and you spend all day doing work in the name of love for your spouse and it seems to go completely unnoticed, or even still, if you finally come in and find an angry spouse because their love language was Quality Time and you haven’t spent 5 minutes together all day. In the same way, frustrations can come when all you want from your spouse is fresh flowers from time to time, and they never seem to come other than Valentines Day.  Just as Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, when you don’t have love as your motivation you works are worthless, but also, when you don’t view your spouse’s works through the lens of love, they appear worthless to you. So, what is your primary love language? Your spouses?

If you’ve been married for a while its probably pretty easy to go back in the memory banks and conclude what language you and your spouse respond to most. If you haven’t had that long to figure things out, you can always ask. Honey, what’s the best way for me to show my love to you? Or, If you could ask me to do anything for you, in the name of love, what would it be? Your spouse’s answers to those questions should shed some light on their primary love language.

As for figuring out your own, just ask yourself the same questions, answer them seriously and you’ll be led to your primary love language. (Side note for guys, we all like sex with our wives, this does not mean that physical touch is your primary love language. Try to answer the questions platonically to find your language, it works better that way.)

So, what does all this mean? How does it play out in your everyday marriage? Well, when you know your spouse’s primary love language, it does two things. First, it enables you to speak to them clearly and say, ‘I love you’ through your actions by deciding to speak their language. Second, it enables you to hear your spouse say ‘I love you’ clearly through their actions. If your love language is Words of Affirmation, but your spouse leans more toward Acts of Service, you can speak your love to them by your work, and  you can also now view all the work that they do in the name of love through the lens of love and see their true motivation behind it. I’m not saying that every act or task done by someone who primarily speaks love through Acts of Service will be motivated by a love for their spouse.  But without the ability to speak their language at all, you will miss the love they are offering to you through those acts.  When you come home and the carpets are vacuumed, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your spouse loves you, and did that for you. If you spouse spends the night in the garage tuning up the mini-van, you can be sure that love is the motivation, not that they are just avoiding spending time with you. And when you say, ‘Thanks, I really appreciated the car getting tuned up,’ they can know that you are quite literally speaking love to them with your words of affirmation.

One last topic to touch on that was brought up in our study tonight.  What if your spouse isn’t speaking your language and doesn’t seem to want to?  What if a husband who primarily speaks acts of service won’t use words of affirmation that the wife desperately desires?  What can the wife do to get him to meet her need of being loved in her primary language?  My suggestion is this:  As a wife, double your effort to speak his love language of service.  Make and extra effort to be sure that he hears ‘I love you’ loud and clear from you through your acts of service to him.  I believe that meeting him on his level, will open his heart to you and enable you to have the conversation about the different ways you show love to each other.  Eventually, he will notice and possibly comment on all the extra acts of service that you have been doing for him. When he does, you can explain to him that you do those things because, #1 you love him and #2 you know that acts of service mean alot to him.  Then you may be able to present to him the best way for him to reciprocate that love is by using words of affirmation toward you.

As married couples we have to constantly be on guard against selfishness even when it comes to loving and being loved.  We have to remember  that each day we make the decision to love our spouse, actively and in a way we are sure that they can hear us clearly.

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April 12, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 5

Righting the Wrongs

Forgiveness-Repentance-Reconciliation

As we covered last week we are all sinners. (Rom 2:23) And since marriage here on earth is between two sinners the likely outcome is a relationship that contains sin. I’m not saying that lightheartedly, I hate the fact that I can’t love and serve my wife without sinning, but it is a reality. I’m a sinner, and no matter how hard I try, as long as I have breath and am bound to this earth, the chances are pretty high that I am going to sin against God and my wife.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the word sin being used a lot already, get used to it. You see, in order to deal with our issues properly we need to call them what they are. They are not mistakes, or screw ups, or let downs, or slip ups. When we do things that break our marriage covenant, it is sin. When we harbor bitterness in our hearts and refuse to offer forgiveness, it is sin. If we can’t acknowledge this fact and call it like it is, the likelihood of being able to conquer and move past our sin lessens dramatically. So, if you haven’t already, begin looking at your mistakes and shortcomings the way God sees them, as sin that needs to be repented of and done away with.

Knowing that our marriages are very likely to collect sin along the way is an important first step in righting the wrongs in our relationship. I’ve heard it said that sin can be equated to your household trash can. Every household collects trash, and if you don’t take the trash out every once in a while, it causes a big stink to build up in your home. The same is true with sin that isn’t dealt with. If you let it, it will cause a big stink in your relationship.

So, how do we deal with sin? For this we have to break down whether we are the one who is committing the sin or if we are being sinned against. Our actions are very different according to the role we have in the sin.

Forgiveness

Have you been sinned against in your marriage? What is your initial reaction? Do you harden your heart, until your spouse asks for forgiveness? Do you pull away, emotionally or physically, until repentance is shown and restitution is paid? It is said that all marriages are continually changing; either getting better or getting bitter. Holding onto hurt and playing the victim role causes bitterness in your heart to grow. Bitterness opens the door for wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice according to Ephesians 4:31.

Let’s stop and take a look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for a moment. Ephesians 4:25-32. (Paraphrased) ‘Speak truth each one of you with each other…Be angry, and yet do not sin…Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.’

First, Paul tells us to speak truth to each other. Anyone ever been in a fight and say something that wasn’t quite true…just a little exaggerated? ‘You always leave your shoes in the middle of the floor!’ ‘You never hug me anymore!’ When we exaggerate things we lose truth. And without truth we lose perspective of what the real issue is. Perhaps a better way to start these conversations would be, ‘You know it really bothers me when you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor.’ ‘I really wish you would give me more hugs.’ When we muddy the waters with exaggerations and lies we aren’t able to clearly see the path that leads us out of our fight.

Next, Paul writes, ‘Be angry, yet do not sin.’ Did you know that anger alone isn’t a sin? Jesus got angry, (Matt.21:12-13) and we know he was without blame (Heb. 4:15). Fights and anger are going to happen, but how we fight is the difference maker in our relationships. There was a study done that focused on how married couples fought. The researchers noticed a pattern of behavior that if followed in relationships, almost always, 91% of the time, led to divorce. They called them the four horsemen of marriage arguments.

  1. Criticism: This is where the issue that began the fight is no longer the primary concern and instead personal attacks are used. The main goal is to change the topic from the behavior or action that is the problem and instead make the spouse out to be the problem.
  2. Contempt: This is when a clear change happens in how you see your spouse during a fight. You literally begin to be sickened by the sight of him or her and don’t even try to hide it. The tactic is then used to belittle them. Saying things like, ‘I can’t believe I’m with you.’ ‘You’re worse than the kids.’ That’s contempt.
  3. Defensiveness: This is where your hearing is a little off. Instead of hearing, ‘XYZ is an issue that we need to discuss.’ You hear, ‘You have an issue that we need to discuss.’ This in turn causes you to try and deflect as much responsibility as possible and the blame game to starts.
  4. Stonewalling: This tactic, when used, is by men 80% of the time. This is when you just ignore the problem and hope it goes away, turn up the TV, stop talking, go to another room, or grab the keys and leave. This tactic leaves no room for resolution of the issue that began the fight because there is not discussion.

So, do any of those sound familiar? I think I’ve used each at one time or another. But if we want to guard our relationships from destruction we need to be aware of the type of fighting we are doing.

Paul goes on to say, ‘do not let the sun go down on your anger, do not give the devil an opportunity.’ You see, it is understood that anger is an acceptable response in some situations, but if we hold on to that anger, and let it fester, it allows room for Satan to come and temp us into sinning more. Some people take this scripture very literally, and I have heard stories of sleepless nights where a couple was trying to overcome an issue that lasted until morning. If that is what you choose to do, that is fine, but I think this passage is just a warning to us to not allow our anger to just lay in our hearts and simmer, like a land mine and each time the issue comes up our anger gets closer and closer to blowing sky high. If your spouse does something that angers you, deal with it, not harshly and be on guard not to use any of the above mentioned tactics in your fight. But if you have to, pray things through before confronting your spouse about them, taking a day or two to do so is fine as long as it isn’t just an excuse to avoid conflict.

Finally, Paul tells us how to interact with one another when we have conflict. ‘Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.’ When we’ve been sinned against, God wants our initial reaction to be forgiveness. ‘But how can I forgive him for that?’ ‘What she did is unforgivable!’ ‘He’s gonna owe me for that one!’ I thank God that He didn’t respond to my sin the way we respond to one another’s. Webster’s defines forgive as; 1a.to give up resentment of, 1b.to grant relief from payment for, or 2.to cease to feel resentment against. Take note that forgiveness has nothing to do with condoning or excusing the action. But instead, forgiveness relieves our need for reprisal and removes the resentment (bitterness) that can take up residence in our hearts when we’ve been sinned against. Forgiveness, when granted freely actually does more to help the victim of the sin to heal and move on than it affects the person being forgiven.

That brings me to the last yet important point that we need to know about forgiveness; with-holding forgiveness only hurts you. When you choose to hold on to your hurt and with-hold forgiveness you are grieving the Spirit of the Lord inside you and also it is a sin of omission. (A sin of not doing what you know you should do.) Once we realize this, along with the fact that in God’s eyes all sin is equally detestable, you are forced to come to the point where you are left with no choice but to offer forgiveness just as God has forgiven you through Christ.

Repentance

If you are the sinner: Repentance is needed. First, let’s look at a few things that are NOT repentance.

Repentance is not getting caught, but rather it is coming clean.

Repentance is not feeling guilty or bad for doing something wrong.

Repentance is not motivated by an attempt to dodge or lessen the punishment.

True repentance is actually a multiphase process which starts with conviction. God is in control of this step completely. God is the only one who has the authority to convict us of our sin, because He is the only blameless one in our life. God’s conviction differs from human guilt because it immediately calls us to more action to fix the sin problem I our life.

The next step is confession. God puts his finger on your sin, but you have to acknowledge the sin for what it is. Confession is not making excuses or trying to reason out the why behind our actions. Confession simply says, ‘You’re right, God, I messed up, forgive me.’ You also need to confess your sin to your spouse when you have sinned against them, and then ask for forgiveness.

The last step of repentance is perhaps the most important. In order to obtain true repentance for our sin, we must turn away from it. Feeling bad, then asking for forgiveness, just to turn around and repeat the same sinful patterns is not what God has called us to do. We need to turn away from our sin, and do it no more, just as Jesus told the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. Relying on God in our everyday lives more will help us to turn from our sin. When temptation comes, if we shift our focus from the sin, to Jesus and his will for us we find strength to withstand.

Reconciliation

Finally, we need to talk about reconciliation. I mean this is what the goal of this lesson is all about right? Sin enters our relationship with our spouse, and immediately causes a rift to open. The longer we go without reconciling with each other, the wider the rift gets and the harder the task of reconciliation becomes. Forgiveness doesn’t ensure reconciliation. Neither does repentance alone. Reconciliation only comes when; first, there is both repentance and forgiveness, and second with time has passed. Depending on the sin, and the trust that was broken because of the sin, reconciling could be complete at the end of the discussion, or could be days, weeks, or months to be complete. If the sin of adultery has been committed regaining the trust that was broken may take years. Forgiveness may be given freely but trust has to be earned back slowly. If you have been sinned against greatly, don’t believe the lies the devil will tell you when the hurt comes back. The forgiveness you offered was real, but it will take time to work through the emotional damages done by the sin. And if you are the one who has sinned, don’t believe the accusations the devil throws at your spouse that the forgiveness wasn’t honest, or whole. Be patient and continue to pray for your spouse that God will heal the wounds that have been made by your sin.

Remember, this is an on-going process. It has been said that couples don’t fall out of love, they fall out of repentance. Just like the trashcan in your kitchen, you might have to repent/forgive/reconcile multiple times a day to keep the stink of sin from driving a wedge in your marriage.

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March 22, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Group Week 4

Righting Wrongs 1

-Know Your Role-

Tonight we begin what I pray will be a helpful series of lessons focused on mending past hurts, and equipping couples to deal with sins within their marriages.  It is important, I think, for us all to understand some basic truths before I go much farther though.

  1. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

Apart from God we are a pretty despicable people.  Our natural tendencies lead us toward selfishness, which lead us to sin.  We sin, not only against God, who is perfect, but also against other people, and those of which that are closest to us sadly receive the worst of us all too often.  Be sure, as we continue through this series, to examine your actions, not your spouse’s, to see if you are in the wrong.  Don’t you dare begin to use anything in these lessons as weapons against your spouse. “I told you so…” isn’t what this is about.  Even though we are going through this study together with our spouses, during this section you need to bring the focus more on yourself and ask God to show you the plank in your eye, not the speck in your spouse’s.

  1. “Wives submit to your husbands…” Ephesians 5:22

Women, you are called by God to be submissive to your husbands. This is a blanket directive; the Bible doesn’t justify it by adding, ‘if he is a good guy’ or ‘as long as you agree with him’ to it. Women are to submit, but in God’s plan he was actually giving them the lighter task. You see, submission can actually equal rest when you put your trust, not in your husband, because he will fail(see#1), but in God, because He can’t fail. Trust in the Lord to lead your husband, and rest in knowing that your Father who loves you will lead your husband who loves you. Once the marriage covenant has been made it is too late to ‘reconsider’ or doubt your husband’s leadership ability. Ideally, couples should be able to talk through decisions and come to agreements as one unit, however, things aren’t ideal, (see #1) so this is all but impossible. This means that when an agreement can’t be reached it falls on the husbands shoulders to choose the direction the family will take. Ladies, if you have married an non-christian this could be especially hard to hear. But it is truth. 2Corithians 6:14 teaches us to ‘not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.’ But as I said before, its too late to reconsider things. Even if you didn’t know this lesson prior to your marriage, you can’t just say ‘Oh, I was wrong, so… See ya!’ The marriage covenant supersedes this teaching. What I’m trying to say is, ‘Two wrongs won’t make a Right.’ But Jesus can make a wrong into a right, 1Corinthians 7:13-16 go on to teach that an unbelieving husband may be saved by the love of a faithful wife through the grace of God. So, submit wives, to your husbands and trust that your husbands will lead with hearts chasing after God and find rest.

If you don’t want to listen to a man on this matter here is what my wife has to say about it: Ladies, we are called to submit to our husbands. For some of us this makes our stomachs turn. Honestly, before I met my husband it made me scoff. I felt I only wanted to submit to Christ and His teachings for me. He is, after all, the perfect One. However, I believe God put a wonderful man in my life. A follower of Him and by submitting to my husband no longer shows weakness, but instead finds comfort, love and healing. Just as Christ’s love offers comfort and healing, my husband’s has done the same. Because, you see, I trust that Adam has my best interest at heart. He has shown in this in his words and actions. I realize that when God asks you to submit to your husband He is also calling your husband to serve you; to act as Christ did, to wash your feet to suffer for you, to die for you… So now, when given the choice, I’ll gladly take the role God has intended. I pray that God will make submission be your lifestyle. I pray that God will let you see the love He has for you through your relationship with your spouse.

  1. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25

‘You mean all I have to do is love my wife?!’  Guys, you didn’t think I was going to be that hard on your wife and let you off easy did you? This is the lynch-pin of a healthy marriage.  Anyone can love someone who loves them back, and serve someone who is appreciative of that service and even is reciprocal.  God set up marriage to shadow the relationship between Christ Jesus and the church, or more specifically you and me.  Do I really need to go into detail about Christ’s love for us? “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. If we draw that parallel to marriage we would have to think of the worst case scenario in our relationships. What is the one thing that your wife could do that would hurt you to your core? That would leave you broken? That would make you ‘fall out of love’ with her? Imagine that event happening, and your response is complete and utter sacrifice for the sake of your wife.  Let that soak for a second.  Your wife just hurt you in the deepest way you could ever be hurt, and God is telling you, you should respond with love.  That’s pretty heavy.  We, men, have been called to a higher standard in our marriages. We have been called to be the leaders, to be responsible, and to take responsibility for, our marriages.  Bottom line, if your marriage isn’t right… It is your fault, husband. This should be a sobering thought.  If you haven’t actively been taking the leadership role in your marriage, you have been sinning against God, and your wife. If you haven’t been actively pursuing God in your heart and life, you have been sinning against God, and your wife. It is your responsibility that your family is where God wants them to be spiritually. If you have taken this calling for granted, you need to repent, beg forgiveness from God and your wife, and take hold of the reigns of your marriage.

It should be noted that these directives are also stated in 1Peter3:1 and Colossians3:18 in almost the exact same terminology.  This, I believe, speaks to the importance of ‘knowing your role’ in marriage.  It was, and still is, a message that needs to be shared with everyone, not just a select few.  There aren’t any mitigating circumstances that release your marriage from these directives.  If your marriage isn’t following the plan God has for it, let me be clear, God isn’t the one who is wrong.

Society has turned the word submission into a four letter word when speaking to women.  The National Organization of Women say this in their mission statement – “WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage …” It shows a fundamental misrepresentation or misunderstanding of the covenant of marriage that God has set up. Likewise, society lets guys off the hook way too easily.  Men need to truly understand that everything that happens in a marriage is ultimately their responsibility.  Too often, guys pass the blame, just as Adam did in the garden of Eden after the original sin. (Gen3:12)

We need to remember these biblical truths as we move forward in our series, and our marriages. Take time this week to reflect on your role in your marriage; your actual role verses God’s designed role. Do they line up? If they don’t, sit down with your spouse and talk through some of the issues that may be hindering each of you fulfilling the purpose God has for you in your marriage.

The following parts of the series we will deal with forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation, in that order. This is the order, I believe, that the bible lays out for us to lead us toward closer walks, not only with our spouses, but also with God.

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March 15, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study | , , , , , | Leave a comment