Monday, May 29, 2017

How to have a great marriage.

One night I was called out around 8:30 PM to go make a hospital visit at the ER. As I walked into the living room to tell Misty goodbye, I turned toward the TV to see what she was watching. I mainly looked because the name of the show was said and it really caught my attention. The title of the show is "How (not) to kill your husband." After I looked at the TV, I then looked at Misty and she had a mischievous grin on her face. She reassured me it was just a commercial for the show and not the actual show. She then said that she may need to watch it though! This TV show is similar to others where they basically show you what a person did in their attempt to murder their spouse and why they were caught. I guess you could consider it a how not to get caught guide, which is pretty unnerving!

Marriage is a fickle thing. There are some marriages that are so bad they actually do want to kill their spouse (and in some cases actually attempt it). There are some marriages that last for 70 years and we are amazed at how they have done it. Regardless of how great a marriage seems to be or how badly it seems to be going, marriage is a struggle. See, marriage is God's perfect union being attempted by two imperfect people. And because we are imperfect people we bring our own baggage, our own selfish desires and our own issues into a relationship made for more than just us. When you add two people with their own baggage, selfish desires and issues, then mix in kids, finances, jobs and family issues, we have the ingredients for a very explosive bomb. This bomb has the potential to leave collateral damage for years to come. So how do some couples diffuse the bomb and others can't seem to put the burning fuse out before its too late?

My answer is this, I don't know. I do know this, marriage takes the work of two people not just one to make it work. I also know that marriage is work, it's not easy to make marriage work. The hardest job in the world is raising kids. The second hardest is marriage. Misty and I have had our rough patches in marriage like all couples, but we've been committed to doing what was necessary to make our marriage work. If both spouses aren't committed to making the marriage work, then the fuse will continue to burn until it sets the bomb off. 

To make a marriage work you also have to change your perspective. Just like when a child is born, a parent's perspective changes from a self-centered perspective to a perspective that focuses on someone else's needs. When we get married, our perspective has to change. Our marriage isn't about what it does for us. Our marriage is about glorifying God and what we can do to make our spouse the greatest man or woman they can be. It's about putting their needs above our own and constantly working to show our love to them. Can any of us do it perfectly? No we can't. Should we strive every day to do all we can to edify and build up our spouse? Yes. Otherwise we are simply watching the fuse burn towards the bomb.

I'll end with this. A few years ago I stood in the ER with a man who had just lost his wife of 71 years. They had a great marriage. Was it perfect? No. Did they both work hard to make their marriage work, especially when he served in WWII? Yes they did. That night I saw the picture of what a great marriage is all about. I saw a man who had loved his wife completely tell her that he should have loved her more, that he should have done more for her. He understood what it meant to set aside his self-centered desires and put the wants and desires of his wife ahead of his own. That's how you diffuse the bomb. That's how you make a marriage not just good, but great.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Definition of Insanity

Albert Einstein has been credited with giving the world its most memorable definition of insanity. Although Einstein probably didn't come up with the definition, the definition is no less memorable. The over-used cliche is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I can definitely relate to this and consider my self to be certifiable at this point. Last week was hay making time for many in our area due to the warm and dry weather. While baling hay for the first time this season, I worked in our largest field first. As I finished bale after bale I noticed I wasn't getting bales to be tied tightly like they should be. Now our baler is older than I am, which means you have to manually move an arm on the baler to wrap the string around the bale while it is in the baler. All this means is that there are less mechanical issues when wrapping a bale and problems are more likely to be a user problem. As you can guess the user, yours truly, was the problem with the bales being loose. I went through the same process time after time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong with no luck. Finally towards the end of the day I figured out that I wasn't lowering the throttle enough to wrap the bale tightly. After a few hours of being the definition of insanity, I finally figured out what was wrong.

When it comes to our spiritual life, we can easily find ourselves being the definition of insanity. We do things the same way, over and over and over again, while expecting completely different results. Think about some of these scenarios. We go weeks, months or even years without putting time into our relationship with God and then expect Him to speak to us at a moments notice or in a time of distress. We neglect our time reading the Bible, picking it up only to carry it to church, and then wonder why God's Word hasn't changed us and why we don't live more like Christ. We don't think a thing about God Monday through Saturday, and expect God to "Wow" us in worship on Sunday morning. These are just a few examples of how, in our spiritual life, we do the same thing over and over again, week after week, year after year, and expect God to do something different. Unless we're willing to change the way we approach our spiritual life and our relationship with God, we shouldn't expect different results. We shouldn't expect God to do something in our lives unless we're willing to step away from the old way of doing things that never resulted in a closeness to Him in the first place.

Take a deep look at your spiritual life and examine those areas of your life that need to change so you can get a different result. If that means getting serious about your Bible reading or prayer time, then get serious about it. If it means using Sunday worship as a pep rally for the week ahead or an after party time of celebration for the week behind you, then do so. Don't be satisfied with the status quo when the status quo didn't accomplish anything to begin with. Make the changes necessary to keep yourself from being the definition of insanity.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Rubbing your nose in it.

There is a phrase we use from time to time that has it's origins in housebreaking dogs. The practice is that of rubbing a dog's nose in whatever type of mess it makes as it learns to do it's business outside rather than inside the house. The phrase is "rubbing your nose in it." We frequently use the term in a shortened version when we tell someone "don't rub it in." We tell people this phrase when we've messed up and they continue to remind us of our failure. Why do we ask them to stop? Because no one likes to be reminded of their failures. It can be depressing and discouraging to be reminded of those failures that brought us pain and embarrassment. But what about if the one "rubbing it in" is the Creator of the Universe? What then?

About 7 months ago, I really felt like God was speaking to me about something in my life and I told God I would pray about it for about 6 months and see where He was leading. For a few weeks I prayed, somewhat consistently, about it. But since it wasn't something I was particularly excited about, I put it on the back burner of my prayer life and revisited it very rarely. I mean almost never. Fast forward to a month ago. To just about the time I should have finished praying over this prayer concern. I had put this item so far back on the back burner that the house would've already been burnt down because I seemed to have forgotten it. For the next few weeks God made me absolutely miserable. Anything pertaining to things around this prayer concern made me miserable. I couldn't figure out what was going on or why I was so miserable. I sat down to talk with a pastor friend I go to for advice and as we talked I figured out why I was so miserable. I was miserable because I had avoided praying for something God had clearly showed me I needed to pray about. After talking with my friend I had a new perspective on this prayer concern and a fresh commitment to pray about this concern. After I received this new perspective and commitment to pray, it seemed like God started to rub my nose in my decision not to pray months ago about something He wanted me to pray about. Every time I turned around it seemed like God was saying, "See here's another example of why you should've been serious about praying months ago!" I even told my wife that God didn't need to rub it in anymore because I understood that I had messed up.

So what do we do when we find the Creator of the Universe rubbing our nose in something? We take it like a big boy or big girl and learn from it. When God reminds us of a failure that could've been avoided if we would have followed His counsel, then we ought to see it not as punishment but discipline. One definition of discipline is "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." This is what God is doing when He reminds us of those things we should have followed His lead on. Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV) says, "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." As a loving Heavenly Father, God is not punishing us by reminding us of a failure, but instead using it to discipline us so we won't make the same mistake again. He is simply correcting and molding us so we will better follow His lead the next time.

Coming from a guy who learned this valuable lesson the hard way, I encourage you to take my advice. Listen to what God tells you to do or what you agree to do for God! It is much better to do what you should than to have God rubbing it in when you realize you should've done it in the first place!

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Monday, May 1, 2017

The Body on the Table

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with an adult that attends our church. While he was helping with our worship service a 12 year old kid sitting beside him made an interesting observation. The kid took notice of the communion table and how it was prepared for our church to celebrate communion. The elements (juice and bread) were on the table and covered by a white cloth. The kid candidly mentioned how the communion table looked like it had a body on it with a sheet laid over it. I'm sure this kid has watched plenty of television shows where they've seen something similar and there was a body under the sheet. When this adult shared this comical story with me, I couldn't help but think about how accurate this kid's perception was. Although there is not an actual dead body under the sheet on a communion table, there is still a body on the table. 

When Christians celebrate communion, or the Lord's Supper as it is also known, they are celebrating the most pivotal moment in human history. They are celebrating the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for them when He died on a Roman cross for the sins of the world. They are celebrating and remembering the sacrifice Christ made so we could have forgiveness of our sins, a right relationship with God, and eternal life in heaven when this life is over. We are told in the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 11 about when communion was instituted in the church. Paul puts it best in 1 Corinthians 11:23 when he writes, "The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed..." The night before Jesus died on the cross He enjoyed His last meal with His disciples as they celebrated Passover (the Jewish festival commemorating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt). During the meal Jesus took the unleavened bread and told His disciples that the bread represented His body which would be broken for them. He then shared the bread with them. He also took one of the Passover cups of wine and shared with them how the wine represented His blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of humanity's sins. He then shared the cup with them. On that night, Jesus started a tradition of remembering His sacrifice that is still practiced by Christians nearly 2,000 years later.

Communion is a serious time of reflection and self examination. Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 11 not to take communion in an "unworthy manner." He means we should not take communion with unconfessed sin in our hearts and with disunity between us and another member of the body of Christ. To prevent taking communion in an "unworthy manner," Paul tells us to examine ourselves so we don't bring judgment on ourselves by sinning against the body and blood of Christ. The wonderful thing about communion is that it is about more than remembering the sacrifice Christ made for us all those years ago. Communion causes us to look forward to the future as much as we look to the past. Communion is done in anticipation of Christ's return when He will rule and reign in eternity and believers are able to celebrate Christ's eternal kingdom by enjoying communion with Him.Communion with Christ and the entire body of Christ (the church) will be a great celebration of Christ's victory over Satan, sin, death, and the grave.

Today I would encourage you to look differently at the body on the table next time you have an opportunity to celebrate communion with your church. Examine yourself, remember the sacrifice, and look forward to a heavenly celebration with Christ.

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