Sunday, April 4, 2010

Does the Lord speak to us through His Word?

What we have been doing the last couple months on this blog is looking at the book of Philippians and seeing how it relates to marriage. Though the book of Philippians was not written as a manual on marriage it certainly has much to say that we can relate to the marriage relationship.

What I want to encourage you with today is to really use your Bibles.

We believe that the Bible is God's Word and we know that it is intended to be applied to our lives. What we may not be taking advantage of is the very practical and daily benefits it has for us as we mix it with prayer and a listening ear as we allow the Holy Spirit to lift the words off the page and settle them into our hearts.

I have found the Word to be most useful as the Lord has uses it to speak into my life to answer the most specific questions imaginable.

Let me tell you how it works for me.

I come to the Word with a specific question in mind, perhaps an area of my life that is a current concern, perhaps it is a desire to know the Lords will on a specific decision. I sit down with my Bible in hand and a prayer in my heart asking that the Lord will speak to me regarding whatever issue I have brought to Him.

Let me give you an example. Say I have a ministry opportunity with a person and I am not certain how to handle it; what to say, when to bring it up, do I even bring it up... I come with those questions and begin reading. It doesnt seem to really matter where I read, but if the Lord directs me to a certain passage, of course, I go there. And I read. And I listen. And I read some more. And I pray. It may not come that first time, but invariably it does come over time. The Lord will speak to me through His word.

Very directly, very practically, very powerfully!

Do you have an issue with your children? Have you read ... oh, lets say, Galatians with parenting in mind? How about a question about your business? Proverbs would be a natural place to look but how about reading Hosea and see what it will tell you about that decision in the workplace.

This is what we have been doing with Philippians. We are reading this letter to see what it tells us about marriage. I came to the book with marriages in mind and I am taking what Paul says and applying it to the marriage relationship.

This is not the only way to read or study your Bible, but it is an effective way to put yourself in a position to allow the Lord to speak to you through His Word.

As you can see we are about 10 verses in and there has been something to note in almost every verse.

The Bible is such an untapped, or at the very least, yet to be fully explored, resource for the life of the believer.

We will continue to track through Philippians together here, I am anxious to see just how much I can learn about being a Godly husband through this short letter. And there are 65 other books just waiting to be explored!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Article 8 V 1.10 Approve what is Excellent

How easy it is to see the flaws.

You have them, I have them, we all do. Spending our lives in close contact with someone as we do in our marriage relationships gives us intimate knowledge of each others failings and shortcomings. And oh boy, can we make a list.

Ok, so there we have it ... no one is perfect! Big revelation there.

Paul is simply encouraging us to focus on the other parts. To look for and identify the things your partner does well, to notice the things that are commendable, the things that are excellent.

Remember what mom used to say, at least my mom did, "If you cant say anything good, don't say anything at all."

Paul is taking it a step further. As true as it is that all of us have faults, we also have good traits, all of us do some things well. We ought to be looking for them and when they are identified, actually speak those words of affirmation and appreciation to our spouse.

"Man, I am going to have to really look hard."

Ha! Well that may be so, but it will be an investigation that will yield great fruit.

Our relationships can at times corkscrew into bickering and fault-finding and criticism. We can change that immediately with a change of mind about the words that we speak. We simply choose to approve what is excellent rather than amplify what is imperfect.

I challenge you to speak a word of affirmation to your spouse today. Tell them something what you see in them that is excellent. It will bring immediate results, of that I am sure.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Article 7 V 1.8

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you with all the affection of Christ Jesus.

I have had occasion recently to speak into the lives of a couple and remind them how much they love each other. Both readily admitted it, yet somehow, their love for each other had been buried. The thing is, their love was real and real apparent. It had just grown cold or gotten lost in the stuff of daily life.

I encouraged them to do what Jesus told the church at Ephesus to do after proclaiming that they had "abandoned the love they had at the first." The Lord tells them to "
remember," repent (a change of mind that brings about a change of action) and repeat, "do" the first works again.

What were you doing at first when your love was inflamed and passionate. Do that!

But that would be just going through the motions one might say. The motion will bring the emotion. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6.21 "Where your treasure is, there your WILL BE also."

Jesus is saying invest, make regular deposits, place great value in your relationship and in the intimacy of marriage and your heart will follow.

Has the fire dimmed? It need not be so. Go back, remember how you won your husband, what you did to "catch" your wife... have some fun with it as you rediscover your passionate love for each other.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Article 6 V 1.7 Partakers of Grace

... for you are all partakers of grace with me.

This reminds me of what Peter says in I Peter 3.7:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way,
showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel,
since they are heirs with you of the grace of life,
so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Men, listen, that woman sitting next to you, that treasure the Lord has blessed you with and entrusted to you, is a fellow heir with God's Son.

She is royalty!
A joint heir with Christ!

As such she is to be honored and esteemed and treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Peter says we need to understand this and live with her as though we understand this. She is a child of the King.

And if, for whatever reason, we begin to loose sight of this, keep in mind that Peter attaches to his exhortation a self-serving motivation. Do you want your prayers answered? Then don't allow the way you treat your wife to hinder the Lord from giving you those answers.

You have been blessed brother. You have been given the privilege of spending your life with royalty!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Article 5 V 1.7 Giving Up the Right to be Right

It is right for me to feel this way about you
Or, as we might say it, "I have the right to feel this way about you."

We find ourselves on the receiving end of our spouses fleshiness or rebellion or hard day at work, and we get hurt, something is said or done and we are wronged, truly wronged. Sometimes it a more prolonged "wronged," an issue that has been an ongoing grief in the marriage.

How will we respond?

I know one thing that we can often do; we can begin to feel as though I have a right to feel like I do in light of how he/she is treating me. "I mean anyone in their right mind would feel the same way." I can hold on to that emptional turf. Hold on to my defensive position. Hold on to my being "right."

Problem is, our "right mind" is not what we are called to rely upon. You have the mind of Christ (I Cor 2.16) and it is with this Christ-like mind that we are to respond to one another. Later in this letter to Philippi Paul will say, "Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus."

That means that at times I need to just let go of, give up the right to be right and begin to think in a way that represents Jesus. Forgiveness. Compassion. Patience. Love. Grace.

"But I"
"How about"
"Why doesn't"
"Why am I the one who has to be right when I was the one wronged?"

In order for reconciliation to happen, someone has to die.

"Well then he should"
"Then it is on her, she after all, is wrong"

No, its on me.
It is what I am called to do.
It is in obedience to the Lord that I lay down my rights and "be reconciled one to another."

Lord, give us the strength to lay our right down and do the right thing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Article 4 V 1.6 Not Done Yet

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful promise, God always finishes what He starts.

How does this apply to a marriage? We are not done yet! Paul says that our "completion" will be realized on, "The day of Jesus Christ." This means that I am not a finished product, nor is my wife. We are a work in progress.

We need to realize that the Lord is not done with us yet. All of us have room to grow, we are becoming more and more like Jesus as we continue to walk with Him. But in no way are we a finished product.

In marriage, we go a long way if we can simply give each other a break once in a while. Show some grace and forgiveness and patience towards each other. Allow the Lord to continue to do His thing in our spouse. Avoid making judgments; avoid being judgmental toward each other realizing that I am not a finished work either.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Article 3 V 1.5 A Life Partner

Because of your partnership in the gospel.
A "helpmate". That is how God described the woman that He would create for Adam. A helper, a traveling companion, a co-laborer.

To be honest, this is one of the areas I am not too good at yet, but my wife is helping me to see and understand how much of a help she is and how much she desires to be a part of what I am doing. I do believe as we see marriage work as it is designed, there is a partnership.

It only makes sense really. I have so many flaws and weaknesses - too many to count. now, my wife is pretty spectacular in every sense but, never the less, she does have a few (very few, honey) of her own.

Even between the two of us we lack much but what is certainly true is that our best shot at making good decisions, doing our best work at parenting, giving our best effort in service will be accomplished as we partner in the work.

I can not tell you how many times her strengths have bailed me out when I was blind to circumstances, when I needed her gifts in a particular situation, when a decision had to be made and her wisdom has affected how we proceeded.

It is just essential really. But, as I mentioned, I am not accomplished at this at all.

I hope to continue to improve.

As it turns out we are three verses into Philippians and we have already had three things to talk about. At this rate we could end up with a hundred of these little marriage tidbits before we are done. I suppose it is likely that there will be more than a couple that I still need work on, maybe you too.

That does not change the truth. Two heads really are better than one as it turns out.

Article 2 v 1.4 Praying for One Another

Always in every prayer of mine for you... making my prayer with joy.

Seems simple enough doesn't it... pray for your spouse.
I know that it can be overlooked. I know it can be ignored. I know that often we find ourselves praying for anything and anyone else and neglect the one we are closest to and are spending our lives with.

This is actually a little self-serving if you think about it. As a matter of fact, everything related to the marriage relationship is self serving because the two are "one." This means that if my partner is growing, I am the beneficiary and vice-versa. As the Lord works in your life or in your spouses life both of you are the recipients of the God-likeness that takes place.

So pray.

When is the last time you simply prayed that the Lord would just bless your husband/wife in some significant way? Just bless their day, the work of their hands, the things they are concerned about?

Here is another dynamic that takes place to be sure; it is very difficult to pray for your spouse to be blessed while at the same time being mad or frustrated or whatever at them. What we realize is that though it is true that "prayer changess things," it is also true that prayer changes ME. If I will pray for my wife to be blessed, truly blessed; I mean over the top, "windows of heaven" blessed, I am going to find myself letting go of that last argument, that last disagreement, that last thing that did not go as I planned. It just goes away.

Try it! you will find that as you pray for blessing, you will be the one blessed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Article 1: v 1.3 Being Thankful

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you"

Have you thanked your wife today? How about your husband? It is very easy to take each other for granted. We settle into the routine of life and stop noticing the little things, sometimes even the big things that are done for us.

I am talking about the regular stuff of life. Thanking your wife for keeping the house so nice, for caring whether the kids socks match, for putting on makeup - wait, that might not be taken in the right way - well you get the idea. Ladies, have you thanked you hubby for working so hard for the family, for making sure your car runs, for leading your family?

It is amazing how much a simple word of thanks can elevate the spirit and let the other person know that you notice, that the effort is appreciated, that the little things still matter to you.

You know, come to think of it, there is a significant element of romance in the simplicity of a sincere "thank you."

Having a thankful heart is transforming. It is impossible to both curse and give thanks. James said, "Does a spring pour from the same opening both fresh and salt water?" Have I thanked the Lord for my wife, for your husband today.

So, today's assignment? Say, "Thank you."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Marriage Manual

Marriage. An institution designed by God in the garden; protected by God in the law; validated by its occasion being the location of Jesus' first miracle and shrouded in mystery and beauty as the relationship of intimacy that we will soon share with our bridegroom.

The subject of marriage has great interest to the vast majority of us because the vast majority of us are... married! Or will be.

With that in mind at first glance it is a bit startling that the Bible spends so little time on the subject. We have a few key passages like Ephesians 5, I Peter 3, and Genesis 3; there are several pictures given throughout scriptures and a number of references in Proverbs and a few other places. However, unlike the plethora of marriage books found on the shelves at your local Christian bookstore, there is no single place where we can turn to scripture and read chapter after chapter on this or that aspect of marriage.

After spending some time wondering about this phenomenon I have concluded that it comes down to our God being not only effective but efficient. The Bible, after all, is the a story of the redemptive work of God
ultimately revealed through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The Bible is not a self-help manual, nor is it a parenting manual, nor, as it turns out, a marriage manual.

When the Bible instructs us concerning how we should relate to our fellow man (or woman) it speaks in general terms about loving each other, submitting to one another, being patient, kind or being a helper of one another's joy. All of which applies to anyone and everyone in our lives including our children, those we work with, live next to, or are married to.

Without question, if we were to apply all that God said about how we should bear with one another, forgive one another, look to serve one another; the lions share of marital problems would be dealt with. The problem is that, for some warped reason, we can treat those we are supposed to be closest to in the most horrible way. It is as though we think the instructions of God regarding how we ought to act with others applies to everyone except those we live with.

So where is the efficiency seen? With so much of the interpersonal instruction already covered it seems the Spirit simply and solely added those instructions concerning marriage, for instance, that were particular to marriage. In other words, "Do all that I told you about how to treat all other people... and here are some special instructions on aspects of this particular kind of relationship that are unique to marriage" (hierarchy in the home, the marriage bed, divorce, etc.)

I say all that to say this.

Over the years I have instructed many couples to read through the book of Philippians together and then talk about what they saw that could apply to their marriage. I could send them to any number of books really, there is instruction everywhere you look. Philippians though, is written with a tenderness that is apparent. It is also a book of joy and rejoicing so it has a very positive tenor to it. For me, it works particularly well for this purpose.

What I intend to do here on the Pilgrim's Journal is walk though the letter and do just as I described above. I am not looking to break down the Greek and extract the deepest contextual understanding, that will be for another time. This is much more devotional, much more applicable, maybe even a little "word association-al."

If you choose to continue to track with me on this journey through Paul's letter to Philippi, you will soon get the idea of what I am talking about.

In the mean time it is important to remember that God did not give us a manual, He gave us His Son, Emmanuel - God with us. The new covenant is based not upon rules to follow but a Spirit that leads, Who speaks, Who writes His will on our hearts. It is CHRIST IN US... He is THE HOPE OF GLORY. He is the only hope we have to live gloriously, to live in a way that glorifies Him. God with us. Emmanuel.

Stay tuned.


Lets try it again.

I am not sure anyone reads these any more, I have not posted anything for quite some time. The blog format does work well as a repository for my latest “stream of consciousness” so I am venturing back in. If you happen to get anything out of what I write, praise the Lord!