Monday, March 21, 2016

Like the Disciples

I always look forward to watching my favorite biblical movie during Easter, “Jesus of Nazareth”.  In the movie, Peter is asked by Jesus to join Him after the miracle of catching all the fish. Peter hems and haws and says he has to take care of his family.  Although it wasn’t recorded quite like this in the Bible, I’m sure that Peter, at some point, questioned leaving everything to follow Jesus.  All the disciples must have thought, even for a brief moment, it was a lot to ask to leave their families and their work. 

We all face a point in our Christianity where we have to decide to put the worldly things behind us to follow Jesus.  It’s a daunting task, one that keeps many from turning their lives over to Him.  Before I truly became a Christian, I remember thinking it would be too much of a sacrifice.  I wanted to go out and party with my friends and do whatever I wanted.  Living a Christian life didn’t look like a lot of fun to me.  Oh, how wrong I was!

Marriage can sometimes look like the same kind of sacrifice, scaring many away from it.  In order to have a healthy, solid marriage, you need to put your old life and the world behind you.

Back to Peter - some Bible scholars refer to Peter as being unstable and unpredictable.  He was passionate and often ruled by his emotions, speaking before he clearly thought about his words. 

During the Last Supper, Peter vehemently declared to Jesus that he would never deny knowing Him as Jesus foresees that he will. As we all know, after the arrest of Jesus, Peter claims he does not know Him not once, but three times.  His fear overruled his faith.  I don’t know about you, but three denials would have been enough for me to say, “Sorry Peter.  I don’t need your kind as one of my disciples.”

Seeing all the flaws in the disciples of Jesus gives me great comfort.  None of us are perfect; we all struggle with flaws.  Still, Jesus includes them in His elite group, and they all wind up leaving a great legacy in Biblical history.  Peter turns out to be the “rock of the church.”

Matthew 16:18-19, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus forgave the disciples for their doubts, fears and imperfections as He forgives us.  He allowed them to grow into the spiritual leaders He desired for them to be by letting them learn the hard way – by making mistakes - by being human. 

So why do we have such a hard time allowing our spouses to be human, to make mistakes?  We can be so quick to judge them and begrudge them.  Aren’t we called to be like Jesus who forgives and forgives and forgives?

Our world would have missed out on some amazing life examples from the disciples of Jesus had He decided to divorce them because of their imperfections.

You may miss out on an amazing marriage should you decide to divorce because of your spouses’ imperfections.  I know I almost did.  At one time, I thought my marriage was hopeless, but God saved it and made it amazing. 

Through most of Jesus' life the disciples seemed pretty hopeless and helpless.  That was just the middle of the story, though.  Jesus had so much more planned for them.   They went on to live full, holy lives fulfilling the will of God.  That is God’s desire for all of us.

You may be going through difficulties in your marriage, but realize, you are only in the middle of your life story.  There is always hope.  Don’t allow your fear to overrule your faith.  God has a plan for you, too.  In order to fulfill those plans, you may have some life lessons to learn in order to prepare you for the latter part of the story.  Realize that these times are part of that plan to make you stronger – like the disciples.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Who's in Control?

We as Christians are called to fulfill the plan that God has designed for our lives.  To know that plan and dream that dream brings great joy and excitement yet also comes with its share of frustration and heartache.   You may know the end result of God’s path for you, but the trails leading there sometimes seem non-existent.
     
Marriage often times feels the same way.  We know the end result we want, but it feels like we’re fighting through a pathless jungle to get there. 

I sometimes wrestle with trying to take control of my destiny.  I want to be in charge of everything, especially when God doesn’t move as fast as I’d like (and my husband).  I find that my biggest struggles appear when I get ahead of what God desires for me, whether it is in my ministry or in my marriage.

Although I see the goal line, the place God planned for me, I have had to learn (the hard way) to allow God to illuminate the paths for me.  I have tried too many times to forge the way on my own - with great failure and, at one time, almost losing my marriage.

Romans 8:5-9 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

We like to think of sin as an unacceptable act like adultery or dishonesty or stealing - something tangible we can easily separate from because we are “Christians”.  In the Bible, there are no “levels” of sin.  It is all equal in God’s eyes.  Sin is nothing more than choosing to live independently from God.
  
We can either do it God’s way or our own way.  When we don’t follow His plan for our lives, or we try to lay those paths to our goal on our own, we are allowing our sinful nature to control us.  You cannot please God by following your sinful nature.

One of the most difficult tasks of following God is patience.  We live in a fast-paced, goal-oriented, instant-gratification world that has filtered into the church.  When things aren’t happening fast enough, we want to find a way to hurry it along.  We forget to sit back and wait for God.  We do it on our own.

Joel Osteen had a great quote in one of his sermons.  He said, “Don’t let a temporary feeling keep you from a permanent blessing.”  

How many times has your impatience caused you to seek a path not initiated by God?  (I hate to tell you how often that has happened to me.)  Or maybe you blurted some hurtful words out to your spouse when your feelings were irrational (no room for a blessing there). If we react with our feelings we are certain to get out of God’s ideal plan for us.  That includes the healthy marriage He desires for couples.

Control can be a good thing when applying it to yourself (especially your tongue.)  When you begin to exercise control on others and on the will of God, though, nothing good can happen.  Learn to ‘let go and let God’.  Stop trying to do it your way. 
There are only two ways to go – your way or Yaweh! ;)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Truth

At one time, truth in our society consisted of integrity, honesty, and moral priorities. As a Christian nation, we understood the meaning of truth and accepted all it stood for.

Times have changed. There now seems to be a gray area people quickly turn to when they are uncomfortable with the real truth. Truth has become a matter of what works for you and what works for me, an individual choice. The world tells us to deny biblical truths, yet encourages no restraints from voicing our own opinions of truth, especially to those we love. 

Many people feel obligated to point out every flaw and every wrongdoing of their spouses, children, and family members, no matter how hurtful the words are. For some reason, society tells us we have the right to do this. “Speak out! Tell them what you are feeling! Tell them the truth!” I suppose this falls in that gray area where we determine what truth works for us.

Where lies the fine line between constructive truth and hurtful truth?

Luke 17:3 says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” We are called to rebuke, or reprimand, or criticize, only when we see others commit a sin. (Check out all the Bible verses on ‘Rebuke’.) Nowhere does the Bible tell us to point out flaws or degrade someone, no matter how truthful your intentions are.

Repeatedly, the Bible DOES tell us to “watch your tongues.” In other words, that means to watch carefully what you say so as not to offend another person. We should only speak positive words of edification to our spouses and our families, and everyone we know.

Yes, we should always speak truthfully to our spouses, but know when to hold the tongue. The truth is sometimes too difficult to hear. (I don’t need to hear my husband say, "Looks like you’ve put on a little weight," when I already know that truth.) Choose wisely when to share a difficult truth, if at all. Pray about it first.

I John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Therefore, it is not your duty to tell your spouse or your children, or anyone for that matter, what is wrong with them. You are called to love them through actions and kind words.