Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: The Chain of Command

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage:  The Chain of Command


Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. – Ephesians 5:22-24
Submission.  When a woman hears that word, her defenses go up, her ears close, and she’s put on guard to protect the rights she has!  Some may have just stopped reading after the first words of this devotional that say “Wives, submit”.  But I encourage you, ladies of God, continue reading.  It’s not all about us.  Husbands have to submit too!

In any successful organization, whether it is a business, military, or even government, there is leadership.  It’s a chain of command, and levels of responsibility.  Those at the top of the chain are most powerful, and with each lower level the power is less and the responsibilities are less. God’s chain of command in marriage is no different.
Like it or not, women are the weaker sex.  It is simply how we are designed, and it’s a design by God so there is no shame in it.  1 Peter 3:7 says that husbands are to give “honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel”. 

We have to go back to the Garden of Eden to see where it all started.  Yes, I’ve heard those sweet little poems about where the bone came from, and that it wasn’t from the head so she could rule over Adam, but how God took a rib from his side so she would be equal.  The fact of the matter is, yes, that was what God intended…until sin came along.  Once sin same along, the chain of command was established through the curse.  God came into the garden looking for them, knowing already what had happened.  He didn’t call to Eve, who had been first to sin.  Genesis 3:9 says “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” He called for Adam – not Eve.  And later on as the curse is being spoken over Adam, Eve, and the snake, God says to Eve in Genesis 3:16, Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Read that last part again….”he shall rule over you”.  God’s words – not mine.
Move out of the Garden of Eden, and look at the relationship between Abram and Sarai.  This was a marriage blessed beyond any other.  In Genesis 17, God told Abraham (not Sarah) that he would make his children as many as the stars, and he would be the “father of many nations”.  Then He gave Abram a different name – Abraham.  Secondly, God speaks of Sarai and says she will be the “mother of many nations”, and names her Sarah.

A new name given by God is something to be reverenced!  But Sarah didn’t call Abraham by his God-given name.  Instead she called him “Lord”, showing reverence and submission to him as her husband.  In 1 Peter 3:1-6 wives are given instruction with Sarah as the example.  It says “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, CALLING HIM LORD, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. Sarah acknowledged and showed reverence to Abraham even in how she addressed him.  Notice also that a woman’s beauty was to be in her heart, where God sees, and not on her flesh.  It is through her “chaste conduct accompanied by fear“ of God that her unbelieving husband may become a believer.  To be beautiful to God, possess “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”, which is “very precious” to God. 
In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”  So the chain of command is like this: God, Christ, Husband, Wife.  Does that mean the wife does not submit to Christ?  Of course not! Christ is a higher authority, and you will submit to Him even over that of your husband because your husband is lower than Christ.  When differences arise in what Christ says and what your husband says, you are called to follow Christ.

Husbands, you have to submit to Christ.  Your responsibility is greater than that of your wife.  You are to be the spiritual head of the household.  You are to be the one that says “Let’s go to church”, “Lets pray”, “Let’s raise our children to honor God”.  You are an example to your household, and it is your reputation that your children will be known by because they carry your name.  You are to have the final word, and therefore, the final responsibility on all decisions.  When arguments arise, and decisions are to be made, you answer to Christ in all matters.  When the wife submits, you are in full responsibility.  You cannot afford to be lax in your relationship with God.  Your entire family depends on you to lead, and be led by Christ. 
Proverbs 31:10-31, the passage about the Virtuous Woman, says two important things about the relationship of a good wife and her husband.  It says that her husband trusts her, and he praises her.  These two characteristics show more than just trust and adoration.  It’s a relationship built on responsibility one to another.  It’s honor and love.

Ladies, as wives you have a new calling on your life to be under your husband’s authority.  Arguing, going behind his back to do things your way, shouting at him, ordering him around, degrading him, are all breaking the chain of command.  Until you are ready to follow God’s chain of command, you are not ready for marriage.  You’ll create a house of torment for yourself, your spouse, and your children.  
Gentlemen, if you cannot submit to Christ now in all things, you’re not ready to marriage.  Submit your life, you words, your job, your character, your reputation, your time and even your money to Christ.  When you can follow Christ without breaking the chain of command, then you are capable of leading a wife.  But be sure that the wife you find is capable of submitting to your authority.

A marriage is only as strong as the links in it's chain of command.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: Give and Take

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: Give and Take


Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” – 1 Corinthians 7:3-4

At the very core of any good marriage there stand two unshakable elements: love and sacrifice.  I once read on a church sign “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”  This is how marriage works.  It’s give and take.  Sometimes you get your way, and sometimes you give in to your spouse’s way.  If one is always taking the other is always miserable.  But where love exists, giving comes natural.
Paul explains the give and take of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 by talking about the body and the intimate relationship of marriage.  He says the wife doesn’t own her body, but the husband does.  And he also says the husband doesn’t own his body, but the wife does.  Your very body is given to the other.  (Those hot on the trail of marriage for the benefit of sexual relations are giving a premature amen!  Note that this ownership of each other extends outside the bedroom.) 

Ladies, if he likes your hair long – you are to wear your hair long.  If your cooking doesn’t please him, you need to cook what does.  If you have that one little “thing” you do that gets on his nerves, you stop doing it.  Men, if she needs you to pick up and move the furniture around the room again, for the tenth time in a week, you’re to stretch those muscles and do it.  If she wants you to go shopping, yes even shoe shopping, with her you go.  If you want quiet time and she wants company, company comes over.  And you do it all without complaining! It’s through these acts of pleasing each other that love is shown.  Love isn’t just an emotion or it wouldn’t be seen.  It has to be packaged in actions that demonstrate it.
Let’s take that one step further.  There is no yours and mine in marriage – it’s all OURS.  Money, cars, time, chores, dirty laundry, food, obligations - you share it all.  You become ONE, not two with two ownerships where one can have more than the other.  If you’re too selfish to share your toys, then you’re not ready for marriage, it’s not really love, and you have no business getting married.  The result of marriage is children, which creates dual ownership of mother and father.  Who will care for them if you cannot give yourself over to the thought of sharing everything?

Love is often about sacrifice.  The greatest act of love ever was Jesus on the Cross.  He submitted to be our sacrifice and take away our sins out of His love for us.  It’s often said that the nails didn’t hold Him to the cross, but His love for us did.  The marriage relationship is often likened to Jesus and His relationship with believers.  We are even called the Bride of Christ.  Revelations 19 talks about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and those that are there are believers, His Bride.  Matthew 26:6 talks about being ready when the Bridegroom, Jesus, comes back. Then in Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul says “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.  In the same way that Christ gave himself for us, even to death, we have to give ourselves for our spouse.  There can be no selfishness in marriage.  There simply isn’t room for self in marriage – two have become one.  You no longer live as individuals, but as one.
We are even called “The Body of Christ”, reflecting again that His body was given for us.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”  In 1 Corinthians 10:17 we read “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”  That one bread, His sacrifice of His body for us, is what allows us to be joined to Him.  It’s His action that creates the connection. 

Do you want your marriage to grow stronger?  Do things for your spouse to show love.  Sacrifice for them! Actions speak love, and create an intimate connection.  What you do for your spouse will strengthen your relationship. 
1 Corinthians 12:25-56 talks about the Body of Christ and says that “the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  The same care for one another – not one always giving, but the same give and take from both sides.  When a wife is suffering the husband suffers too.  When the husband has problems, the wife has them too.  God gave me an example of this I will never forget in a sweet gentleman I knew years ago.  He would come to Sunday School while his wife was suffering cancer.  You could literally look at his face and tell what kind of day she was having.  If she was suffering, his heart was breaking, and it would show long before the tears started flowing.  But if she was feeling stronger, his smile stretched from ear to ear.  This is the bond of love! 

Though we may walk through life in separate bodies, we are one, and each owner of the other body.  When sacrifice becomes a gift we desire to give, we see love at in its purest form.  You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: The Three Strand Cord

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: The Three Strand Cord


Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Weddings are a beautiful thing with all the flowers, the fancy clothes, the church decorated beyond what anyone could have imagined, and the soft music.  But far too often this is the only time the bride and groom will be in church and accept the assistance of a minister.  God created the marriage relationship, and needs to be a part in it.  For that reason, the believer is told not to be “unequally yoked”, which simply means married to a non-believer. 
In 2 Corinthians 6:11-16 Paul writes to the Corinthian church and tells them that they “are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”  The restriction he speaks of is one of the soul.  The word “restricted” here is the Greek word stenochōreō (Strongs G4729) which means “to be sorely straitened in spirit”.  He goes on to tell them Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.”
At the time of salvation, the believer receives the Holy Spirit into their body, the temple of God (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-15).  Your one temple now holds the Holy Spirit.  But when two become one, and you bind yourself in marriage to an unbeliever, you bind yourself to one that is an empty temple.  Paul says “what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness” because at the very core you are different and have different values.  Don’t expect the non-believer to feel the same passion you do about Christ and worship.  He goes on to say “what communion has light with darkness” referring to Christ as the light of the world, and darkness as the absence of Christ.  Can darkness and light co-exist? No. 
At the very core of your existence is a difference of spirits.  Your spouse to be may very well be a ‘good person’, but even the best person cannot match up to Christ.  Your lives are lived on different spiritual plateaus.  And once children enter into the equation, your problems will begin.  You’ll be faced with children who want to stay home with the unbelieving parent rather than go to church.  You’ll have different values in which you want to teach and raise them, and value the Christian life differently.  And ladies, it is very hard to be the spiritual head of your household.  It’s a position in which you were never meant to have to assume.

Many people have heard the verses I just gave you and said “yes, but I can lead him/her to Christ”.  Then do it before marriage, before the relationship becomes serious.  My dad always told me to be careful who I dated because I would marry one of the guys I dated.  To the young people who are dating now, I offer this same advice.  If your goal is to marry a Christian and raise a family according to God’s word, you have to accept His word now.  Date Christians.
To those that are already married to an unbeliever, God has a special message to you in 1 Corinthians 7:13-15 where Paul says “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

The word sanctified is the Greek word hagiazō, which means to be set apart, and to be dedicated to God.  Anyone who is connected to God receives His holiness through the righteousness of Christ.  The connection of marriage offers this to the marriage, while not to the spouse.  When two become one, even if unbelieving and believing, God’s spirit is in their union (Malachi 2:15).  He is the binding of the marriage.  Through this binding, the children from the marriage are also holy.  God looks after believers in such a way that anything connected to them is in His care.  Consider a body with a broken limb.  You don’t cut off the limb and say “there, now you don’t have to put up with the broken limb anymore!”.  Instead, you heal the limb so that the rest of the body isn’t affected by it.  Such is God’s way with the unbeliever who has married His child.  He seeks to heal that person’s unbelief. 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 talks of the benefits of marriage and says Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Marriage is based on needing a helper – you need one, and your spouse needs one.  When two are one, they can overcome the temptations of the world.  But “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”, meaning that with God in your relationship, binding you together as a braided rope, you are stronger!  You need Him in your marriage!  Once all the flowers, fancy clothes and cake are gone, marriage gets tough fast. 

Friends, if you want a successful marriage, seek out a spouse who loves God more than they love you.  And seek to find one that you will love - but not worship.  There is only one throne room in your heart, and God must always be on that throne.  If you find a person that loves God more than they love you, you will be assured they will keep you in line with His Word and His way.  That is where true success in life is found – in following God, and gaining His favor.  Seek to find the three strand cord.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: A Series on Sacred Marriage

Is the Relationship Worthy of Marriage: A Series on Sacred Marriage


Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” – Psalms 85:10 (ESV)

Today’s devotional will begin a series God is leading me to write regarding marriage, and finding the spouse He has for us.  Having gone through two divorces, you might very well think “who is she to offer marital advice?”  But let me ask you this.  If you’re going to a new town and you need directions, do you ask someone who has never been there before, or someone who has walked its streets?

God has seasoned my testimony with the pits I’ve fallen into, and asked me to show others where those pits are and enable them to bypass them.  (And to lighten this a bit, note that those “pits” did not make me “pitiful” because God was and still is by my side!)  2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God comforts us in our troubles so “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”. So to that effort I offer advice to those who may be considering marriage, may be looking for a spouse, are dating, or may have never started dating. 

Marriage was designed by God, not man.  We have to look to God for answers in what it is supposed to be for it to be truly successful. You don’t ask an Olympic swimmer how to bake a cake!  Why would you turn to Hollywood, filled with divorces and “entertainment” based on sex outside marriage and divorce, to find answers about marriage?  Let’s turn to the originator of the relationship, and ask Him to tell us how to be successful in marriage.

In the Garden of Eden when God created Eve, He did so because, as He proclaimed “it is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Children had to be born.  Unlike the male and female animals he made, God chose to have a part in the marital relationship by creating Eve Himself specifically for Adam.  This is a divine relationship created by God, and it should be treated with respect as a gift from God.  It’s not something to do spontaneously or without caution.  In Malachi 2:16 God says “I hate divorce”.  He does not approve it except in the case of death of a spouse or unfaithfulness of one spouse to the other (Matthew 5:32, 1 Corinthians 7:39). 

However, things do happen to break the foundation of a marriage.  Though God hates divorce, He will forgive all sins, including divorce.  I will not sit here and tell a woman who may be in an abusive relationship to stay.  SEEK GOD.  He holds all the answers for your future.

Divorce leaves a scar on the soul.  When two are joined in marriage, they are no longer two, but ONE in the sight of God, and are given a portion of His Spirit within their relationship.  Divorce does not leave the one as two wholes as before, but as halves of the single unit.  His Spirit bond between them is gone.  Forgiveness can be attained, but make no mistake, it is a painful process.

The two are made one for a single purpose.  It is to allow them to have God-loving and God-following children.  Malachi 2: 15 says, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”  Children are to be the result of marriage – not the cause for it.  Two are made as one, with God as their binding force.  Malachi 2:15-16 goes on to say “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Guarding your spirit means having self-control.  A man, or woman, must be able to commit to the marriage in such a strong way that outside elements and temptations will not break it.  The vows are not made just to each other, but first to God.  Breaking a promise to God does not go without consequences.  Ecclesiastes 5:5-7 says about vows made to God that “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. It’s not the lawyer, divorce court, the loss of your retirement, or the custody of your children you should fear when looking at divorce, it is God.

Malachi says that one who divorces their spouse “covers his garment with violence”. Don’t take those words lightly.  Violence in this verse comes from the Hebrew word “chamac” (Strongs H2555).  It means violence, wrong, cruelty, injustice”.  That is what divorce brings to your life.

After considering all this, you may ask if marriage is worth the effort.  After finding a man who truly is my gift from God, and the spouse I believe He had designed for me from the start, I will tell you YES, it is! I like how Psalms 85 describes God’s relationship to His people because it so describes the heart of those divorced.  It says He forgave their iniquity, covered all their sin, and put away His indignation toward us. It goes on to say that He restored us and revived us.  And in verse 10 it says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

Friends, this is how successful marriage is accomplished.  It is an act of God where a steadfast, unshakable love is met with faithfulness.  God finds it righteous and dwells in it, and peace is its sweet kiss of approval.  Seeking this kind of marriage is worth the effort.  This kind of marriage has no end to its blessings, and is never a burden.  The key is knowing how to find it.    

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jesus' Method for Conflict Resolution

Jesus’ Method for Conflict Resolution


Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17

I was recently asked what the Bible says about relationship conflicts, and how to deal with those that are angry at you or that make you angry.  As I suspected, it says a lot! God’s word tells how to avoid conflict, and how to resolve it.  But since we rarely discuss conflict unless it’s already present, let’s get right to how to resolve it.
Jesus taught quite a bit about how to treat your neighbor, your brother, or basically those that God has placed in your life.  Each and every one is there for a purpose, just as you yourself have a purpose.  But when things go wrong, that relationship that was comforting and friendly can be painful.  Jesus gives five steps to resolving conflict in Matthew 18.

First, discuss the issue with them in private.  This is where we usually go wrong.  We go around talking to everyone else about “I think so-and-so is mad at me” instead of addressing the issue directly.  The problem with this behavior is that nothing negative stays secret for long.  There’s always that one person who relishes telling those deep dark secrets.  This creates what is called passive aggression.
Passive aggression is characterized by hostile actions that are subtle.  A passive aggressive person will smile to your face, and then talk bad about you behind your back. Passive aggression will not return your phone calls or emails, and will pretend to others that nothing is wrong.  This creates an even larger problem because you can’t resolve the problem if the other party won’t admit there is one.  Proverbs 27:5 says Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.”  It’s better to confront the offender than to allow the conflict to result in this behavior.  But it’s even better to do it in privacy to protect the feelings of the other person, who may see the conflict as your fault and not their own. 

Secondly, Jesus teaches us to go to them with witnesses to assure your words are known to others.  When confronted with something they have done wrong, people act differently than they would normally.  They may try to hide behind the truth by twisting your words.  Taking a friend or two with you will assure that what is said is not twisted into an untruth. But it’s important to pick your witnesses carefully.  You don’t want to create two “sides” of the argument.  Instead of picking your own friends, pick the friends of the one who has offended you, or someone they respect. In situations of conflict, it’s always good to have a mediator handy to soften the conversation and redirect it when necessary.
But if even in the presence of friends the matter cannot be resolved, we are instructed to take a third step and take it before the church.  This is not to condemn the offender, but to prove that you’ve done all you can to resolve the matter so that your reputation is not tainted by the offense being held against you.  Some people will simply not let go of anger, and choose to hold a grudge.  When this happens, you take the matter before your church, be it your pastor or your elders, and assure with your witnesses that you have done all you can to right the wrong, and yet, the relationship could not be mended. 

During the time of the disciples the Jewish synagogue had a panel of judges that would review such cases and either hold you in contempt of the situation, or release you from it.  This was done to assure that no division existed in the church, and that its members behaved as they should.
Then as a fourth step, you have to walk away from the relationship, breaking your ties with the person.  Jesus says in verse 17 to “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. The church was already instructed to not fellowship with unbelievers or those that were immoral.  A tax collector was considered immoral because they usually skimmed from the top or took bribes.  Jesus’ instructions are clearly to drop the relationship.  This is for your own good.  You cannot make people like you.  If you’ve done all you were instructed to resolve the conflict, and have no guilt in your heart that there was something you should have said or done that might have made the difference, walk away.

But when you walk away, don’t carry a grudge yourself because your offender refused to forgive the wrong or make it right.  Jesus tells the parable of the master who is going to condemn his servant because of unpaid debt, but when the servant comes to him and begs for more time, he not only rescinds the punishment, but forgives the whole debt.  But then the servant goes to someone who owes him, and when his debtor asks for more time, he refuses to forgive him, and has him put in prison. 
Forgive as you have been forgiven is the last step in conflict resolution.  Because we have our own faults, and Jesus has forgiven them, we do not carry a grudge against those who have forgiven us.  Matthew 18 ends with verse 35 saying “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”  Did you get that?  If you hold a grudge against your offender, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you”.  Don’t let the conflict cause a problem between you and God. Forgive even when it hasn’t been asked for.  It is impossible follow the command that Jesus said was greatest of all and “love one another even as I have loved you” if you hold a grudge in your heart.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Cost of the Tower - The Cost of Peace

The Cost of the Tower – The Cost of Peace


“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. “ – Luke 14:28-32

A few years ago, I got out my scissors and did what my sister-in-law refers to as “plastic surgery”.  I cut up all my credit cards except one.  I’d read Dave Ramsey’s book, “Total Money Makeover” and decided it was time to make a change.  The problem I had with credit cards is that I’d forgotten to consider what things really cost.  It’s just a slide of the plastic through a machine, quick and easy.  But when the biggest bill coming to your house is the credit card bill, you’ve created a problem.  You’ve even become addicted to your plastic.  The only way to get rid of an addiction is to admit you have a problem, and turn from it.  And so I did! Snip! Snip! Snip! Considering what it was costing me, being free of debt was worth what I was giving up, which was being able to haul out of stores arm loads of things I really didn’t need.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells us to consider the cost as well, but this time it’s the cost of discipleship.  He starts by saying something that sound harsh and even impossible to follow.  He begins in verse 26 saying If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  This may seem contradictory to the love we’re taught to have for each other in other scriptures which say to love one another even as Christ loves us (John 13:34) and that if we hate our brother who we have seen, we can’t say we love God who we haven’t seen (1 John 4:20).  But what is really being said is not ‘hate’ as we know the word but ‘love less’.  To be a disciple of Jesus, we must love Him more than all others. 
He brings this up to tell us that being a disciple has a price tag, and just as with any other endeavor you have to consider the cost before starting, we should consider the cost of being a disciple.  He goes on to use the example of a man building a tower, and says that the man will first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it”.  Otherwise, he’ll get part of the way through the build and not be able to finish, and “all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” 

Have we not known Christians like this that begin with a burning love for Christ, fellowshipping and following with all enthusiasm and then one day they fizzle out?  Something they had was of a greater love in their life than Christ, and they just couldn’t let it go.  Most of the time, the ‘thing’ is self, and from time to time, self will take center stage in all our lives.  We want to soften the blow of what Jesus said about taking up our cross and following him, but it is a cross.  A cross has one purpose, and that’s death.  Unless you’re willing to crucify your own will, your own desires, you cannot be a full-time disciple.  That is why so many will fill the pews on Sunday morning, fewer will fill them on Sunday nights, and even fewer remember their calling on Monday morning.  Jesus says to consider the cost of following so that we don’t get mocked that we were “not able to finish”.   

Then Jesus turns from building a tower to war.  He compares discipleship to a king planning a battle, and says that the king will “sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand” and if he can’t win he will send “a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  
You have to also consider the costs of not following Jesus.  Consider the peace to be gained.  Make no mistake that it is a daily battle trying to keep self on that cross when self wants to climb down and take over.  But the peace that comes from following Christ just can’t be compared to anything else. He is there when the baby is sick, and you can’t make her better.  He is there when the bills are stacked up, and you have to decide which to pay and which not to pay.  He is the love that warms your heart when the world is cold.  He holds your hand when you are afraid.  He whispers peace when your life is chaos. 

Jesus ends by saying in Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  What I found with the credit cards was that they were not worth what they were costing me, which was peace.  When we count the worth the things we hold between us and following Christ, between following self and being a true disciple, we will find Him of greater worth.  Consider the cost. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Servant is Not Greather Than His Master

A Servant is Not Greater Than His Master


Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,  rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.“ – John 13:3-5
It’s an emotional scene.  Picture yourself sitting around the table.  Jesus, the Son of God, with a pan of water moving from one disciple to the next.  He does it all in silence.  He takes off their sandals and places their feet in the pan of water.  Scooping the water with His hands, he covers their feet in the water.  Using this hands and fingers he wipes away the dust that is between their toes and covering their ankles.  He dries their feet with a towel, and moves one person closer to where you’re sitting. 

You wait anxiously as Jesus moves closer to you, knowing that He is coming for your feet as well.  The hands that will be nailed to a cross for your sins are about to touch your feet for the simple act of washing them.  The son of God, by who and through who all things were created, is about to wash your feet.  And there He sits, Jesus Christ at your feet, looking up to you and holding out His hands for you to present your foot to be washed.
It’s easy to see why Peter felt he could not let Lord Jesus wash his feet.  It is humbling to have someone perform such a lowly task for your benefit.  Peter said to him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” and Jesus replied “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

It wasn’t that Peter didn’t trust Jesus.  It wasn’t that he didn’t think Jesus would explain it.  It was that he didn’t want to see Jesus lowered to become his servant.  Peter said to Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet!”  But then Jesus explained, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  And Peter, being the passionate disciple he was, said “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  
The washing wasn’t about having clean feet, but to demonstrate to them that we are to be servants, even lowly servants.  Christians aren’t to ride a high horse, looking down on those less fortunate and living lives riddled with sin.  We are to be down below them, lifting them up.    

Jesus goes on to explain this to his disciples when he says in John 13:12-16, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”
It’s not about making unbelievers as good as you.  It’s not about making the sinner as perfect as you.  It’s about serving God by helping Him work in their lives.  It’s about them.  Not one of us is greater than Jesus - we wouldn’t dare argue that point.  But Jesus was willing not only to wash their feet, but to die for them.  He was willing to fast for forty days to prepare for His mission.  He was willing to be ridiculed, threatened, and ran out of town for them.  He was willing to have the religious community turn on Him and accuse Him of even being from the devil.  Yet He submitted to be a servant to those who needed Him, and to be a servant to His Master, Father God, who sent Him. 

We have also been sent by God.  We are to be servants to the wandering that need Him.  We’ve been sent to share the good news of Jesus and lead others to Him.  Being a servant means making ourselves lower than those we have to serve.  It means meeting them at the point of their needs, and not waiting for them to show up at church for us to minister to them from the comforts of our pews.  It means sitting at their feet.  A soul is a priceless prize to win, and it must be won at all costs, even humility. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012




“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” – Matthew 5:13
Of all the flavors of good stuff in this world, my favorite is salt.  I’m not much on chocolate, cake, ice cream, cookies, or any of that stuff.  But give me a little bowl of kosher salt, and I’m like a cow finding a salt lick in a field! I’ll sit there and enjoy it for hours!  Yes, I know it’s not good for me.  My doctor tells me every time I see him.  But salt….mmm!

Salt is a remarkable thing.  It’s a mineral, created when the earth was created.  It can be found not only in sea water, but in layers under the surface of the earth.  It has even been found in meteors that have fallen to earth, and on Mars. 
Salt is mined in one of three ways.  Shaft mining, much like mining coal, creates caverns through the earth to the salt, and then it is picked and placed in carts that haul it out.  This is how rock salt is mined. 

Solution mining uses wells erected over salt beds (deposits of salt forced up out of the earth by tectonic pressure) and water is injected to dissolve the salt. Then the salt solution, or brine, is pumped out and taken to a plant for evaporation. When the solution evaporates, the salt is left behind. It is then dried and an anti-caking agent is added to keep it free flowing. Most table salt is produced this way. 
Salt is also harvested through solar evaporation from seawater or salt lakes. Wind and the sun evaporate the water from shallow pools, leaving the salt behind. It is usually harvested once a year when the salt reaches a specific thickness. After harvest, the salt is washed, drained, cleaned and refined. This is the purest way to harvest salt, often resulting in nearly 100 percent sodium chloride, which is why this salt connoisseur will tell you sea salt tastes better.

Once purified, salt has to be kept in a sealed container or the elements around it will reduce its flavor.  If you’ve ever used a salt shaker at a beachside restaurant, you’ll find that it basically has no flavor at all.  You can swallow it by the spoonful and barely taste it. 
Jesus compares Christians to salt.  In Matthew 5:13 he said “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Salt has two basic purposes.  It provides flavor, and creates thirst.

We are to provide a flavor of Christ to all that is around us.  Whether it be our workplace, our home, the ball game, the mall, a discussion between friends, or the atmosphere of a hospital room, we are to be the flavoring of Jesus Christ. 
We are to also create thirst for Him.  Our lives should be lived in such a way as to cause others to want what we have – to be thirsty for the relationship we have with Christ.  Have you ever been hungry, but didn’t know what you wanted to eat?  In this same way, those looking for Christ don’t always know that He is what they want.  When they meet us, they should see the joy, the love, and the blessings He gives shine through, and desire that relationship with Him.

But just like salt needs to be tightly guarded once it’s purified to keep its flavor, we also have to be on guard.  Sin – the very element from which we were taken - will creep into our relationship with Christ, and cause us to go stale.  Stale salt is good for nothing.  Jesus said it is to be thrown out, cast aside, trampled back into the soil. 
There’s a lot of hard work involved in getting a teaspoon of salt out of the ground or sea water.  And there was a lot of hard work for Christ to purify us as well.  His sacrifice should not be in vain.  Be the salt you were purified to be!  Be bold in flavor!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Popularity and Humility

Popularity and Humility


“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”– Matthew 25:40

From an early age, I found it worth working to achieve.  I worried about it, dressed for it, acted in ways that I thought would assure it, and even sinned to attain it.  Yet all that time was wasted in a world that is temporary, in a world where people’s opinions don’t really matter.  Popularity is defined as “the favor of the general public or a group of people.”  As a teenager growing up in a school where the popular kids were the ‘cool’ kids, I thought this would bring me joy.  But the truth is only Jesus Christ brings joy. 

Oh I won’t lie to you.  Popularity will make you happy. But happiness is temporary.  Happiness will last until you have a bad hair day, or until your best friend stops talking to you.  Happiness is there until the clouds of doubt come.  Happiness runs and hides when the rumor mills start cranking out crap with your name on it.  But joy – the joy of Jesus Christ – that doesn’t walk away.  On days when I look like I just rolled out of bed hours after I fixed my hair and makeup, I still have joy.  On days when I feel alone, the joy of Jesus Christ tells me I am not.   On days when I feel defeated, His joy inside me can bubble up and smack a smile across my face.  Even on days when the teenage zits come back, joy is still my strength! 
Popularity isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be!  In fact, in the economy of the eternal Kingdom of God, it is given the tin metal, not the gold.  God’s favor system is different, as His word tells us time and time again.  Matthew 19:30 says “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  Matthew 10:39 says “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Luke 9:48 says “For he who is least among you all will be great.” Matthew 5:5 says Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  So all this time we spent growing up wanting to be the first called for the team in gym class, wanting to be voted homecoming queen, or wanting to be picked to be the date of the ‘cool’ guy, was all in vain in the Kingdom of God.  All that time and effort, put toward earning something that was of no more value than a gum ball machine toy.

Not one time does God say, “be ye popular because I am popular” or “blessed are the well liked among men, for he will be favored”.  God does not honor the favor of people, but has his own favor system.  What it takes to find favor with God is simple: humility.

James 4:6 says that “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” The dictionary defines humble as “low in rank, importance, status, quality; not proud or arrogant; modest: having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience”.

There were times when I was younger that I truly felt God was resisting me, unable to be found.  I know now that my desire to please people and find their favor was getting in the way of finding God’s favor.  You can’t work to achieve both the favor of man and the favor of God.  They are exact opposites.

The thing is this.  If God values humbleness over popularity, then why don’t His children?  Why is it that when the family of four, all dressed in their Sunday best, come into our churches they receive a warm welcome, but the single mother toting her biracial race child receives a cold stare over the shoulder?  Why is it that we stop and stare at those that are different from us, but those that walk and talk like we do get a friendly smile?  Are not all precious in His sight?  Why then do we befriend those that are upper class rather than lower class, and who determines that this is “lower class” anyhow?  In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” This will not be the day that I shun Jesus.

I fear one day that we will all get to Heaven and find we have become last, and those we shunned due to the economics of popularity will be first.  I don’t know about you, but Heaven is going to last a lot longer than this world, and I intend to have friends in high places!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Evil Men and Imposters

Evil Men and Imposters


But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 3:14-15

After explaining the job of ministry to Timothy, Paul goes on to warn him about imposters, and false prophets.  Timothy will soon be without Paul’s mentorship, and He wants to protect him and the message of the Gospel that he has entrusted to Timothy.  He begins by telling Timothy the characteristics of these men.  It reads as a test for how to tell if the man (or woman) is genuinely God’s called and anointed, or if they are only an imposter, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

·        lovers of themselves

·        lovers of money

·        boasters

·        proud

·        blasphemers

·        disobedient to parents

·        unthankful

·        unholy

·        unloving

·        unforgiving

·        slanderers

·        without self-control

·        brutal

·        despisers of good

·         traitors

·        Headstrong

·        Haughty

·        lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

·         having a form of godliness but denying its power

·        make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins

·        led away by various lusts

·        always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth

·        men of corrupt minds

·        disapproved concerning the faith

It’s a long, long list!  But before we go and start placing our ministers up against this list, let’s first understand that you don’t judge a tree by only one apple on it!  You sample several.  Any one of us could measure up to some of these characteristics.  Any one of us has been without self-control at some time, or unthankful, or headstrong.  The list is not a check list, but a description of character. 
Paul goes on to tell Timothy that these ministers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.  Some will hear their lies and follow them, and those will spread the lies to others.  The level of evil will grow worse, and the number of these false prophets will increase.

Fast forward nearly 2000 years later, and let’s test the ministers that we’ve seen fall by these traits.  How many times has someone tried to name the day in which the rapture will occur, and failed?  How about those that have let sin overtake their lives, or have been found to be “lovers of themselves” and embezzled money from their ministries?  Do you recall the mass suicides lead by a so-called ministries?  Do you recall reading of big-time ministers who were caught in adultery, addictions, living lavish lives while leading the dwindling “send me your money to help the poor” ministries?  I’m not going to name their names, because they are NOT to be our focus.
The focus of Paul’s warning comes later, in verses 14-15 when he tells Timothy to continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 

When you hear God’s word delivered, try it.  Test it.  Don’t be afraid to doubt it to the point of knowing factually that what you are hearing is God’s Holy Word.  Consider those who you have learned it from.  What’s their fruit look like?  Timothy was taught the Bible from childhood by his mother and grandmother.  Not all of us have had that blessing, but all of us can become as strong in God’s word as Timothy was.  Read it, read it again, and read it again.  In these days when false prophets are sounding off through our own churches, television, radio, and internet, we need to be able to discern the truth from lies. 
The problem with listening to a false prophet and not knowing it is that after you have learned bits and pieces of things and believed them as truth it’s hard to sort out the truth from the lies.  It’s even harder to unlearn those lies and impossible to withdraw them from those you’ve shared them with. But when you find a ministry that is giving the truth, and there are many, link up with it and support it.  They are the only way we can drown out the lies of the enemy. 

Paul ends 2 Timothy 3 by saying All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 
The Bible is God inspired, and true, cover to cover.  But not all that hold it and proclaim it yield it as the sword of truth.  Some would rather fashion it into a twisted ornament to bring temporary happiness and joy to a people looking for salvation and love. Dear Friends, trust in God’s word and the salvation of Jesus Christ alone.  God cannot lie, and neither does His Word.  Pray for understanding when you study, and discernment of the truth, and He will deliver it to you.