Saying Yes…Forever

What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. ESV Mark 10:9

Every girl dreams of her engagement. To have the man of her dreams ask her to spend the rest of her life with him. To see him down on one knee smiling up at her while offering a beautiful ring. To say “Yes!” and be swept off her feet. I think most guys think of it as well. Perhaps with a bit more nervousness as they have to be the one asking. Nevertheless, when he meets that special girl, he thinks of asking her to marry him. He dreams of hearing “Yes!” He dreams more of the relief he feels when she says “Yes!” As much as we focus on the “yes” of the engagement, we often forget marriage is about saying “yes” continually and forever.

My dad used to comment it’s amazing how fast moonlight and roses turns to daylight and dishes. Following the “yes” of the marriage vows, our sinful flesh usually kicks in quickly (generally on the honeymoon). Life throws us curves. We live in a cursed world. Suddenly we find ourselves wanting to say “No” the person we so passionately said “Yes” to just a few days, weeks, months before. Sometimes we want an out. It gets to the point we no longer feel we can say “yes.” Perhaps Jesus knew it would get to this. For that reason, He reminds us that we are married not because we said “Yes,” but because God has joined us together. In essence, God said “Yes” that union, and now no one has the right to say “No.” True, our flesh may scream “No,” our friends may scream “No,” the world may encourage us to say “No,” but in Christ our response will always be “Yes.” In the good times and the bad, we say “No” to our flesh and “Yes” to our spouse. It may not be easy, and we can only do it in the power of the Christ, but we can determine to continually say “Yes.”

Where are you in your marriage? Are you struggling to say “Yes”? Do you remember how easy it was at the beginning? Perhaps you need to return to the things you did at first. God has said “Yes” to your marriage. Ask Him for the strength to say “Yes” today. He will grant it.

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Life Coaching

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. ESV Proverbs 10:1

Nearly every night I debrief something with one or more of my kids. Usually a debrief involves breaking down a particular situation, and then discussing how to handle similar situations in the future. It’s not unlike coaching. You analyze what’s being done and offer suggestions on how to do them better. You watch the attempt at doing it better and then give additional feedback and support. Over time, by God’s grace, our children learn how to handle future situations wisely. Perhaps this life coaching is one of our greatest tools in shaping the spiritual formation of our children.

Virtually the entire book of Proverbs is Solomon’s life coaching for his son. Time and again, he breaks down life into manageable observations and illustrations. He explains to Rehoboam what he will encounter and what the end result will be. He warns what the fool, the simple, the scoffer, the wise look and act like and where their actions lead them. He warns his son of sinners, prostitutes, liars, and those with bribes. He urges him to fear the Lord above all and pursue wisdom. Each of these nuggets are like little coaching moments. Little tricks of the trade. So much of parenting involves not just telling our kids what to do, but helping them interpret what happened today so they can be better equipped to handle similar situations tomorrow.

As you coach your kids, spend time helping them process what happened to them each day. Did they do poorly on a test? Why? Did they fail to study, misunderstand the teacher’s expectations, space out in class? When we discern the root issue, we can address the steps needed to correct it. This is so much more effective than grounding them for poor grades or simply telling them to “Do better next time.” Are they being bullied? Yes, we can call the principal, and sometimes this needs to happen. However, we won’t always be around, so perhaps teaching them how to navigate minor bullying would be more effective. What drives bullies to act the way they do? How would Jesus interact in this situation? What lessons present themselves? Coaching exhausts me and never seems to end. However, I firmly believe it’s the only way to really set our kids up for success. Coach your kids for life. You won’t regret it.

Working for What’s Right

And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. ESV 2 Chronicles 34:4

Harvey Weinstein’s board of directors fired him. Trump accepted Price’s resignation. On occasion, in our morally depraved world, we read of people doing the right thing. Unfortunately, Weinstein was only fired after public outrage. Same with Price. What used to be moral decisions now seem to be public perception decisions–determined based on how popular a particular idea is. Since the public seems to be against kneeling before football games, we now hear Jerry Jones is requiring his players to stand if they want to play. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our moral compass, replacing it with whatever is right in the eyes of the majority.

The verse above details Josiah’s reforms. He didn’t regard popular opinion, but rather chose to tackle the hard issues of eliminating Baal worship…something that was deeply entrenched in Judah’s worship at this point. Not only did he chop down the altars of Baal, but he also cut down the incense altars, the Asherim and the other idols that filled those areas. He totally desecrated the graves of those who had engaged in idol worship. A higher moral calling drove Josiah, not popular opinion. As we begin this week and head back to work, I ask you this: are you driven by a higher moral calling? Will you make decisions at work based on Biblical principles or based on popular opinion? Do you choose to gossip with the office mates because that’s expected or do you take a stand? Are you willing to stop unethical behavior of your subordinates? Are you willing to refuse to participate in illegal activities? Will you fire people that need to be fired?

It’s relatively easy to do the “right” thing when public outrage requires it. It’s also easy to do the right thing when everyone else is doing it (only a real jerk cuts in line when everyone else is waiting patiently). At work this week though, when the right thing is hard, will you stand in God’s power and do it? Be Josiah. Work for what’s right.

God and Evil

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. ESV Isaiah 45:7

The Vegas massacre. Hurricane Nate (and Maria, Irma, Harvey…). Kim Jong Un. Harvey Weinstein. Pills…Heroin…Fentanyl…Carfentanil. A quick glance at the news confirms the horrors of evil in the world. In the midst of all this, we ask “Where is God?” “How can a good God allow such horrendous evil?” “Is He working in the midst of it?”

Some of the hardest verse to wrestle with in the Bible are those that describe God’s role in evil. Contrary to many people’s opinion, the Bible teaches that God creates the calamities and challenges we wrestle with. While God never sins, and can never be charged with wrong, He does create calamity (think hurricanes). He also raises and lowers kings (including Kim Jong Un…see Daniel 2:21). He even acknowledges the horrors Job endured came from His hand at the bidding of Satan (Job 2:3). Nothing takes place that God didn’t ordain. While it’s hard for me to wrestle with a God who causes these things, I find it more comforting than worshiping a God who’s not involved in these things. Some assert God merely allows evil, but that fails to resolve the moral issue. Approving something leaves you morally responsible even if you don’t physically carry out the act. If God ultimately signs off on, and/or even causes all things evil, what do we do with that? Remember, God always works for His glory. Sometimes He raises bad kings so that He can judge them. Other times He allows evil to show His power. On occasion, evil accomplishes His judgment on a nation. In each horrendous circumstance, He reigns victorious, even though it may not appear that way at the time. And ultimately, as evil increases, so does our desire for Christ’s return to set all things straight.

Does God approve of moral evil? Absolutely not. On the contrary, He works judges evil, an action seen most clearly in the crucifixion. Through the evil in this world, God works to exalt Himself through Jesus Christ and redeem humanity to Himself. Perhaps the evil we experience now will draw our hearts closer to God. May we pause and reflect on these evils and come away more in awe of God.

 

Breaking for Life

Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day. ESV Jeremiah 17:21

With school, soccer, church, the women’s retreat, our adoption process, taking care of our home, checking the brakes on the van, the girls we watch, kids’ play dates, and so forth, our lives are currently nearly at the breaking point. I don’t remember the last time we had a whole day in which to do nothing. Soccer dominates our Saturday schedule, and sometimes spills over onto Sunday (28 games in 10 weeks). In the midst of all the craziness, it’s hard to get a chance to breathe. Much less “keep Sabbath.”

The verse above really caught my eye as I browsed the various Sabbath passages in the Bible. Somehow our very lives are at stake in keeping Sabbath. When we “bear burdens” (most likely physical burdens, but perhaps emotional, spiritual, and mental burdens), we somehow endanger our lives. It could be that God brings judgment on us for failing to keep the fourth commandment (and this seems to be indicated in the context of the passage). However, it also seems God created a natural rest cycle in our lives and when we fail to follow His prescribed rest patterns, we pay the natural consequences. We simply can’t endure the work schedules we so often undertake. I read an article today of a young reporter in Japan who literally dropped dead of heart failure due to extensive overwork. Somehow in chasing all the things of this world, we forget our very lives depend on adequate rest. God designed Sabbath to restore our bodies, minds and souls, so “for the sake of our lives” we ought to take a break one day a week and ensure we “do not bear a burden.” While it’s relatively easy to cut back from physical burdens, it’s sometimes harder to offload our emotional, mental and spiritual burdens. Perhaps by engaging in play, hobbies and other creative and enjoyable pursuits, we can unload these burdens as well and rejuvenate our souls.

What fuels you? What do you enjoy? Take one day this week to lay all your burdens down and engage in positive activities. Go for a run. Read a book. Have a long conversation with a friend. Watch a movie, paint a picture. Anything that’s not a burden but a joy. Do it to save your life.

 

Time Flies

But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had made no repairs on the house. ESV 2 Kings 12:6

Have you ever noticed how time just disappears? I’ve been meaning to repair some holes in the wall made when we moved into our house over two years ago…still haven’t done it. Speaking of, I’ve been meaning to write letter to all of my children in case I die….still haven’t done it. Shoot, I needed to write this blog post last night, and didn’t get around to it until this afternoon. With all the demands on our life, we often allow a lot more time than we realize slip by before we address things. When it comes to our spiritual life however, the consequences significantly rise.

In the verse above, the text doesn’t indicate at what point Jehoash tasked the priests to repair the temple, but there is indication in the account in Chronicles that a significant time elapsed. No doubt the priests fully intended to begin to repair the house. Surely they had a meeting or two–perhaps established a “temple repair committee.” Regardless of what did happen, what didn’t happen was any real progress on the repairs of God’s house. I see this so often in my own and other’s spiritual lives. We have great plans to go back to church, read our Bibles, get serious with the Lord. We even tell others “I’m joining a small group…getting help for this habit…building relationships where I can share my faith…” and then somehow, it never happens. Perhaps one of Satan’s best tactics with us involves stalling us off. Occupying our hearts and minds with things “more important” so that up to twenty-three years later, we haven’t budged in the spiritual direction we intended to go. I see this happen so often in my life that I take Fridays to consider my use of time and ensure I’m not allowing too much time to elapse without making the changes God has called me to make.

What about you? What things has God laid on your heart that you have yet to begin? I believe God always reveals His will to us, but we may wait too long to follow. Take today to courageously embrace the things God has called you to. Don’t put them off another day. In the words of Nike: Just do it!

Walking in Light

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ESV 1 John 1:7

Yesterday I sat in my office and listened to the incredible testimony of a man who is fourteen years clean from alcohol and drugs. He stressed the incredible importance of walking in the light by finding good friends to share his struggles with. Later in the day I went to visit a friend who struggles with depression. He simply wanted to bring his struggles into the light and share them with me. The sharing process brought a measure of healing. A friend called me yesterday afternoon to check in on me. Part of me wanted to blow him off and not share my life, but there was an area of my life I needed to bring into the light and share. He listened, counseled, prayed for me, and greatly encouraged me.

One of the most important aspects of our spiritual formation (and perhaps one of our hardest) involves walking in the light. Because we all inherited a fallen nature, sin will crop up in our life, and when it does, we will want to hide in the darkness rather than bring that sin out into the light before others and lay it at the foot of the cross. However, nothing can be more important to our ongoing spiritual development. In the verse above, John reminds us to pursue the light of Jesus Christ. Not only is He in the light, but He IS the light…the light of the world. Jesus Christ exposes our sin, yet also takes that sin upon Him, taking our death and brokenness. In exchange, He gives us His life, cleansing us from all sin, but only when we choose to step out of the darkness and into the light. By confessing sin to others, we bring those sins that hinder us into the light where Christ removes them.

I pray you have strong relationships with others. It’s never easy to bring struggles to light, but afterwards, we wonder why we kept them in the dark for so long. If you struggle in any way, determine today to find a friend and bring that struggle to light. May your friend lead you to Christ and the forgiveness, life and light found in Him.

 

Communicating Truth in Marriage

speaking the truth in love… ESV Ephesians 4:15

I’m a recovering people-pleaser. It means I can’t say what I really feel for fear of offending other people. It means I always tell you what I think you want to hear rather than the truth I know needs to be said. It means I put off hard conversations. I tell you everything’s OK when I’m really about ready to snap. It’s a horrible thing and of all my sins, this tendency has probably done the most damage to my marriage (and to my other relationships, and I really need to write a post about it in general…but that would be for Saturday).

While it’s noble and even spiritual to be careful what we say and how we say it, we must never let our fear of others keep us from speaking the truth. Especially in our marriages. I’ve counseled more than one couple where one spouse is a people-pleaser who can’t bring themselves to say how they really feel about a particular issue until it’s too late, they snap, have an affair or walk out on the marriage. People-pleasers feel they have communicated, but in reality, they have failed to really speak their mind. Their spouse often believes they have resolved issues and worked through things, while the people-pleaser feels run-over, ignored and abandoned. As a people-pleaser, I want to blame my spouse for these things, but I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that I’m the problem (and that’s really hard to admit when you feel like you have done everything in your power to not be a problem and be nice to everyone!). In these times of our spiritual formation, we must let the Word of Jesus speak powerfully to us. He calls us to speak the truth. Not the truth we things others want to hear, but the actual truth. Granted, we are to speak it in love (something people-pleasers excel in), but we must speak the truth.

Are you a people-pleaser? Is it creating tension in your marriage? Perhaps your spouse is a people-pleaser. If so, that’s got to make them difficult to live with (just ask my wife!). May you grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus to be able to speak the truth to each other. Pray for strength, clarity and boldness. Speak the truth in love, and reap God’s amazing benefits.

Remind Your Children Who They Are

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… ESV 2 Timothy 1:6

We spent part of Sunday at Six Flags, which means we spent part of Sunday night processing Six Flags. I love debriefing with my kids about their day and helping them navigate future situations (another blog post in itself). Anyway, Sunday night, as we processed Six Flags, a lot of what I focused on with my son was helping him understand who he is. If he can learn how God has uniquely created and gifted him, he can maximize that and embrace all that God has given him. Each of my kids are unique. One can write funny (but can’t tell jokes). Another can tell jokes and get people laughing (but their writing isn’t very funny). Another is more cute than funny. Each child makes me laugh in unique ways and part of parenting is helping them discover their strengths and weaknesses.

Apparently Paul felt the same way about Timothy. Perhaps Timothy was wrestling with fear, and Paul felt compelled to remind Timothy of the strong faith he received from his mother and grandmother. Beyond that, Paul had given Timothy a unique spiritual gift, and now Paul encouraged him to fan that gift into flame. The Holy Spirit had placed it there, and Timothy needed to embrace his unique faith and giftedness and live confidently for God’s glory. Paul goes on to remind Timothy we haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control. As we help our children embrace their God-given strengths and gifting, we help them embrace their identity, enabling them to live confidently for the Lord Jesus.

How has God gifted your children? Are they emotional or stable? Are they athletic or artistic or studious? Are they introverts or extroverts? Leaders or followers? What things do they uniquely struggle with? What are their weaknesses? Where might they give into temptation? What unique strengths do they have? Helping your children identify and live in these areas uniquely sets them up for success. Leading them to understand and thrive in these things is actually a part of their own spiritual formation. As their parent, help them get to know themselves and fan into flames the unique gifting God has given them. It’s part of your spiritual formation, and a task worth undertaking.

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