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Category Archives: Marriage

Taking Stock

ImageOn 1/31 look at Gn 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” (Ge 1:31)

On the final day of creation – which just happens to be the final verse of Genesis chapter one – God looked back over his handy work and declared that it was very good. It was so good that on the following day he rested!

Well, today is the last day of the first month of 2014! Stopping to evaluate the first month isn’t a bad idea. In fact it can be quite helpful.

When you look back over the first month can you say it was very good? Are you headed the direction you had hoped for? Would you grade January as average, good, or excellent? What things did you plan to do and in fact you did them? What opportunities came along that you are glad that you took ahold of? Are there some important lessons you learned that you should write down in your journal? What are some “do betters” for the month of February?

Now say a prayer thanking God for all the things that went well and ask for His help in the areas where you need it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil 4:6

Try not to be too narrowly focused as you look over the past month. For example, Think about all aspects of your life: marriage, parenting, financially, friends (are you meeting new people), family, education, physically (confession: I need to step it up in this area), educationally (are you reading and learning anything), attitude (are you joyful, at peace, friendly, etc), spiritually (Are you loving God by being content and thankful to Him for where you are in life? Are you loving your neighbor as yourself?). You get the point. I have also found it to be quite encouraging to list your blessings, speak them out loud.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption – just because I like it – “You need to get busy living or get busy dying.”

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Not Alone

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus (John 16:33)

Trouble is part of being alive. Jesus told his followers what to expect so that they could have peace in the midst of trouble. I like that.

Difficult times do not catch God by surprise. In the context of this verse Jesus had just predicted that everyone would leave him all alone. Then he said, “Yet, I am not alone for my Father is with me.”

Imagine that you were one of the disciples hearing Jesus lovingly say to you, “You will leave me all alone.” That just goes against everything within me. I imagine that I might tell Jesus, like Peter did, not me Lord! “Though everyone abandons you I will not.” But Jesus would know otherwise. Jesus was prepared for the worst. He was prepared for rejection by friends.

The irony is that Jesus died for everyone, but he did it alone.

Prepare yourself to be at peace even though you will have trouble.  Jesus did not say to his followers that they ‘might have,’ or ‘were likely to have’ trouble.  He said that they would have trouble.  He sounds pretty certain to me.

Maybe you can be grateful for the heads up on this one. Now that you know that you will have trouble (in various shapes and sizes for sure, but trouble none the less) know this: the only reason he wanted you to know was so that you would find your peace, your calm, in him.

When you have trouble in your world of family, marriage, finance, church or business remember that you can also find peace ‘in Jesus.’ He is a friend who will never leave you.

A prayer: Master. Thank you for the heads up on the trouble I will face. Thank you for friends who stand with me when there is trouble. Teach me to wait on you. May trouble be the wind that lifts me into your calm presence; in your presence I am courageous and my heart is full. Amen

 

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Worry-Free Living

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I recently read that the most highlighted verse in the online Kindle e-Bible is…are you ready for this? Here you go: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Ph 4:6)

The focus of that verse is usually placed on prayer as the antidote for worry. Certainly Paul encourages you to pray about about everything. However, there is more to worry-free living than just prayer. Lete me explain.

By isolating verse 6 and 7, I have been guilty of missing the fundamental reason behind such a ridiculous-pie-in-the-sky sounding statement such as “do not be anxious” or “Don’t worry about anything.”

Read the verse in context and see if you see what I mean. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…” Did you see it? Ancient commentators like John Chrysostom would read verse 5 and 6 as one verse, not two separate verses. So it would read “The Lord is near. Have no worries.”

And that my friends is the secret to worry-free living. Recognize the presence of the Lord. That’s right…the main reason we don’t have to worry is because the Lord is near. Now, if you are worried then talk with him about that.

So there you go. Enough said.

 

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Walk on Water…Today

worry05“Why do you worry?”

“Why are you so afraid?”

“Why did you doubt?”

Faith is a funny thing. Nearly everyone wants to live a life that is meaningful and filled with purpose. We live in a moral universe.  The moral choices a person makes are the primary human cause of events.  Worry, fear and doubt are examples of choices that every person faces.

Maybe you’ve noticed that one moment you seem to possess unstoppable faith while in the next moment you doubt, worry, or fear just like the men who followed Jesus the closest. [1] It is unrealistic to think that we will overcome worry, doubt, and fear once and for all. While it would be nice if we never contended with fear, worry, or doubt that is simply not the way the universe works. Just as light is best understood when compared to abject darkness so faith’s power can best be realized in the face of nagging worry, sinking doubt or hopeless fear.

“Oh, you of little faith,” Jesus yelled through the raging storm as he rescued Peter from the grasp of the Sea. In Peter’s time of need Jesus was name-calling. Seriously. He often referred to his disciples as “Ye of little faith.” But he wasn’t being disparaging so much as he was descriptive.

Amazingly, just a moment before Jesus called Peter “you of little faith,” he had been walking on water. He made the gutsy move to step out of a boat into the impossible. He had been walking on water, but not any more. Now he was sinking into the deep Sea of Galilee and he did the only thing he could…he called for Jesus to rescue him.

As Jesus reached out and grabbed onto Peter, it sounded strangely like he commented on his faith while simultaneously asking a deep theological and psychological question. Jesus said, “Oh you of little faith,” and then he asked, “Why did you doubt?” What? Was that really the best time to ask such a personal question? I might have asked Jesus, “Could we have this conversation…back in the boat… once my nerves calm down?” Apparently right up to the instant when the sinking thing happened Peter had been doing quite well, thank you very much.

Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” So far as we know, Peter never answered Jesus. Have you ever noticed that? I really would like to know the answer because all to often I struggle with doubt. I believe, yet I doubt. Why is that? In fact, during other “Oh-you-of-little-faith-moments” Jesus liked to ask penetrating questions such as, “Why do you worry?” and  “Why are you so afraid?”

You likely have boat loads of answer to explain why you are afraid or worried. Before you settle into your explanation, consider this…

Faith is a powerful thing. It seems to me that the direction (the source) of your faith matters more than the amount of it. The “little faith” that focuses on the “wind and waves” of life results in doubt, fear or worry and is powerless and ineffective. That sort of faith often proceeds sinking…or at least that sinking feeling. On the other hand, “little mustard seed” faith directed toward God as its source is powerful and effective and precedes mountainous problems moving aside.

Faith works in the context of life. Ironically, sometimes applying faith in the context of the practical things of life can be most challenging for those of us who have had faith all of our lives. Why? Because we’ve focused more on faith in God that saves us but little on faith that sustains us. Go ahead. Step out of your boat of comfort and “walk on water.” Speak to the mountainous problem before you and walk forward…in faith. Today, believe. Today, trust God in everything. Try  faith. What do you have to lose?

“This is the victory which has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)


[1] Matthew 6:30 …will he not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith? Matthew 8:26 why are you (plural) so afraid? The storm…he calmed the storm Matthew 14:31 you of little faith…why did you doubt? Matthew 16:8 aware of their discussion he asked them, You of little faith, why are talking among yourselves about not having enough bread? Do you still not understand?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Leadership, Marriage, Parenting

 

The Secret to Marriage

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Dan and Emily Wieland Wedding Ceremony
Wisconsin (Dan Holland officiating)

Ask your friends what the secret of marriage is and the answers you get will likely be as varied as the individuals you ask.

Marriage advice ranges from the “sappy-are-you-serious-advice” to the “is-it-really-that-complicated-advice.” The longer I live the more I appreciate the simplicity of things. Think about it, what could be a bigger more complicated deal than pleasing God and yet Jesus simplified that for some religious zealots: “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. And, love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Simple, but pervasive.

Back to marriage…

Like you, I have heard a lot of secrets to marriage. Recently, I was hanging out with one couple, good friends, and we laughed as we discussed that the secret to their marriage might be the fact that she works out of town! It might be true that a better marriage results from being a part a little more. However, it was some other advice that I want to share with you.

While eating lunch with a guy, the subject of marriage came up. He told me that when people ask he and his wife what their secret is to marriage that he tells them that there is one thing. My thought was “Really? One thing? Do tell. I am all ears.”

He continued: “Whenever you hurt your wives feelings or she hurts you in some way, it doesn’t matter if you did or didn’t do what you are being accused of. It doesn’t matter if you actually said or didn’t say whatever.” Then he asked what I was thinking: “Why doesn’t it matter?” “Why,” I asked. “Because,” he said, “you have hurt her/his feelings.”

He continued, “When you hurt your wife’s or husband’s feelings say these words: ‘I am so sorry. Will you please forgive me?'” And an appropriate response of the one offended is, “Yes. I forgive you.”

My friend did have a point. Think about a time when your feelings were hurt. Which type of response was most helpful to you: an explanation or an apology. Not that explanation are not needed because they are, but usually after a heartfelt apology. This works especially well when each is a Christian because they know what it means to forgive someone. To forgive means that we do not bring this up again. It is as though it never happened. It also works because an important piece of repentance means that we intend to change our ways. Did you catch that? We intend to modify our behavior. 

My friend then admitted that there have occasions when he has asked his wife for forgiveness and the answer is, “Not right now.” That’s can be an honest response. And its a healthy response. For sure, do not ignore what hurts and pains you have. Own them. Let God use your hurts to discipline you.

On the other hand stop carrying around the pain of what someone did to you in the past. In due time say: “Yes. I forgive you.”

This is certainly not the only secret to marriage. Jesus’ great command to his followers might fit here: “Do to others what you want others to do to you.” Simple, but pervasive.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Marriage

 

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