27 October 2012

I Believe in You


A friend and I were working together the other day digging a ditch for some electrical lines we were installing.  This is not one of the most attractive parts of my job as an electrical contractor, but it is one I still enjoy.  There is something about men and hard work that brings about the most interesting conversations.

As we began digging this ditch, and, as men for some reason do, we took jabs at each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But, at some point along the way, the conversation changed.  He began to tell me about his relationship with his dad and how it is strained right now.  I listened as he listed his grievances and why he felt abandoned- even though he grew up in a two parent/Christian home.  He said he watched his dad, who is a pastor, spend time with people and speak into their lives words of affirmation. But, he said his dad barely had time for him as a young man, nor did he ever say to him “you have what it takes, you can do this, or I believe in you.”

In Mark 1 we learn of the beginning of the public ministry of God's Son, Jesus:   “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Verse 11, to me, is one of the most emotional verses in the entire Bible because it is God speaking to His Son in front of everybody gathered, publicly affirming him.

I cannot imagine how much this must have meant to Jesus, especially when we consider the trials to come, all of the pain, the sacrifice, and His obedience even to death on the cross.  I can only wonder how many times Jesus thought back to the moment when His Dad, His Father, said to everybody, 'Hey, check this out! That's my boy, you see Him?'

When God affirmed Jesus, it was not for making an A on His spelling test in fifth grade rabbi class, or when He scored His first soccer goal, or when He made His first million in business. It was when He was baptized, when He was obedient to scripture. God affirmed Him as He did something spiritual.

Basically, the Father said to the Son publicly, 'I believe in you!’

In Mark Chapter One, right after the Father's affirmation, we find Jesus going into the wilderness to fast and pray. Satan shows up, tempting Him three different times. Immediately following the emotionally exhausting trials in the wilderness, Jesus gathered around him 12 of the most unlikely, overlooked, uneducated people and said:

'If you'll leave what you thought was important, follow me, I will show you what is important. We'll do life together, I'll teach you everything that you need to know and you can totally change the world!'

And that's what they did. For three years, they didn't study a little booklet, or go through a formal class.  They just did life together. Jesus taught them as they went. They asked questions; He responded, and He invested in them. At the end of that three year period, one of the most emotional moments in history, Jesus looked at the 11 faithful (Judas had betrayed Him), after He had risen from the dead, and basically said:

‘I've got to go away now, but I am going to send you the Holy Spirit, which is even better than me, because you'll have God the Father in you, and here's your assignment; go into all of the world, baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…teaching them everything that I have taught you. You 11 can change the world! I believe in you!'

And here we are some 2000 years later, and those men DID change the world.

The words we speak give life and have power. Men, are we speaking these life giving words into our sons’ lives?

I believe in you.

20 October 2012

Partnering With the One

A young man sat down with his pastor, full of hatred toward his wife. "I do not only want to get rid of her, I want to get even. Before I divorce her, I want to hurt her as much as she’s hurt me."  It is said when you are dating, opposites attract. But, too often, after marriage, it seems opposites attack.

God uses opposites in the covenant of marriage to complete each other.  Yet, our spiritual enemy wants to use those opposites for us to compete.

Genesis 2:24 says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Hebrew word translated as One is the word “echad,” which means united, altogether, completely joined as one.  Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, one may be overpowered, but two can stand strong.  “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Imagine a husband and wife as a cord tied together, as if they are in a three-legged race.  The husband is still an individual, and she is still an individual, but they are joined by the cord of Christ.  And, if they will work together, run together, serve together at the same pace and rhythm, they can get something accomplished.

But, if the husband wants to go his way and she wants to go her way, there is no harmony, there is no unity, and there is no vision.  When there is no common direction, then there will be fighting or competing the whole time.

God wants to strengthen us; He wants to complete us; and Christ wants to be the cord that unites the two to become one. When we are united by Christ, this union is not going to be broken.

We need to recognize that marriage is a covenant, not a contract.  A contract is based on mutual distrust, and a covenant is based on mutual commitment.  In a covenant partnership, how can we take our differences and work together for godly results?  Through godly leadership and mutual submission.

Eph 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  We submit to one another out of reverence and in worship for the One who laid down his life so we could be forgiven.  This means we should not go into marriage saying, “I will do unto you as I hope you do unto me.”

Instead, we must say, “I will lay down my life to serve you.  I will submit to you as unto the Lord out of reverence for Christ so that we together can better serve him.”

Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Why do some women get so angry when they read this verse?  Because, they have been around distorted leadership, instead of godly leadership.

Typically, it is men who are abusive, dominant, controlling and manipulative.  Christian men can take God’s word and use it as a sword to cut and hurt.  They might also use God’s word to manipulate women, and that isn’t godly leadership.

Then, there’s another side of the distortion. That is the passive man.  This man has no backbone, no willingness to stand up and fight for anything. This man doesn’t make decisions, abdicates leadership to the woman, is content to sit back and play video games or act like a 12-year-old and watch sports all day long.  That is not godly leadership.

Men, you have the God ordained call to lead.  Many men will say “but that intimidates me, I’m not sure.  Does that mean I have to make all the decisions?”  No! Making all of the decisions is not leadership. That’s dictatorship.

1932:  in game three of the World Series, Babe Ruth stands up to bat- one of the most memorable moments in sports- and what does he do?  He points to center field.  Cocky!  Next pitch, the left-hander, tags it, homerun to center field.

Men, that is what you are to do. You point, you lead. It doesn't mean you come up with it yourself.  You sit down and say to your wife, “Hey babe, what has God put in us, what is important to us?”

Together you come up with a blueprint for your marriage.

You may argue back, “She won’t follow.” That is a sorry excuse. You haven’t led her.  You may say, “My wife does not honor and respect Me.” Then Give her something to honor and respect!

Be a man of God, stand up, lead strong, take out the sword of the spirit and don’t cut her with it, but fight away the enemy.  Be a man of prayer; be a man of integrity; be a man of purity. Serve her; lay down your life, and you will witness over time, she will respond beautifully to your leadership.  Together, united with the cord of Christ, you will walk in the direction of God’s perfect will.

Grab your wife’s hand and say, “Glorify the Lord with me.  Let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34: 3.

14 October 2012

Pursuing The One

I once read a story of a love struck young man who flew from Chicago to Connecticut to fix his girlfriend’s hot-water heater because he thought she was considering leaving him for another guy. It ended up not being true and now they are married.

So many of us make fools out of ourselves in the name of love.  It is because of our human nature, we tend to pursue what we don’t have.

Men, we have done all sorts of things to win our girl because we are hunters by nature.  We go after what we want.  When we were dating, we went to chick flicks and pretended we enjoyed it.  We talked on the phone for hours at a time.  We would even drive (or fly) hours to go somewhere to see the one we love, just to spend 15 minutes with them.

Why do we do this?  Because we are pursuing what we don’t have kind of like this:  one day-  we made the kill, we got married, popped out a couple of kids, two years go by, then seven years, you’ve bought a house, 12 years… 15 years… and one day you wake up and you ask yourself “what happened?”

We used to be so in love, and now we can barely talk.  Most of the time what happens is a husband and wife stop pursuing each other.  Show me a divorce, and I will show you a couple who have stopped pursuing each other.

Can you name any area of your life that you can neglect and see improvement?  For instance, your physical body: can you neglect it, eat anything you want?  Twinkies, donuts and ding dongs, never exercise, and expect to become more fit?

Can you neglect your business, can you not do market forecasts, can you not pay your bills, can you not plan, can you not hire the right people, and expect your business to thrive?  

Why is it, though, that so many people think they can neglect their marriage and it still become what God desires it to be?

Genesis 2:24 says this:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother be united to his wife and they will become one flesh”.

The Hebrew word translated as “united” is the word dabaq. This word means more than just a union or more than united.  It actually means to cling or adhere, to catch by pursuit, to pursue hard with affection and devotion.  It is not that we just pursue until we are married, but we continue to pursue, to cling, to pursue hard and to pursue with devotion.

A great example in scripture of a couple who continued to pursue is found in Genesis 29.  It is the account of Jacob who was crazy in love with Rachel.  She had a father named Laban who was very wise.

He said, “If you want to marry my daughter, must work for me for seven years.”  After seven years of working the father pulled a fast one, and he said, “Oh, I’m sorry you can’t have that daughter, I meant this one” and Jacob responded, “No, I want Rachel” and so the Dad said okay, you have to work seven more years..a total of 14 years.

Here is the beautiful part of the story; after the first seven years they actually got married and even after they were married, Jacob continued to work for Rachel. He continued to work for her even after he had her.

If you want something different, be it.

Don’t waste energy whining about what you don’t have and what she’s not, or whining about what she isn’t doing. If you want something you ‘bring’ it.

What do you bring?

You bring less of you, and you bring more of Christ.  The New Living version of the Bible translates Romans 12:2, and this should be so true in every area of life, especially in our marriages:   “Don’t copy the behavior and the customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Let God change you.

Men, here’s what you need know.  Women, they are multipliers.  Whatever you give them, they multiply.  You give them an ugly house, which is what I did to my wife; she makes it a beautiful home.  You give them money for food; they make it this fantastic meal.  You give them your love, they give you six kids.  You give them a hard time, they’ll give you Hell.  They multiply.

That’s why men, if you don’t like what you’re getting, take a look at what you’re giving.

To get something you’ve never had you must do what you’ve never done.

To get what you once had, you must do what you once did. And, what you once did was, you pursued.

Less of us and more of Christ.

06 October 2012

Priority Number “One”


If you were watching the news one evening, and they gave the forecast for bear attacks warning, “Tomorrow we are reporting a really bad bear attack day, we are forecasting there will be a 50% chance that your children will be mauled by a bear on the way to the bus stop.”

What do you think you are going to do the next day?

Will you simply kiss your children at the door at the door and say, “goodbye, love you, run fast, and good luck!”?

 Or

Will you drive them to school, personally, putting them in a suit of armor carrying your trusty Browning .30-06?

You would do something different because the odds are stacked against your children.  You would change your habits or behavior.

What if I revealed to you that those are the same statistics for marriages today?  Less than 50% of marriages will not make it to 15 years. Statistically, 70% of married men and 60% of married women have affairs.  Every 12 seconds another couple divorces.

Something is not working in what we are doing. Our accepted way of doing “marriage” is turning out to be more of a ‘Fail.’

We have been conditioned as men to search far and wide to find the “one.”  To really be fulfilled, to have everything you’re supposed to have, for all the planets to align perfectly, we have to find the “one”.

If you were to survey a number of marriages, you would likely discern that some chose precisely the wrong “one.” But, that’s another topic.

* * * * *

An expert in the law had a question for Jesus.

‘Jesus, of all the commandments, what is the most important one?’

Jesus answered in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like the first:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

So…..

Love God is first, love your neighbor is second.  But, when a guy meets a girl, typically, he’s overwhelmed with how good she smells or how she gives him tingles inside.  The guy asks himself,  “could SHE be the ONE? She could be the one.”
Nothing would be greater to me than to hear a man of Christ proclaim about a female, “This is so amazing! I have just met my number TWO!”

God should be the “One” and your spouse should be your “Two.”

To experience true fulfillment in life, set your sights first on your number one, and that is God, alone.  This is the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  

* * * * *

 Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…”

Throughout life, married or single, God should always be your “One.”

When you were growing up, your primary human relationship was your parents.  God was to be “One” and your parents were to be number two.

The progressive world doesn't really support living that way, but that is  the biblical order or ‘priority order’ of relationships.  As you grow up and take the big step of marriage,  God continues to be your “One,” but you “leave” your comfortable parental units who enjoyed the number two position, and your bride becomes your Number Two.

Imagine yourself on a trapeze hanging on to mom and dad, you, then let go of mom and dad and you cling to your new Number Two.  Your priority relationship shifts.  God is still your ‘One,’ you simply let go of mom and dad and you cleave to your new Number Two.  

If your marriage is not working as you know it should, take a hard look at the possibility that at least one or both of you have your priorities out of line:

Are your children in the number one priority slot? Do you have a child- centered marriage? Do you want to be so successful that your career is in the number one slot? Are you the first to the couch for the big game?  Or, maybe you’re the first in the deer stand.

These aren't BAD things, but, if not kept in check, before long, the fun stuff moves in front of God.   He ends up way down the list of priorities, and your marriage falls way down the list, too.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and then everything else will be added unto you.”

It’s as easy as One, Two, Three.

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