Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marriage Vows

Although this may be a little late for Valentine’s Day, it is appropriate anytime. Since our church is going to be having a marriage enrichment seminar over the next two months, I thought I would present a viewpoint I came up with about 6 years ago. I was teaching a class on the family at our church and I started looking seriously at what the Bible had to say about marriage.

Actually the material below would surprise you if you knew me 35 years ago. I was a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who believed the man ought to dominate, and his wife ought to be doormat-submissive. I was also unmarried. Well, now that I have been married fairly long, I have a different viewpoint which is probably closer to the Bible as well as good for my marriage.

The New Testament model is found in Eph. 5:22-33. Verses 22-23 (Wives, submit…) are where I got my earlier viewpoint. Perhaps verse 25 was just glossed over. This is the most important verse in the passage. ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church’ says so much. Everything that a husband does in relation to his family should not be done with his best interests in mind. He should be thinking of his wife first and putting her interests above his. Pretty hard, but when I do this, it makes for a better marriage. Also, my wife just seems to have an easier time submitting to me when I am placing her on a pedestal. (Does the word picture seem odd – submitting when on a pedestal?)

So many marriages are on the rocks these days, and that includes many Christian marriages; it also includes many marriages where couples have given years to it. It is tragic to see kids lives wrecked and upset. I understand that sometimes there is nothing that can be done, but I have to believe that if men would take the Bible and practice it, we would be able to save some families. So men, when God tells you to LOVE your wives, do it! Put her first; don’t think of what makes life easier or better for you. Maybe think of how you were when you were trying to win her heart. She fell in love with a guy who put her interests above yours, so don’t take her for granted now.

Okay, wives, it’s your turn. Yeah, submit. But if your husband starts putting you first, and you find it difficult to accept him as the leader, there is a problem. I think any man who is trying to practice these principles would have an easier time if his wife did allow him to be the leader, although I might add that large decisions, especially financial ones, should never be made without consultation. Never. Remember you are one, and therefore communication is important. But in the end, the buck stops with the man and if a decision turns out bad, he alone must take the blame. I know, I have made my share.

There is always a problem when your mate is unsaved. I Peter 3:1-6 gives wives some good advice. Besides that, all the advice I can add is pray for and love your spouse, perhaps God will grant them mercy.

Forgive me for sounding ‘preachy,’ but let me assure you that I am praying that if anyone reading this is having problems with his or her marriage, that these principles will help you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Uncle Russell

This past week marked the home going of one of the favorite people in my life. Although I haven’t spent much time with him for the past 30 years, he had a large influence on my life during my later teens. Since my parents were missionaries in Korea, I was sent to the States when I was 17. I was privileged to stay with my cousins, my father’s sister, Aunt Charlene, and Uncle Russell.

They lived on a farm about 8 miles outside of the town of Mora, MN. I loved farm life. I think my cousins thought I was a little loco, because I enjoyed milking the cows, haying, shoveling manure, and the other little chores that make up farm life. Not only did I spend two summers living with them, but I and my brothers spent many Christmases in the frigid wasteland that was their farm in late December.

Uncle Russell was a jokester. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was a member of Grasston Baptist Church and brought up his family to worship the Lord God. He was 82 years old, but had spent the past 5 years in a Home because of Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer’s. During the last year of his life, he could not care for himself and recognized almost no one but his wife. For a strong man who spent his life caring for others, it must have been particularly discouraging to have others do everything for him.

My uncle was special to me because, although he was smart, he never showed off; although strong, he was gentle; although outwardly gruff, he was one of the kindest men I have ever known. Uncle Russell was a humble man. Though he worked hard all his life, he never made a lot of money and always lived modestly. And although he never made a name for himself, he died rich in friends and relatives - people that would miss him, because he spent his life living for others. There is something to be said for this kind of life. One lives well who lives for others. Uncle Russell lived well.

He was loved; he will be missed, and we have the blessed hope that we will see him again.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Man of God

In II Kings 1:9 a captain of Israel, speaking to Elijah, says, ‘Man of God, the King has said, “come down!”’ Upon hearing this, Elijah answers, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ For those of you who do not take the Bible literally, this may come as a surprise, but I believe that when the Bible says, ‘and fire came down and consumed him and his fifty,’ that it actually happened.

I use this as an introduction into something I have wanted to write on for some time: What is a man of God? And am I a man of God?

No, I don’t want to call down fire on all those who may oppose me, but I do want to be known as a man of God. When I read the Bible, I am struck by Elijah and Elisha as those who were really known as men of God. I believe people called them, ‘man of God’ because they knew they had a close walk with God, and that they had power with God. Can this happen today? Now, maybe we can’t perform miracles like they did, but I believe that God would like more men to desire to be men of God.

First, it takes a desire to know God – to know Him intimately and passionately. God wants more then anything that we love Him with all we have.

If we love Him, the next step is to trust Him explicitly. This is a great thing, to abandon that which we feel we need, to stop trusting in bank accounts, stocks, jobs, or anything that we believe is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I have all these, and I am not saying they are unimportant. They are very important, but if we are trusting in them, then what we are doing is wrong. Remember, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God.’

It is very important to desire a close relationship with God. When we understand that God wants this more than anything else, it will help us to keep our lives clean and walk close to our God. At some point each day, we need to spend time both in communicating with God in prayer, and in letting him speak to us through His Word.

Finally, like Elijah and Elisha, we need to let people know where we stand. If we take a stand for God and what is right, it won’t take long before others will know Whose we are. And then, they may not call us, ‘man of God,’ but they may be thinking that. Most of all, I want the Lord to know me as a man of God. There is no higher compliment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Relationships or Rules

Today much is said of relationships. There is a book out that claims God is not about rules or authority, but He wants a relationship with people. It is true that real Christianity is not about religion, but it is a relationship with Jesus the Messiah. However we must not allow our thinking to be warped by what others say, not matter how profound or beautiful it may sound. The Scriptures must always be our final authority. Actually it would be a good idea to read the Bible through several times. I have made this a practice over the past couple decades now, reading the Bible every 14-15 months (I am a slow reader). I think it helps you to know a little of the mind of God.

First let’s cut to the chase concerning authority. If we believe the Bible, we must believe that God rules with authority. When there were only two people and a wonderful garden, God made only one rule – don’t eat from one tree. Man failed the test and so because He ruled with authority, God passed judgment on those involved. After that there were the 10 Commandments – first placed in the conscience of man, and then given to Moses. We have all been rebels against the rule of God and subsequently come under His judgment and will eventually be condemned if we don’t seek His mercy. Suffice it say, God believes in authority.

Okay, so why did God restrict us with the 10 Commandments? Good question. I venture to answer that with: because He loved us. You see, if we keep the Commandments, we will have a good relationship with God since the first 4 commandments have to do with our standing before God. The remaining 6 have to do with our fellow man. Think about it, the messes we get ourselves into are primarily because we fail to keep one or more of the commandments.

So actually rules are good for us. We don’t need to be legalistic and add rules that the Bible doesn’t have. Some churches do this and they are following in the footsteps of the Pharisees who also added rules that Jesus never intended. Christians must be sensible about the lives they live before the World. On one hand, we don’t have a license to sin, and one the other, we must not be restrictive where the Bible is not.

One final point: if you are not a believer, you must first come to Jesus and repent before any of the rest of this makes sense. And if you are a believer, you need to remember, we don’t have the victory over sin in our own strength, but by relying on the strong arm of our Savior.