Feb 16

What Makes a Great Marriage

Amanda and I attended the Great Smoky Mountain marriage retreat.  This is a retreat put on by the Jacksonville Church of Christ, the same brethren who do Polishing-the-Pulpit.  This was a our first retreat to attend.  The retreat has grown to two sessions and about 500 couples.  We have had a great vacation in the Smoky Mountains for the entire week. 

As a part of the retreat they asked for written submissions from participants about what makes a great marriage.  I wrote this description, which won Amanda a stuffed elephant (pictured below).  I am so blessed to be married to Amanda and am so proud of her.  It has been a great week with just her!

What Makes a Great Marriage

A great marriage is started with pure attraction and blissful joy in dating.  It is united into a one flesh union at a wedding ceremony.  It is forged through the challenges of life.  A great marriage is fashioned through humility when each spouse realizes this marriage thing may be the hardest thing they ever tried to do.  It is shaped by persistence and commitment late in the night to love.  It is fueled by a deep pursuit to know one another, be what God called you to be, and love the other person more than yourself.  It is tested by children who enrich and test the core unity and purpose of your marriage.  It is nurtured by constantly serving one another in small deeds and thoughts.  It is knowing the other person so well that you know their thoughts before they do.  It is maintained through compromise, sacrifice, prayer, long walks, weekly worship, and joint service to the church.  It is challenged by sex, in-laws, money, children, and selfishness, but love overcomes through patience, forgiveness, and loyalty.  A great marriage is made over years, through tears, set-backs, and victories.

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Feb 06

How the Olympics Illustrate Christians!

by Lotus Head at freeimages.com

Much of the country will be fascinated with the Winter Olympics.  My family always enjoys watching them.    Figures skating is always one of the most popular events.  Considering the various participates in figure skating, which one best illustrates you as a Christian?

The Announcers – These are the experts in the field.  Their job is to analyze and critique each move of the skaters.  They look for every mistake of both the skaters and judges. They are so critical. This type of Christian is the one who is always complaining and fusing about something. They are quick to point out the failures of others.  They talk a lot, but do very little.

The Fans — The fans set on the sidelines pulling for their favorite country. They are interested in the show. They applaud and cheer. The events do not directly affect them or change them. This is the church member or attendee who is interested in the enjoyment they get from worship. They are concerned with what the church provides them.  There is no service and little true transformation.

The Judges — The judges have the serious responsibility of critique and assigning a score for the performance. This reminds me of the church member who is constantly evaluating the worship. The song leader really did well today or the preacher really missed it with that lesson. This Christian is constantly judging other members—their clothing, their actions, and their friendships.

The Coaches — The coaches have worked really hard to prepare their skaters for this day. They now stand on the sidelines and encourage. They are not like the fans who have little vested interest or little life change from these events, they are deeply involved and committed. But it is not their time in the spotlight. So they encourage and counsel. They love, hug, kiss, and even, cry. These are the Christians who are not up leading worship, they are not the prominent leader in the spotlight, but they are their encouraging, hugging, and weeping.

The Skaters — The skaters are the ones that everybody is watching. They do incredible things, yet they also make embarrassing mistakes. They make themselves vulnerable by competing and trying. They get up when they fall. These are committed Christians who are in the game. They are not perfect, but they live by faith. They are focused on their service and keep on performing even when judges and announcers criticize.

 

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Jan 31

Living Knowing You Will Remember

from free images.com by Tibor Fazakas

Some truths in the Bible are just plain scary!  They need to be soberly considered.

Take Jesus’ telling of the rich man and Lazarus story in Luke 16:19-31.  Christ pulls back the veil beyond the grave and allows us to see beyond it.  Lazarus, a poor beggar who suffered greatly in this life, is contrasted with an unnamed rich man who faired sumptuously.  Jesus describes their reversal of fortunes in the afterlife.  Lazarus is comforted, while the rich man is in torment and anguish.  He desires just a drop of water to cool his thirst.

But maybe the most striking and scary part of the rich man’s suffering is his memory.  Father Abraham, who is existing with Lazarus and is called upon by the rich man, says to him, “Child remember . . .”  (Luke 16:25).  The rich man and Lazarus both had memory of their life on earth.  Abraham calls upon them to remember their experiences, one of luxury and the other of suffering.

But it doesn’t end with remembrance of life experiences, but the rich man naturally goes to what is most precious to his heart–his family.  When he learns that he cannot leave his place of torment, he says this to Abraham, “I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house–for I have five brothers–so that they may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28).

He remembered his family.  He remembered his life.  A part of the punishment of hell is our memory.  The memories of wasted opportunities.  The memory of rejecting the saving gospel.  The memory of choosing the passing pleasures of sin, over denying ourselves and taking up our cross.  The memory of influencing others including those most precious to us away from God.

On earth often our memories can haunt us.  But in eternity, our memories will haunt us for an eternity.  

Thus, I invite you to consider this sobering thought; live today knowing you will remember your decisions forever!  

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Jan 24

This is a Time For . . . (Thoughts on Marshall County School Shooting)

The school is only 30 miles from my home.  Surely such a terrible act could not happen so close to my home.  This is Western Kentucky.  This is rural America.  We have lots of churches and strong religious values.  Yet, it happened here on Tuesday, January 23rd.  A school shooting that took the lives of two young people and seriously injured others happened here!   As I went home to my own children last evening, my heart went to the parents of the injured and deceased.  How heartbreaking and gut-punched they must feel.  They sent their kids to school and now everything has changed!

Our first question is “Why?”, we want to know the motive and try to understand who the hurting individual was who caused such an event.  We hurt for him and his family too.  Let me encourage you to realize in the immediate, this is a time for several things more important and more significant to the hurting of our community than the “Why?”.

This is a time for . . . 

  • Weeping.  God created within us emotions and feelings.  We don’t need to shove these down.  He gave us tears to express our heart’s aches and sorrows.  We are commanded to “weep with those who weep.”¹  Sometimes there is nothing to really do but cry with and for others.  “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”¹  This is a time to weep.  Let the kids cry!  Let the parents cry!  Let our whole area cry!
  • Fear and Insecurity.  To try to say there is not fear and insecurity in the heart of parents and students would be a lie.  We shouldn’t cover up the truth.  This event only adds credence to the already existing fears and insecurities we face.  Anytime death comes near to us stripping us of those most precious to us it shakes us to our core.  We must recognize and express our fears so they don’t cause us to act inappropriate.  We are reminded of what Paul said, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”¹  We rise above fear, but don’t act like it isn’t there!
  • Anger.  When Jesus looked at the desecration of the temple he got angry.  When he looked at the self-righteous Pharisees who did not want a man with a withered hand healed, he got angry.  When we see the pain, agony, and suffering caused by such a senseless act of evil, we experience righteous anger. Anger must be controlled, but we must recognize this is a time when our hearts feel anger, and it is okay!
  • Prayer.  As common to other tragedies, the social media trends have been about praying for Marshall County.  This is a powerful thing!  It is what we can and should do.  Prayer helps, heals, and calms.  It brings the power of heaven upon our situation and allows us to lay our hurting hearts upon a comforting God.  Pray!
  • Faith.  At times like these we truly realize our need for God.  We need His peace, comfort, and love.  We pray the same prayer the disciples prayed, “Lord increase our faith.”¹  In the face of evil, we need faith.
  • Hope.  We need hope for a better tomorrow.  We need hope that this world is not the end.  We need hope in humanity.  Hope inspires.  It unites.  It strengthens and causes us to persevere.  With hope we can endure whatever Satan throws at us.  It is the “anchor of our soul both sure and steadfast.”¹
  • Love.  Certainly this is a time for love.  A time to cherish each of our children.  A time to love our neighbors and friends.  A time to love our enemies.  A recognition that we need to love more everyday those who are hurting.  Darkness cannot win if love brings light!  Let us love one another.

Ballgames, math homework, or academic competitions can wait, now it is a time for these things.  The answers we may want in the “why?” may never come.  You don’t make sense out of senselessness.  You don’t rationally explain pure evil and hate-filled acts.  At least the answers we get will never satisfy our hearts.  But if we give time to these items and process our own emotions, we may come to the point of not having to know it all, because we have faith, hope and love.     

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¹  Romans 12:15; Matthew 5:4; 2 Tim. 1:7; Luke 17:5; Heb. 6:19

 

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Jan 18

A Prayer Journal Idea Everyone Can Do

Keeping a prayer journal or list can be more challenging that at first thought.  The list can get long quickly and it can be difficult to use it everyday.

Praying as a married couple can also be a challenge.  It is difficult to mutually make time for it, and sometimes both partners may not feel comfortable praying.

Let me share with you what has worked for us in 2017 and will be our continued practice in 2018.   Amanda, my wife, had the idea of starting a journal that worked in this manner.

  • We have a notebook/bound journal with lined pages.
  • We write 2 or more prayer items (one on each line) each day.  We date the prayer requests and we don’t try to list all we may have, just at least 2.
  • We take turns praying together before bed through the prayer list.  We don’t do this every night.  Sometimes we don’t pray together or we don’t use the list.  But we try to regularly do it.
  • When the page is filled, we turn to the next page and start over.  The new page starts a new list, so the list stays current and doesn’t become so long it is not manageable.

There are other and probably better ways to do a prayer journal.  But this approach has been manageable for us and allowed us to be consistent in praying for specific needs.  It brings us closer together and enriches our marriage.  It provides a history of our prayer requests so we can look back and see God’s faithfulness.

Give this simple approach a try.

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Jan 16

Reflections on Snow and Our Sins

Our community has experienced a significant snow fall this past week.  Before the snow began falling my farm was a muddy mess.  We had received lots of rain and the yard was soft and muddy.  The barn lot was filthy with animals plodding around sinking in mud.  But then the snow hit.  The snow covered all the brown grass, puddles of water, and muddy ground.  The snow took all the ugliness away and bestowed a crystal white adornment across my entire farm.  It is beautiful.

This reminds me of Isaiah 1:18.

““Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” 

Isaiah had just described the ugliness of Israel’s sins.  He calls them a “sinful nation” which is “laden with sin.” (1:4).  He goes on to figuratively describe Israel’s condition as a raw wound from their head to their feet that is not bandaged or treated.  They are ugly!  Their sins are abundant and easy to see.  Their moral condition is repulsive.  But if they will turn back to God he will cover their ugliness.  He will make their sins as white as snow!

What a glorious thought to look out at the snow and realize that our sins can be covered.  We can become pure through the redemption and love of God.

But, I know what you are thinking;  snow doesn’t stay pure and white long.  Snow can become dirty and nasty too.  Snow becomes dirty when we contaminate its purity.  Or when we drive over it and uncover the ugliness beneath.  This is similar to our lives as well.  If we have our sins and ugliness covered, we need to seek to let the ugliness stay buried.  Paul would teach us in Romans 6, that we should not dig up the old man of sin we buried.  We must not go back to walking in the old ways.  Our lives can become ugly again if we continue to practice the old sins.  We must seek purity and walking in the love of Christ (1 John 1:7).

 

 

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Jan 07

A Cardiologist Models Christ-like Service

Surgeon by Adam Ciesielski at freeimages.com

A few weeks ago, I was visiting some close friends and church members in the emergency room.  The brother had symptoms connected with heart problems, following a recent surgery.  An ambulance was called and they were receiving care.  The ER doctor wanted them to see a cardiologist.  The nurse was telling us about the cardiologist she thought was on call.  She was complimenting his medical professionalism as a doctor.  The family actually knew the doctor and his family who are from the same town.  This is when the nurse paused and told us a story that really impressed her.

The nurse said all hospital doctors, but especially cardiologists, are known for being very busy and not having time.  She remarked that it is hard to get them to call you back, or stop long enough to listen to your question.  They are typically focused on what they need to do.  This fact is what makes this story special.  This cardiologist was making his rounds on a floor that saw the nurses being hammered with work.  They were all running behind and short-staffed.  The cardiologist was making his call on an elderly patient who could not feed himself.  The nurses had not been able to feed him yet.  The doctor observed this need.   Seeing the problem, he sat down and started feeding this gentlemen.  Anyone who has ever done such a task knows it is a slow process that requires patience and love.  One of the nurses shockingly observed this site and the story became legend throughout the hospital.

I loved this story.  It shows a doctor who hasn’t forgotten where he came from and who is important.  It shows a humble and servant-driven doctor.  When I heard this story, I thought of Jesus.  This is Christ-like service.  This is service for the least among us.  When we model Christ-like service it will be noticed.  Others will see Jesus in us!

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””  

(Mark 10:45)

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Jan 04

“He gets nothing, until he takes it from us!”

by Kevin Rohr at free images.com

The young, wild pony would have nothing to do with his new owners.  He was a danger to the kids and anyone in his area.  He was afraid of all humans and refused to cooperate with their plans.  After much work and maneuvering the family finally got him into a barn stall.  This is when the dad looked at the kid and said, “He gets nothing, until he takes it from us!”  There was to be no water or food given free choice.  The  first day he continued to run around and carry on in the stall.  The second day wasn’t much different.  But the pony began to get thirsty.  He became very hungry.  Each day they would come to the door and offer him food and water from a bucket in their hands.  Soon, he was shyly coming and eating.  He had no choice but to take the food and water from them.  As days passed into weeks, he was eager for their appointments.  He no longer refused them and acted afraid of them, but eagerly came to the gate every time he saw them coming.  He was ready for his food, water, and grooming. They released him back into the pasture and allowed him to have free choice again.  But every time they came, he would rush to their side.  He would follow them around in the pasture.  He would rush to the side of any human that came into the pasture.

Kim Wilson, a brother here at 7 Oaks Church of Christ, told me this true story from his childhood, after our men’s class on fasting.  I think it is a wonderful illustration of the purpose of fasting (Mat. 6:16-18; Acts 13:2-3).  Fasting is about us humbling ourselves and realizing that we need God.  That “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4).  It is about us physically reminding ourselves that He is the bread of life (John 6:35)!  We need Him.  We must walk with Him.  We should run to Him.  We must not be like that wild pony–stubborn and independent, but rather humbly needing his care and love.  If we don’t know this in our lives, God may choose to discipline us until we know He is the true source of our blessings.

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Jan 02

Considering Our Toughness!

Helmet-3 by ove topfer @ freeimages.com

As we begin 2018, I want to suggest that Christians should consider their toughness. Are Christians in America softer and less tough than former generations?  Many Christians have lost their convictions.  We are soft in that we don’t have time for the spiritual disciplines of our fore-fathers.  We are too busy to pray, read our Bibles, and attend church.  Other spiritual disciplines like fasting and sacrificial giving are radical and not even considered by many.  We are afraid of evangelistic work because it might offend others.  We are careful who we share our moral convictions with being sure they share our beliefs.  Christian service projects, that require lots of time and money, are not considered.  We give in to the world’s standards regarding dress, sexuality, entertainment, and language because we wish to avoid being different.  We are soft.

As we begin 2018, the Lord may be asking us the same question he asked Jeremiah when he was complaining about the wicked prospering.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?  If you stumble and fall in on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5).  

God is saying to Jeremiah that the toughest tests are yet to come.  If you are faltering while it is easy, then what are you going to do when the going gets tough?  I don’t know what 2018 holds for you, I am not a prophet, but I believe our culture is going to continue to oppose authentic Christianity.  Christians are going to be challenged with their convictions.  Christians are going to suffer, face hardships, and even be persecuted.  Christians must choose to toughen up in their faith.  If we are faltering while it is easy, what will we do when it gets tough.  What will we do if the economy tanks?  What will we do if there is a national war?  What will we do if our families continue to get more fractured and morally in chaos?  If we are faltering now, how will we raise our kids when it is tougher?

Let me encourage you to look at your toughness.  Are you soft?  Have you forgotten our Lord died on a cross?  You are called to bear your cross!  You are called to sacrifice.  Let’s put away the softness in our lives and return to discipline and sacrifice for Jesus.  We may then be ready when the going gets tough!

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Dec 21

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year



From Our Family to Yours — Merry Christmas!  Thanks for reading and encouraging me with Life in the Kingdom site.  We look forward to continuing the work in 2018.

 

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