Skip to content

Now? Really? Ok, You’re the Boss!

morning stretch

Morning stretch before taking on the day.

As is typical with God (if there is a ‘typical’), He is pulling long-ago dreams from my past and dusting them off in my mind and heart.  Things that I thought were just pleasurable ‘oh-that-would-be-cool’ daydreams suddenly resurface, like the Son shining through the curtains after a long nights sleep.  There is almost always a whispery reminder from the universe’s Creator that He’s the one that gave those dreams to me in the first place.  But like everything in life, the timing is His.  Like a seed tucked carefully during planting season, the sun and rain of life doing what they do, God is now allowing that seed to sprout from the ground.

Decades ago, the Lord called me to the ministry.  Over those decades I’ve hit walls and the walls hit back.  I’ve faced battles ill-prepared and often found myself in spiritual triage.  I’d love to say my walk with the Lord has always been as an overachieving overcomer, however, the truth is I’ve found myself (more times than I’d like to admit) looking up from the dirt and asking my Father, “what happened?”  The key, though, was I always looked up to my Father.  He’s the one that gave me spiritual life through Christ.  He’s the one who put these dreams in my heart.  He’s the one who spoke to my heart as a teenager when my life was a chaotic, disaster of a mess with the devil stirring violently trying to break me before God could make me.

Romans 11:29 − For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

There have been so many times in my life that the Lord has re-spoken that verse into my mind and heart.  Honestly, only half the time did I even believe Him or the verse.  The King James translation uses the phrase ‘without repentance’ in place of irrevocable.  In other words, when God is involved, when He places gifts or a calling on your life, He does it intentionally.  He knows our last day from our first and all those days − good and bad − in between.

So many times I would have given up on me, but in His mercy, He forgave and restored.  In His grace, He placed things into my hands and mind that only He could.  And over the years I’ve learned those are really His and I gave them along with myself back to Him.  These dreams and visions I’ve had over the last thirty (thirty!?) years are His.  He gave them to me.  It has never been about me and that may be the toughest lesson of all.  It’s always been about Him.  For too many years I couldn’t see Him in the midst of them.  Too much me and not enough Him.  Oh, I gave Him credit, but with the subconscious underpinnings that He needed me in order to complete them.  HA!  How foolish and arrogant we often are.  How foolish I often am.  And still that verse would come back with an added personal touch.  “Rick, My gifts and callings for your life are irrevocable.”  It always seemed to be haunting and taunting.

I still don’t have life figured out.  But I know Who is my life and Who owns it.  I gave it to Him nearly 40 years ago.  In a quiet, messy bedroom, during the night hours, I crawled from my bed.  Nearly pushed to my knees by the beckoning of God that I was in desperate need of Him in my life.  This enormous, all-powerful, God of all the universe, came to me in my tiny bedroom to change my life forever.  It still amazes me.

John 6:44 − No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him

I gave my life to Him that night.  I didn’t realize it then but know much more now that He wanted all of it.  Not just the portions I was willing to give, but also those portions I thought I could do on my own.  There is an old saying I’ve heard for years that if He isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all.  The saying is nice, but a bit inaccurate because no one walks in complete and total obedience at all times.  I understand the meaning is to try and convey what the word ‘Lordship’ really means; He reigns completely and totally in our lives. But the truth is asking Jesus to be my Lord was the beginning of a relationship.  He’s King. No doubt about that.  I’m to yield to Him in obedience; no doubt about that either.  But I don’t follow Him because He’s a domineering, ogre-ish, demanding God, but because He’s a loving Father.  I get to have a relationship with the One who paid my sin debt and redeemed me from my worthless life of self and sin.  The longer I walk with Him, the more He changes me.  The more I know Him, the more He shows me areas that I had previously held or hidden as my own.  So Lordship in a broader sense is a continually growing into His grace with which I was saved.  Learning more about Him and allowing His freedom to move in my life is truly for my best and will also, always, benefit those in my life.

Galatians 2:20 − I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Over the years He’s pruned, cultivated, and in spite of what some may believe, matured me.  Am I walking perfectly now?  Hardly.  But my growth is continual as is His faithfulness.  And today I stand at the precipice of the rest of my life and the ministry He’s called me to.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m not sure of all the steps along this path He’s placed before my wife and I.  But as the Lord has done my entire life, He’s calling me to trust Him and be willing to take that next step of faith. He’s looking for us to take that step in the same way He placed the gifts and callings − intentionally.

So we stand here, intentionally stepping out in faith at His leading and fully trusting He’s got this regardless of any steps or missteps that may lay ahead.  Jesus is Lord and I am His.

More news will follow in the coming weeks and months, but please keep us in your prayers as He awakens these long-ago dreams and is bringing them to pass.

− Pastor Rick

Advertisements

Born with Purpose

nativityChristmas time is always a battle between remembering the ‘Reason for the Season’ and the ‘ever growing commercialism’ of the holiday. And truth be told, in many lives, even my own more than I care to admit, the latter seems to win out.  We dread having to go to the store even if it’s not for gift shopping. Tempers are short, you have to be careful which holiday greeting you use (if you care to be politically correct), and then there are the myriad of parties that seem to book up the entire month.

As the day approaches we’re not thinking much of a young teenage girl nearly nine months pregnant having to walk or ride a donkey while carrying a story beyond belief.  The nearly 100 mile journey would have been arduous for any normal person let alone being a back-aching nine months pregnant.  Her incredible story was a culmination of stories and sacred writings she had heard all her life.

Isaiah 7:14 — Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Every young girl hoped to be ‘the one‘, but if their lives were any like ours, they may have treated the whole prophecy much like a far-fetched fable.  You know you’re supposed to believe it, but the longer it takes to come true, the bigger our doubts can sometimes grow.  It’s hard to see the miraculous in the every day life.

People of that time were as well aware as we are that virgin births aren’t the norm.  Quite the contrary.  They’re impossible.  So when she had the encounter with the angel who gave her the pregnancy test results early — that she would become pregnant after the Holy Spirit overshadowed her — she probably thought she had eaten some bad mutton nachos or maybe drank a glass of goats milk a day or two beyond the sell-by date.  This young girl, Mary, wasn’t from Bethlehem where the prophecy said the Messiah would come.  But the timing of the Roman decree was in God’s hand of providence to align the birth of Jesus to the prophecy given some 700 years before their trek to Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 — But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
    whose origins are in the distant past,
    will come from you on my behalf.

Many are aware Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus while His actual birth probably took place closer to September than December.  And while many will look at the Christmas story as Mary and soon-to-be-step-dad Joseph’s encounter at the Barnyard Bed & Breakfast, it really began in Genesis when God spoke prophetically of the redemption of mankind.

Genesis 3:15 — And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The future was clear: Satan would wound the Redeemer, but that very Redeemer would defeat His enemy once and for all.  All of the prophecies from the first in Genesis and all through the Old Testament wove a tapestry of the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This great Ruler would come to bring justice, hope, mercy to a nation who was always fighting for it’s very survival.  But His heart and gift of redemption would extend beyond just those of Israel.

Genesis 22:18 — And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

Being part of the Holy Trinity, Jesus was well aware of His purpose — the redemption of mankind from the grasp of sin.  He would bridge the gulf between man’s sinful nature and a holy God.  He was well aware of other prophecies that foretold of His life here on earth as the Son of God.

Psalm 22:14-18 — My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice for my clothing.

But His relationship to His Father was deep and He completely trusted Him.

Psalm 22:9-11 — Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
    and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
    You have been my God from the moment I was born.

11 Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.

All man is under the curse of sin.  Sin when it matures brings spiritual death.

James 1:14-15 — Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

And because we are all born under the curse of sin, enemies of God, unable to freely choose not to sin because of the very deceitfulness of our heart, there was no need for the following verse except for Jesus.

Deuteronomy 21:23 — the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.

Since Jesus was without sin, this is the only way He could have become accursed … when He became our sacrifice for our sin.

Isaiah 53:4-6 — Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

This Child of God birthed through Mary had purpose.  God’s hand was on Him to protect, love, nurture, and eventually lead Him to Calvary for that purpose.  This Child, Jesus, Savior of all mankind, was born in a manger without fanfare, paparazzi, or fame.  Smelly animals, a poor and embarrassed step-father, and the very tired, aching mother all witnessed this Baby, this King, enter our world.

Luke 2:10-14 — but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

We hang on to the receipts for those special gifts, just in case the receiver thinks they’re not really special and wants to returns them. The birth of Christ is God’s love gift to us and the receipt was His resurrection.  We have done nothing to earn His love and yet Jesus was born in a manger — with a purpose; to be our Redeemer and Savior.

Ephesians 1:4-6 — Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

The next time I think of Christmas, children opening presents, the impending debt that will hit the mailbox a week or two later, the hustle and bustle, and returning clothes two sizes too small, I hope I take time to remember that long journey that started back in Genesis and of the teenage girl and her husband who held God’s only begotten Son in their arms.  The gift of salvation through Jesus is much more important than the special gift, wrapped in special paper, and shoved under a freshly cut, light-covered, pine tree.  Christmas isn’t about piling presents for one another or seeing just how far you can stretch your credit rating.  It’s about God’s love for us and the gift of His only begotten Son.  It’s about Jesus.

Jesus is Christmas.

 — Pastor Rick

Celebrating Life In Death

eaglesI spent most of yesterday at a funeral with a very close family at our church as they said their goodbyes to a strong, faithful, caring woman.  Bobbie Austin was a straightforward, honest, loving mom, wife, and friend.

My wife was very close to Bobbie and took her passing pretty hard.  Quite possibly because Bobbie had such a compassionate heart when it came to our son, Richie, who passed away three years ago to Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.

While Richie was here, Bobbie was always loving him, talking to him, listening to him.  There was a bond.  And when Richie went to be with the Lord, Bobbie was there to comfort and help Dorothy’s hurting heart.

Bobbie’s own battle for health began eight years ago with a cancer diagnosis.  Then in August of 2012 she was told she had multiple tumors in her brain and the doctors gave her just 3-7 days to live.  But, as my pastor has said many times, they only practice medicine while we know the Great Physician.

Surgery was immediate, but so was the prayers of many people who loved Bobbie. Instead of the 3-7 days, she lived for another two years!  She continued to declare God’s faithfulness, even when it couldn’t be seen with the natural eyes.  She continued to declare His wonders to every doctor she met as her grim diagnosis dimmed in life’s rear view mirror by some 900 additional days of life.  She continued to talk of the love and grace and mercy of God to anyone who would listen even when the doctor’s reports weren’t always easy to hear.

While listening to our pastor do a great job preaching a celebration of her life and the joy of Christ that shined through her, I couldn’t help but remember the first funeral I preached almost a year earlier.

Billy Edwards was a man in our church who was pretty new in his Christian faith.  He was in his early 60’s and had lived a hard life.  But God preserved him throughout those years so that, as the apostle Paul would say in Galatians 1:15-16, at God’s timing He revealed His Son to him.  God’s grace kept Billy alive long enough to receive His grace and become a child again at 63.

I met Billy about a month after he was saved.  Still raw, still being changed, but a man who had fallen in love with Jesus.  About two weeks before he was tragically killed in a car wreck, he asked me if he could preach sometime.  I told him we’d work out the details, but definitely I would let him preach.

He never got the opportunity to preach himself, but he had already written out his entire message.  His wife gave it to me and asked me to see if I could work some of it into his funeral.  Instead, I preached Billy’s sermon for him.  I was honored to be his pastor and honored to be his proxy for his first sermon.  While celebrating with Bobbie’s family yesterday, my heart went back to that message from Billy and I decided to share it today.  This is his message in his own words …

Nothing You Have Been Through Will Be Wasted, by Billy “Blue” Edwards

Moses was a mighty man.  He was the man who was going to overthrow the Egyptian government.  He was the man who led a million and a half people out of Egypt.  And he’s out shoveling sheep dung?  Are you kidding me?

Nothing you have been through will be wasted.

We are like eaglets in a nest and environment that is comfortable for eaglets.  In that nest they are fed and nourished while they develop and when the time is right the mother eagle stirs up the nest.

So God stirs up the nest we are in and He takes us out of our comfort zone – makes us get up out of that lazy boy chair.

Moses became an illustration for us because God put him in that cushy position.  Moses was fanned, hand-fed grapes, someone bathed him, wash his clothes, press his undies, and life was great.  He grew up in the life of luxury.

Then God stirred up the nest Moses lived in.  You can tell when God stirs the nest because all hell breaks loose and like the little eaglet trying to find a soft spot to sit down, we can’t because it’s uncomfortable.  So we try another spot and jump up again.

But just because something ain’t working for you doesn’t mean you are under a satanic attack. It could be possible you’re trying to rest where God used to be.

Seeing yourself through the lens of who you were will stop you from seeing yourself through the lens where God is calling you to be.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to raise something up that God is trying to kill.  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to be somebody God is trying to crucify.  You have to have the liquidity of thought and the nimbleness of mind to transition yourself from where you once saw yourself – to go where God is calling you to be.

If we see ourselves as eaglets, in our nest, enjoying the comfort, it’s hard to soar like the eagle God wants us to be because it takes more effort, more energy, more work.

And to expand our wings is more effort.  It’s easy to sit back and say feed me, love me, acknowledge me, open doors for me.  Its me, me, me, me, and when the food stops, it’s time to move on ‘cause momma ain’t bringing the food like before.

Can you see the little eaglet praying, “I rebuke you, satan!  I rebuke you prince of darkness!  Momma should have been here by now.  I rebuke this and that.”

But what do you do when you have prayed and prayed and it doesn’t work?  And the rebuking doesn’t stop it and you find yourself hungry?  And when you’re hungry and you don’t have the nourishment and the rest you used to have – you lose grace.

Grace will cover your eyes so you can’t see what you’re going through.  When grace stops you notice the thorns and thistles coming up and now you have to move.

Moses’ thorn and thistle was the murdering of an Egyptian man and the people started talking about it and rising up against him.

People will always bring up what you did in life, so you have to be careful about what you do in your life.

Moses had to give up the palace with its marble floors, being fed grapes, somebody washing his clothes.  He had to get up out of the nest and escape.  Life of luxury was over.  So he ran to the desert – a dry barren place.  Hot.  So while he was running to escape, he ran smack dab into his purpose and what defined him and a new identity.

He had an epiphany, in other words; an awakening; a spiritual epiphany.

It changes the lens of the things you see going forward.  You don’t have one every day, or every week.  Moses’ epiphany changed him in a moment.  It changed his life for the next forty years.  It put him in a wilderness.

He didn’t know who he was, how he got there, or how to survive.  He was lost.  He already had an identity crisis going on.  He was born a Hebrew boy, but raised by the Egyptians.  He was too Egyptian to hang with the Hebrews and too Hebrew to hang with the Egyptians.  He smelled like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, but was a Hebrew.

I like talking to people who have a background that’s complicated.  I wanna talk to people whose resume has to be censored.  I wanna talk to people who only tell half their testimony because there are only certain parts of it that are fit for human consumption.

It’s like, “Daddy was a good man, but it’s complicated.”

“Mother was a good mother, but it’s complicated.”

“I had a happy childhood, but it’s complicated.”

When you have to put a ‘but’ in there it’s because there’s a need to extinguish some of the circumstances. I can tell you the good times, but it’s complicated.

Moses was an educated man.  A strong man.  An intellectual man.  But since he was a Hebrew, well, it was complicated.  When you hear people say that they’ve been happily married for fifty years and people clap – they’re lying and ain’t been happy-nothin’ for fifty years.

They only tell about the good stuff.  They don’t tell you about how she spent all the money he was saving.  He didn’t tell her about the young secretary he had.  She doesn’t tell you she married a momma’s boy and how she sends him to momma.

Now you married people in here ain’t saying nothing because you don’t want to blow your cover, but there are some divorced ones in here who have my back.  You know what I’m talking about.

Jethro took Moses under his wing and told him to lead his sheep to the backside of the desert.  Jethro said I have some work for you.  Moses said, “Work?  What’s that? I was raised in a palace. We had people to work for us.”

So there’s Moses – out shoveling sheep dung.

Sheep can look real pretty and white in a picture, but that’s photo enhancement.  They stink.  You can’t smell them in the picture and them sheep had an odor – that’s a French word for “stink”.

Have you ever had victory in one place and all hell break loose in another?  Moses had a victory when he got free from Pharaoh.  He was doing his little victory dance when the thought hit him, “What am I going to eat?  How will I survive in this wilderness?”

But then he remembered that Jethro, his father-in-law, had taken him under his wings and showed him which roots to get water from; what and what not to eat to survive.

After being alive eighty years, Moses came to the mountain and saw the burning bush and the angel appeared to him out of the flame of the fire.  God had not yet spoken to Moses, but when God saw Moses turn aside, that’s when God spoke to him in a language that Moses understood.

You see, if you’re exposed to something and you keep on walking, it’s not for you.  But if you’re exposed to something and you turn aside like Moses did, then it’s for you.

God said, “Moses!  Moses, take off your shoes for the ground you stand on is holy ground.”

And Moses said, “What are you talking about?  This wasn’t holy ground last week when I was here.  There’s sheep dung all over the place.”

And God said, “Take off your shoes.  You are on holy ground.  It’s holy because I am here.”

If you curse the way God leads you, you will not make it to where he is taking you.

When God told Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go, Moses asked, “Why did you wait until I was eighty years old?”

And God said, “I waited because you were not ready to lead anyone.  Every tear you shed, every time you have had to skimp, every time you suffered it was not a waste because now you can lead My people out to the wilderness because now you know how to survive and you have the credibility to lead.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My own Closing thoughts …

Billy said: Seeing yourself through the lens of who you were will stop you from seeing yourself through the lens where God is calling you to be.

While God does love you just like you are, when He calls you and you respond, He will not leave you where you are.  He will call you to walk with Him.  and while walking with Him, He will change you.

We’re not saved by works.  We’re saved by grace through faith.  We don’t have either one of those – grace or faith – but God gives us even the ability to believe in Him.

After we come to Him and we can truly call God our heavenly Father, He will lead us into His works that He prepared specifically for us.  You have your own works that God prepared for YOU to do – and Jesus will be right by your side every step of the way.

Richie, Billy and Bobbie, would want you to surrender your life to Christ.  They were different people, different lives, different troubles, but the same Heavenly Father.  In the midst of life, they found a faithful, loving God who welcomed them, in spite of their past, into His family.  They found love, mercy, grace, peace and hope.

The sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  If you’re really ready for a change, put your trust in Jesus.  These saints still faced hardships, but they had peace til the end and now they all have a secured place in heaven.

— Pastor Rick

Can Divorced People Remarry?

Continuing with the theme of marriage, here’s an excellent post by Paul Ellis on Divorce and Remarriage. As you read, let me encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Maybe you’ve been through divorce or maybe you’ve seen others go through it and stood in judgment against them. It’s time for healing in all areas of His body. May the church be true representatives of His mercy and grace.

Escape to Reality

broken_heart_by_starry_eyedkidHmm, that’s a tough one. Let me see. Can sinners be forgiven? Can runaways come home? Can crooks get a second chance? Can the broken be made whole?

No, it’s not a tough question. It’s an easy question. Of course divorced people can remarry! These questions are only tough because religion has told us that divorced people are unforgiveable sinners. They’re lepers who blight our perfect little churches. As long as they sit quietly and help with our programs, they are welcome. But the moment they start looking for love, they’ve crossed the line. They had their shot at love and they messed up.

What a graceless thing to say! I cannot imagine anything further from the heart of Christ than telling someone they cannot experience love, that they are bound by the mistakes of their past and they have no future.

The two Pharisees

There are two sour-faced Pharisees…

View original post 1,086 more words

What God Has Joined Together …

praying-couple

Married couples are under assault from the enemy because it’s a God ordained union that is a catalyst in changing the world around them when they honor Him with their marriage.  It is forming and transforming lives around them as they raise godly children and demonstrate how a Godly couple should live in a fallen world.

In a world where divorce occurs in one of every two marriages, shouldn’t those who call on the name of Christ have a higher standard due to a higher calling?  Well, they should and we’re about to explore it a bit more in this last of three posts.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous two posts, this is not an all-inclusive look at marital problems couples face and I highly recommend several books for a more in-depth topic study for you and your better half.  My suggested list can be found at the bottom of this article.

The thought behind this series is to look at just three of the major problem areas faced in a marriage and help give some insight as well as a challenge.

In the first post I confronted wives and challenged them to be more open to meeting their husband’s needs.  In the second blog I addressed men who refuse to be genuine men in their homes to their wives and families.  In this final post I’m going to be speaking to both husbands and wives as a couple.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Most Christian couples are like anyone else.  Our society pushes an agenda where both husband and wife have full-time jobs.  While there are a lot that wish this wasn’t the case, tax and inflation rates have driven us to a point that if you want to tread water, both will spend 8-10 hours away from home five days a week just to pay the bills.  Add to that the stress of raising children in an environment that is hell-bent on defiance at every turn (socially, domestically, sexually) and the tension mounts.  There always seems to be too much month at the end of the money and too much mouth from kids who don’t need any extra push to defy and disrespect parents.  For many couples, Christian or not, it’s all they can do to hold it together.  If they can just make it one more week without a parent/teacher conference; one more month of squeezing the checkbook like a rung out sponge hoping to beat the disconnect notice; one more year to try and keep the car running; a few more years to pull in some odd and end jobs hoping to defray the college costs that are coming too quickly.

And somehow they must try desperately to stay connected to their spouse who is feeling every bit of the pressure themselves.  Instead of running to each other for strength, support, solace, they end up snipping, biting, scratching, and fighting with one another.  While he’s figuratively thumping his chest, demanding respect, and reminding everyone “he’s the man, the boss, the one in charge”, she’s sneaking, usurping, conniving, undermining OR just picking up all the responsibilities Mr. Boy ignores.  Ironically I don’t think either side does it intentionally, but it’s the attitudes brought out by a sinful heart and its a tragedy waiting for the right moment to explode.

By the way, while all this is going on, your kids, your family, your friends, and your co-workers are observing.  They’ll never tell you they’re watching, but they are.  We all look at other couples and wonder “how do they do it?” and when they fail, we tragically realize, “oh, they’re just like us.”

Before we get neck-deep into this issue I want to give a couple of cliché lines that I’ve heard over the years. The first isn’t as well known as the second.

There are five gospels that get read — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you.

The second is probably more well-known to you.

You’re the only Jesus some may ever see.

The reality of those two statements should shake your spirit to sobriety.  The same way you notice other people in both their failure and success, is the same way those others are watching you.  Why are you different?  Do you live what you say you believe?  Are you genuine or a hypocrite?  Now let’s take all of this and move it into a Christian marriage.

Let’s deal with the first aspect of being a Christian in marriage.  Your first responsibility as a Christian is to live a life of complete surrender to the Lord.  Fully, totally, completely bought and paid for, sold out, surrendered to Him.  The second responsibility is not to your job, your hobbies, your church, your community, or even to your children.  I’m not saying you should neglect any of those, but none of those are truly your second responsibility.  Your second responsibility is to your husband or wife.  Your spouse is the one you were united to before God and by God.

Genesis 2:24 — Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (ESV)

Some bible translations interpret ‘hold fast’ as cleave, cling, bond, or even united.  In all instances its used as a verb.  That means it’s not a noun or an adjective, but rather an action.  While we obviously see the wedding day as the ‘uniting’, we often don’t recognize this as an action that is ongoing throughout their lives together.  While the husband may take the macho “I’m the head of this house” approach he will quickly learn that if he wants peace in ‘his’ home, he’ll learn to listen more intently to his wife.

Likewise the wife will generally have an ongoing battle with ‘submitting’ to her husband because she may equate ‘submitting’ to slavery.  But neither of those approaches are biblical.  Let’s cut to the chase and just remind everyone that Jesus wasn’t asking His bride [the church] to be His slave — and that’s how husbands are to love their wives (as Christ loves the church).  And wives, like the bride of Christ, are to be as ‘in love’ with their husband as the church is to be to its Husband — so submitting shouldn’t be an issue either.  When both parties love the way we’re intended, almost any situation can be resolved quickly, but it will take a humble, loving, and forgiving heart for them both.

The one thing I’ve noticed most desperately missing in Christian couples is a lack of approaching their walk with the Lord together.  You see, I don’t think that the cleaving, clinging, holding fast portion applies to just their relationship to each other.  I firmly believe that is also how they are to walk as a couple before the Lord.

A Christian man may get up and pray for his wife and family.  He may spend time in the word and teaching in Sunday School and being a good father at home.  He may find homeless people to feed and share the gospel with those he meets in his daily life.  But is he doing any of that with his wife?

A Christian woman may love and care for her husband.  She may provide the stability he needs with his family.  She may be praying, studying her bible, teaching in Sunday School, being a mother to her children, and sharing the gospel with those the Lord brings into her life.  But is she doing any of that with her husband?

Both the husband and wife will equally say, and rightly so, “the Lord is the focal point” of their relationship, yet they both will approach their walks as individuals and not as a unified couple with God right in the middle ministering to both of them.  Have you ever noticed often one spouse is on fire for the Lord while the other is, well, less so?  They may not be cold as ice, but their fire definitely needs some stoking.

Maybe it’s just human nature or maybe it’s our American heritage, but we fight for independence.  We don’t like to be told what to do.  We fight God to live the way we want (without consequences) and we fight others because “we want to do it ourselves”.  We are a stubborn and independently driven people from childhood on.  We call it liberty or freedom.  But as we grow in Christ we find our liberty, real freedom, is living a life in complete surrender to the One who knows us best and loves us best.  And as a married Christian couple, we’re supposed to be lovingly submitted to one another with God as the centerpiece of our relationship.

Deuteronomy 32:30 — How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? (ESV)

I often wonder about that verse and how it relates to marriages.  Think of all the battles husbands and wives face; attacks against their marriage, against their children, against their family.  Approaching the Lord as an individual can put a 1,000 to flight.  But united, as God made them through marriage, they could put 10,000 to flight.  Tired of feeling defeated by the enemy?  Tired of letting Satan have the upper hand?  Then grab the hand of your husband or wife and start approaching everything about your walk unified.  Be united in your study.  Be united in your prayers.  Be united in seeking His will for your family — daily.

To me this seems such a simplistic response and idea yet very few marriages that I know have put this into practice.  And I can assure you none of the failed Christian marriages have taken and maintained this approach.  It’s nearly impossible for the enemy to get a foothold into a marriage if both husband and wife are praying, reading, caring, sharing, and seeking His will for them as a couple.  This isn’t to say disagreements won’t happen.  They will.  But with a heart of lovingly submitting themselves before the Lord together, problems will have a faster way of being worked out and it will be with gentle reminders to love and forgive.

Husbands and wives are a compliment to each other.  Husbands are incomplete without a good woman, a godly woman, their helpmate.  Wives are incomplete without someone to love who will love, cherish, and protect them.

Mark 10:7-9 — ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (ESV)

Let me challenge you to grab your spouse by the hand and agree together to seek God as a couple.  Put the Lord in the center of your growing relationship as a Christian couple.  Seek His will for your lives collectively.  Chase the enemy with a unified heart.  Study and pray together and see God’s hand of blessing in your marriage and on your family.

As I’ve stated several times throughout this series, this is not an all-inclusive look at marriage.  It’s a quick fly by hitting major points of contention and offering challenges I hope will help you and your God-given mate grow in His grace and peace.  May His love abound as you both, together, seek His will in your marriage and walk.

— Pastor Rick

 


I recommend the following books for further reading on Christian Marriages:

When Sinners Say “I Do” — by Dave Harvey
Married. Happily. —
by Greg Laurie
Real Marriage
by Mark and Grace Driscoll

His Needs: Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

I Thee Wed …

happily-married-coupleThis is a continuation of the three part series on marriage.  It is not all inclusive regarding issues married couples face and I highly recommend several books if you’re looking for a more in-depth topic study for you and your better half.  My suggested list is at the bottom of this article.

The thought behind this series is to look at just three of the major problem areas faced in a marriage and help give some insight as well as a challenge.

As a reminder, the issues I’m going to tackle in this series are generalizations.  The husband generally is not the one who specializes in domestic skills, but in your case, it may be different.  The husband may be a gourmet chef!  The wife generally isn’t the one who knows how to quickly take apart and re-assemble a carburetor, but it’s possible your wife is Mrs. Goodwrench.  So, please keep that in mind as you’re reading through these blogs and allow the Lord to convict you where it’s applicable.  Again, the goal in this series is address some hot buttons, offer some (hopefully) helpful thoughts, and pray that your marriage will improve in the process.

In the last post I confronted women and challenged them to be more open to meeting their husband’s needs.  And in this blog I’ll be pushing the men to step to the plate and be what they are called to be — men.  No more excuses, alibis, or someone else to blame.  It’s all on them!

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Modern men tend to behave juvenile with a strong addiction to entitlement.  Our society continues to dumb down the role of man and the men follow right along playing the village idiot.  Many don’t settle down until they’re in their late 20’s or early 30’s … or even older.  The majority of video gamers aren’t the 10-15 year olds.  No, it’s the 30 to 40-year-old crowd who has chosen not to grow up.  They’ve remained irresponsible in regards to society and irresponsible in caring for their family.  They’ve chosen to be 40-year-old adolescents.

And if they do, by chance, get married, they expect everything to be done for them.  Someone else will cook, clean, and do their laundry. Someone else will help with the household income.  Someone else will do the work of raising their children.  The U.S. Department of Census reported that over 43% of children in the United States do not have a father living in the home.  They are off somewhere else with someone else doing ‘their thing’ while life and the personal responsibilities that go with it are ignored and picked up by others.

Men live with a lifestyle that the world and it’s pleasures revolve around them.  Men never seem to grow out of “play time”; only play time now consists of video games, drugs, porn and alcohol.  If things aren’t going their way, they believe it’s not their fault, it’s someone else’s failure.  It’s these very mentalities that are driving forces in broken homes, hearts, and marriages throughout our society.  Instead of men being problem solvers, they are the problem.  Men have lost sight of what it means to be a man.

So what does it mean to be a man?  At the beginning of time God gave clear, defining statements about manhood.

Genesis 3:17-19 — And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of youin pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat breadtill you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (ESV)

Man’s rebellion was against God, and he tried to weasel out of responsibility by blaming Eve, but God held Adam accountable.  Adam did not obey God.  He did not meet his responsibilities of caring, protecting, loving or leading his wife.  Why was Eve deceived?  Probably because Adam wasn’t really paying attention when she left the house and he just mumbled something to her as the door closed.  I’m sure later he was wondering where she was when he couldn’t figure out how to work the stove.  And where was Adam while Eve was being deceived?  Probably playing Madden Football on the X-Box.

Either way, it was Adam’s sin and he was also responsible for Eve.  The entirety of their sin fell fully on his shoulders.  Why?  Because God had united them and placed the husband as covering (protector, defender, care-giver) over the wife.  The unity is made abundantly clear in the preceding chapter:

Genesis 2:24-25 — Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (ESV)

God joined them together.  Two separate and distinct people with their own thoughts, likes and personalities, but made one in the sight of God.  A beautiful union.  Due to our sin nature everyone struggles.  In marriage neither mate is perfect though both will act as if they have no faults while fully noticing the other’s failures.

Men want to complain that their wives aren’t submissive, respectful, or loving (by their definition – sexual).  There may be some validity to those charges, but the man, the husband and head of the home, has for centuries abdicated his role as a loving, sacrificial leader to his wife and family.  He has run from his responsibilities and then has the audacity to complain at the results.

For the husband, his responsibility all comes down to this verse …

Ephesians 5:25-27 — Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (ESV)

When was the last time you did anything sacrificially loving, tender, or compassionate for your wife?  Think of how Christ loved the church.  He loved her enough to lay down His life for her while she was off playing the harlot with the world.  He paid her sin debt she could never pay because He loved her so much.  That is how you’re to love your wife.

Now think of how Christ loves you – even when you blow it.  When you come back with a repentant heart does He brow beat you?  Does He continually throw your sins and failures back in your face?  Does He yell and belittle you?  Does He give you the silent treatment you until you’ve learned your lesson?  Does He completely ignore you when you come to him in prayer?  NO!  Yet these are very common approaches of a husband towards his wife. By the way, she’s God’s daughter and you’re comfortable treating God’s daughter that way?

We are to love and cherish the treasure God has given us.  If God calls her a treasure why do we so easily treat her like something we stepped in while mowing the yard?

1 Peter 3:7 — In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (NLT)

Not getting your prayers answered?  Check how you’re caring for your wife.  Are you showing her honor and understanding?  She is not your servant, but your equal that God gave you; your helpmate.

Colossians 3:19 — Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (NLT)

Men have a tendency to be easily frustrated and angry.  I’ve had to stop myself when I’m irritated by something and catch myself being short with my wife.  There have been times I’ve apologized because I knew immediately it wasn’t her fault that I was angry, but I took it out on her.  Loving her, really, deeply loving her at all times is a choice, and is a way to protect her heart.

Proverbs 31:28-29 — Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:  “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (NLT)

If you had a treasure, a jewel, a prized possession, something so rare that no one else in the world had, how would you talk about it?  You’d probably brag about it, boast in it’s splendor, it’s beauty, it’s goodness.  When was the last time you talked like this about your wife?  God gave her to you to care and love.  He trusted you to protect her heart, body, and emotions.

Hebrews 13:4a —Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. (NLT)

To love and protect your wife, you’re going to have to man up.  You’re going to have to take the lead in your home.  You are her spiritual covering.  God doesn’t leave that decision up to you whether you want to be or not; you are her covering.  You are responsible for her and God will hold you accountable for what He’s put in your care.  Running from that isn’t going to change those facts.

It’s long past time for you to repent for how you’ve treated your wife and in the areas you’ve let her down.  You’ve left her figuratively uncovered; naked and having to fend and defend for herself.  What kind of real man does that to his wife?

Stop living for yourself and realize your responsibilities.  Then instead of running from them, run to them and watch God’s favor and blessing in your life and your wife’s life.  Seek God’s help in taking up the role of being a Godly husband and leading your wife and family in a way that would bring Him honor and glory.

Men, you want your wives to treat you with more respect and be more responsive when you walk through the door, then man up — give her a reason to love and respect  you.  Reassure her daily she is loved, cherished, and the most prized part of your life.  Brag about her to all you know.  You’ll be surprised what will happen!

In the next post I’ll tackle the task of walking together before the Lord.  It may be the most crucial part of a successful Christian marriage.

— Pastor Rick

 


I recommend the following books for further reading on Christian Marriages:

Married. Happily. — by Greg Laurie
His Needs: Her Needs —
by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
When Sinners Say “I Do” —
by Dave Harvey
Real Marriage
by Mark and Grace Driscoll

With this Ring …

wedded-blissOur society has set idyllic vignettes of love and adoration leading up to marriage and then slams every aspect of ‘being married’ after the vows are said which further helps to unravel the tapestry of ‘holy matrimony’.  There is so much to be said about marriage and I can assure you (as can my wife) I’m no expert, but I’m going to address the topic anyway. So buckle up and lets start this bumpy ride. This will be a three-part series and I hope you’ll stick with me to the end to get the full message.  If you don’t bother hanging in there for all of them, you may come away thinking my view is terribly distorted.  (You’re entitled to that opinion only after reading all three posts.)

Throughout this series of articles I will speak in generalities unless otherwise specified.  For instance, many domestic chores such as cooking or laundry are done by wives while landscaping and car repairs are generally done by men.  This is not always true I know. I can cook a good meal and you would not want me working on your car!  So unless I get very specific, please remember these are generalities and listen to the Lord if He convicts you along the way.

Marriages struggle for many different reasons; love, respect, finances, family commitment, sex, and honesty are prime examples. I’ll focus on three of the more obvious in this series of posts.

In this first of three blog posts let’s deal with an issue that generally directed towards the wives (men, your turn is coming, so don’t feel so confident or smug).

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Women dream of their wedding day for years before it ever happens.  They may or may not know who their ‘Prince Charming’ will be, but they imagine he’ll be handsome, smart, rich, witty, but most importantly, will love her unconditionally forever and ever.  They can picture the type of dress they want to be married in, where the wedding will be, and who will be her bridesmaids.  She might even imagine what her cake and the reception would be like and the romantic getaway destination for their honeymoon.

Guys don’t really spend that much time thinking about their tuxedo, what her dress will look like or the ceremony.  No, when they start thinking of their wedding day they fast forward through all that ‘junk’ and skip right to thoughts of the honeymoon.  And it doesn’t matter where he’s going to end up; it could be Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas, or Squinty’s Hourly Motel just outside the outside of town.

He’s not going to be concerned with how long it took to apply her makeup or how much she spent at the hair salon.  He just wants to get to a room, close the door and get it on.  God designed men (generally speaking) to have a higher libido than women.  Men are hunters.  Men take what they want.  Men are men and enjoy the conquest.  There’s so much more a man should be about, but at base, this is how we are and think.  Close the door, start stripping, and let’s do what I’ve been waiting my whole life to do!  We approach marriage as the licence to finally have as much sex as we could ever want in the same way we approach our cable tv shows — On Demand.

And sadly, many times both men and women find themselves married and completely disillusioned after discovering their hopes and dreams don’t jive with real life.  Wives get tired of feeling like they’ve married a hormonal 15-year-old boy who can’t seem to pick up after himself and husbands quickly grow frustrated with excuses of ‘not tonight, I have a headache’ or ‘I have to get up early tomorrow’ or the excuse of the day.

Genesis 2:18 — Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (ESV)

Proverbs 12:4 — An excellent wife is the crown of her husband. (NLT)

Proverbs 18:22 — The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD. (NLT)

Proverbs 19:14b — but only the Lord can give an understanding wife. (ESV)

It’s obvious that God did not want man to be alone.  He gave him someone to share his life, spend time with him, to help, care, and love each other.  Women are often called the fairer sex or better half because they are our missing part.  Ask any man who’s been happily married and he’ll tell you just how unbalanced his life would be without his mate.  We need them and God provided man with a woman to be by his side.  And before you start picking up rocks to throw, I’m not referring to them as property or material, but truly our helpmates — a cherished part of our being.

But when sin entered the world things went awry for both sexes.  Since that time things have been a mess and our marriages are no different.  Men don’t want to take responsibility for much of anything and women want to fight for control of everything.  And the battles ensue.

Genesis 3:16b — Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (ESV)

Proverbs 5:18-19 — Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (ESV)

Song of Solomon 1:2 — Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; (ESV)

A husband’s desire is to be for his wife.  And hers for him.  He should have no need to look elsewhere.  He should have no need for his eyes to wander.  He should have no need to lust.  He’s to delight himself with his wife.  Her body is to be his delight and her love intoxicating!  When was the last time your husband became drunk on your love?

I mentioned earlier how a man’s drive is usually significantly higher than a woman’s and that is often where the battle starts.  Men don’t get what they want/need, women fight to usurp authority and use sex as a tool of control, and marriages fall apart often because of sexual problems that lead to neglect, frustration, anger, desperation, and even adultery.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 — The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (ESV)

Let me be abundantly clear here: depriving your spouse (husband or wife) of sex is a sin.  There’s no getting around it.  You can’t even use the “but Paul said it was ok for a time” excuse because Paul also added “by agreement” and for prayer, but usually when spouses are told “NO” it’s not with both being in agreement OR is there any prayer.

Men have enough issues becoming Godly men without being undermined at home in a relationship that was supposed to be for our betterment and protection.  Your spouse should not have to beg for sex and then harbor resentment because you decided your needs superseded theirs.

Imagine building a house in Florida and not doing some serious geological research on where your spending all of your money.  You build a nice $400,000 home, go off to work, and come home only to find it’s fallen through a sink hole and the entry way is about 30 feet below where it should be.  Pulling your car into the garage is going to be a bit more difficult than expected.

That’s what happens in a marriage where one spouse uses sex as a weapon of control.  Sex was never meant to be used to hurt, manipulate, or control.  Instead it was given to husbands and wives as a wedding gift from God Himself who created it to be enjoyable!  It’s to be enjoyed by both the husband and the wife.

It amazes me that a wife will cry and belittle her “lousy husband” for stepping out on their marriage and yet when the mirror is held up to the marriage she has done nothing to meet his needs and has made his life much more difficult than it ever should have been.  This in no way excuses the husbands behavior since he is still subject to God’s word and is to live a life completely surrendered to Christ in both thought and action.  He will be held accountable to the Lord for every sinful deed he does and all actions that did not glorify the Lord.

You start talking to anyone who has these issues and the blame game starts right up.

  • I would, but my husband doesn’t treat me right.
  • My husband doesn’t help out around the house.
  • We just did it ‘x‘ weeks ago (or months). (If he’s upset, trust me, his accounting in this area is probably better than yours)
  • He’s unreasonable with his demands.
  • He wants it all the time (no, he asks all the time because there are too many “no” answers).
  • My husband expects me to do all the work and take care of the kids and …

Those are all serious things that need to be discussed and worked out with your husband.  But God didn’t say, “Hey, meet your husband’s needs.  Well, unless he isn’t … ”  We’re very quick to excuse our sin because of someone else’s sin.

One of the things I’ve never understood is the mindset of “I’m not giving him sex and I’m also going to punish him if his eye wanders or he flirts back when a women flirts with him.  How dare he try to find something outside of our relationship.”  Really?  Try meeting his needs so there isn’t a void in his life that sets him up for failure.

1 Corinthians 7:5c — you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (ESV)

God put that in the bible to show you how to help protect your marriage; to protect one another from temptations.  Go ahead and read that again.  But in many cases, we set our spouses up for failure and then are quick to blame them and blast them to everyone on Facebook, church, or wherever a gossiping ear is bent.

So what should you do?  First, repent.  Ask the Lord to forgive you for not honoring Him by loving your spouse the way He instructed.  Understand that your response to your husband is not to be based on his actions, but by your obedience to the Lord.  Second, trust God to bring about the changes in your husband so he becomes a Godly man who knows how to love God, you, and the family.

In truth, most marital problems that lead to issues such as these have two sides and in the next issue we’ll deal with the flip side that could help mitigate some of these issues — because men have some serious problems, too! (Men, pay attention and read the next post if you hope to see positive changes at home.)

Until next issue, surprise your husband and remove sex from the hostage situation it’s become.  Learn to relax, trust, and grow together so your marriage will bring honor to God and be a positive example of a loving Christians marriage to others.

— Pastor Rick

 


I recommend the following books for further reading on Christian Marriages:

Real Marriage — by Mark and Grace Driscoll
When Sinners Say “I Do” — by Dave Harvey
His Needs: Her Needs — by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Married. Happily. — by Greg Laurie

Where Do We Go From Here?

FollowingJesusMany times we get to places where we need some clear direction.  Even knowing the ‘what’ and ‘where’ isn’t enough if you don’t know the ‘when’. So we wait. We try to be patient, but the longer time goes on, the easier it is to lose hope.  And just like the thief in the night, it has the potential to rob our peace, hope, and even our future when we are impatient and lose faith in the One who brings the answers and directions.

In my situation, I know the calling on my life.  I have no doubts.  The Lord called me to pastor at the age of 16.  I didn’t fully understand the call at the time, but as the years have gone by its become more and more clear. The vastness of scope of the calling is also become more in focus.  I long to reach and teach others about Jesus.  I want to be active in teaching, training, and equipping a congregation for their walk with the Lord.  I love preaching the gospel to the lost and encouraging believers to trust God. It’s a joy to see them come alive – moved by the Holy Spirit – to effectively reach their community with the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness found in the gospel.

Even though I’m nearly positive of the region the Lord is leading me, the reluctance of my wife to move has me waiting on God to change her heart or to change me.  I’m totally open to either one.  Because I’m sure of it (at least in my heart), I’m waiting for the Lord to speak the words to my wife.  I do believe this isn’t a mission that God has called me to alone, but as my wife and I are one, His calling is for us to this ministry — His ministry.  And because my belief in our effective ministry as husband and wife, I await God’s move and voice to and through my wife’s heart.  I trust she’ll be faithful and committed to His voice when the Lord gives the go ahead.

I’ve had this daydream that we’ll be in the area and she’ll tell me something like, “Honey, God’s been dealing with me and I have something to confess.  He told me a long time ago where we were supposed to go and you were right all along.  But I didn’t want to give in because of fear.”

Yes, it’s a daydream.  Whether it comes true or not is entirely up to the Lord.  But whatever and whenever, I want to be ready for His clear direction to our path. So until then I wait.  (By the way, as I write this, we have another vacation planned in the area beginning in less than a week!)

Patience is something that has never been my long suit.  I’m very impatient when there is something I want so desperately that I can almost taste it.  It’s as if I lose all focus on what I need to do because of the things I want to do.

I remember the days of being a young teenager and thinking 16 would never arrive and the moment I would finally take my driver’s test.  But it did.  And waiting for that anxious day when I would graduate and be through with high school seemed to take forever; but it, too, came and went. As time marches on I have spent countless months and years looking forward to various milestones I wanted to achieve. Most who read this will understand looking back just how quickly your twenties, thirties, and maybe even forties can slip by.  Before you know it you’re looking back a half century of your life and wondering “where did it go?”

But patience is a fruit of the Spirit and I want to be one that will bring a full harvest of all His spiritual fruit for my Master.  It means during my walk I’m learning to take on my Father’s characteristics.  So in my impatience I remind myself that patience is required and it will mean as much as I want to start a church in a particular region, I must wait on His timing and clear direction in the process – because all of it is for Him anyway.

Patience is a tough nut to crack and even tougher to actually become a patient person.  You don’t see it develop when you’re staring straight at it. It occurs when you move on with other activities and responsibilities. Your dreams and goals become a peripheral item fully knowing the clock hasn’t stopped ticking. But there are other things to do as we walk out our salvation in the Lord.  His purpose is always before us if we’re attuned to His Spirit guiding us.  Our tasks were laid out before the foundations of the world when He chose us to be one of His children.

Ephesians 2:10 — For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Think about it, if He knew us before the foundations of the world (see Ephesians 1:4), it would only make sense that He would create tasks or works that fit our unique personality and also amply suited to the people we will encounter during our lifetime.  Nothing is arbitrary or happenstance with God.  He works all things together as a master painter would take added care to create the perfect masterpiece.  His care for us is immeasurable as is His care for those whom we carry the gospel and how we live out the gospel before them.  We are a reflection of Him (that is also His design) and so it is that He works through us for His glory.

Which brings us back to patience.  We may know our calling (and I do know mine), but our daily walk with Him IS the very purpose and plan of the Lord.  In the midst of our ‘daily commute’ with Him we’ll find ourselves helping, sharing, caring, befriending, giving, speaking, extending, loving, and so much more.  His purpose for us is to be an extension of Him and a presentation of His love wherever, whenever, and to whomever.

These are the things we must keep in mind when our heart is looking forward to other ideas we believe are in His plan for our lives. Instead of looking far down the road, just know with full assurance the road you’re on right now will lead you to the place He’s called.  And if all of you’re focus is down the road to the distant horizon you’ll never notice the opportunities for blessing He’s put right in front of you.

So instead of dwelling on what my calling and work will be next month or next year or in ten years, I should focus on what my calling is for today right where He has me.

— Pastor Rick

What If?

whatifIt’s easy to play the ‘What If’ game. Most people spend their entire lives playing this game. It’s pretty simple. You take your life and ask a “What if” type of question.

What if that hadn’t happened? What if I met this person or that relationship worked out or I got the other job? The game is endless and so are the answers. But in truth if you’re asking “What if” that means it didn’t happen and your situation is still your situation.

Spending hours of “What if” usually ends up being fruitless escapism. We rarely look at how at how much worse our life could have been with poorer decisions, unwise counsel, and a fistful of life. Instead we usually try to imagine how much better our life could have been in some way with a different set of variables. When taken to the extreme, if often leads to envy, self-pity, and depression.

For the sake of this post, though, let’s play the game! I’ll ask the questions and you take a few minutes to give it some thought as to how your life would be different.

  • What if you complained less and were more thankful?
  • What if you took all the wasted time from your day and used it to study the bible or pray?
  • What if you actually believed the bible for what it said?
  • What if you not only believed what it said, but put faith to action?
  • What if someone asked you the benefits of being a Christian?
  • What if you took the chance and shared your faith with your neighbor?
  • What if you actually counted all of your blessings?
  • What if you really believed God had a purpose for your life?
  • What if you chose to live a life completely sold out to Him and His plan for your life?

And then the one question that may have the biggest impact …

  • What if you lost everything you have? Family, friends, finances, health, occupation, reputation?

You see, here’s the rub: God does have a purpose for our lives and too often we spend our lives running from His purpose because we lack faith, knowledge of His word, a deepening relationship with Him, and we try to find pleasure in everything but Him.

It’s easy to answer the quick question of why I’m a Christian: because Jesus forgave me of my sins and I’ll spend eternity with Him in heaven. But I often wonder just how deep our faith really is. We’re so fickle with everything. In the summer we wish for cooler days. In the winter we long for summer. We look at blessings our neighbor has and wish it was ours instead of being thankful for what we do have already. Rarely do we look at our lives, in whatever state it’s in, and say, “God, you’re so good to me and I have so much more than I ever deserved.”

So what if we were to lose it all? What if, like Job, we lost our kids, our home, our riches, our health? I’ve said this before, but we’re so quick to criticize Job’s wife when she suggested he curse God and die. Ask any mother who has lost a child, let alone all ten of her children at one time, how much it hurts and you’ll notice the almost insurmountable pain in her eyes and words. With that in mind, her reaction to all the loss is much more understandable. But instead we stand in the doorway of our glass houses and throw rocks.

Our response at even the smallest part of his losses would often cripple us spiritually. Paralysis with fear and doubt pervade our hearts and mind. Our friends, much like Job’s, would be questioning what secret sins we had that led to our calamity. Think about it. When you know of someone who loses a child or spouse you feel bad for him or her. Then they have a serious car wreck and jeopardizes their health you start wondering, “Why are all of these bad things happening to them.” Then they get laid off … all back-to-back-to-back and you start thinking, “Something’s seriously wrong in their life for everything to go this bad.” It’s so easy to judge from the outside.

For Job, it wasn’t what he was doing wrong. He did nothing to bring on the destruction of his riches or the demise of his children. His fault, if you want to call it that, was being a man who was blameless and lived an upright life. He loved God and hated sin. Then the testing came. How do you respond when the testing comes to your life? Like Job? Like Job’s wife (who, incidentally lost everything, too)? Like Job’s friend’s.

In the beginning Job looked to God and basically said, “The Lord gave it and the Lord has the right to take it away. Who am I to question Him? So I’ll bless Him anyway.”

Job’s wife, in her soul crushing anguish suggested her husband curse God and die.

Job’s friends peered down their spiritual noses and wondered what secret sin Job carried that God would punish him so severely.

One thing to note about all the responses: they all acknowledged God. Maybe not rightly, but they didn’t just walk away from God saying, “He doesn’t exist,” or “He’s impure, unjust, or unrighteous.”

We may not always understand things that happen in our life. We may not know the reasons certain things occur to us. Our response and responsibility is to worship God for His mercy, love, and grace. We’re to respond, regardless of the obstacles we face, with a trust in His control of the situation. If we spend our time adoring and worshiping Him, we won’t have time to do what we normally do — worship ourselves and play silly ‘what if’ games. We must get past this mindset which is so deeply ingrained in us that we are the center of the universe.

I want to respond to life’s challenges, hurts, and disappointments with the genuine, deep faith knowing this life is temporary and He is with me every step of the way. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He does have a purpose for my life and has called me to walk by faith even when I can’t see the way. I want to know Him more intimately with an ever-growing faith that He’ll never leave me or forsake me. With that heart I can find the joy and peace only He can bring regardless of what those around me may say.

— Pastor Rick

Semantics are Just Some Antics

wordsWords can get us into trouble even when we don’t mean for them to.  Many times there are perfecting linguists who have this thought in mind and demand exactness when speaking.  The right words, the right order, the right intonation, the right pronunciation — all to convey a thought or message.  It’s frustrating when dealing with people who want to nit-pick every little detail.  The purpose might be to make sure you have a clear understanding of your thought and are conveying it just as clear to the listener.  But most of the time it comes across as some arrogant knucklehead trying to prove they’re superior in intellect.  It drives me crazy.

Here’s an example: Jesus loves you as you are.

Does He?  It depends on the context of the conversation, but for some that’s not even enough.  Here was the context when I said it: Jesus doesn’t expect you to get cleaned up and acting right before He’ll accept you into His family.  You’ll never be able to be good enough, smart enough, rich enough, clever enough, or clean enough to receive His grace and mercy.  So don’t wait around thinking you’ve got to change your life around first before receiving what God has for you.

And to follow-up on it, I gave this addendum: After you come to the Lord, He also loves you enough not to leave you where He found you.  We’re commanded to forsake our old ways and follow Him.  He’ll change you from the inside out and give you a new heart that desires to be obedient to the Lord out of a love that was non-existent before surrendering your heart to Him.

Almost everyone would declare that statement and its addendum are accurate.

Then I met this legalist; a modern day pharisee who decided to nit-pick every word.  How dare I tell the unsaved that God loves them just like they were.  Holiness can’t be in the same room with unholiness.  Light and darkness do not live together.  God can’t stand to be around sin and obviously apart from salvation sinners have sin in their life.  So God can’t stand them.  He could go on and on quoting verses of how God abhors sin and sinners are an abomination to God.

But that’s just half of the truth.  I look at John 3:17 and Romans 5:8 and see the merciful side of God.  It’s the side that extends mercy to those who don’t deserve it and grace to those who could never merit it.  It’s His love that reaches the unreachable, loves the unlovable, and calls lost sinners to salvation.

John 3:17 — For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)

Romans 5:8 — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

It’s frustrating enough to deal with shysters in the world, but when you get word-picking preachers who act more like lawyers than gospel declaring Christ followers, I want to pull the rest of my hair out.  How in the world can you reach the lost if you’re confusing them even further by telling them it’s His grace that saves them and yet heap shovels full of law on them before they can even be considered worthy.  That’s counter to God’s word and corrupts the gospel to a distorted message filled with garbage.  I sincerely believe they do it out of a desperate need to feel superior to anyone.  Sorry, buckos, you just proved you’re not and you did it with an abundance of arrogant flair.

The gospel, when delivered in its purity is good news.  Jesus lived a sinless life, took our sins and the penalty for them upon Himself, and rose again on the third day.  If you declare with  your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you are saved.  It’s that pure.  God does all  the work from the first to the last and we can do nothing of our own to earn it.  It’s a free gift He offers to us.  The works that occur after our conversion testifies of His hand in, on, and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The bottom line is this: God so loved the world He gave His only Son so we might receive eternal life.  That gift is to anyone and everyone who will truly call on His name from their very point of despair.  Jesus reached out to the common man and woman; fishermen, tax collectors, fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, harlots, and whores.  The ones that had problems with His message were those legalist preachers of His generation.

May God close the mouth of everyone who tries to add or take away from the gospel.  It’s a simple message of His love, mercy, and grace for a lost and dying world who are looking for hope.  That hope can only be found in Jesus.  He’ll accept you as you are, but will tell you the same thing He told those while walking the earth: “Follow me.”

— Pastor Rick