If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Love Like That . . . for at least the next 34

"I Want To Be Loved Like That" is a great country music song from the 90's by the band "Shenandoah". The song mentions the on-screen love between Natalie Wood and James Dean.  It also talks of the love between the songwriter's own parents. So-called "great loves".  Television, movies, music, and history itself are filled with stories of great loves.  The kind of love everyone wants.  So many pine away their lives or go through life making terrible decisions in pursuit of such love.  An ideal has been created, but the tv show, the movie, the song and even history fail to provide real life instruction as to how to achieve that great love.

In all of these presentations of love-like-we-want-it there is a script or lyric sheet carefully written to convey an exact message or feeling, there are producers and directors, editors, sound, lighting and cinematography experts, and historical re-tellers - some might say hysterical re-tellers - all working to create a picture of that perfect love between a man and a woman.  Real life doesn't work that way. Even amid all of the books, tapes, cds, dvds, and seminars, perfect and true love escapes so many.

But it doesn't have to. It is freely available to everyone. And for those of us who are Christian, that love lives within us.  But, we have problems with it, mostly because of two little words: submit and sacrifice. Could the problem be that we really don't understand the true meaning, God's definition, of these words that we so often stumble over?    

Real life instruction is found in the Bible in Ephesians Chapter 5, beginning with verse 21. It is important to keep in mind that the truth of this Word from God is directed to marriages where both parties are Christians.  Such love will not be found nor can it exist outside of the bond of a Christian marriage.  And, unfortunately, that is not to say that it always exists within the bond of married Christians.  (Yes, there is a difference between a Christian marriage and married Christians.)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.   

This word from God actually applies to all Christians. It does not mean that we become subservient to one another, but it does mean that we are to serve each other. No Christian should consider themselves as superior to another Christian, for in God's eye we are equal. We are to place ourselves into service for our Christian family, the whole Body of Christ. We are to place others before ourselves. We are to listen to each other, accepting counsel and even rebuke, when necessary.  Submission to one another is to recognize God's authority in each others lives.

If this command applies to all Christians, it certainly applies to Christian husbands and wives within the context of their marriages.  Submission as is called for here actually demonstrates equality in that it is a choice . . . the choice of the "submissor" not the "submissee".  Let's go deeper and maybe this will become clearer.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

On the surface, this is a tough one, particularly in this day and time.  But, if it is difficult to swallow, that is only because we continue to see this only through our own eyes and our own definition of wifely submission and not God's.  And, again, this is written to married couples where man and wife are Christians.

When this was written women had few or no rights, married or not.  To this day we see vestiges of those societal and religious attitudes in many cultures.  Some Christian denominations misinterpret and misapply this command to their own detriment and to a distortion of the Word. But, here, God is telling these Christian women that they are equal to men in His eye, and therefore must be held as equal in the eye of mankind. By issuing the command, God is saying you have a choice. You can submit or not. You can obey (God) or not. And you can follow the Creator of family into His design for YOUR marriage and family - the only path to true joy and fulfillment - or not.

So, what is meant by "submission"? This is an important thing to know, especially since any derivative of the word "submit" carries such a negative connotation.  In this day and time and in our culture, the idea of a woman submitting to any man is likely to get a "Yeah. Right."   Simply put, a submissive wife recognizes, respects, and accepts her husband's God given authority in the home.  Accepting the role of submission in marriage is to submit to God.  And can you ever go wrong when you are being obedient to God?

Think about this. When a Christian submits to Christ, the power of Christ is unleashed in the life of the Christian. Are wives being told here that submission in marriage carries benefits - blessings - in marriage commensurate to those blessings which come to the church from submission to Christ?  Do you want a spiritually charged marriage?  Then put the Holy Spirit in charge of your marriage!

OK, men, here we go.   

 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.

Husbands hearing this in the Church of Ephesus were in for a shock.  I'm sure that submission thing delivered to the women sounded pretty good to the men.  But, now, husbands were being told to take a good look at Jesus and His love for the church - His body -  and to love their wives just like that. Not something like that, but just like that! Love just as Jesus loves.  A tall order, but no where near impossible.  "Fetch my slippers, my foot!"

Jesus gave Himself, all He had, in His love for us.  It started when He left Heaven to come down and be born as a human being and to begin His walk on this earth.  What did He give up? What did He leave behind?  The Living Word by Whom this vast universe was created came to know hunger, fatigue, physical pain, emotional pain, human loneliness, fear, rejection, humiliation, temptation, and even death.  He left a place of perfection and unimaginable wonder to come down here and experience all of the above and more.  And He did it all for us in love and in obedience to God, the Father.  He sacrificed Himself for us.  Brothers, that is what we are called to do. We are each to love his wife just as Jesus loves us.

I've not yet fully grasped it, but as I read these 5 verses from Ephesians, I have come to believe that there is something very powerful in obedience to this command. Something far beyond what I have considered love to be capable of accomplishing.  We see what Christ has done for the church in His love for her, making the church holy and blameless, presenting the church to Himself ". . .as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,".  And we are told to " . . .love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . ."

Can it be that a husband's Christ-empowered love for his wife has such an effect upon her and how she may stand before her husband, set apart for him and wholly accepted, being made in his Spirit-sighted eyes all that God intended for her to be? . . . and beyond that to be spiritually enriched and to serve at her husband's side as God's own portrait of His saving relationship with His creation?

I can't explain it all. Submission and sacrifice. Respect and love. And that's alright because I'm not supposed to.  I'm just here suggesting that we all look deeper into our role in marriage. That is what it is. It is a role. Man and Woman are equal before God, and He has given us, Man and Woman, a role to fulfill in our marriages.  How can we enter into Holy Matrimony and ignore or resist God's instruction to us as to the only way we can achieve His ideal marriage?

When there is a problem and we wonder what's wrong, what the problem is, perhaps we should go to Ephesians 5.  Am I fulfilling my role as defined by God? NOT, is she, or is he, fulfilling their role.  But, am I following God's instruction?  You see, marriage was not designed for jr high schoolers.  Certainly marriage will not survive without give and take, without compromise. But, there is no room for "I will if you will" where the roles of husband and wife are concerned.

It is a matter of trust.  Maybe, at the present time, you don't fully trust your wife or your husband to follow God's instruction in Ephesians 5.  It doesn't mean that you don't love them, or that they don't love you. It just means that you recognize that all is not as it should be in your home.  That is why, first and foremost, our trust must always be placed in God.  We can only - excuse me - must only do what God tells us to do.  We can't obey God for someone else or make anyone else obey Him. And we don't get a pass just because someone else passes. But we can trust God in all things to honor our obedience to Him.  He may use one person's obedient countenance to bring the other person around. He may work in some other way.  But, He will work. He simply does not make room for us to refuse to obey Him based on someone else's failure to obey.

And really, who best for us to rely on to make a great marriage?  Self? . . . or God?  Pray! Pray Ephesians 5 into your marriage.

God's design for marriage must be what we as Christians seek and pursue with all of our might.  Any marriage that does not have Christ at its center is a failure, no matter how great it looks from the outside. That is because a marriage made without regard to God's design and will and plan is counterfeit. Let's face it. God designed marriage so His design can be the only true definition of marriage and family there is.  We human beings have no right to redesign or redefine it.

So, here at our 34th wedding anniversary, when I have so little to give to my wife, and she has long known that I am no great prize, I am saying to you, Sharon, that I am praying and asking Jesus to teach me to love you like He loves us.  You know I don't like to ask for directions, but I am asking Him, and He will guide, and I will learn. My love, I have found is flawed, just as I am flawed.  His love is perfect. And that is what I seek for you and that is where we are going.     

I want a love like that.  I want to love like that.

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Psalm 119:130 (NKJV) The entrance of Your words gives light;

I have loved this part of this verse ever since I first heard it some years ago. Even then, before I was saved, I could see the truth of these words. Since my salvation, however, the light provided by the Word of God is evermore bright. Just as sunlight is essential to the growth of plant life here on Earth, the light (understanding and application) of God's Word is necessary to the spiritual growth of a Christian. That light doesn't always show us what we want to see, though.

From time to time, as I am studying my Bible, certain scripture - usually Old Testament - shows me something of who and what I was. A light is focused on something that I have not taken to God in its fullness. Things I thought I had dealt with through prayer and repentance rise up. When this happens I realize that I have not dealt with it specifically, or maybe on the level of attention it deserves.

"Forgive me for my sin whatever it might be" does not always work. Sometimes we have to confront issues from our past because we've not yet fully realized their impact on our lives and the lives of others. We have not yet dealt with some things properly before God. We don't want to admit these things to ourselves, much less to God. But when we do He is faithful to forgive, and He so mercifully frees us from the hold they have on us.

As I seek God's guidance that I may follow Him into becoming the man He intends for me to be, I find more and more just how far from that I really am. This is not disheartening to me, though. Because now I see it! All those years as a phony wannabe were spent in darkness. Try as I might, I could find little real meaning for my life in the Word. Nothing worked. It couldn't. The power source that propels a human being's life along THE path of God's perfect will for THAT person was not alive within me. I was a dead man walking for more than 40 years, and the worst part of that is that I didn't see it. I thought the light was in me and yet I knew that I was spiritually blind. My spiritual problem, I found, was that I had no real spiritual life.

Only when God opened my eyes to the darkness that I was could He shine His glorious Light upon me in grace and mercy and forgiveness. The truth of those beautiful words in "Amazing Grace", "I once was blind, but now I see" really do have meaning. If the words of the Psalmist are true, "The entrance of Your words gives light;" then we have to also recognize the truth of “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.

Life is a journey.

For the lost it is a long, rambling walk in darkness. The shiny things of life pull this way and that, offering temporary gain, temporary pleasure, temporary allure. The truth of that path is obscured by a more-often-than-not unrecognized sinful nature. And the journey of the lost comes to no good end. In fact, it does not end. The worst moment of earthly life for the lost may as well be their best by comparison to the torture of eternal separation from God in a place that offers only pain, no rest, no peace, no pleasure . . . and no light.

For those saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, life is a guided tour through the will and the way of God. And tourists we are, for this earth is no longer our home. Some sweet day we will live eternally in Heaven, in the very presence of our Maker, our God, in a dwelling prepared for us by the Son of God Himself!. We will dwell in a place of unimaginable beauty and wonder. If you have ever felt the presence of God here in this life, then you have to agree that being there before His throne in praise and worship will be an indescribable experience.

On November 27, 2010, I will be 3 years old in the Lord! I cannot praise Him and thank Him enough for keeping me alive long enough to secure eternal life. And though I long to be with Him, I am so thankful that He has kept me here to tell others what He has done for me in hopes that they will accept what He has done for them as well. I do a poor job of it, but, still He abides with me.

The light of God's word doesn't always tell us what we would like to know about ourselves. If we take an honest look, we can see our own sinful life reflected in those words written so long ago. As much as we might regret our past we cannot constantly look back. Because the true Light of the Word, the Light of the World, the Word, came to offer forgiveness. If we know Jesus, then we know that He has set us free from our past. All of the chains that bound us have been broken! He has made us righteous and holy and able to enter into the most holy of places!

The same light that shows us who we were shows us who we can be, what God made us for and what Jesus Christ has made a way for us to achieve. I truly believe that the answer to any problem we have can be found in the Holy Bible.

"The entrance of Your words gives light;"

You don't have to wonder. You don't have to live in the dark!

I was darkness itself. Now I am light. Why would anyone reject this in their own life?

You wanna get lit?

Ephesians 5:8 (NIV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light