Another Milestone

“In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you, for that is the essence of all the teachings of the Law and Prophets.” (Matthew 6:9, TPT)

Today, Adrian and I just hit another milestone marriage anniversary. When we tell people how long we’ve been married, we are almost always asked, “To what do you attribute your success and longevity?” In this day and age, any marriage that lasts over 20 years is considered remarkable, and indeed, it is.

So, how have we lasted this long? There are several reasons.

First, we decided long ago that we would live by the words of Jesus in the scripture above. We have chosen to treat each other the way we want to be treated. In other words, if I don’t want to be spoken to harshly, I won’t do that to my husband. If he doesn’t want to be insulted, he won’t insult me. We are kind to each other because we want kindness in return. It’s a simple yet profound way to live life together.

Am I saying we got it right all the time? Of course not! To say yes to that would infer that we are perfect, and we are not, by any means. But we’ve also learned the secret of asking for and giving forgiveness promptly. In other words, we don’t hold grudges.

Years ago, we created a “never” list. On it, we listed the things we would never do each other, and we have worked tirelessly not to violate that list. It went something like this:

  • We will never go to bed angry.
  • We will never criticize each other in public.
  • We will never make each other the brunt of a joke.
  • We will never stop doing “loving things” even when we’re mad.
  • We will never put each other down – ever!

We, of course, have added a few more items over the years.

Marriage is hard work! That’s why so many give up on it. There are personality clashes to deal with. Then there’s the whole pride and selfishness with which to contend. She wants her way and he wants his. Many people don’t see those things very much during the dating process. Everyone is on their best behavior because they want to impress their new boyfriend or girlfriend, and their eyes are filled with fairy dust that soon falls to the ground after the honeymoon. It’s sad but true.

I feel that many folks give up on marriage because they have so few examples of those who have chosen to fight to stay together. It takes a lot of discipline to stay true to one’s vows. Do you remember your vows? That vow was a promise to do what you said you would do. It’s not like a New Year’s resolution that can be easily broken with no real consequences. It’s much more serious than that, and God expects us to honor that promise whether we feel like it or not.

Over our many years of marriage, we have chosen to grow together. We try to stay connected by sharing our interests with each other – even little things. If I read an article that captures my attention, I will discuss it with Adrian. When he gets a particular revelation during his Bible reading, he will share it with me. We keep ourselves involved with each other, and we live face to face. In other words, we pay attention to what the other is doing by simply showing interest. When either one of us wants to pursue something that is of very little interest to the other, we do our best to be as supportive as possible and help each other reach the goal.

The main thing that keeps our marriage thriving is our personal relationship with God. He is the center of all we do. It’s important to us both that God is pleased with our lives. That’s why we try to live by His word, every day. He is the One who keeps us on track because we are accountable to Him even before we’re accountable to each other.

I look forward to many more years of marriage to the most amazing man I know. It’s been a fun ride.

Intentional Obedience

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:46-49, ESV)

The definition of intentional, in this case, is to be deliberate, involving thought about obedience or the act of obeying.  It has been said that the secret to running a successful race is to have a definite goal established from the very beginning.  In the scripture quoted above, I believe that Jesus is letting us know that obedience to the Word of God is the Christian’s foundation.  Christ came to be our Savior to correct the disobedience of humankind by, Himself, living a perfect life of obedience to Father God.  It is through our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and Lord that we are forgiven and reconciled back to God.  As followers of Christ, it must be our goal and purpose to imitate the example of Jesus’ obedience.

As we study the life of Christ in the Word of God, we find many things that God is asking us to do that we think are impossible.  The truth is that, in our own strength or ability, those activities may indeed be impossible, but God is not asking us to do them by ourselves.  Jesus came and gave us the example and then promised to send us a helper, Holy Spirit, to live in us and walk beside us.  Holy Spirit is assigned to those who ask for help to be what God desires for us to be: Christ-like.  Jesus promised in Hebrews 13:5-6 that He would never leave or forsake us. We are never alone in our pursuit of obedience to the commands and instructions of God’s Word.

How are we then to be intentional in our obedience to God?  God has given us free will and therefore a choice. We must choose to pursue obeying God in every act and deed of life.  We must have faith that obedience is possible with the help of Holy Spirit.  God has given us instructions and an example as to how we are to conduct our lives, but He has also made provision for our imperfections and failures. First John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (ESV). Then 1 John 2: 1 says, My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (NKJV). Intentional obedience commits to pursuing obeying with the faith that we have help to succeed and forgiveness for potential failings.

The important thought is that we follow Christ with committed intentionality through the expectation of success and the assurance of forgiveness if needed.  Don’t follow Christ with the anticipation or fear of failure but, rather, a belief and faith that with God all things are possible to those that believe. Mark 9:23 reminds us: Jesus said to him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.

The Risk of Unconditional Love

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (Romans 5:8, NLT)

There is a song out that is popular in a lot of churches called “Reckless Love”. The first line in the chorus goes like this: “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…” When I first heard the song, I was a bit put off by that phrase “reckless love of God”. To me, reckless was being careless, irresponsible, thoughtless, and wild. Not exactly the description I would give God. I could not reconcile recklessness and God’s love. God is very intentional and doesn’t make mistakes, and He certainly isn’t thoughtless and irresponsible.

I have since had more clarity in the use of that word regarding God’s love and it comes with the synonym risk. Let me explain.

Have you noticed how much easier it is to love someone who loves you in return? Of course, you have; it’s what we expect. Unfortunately, there are times when our acts of love and kindness are not reciprocated. Now what?

The solution to this dilemma is really quite simple when we look at God’s Word (I said simple, not easy). Romans 5:8 tells us: This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other (NLT). This is what loving unconditionally is all about. If you will recall, the definition of agape, the God-kind of love, is doing what benefits the other. This is the kind of love this passage of scripture is speaking of. In other words, it doesn’t matter so much what your spouse or friend or child does or doesn’t do, you must still choose to love. And there are risks involved.

The risk we take when we choose to love unconditionally is rejection. That is the risk God took when, while we were still in our sin, Jesus died for us. Being the omniscient One He is, He knew that many would reject His love. That, however, did not stop Him. He was still willing to take the risk.

Remember, God didn’t wait until we were perfect before He gave us His greatest sacrifice. He loved us as though we already were! As challenging as that sounds, He wants us to do the same. Trust me, this cannot be done in our human power; it requires the power of God.

When you choose to do things God’s way and love unconditionally, He blesses your obedience. Scripture teaches us that to know God is to love Him and to love God is to obey Him.

God’s love is reckless in that He took a risk by loving us through giving up His Son for us even though we might not love Him in return. That should encourage us to take the same risk. Let’s give the love regardless of the lack of reciprocation. It sounds hard, but It will reap great rewards. You may not see all of them immediately; but if you are faithful to obey, God’s promise is sure.

Companion and Friend 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 NLT)

I have written in the past about the kind of love known as agape love.  This type of love is a one-way street of love that can be and is commanded by God.  In other words, agape love is unilateral, requiring no reciprocation. This type of love should guide our actions toward covenant mates in marriage in obedience to God’s Word.

Today I want to talk about phileo love or the love defined in friendship and also found in God’s Word. Phileo love, unlike agape love, is not unilateral but in fact, grows through reciprocation.  Phileo involves sharing, communication, and the commonness of goals, purpose, and heart.  When I looked up the definition of companion it said friend and somebody to be with.  I challenge you to endeavor to become friends with your spouse.

The challenge is not to ask each other to think the same but to think together realizing that two are better than one in facing life’s trials.  Strive and learn to share your life goals and purposes with each other through communication.  Realize that without knowing each other’s direction and passions, it is very difficult (if not impossible) for you to walk together.  Amos 3:3 (NLT) states, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

We must learn to be open and honest with our mates to identify the individual and common enemies to be confronted together.  According to the Ecclesiastes scripture quoted above, two are better than one because they help each other.  Spouses must choose to fight against any foe that threatens the unity of their marriage or family.  Hearts, goals, purposes, and directions need to be shared and consolidated for the couple to pull or push towards the same destination.

Determine to become friends and yes, maybe someday, even best friends:  friends that will not break confidences, or personal secrets shared between you;  friends who will not use disclosed weaknesses for personal advantage but will only support and affirm each other in the face of unity-opposing forces. Be companions and friends who will obey God and demonstrate agape love for each other until phileo love is experienced. 

Remember that the things that God promises and provides can only be obtained or achieved with His help.  Ask for and receive God’s help to become friends with your spouse and enjoy phileo love.  Let God become the third cord of your marriage making it not easily broken.

Putting Away Childish Things

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

(I Corinthians 13:11, NLT)

As we grow in our Christian journey, God expects us to become mature people and act like adults instead of children. He wants our faith to be childlike but not childish. The word childlike indicates good qualities of a child, such as honesty, sweetness, purity etc. Childish refers to a behavior in which a person acts in a foolish and annoying way. I want to particularly tackle the area of maturity in our marriages. How many times have you wanted to (and maybe even did) say to your mate, “Could you just grow up, already?”

Growing in maturity takes a lifetime. I’m sure you know people, personally, who are a good number of years up in age but have the mentality of someone much younger. I’m not talking about someone who has an intellectual disability. I mean someone who is operating without such a disability but is just plain immature.

You can determine your personal level of maturity by looking at some of the characteristics of a childish person. See if you fall into any one of these descriptions:

  1. A childish person Is the center of his own universe.

The mature couple wants to share their lives and makes every effort to make each other feel special and validated.

  • A childish person can be very insensitive to others.

Maturity causes you to want to be sensitive to your spouse’s feelings and make adjustments where necessary.

  • A childish person is prone to throw a temper tantrum now and then.

Being mature means that you don’t allow your temper to run away with you. Remember, the scripture in Ephesians 4:26 (NLT) tells us, And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.

  • A childish person is at times non-communicative as a form of punishment.

When you are mature, you realize that the only way to resolve issues is to talk and share your heart.

  • A childish person will demand his way.

Mature people look for ways to bless their mates and are very willing to acquiesce to the desires of their mates.   

My list could go on and on but suffice it to say that God expects better of us as we grow up; and we should expect better of ourselves. 1 Peter 2:2 (KJV) says, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby. We start as babies and have limited knowledge (and are expected to do so), but as we drink of the word of God, we will develop into healthy, mature individuals who love our spouses and only want God’s very best for them.

Love Your Own Wife

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25, NKJV).

So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church (Ephesians 5:28-29 NKJV).

In the scriptures above, husbands are instructed to love their wives; but it also emphasizes that the wife a husband is to love is his own wife.  In today’s world, which I would describe as overstimulated and exposed, the specification of own wife is truly significant and appropriate.  People are bombarded with contemporary guidelines for successes that direct us to focus primarily on our own needs and desires above all else.  As husbands living in the “me generation”, God’s Word gives, yet again, another reason to pause and ponder how to actually walk and live the love commanded here.

Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and was exemplified in the ultimate act of self-denial and sacrifice.  Christ was willing to give up His position in glory to come and die for the object of His love: the Church or Body of Christ.   Many of us will say to our wives that we will give our very lives for them but won’t take ten minutes to listen and provide positive feedback concerning their value to you and your family.  Christ’s joy was made full, knowing that He had made the way for mankind to be reconciled back to Father God.  The cost and sacrifice were indeed counted but given secondary priority to the coveted goal of meeting mankind’s greatest need for redemption.

I know we can’t die physically every day in demonstration of our love for our wives, but we can make a decision to give them first priority – second only to God, Himself – to love them as our own self or body.  This would be awesome to execute for the “me generation”.  Think about it: all the wonderful dreams of fulfillment and satisfaction we desire for ourselves being shared and targeted with our resources toward our wives. 

I believe no man in his right mind hates himself but endeavors to be successful and possess a sense of personal wellbeing. If you love yourself, the best way to bless yourself is to nourish and cherish your wife; to dare to believe that God has established a love plan that benefits both you and your wife.  Commit to, selflessly, invest in the growth and development of your wife, knowing that God assures blessings and fulfillment to all involved.   

Why Do Christians Hate On Sinners?

For here is the way God loved the world—he gave his only, unique Son as a gift.  So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. “God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it (John 3:16-17, TPT)

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NLT)

There is an issue that has bugged me for a long time. I’ve met a number of Christians who actually seem to take delight in the idea of unbelievers going to Hell! Doesn’t that shock you?! Actually, we shouldn’t be that shocked because I think we are all guilty of it at one time or another. We see someone doing something we think is unconscionable, and we shake our heads and reason in our minds, “That person’s an idiot!” or we jokingly say, “That guy’s gonna bust Hell wide open.” Should that really be our response? I know it’s hard, in the heat of the moment to say, “Wow! That person must really be empty inside to do such a thing. I need to pray that they find Jesus.” But at some point, that’s where our thoughts should go.

If you have read any of the New Testament, nowhere do you see Jesus hating on sinners. The only people He was especially hard on were those who called themselves religious. These were the Sadducees and Pharisees who studied the Scriptures, but their lives were full of hypocrisies. Jesus called them on it many times. We should also remember that we, ourselves, can be caught in that same hypocrisy. For example, we may be watching  T.V. and find ourselves rooting for the criminal, or wanting someone to dump their spouse because they’re in love with someone else. Yet, when see those things in reality, we wag our finger and begin to hate on the sinner. We need to remember, always, to hate the sin wherever it shows up. However, we must remember to still love the sinner.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? The religious leaders seemed to be gleeful about stoning her to death for her crime.  Jesus reminded them, very cleverly, that they’ve committed sins as well. Then he gently loved on the woman by telling her not to sin again. Jesus acknowledged her sin, but love her, nevertheless. I would imagine that even when tempted to commit adultery again, she remembered her encounter with Jesus and thought better of it.

When I see things in the news that individuals or groups of people are doing that are so far off the mark of God’s Word, it may disturb me, but I try to remind myself that they are only doing what their father is telling them to do. Of course, I mean Satan. We can so easily forget that the sinner’s job description is to sin.

I want, so much, for the compassion of Jesus to rise up in me to remember to love on sinners by introducing them to a Savior who loves them so much that He was willing to die to give them eternal life so that they can live with Him forever. I admit that it takes great commitment and the power of Holy Spirit to stay in that frame of mind, but it truly is worth the effort.

The Power of Pause

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we find ourselves striving to make quick, yet decisive, decisions about the direction of our lives and actions that define who we are. The scripture above encourages us to trust God with all our heart. This can only be accomplished if we truly believe that God is working for our best interest and prosperity. In other words, we must believe that God loves us, and His gift of Christ is His plan for humanity’s redemption and reconciliation with Himself.  Confidence in Jesus as our Savior will allow us to also believe that God’s understanding and thoughts are superior to ours and must be factored into our final decision making. The implication is that our thoughts and understandings are only valid as they agree with those presented by God.

As I read several different translations or versions of this scripture, I found words directing the reader to seek, acknowledge, and understand the will of God for our lives. The word pause is defined as a suspension; interruption; temporary stop; break or rest. In the process of living and navigating life’s options, we must use the power of taking a pause from just doing and ask what God want us to be and do.

God’s Word conveys to Christ’s followers that He wants us to be like Jesus. He desires that our actions would emulate God’s will as Christ did. This may require us to suspend doing until we have direction from God, especially if we are not familiar with His will.

This means that as we interact with our spouse, family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, or strangers, we must consider God’s thoughts and instructions regarding our conduct. The power of pause is in seeking to know and follow the path that we most believe will please God in all we do.

God has promised to direct us and show us the path that we should take. Trust that as we follow His advice and commands, we will be provided with the best strategy to be pleasing to God. Taking the time to pause can be a powerful tool in allowing God to guide you by His Spirit into His perfect will.        

Are You Ready for a Change?

So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes. And don’t live foolishly for then you will have discernment to fully understand God’s will. (Ephesians 5:15-17, 21, TPT)

A new year always gives us a feeling of a fresh, new start. We may celebrate each new year with all kinds of ideas for getting started on a new diet or workout program. We decide that we’re going to drop some very bad habits, and we, excitedly, make promises to ourselves to improve our quality of life overall. I want to challenge you to put that same vigor towards improving your marriage this year, and that may require some real changes on your part. Here’s an important quote I refer back to often: “Change will never occur until the pain of staying the same is more painful than the change.”

We are living in precarious, unprecedented times! Unless you have been living off the grid for many years, you surely recognize that we are finding ourselves living a “new normal”. In another version of today’s scripture, we are reminded to “redeem the time because the days are evil (NKJV).” In other words, we cannot afford to waste time anymore.

Change is one of those things that happens to us whether we want it to or not. Sometimes, we’re in control of it, and sometimes, we are not. Unless they are very progressive-minded, most people don’t like change because it moves them out of their comfort zone. That’s why most people fail at keeping new year’s resolutions. Sometimes, however, we experience an event that requires us to make a decision whether we are going to change or not. The decision will be affirmative only if we feel that staying the same make us worse off. One good example is when one or the other spouse threatens divorce unless they commit to counseling. Even though something needed to change in the relationship, one was not willing to do anything proactive until the idea of divorce seemed much worse than the status quo.

Many of the couples who are struggling in their marriages don’t do anything about it because they are not willing to make the necessary changes to make things better. They get comfortable living the same way over and over again. They kind of hope things will change but are not willing to be actively involved in making that change happen.

When working out issues in a relationship, it can become quite uncomfortable; but it’s worth it if the end result will be a harmonious union that brings glory to God. And, ultimately, isn’t that our goal? Aren’t we trying to live in obedience to His Word? We sometimes tell our marriage coaching clients, “If you are not willing to do the things that will please your mate or to try to meet his or her needs, then do it out of a desire to please God until the feelings come and your desire towards your mate changes – because it will.”

Change can be our friend. It can launch us into a realm where we reach our full potential – in life and marriage. Let’s choose not to be afraid of it but to embrace it with joy. May this be the year significant change happens for you. Let me repeat a portion of today’s verse, “Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.”

Transparency With Love

Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]. (Galatians 6:2, AMP)

I remember when I first met my wife and the joy of finding a friend who brought such happiness to my life.  We were committed to each other and desired to help the other achieve what we believed was God’s call upon our lives.  It was, and still is, our belief that God allowed us to be joined in marriage to help us please Him better together than we could ever realize by being apart.

Our relationship began with trying to learn and appreciate as much about each other as possible. It was fascinating and so much fun to discover the likes and dislikes, visions, and plans for the future that we had made as individuals.  We, then, lovingly handled each other’s desires, always wanting to preserve and combine our goals to allow each other to feel and experience the value, respect, and honor of an open and transparent relationship.  We realized what it meant to assist the other in pursuing our determination to please God and each other. We came to an awareness that God had placed us in each other’s lives to be His physical and emotional representative of love. 

God knows everything about us better than we know ourselves; and in marriage, we must learn the intimate details of our mates over time..  This is where transparency is so vital to the health and continued growth and maturity of our marriages.  Being open with one another allows us to not only stumble upon but to see the weaknesses and strengths of the other.  Openness reveals the dreams and nightmares of your mate to help with nurturing, protection, and sharing.  Closeness is very difficult, if not impossible, without the vulnerability of open and honest communications – honest talk that is spoken always in love and a desire to bring healing.

The transparency that pleases God is not one of expressing any and everything that comes to mind but communication that conveys truth in a loving manner.  Thoughts that are hurtful, unkind, and unloving that would burden or bring pain to the receiver, should be shared with God alone.  The positive and the negative exchanges of words must all be done with the goal of stating and sharing love. Our determined purpose must be to be truthful and kind. Many of our difficulties arise simply from a lack of talking to each other.  Instead of talking, we are satisfied with trying to read each other’s tones, expressions, or even silence. We discover, most of the time, we are poor readers. Learn to ask clarifying questions when meaning or understanding is missing from your conversations and relationship.

God helps us because he knows everything, but He still wants us to ask for help.  In order for us to help one another, we must learn to share who we are with our mate.  Remember, we want to know so that we can demonstrate the love of God toward our spouse.  This requires a selfless attitude that invites the presence and help of God into our lives.  We must stay on task as God’s representatives and assistants to help our mates achieve their destinies and God-given purposes.  You will only be able to do this if you believe God is working for your good through your mate. This requires you to be wholly committed to love your mate as you believe God loves you. You are one in Christ.   

To accomplish this, you must encourage each other and spend time weekly sharing goals, aspirations,  and dreams, as well as hurts, failures, and feelings of inadequacy, mistakes, sins, and victories.  Be vulnerable enough to communicate what may seem obvious: that you love each other and are committed to the other’s success in life.