Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marriage//Church//and the Comparison Game.

Wives and Husbands

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
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. In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV

 I've been thinking a lot lately about marriage and the church. How the church is the bride of christ and how we are in a sense stewards of the bride of christ, being members of it. I see local autonomous congregations as all being apart of the global bride. Lot's of them doing lot's on different ministries, but all having the same goal, the glory of God. But, somehow, there ends up being disdain and strife in this body. Why? People leave to go to a "better" church. Because the church they were at was not "good enough." This will not be a post about how you should stay at your church no matter what, due to the fact that there are churches that are unhealthy and sometimes in life you just have to move on from a place. This is about the comparison game.


 I recently was in a community group where we talked about marriage relationships being dynamic, they are fluid, with different seasons requiring different ways of loving each other. Sometimes learning to love a person who has changed. My wife recently became a mother and I a father. It has been a challenge for each of us to learn how to love each other in light of the change in our family dynamic. For me, I've been afforded less alone time with my wife and she thinks about things differently and does things differently. Essentially she's become a different person. So, that being said, does that give me the right to let our relationship suffer or stop loving her or just call it quits and get a lawyer? Well, that depends on your view of what marriage is. 

 You see, in this day and age marriage is often said to be about "love." Which in a lot of respects is a true statement. However, that's not really what a marriage is made of. Marriage is made up of sacrifice. It's the back bone of a long lasting and fruitful relationship. If a marriage is to last, by the way it's designed, you are required to sacrifice. A lot! Things like what you think are the best use of your time, what you want to eat for dinner, what you want to watch on TV, where you want to go on vacation and whether or not you get to relax in the evening. See this all sounds miserable. "I don't want to do that." Exactly! Marriage (and family for that matter) is about doing what is best for the family and not what you want. Our selfishness is put under a spotlight when people first get married because they find out the other person wants different things sometimes. 

"Marriage is made up of sacrifice. 
It's the back bone of a long lasting 
and fruitful relationship."

 So, to say marriage is about love is not false, if to you love is about sacrifice. When you've been married for a number of years you find that you also have to sacrifice your desires. Even desires about what you want your marriage to look like. Because, life happens. This is why marriage must be dynamic. 

 My pastor always says "Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken." If you have a love that is flexible and plans/desires/expectations that are flexible they will not be broken when life changes the way you have to do them. You see, Jesus loved the church so much he gave his very life for us. More than that, he left his home in heaven to come to earth. He set aside his glory and lived humbly that we might have life. THIS is marriage. To set aside your glory leave what you call home behind and love in such a way that it looks to the world around you that your desires have died.
 See, when our marriage starts to change and we don't like it we start to see other peoples marriage. We start to see other men's wives other wive's husbands (Deuteronomy 5). This is when we find ourselves in trouble. The comparison game. "Why isn't my wife like so and sos wife?" "Why does so and sos life look so much better?"

 Here is where my comparison of marriage and the church come together.

 The comparison game is made so much easier by social media. We are able to hop online and see what everyone else is doing and then compare. This has made life for those leading churches difficult. Now, you can hop online and hear a better preacher than the one you hear at church. Which is fine, nothing pleases a pastor than his people working to become better christ followers and not asking him to be the sole source of their spiritual nourishment. But, what it can do is help the comparison game. "Why doesn't pastor so and so preach like this." "Why doesn't our church do this song more often?" "Why aren't we taking mission trips to Africa?" Sometimes there are a place for these questions. However, if they are not asked in the presence of those they are not directed towards they become disdain, as you formulate a better way of doing ministry than your church leaders. Then, you ask yourself the question "maybe it's time to look for a new church?" Again, I think that there are times when you cannot stay at a church for very good reasons. However, if the source of the desire to leave comes from conversations you've had with yourself about how unsatisfied you are. You are becoming the prey of The Comparison Game. 

 As followers of christ we are not called to have all the answers and go around flaunting those to everyone so that we develop a lot of enemies and very few friends who believe exactly the way we do. If you expressed all of your unfiltered thoughts and everyone had to agree with you to be "right" you'd be alone in your rightness. Only one person has been completely right. His name is Jesus, and we describe him as righteous. 

I hope this encourages you to look at life without comparing things. Simply, enjoy your life. Explore your God. Let him be satisfying. LOVE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

He Gave Them Permission

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” 

Luke 8:22-25 ESV

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.

Luke 8:27-32 ESV

In my time in the word today I was hit by the power that Jesus displayed while on earth. In chapter 8 of Luke there are two stories back to back that present Jesus as more powerful than nature and spirit. In the first story, He stands in a boat and calms a storm. In the second, He stands before a legion of evil spirits in complete power. 

I am blown away by five words that are said of Jesus. "So he gave them permission."

These spirits knew who Jesus was. They did not challenge him as a teacher, or as a healer. Their first words to Jesus confess him as "Son of the Most High God." In the text you can see their submissive nature to Jesus. They did not fight Jesus, they only "begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss." So, they chose to enter some pigs nearby and the commentator (Luke) says "So he gave them permission."

This is a testament to who God is. The supreme ruler over all things. Physical and spiritual. He commands the waves and evil spirits beg him to not destroy them.

Do you understand, the weight of that sentence? He didn't destroy them, he didn't cast them away, he didn't argue with them. He simply gave them permission to continue existing. I imagine he simply gave them a nod. The power displayed here is incredible. 

So, for us, what shall we do about this? How shall we respond? Simple, worship. I cannot react to this supreme being in any way other than to acknowledge his as supreme and, in my heart, fall before his throne as beg for mercy. Then, live my life in light of the fact he has not only granted mercy, but he has graciously given me a life that I do not deserve. He has made me an heir of his kingdom, that I would someday have ownership of his Heaven. Now, knowing this. Am I to go on wasting away in front of the TV or on my lap top or with my eyes glued to my cell phone. I cannot. For he has called me to greater things than to be a person who merely reacts to life. I am one of his children and his kingdom is worth dying for.

We should live accordingly.

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39 ESV)