Archives For May 2014

Romantic couple relaxing in hammockSummer time is a popular time for weddings. Lots of planning, preparation, stress, and details to work out.

Without a doubt a couple tends to put more time into planning a wedding than they do their marriage. Now I totally understand. In one sense they assume they are completely ready for what’s coming. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now I don’t want to add to the bad press that marriage gets. I only want to point out that we can do better.

However, that does not mean that marriage is destined to be hard and difficult. Could it be that too many of us make it more difficult than is necessary?

One exercise that I encourage and find helpful is to simply take the ABC’s and come up with 26 helpful principles that will add value to the marriage.

So here is a sample. But I would encourage you to come up with your own.

AAttitude. We all know that our attitudes can change for the worse quickly, even over small things. Just getting cut off in traffic can ruin our whole day. It shouldn’t. Chose to maintain a positive attitude. You will be glad you did.

BBooks. I once heard someone say that they had never encountered a problem that they could not read their way out of. So read some good books on marriage. Before you have problems. Keep one on the night stand next to your bed.

CCommunication. Some have called this the KEY to a great marriage. The reason this is sometimes difficult is that men communicate facts and women communicate feelings. Those are very different. But the only way to understand your spouse is to communicate.

DDream. Together. Plan your next vacation. Have a bucket list of things you want to do together. Start planning next summer’s vacation today. Why wait? I love doing this with Carol. She is better at some things. I am better at others. I can plan schedules, driving distances to be covered, and where we need to stay. Carol fills in the details, those things I forget about. And she is better at packing cars and suitcases. Marriage is better together.

In my next post we will look at more of The ABC’s of Marriage.

Are you ready to write your own list?

 

Helping handsWhat if we could all just admit right up front that at least once in our lifetime we had ulterior motives?

Ok.

Now we can talk.

In 1940 a film version of the book The Grapes of Wrath hit the big screen. The movie was about the downside of living during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. You might say that it portrayed American life in a bad light. Not the kind of film you wanted people around the world to see.

Yet it was prohibited from being shown in Russia. I thought Russian leaders wanted people to think that life in America was not all it was portrayed to be.

But there were problems for them in the film. Poor people had trucks and cars and were able to travel wherever they wanted. There was too much freedom in America, and Joseph Stalin couldn’t let that be known.

Did anyone question his true motives? The truth was poor people in America had it much better than those in Russia.

I’m not suggesting that we go around and question the motives of all. But do we really believe that all of our politicians have our best interests at heart? Or could it be more about getting the money and the votes they need to retain power.

In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 2-3) there is a fascinating story that illustrates this. Briefly, there was a civil war going on in Israel. A commander by the name of Abner was being chased by Asahel. Eventually Abner killed Asahel in self defense. Of course this did not sit well with his brother Joab.

As the civil war came to an end Abner and Joab became joint commanders. However, in a moment of deception Joab killed Abner, apparently to seek revenge for the killing of his brother Asahel.

That is the obvious reason, but is it the whole reason? I mentioned that both Abner and Joab were joint commanders. Prior to this you might say Joab was on the winning side, as King David was gaining more power.

Could there have also been an ulterior motive? What about envy? Was Joab more concerned about the death of his brother or his own personal power?

Now it’s getting personal. What were the real reasons I had to buy that new car, new clothes, or bigger house? Why did I offer to pay for everyone’s lunch? Why were the drinks on me?

Was it because I truly wanted to serve my friends, or did I do it for personal recognition and appreciation, or to close the next deal? Hurts to even think about it.

Does Joab still live on in me?

WeddingThis summer I will be officiating three weddings.  During premarital counseling, the topic of love always surfaces. Is love simply a feeling, or is it an action — something you do? What does love look like?  I Corinthians 13 gives a pretty good definition.

1.  Love is patient.
2.  Love is kind.
3.  Love does not envy.
4.  Love does not boast and is not proud.
5.  Love is not rude.
6.  Love is not easily angered.
7.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
8.  Love always looks for the good.

Sounds like some good stuff to blog about and live out.

So, How’s your love life?

Lost Found Buttons Shows Losing And FindingA while back I lost my driver’s license.  First time that has ever happened to me.  No big deal, right?  After all, how many times have I had to pull it out and show it to a police officer in the last two decades?  None. Actually the only time I need to pull out my license is when I go up to Skyline Drive. And if I fly I need it. So I was not too worried or in a big hurry to go to DMV.

While driving home I get a call from Dick’s.  Evidently I dropped my license in the store, and it was picked up and put in the safe.  Finally someone figured I could probably use it.  So now I won’t have to ruin a day with a painful visit to the DMV.

When I first lost my license I did not even notice.  It could take weeks or months before I actually realize it is missing.  Life is sometimes like that.  Way too often I hear of another marriage breaking up.  Wonder how long it took the couple to realize they had lost ‘it.’  Wonder if they remember when the wheels started coming off.

Think with me. What things are often lost but never found or recovered.

1. Integrity. You can build it over a lifetime and lose it in an instant.

2. Marriage. Fortunately my driver’s license was found and restored, but if it had not, a replacement could have been  made.  But too often in life things get lost, relationships start heading south, and there is no quick recovery. The pain may last for years and even intensify.

3. Devotion to Christ. Even Christ-followers have been known to lose their first love for their Savior (Revelation 2:4).  Scary.  Because not everything that gets lost gets found.

Check your wallet and make sure you have not lost something important.

iStockRabbitfootWe have all done it. Somewhere in the back of our minds we start thinking that if we do such and such God is then obligated to answer our prayer or come through for us.

In short, if we do our part, then God cannot let us down. Otherwise He will not look so good.

Over the years I have prayed and I have seen unanswered prayers and answered prayers. But some of the most remarkable answers to prayer have occurred when I also fasted.

In fact, I have written in my journal consecutive answers to consecutive fastings. Also, once I prayed and fasted for three days and had three incredible answers to prayer.

So guess what enters my mind if I am not careful?

If I desperately need an answer to prayer all I need to do is fast. In other words, fasting becomes my rabbit foot. Now I am slipping into magic and superstition rather than faith.

And let’s understand. God knows our hearts.

In 1 Samuel there is a story about Rabbit-Foot Theology. It’s found in chapter 4. Israel is at war with the Philistines. Israel was defeated in a battle and lost four thousand men.

Why the defeat? Great question, but they came up with the wrong answer. They went back and got the Ark of the Covenant. That became their rabbit’s foot. After all, if they lost now God would not look so good. And all the press reports that evening would focus on God’s defeat.

But God wants a genuine relationship with us, not a manipulative one.

To be quite honest whenever I fast now I am confronted with this reality. Am I fasting out of a genuine relationship with God or I am thinking that my fasting will force Him to grant my request?

What drives my devotion to God? Do I see Him as a ticket to the better life, whatever that might be?

If I get up at 5am to read my Bible is God obligated to bless me the rest of the day?

If I give up a Sunday morning on the golf course in order to go to church (just an illustration since I teach every Sunday morning), knowing that I can play later, am I expecting God to help me pick up a few extra birdies later on? After all, I sort of earned a little extra favor didn’t I?

Isn’t amazing how easy it is to fall for Rabbit-Foot Theology? None of us are immune to it.

Let’s focus on our heart, and not our rabbit’s foot.

NO Checkbox Selected - Isolated on WhiteAs life moves forward at the speed of light I have found that the natural tendency is to say yes and add, add, and add some more. When football season arrives that has to get added in.  That’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night.  Then there is more reading and more meetings and more time developing people.
So my biggest challenge seems to be deciding what to say NO to.  For me it looks like I will have to cut out some of the flow of information; just can’t read as much.  Still sorting it out though.

Then there is the building project. Soon it will be something else.

But I believe deciding what not to do or do less of is going to be a BIG difference maker in my life.

One of the hardest things to say NO to is an idea while reading the Bible. My first thought is often ‘I need to study that passage a little more.’ Before I know it I have said yes and books are piled all over my desk. I must remind myself to say NO and put the books back and stay on task.

Steve Jobs was well known for saying that saying NO was perhaps the biggest secret to Apples’ success.

Now let’s be honest. How many of us really believe that saying NO could be such a key?

The hard part: not doing some good things.  But even Jesus could not do everything.  There were sick people He did not heal and there were people who wanted His time, yet He got in a boat and sailed away.