Saturday, June 30, 2012

Making Marriage Work (Part 1)

Where were you on February 23, 1991?  Can't remember?  Weren't born yet?  Well,  I remember this day vividly.  I was 20 years old, had a mullet, feathered hair, weighed 185 pounds and was nervously standing in a Sunday School room waiting for my musical cue to walk out with the minister on my wedding day.

21 years later, as I reflect back on the time Beverly and I have been together (plus an additional 5 years of courting) we've learned a lot more about what it takes to make a marriage work.

We had no idea what we were getting into.  That was probably a good thing.  We had to learn about marriage the hard way, which is the same way most people learn about it.  As wonderful as marriage is, no amount of premarital counseling can fully prepare you for what you are about to experience.

Marriage is under attack today.  Our younger generation doubts that a lifelong marriage is possible.  They've seen so much divorce that it seems normal to them.  In one sense, they are right.  Divorce happens.  it happens in the world, and it happens in the church at large. 

God's way is still the best way.  Just like an owners manual for a new car, you take it out of the glove compartment and read it.  The Bible is the "owners manual" for marriage.  marriage just works better when we pay attention to the instructions in God's Word.

Marriage is a gift.  However, we don't always see it that way.  I thought these stories were funny...
  • A seven-year-old girl saw the movie Cinderella and was talking with her friends about it afterward.  "I know how it ends," said one, "Cinderella and the Prince live happily ever after."  "Oh no they don't," she replied.  "They got married!"
  • A young minister performing his first wedding ceremony, feared he might forget something, sought the counsel from an older preacher.  The experienced man told the young minister everything he needed to do and made one final suggestion: "If you ever forget what you are supposed to say, just quote Scripture."  The ceremony went smoothly until he pronounced the happy couple husband and wife.  At that point, his mind went blank.  That's when he remembered the advice of the older preacher to quote Scripture.  So he quoted the only verse that came to his mind: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Marriage is a challenge in the best of circumstances but it can also be a great blessing.  In our society, where healthy marriages are the exception and not the rule, if we can build marriages that move against the prevailing tide, we will have a better base from which to share the message of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors.  Nowhere will the difference between Christianity and the modern world be more clearly seen that in a truly Christian marriage.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Drawing From The Well Within

God has already given us everything.  

  • There's a well of living water on the inside of every born-again believer. 
  • It's not the Lord's fault if we're hungry and thirsty.  
  • It's not time to ask Him to come and touch us.  
  • It's time for us to start taking, eating and drinking of what He's already given!

I'm not saying there's no place for a Christian to ever have problems or discouragement, or that we should always be perfect and just deny reality.  

  • Believers do experience hunger in the sense that they feel empty and God seems like a million miles away.  
  • But when we experience that, it's bad taste to approach Him saying, "Oh Lord, I just don't feel Your love.  Please love me.  Do something to show me You care!"  
  • We might as well have said, "God, You haven't done anything," because we're blaming Him for our feelings of emptiness and hunger.

We've learned through the Scriptures that God loves us infinitely more than we can ever comprehend or need.  

  • He can't love me more or give me any more love than what I already have.  
  • Knowing this will keep me out of depression and discouragement!

There have been times when such feelings are tempting.  

  • I've had issues and terrible things happen, just like anybody else.  
  • I've even had thoughts like, "Man, just get in your truck and drive.  Don't ever come back!  I can't stand it anymore.  Just walk away!"  
  • Although I've had these thoughts, I don't give in to them, because I also have a revelation that God loves me and has already provided everything I need.

So instead of giving in to hunger, discouragement and despair, I remind myself of God's Word.  

  • I don't say, "Lord, that's the way it is.  Now You must do something brand new to touch me.  I'm looking for something else from You!"  
  • That would be an insult against what He's already done.

Instead, I pray, 

  • "Father, this is absolutely wrong.  John 6:35 says that I should never hunger or thirst again.  I know that on the inside of me there is so much love, joy and peace - all the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Everything I need is already there.  So, Father, I know that You have done Your part.  It's not Your fault if I'm tempted with depression, discouragement, giving up and quitting.  It's my fault.  I'm not focused on You.  I've let my eyes be taken off of You and put on the problems of this world."  

I'll just separate myself and spend a day or so fasting, praying and seeking God.  

  • What I'm doing is MINING what the Lord has already placed within me.  
  • Instead of asking Him to give me something new, I draw out the life that He's already given.

That's why depression has no hold on us!  

  • I've been tempted with depression.  
  • I've had feelings of depression start to hit me.  
  • But within ten or fifteen minutes, I just decide that I don't like depression and refuse to have it.  
  • God has given me such joy inside that I can choose to rejoice at all times.  (Philippians 4:4)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Love Like Jesus

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you…

Isn't that a tall order?
  • Jesus was the perfect love of God, manifested towards us.
  • He said, we're supposed to love others the way that He loves us.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
  • If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but I'm not motivated by love…then I'm just making noise.
  • Paul's words are STRONG.
  • I wonder today how many Christians are living out this kind of love?
  • What is our motivation for loving?  Is to get?  Is it to gain?  Or is it because we love God and people?
  • Sadly, most Christians are trying to OBTAIN God's love by simply "DOING" the things that Paul mentions.
As a minister, I must continually examine which side of the cross I'm preaching from.  The "PULPIT" can either "pull you OUT of the pit…or pull you INTO the pit."
  • If we preach from the aspect of LAW (Old Testament) where we try to "DO THINGS" to get God's love…then we undo what Jesus reveals in the NEW TESTAMENT (Grace) that God SENT His love.
  • All we have to do now is ACCEPT His love and then live in it.
We cannot give away what we don't have.
  • The first thing we have to do is RECEIVE GOD'S LOVE.
Check out this verse…
1 Corinthians 13:4 "Charity (God's kind of love) suffereth long, and is kind…"
  • God is simply KIND to us.
  • Do you think God is kind?
  • Is it hard for you to accept kindness from others?
  • I believe that there are people who are such givers that they have a hard time receiving anything from anyone else…including kindness. 
I love Isaiah 53…it talks so much about what Jesus did for us (I.e., He bore our infirmities, etc.)  But chapter 54 talks about the results of what He did for us. (I.e., if you were barren before, now you're going to be productive…etc.)

Isaiah 54:9 "For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee."
  • When Isaiah say's "this is as the waters of Noah"…he's talking about a COVENANT He made with Noah.  After the flood was over, it grieved God and the Scriptures say that "He repented that He had destroyed all of the life (animal & human) except what was on the ark." (Genesis 9:13-17)
  • God put a BOW in the clouds as a token of His promise never to destroy the earth again with a flood.
  • Every time we see a rainbow in the sky it is a reminder of that promise.
There Are Different Kinds of Covenants
  • Some covenants state "if you do this…then I will do that." This is called a CONDITIONAL COVENANT.
  • But Noah's covenant, where God say's "I will never destroy the earth again with a flood" is called an UNCONDITIONAL COVENANT.
    • There were no conditions given to this covenant. 
    • No "if's"
    • God simply SWORE BY HIMSELF that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
Look at Isaiah 54:9 again…
  • God is saying He is going to make an UNCONDITIONAL COVENANT again…
  • "I have sworn that I will never be WROTH (angry) with you nor rebuke you!"
  • This is telling us about a NEW COVENANT.  
  • We have to remember that in the OLD COVENANT God was angry.  
  • He was angry with the wicked everyday. There was judgment and punishment.
  • But in the New Testament….God placed all of His wrath and judgment against us, upon Jesus.
  • The good news is that if we've made Jesus our LORD…GOD IS NOT MAD AT US!
I meet believers all the times who seem to feel that GOD IS MAD AT THEM OFTEN.
  • I do believe we can GRIEVE the Spirit of the Lord…but not in the sense that He's mad or angry at us.
  • He is grieved because He loves us.  He's trying to lead us in a certain direction so that we can experience His best and all of His blessings.
  • If we're not cooperating with Him, and we disobey Him, it GRIEVES Him…not because He's mad or angry but because He just longs to do good in our life but we won't let Him.
Isaiah 54:10 "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee."
  • What a statement!
  • In Indiana we don't have mountains.  But in Kentucky we have the Appalachian Mountains.  In Tennessee we have the Smoky Mountains.  Those mountains are real.
  • This verse says that the mountains will be removed and destroyed before God will ever change His mind concerning His kindness to us!
    • "My kindness shall not depart from thee!"
    • "Mercy shall be upon me!" (Not justice…mercy!)
God not only LOVES me…He is KIND to me!
  • God is quick to compliment us and not so quick to criticize us.
  • I wonder why human nature is quick to believe the worst about someone…without even giving courtesy to the person who is in question?
  • It's because we're very much UNLIKE God.
  • God is SO KIND that He would rather COMPLIMENT you than CRITICIZE you.
If what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 about "Charity suffereth long and is kind…" then this is the way God not only wants us to act towards other people…but this is the way He acts toward us.
  • Here's where the rubber meets the road.
  • We cannot give away what we don't have.
  • If we don't allow God to love us this way…(being kind to us when we don't deserve it)…we won't be able to do this with others.
Don't Forget His Mercy!
  • It's His mercy that we're experiencing every morning! (He makes a new batch for us every day!)
  • It's His mercy…not His judgment.
  • When we allow that mercy to be extended to us…we open our heart to His love.
  • His love then transforms our heart and out of our heart we INSTANTLY start treating other people better.
We Must Be Shown Love!
  • I remember meeting with a couple where they went back and forth on how the other person was getting on their nerves and how they were tired of putting up with one another's junk.
  • As I listened, it was clear to me that the reason the wife felt her husband wasn't showing her love is because he had never been shown love.
  • He had been hurt and abused all his life and everything handed to him was based on conditional love.  He had really never RECEIVED unconditional love from anyone.
  • He couldn't even explain why he was like he was.
  • He didn't know why he was doing the things he was doing.
Now, I've heard the statement before, "hurting people, hurt people."  
  • In this situation, he didn't just need some kind of behavioral modification.  He needed to change his heart…then his actions would change.
There it is again…we have to RECEIVE God's love (let Him be kind to us) so that we can then reproduce it in our LIVING and start loving people the way God loves us.
  • I've seen this firsthand.  I've seen the love of God be received by someone and it's like the lights come on and immediately they are changed.
  • They didn't need any rules to tell them what to do.
  • Their heart was changed and their actions followed.
Look at 1 Corinthians 13:4…it goes on to say… "Charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,…"
  • In the King James, it's sometimes difficult to understand…but what this verse in essence is saying is "it's not all about self.  It's about loving the other person more than you love yourself."
  • That shocks some people.
  • But John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,…"
  • He didn't just love Himself and say, "I've got to clean up this mess that these people have created.  For me to look good, I'm going to come and redeem them."
  • NO…He loves us so much that He literally came and took all of our sickness and sin upon Himself.  He died and He suffered for us.
  • And what I love about God is that He didn't just do this for those He knew would accept it…
    • 1 John 2:2 "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
Seriously?  He did this for the whole world?
  • Did you know that Jesus paid for Hitlers sins?
  • A man that murdered an estimated 6 million jews...and who knows how many others?
  • Jesus paid for his sins, knowing that Hitler may never accept salvation.
  • We are not the judge and jury.  But from what we know, Hitler never accepted Jesus.
  • And yet, Jesus suffered the punishment of sin for Hitler and US!
Jesus didn't just come and love the people that would love Him in return.  He loved everybody!

John 13:34 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
  • If you back up into this chapter…this is where He took communion with His disciples.
  • This is also where He took a towel and washed the feet of His disciples.
    • The job of a servant (slave)
  • Peter couldn't believe that Jesus was doing this.  He said, "you'll never wash my feet."  Jesus said, "if I do not wash your feet then you'll have no part of me."  Peter said, "if that's the case, then wash all of me."
  • Jesus said, "you're clean…but not all of you are clean."
John 13:11 "For He knew who should betray Him;…"
  • Judas was present when Jesus said this.
  • Jesus washed the feet of the man He knew would betray Him with a kiss.
  • It's one thing to betray Jesus…but to do it with a kiss…that's adding insult to injury.
  • And yet, the Bible says that Jesus knew this and He STILL washed Judas' feet.
If we want to know what God's love is like…
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4 "…charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,"
God's kind of love is not about what He can GET from you…but what He can GIVE to you!
  • God has always been motivated by our need.
  • He knew Judas would betray Him and yet He STILL loved him.
Do you know that Human Love is not like that?
  • Basically, people say, "I'll love you as long as you love me."
  • "I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine."
  • And as long as that person does things that continue to benefit you, we say, "I'm in love with them."
  • But let them get into some situation where that person can no longer give to you…and most people will drop them like a hot potato.
Love doesn't throw someone to curb.
  • Regardless of what a person is able to contribute…past, present or future, LOVE continues to give to them.
  • God's not a user.
  • He's not looking at us and seeing what He can get from us.
  • He doesn't use us up and then when He's done…discard us.
  • God loves us with an unconditional love…on our good days and our bad days.
Romans 11:29 says "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
  • God's hand is upon our lives irregardless of circumstance.
  • God's love is long-suffering.
  • Even when people make mistakes, God's love is still far reaching to us.  
  • He loves us and has a desire to use us to the degree that we can overcome our own condemnation.
  • It's not about God using us up and then throwing us away.
  • His love is unconditional love.
  • Which goes back to what I said earlier, GOD LOVES YOU MORE THAN HE LOVES HIMSELF!
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