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Archive for January, 2015

Love is what we need

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV)

 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives them five ingredients in a recipe to a successful Christian life.  This recipe, according to Christian author Gary Thomas, is also good in order to have a sacred marriage.  Paul told the Corinthians (1) to be vigilant and (2) to stand firm, (3) to be brave and (4) strong, and finally, (5) to do everything in love.

As Thomas adds, “This sums it up, doesn’t it? Whenever we speak, we are motivated by love—words released to heal, not to harm. When we serve, it is for the other’s good, not to manipulate or make someone our debtor. If we confront, it is out of true, holy love, not to condemn or judge. A sacred marriage calls us to be people who know we are deeply loved by God, who open our hearts, daily, to receive his love, who live empowered by his love, and who are passionate about spreading that love. We become a people carried by love.”[i]

As the apostle Paul contemplated the newness of the faith of so many of the believers and the intimacy of the relation between them he wrote, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” Eph 4:31-32 (NKJV).  Ellen White adds, “We have been brought from the world to become members of the church, the body of Christ. We are to come into perfect harmony of feeling, and unity of faith.”[ii]

As we approach the last days of human history, unity in the faith and in love is crucial for those who profess to be believers of God.  As husbands and wives, we need the same unity if we’re going to make it together to the end of this wonderful journey.  It does not mean that we think alike in every area of our lives, but it does mean that we have a united faith and large amounts of love for one another, for our family, and for the God who brought us and keeps us together.  What will carry us through to the end is the assurance that “love never fails.”

 

Father God, friends may fail us, and even loved ones may fail us, but we rest in the assurance that Your love never fails us.  May that love for us and our love for each other carry us safely to the end and to His return for us.

[i] http://www.garythomas.com/a-recipe-for-a-holy-marriage/

[ii] White, E.G.  The relation of Christians to Christ and the church. The Signs of the Times. May 18, 1888.

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A dose of strength

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

 

The fourth ingredient on Paul’s recipe for a sacred marriage is (4) to be strong (1 Cor 16:13-14).  As Christian author Gary Thomas explains, “Sacred marriage can serve wimps, but only if they are determined to become spiritually strong. We need strength to forgive, strength to pursue intimacy, strength to persevere if we are carrying our marriage seemingly by ourselves (but always with God within us, of course). It takes strength to push through apathy, to fight back physical weariness and spiritual temptations to become one as a couple. You don’t need to be strong already to start pursuing a sacred marriage, but the pursuit will make you strong, if you let it.”[i]

In a poignant letter written to a husband, Ellen White was very strong with her words as she wrote: “Yours can yet be a happy family. Your  wife needs your help. She is like a clinging vine; she wants to lean upon your strength. You can help her and lead her along. You should never censure her. Never reprove her if her efforts are not what you think they should be. Rather encourage her by words of tenderness and love. You can help your wife to preserve her dignity and self-respect. Never praise the work or acts of others before her to make her feel her deficiencies. You have been harsh and unfeeling in this respect. You have shown greater courtesy to your hired help than to her and have placed them ahead of her in the house.”[ii]

Athletes know that you don’t win races or trophies by sitting complacently.  Instead they work hard, they push themselves, they fight through discouragement and defeat until they reach their desired goal.  Such is the strength that we need in order to have a sacred marriage, a successful relationship, and a lifetime of love, life, and laughter together.

 

Father God, we are weak, but you are strong.  If we’re going to make it together for our entire life we need your strength, and the courage to plow forward in the face of challenges and difficulties.

[i] http://www.garythomas.com/a-recipe-for-a-holy-marriage/

[ii] White, E. G. (1998). Daughters of God. Review and Herald Publishing Association.

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Be brave

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)

In his first letter to the members of the church in Corinth (1 Cor 16:13-14), Paul shared a perfect recipe for a sacred marriage.  We’ve already talked about the first two:  Be watchful, and stand firm.  The third ingredient is to (3) be brave.  Be people of courage. As Gary Thomas[i] says, “It takes courage to live in a sacred marriage: the courage to lovingly confront, when appropriate, but also the courage to receive a confrontation. The courage to take a risk when God leads you to do something that sounds so out there, you can hardly believe it. The courage to say “no” to everything you want when what you want isn’t what God wants—it takes guts to walk away from something that you think offers happiness but that God clearly is shutting down.”

I was impressed when I heard and read stories of the police officers and firemen who rushed into the World Trade Center buildings the morning of September 11, 2001, to save the people trying to get out.  To what could we attribute their heroism, their bravery?  Some of it probably had to do with their character and their upbringing.  But a lot had to do with their training and discipline.  Ellen White wrote: “It is discipline of spirit, cleanness of heart and thought, that is needed. Moral purity depends on right thinking and right acting. Evil thoughts destroy the soul, while a right control of the thoughts prepares the mind to labor harmoniously for the Master. Every thought should be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”[ii]

A sacred marriage demands discipline in establishing and maintaining good, healthy habits.  It takes the courage to do what is right, to stand for the truth, to be humble and yet self-confident enough to recognize when we have made mistakes and to take the steps to correct them.  It also requires courage to accept our spouse words of disagreement, loving confrontation, and kind correction.

 

Father God, helps us to be brave and of good courage, and remind us that our battle is not against each other but against the devil and his allies.

[i] Ibid

[ii] White, E. G. (1915). Gospel Workers. Review and Herald Publishing Association.

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Standing strong

But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand. Isaiah 32:8 (NKJV)

 

The second ingredient in Paul’s recipe (1 Cor 16:13-14) for a good Christian life, and a good marriage is to (2) stand firm in the faith.   As Christian author Gary Thomas[i] explains, “In a sacred marriage, if we lose our faith, we lose our love. Our faith is what sustains our love. It’s the reason for our love. It’s the source and strength and purpose of our love. The best way to love your spouse is to love God first, in all things.”

In the letter that the apostle wrote to the members of the church in Thessalonica he told them he was comforted by their faith.  It was indeed their faith that helped them to stand firm, but it also serve as encouragement to others, like Paul himself.

To the members of the church in Philippi Paul added, “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” Phil 1:27 (NKJV).  In his words he emphasizes stand firm in their conduct and in one spirit.  With so many forces trying to divide us, we must guard our marital unity like two legs of a three-legged footstool . . . missing one will cause the stool to collapse.  And let’s not miss the goal is to strive, together, for the faith.  What we cannot do alone, we can achieve together.

On his second letter to the members of the church in Thessalonica Paul writes:  “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NKJV).  Keeping in mind all the memories of our time together, all the things we enjoy doing together, all the places we have visited, the food we enjoy, the people we know – all of them serve as an emotional glue that help keep us from giving up on our relationship.

 

Father God, help us to stand firm through our faith, through our conduct, through our unity as a couple, and through our memories together, and when Jesus returns, may we be found standing together still.

[i] Ibid

 

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A good recipe

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14Let all that you do be done with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NKJV)

 

Christian author, Gary Thomas,[i] suggests that our text for today has the perfect recipe for a sacred marriage.  Let’s look at the five ingredients the Apostol Paul includes here:

  1. Watch. What Paul warns us all to do is to be on guard. He is in full agreement with the apostle Peter who wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Pet 5:8 (NKJV).

Many still have the idea that the devil might show up wearing horns and carrying a pitchfork and therefore will be easily recognized.  But what Paul is saying, particularly when it comes to marriage, is that we must be vigilant in every area of our lives and in our relationship as husbands and wives.

We must be vigilant, as Thomas advices, over our hearts, which can be led astray.  Sometimes couples facing challenges and discouragement between them tend to look at the negative things in their spouse and may feel some attraction or infatuation with somebody else.   Paul tells us to be careful, be vigilant over our hearts that those feelings may lead us into inappropriate and sinful thoughts and feelings.

We must also watch over our thinking, says Thomas, which can become so negative or defeatist, particularly toward our spouse and our relationship.  We must make sure we don’t give up on each other or our marriage.

And we must also watch over the enemy, who is doing everything in his power to pull us apart and destroy us.  This is critically important for young couples to understand because there are many enemies out there.  It doesn’t take much vigilance to fall in love, but it does take constant vigilance to stay there.

Watch!  Be vigilant!  Be on guard!  The survival of your marriage may depend on it.

 

Father God, help us be on guard against Your and our enemy as he seeks to destroy us and our marriage.

[i] http://www.garythomas.com/a-recipe-for-a-holy-marriage/

 

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Wait for me

Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. Genesis 24:16 (NKJV)

 

Messages from every direction bombard the minds, especially of young people, with the message that they must have sex, the sooner the better.  The message they come out with is, “everybody’s doing it,” so therefore so should I.  And the pressure comes from the media, but mostly from their own peers.

Christian artist, Rebecca St. James, has dedicated her life and music to share a different message, a message of purity and abstention from sex until marriage.  In her book[i] on this topic St. James writes:  “I believe that God has placed ‘The Dream’ inside of each one of us, unless He has specifically called you to singleness. We each have a desire for intimacy, for someone to know us fully and love us completely. . . . A guy longs to protect; a girl longs to be protected. And that’s exactly the way God created us. When we follow His plan, there are great blessings in store. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jer. 29:11-13)” (pp. 5, 6).

She summarizes her believes with these words: “I hope that in these pages I have helped to defy a modern misconception: that romance can be fun and exciting only when it involves breaking the rules. Immorality is glamorized everywhere: on TV, in movies, and in most music today. What the entertainers don’t show or sing about is the very unglamorous, often agonizing consequences of an immoral lifestyle. Truth is, the most joyful, beautiful, exciting romance is the one that is pure. It is also the most free! Pure romance is not bound by sexual addiction or selfish motives and desires. It is free to love within God’s perfect boundaries” (pp. 6, 7).  Wise words to meditate on.

 

Father God, help me to maintain my sexual purity inside the walls of my marriage or until I find the person with whom to share my life.  While it may not be the most popular decision, I ask for your strength to do what is right.

[i] St. James, R. (2005).  Wait for Me: Rediscovering the Joy of Purity in Romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.” Deuteronomy 4:9 (NKJV)

 

According to research[i] conducted by Raquel Bernal , of the University of Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, and Michael P. Keane, of the University of New South Wales, for every year that a child spends being cared for by a grandmother or other relative while the mother works, his or her test scores at ages 3 to 6 drop by 2.6%.  On the other hand, formal child-care does not have the same adverse effects on cognitive achievement.  Previous research has found that grandparents are often stressed by the child care responsibilities and therefore may not provide their grandchildren adequate educational activity.

This does not mean that the care of grandparents should be set aside and instead children should be taken to a child care center.  Child care quality is of utmost importance.  Deborah Lowe Vandell and Barbara Wolfe[ii], from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, explain that when it comes to children’s everyday experiences, children appear happier and more cognitively engaged in settings in which the caregivers interact with them positively and in settings in which the child to adult ratios are lower.

What is of most importance, then, are two main things:  First of all, the quality of the relationship between the caregiver (grandparent, or other) and the children, and second, the structured educational opportunities that the children have.  But there’s an added element that grandparents provide which many day care centers can’t:  their love and the transmission of their faith and values to their grandchildren.

Many grandparents have had to assume the heavy responsibility of raising their grandchildren.  It may be discouraging, frustrating, and very stressful to them, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to help their grandchildren physically, socially, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually.  What a wonderful privilege that is!

 

Father God, help me to lead my grandchildren to a greater life experience with us, and most importantly, with you.

[i] https://books.google.com/books?id=WKK8zqFl040C&pg=PA132&lpg=PA132&dq=Toddlers+Cared+for+by+Grandma+Have+Lower+Scores&source=bl&ots=wpjOtoEVAa&sig=iUJMbZsmR-aE8QD97rqG-G9wI9U&hl=en&sa=X&ei=E5-yVNv2IYKoNoDagugO&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Toddlers%20Cared%20for%20by%20Grandma%20Have%20Lower%20Scores&f=false (accessed 1-11-15)

[ii] http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/ccquality00/ccqual.htm (accessed 1-11-15)

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Time with Grammy

But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 1 Timothy 5:4 (NKJV)

 

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)[i] showed that in comparison with other children in kinship care arrangements, custodial grandchildren are reported by their caregivers to have higher levels of behavioral and emotional disturbances than children in the overall U.S. population.

In general terms, there are two major reasons why custodial grandchildren may encounter greater risk of behavioral and emotional difficulties than children in general. The first reason is that custodial grandchildren are typically placed in the care of their grandparents because of their parents’ substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, teenage pregnancy, death, illness, divorce, or incarceration. Such conditions results in adverse risks such as exposure to prenatal toxins, early childhood trauma, insufficient interaction with parents, family conflict, uncertainty about the future, and societal stigma.

The second reason why custodial grandchildren may experience higher risk of emotional and behavioral difficulties has to do with the numerous challenges that grandparents face as caregivers. For many this role presents challenges which include inadequate support, social stigma, isolation, disrupted leisure and retirement plans, age-related adversities, anger toward grandchildren’s parents, and financial strain.  As a result, custodial grandparents typically show elevated rates of anxiety, irritability, anger, and guilt.  Recently, it was found that psychological distress among custodial grandmothers results in lower-quality parenting, which ultimately leads to higher maladjustment of custodial grandchildren.

While this may sound like a negative, hopeless situation for both grandparents and grandchildren, it does not have to be so.  Grandparents also have a lot more experience, time, and love which provides a safer, warmer environment for their grandchildren.

 

Father God, help me to be surround my grandchildren with love and a healthy environment so they will have a better chance at a good life and a more promising future.

[i] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2083282/ (accessed 1-11-15)

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Dad, stay home

At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house.  Acts 7:20 (ESV)

 

An article in The New York Times[i] highlighted the changing role of some fathers in America.  As the writer, Alex Williams stated, until recently, stay-at-home fathers were just a very small number among American families and were not always seen in the most positive of lights.

In the first decade of this century, the number of men who have left full-time employment outside the home has more than doubled, to 176,000, according to recent United States census data.  If we add all the men who maintain freelance or part-time jobs but who serve as the primary caretaker of children under de age of 15 while their wife works, the estimated number is around 626,000, according to Williams.

The identity of the at-home dad is also changing, both on the playground and in the culture in general. The decision to stay home with the children is not seen as a failure of their responsibilities as men, but rather as a lifestyle choice, a choice, in fact, that makes sense at a time when women may make as much or more money than their husbands do.

The new arrangement has created a new set of questions and situations men have never had to face before.  One of them has to do with the division of labor, which can be a challenge even when couples enter the arrangement willingly.  The modern at-home father is also experiencing what many women have had to live with for many years: the isolation and tedium familiar to housewives throughout the ages.  And one situation has to be dealt with carefully when taking his children to the park:  How does a lone man approach a lone woman at the teeter-totter without giving her the wrong impression?

A changing society presents new challenges and situations.  But the important role of fathers does not change and will never go out of fashion.

 

Father God, help us, as fathers, to contribute to the health and well-being of our homes and of our children daily.

[i] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/fashion/dads-are-taking-over-as-full-time-parents.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (accessed 1-10-15)

 

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And now what?

Bearing with one another.  Colossians 3:13 (NKJV)

 

The third and final question you should ask, before giving up on your relationship, is:

 

  1. What makes you think you can find a way to continue being together?[i]

Think about this for a moment:  If you have not ended your relationship yet, you must have some hope that things will get better, that you have a good, happier future together.  Where does that hope you have come from?  What is it that you see that makes you think that there’s a chance things could get better? Maybe you can see that your spouse really and truly loves you and they too want to find a way to make your relationship work. Perhaps you can also see that he or she is making a good, honest attempt to change.

If there’s the smallest flicker of light in an otherwise seemingly dark relationship, there is still hope.  Think about these words of Jesus:  So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” Mat 17:20 (NKJV).  Is it possible that the faith about which Jesus was speaking only applies to religious matters?  Or is it possible that the same faith Jesus makes available to us to move mountains of unbelief can also help us move the mountains that have come between us as spouses?  Is it possible that the same faith that can help us overcome an addiction or a harmful behavior can also help us overcome the damaging, hurtful patterns that threaten to destroy our relationship? Or is God’s power not available to all of us in all situations?

Yes, that same faith is available to all of us.  If you have even the smallest reservoir of positive feelings and hopes for a better future together, that faith and these three questions can help you highlight them. They can help encourage you to continue to try to re-engage in a positive way with your spouse.

 

Father God, help us to revive our relationship.  Give us that faith, as small as a mustard seed, that we may move the mountains that have grown in between us.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2013/07/3-questions-to-get-your-relationship-back-on-track.html?ecd=wnl_men_080513&ctr=wnl-men-080513_hdln_3&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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