Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Do Nothing Day

Scripture Texts: Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 4:1-16

A day of nothing. It seems almost impossible to imagine. A day when the list of places to go and things to do are pushed aside and the agenda of the day is nothing. This is a major component of sabbath. Each person is to set aside a day where the agenda is to rest from our labor so that we might keep our lives from being overcome by all that we try to cram into it.

The practice of sabbath is as old as creation. In fact that is where we first learn of sabbath. After God finishes the work of creating all of the cosmos, a day of rest is declared. To be certain there was still work to be done in all that God had created, however a day was set aside before the work continued to rest and reset the focus.

Throughout history people have struggled with Sabbath. Some fail to practice a day or rhythm of Sabbath, while others run the risk of being so legalistic about sabbath they forget the God connection to sabbath. We must remember Jesus took times of rest, as appropriate and needed. At the same time Jesus was often found doing the work of God on the sabbath. Perhaps it is less about a set aside day and more about a set aside heart.

Marriage requires days of nothing. Days when there are no lists of things to get done around the house. No activities to race between. No alarm clock. A day that is set aside for a married couple to simply be together and remember the God who has joined them together.

For us this often means getting away from the house and our family. Sometimes it is an overnight away, other times it is as easy as an evening out. This is not something we do weekly as is a common pattern of sabbath, rather we work it into the ebb and flow of life. We find ways to have a day of nothing that we can spend together.

Like God used a sabbath day after creation, we too need to find ways to rest to have a day of nothing. It is important to find days where we do this as individuals, and as couples. These days are not so we can do nothing for the sake of nothing. No, the do nothing days are so that we can do nothing and remember that God is God of our life not all the other stuff we fill our days and marriage with. There is only one God and sometimes we need a do nothing day to remember that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Letting God be The Builder

Scripture Texts: Hebrews 2:5-18; Hebrews 3:1-6; Psalm 95

A few years ago we purchased a house. In the process of dealing with all of the paper work that comes with buying a house we came across the abstract. An abstract for a house is the history of the house, tracing the line of ownership to the very start of the parcel of land. Along the way there were several people who owned the property, and eventually a house was built on the property in 1930.

There is plenty of evidence of additions and other changes to the house. We have continued in the tradition of making adaptations to the house as we have remodeled some areas and added other areas. All along the way doing the work needed to make our house into our home. No matter what changes we make to the house, it will always be traced back to the people who built it.

When we look at our lives, we are continuing to build our lives each day. The decisions and situations of our life are the building materials used to construct our lives. Looking across our lives we can find times when we have made a real mess of our lives, and times of great triumph and success. However we must remember who is the ultimate builder of our lives.

God is the creator of all life, and this includes our life. Regardless of what we make of our lives we will never be greater than the one who has created our life. Likewise the image and imprint of the Creator will always be a part of our lives. Ultimately the best way to build a life is to be a co-laborer with God allowing God's love and grace to constantly mold and shape our life.

This is no different for a marriage. During our time dating we began to build a foundation for our marriage. This foundation gave way to the first glimpses of what our marriage might look like as we journeyed through our engagement. On the day of our wedding the basic frame of our marriage was established. Ever since we have continued to build and develop the house that is our marriage.

Through it all it can be easy to think we are the ones building our marriage. In many ways we are the ones charged with the effort to build. However, we must remember our marriage is never greater than the God who knit us together. If we build our marriage without leaving room for God, we will find all sorts of extra challenges and struggles.

Even better than leaving room for God, is allowing God to be the architect and builder of our marriage. This means we remain open to the leading of God, who will show us the way to build the best marriage we can. When we stay in tune with what God is doing, God's creative imprint on our marriage will be seen long before any other aspect of our marriage is seen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Sting of Betrayal

Scripture Texts: Matthew 26:69-75; Matthew 27:1-10; Psalm 92

Betrayal is one of those expereiences that carries a painful sting to it. Not just for the person being betrayed, also for the person who has engaged in betrayal and comes to realize the fullness of what they have done. For Peter it was remembering the words of Jesus as the rooster crows. For Judas it was found more in a realization that he had handed over the Savior of the world to be executed.

The accounts of Peter and Judas are only two of the many people who betrayed Jesus in the last hours of his life and the hours directly after his death. Throughout history people continue to betray Jesus, in fact if we get honest with ourselves, we betray Jesus. For the most part it is not in major and blatant ways. We betray Jesus through our actions, thoughts and unfulfilled intentions.

In the midst of our betrayal Jesus is constant in faith, love, and grace for us. That is where the sting of betrayal comes to us. We know that we have not been faithful to Christ, yet Christ continues to be faithful to us. We have transgressed while Jesus has loved.

On the list of things that can disrupt a marriage in major ways, betrayal in near the top of the list. Most do not have the ability of Jesus to continue in faithful trust once betrayal has entered a relationship. The question will always remain as to whether betrayal will happen again. Here we find the sting of betrayal for both the betrayed and the betrayer.

Once betrayed trust is a constant struggle, and therefore cultivating a full and healthy marriage is a constant struggle. Likewise, the person committing the betrayal comes to know the pain they have caused, along with the ongoing consequences of betray for their marriage.

Whether it is in our relationship with Jesus, or with our spouse, betrayal is a character issue. Unhealthy pride is the root of betrayal. So one of the best ways to keep away from betrayal is to keep ourselves grounded with an accurate picture of who we are. When we overestimate our worth, we fool ourselves into thinking our betrayal is either justified or we will never be caught. On the other side, when we underestimate our worth, we quickly use betrayal as a mode of preservation. Either way, the two most important relationships in our lives will experience great pain.

Making every effort to keep betrayal out of our relationships is of high importance. Once betrayal enters the relationship the impact almost never leaves.

Monday, October 19, 2015

To Be a Servant

Scripture Text: Matthew 23

For some being a servant to others comes naturally. For a vast majority of people being a servant to others requires choice and intention. Some of this has to do with humans being selfish when left to our own devices. There is a great tendency toward wanting to make sure things work out best for us, rather than best for someone else.

Jesus warns his followers to not give into this tendency, like the religious leaders of the day. According to the teaching of Jesus what matters most is not how important you appear to other people, it is how willing you are to be a servant to another person.

This is not a question of our actions as much as it is a question of our heart. More specifically, whether our heart is tied more to God than to ourselves. The religious leaders, as Jesus points out regularly, were more interested in the form of God but not a relationship with God. They wanted to look the part and appear to be close to God, while in reality they were far from God. This was seen best in how they treat other people.

Cultivating a healthy marriage means being on a relentless pursuit to serve our spouse more than we are served by our spouse. The foundation of being a servant to our spouse is found in our relationship with God. Keeping God first allows us to set an order to our relationships that produces a marriage of servanthood. Setting the priority order of our relationships helps us to prioritize our servanthood. First we serve God, second we serve our spouse, third our children, next our extended family.

This order has enabled us to keep our marriage focused on the things that matter most. It has helped us to approach each other with the heart of a servant rather than seeking to be served. When we are struggling to be a servant to each other it is because we have gotten the priorities messed up.  In fact when we get the first priority wrong, all the others fall apart as well. The most common reason for the misguided priority is self-importance.These are the times when we need to spend the time making sure that God is first in our lives.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Never Too Late

Scripture Text: Matthew 20:1-19

Looking back on our lives it might be easy to see all the times we have not gotten things quite right. Some might even start to think it is too late to get back on track. It is clear from the parable Jesus tells that it is never too late to experience the love and grace that God has offered to us in Jesus. Sure there might be some who grumble about who gets grace when but that is not how God approaches grace.

Regardless of where life has taken us. Regardless of the path we have walked. Whether we grabbed a hold of God's grace early, in the middle, later, or possibly are still considering, it is never too late. We can start now, this very moment to live in the grace shower God has offered to us in Jesus Christ.

To experience the fullness of this grace we first must realize our need for grace. Each of us must own up to our past failings and misguided steps on the path. Next we seek the forgiveness offered through Christ on the cross where we were reconciled to God. Then we begin the journey of living and learning the life of grace. It is never to late to change the path you are on, and today is a great day to walk the path of God's grace.

For some in their marriage it might feel like it is too late. That there have been too many harsh words, and too many harsh actions to repair and rebuild. The message of Jesus in the parable is still true, it is never too late. Reconciliation is always a possibility, if we are willing to pursue it. Like the journey of experiencing God's grace we start with owning our past failings and misguided steps. We own the harsh words and actions that have originated with us. Next we seek forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed. Then we begin the journey of cultivating a marriage that is healthy and full.

It is never too late to embrace the grace of God at work in our lives and world. It is also never too late to cultivate a marriage that is beyond our wildest imagination. As long as there is still light in the day, God, the owner of this vineyard, is searching and seeking those who would enter the vineyard. Regardless of when we start in the vineyard we all receive the same amount of grace, the full amount God has to give.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hearts Joined Together

Scripture Texts: Matthew 19; Proverbs 17

Marriage being a hot button topic is not something new to our current age. As we can see from the Gospel of Matthew, even since the days of Moses has there been a struggle with understanding marriage. Jesus offers what seems to be a clear teaching on the subject, the couple will leave their families to be joined together to create a new family. Because it is God who has put this new family together, no one should try to take it apart.

Jesus does offer one exception to this, sexual immorality. In all other situations, the intention of God is that the couple would remain together. Before moving on too quickly we have to at least acknowledge the challenge of the term sexual immorality. There are few terms in all of scripture as loaded as this term, especially as it applies to our current day. We find no shortage of people willing to generate lists of what constitutes sexual immorality, and usually the list is focused on behavior. While our actions matter, it seems the point of origin for sexual immorality is our heart.

When we allow our heart to be joined to something other than our spouse, this is sexual immorality. This means sexual immorality shows up not only in the actions we take, it also shows up in the thoughts we carry, the images we allow into our lives, the emotions we can give away. Rarely does the physical act of sex with someone who is not your spouse start out as a quest for a sexual encounter. It starts when we start allowing our hearts to be joined to something that is not God, and is not our spouse. We give away our heart.

Obviously there are many situations and interactions we need to avoid to keep from giving our hearts away. Possibly more important than what we need to keep away from are the things we need to be about so that our heart is only given to God and to our spouse. The most important things we can do is to daily offer our heart, our whole heart, to the one to whom we are joined. This is done through conversation, mundane and important. Your spouse should not find out about what is happening in your life or heart as secondhand information.

It is not clear what Jesus meant by sexual immorality. If we are honest about it, no greater clarity comes from the other Scripture writers. Still, Jesus and others are clear we are to avoid it as it will derail the relationships of our life. It will cause us to give our heart to someone or something that is not appropriate or deserving of our heart. For those that are married, it is the express lane to putting asunder what God has joined together.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Glasses We Wear

Scripture Text: Matthew 17

Jesus viewed the world around him through a different lens than everyone else. This makes sense due to the fact that Jesus was fully human and fully God. Still, it is profound the number of times Jesus faces this tension between living in a culture without being co-opted by the culture. The earliest followers of Jesus seemed to struggle with this as much as we do today even with being eyewitnesses.

Peter, James and John try to process the moment we now call the transfiguration through their lens and experience of the culture by which they were surrounded. Their response to the amazing moment was one hopelessly based on a worldly lens rather than a Kingdom of God lens. Who could blame them they were still developing their Kingdom lens.

When we become followers of Jesus we do not simply take on a new belief system complete with a list of things we do and a list of things we do not do. We take on a new way of being, a new way of viewing the world. We put on a new lens by which we see everything around us, and the lens is often in opposition to the world around is.

We both wear glasses, and without them we do not see the world around us quite right. Every couple of years we go to the doctor to get our eyes checked and make sure our lenses help us to see as clearly as possible. When we get a new prescription it takes some time to get use to seeing the world through the new lenses. The same is true with our new Kingdom of God lenses, it takes time and practice before we can see clearly as the Creator sees. Some would argue it takes a lifetime.

When we get married we add a new lens to the way we view the world. No longer are we viewing the world as one person, rather the two have become one. The days of making decisions that only impact one person are gone. Not to mention the things, people and places that were once important to us change in their importance. We begin to view the world in different ways.

As followers of Jesus who are also married we have both lenses before us, and both change the way we view the world. This changed view of the world should result in us living different with our marriage and our day-to-day life. Our marriage should seem unusual to the world around us as we have chosen to live with the Kingdom of God view as our primary view.

It is okay if the world around us does not understand or even like the way we live, it is not for their approval that we strive. What matters most is that we view the world as God views the world. Further that we would live in our marriage in such a way that through us people might catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. That there would be moments when we can be the lens by which others can see God's Kingdom at work.