Saturday, February 28, 2015

Two Better Than One

Scripture Texts: Exodus 18; Numbers 11:14-30; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

We live in an individualistic culture. Many of our popular sayings reinforce this understanding. The end result is we think we need to be able to care for everything on our own. Self-reliance is the name of the game. Moses was the only one settling the disputes of the Israelites. That means one person settling the disputes of over 1.4 million people.

Jethro sees what is happening and steps in with a suggestion, let others help you. From that point forward the circle of leadership expands and Moses does not have to do it all by himself. That is the reminder in Ecclesiastes, two are better than one. Going through life on your own is no easy task, and we are not designed to go it alone. We are people of community, whether it is marriage or simply good friendships we are created to have others around us.

When it comes to marriage it seems obvious that there are now two people. Yet there is a clinging to the individual that can cause problems. For two to be better than one, the two need to be willing to allow others to help them. Marriage is a partnership that is dependent on mutuality. We are in this together and we walk together, that is mutuality. Marriage is much more than just two individuals now living together. Marriage is the joining together of two people so that the one may never be just one again.

Surrendering ourselves to the fact that we need others to get through life is the first step in experiencing the power of two being better than one. The next step is to actually accept help from someone else. Pride is what usually keeps us from realizing our need and allowing someone else to help. Pride will be a destructive force in a marriage, and in a life. Pride will result in us being alone and often not aware of how much we need another person. The third step is to remember steps one and two, and live them in our daily lives. These three will unlock the power of two being better than one.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lifting Holy Hands

Scripture Texts: Exodus 17:8-15; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Timothy 2:8

Amalek saw an opportunity to defeat the people of Israel. They were tired, some were still making their way to the rest of the community, and Amalek took his army and attacked the people. In response Moses sent Joshua into to battle with a quickly gathered army. For his part Moses went up on the hillside and raised his hands over the battle. As long as the hands of Moses were lifted over the people, Israel had the upper hand.

It seems like that is how it happens all too often. When we are tired. When we are not quite at our intended destination. When we are still recovering from the last challenge. That is when yet another battle shows up. It seems the situations and people that would attack us are opportunistic and wait until we are in a weakened state.

At that point it might seem easier to give up than to fight back. Maybe it is because we often try to win the fight using force and physical strength rather than the most powerful tool we have. It is easy to underestimate the power of lifting our hands to God in prayer. This can be a physical lifting like with Moses, or it can simply be lifting our heart before God in prayer. The best way to address the challenges we face is with prayer, before the challenge, during the challenge and after the challenge.

For years we have struggled to keep regular prayer time in the life of our marriage. One of the many benefits we have enjoyed in sharing the journey of reading and blogging is that we are praying together like only a few times in our marriage. Each night after we read and write we spend time reviewing the day, identifying the prayer concerns we have and then we pray together.

This time of prayer has been a great way to lift our hands before God together. It is preparing us for whatever the road brings. We are finding that marriage with regular prayer together is far better than a marriage that only has prayer together once in a while. As long as we are lifting our hands to God, we will have the advantage in the battles before us.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gratitute Over Complaining

Scripture Texts: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalms 78:12-25; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

It seems to have been true as long as there have been humans, wherever there are people there will be complaining. The Israelites complained to Moses several times because they felt their needs were not being met. Most of the time the complaining was complete with the idea that it would be better to go back to Egypt where they were in bondage.

Complaining has the powerful ability to distract a person from God's presence and provision. The Israelites had food and water, they had guidance and a promise from God. Yet, because it was not what they wanted complaints rose up and they missed what God was doing in their midst.

When we have a heart full of complaint not only do we miss what God is doing we miss out on the relationships around us. How many people want to spend their time around someone who is constantly complaining? The distracting power of complaining results in not being able to see the value in the relationships we have.

One of the quickest ways to stress a marriage is to complain about our spouses. This happens in two ways, we complain directly to our spouses, or we complain to others about our spouses. Neither one is good and both will erode the beauty of the marriage God has given. When we complain we are sending the message that what we have is not good enough, is that the message we want to send to our spouse?

Complaining about each other only creates heartache, not improvement of relationship. Complaining creates more distance in a relationship rather than a drawing together of two people. Complaining has the power to take our eyes off what God has given us and to create division in a marriage. May we be people who replace complaining with gratefulness. Then we can experience all that God has given and promised for us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not By Bread Alone

Scripture Texts: Exodus 16; Deuteronomy 8; Matthew 4:1-4

The heart of the matter in these passages is twofold, what is it that sustains you and who are you trusting to provide it. The Israelites had a very real concern over where they would get food. While they were slaves in Egypt they had all kinds of food and while they were oppressed in work they always had enough to eat

Now in the wilderness as free people they had no crops and limited livestock. They were hungry and cried out to God. The God solution was to send manna. From what we can tell, manna was not anything extra special, and there were only so many ways to prepare it. Yet, for forty years the Lord provided enough manna and quail for the people.

Many probably thought it was manna and quail that sustained them. As we learn from subsequent passages however, it is not the material food that provides sustenance, it is God who sustains. In Deuteronomy and then as quoted by Jesus, people do not live by bread, or manna, alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Throughout the centuries people have tried all kinds of thing to sustain their lives and they have worked very hard to provide it all by themselves. For some it has been financial wealth, for others it has been a certain lifestyle. Others still think that if they can simply live a god enough life then they will make it through. Somewhere along the journey it is easy to forget that it is God who sustains and it is God who provides.

There are many important things that go into sustaining a marriage. There is the investment of time. The power of going on a date as a married couple should never be underestimated. There is also the investment of emotion, it is impossible to cultivate a deep marriage if the couple is emotionally withdrawn. Yet there is something that is more important than anything else. Perhaps it is better to say there is someone more important than anything else.

To cultivate the deepest marriage possible God must have center stage. This means trusting God to provide and sustain. Time together, shared emotions and all the other important aspects of marriage will only go so far. We must trust God to sustain our marriage, and provide what is needed in order to have the marriage sustained. Marriage does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Realizing Brevity

Scripture Texts: Exodus 15; Psalm 90; Revelation 15:1-4

The pslamist writes, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life" (v 12). There are seasons in life when it feels like days take longer to pass and we seem to wish the time would move more quickly. The result is we begin to wish away the gift of life that God has given us in hopes that it will all move faster. The encouragment from the Psalmist is important to for us to hear in the present day.

Life changes so quickly. As we write this a good friend of ours is lying in a hospital bed heavily sedated after a car accident. Just a few days ago his life was what might be called normal in the blink of an eye it all changed and never again will life be the same for him. We are trusting God and the medical staff for healing, and when he is able to, I am sure there will be a realization of the brevity of life.

So the question becomes what are we doing with the life we have been given, the life that is more brief than we often realize? All too often we use our life for things that are unimportant, or not focused on the call and direction of God. Perhaps it is because we suspect we have lots of time. We suspect that the scene played out in Revelation is way off in the distance. That is exactly why the words of the Psalmist are important still, Teach us to realize the brevity of life.

When we were first married I, Aaron, would tell Sarah that my goal is to be married for 100 years. To pull this off we would need to live to be 124 years old. Taking such a long view might cause us to think we have lots of time together. In some ways we do, however that can all change in an instant. So what we do today with our marriage makes a difference.

Making sure what needs to be said today gets said and what needs to be done, is done. This can be as simple as making sure to part each others presence with the words, I love you. We do not know if the brevity of life will show up and rob us of an opportunity to share those words and feelings with each other again. It is important to not miss an opportunity to share words or signs of affection with your spouse as life is more brief than we realize.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Round About Way

Scripture Texts: Exodus 13; Exodus 14; Hebrews 11:24-29

In yesterday's post we looked at the idea that God is clear about the path ahead. That has not changed from yesterday to today. What we must remember is that while the path forward is clear, the path is not always direct.

The Israelites are lead into the wilderness but the are not lead on the most direct path. God takes the people on the round about way as they make their way to the promised land. We are even given the reason for this indirect route, because the people might face a battle with the Philistines and want to turn back to Egypt. The indirect path was used by God to give the people time to learn dependence and trust in God.

Before the crossing of the Red Sea we find there are still people who want to go back to Egypt. This will continue to be a part of the narrative of the people. The people begin to grumble and complain to Moses. After Moses answers them God answers Moses. The path forward is clear, and God was leading them all that was needed was to get moving. So the people walked across dry land out of Egypt and deeper into the wilderness.

For the most part in our marriage the path has been pretty clear. A few times we have been unsure about how and where God is calling us, however those have been the exception. More often our work has been keeping focused on God as the plan takes on paths that are not as direct as we thought. Each step of the way God was there to guide us, we sure could have used the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, we had to get moving.

Over the years we have almost always ended up where God has shown us to go. Likewise. more often than not the path was much more round about than we would have chosen. It was in the round about ventures that we have been shaped by God for the works God has been preparing us for.

As we have walked the journey of marriage we had no illusion the path would always be easy. Marriage takes significant effort, and requires continuous learning. We are sure God would use a more direct route to cultivating the marriage God longs for us to have. However, it seems like the round about route is the one that makes our marriage strong as we learn to trust in God and rely on each other.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Path Made Clear

Scripture Texts: Exodus 11; Exodus 12; 1 Corinthians 5:7

The instructions from God seem pretty clear. Every detail of the Passover night is laid out in painstaking detail. The bread with no yeast and the animal prepared correctly. God was clear about who could celebrate the meal and who was not eligible. Every aspect clearly spelled out.

Almost equally amazing is the people get it right. They do everything exactly the way God had instructed through Moses. Right down to the asking for clothing, gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors. Note, there are not people running around waiting for more clarity. There is not a committee explaining why they should wait. There is no alternate Passover plan floated. The people see the clear plan of God and they follow it.

There are some aspects of marriage that are not clear cut. In this way marriage is more of an art than a science as there are somethings that can only be learned through experience rather than reading about it. At the same time there are aspects of marriage that are pretty clear. God has offered for us the best way to live a fulfilling marriage.

We live in a day and age when there are many alternate plans for marriage being floated out among the culture. Despite God speaking clearly on the subject, in multiple places throughout the Scriptures. It appears God is calling humanity to celebrate marriage with in some clear boundaries. Further, God seems to be calling us to live within certain roles in married life. There is not as much gray area here as the culture around us attempts to create.

What would happen if the people of God began to treat the teachings of God around marriage the way the people treated the teaching of God around the Passover? Let's not limit it to marriage or the Passover. What if the people of God lived like God has called us in all that we do. What if we were to love, show mercy, seek justice and embody grace in the ways God desires for us to do? Is it possible that we could experience a freedom from captivity like the Israelites?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Condition of The Heart

Scripture Texts: Exodus 7; Exodus 8; Psalm 105:23-38

It seems like at some point Pharoah would have given in. Along the way we find claims of giving in but never do we find full submission. Even when the people of Israel are allowed to go, there is a change of heart and the army is dispached to catch the people.

There is a repeated refrain in the Exdous account, Paroah's heart was hardened. With a hard heart it was impposible for submission to what God was requesting. God knew this would be the case because the state of Pharoah's heart was known. It is not that being hard hearted was new, rather that it kept coming to the surface. In the end Pharoah being hard hearted lead to the destruction of many, including himself and God still bringing the people out of Egypt.

Hearts and marriage seem like an easy connection, and it is. All to often the events of life and a marriage have resulted in hard heartedness. One partner no longer is able to be compassionate and caring toward the other. Every exchange becomes a battleground for power and control of the relationship and the other person. As you might guess there is no way a marriage can survive these conditions.

We have never really had to confront the issue of hard heartedness in our marriage. This is not because we are perfect, it is because we clearly see the damage that can be done. Key in avoiding hard heartedness is remembering who is God in the equation of life. When we remember that we are not God and that God is the one who is in charge of all the universe it becomes easier to keep our heart soft.

This remembrance allows us to have no need to aquire power and control in our marriage. Instead we can yield power and control to God and be present with our spouse. There will be no need to get ahead or to be superior. The only desire will be to serve and journey together as you both follow the leading of God.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Scripture Texts: Exodus 5; Exodus 6:1-13; Nehemiah 9:9-10

God was persistent with Moses. From the burning bush to standing in front of Paraoh, God was persistent about the mission. Likewise, Pharaoh was persistent in trying to stop what God was doing through Moses. The persistence of God and Pharaoh were unwaivering while Moses seemed ready to walk away at several points.

As we will see from the rest of the story Moses does not walk away from the plan that God is calling the people to, Moses is persistent in following God. It may seem for a person to be faithful and used by God their persistence level must be constant. Yet through out the Scriptures God uses people for great things that from time to time waiver.

In marriage the temptations which call you away from cultivating the marriage you long to have are persistent. Perhaps a better word is unrelenting. Just when you think a temptation is at bay, there it is again, lurking. 

Likewise, God is persistent with us in the calling to cultivate a marriage that we experience everything God has in store for us. Not once has God waivered in calling us deeper, and more faithfull. The question is not about the persistence of God or the temptations, the question is our persistence in responding to God.

A marriage that cultivates the fullness of God is one that is persistent in pursuing God. Each partner keeping focus on where God is leading. Sometimes one partner being the constant while the other struggles, yet overall being persistent. Without our persistence, the only story that will be written in the end is one about how God was persistent and the temptations were persistent but we were not. May we continue to press on toward the goal to which we have been called in Christ Jesus. May we strive to cultivate a marriage of persistence.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In The Midst of Questions and Doubts

Scripture Texts: Exodus 3; Exodus 4; Acts 7:30-36

God was very clear with Moses what the plan was, and the role Moses was going to play in the plan. The questioning Moses had was not about God's plan but his ability to be part of the plan. Can you hear the questions, will the people follow me? Will the people even listen to me? How will people trust me? Moses keeps asking God if God has made the right choice in him.

In the midst of Moses weakness and wondering, God continues to meet Moses where he is at. Rather than disqualify Moses because of his doubt and questioning, God comes alongside him in the form of Aaron. To be sure, Moses most likely carried the doubts and questions with him, yet he seems empowered by the fact that God met him where he was at and encouraged him through adding Aaron to the plan.

There is no doubt God is calling every person to participate in the plan. The result of the plan is to have as many people as possible in full relationship with God through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Each person on earth is called and equipped for a certain role in that plan. Further, each married couple have a calling and role in the plan of God. The question is not if we are being called, the question is how are we responding.

It has taken time for us to begin the journey of living into the call and role God has for us. Our questions and doubts have not always looked like Moses'. Yet there have been reasons we have delayed, "We have not been married long enough." or "Our kids are too young." and the list could go on. Recently we have begun to claim more of the roles and callings God has for our marriage. Interestingly it has come just as the way we live out our personal callings has changed.

Living into the calling and role of God is in large part why this blog was started. Our marriage is not perfect, nor are we perfect people. There is so much for us to learn about having a godly marriage, and we could give lots of reasons not to write and not to put into print this journey. However, it seems as though God has called us to this journey. Marriage is such a precious journey, not just our own but every marriage, and God has lead us to offer ourselves to all of you in this journey. Our prayer and hope is that you will feel blessed and encouraged as we share out of our questioning and doubts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trust More Than Fear

Scripture Texts: Exodus 2; Acts 7:17-29: Hebrews 11:23-26

The focus of the passage in Exodus, which is echoed in the Acts and Hebrews passages, is the birth and development of Moses. This is an important part of the narrative about the people of God and we will explore it over the next couple of weeks. However, there is a person of great faith in this story that often is glossed over, Moses' mother.

We don't know exactly how many other children were in the family. What we do know is there was a sister, and there was Moses, an exceptional child. His mother nursed and cared for him for three months, at risk of Moses' death and her own. When she could no longer hide her baby boy she put him in a basket and placed him in the river. She placed him in the reeds, where he would not float away. Also, we are not told this however it is safe to guess she knew the place where the Princess came to bathe in the river. Moses' mother trusts that God will care for her son who was an exceptional child. She also used the ability God had given her to be wise in where she put her baby boy.

In the end she ended up nursing and caring for her own son without Pharaoh or the Princess knowing it was her son. Added to that was the fact that the Princess paid her to do so. The faithfulness of Moses' mother is often unsung, yet it was rewarded as she was able to raise her son, and she was also able to have her son used by God to lead the people of God out of captivity. Can you imagine what might have happened if she feared Pharaoh more than she trusted God?

The willingness to be an unsung hero is essential in marriage. Often there are not bright lights. There are no names on the grand marquee. In fact most of the time it is two people living their lives in quiet faithfulness. In the midst of all this each partner must be willing to be an unsung hero toward the other. Quietly, without expectation, serving each other so that your partner may experience all that God has in mind for them.

In order to be an unsung hero what is often required is having trust in God that is greater than fear of anything else. We must trust God more than the fear of irrelevance. We must trust God more than the fear of being taken advantage of. We must trust God more than the fear of betrayal. No matter what fears show up, being a hero to our spouse means that we are willing to trust God at work in our marriage more than any fear lurking in our minds. I am sure Moses' mother had all kinds of scenarios running through her mind about her boy. At the same time she trusted God and walked with wisdom, more than she gave into fear.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Whom Will You Follow?

Scripture Texts: Exodus 1; Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:26-32

For as long as there has been the people of God there has been a battle between following the will of God versus the will of humanity. In Exodus, Pharaoh gives the command to kill all of the male Hebrew babies. The two midwives do not follow the command because they are more interested in following the will of God than the desires of Pharaoh.

By the time we get to Peter and James in the book of Acts the battle continues. Peter says it very clearly to the religious leaders, "Should we obey God or people?" To be clear the two are not mutually exclusive. There are times when the desires of God and the desires of humans match. The struggle is when they do not match.

A quick surf through the primetime television programs will reveal what is becoming the popular understanding of marriage in our culture. Without much of a critical eye many people begin to shape their marriage and relationships around the values espoused by writers and producers. A quick survey of the Scriptures reveals the images and values of marriage God invites us to are not the same as the ones our present culture invites us to. And so the battle continues today.

We have been told the values we hold for our marriage are old fashion. We have been told the values are oppressive. We have been told the values of our marriage are out of step with contemporary culture. As we look at the values we hold in marriage we see what God calls us to. Rather than look to culture and society to inform the values of our marriage, we turn to the pages of Scripture. This is an increasingly unpopular path, yet a path that we will not step away from. After all should we obey God or people?

We have noticed that people who choose to chase after a marriage built on a worldly model never reach a point of fulfillment in their marriage. There is always something more, something greater. At the same time we have experienced first hand the benefit of chasing after a marriage that God invites us to. We know that we have not experienced all there is to experience, and that God has more in store. At the same time, we have experienced great fulfillment in our marriage that we would not trade for anything the world has to offer.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kindness, Tenderheartedness, and Forgiveness

Scripture Texts: Genesis 50; Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 11:22

No one lives forever. Even the greats of the faith die, it happened to Jacob and Joseph, and it will happen to every person. Often it is not a persons death that is most remembered, it is how they lived their life. Were they a kind person, or were they difficult to be around? Those are things most readily remembered.

Funerals are full of stories of how great people were in this life. The real measure is what close friends and family have to say when the crowds are gone and the reception food is all eaten. The narrative of the hearts close to a person are the truest measure of the life that was lived.

We have witnessed many different ways of spouses treating each other. Many people have witnessed a conversation between spouses and felt that uncomfortable stirring in your gut because it seemed harsh and not very loving. There are also the conversations between spouses that show evidence of a deep and abiding love. The type of conversations that make us a little jealous of the couple.

Obviously the goal is to have a relationship such that the memories will be of the love and grace experienced. This begins with simple choices each day. We can choose forgiveness over a grudge. We can choose to be kind over being harsh. We can choose to be tenderhearted over hardhearted. Christ has chosen kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness toward us, we can reflect the same with our spouses. This is in the big moments of life, and it is in the day-to-day moments. In fact the day-to-day might be more important.

May we be people that when the story of our life is written it is a story of kindness, of a tender heart, and of forgiveness. May others want to tell our stories because they see Jesus. May our spouses experience kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness above any other person in our life.

Friday, February 13, 2015

To See What God Sees

Scripture Texts: Genesis 48; Genesis 49:29-33; Hebrews 11:20-21

First Jacob was in the business of stealing a birthright from his brother, then he was about giving away a birthright. Clearly Jacob was looking at the son's of Joseph in a different way than any one else. Just like it was clear God viewed Jacob differently than the rest of the world.

For many different reasons each of us is viewed a certain way by the world around us. When people look at us they make determinations based on skin color, weight, overall cleanliness, our gender, or even our title. Assumptions are made and often it is determined how we are supposed to function in the world.

God sees beyond what the world around us often sees. God sees the heart of a person before all the externals. God see a person for who they truly are, not for who people think they are. God saw Jacob as the leader of the people, even though he was not the firstborn. God saw Joseph as the one who would provide for Israel during the famine, even though he was possibly the least of the brothers. Throughout the Scriptures we find God viewing people in a different light than those around them. God sees the true person.

Important to marriage is that we see the person our spouse truly is. It is so easy to get caught up in all the ideas others have of who our spouse is. We must strive to be the one person that no matter what sees and knows the person that God sees. To make this possible we must make ourselves available to be seen as well as to see.

Essential to marriage is the ability to be our true selves with each other. To see each other the way we think God sees us. Without this level of authenticity and trust, marriage will always be missing the deepest level of connection. To be able to be this vulnerable with our spouse, we must be vulnerable enough to trust God, and to begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Together, with God at the center, we can see our spouses for who they truly are, even if no one else sees the same thing we do.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

God Knows Better

Scripture Texts: Genesis 46; Genesis 47; Romans 8:28

It was not only for Joseph's benefit that God raised him to a place of power and prominence but it was for the entire nation of Israel. All the descendants of Jacob were able to survive the famine because God had made a way for Joseph.

Before moving the entire family to Egypt Jacob must have had some reservations about the move. We know this because God speaks with Jacob directly to let him know that he should go to Egypt, and that God was going to be with them. This assurance was all that Jacob needed, and they were on their way.

The invitation from God to move to Egypt must have felt strange to Jacob because they were currently living in the land that God had promised to them. An invitation to another place might have seemed as if God was changing the game plan. In reality God was continuing to prepare and preserve the people for the future.

We have had our share of times when God has asked us to move, physically or otherwise, that seemed strange. Everything was fine where we were and there appeared to be no reason for a change. Each time we asked God to speak to us so that we would know that we were on the right track. Every time God has assured us that we do not go into the future alone.

Looking back we can see how the changes challenged us, grew us and in some cases protected us. We cannot say that we were always as willing in our compliance as Jacob was. Often there was more complaining and grumbling on our part, yet every time we have gone. We shutter to think about where life may have taken us if we had refused to take steps in the direction God was showing us. What if we hadn't trusted God and thought we knew what was best? God always knows best for our lives and God can always be trusted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Development for Tomorrow

Scripture Texts: Genesis 44; Genesis 45; Acts 7:9-13

His brothers had no idea what would come from their actions. Joseph was simply the brother who had wild dreams that resulted in his brothers not liking him. Their father seemed to like Joseph best, and gave him preferential treatment. All the brothers were thinking was they were ridding themselves of a brother. They had no idea they were setting the stage for God to do something big and amazing.

The furthest thing from the minds of Jacob's sons was Joseph when they went off to Egypt in hopes of buying food. They did not even know the person they were dealing with was their sold into slavery brother. In his own words, God had placed Joseph in the current situation for such a time as this. What the brothers meant for harm and to rid themselves of their troublesome kid brother, God used for survival of Israel.

Often we are not aware of how the events of today are the preparation for what God is going to do tomorrow. When we look back through the years of our marriage we can see all the times God was preparing us though we did not know it fully at the time. It began in the first year of our marriage with the decision to attend seminary. Followed shortly with the journey of walking with Aaron's dad as he died from cancer. Along the way there have been financial pinches, homeowner challenges, personal struggles, and ministry moves. Through it all we have not always seen what God was working on for our future.

Just because we could not see what God was working on does not mean we did not understand that God was at work. The Scripture passage does not tell us what Joseph's mindset was during the years of challenge other than he was faithful. Part of being faithful is remembering that God is at work even when we cannot see the future that is being created. As we go through the days of our lives we do not have to know what is ahead but we can be certain of the one who is leading and creating the future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Power of Compassion

Scripture Texts: Genesis 42; Genesis 43; Luke 19:41-42

Joseph had every reason to hold a grudge toward his brothers. If it had not been for them selling him into slavery, he would have never spent the time in prison. If it were not for them selling him into slavery, he would not have spent most of his life separated from his father and his family. Even though Joseph had risen to a place of great power, he was not with the people he most loved and his brothers could easily be to blame for that.

While he could have held a grudge, Joseph takes another path. Instead Joseph walks in compassion. Interestingly his brothers interpret his compassion as a trap. Perhaps this says more about the brothers than Joseph. In the end walking in compassion rather than holding a grudge allowed Joseph to not only see his family but to be reunited with them. The power of compassion was much greater than the power of a grudge.

It will not take long for two people in a relationship to experience disagreement or conflict. Whenever two people journey together in relationship there are going to be times when the actions of one, causes harm to another. More often than not the harm is not intentional, yet it is harm nonetheless. There seems to be a human tendency toward holding a grudge toward those who have caused us harm or hurt us in some way. When we hold a grudge, the result is the breakdown of the relationship. Never has holding a grudge resulted in a deeper relationship.

In a marriage there is no room for grudge holding and a constant need for compassion. Whether it is a to do list left undone, or something not cleaned, or simply just not having a good day, there will be opportunity to hold a grudge. This means there is also an opportunity to live with compassion. The choice we make at the point of opportunity will directly impact the depth and quality of a marriage.

May we be people that walk in compassion. May we be people who see what God is doing in the difficult situations and not hold a grudge toward others. May we be people who experience all that God has in store for marriage by choosing compassion over holding a grudge.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Faithful in the Waiting

Scripture Texts: Genesis 40; Genesis 41; Psalm 105:13-22

Joseph is the first of the great leaders raised up by God that appears to stay clear of a major failure in leadership. There are no stories of deception. There are no stories of stealing birthrights. The worst thing Joseph did was tell his family the dreams he was having when he was a young man.

Yet, we find Joseph sold off to slavery, imprisoned for something he did not do, and forgotten about by someone who might have been able to negotiate his freedom from prison. All of this takes place over the course of decades, not days and Joseph remains righteous and faithful to God. Finally, the day comes when Joseph has his chance and even then Joseph puts God first. In the end things work out very well for Joseph and for all the people of Israel because he was faithful in the waiting.

We waited for seven years before we started dating. To be fair for almost all of those seven years we never really considered dating but we knew each other and had a friendship. Through Chrysalis, a spiritual retreat and community for teens, we met and worked side-by-side serving God. It was when we were both lamenting about how hard it was to wait for the right person in our lives that we figured out that we were waiting for each other.

Soon after we began dating it was clear to us that we were going to get married. The waiting began again. To most of the people around us our engagement came very quickly and the time between engagement and our wedding was normal. To us the waiting seemed like forever. There were times when we wondered what we were waiting for, yet we knew that God had placed a plan in our hearts and we were going to follow it.

After the waiting we had our wedding day. It was a glorious celebration with family and friends. Then we had to wait once again, For some reason we scheduled our first night as a married couple in a hotel that was more than two hours away from where our wedding was.

It seems that we have had times of waiting all through our relationship and marriage. This is not that unusual, most couples have times of waiting. During our times of waiting we have been learning that God is at work in the waiting and that our role is to be faithful in the waiting. As we sit here today writing this entry, we are not done waiting, and we are far for complete with the cultivating of our marriage. However, we do know it is worth it to be faithful in the waiting. We know from firsthand experience, that God is faithful when we are faithful in the waiting.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Heart and Mind Reserved

Scripture Texts: Genesis 39; Proverbs 7; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

All the world comes down to two types of people, those who are our spouses and those who are not. The key in marriage is to remember which one is which. Joseph though not married at the time, is pursued by the wife of Potiphar who had apparently forgotten the two types of people distinction. She pursues Joseph and when he is righteous and will not go to bed with her, she accuses him. Next things Joseph knows he is in prison.

Proverbs is full of warnings about morality and living our lives with wisdom and righteousness. It is amazing that immorality will pursue us, while we must pursue righteous living. If we are not intentional about our marriage relationship and remaining faithful to our spouse the chances of not being faithful greatly increase. When our minds and hearts become available opportunity to be unfaithful will come looking for us.

In our marriage we have not ever had an issue with faithfulness. It has never even been a part of the equation because we have been intentional about keeping our relationship strong and our hearts and minds only available to each other. We have not given immorality an opportunity to come looking for us. Over the years unfortunately we have seen the destruction that results for couples not being vigilant in this. Marriages languish or end and families are disrupted.

Joseph remained pure because he was focused on God. The young people in proverbs that stay pure are focused on wisdom and right living. Paul tells the church in Corinth to strive for purity by mastering our thoughts and body. In all the cases and in our marriage the key to all of this has been to keep our minds, hearts and bodies only available to God and each other.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do Away With Jealousy

Scripture Texts: Genesis 37; Acts 7:8-9; Matthew 27:1-18

Joseph's brothers were jealous of him, so they sold him off as a slave. The religious leaders were jealous of Jesus so they condemned him to die. Jealousy causes people to do all sorts of things that they might not normally do. There are some theories that Judas was acting out of the same jealousy as the religious leaders when he betrayed Jesus.

Jealousy shows up in every relationship to some extent. When it comes to a marriage it can show up in many different ways that range from overt to subtle. Overt jealousy is often easier to deal with as it is clear and can be confronted easily. Subtle jealousy is much more challenging. Subtle jealousy shows up in being jealous for your spouses time and attention. It can be jealous of the conversations your spouse has with other people. It could even be as subtle as being jealous of the way your spouse is able to use their time.

Every effort must be made to identify and do away with jealousy. After all it is one of the big ten given to Moses on the mountain. The root of jealousy will erode the quality of your marriage, or any relationship. Jealousy left unchecked can easily become bitterness, which can create distance between people. Bitterness grows into resentment which grows into withdrawal. This spiral does not lead to any place good.

If the brothers would have not been jealous of Joseph the story might have been very different. The same is true of the religious leaders and Jesus. If the story of your marriage is defined by jealousy it is time to write a different ending. Take time to identify any root of jealousy you have with your spouse and then ruthlessly eliminate it by talking about it and choosing a different path.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Getting Passed the Past

Scripture Texts: Genesis 32; Genesis 33; Hosea 12:2-6

Jacob was about to meet Esau, his brother whom he had deceived and stolen his birthright and blessing. It seems natural that Jacob would want to do his best to win favor with Esau. If so much had been taken away there is a good chance there might be some hard feelings left. Clearly Jacob was expecting the worst, so he sent his best to try and win favor.

As the meeting unfolds we find Esau has clearly moved passed the past. Jacob clearly is held by it but Esau has moved on to the point that he is overjoyed to see his brother again. We are not told this in the text, however it is clear that forgiveness has taken place and that God has been at work in the heart of Esau. Jacob was trying to accomplish in his own strength what God had already put in place.

Looking at the reuniting of Jacob and Esau there are some important things to learn for cultivating a healthy marriage. First, is to find a way to move passed the past. No one is perfect and each partner in a marriage will make mistakes. If we hold the mistakes of the past over each other it will be impossible to fully experience all that marriage has to offer.

Second we learn that we should trust the work of God when there is stress and strain on a relationship. Jacob was doing his best to make amends and earn forgiveness from Esau, God had already done that work. True forgiveness, a requirement for marriage, comes only when we allow God to work in our lives and our relationships.

Third, we need to forgive ourselves of the past as much as seek forgiveness from the other person. Jacob carries great anxiety about the past because of his actions and how they impacted Esau. It is possible that Jacob was carrying guilt and had not forgiven himself. When we do not forgive ourselves for the wrongs done to our spouse, the relationship is tainted by our own guilt. To experience all that we can in marriage we must forgive ourselves.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Don't Give Up

Scripture Texts: Genesis 29; Genesis 30; Ruth 4:10-11

We have now sat for a while wondering how these passages relate to cultivating a godly marriage. The idea of having multiple wives did not seem to fit. The competition of Rachel and Leah did not seem to fit. Even more challenging is the fact that as all of this is happening there continues to be the birth of children which seems to be something God has made happen. So, even more than figuring out how it relates to marriage we have been working on how it relates to our relationship with God.

What if we were to lay aside the whole multiple wife thing and chalk it up to cultural appropriateness for the time. Stretching even more, what if we lay aside the whole giving of a servant to your husband so that they can have children. Again cultural appropriateness for the time. To stretch one more time, lay aside the idea of having children so that you can win a competition with your sister. I am not sure that can be chalked up to cultural appropriateness but it does not seem to be a big deal in the story. Laying aside all these things what are we left with?

A man, Jacob who is living into the promise of God to be a great nation and to live in the land of Canaan. We find Jacob traveling back to his ancestral land to find a wife so that he does not marry one of the women from Canaan and be tempted to follow their gods and religious system instead of God. When if comes down to it you have Jacob doing his best to follow after the plan of God, even when others seem to be working against him.

In the midst of it all Jacob is found to be faithful to the plan of God even if others are conspiring against him. Jacob stands firm and confronts his uncle Laban when he needs to, yet he humbly goes about fulfilling the call of God to the promise.

Our marriage looks nothing like the marriages that Jacob was in with Leah, Rachel and the two servants. We have staked our claim to one husband and one wife. Still there is something we are hoping is in common, our faithfulness no matter what. People and situations outside of our marriage do not always follow through on their promises. Not everyone we deal with is always above board. This does not give us the right to treat them poorly, or to give up on our faithfulness to God.

Our faithfulness to God is also reflected in our faithfulness to each other. As much as we try to avoid it, there are times when we let each other down. In our marriage this has been most often in small ways. There have not been any major moral failures, only times of disappointment or forgetfulness. However, even with "small" stuff we must remain focused on the faithfulness we share with God and each other. This means we do not give up when things do not go as planned. During those time we talk, apologize, and keep moving forward toward the future God has called us to.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Home Available to God

Scripture Texts: Genesis 28; Psalms 105:1-12; John 1:49-51

Jacob named the place where he saw the ladder going to heaven, Bethel. This was also the place that God assured Jacob that the promise of his grandfather Abraham had been continued in him. This would not be the last time the people of God would visit this place. Throughout the Old Testament we find the people meeting at Bethel to reconnect with God.

As the Scriptures remind us, Bethel means the house of God. Imagining the surrounds there is not much around Jacob that looks like a house as we understand it. There is no physical building, and as far as we know there is not even a cave. All we know is there is a place to lay down and there is a now oil drenched stone pillar. Bethel becomes the house of God because that is the place where people and God meet together. It is a safe place for people to deepen their relationship with God.

This leads us to think about the place we call home. We are blessed to have a modest home that is warm and safe. By our earthly standards our physical dwelling is very suitable. The bigger question is whether our physical house is a House of God, our very own Bethel. The way we live and interact with each other and with God determines if our home is a house of God or not.

It is a matter of making ourselves and our home available to be used by God however God sees fit. Having our home be a house of God involves the ways we use our marriage to be available to God. When we make our marriage available to God, along with all our lives and our home we find ourselves being a safe place where people can deepen their relationship with God. We find ourselves living in the house of God, Bethel.

Making ourselves available to God in this way is not always easy. In fact often we are called to sacrifice or live differently that we always want to. However, we would not trade any of the changes or sacrifices for the profound relationship we experience with God, and the amazing impact this has had on our marriage. The Psalmist writes that they would rather spend one day in the court of God, than a thousand elsewhere. When we put forth the effort to make our homes a house of God, we get to live in the full fellowship with God, everyday all day.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Planting for the Harvest

Scripture Texts: Genesis 27; Genesis 29:21-25; Galatians 6:7-8

"You always harvest what you have planted." Galatians 6:7 In the Genesis passage we find Jacob up to what seems to be his normal, tricking his brother. First Jacob stole Esau's birthright, and now Jacob tricked his father Isaac so that he could have the blessing that belonged to Esau.

A few chapters later in the story we find Jacob is the one who is being tricked. He is harvesting exactly what he had sown in his life. In fact it isn't until much later in Jacob's life that he lives with the consequences of sowing the seeds of deception. A seven year wait for his bride becomes over 15 years, and until they are reunited, Jacob lives in fear of his brother Esau.

Fast forward to our lives and the principle is still true, what you harvest is a result of what you have planted. We are by no means master gardeners but we have tried our hand at growing several crops. It seems that the only plants that grow without intention are weeds. All the other plants of our garden require us to plant seeds or bulbs of particular varieties. When harvest time comes it is only those varieties that we find in the garden. We have to be intentional about the harvest we want all the way at the beginning, the planting.

This begs the question, what is being planted in your marriage? Are you simply waiting to see what grows without being intentional about what you are planting. In our experience more often than not this results in weeds. If we want a loving marriage, then we need to plant the seeds of love. If we want a marriage of mutual respect, yup, we have to plant seeds of mutual respect. The harvest of love and respect cannot come from the seeds of animosity and disrespect. We must always plant the seeds that are connected to the harvest we hope for.