Category Archives: Blogs

Whales, Worthless Idols and Grace (Revised)

I wrote these words a few years ago.  Today they ring even clearer as our world chases worthless idols.  All around us is the quest for the idols of the world…fame, success, money…and yet in the quest for those things we forfeit the most important thing. Your choice (and mine) is simple…worthless idols or grace.  You can’t have both.

I came to Jonah chapter two this morning and as I read I stopped at verse 8. Rather, verse 8 stopped me! I read it over at least 10 times as I thought about Jonah’s words,

Jonah 2:8- “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
These words were part of Jonah’s prayer when he finally gave in to God’s will as he sat in the belly of the big fish. At the end of this prayer God instructs the fish to spit him out and Jonah finally obeys God’s commands to him.
But let me camp for a minute on this verse…”Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
I honestly had never seen this verse before. It had to be there for the first time today. I know I have read this passage hundreds of times before, but I never saw this. It’s profound! It’s life changing to me. When we cling to the worthless idols of our lives we forfeit (miss, give up) the grace that COULD BE OURS. You can’t hold onto your idols and grasp grace as well. You have to let go of one to find the other.
I looked up the definition of forfeit for this discussion and here’s what it means: “something to which the right is lost, as for commission of a crime or misdeed, neglect of duty, or violation of a contract.” Another way of saying this is, “Those who cling to worthless idols lose the right to the grace that could be theirs.”
What idols are you clinging to that make you forfeit the grace that could be yours?
What benefits of grace have we given up to have something worthless instead?
Let me invite you to meditate on this verse for a bit and share your thoughts…in the belly of the big fish Jonah has shared with us an amazing truth to help us contrast the grace of God and any other option. It is, ultimately, the choice between the Christian faith and any other- grace or worthless idols. Cling to one and you will forfeit the other.
Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Still He Speaks

Ps 46:10 BE STILL…and know that I AM God

Romans 10:17 – Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God

Sometimes when everything is going great – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes the tears flow daily – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He Speaks

Sometimes the laughter fills our hearts – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes discouragement steals our joy – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes anger robs us of our compassion – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes hatred blinds our way – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes daily activities keeps us busy and we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes weariness causes us pull away and we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes…..we forget to listen to the Lord – STILL HE Speaks

Will you hear?

Will you trust?

Will you listen?

Still… He speaks

 

Visit Marie at SpreadingJoy for more and support her as she spreads JOY!

Barren

God does his best work with barren things.Barren Blog

He built nations from barren wombs.
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren and yet from her God built a nation of millions!
Elizabeth was barren and from her came John the Baptist.
In Exodus 17 God led his people into a barren desert and in a place where there was no water he made a river for them to drink.
God does his best work with barren things.
He works with barren lives, lives ravaged by failure, sin, loss, and wasted years.
He works with barren things so the world will see his glory and greatness.
Have you felt like a failure?  Have you wasted your years?  Do you think you’re not good enough, not smart enough, have nothing to offer?  Then you are just the person God can use.  He loves working with barren things, broken lives,  and failures, because through what the world considers “barren” God works miracles!
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Forgiveness

What should we do when people to whom we have given our trust betray that trust?

Should we be angry and refuse to trust those people again?

What if our car breaks down, causing us great frustration and inconvenience? Do we not take the proper steps to fix it so we can drive it again? If we can’t get it fixed…..do we never drive a car again because it might break down? Will our anger from that instance of failure  continue to cause us frustration by keeping us from wanting to have another car? Will that anger make us feel any better as we walk everywhere?

We may be justified in not trusting a car again, but does that really solve the issue at hand or just make us feel more justified in our anger?

Could it be possible that the person who let us down is really a good person, but made a mistake unintentionally? If so, wouldn’t we be hurting ourselves if we refused to trust that someone again? After all, we must have thought they were good people before they made a mistake, so isn’t there a chance that they are still a good person?

It would seem that the best way to solve an issue, would be to first let the anger and disappointment of that situation go….

We need to ask ourselves.……is the reason we are having a difficult time forgiving someone the result of not being able to come to terms with the issue at hand? It seems that if we are able to free ourselves of these negative emotions and first solve the situation, then it really wouldn’t be that hard to forgive the person or persons involved….

If we refuse to forgive and never trust a person again, are we possibly robbing ourselves of real growth? Could it be that the solution to solving a particular issue lies with the very person we refuse to forgive?

If you made a mistake, would you want your friends to give up on you?

Seems that is what forgiveness is all about….

God forgave you didn’t he?

 

God’s Plans…

In the last week our family has been praying for something very specific….sunset_sailing….it didn’t happen.Now comes the normal responses of all of us as we seek to know what God is doing…

I prayed, why didn’t he answer?

This was really important to me, how could he not do it?

Is there really a God at all if he doesn’t answer prayers like this?

How can I trust him when he knew how important this was?

Why pray at all if he doesn’t answer anyway?

I’m sure you could add a dozen other questions to this list that you have asked as the plans and prayers you hoped for didn’t come true, didn’t materialize.

What is God doing? What’s his plans for us?  How do we navigate this topic of prayer when often the things we ask for are very important to us?  Now what?  Can we trust him?  Should I even pray for things again since he didn’t answer this prayer?  Doesn’t he know how important this was to me?

The emotions of unanswered prayer are intense.  The hoped for expectations that are crushed by a prayer unanswered are confusing.  Now what? Where do we go from here?

There are often no words for the emotions that follow an unanswered prayer.  For me, after many years of knowing God, I realized that often my dreams and visions are not the best thing for me…and so I trust God for his plans, his directions….but it’s hard, isn’t it?  It’s hard when we asked, we wanted, we hoped…and he replies with silence.  Is he there at all?  Is he, as many say, the God of the deist…making it all and then walking away?  Unanswered prayers make us ask those questions…especially when he has invited us to ask!

The bottom line for all of this is simply this-  God loves us. God is sovereign and his love, his plans, and his wisdom direct our lives for his glory and our good.  It doesn’t mean we always get what we want…and that confuses us because we “know” that what we want is the very best thing….if only God would give us what we prayed for.

But often he doesn’t.  Now what?

Solomon wrote these words,

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
 
When God says “no” I come back to this…God loves me,He has my best in mind,

He has a plan for my life,

and he’s sovereign.

I can trust him to accomplish the best for me…..even when he says “no”.

In moments like this, when I don’t understand his “no” I go back to the verses that direct me when I don’t have answers…the verses that calm my confused and disheartened mind,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
  and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

Have You Achieved Enlightenment?

Not me!
But it’s not like I haven’t been looking for it……enligtenment
No, I am not a Buddhist (and I mean no disrespect towards Buddhists) but I have nonetheless been searching for “comprehension” most of my life.
I have spent this life running aimlessly from one thing to another searching for something that I could use to say to God, “I found it, can I come up now?”  I know now it’s been right in front of me all along….but I was so busy searching for it that I couldn’t see it!  Like when I can’t find a tool in the toolbox, totally convinced it is just not there….until my wife points to it. 
Here’s my main thought on enlightenment folks…..
I think about someone dying and appearing at the gates of heaven only to be told….
“Sorry, but you haven’t achieved the proper quota of humming exercises.” (again…no disrespect towards Buddhists intended!)
The world will tell you….  “If you would just work harder and be willing to put everything else aside, sacrificing everything, you might attain true happiness.….”
What kind of promise is that? Work hard for the future, do your best…and you might achieve the promise of happiness?  Be very careful, because if you do achieve happiness in this world...it can be taken away at any moment…..Some of you most likely have already learned that painful lesson…I know I have!
God has promised us paradise…and we have to do nothing for it except believe in him and accept the sacrifice he made of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins….that’s it…no catch, no fine print. And the awesome news is…..it cannot be taken away from us…!
Self-help gurus all have their own special formulas for attaining true happiness and self enlightenment – but if you listen closely….they don’t really promise anything! But of course, they can sell you lots of books……
God has already provided a book for us to follow…and it’s free!
Am I the only one who has figured out that although we are all created in God’s image, we all have very unique reasons we are here…united in the one great reason…which is that we have been sent into the world to glorify him? So what good would it do me to read a book by a celebrity about their life to find secrets about achieving enlightenment for my own?
That’s like a mechanic reading a truck manual to learn how to fix my car.
I think it’s good to read about other people’s journey in life….and they may very well have achieved what God wanted THEM to achieve…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what he wants me to achieve…..
I think the main reason we all struggle in this world…is that no matter how hard we try……we cannot enlighten ourselves!
Do you have a favorite plant in the house….? Do you think that it can water itself or maneuver itself to get the best light…? Can your plant fertilize itself?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”  
True enlightenment is already available to us….we just need to accept it!
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12 

 

Seeking God

mountains

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.

Call on him now while he is near.”

-Isaiah 55

This morning, just after sunrise, I went for a long walk in the woods. If you are ever in a place like this you have to walk out into the woods and be still, listen, pray and praise.  That was my goal this morning…and I hoped to see a bear…but back to my topic.  I walked about a mile back into the forest and just stood still…waiting…waiting for God.  I prayed, I sang (badly), I quieted my mind and listened….
….I listened for God, but at times he feels as elusive as that bear I never saw today.  At times I wait, I listen and I hear nothing…..I want to hear from him, I want to follow him, I want to be aware of his presence, but often…..silence.
I know many struggle when this happens.  I have.  Is this a game of “hide-and-seek”?  Why is this so hard?  But there is much more going on than you know when you sense God is not there.  He’s teaching us to be still.  God said to David, “Be still (shut up) and know that I am God.”  God is there and he is not silent, but often I’m deaf to his voice.  How do I fix that?  What do I do?
I have to be still….be quiet, quiet my mind, my heart, my voice and wait on him.  This morning I stood in the deep forest for more than 30 minutes.  I know, that’s not very long, but as I stood there praying, listening, silent before God, I waited for his voice.  He knows I want to follow, he knows I desire his will, he knows me better than I know me….and yet he makes me wait.  He says nothing.
What is going on?  What’s wrong?  Nothing at all….God is working on things I’m completely unaware of.  He’s dealing with things in my life I have never dealt with.  For me the first task is stillness….God has the response…I will know that HE is God.
I’m seeking God.  He’s not like that old bear who avoided me this morning…he’s always with me, working in my life…even when I don’t see him, even when I don’t hear him.  In these times I wait.  He always works in my life in ways that surprise me.  I look forward to his surprise today.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Building Forts or Equipping Knights?

In the last week I have visited with several couples about their angst and concern for their kids.  The normal response for most Christian parents I have met is to build a fort to keep their kids safe, to protect them from the “world”.  The problem with that plan is that one day these kids we raise will leave the walls of the fort you have built and will engage the world…and most likely they will fail, in fact more than 80% of them will leave the Christian faith.The_Lahore_Forts_Alamgiri_Gate_Picture2_taken_at_night_-_July_20_2005

The problem I see is the belief that building forts is the right strategy.  Might I counter that with another approach, another way of raising kids?  Rather than building forts I would encourage parents to equip knights.  Give your kids the tools and weapons they will need when they go into the world and leave your home because one day they will face the world….ready or not.  If you don’t arm them intellectually, biblically, morally, and spiritually for the battles ahead they will find themselves speechless and “naked” before a world that has been battling the issues you have protected you child from for most of their lives.
Sending a child into this world unarmed is the cruelest of all parenting decisions.  Let me suggest that, rather than protecting them from the world you help them engage the world, deal with the hard issues of sex, homosexuality, morality, atheism….ETC….and do it with them while still in your home.  The difference in the outcome couldn’t be more clear. A child raised in a fort will face the world and fail not far from the castle gates, but a child prepared for the world around them will know the issues, know how to think and be ready with a living faith to face a cynical world.
These ideas are just seeds sown at the moment. I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas as we raise children in a post-Christian world. How much better to send them out into the world dressed and ready for the battle, able to deal with the issues they will face when they leave home.

Here is an article on this topic I encourage you to read- “Listening to Young Atheists”

templar-knights1
Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

A New Nazarene…

Like the Nazarite of the Old Testament, young Mason Lott, grew his hair to honor the Lord and in service of those in need.

While growing his hair long since preschool, Mason, seven, always had in his mind to donate his golden locks to Children With Hair Loss. Though taunted by his peers, he always kept in mind the reason he was doing it and he remained resolute in his desire to see it through.

Watch this video interview of Mason and his parents featured on WAAF in Dallas.  May God continue to bless and guide him as he blesses others!

Quiet Time

Quiet time

I think our culture needs a time out….a quiet time out.  This morning, EARLY this morning, I’m reading,  praying, thinking…and in my ears is noise all around.

The neighbors next door fighting,

the neighbors behind me hollering at their kids,

dogs barking in response,

airplanes flying overhead,

will you all please be quiet!

Silence is something our world does not like.  We are a world of noise…noise 24/7.  Noise to keep the silence away.  There are few places where we can go to find a place without the noise of our world….because in the silence we have to deal with ourselves, we have to deal with God, we have to deal with the things we have done and so we turn up the noise.

It’s interesting that in the bible quietness and peace with God are spoken of together.  Noise and sin are partners as well.  It seems that quiet is the posture of peace, of a right relationship with God…it’s comfortable when peace with God is a reality.  But when we haven’t resolved our relationship with God, when there is no peace with God we keep the volume turned up so we don’t have to deal with him.

Isaiah wrote, “The Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.””

In Psalms God said to David, “Hush, be quiet and know that I am God.”

As I listen to the noise all around me, volumes increasing as the sun rises, I am thankful for the peace, the quiet of a relationship with God that gives me calm in the storm of noise swirling all around.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

The slide to despair

It happens quickly.

It happens easily.

At least it does with me.

Discouragement….

Disappointment….

Dejection….

Despondency…

Depression and then despair.

It’s a quick slide from the first thoughts of discouragement to the pit of despair. It happens so quickly that it’s often a surprise to find we have come to utter despair and hopelessness. David battled this just as many of us do. He wrote about it in Psalm 40.

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
David described it well. The slide to despair feels like a slide on mud or wet clay. You can’t get your footing. Then suddenly you are in the pit of despair. Hopeless. Helpless. Alone….or so it seems. Although nothing may have changed in the real world you feel that your world has crumbled into ashes. It’s a difficult place to be. It’s a difficult place to get out of. Unless the Lord helps us we would most likely remain in the pit of despair. Some never get out. But God does help. He does give us the hand we need, the help we need. He does change our song from a dirge to a praise. He does lift us up. If you’re like me these slides to despair happen without warning….for no reason at all…and then you have to deal with the clouds of doom that fog your thoughts. The Psalms were David’s journals as he dealt with his own frequent descents into despair. Here are his directions for those of us in the pit today-
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
If you find yourself in the pit of despair look to the Lord. He will lift you out of the hopelessness. When it seems there’s no way out he will come to your rescue. The slide to despair is an easy one. The climb out is God’s work as we trust him. As one who frequently visits the pit I’m glad for a wonderful God who gives me hope and help when I need it most.
(Thank you, James, for your help this morning.)

Sunrise or sunset?

Is it sunset or sunrise? Is the day beginning or ending? Is light coming or will it be darkness? What lies ahead?
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This was a topic of discussion in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce. Both in heaven and in hell it was twilight. In both places the residents anticipated the dawn, but it’s clear from the story that in one place dawn is coming and in the other eternal darkness.
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For some the dusk between morning and night has them confused. The events of life have kept them in these dimly lit hours so long that they don’t know if it’s dawn on the way or dark. For some the approach of the dawn looks like the approach of darkness. It’s hard for them to anticipate daylight when they have been in the gloom of dusk for so long.
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This morning I met with one of our guys who is really discouraged. He’s anticipating the night when in fact the day is about to dawn, but he can’t see it. He only sees his sun setting when all around the birds are singing as the day arrives. When we go through difficult experiences of life it seems that darkness is what awaits us. We lose vision, lose hope, lose our bearing of what God is doing. The dusk, our problems, anticipate either night or dawn and we don’t know which awaits us, but there is this promise of the morning approaching as the author of scripture writes,
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2 Peter 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
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It’s not the dark ahead, but morning. When you are discouraged, depressed, anticipating your dusk to soon turn to dark realize that God has promised morning for us. Light is coming, not fading away. Hope is rising, not disappearing. Life isn’t over, it’s just beginning. The dawn is on the way. The morning star will soon be here and darkness will disappear forever.
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I did my best this morning to encourage my friend and give him hope for the day ahead. I fear his dusk lingers. He is awaiting the night and not hoping for day, but listen carefully…the birds are chirping. The Son of righteousness is soon to come. Morning nears.

Baggage

“Life is largely a matter of luggage.” -Frank Boreham, The Luggage of life

I’m always amazed at how much we are willing to carry with us that is completely unnecessary.

We are masters at gathering baggage.

The burden of the load slows our journey, distracts our minds and confuses our relationships.

John Bunyan wrote about baggage in his work Pilgrim’s Progress.

George Carlin talked about it in a comedy routine.

No matter who we are we find a way to carry our lives around with us. Often it’s emotional baggage we have accumulated over the years. Unforgiveness. Anger. Hurts. Old memories of wrongs done. Pain. And the list could continue for pages. But have you noticed that it’s always the negatives that become baggage? It’s all the hurts of life that weigh us down. The pain that handicaps us.

The good that God intended has no weight at all.  Joy is light as a feather. Happiness lifts us up rather than weighing us down. Peace carries its own load and helps us along the way. Kindness refreshes the weary traveler. Love makes the impossible possible once more. Mercy energizes. Grace empowers. The things God wants us to put in our backpacks help us on the way and have no weight to load us down. It’s only when we carry the results of sin that the weight and struggles begin.

That’s the invitation Jesus extended. “Come unto me….” It’s found in Matthew 11-12 if you want to read it. His invitation is to make the journey without all the baggage of the world in tow. When will we realize that this journey was meant to be a wonderful adventure with God instead of a grueling journey to be endured? When will we get rid of all that weighs us down and pick up the things that make the journey a joy?

I wonder sometimes about our fascination with baggage. It’s as if we have to hold onto something. I even see it in death. We are so reluctant to let go of this life. We want to hold onto all the junk we have accumulated, but find in the end that it’s just that….junk. I wonder if we will ever realize we have become a race of junk collectors….glad to carry the burdens of our trash instead of enjoying the blessings God provides.

Second Thessalonians: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents 

Authorship

Second Thessalonians claims to be written by the apostle Paul, but it is sometimes grouped among the “disputed” letters; that is, its genuineness as a letter of the apostle is doubted, on the basis of internal evidence.

“External evidence” refers to the historical data, such as quotations by other early writers, ancient manuscripts, and explicit references. The odd thing about the charge of inauthenticity is that the external evidence for this letter is actually stronger than that for 1 Thessalonians, which is seldom doubted, if ever. Second Thessalonians is referred to in the very early work, the Didache, and by the writers Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr in the second century.

“Internal evidence” refers to the text of the letter itself, and considers such things as grammar, expressions, and thought patterns. Some liberal scholars have maintained that Paul’s doctrine of the end times (eschatology) is different than that found in 1 Thessalonians and his other letters.

Questioning the authenticity of biblical books for reasons like this is common among liberal scholars, but the problems with basing a case upon internal evidences are many. One is their subjective nature. In other words, these opinions are based on no more than the “gut feeling” of the scholars. Along with that, differences in grammar or expression can be accounted for by other reasons, such as the use of a different amanuensis (secretary). We should in humility also admit that there might have been circumstances that affected it of which we know nothing.

Most Bible students have found no inconsistency in the doctrine of 2 Thessalonians, and they believe that, along with the weight of historical witnesses, should carry the argument over subjective speculations.

Conservative scholars and Bible students have therefore dismissed the charges of those who rely on their “gut feeling” that the letter is not genuine. They have found that the strong historical evidences and the marks of Paul’s genuine teaching and doctrine are sufficient reasons to trust that this letter is from the apostle and the Word of God.

 

Backgroundtheossolian map

Within weeks or, at most, a few months of writing 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote this second letter to that young congregation. Like the first, it was written from Corinth during Paul’s eighteen month ministry there. Since this letter followed the first so quickly, most of the Background discussion in “1 Thessalonians: the ABCs” applies here (see that webpage).

Some further information about the church had reached Paul, which stimulated him to write this letter. There seem to have been three major issues:

1.      The opposition faced by the believers in Thessalonica, which he alluded to in the first letter, had apparently become worse. Paul wanted to strengthen them to endure suffering for Christ’s sake.

2.      A counterfeit letter claiming to be from Paul, or some “prophetic” messages regarding the Lord’s Day, had unsettled them. Paul wanted to clarify his teaching and establish their expectations accurately.

3.      In light of those misunderstandings of what we commonly call the “end times,” some of the believers in Thessalonica were dropping out of normal everyday labor to “wait for the Lord.” Paul wanted to set them straight.

The estimated time of writing is the second half of A.D. 50, making it one of Paul’s earliest letters.

 

Contents

Paul’s letter deals with each of the issues mentioned in Background. They correspond with the three chapters into which the letter is divided.

  • The persecution faced by the Thessalonians and God’s promised answer.

In the first chapter, Paul acknowledges the persecution being received by the church, and commends them for their persevering faith. One reason they can take heart is the knowledge that God is observing their trials, and in his justice will one day deal with their persecutors:

 

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. (1:6-7)

 

In the meantime, Paul prays for their encouragement:

 

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (1:11)

 

While none of us wants to experience opposition for our faith, it is always possible in this world. Paul’s perspective and prayers can guide us in how to respond when either we or other believers we know are persecuted.

 

  • Responding to confusion caused by a counterfeit message.

 

Paul begins the teaching portion of the letter by referring to a counterfeit message:

 

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (2:1-2)

 

In the formative years of the church before the New Testament was written, the Lord sometimes delivered direct revelation through living prophets. It’s possible that a member of the church or a visitor had delivered a false prophecy that created confusion and fear among the people. It’s also possible that a counterfeit letter with Paul’s name attached had made its way there with the same kind of message.

Either the reality or the possibility of such a false letter moved Paul to add this at the end of 2 Thessalonians:

 

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. (3:17)

 

In other words, the original letter sent to Thessalonica included this sentence in Paul’s own handwriting with his autograph. It enabled them to check the authenticity of future communications.

 

  • Correcting their doctrinal understanding of end times prophecy.

 

The false message had apparently claimed that the Lord’s final wrap-up of history prior to inaugurating his kingdom had begun. Members of the church were afraid and confused, wondering if they had missed out somehow. In 2:1-11 Paul clarifies the specific order of events before “the Lord’s Day” to calm them and impart confidence.

In summary, the order of events is:

  1. The “rebellion” or “apostasy” comes first — a decisive and widespread falling away from professed “faith” which opens the way for:
  2. The appearance of “the man of lawlessness,” a world-wide leader who will arise. In other passages, he is known as “antichrist.”
  3. This “lawless one” will oppose the true God, and eventually reveal his true nature to the world by taking his place in God’s temple and demand to be honored as God. This event is predicted in the Old Testament book of Daniel, and was specifically referred to by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:15.

 

  • Encouragement for the Christians in Thessalonica.

 

The believers apparently feared that they had somehow been left for judgment, so Paul writes to reassure and encourage them. They were destined for salvation, not the wrath of God:

 

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachingswe passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2:13-15)

 

  • Clarifying priorities: Live and work faithfully and responsibly.

 

Throughout Christian history (even as this article is being written!) there have been misguided leaders who have set dates for the Lord’s return and urged believers to stop living ordinary lives, and instead to sell their possessions, wait on rooftops, etc. Paul decisively opposes such actions:

 

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teachingyou received from us. (3:6)

 

Paul points to his own example in contrast. He was not idle, but worked with his own hands in order to provide the right pattern for them to follow. In this context Paul delivers the strong message,

 

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (3:10)

 

Paul urges the church to confront this irresponsibility where it occurs. But lest overzealous believers overdo it and deal with others too harshly, Paul explains,

 

Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (3:15)

 

This is a pattern caring Christians should continue to follow today. Throughout the New Testament we are told to accept our mutual responsibility for one another. We should teach, encourage, counsel, admonish, and warn each other. But none of these things should be done in a harsh or vindictive manner. We are to speak and act in love, mercy, and grace, just as the Lord has done toward us.

  

Conclusion           

In 2 Thessalonians can be seen the close relationship between the believer’s future hope and present responsibilities. Hope in the Bible is never uncertain. It is not, as you hear in everyday speech, “I hope so” representing wishful thinking. The word “hope” in the Bible refers to our firm assurance and eager expectation of God’s sure promises.

And yet, Christians’ focus on future events surrounding the return of Christ does not produce the quality that’s been described “so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good.” It’s just the opposite. Our sure hope in Christ and in God’s coming kingdom lead us to live appropriately today. We should go about our business, working at our occupations, being good neighbors, and doing good in Jesus’ name while we wait for his return from heaven. The Scriptures give us enough understanding of future events that we can be alert and ready should we be the generation that lives to see them.

Second Thessalonians is a great help for keeping this balanced focus.

 

T.L.S.

Follow Their Example

I’m always amazed at just how awesome the love of God is.

When we stop focusing on our past mistakes, failures and current fears and turn our eyes towards the Lord, we’ll see just how amazing HE is.

The Creator of the Universe, the ONE the wind and waves OBEY… will come to our rescue.

Choose to trust Him when the raging seas have you trembling.

Choose to trust Him when the day is gorgeous and your heart is at great peace.

Choose to be faithful.

Be like Abraham and simply Go

Be like Joshua and fight for the Lord

Be like Joseph and do what is right…..regardless

Be like Daniel, praying as always so that even when you face the den of hungry lions, you’ll have peace that passes all understanding.

Be like Esther and boldly take your needs before the One that loves and adores you.

Be like Elijah and remember that as long as God is on your side, YOU are the majority.

Be like Noah and be faithful…no matter how long it takes.

Be like Peter and just get out of the boat.

Be like David realizing that when you are facing giants, that God has already equipped you to win.

Be like Nathan and courageously deliver the word of God

Be like Job and wait on the Lord

Be like Barnabas and encourage others in Christ

Be like John the Baptist and proclaim the name of the Lord

Be like Paul and Silas and praise the Lord with singing no matter where you end up.

Be as much like Jesus as possible so that one day you’ll hear the Father say….. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Keep your eyes on Heaven and Follow Him

 

What OTHER characters should we be like? Please, list them below in the comment section! and thank you!!!

Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved

 

Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

 

John 8:12 – Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 

 

 

Marie is the founder/President of Spreading Joy Corporation, a Non Profit that is dedicated to reminding others of the simple joy of giving. To find out more about making a difference for others without breaking the bank, more encouraging articles and more about her book Spreading Joy Daily please visit her site at http://www.spreading-joy.org

A Promise Kept

Because of this single promise found in Luke 18:33 “And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again” we can stand strong in His strength.Picture-001

Because Jesus rose again….

We don’t have to fear tomorrow or face it alone

We have peace that surpasses all understanding

We are sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords

We can sing praises of your matchless love, grace and mercy

We can sleep knowing that should we never wake, the splendors of Heaven await us

We have hope that never ends, regardless of the darkness chasing us

We can take our greatest treasures with us to Heaven…our family and friends

We enjoy the majesty of this gift of life and the beauty you’ve filled it with

We can live an abundant life experiencing joy as only you can give

We can smile through tears, knowing that all things work together for good

We can stand strong in His strength and work though His power, not our own

We are refreshed by the daily renewing of His mercies

We are encouraged by His faithfulness

We know that every tear will be wiped away

We know that His love reaches us…..regardless

We know true, honest and pure love

We know that our God is greater

 

AND because a single promise was kept….

We are looking for the promised return, knowing it could be any moment… a twinkling of an eye

 

Marie Wikle

@spreadingJOY

 

This article was first published in Tell It on the Mountain eMagazine by DeAnne McBurnie. Thank you DeAnne for how you are spreading JOY!

Marie is the founder/President of Spreading Joy Corporation, a Non Profit that is dedicated to reminding others of the simple joy of giving. To find out more about making a difference for others without breaking the bank, more encouraging articles and more about her book Spreading Joy Daily please visit her site at http://www.spreading-joy.org

First Thessalonians: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents

  

Authorship

 

The letter begins with “Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you(1:1). Paul occasionally associates others’ names with his own in addressing his letters (2 Thessalonians, Philippians), but the true author is Paul.

 First Thessalonians has been universally accepted as Pauline from the beginning. It is cited by Ignatius between A. D. 109-114. It was included in the earliest canonical lists (lists of inspired New Testament Scriptures), and was quoted and mentioned by name by prominent 2nd and 3rd century Christian writers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Other than the radical German critics of the 19th century, its authenticity has been assumed by all.

First Thessalonians stands out also among New Testament writings in that it can be precisely dated. There are two extra-biblical historical markers that provide brackets for located it. Paul write from Corinth shortly after arriving there (see Background), giving us the first date. We are told in Acts 18:1-2:

 

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

 

This same event was recorded by the Roman historian Suetonius in his lives of the 12 Caesars (about A.D. 121):

 

Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigations of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.

This event has been reliably dated around the year A.D. 49. Most historians accept that the comment on some agitator named “Chrestus” actually refers to Christ, which Suetonius had misunderstood. The “disturbances” were really probably disputes between Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews in Rome about Jesus that were heated enough to draw the attention of the emperor. At any rate, that gives us A.D. 49 as the first bracket to locate the date of this letter.

The second date marker occurs also in Acts 18:

 

So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:11-13)

A stone inscription found by archaeologists confirms that Gallio was appointed proconsul of Achaia in the summer of A.D. 51. That gives us the outer marker. Since Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians early in his ministry at Corinth, the time of writing was probably the Spring of A.D. 50, though a year plus or minus is possible.

First Thessalonians is therefore at least the second-earliest letter of Paul in the New Testament; the earliest, if Galatians is dated in the 50s as some scholars believe. This letter gives us convincing historical evidence of what Paul taught and Christians believed only two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection (usually dated either A.D. 30 or 33). Contrary to skeptical theories about “the long, gradual development of Christian beliefs,” this short letter shows the presence of every significant New Testament doctrine, demonstrating that the gospel has been preached in its fullness from the very beginning.

 

BackgroundThessalonians Art

 

There is remarkable harmony between 1 Thessalonians and the description of Paul’s ministry and movements in Acts 17-18. The founding of the church in Thessalonica is described in Acts 17:1-4:

 

When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

 

Some Bible students have take the statement “on three Sabbath days” to indicate that Paul had stayed in Thessalonica only three to four weeks. This is probably a misunderstanding, however. It is more likely that he then left his attempts in the synagogue and moved out to do work significantly with the Gentiles for many more weeks. More time would probably have been needed to win “a large number of God-fearing Greeks.”

First Thessalonians contains indications that Paul did indeed stay longer than 3-4 weeks. For example, in 2:9 he speaks of his personal example, demonstrating his willingness to work for his own support rather than receiving from them — an example that would have taken longer to demonstrate. Second, in Philippians 4:15-16 Paul reminds the Philippians that they had sent financial support to help him in Thessalonica at least twice, if not more, indicating a longer stay to allow for several 100 mile journeys between the cities. Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was a relatively short, but probably a few months rather than weeks.

Acts 17:5-9 describes the events that precipitated Paul’s departure:

 

But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

 

Knowing that Roman authorities had no interest in intervening in what they saw as internal Jewish divisions (see Acts 18:12-16 for a failed attempt by Jewish leaders to do so), Paul’s opponents aimed their attack where Rome was sensitive. The basic “loyalty oath” of the Roman Empire was contained in the assertion, “Caesar is lord.” Christians were seen as insurrectionists because of their counter-assertion, “Jesus is Lord.” There was a great deal of religious tolerance in the Roman Empire, but there was absolutely no tolerance regarding who was lord. The charge that Christians were proclaiming “another king” was certain to get the authorities’ attention. In this case, they demanded a sort of “peace bond” from Jason, to be forfeited if there were more trouble. This led Paul to leave town.

The circumstances of his departure naturally caused Paul to have anxious concerns about the church he left behind. Acts says he sent Timothy back to check on the condition of the church while he continued to Athens and Corinth.

Acts 18:5 then picks up the story:

 

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

 

These same movements are mentioned in 1 Thes. 3:1-7

 

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith … But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. (3:1-2, 6-7)

 

So, having heard good news about the persevering faith of the Thessalonians, Paul rejoices. But Timothy has also brought news that they need answers to questions and confusion, so Paul addresses them in this letter of encouragement.

 

Contents1-thessalonians-59_2159_1600x1200

 

Though brief, 1 Thessalonians is full of profound teaching from the apostle. As said above, every major New Testament doctrine is mentioned in this letter. Along with doctrinal teaching, there are also strong exhortations for believers to live according to God’s will.

 

Watch for some of the following themes:

 

  • The converting power of the gospel.

 

The apostle Paul was surely one of the most active preachers of all time, but he never accepted credit for the conversion of his listeners. He always preached Christ in complete dependency on the Lord, and always attributed the “success” of his preaching to the converting work of the Holy Spirit. See 1:5

 

  • A clear description of what conversion entails.

 

In the first chapter, Paul describes the publicly obvious conversion of the Thessalonians, and the description is striking:

 

… you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1:9-10)

 

Notice the elements: 1) they turned both “to God” and “from idols”; 2) that turning involved worshipping/serving “the true and living God” in contrast to their former idolatry; 3) their faith centers on God’s “Son,” who both died and rose from the dead; 4) and this same Jesus will return, an event for which they “wait”; 5) and that Christ provides salvation from the final judgment, which will be “wrath” for those who face it apart from him.

Notice how much Christian doctrine is included in this partial sentence. All this in a verse-and-a-half!

 

  • Paul’s example: Embodying as well as preaching the gospel.

 

For the apostle, the gospel was not just information to be shared; it was a life to be embodied, following Christ himself. Paul demonstrated sincere faith that seeks to please God rather than men, selfless service for others, and gentle leadership. See 2:5-12.

 

  • Exhortation to live sexually pure.

 

Sexual license was rampant in Greco-Roman society. Though there was some lip-service to “traditional family values” among conservative Romans, it was by and large just that: lip-service. Mistresses for married men and regular participation with prostitutes were basically assumed. Homosexuality was common, especially among the Greeks, and often included pederasty. Further, many of the religious cults included sexual acts as part of their “worship.” Sexual purity was an unknown concept.

In such a world, the new Christian movement was genuinely counter-cultural, truly revolutionary. The biblical values regarding sex and marriage from both the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus would have been brand new to Gentile converts. But the standards are firm, and are clearly the will of God. See 4:1-8

 

  • Eager expectation for the return of Christ.

 

One of the observations quickly made by students of 1 Thessalonians is the many references to the second coming of the Lord. Keep in mind that the chapter and verse divisions so familiar to us were not in the original text. Nevertheless, the fact that Christ’s return is mentioned in every one of the five chapters as we know them shows that this is a major theme of the letter. The return of Christ has been the fervent hope of believers from the first century to today. See 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23

 

  • What happens to believers who die.

 

Evidently, some members of the Thessalonian church had died since Paul’s departure, and they were unclear how deceased members of the church figured in the events of Christ’s return. Their questions gave Paul the opportunity to write a key passage to clarify for them, and us, what we hope to experience through rapture or resurrection. See 4:13-18

 

  • Focus on Christian community

 

Even though this gathering of believers had existed only for a matter of months, they had already become a community. Paul calls them to exercise their mutual responsibilities to care for each other, encourage one another, admonish one another, and seek for one another’s good. See 5:11-15

 

Conclusion           

For those who wonder what it would have been like to be a member of one of the earliest Christian congregations, 1 Thessalonians provides a glimpse. There was nothing more important than Jesus Christ: Who he is, what he did, and what he will do. In the meantime, as we wait for his return, what does God want from us? What will happen when he does return?

The first hearers of Paul’s letter wanted to know the same things we do today. This letter of Paul provides valuable perspectives from his early ministry.

 

T.L.S.

Alone

AloneOne of the grim realities of life is that we are alone. In the middle of a busy city with others all around we are alone.
This “aloneness” is one of the results of the fall, but is mostly ignored by writers. We simply don’t talk about it. Man, designed to be in constant relationship with God who made him is now thrust into the world empty, alone, isolated. Even with thousands around us we all have sensed this truth…we are alone.
In God’s amazing plan of redemption his intentions were to deal with more than one problem in the cross. Clearly the Christian world knows about his resolution of the sin issue. Without a doubt we all know about God’s redemption accomplished by Christ, the forgiveness of sin, the restored relationship, the promise of eternity, but what we don’t talk about is the resolution of man’s isolation problem.
Part of God’s plan in redemption was to bring us back into a relationship with him. We use those words so easily, but don’t realize what they mean. One of our major problems caused by sin is our isolation. We are alone! God’s plans included the restoration of how he designed us to be. His plans included the repair of this breach. Here is what Jesus says about this plan,
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
“We will come to him and make our home with him.” Did you see that? In God’s amazing plan of salvation he also plans to resolve our aloneness. He resolves it by coming to us and living with us. Suddenly, we are no longer alone. In a moment of time the great ache of the heart is resolved. Human beings, designed to be in constant fellowship with God, through Christ, are restored to that relationship. God with us, living in us, our hope of glory. This truth is profound and immensely important. If we miss this we miss all that God has done. No longer alone….what an amazing and wonderful part of God’s redemptive work.

God in the Furnace

It’s often hard to see God, to see his hand, his work in our lives. It’s often hard to sense his presence, but for the believer he’s ever present. In fact, he says he will never leave us, but most of the time we don’t sense his presence, we aren’t aware of his care.For me it’s the busy life I live that makes his voice hard to hear, his face hard to see. I don’t take the time to quiet my mind and heart to listen, to see him ever with me.The times when God is most visible, the times when we see him the most clearly are times of test, times of trial. It’s in those refining moments the ever present one is most clearly seen….with us even in the heat of the trial.As I read Daniel 3 this morning, the story of Daniel’s friends and their trial by fire, the ever present one is unseen until Daniel’s friends are in the midst of the flames. In those refining moments, in the furnaces of our lives, God’s presence is most clearly seen. It’s in those moments when we desperately need to see him. In the midst of the trial our questions abound, in the midst of the heat we need him most. Has he brought us to this trial to destroy us? Is he punishing us for our sins? Why is this happening to us?

And in the midst of the furnace God is with us. He never leaves us. Last night I was with a family in the furnace of a lifetime. It’s a trial by fire to be sure. This is when they most need God’s presence, his care, his love. It’s in their furnace that they will see him. He is always with us, always caring for us….even in the furnace of trials.

But why trials? Why use the furnace to make himself known and seen? It’s because in the furnace no one can help us but God. As the king said to Daniel’s friends, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” The king has defined the test- Is there a God who can deliver from the furnace? Is there someone to help when the trials of life overwhelm? The answer from the furnace is “YES! I’m here with you. Don’t worry, I will take care of you.”

The God of glory is always with us working for our good and his glory. In the midst of your furnace God is with you making himself known to you and seen by the world. In the midst of the furnace all other distractions are burned away and we see the ever present God who is always with us.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

In A Valley

I love catching shapes in clouds & the mountains are always beautiful

I’m in a valley. It’s true. Have been for about a month now AND I love it! I do! I’m working in beautiful Salem Virginia. Mountains are everywhere I look. The ride to and from each week has been gorgeous with the color of the leaves changing to burnt orange and bright reds. Megan even asked me when I started working there, what it was like. My reply was, “I’m in a valley,” to which she responded ohhhhhh, niiiiice! I had to smile because I knew that I’ve been wondering about life’s valleys.

Being in this majestic valley has got me thinking lately about “life’s valleys.”

We all go through the valley in life, there is no escaping it. It’s a matter of when. My question to myself has been why don’t I “look up” at the wonderful surroundings when I’m in life’s valley, just as I’m doing while working here in the valley of Virginia? I know that I’m surrounded by a million little things that make life glorious and I also know the valleys are going to happen. So what is the disconnect?

Could it be that I’m so focused on the issues that I forget to look up and enjoy what is around me? Or maybe the discouragement during that time has put a huge cloud over me and I can’t see the beauty that is all about me? Could it be that discontentment wastes my energy and I have no strength to focus on making it through the valley? Why have I never thought of looking up before?

We all have so many blessings in our life that should carry us from one valley to the next but when we are in those valleys – we tend to forget them, so our stay there seems much longer than necessary.

The valleys of life are hard. I’ve been in many of them and do not enjoy them during that time. I’m always thankful for friends I can come to for help, but like many – I sometimes choose not to ask, for fear of being a “burden”.

I faced another closed door a few weeks back. My heart ached with great pain, discouragement and no music was there. Until I poured out my heart in the following words that day, I sat in silence. No singing, no happiness and fighting back the tears from yet one more closed door.

The Closed Door

Sometimes the hurt is too much to bare
Even though you say I can, I feel I can’t share

The Load is heavy, the road is long
The heart is weary and has lost its song

I know there’s hope that never ends
But for now it seems my life won’t mend

I just want to be held, I’m tired and weak
I’ll simply rest in silence, as I can’t even speak

You are strong, I’m not. I can’t even try
I can’t stop the tears from falling from my eyes

This is me, this is all – there is nothing more
Such is my life – as I stand, facing the closed door.

Will I remember this in my next valley? Yes. Will it make a difference? I honestly don’t know. Will I struggle along alone? I hope not. I hope that I will have the courage to ask for help that day, but it takes courage for that, and I’m far from courageous.

What do you think? Why do we not look up when we are in life’s valley? Why do we struggle alone – without asking for help? We have great friendships and tons of resources, yet we choose to limp along through the valley – alone.

Tell me, what is the disconnect?

{{HUGS}} yall


Marie is the founder/President of Spreading Joy Corporation, a Non Profit that is dedicated to reminding others of the simple joy of giving. To find out more about making a difference for others without breaking the bank, more encouraging articles and more about her book Spreading Joy Daily please visit her site at http://www.spreading-joy.org

How Love & Respect Impact our Marriage

Love & RespectThe tears slid silently down her cheeks, dampening the pillow.  Anger covering deep hurt dispersed sleep. The twenty-one years of her life dedicated to marriage and family seemed empty and wasted.  After all, what did she have to show for any of it?  Sure, her children loved her, but they were nearly on their own, and the dream of modeling a marriage that worked, was almost over.  Criticism met many of her comments and opinions. Gone were the days of open discussion, as arguments found their voice instigated by his harsh disagreement. She kept her thoughts more and more to herself. She had read all the books, gone to all the workshops, seen a therapist, done couples counseling, and her husband still remained distant.

Meanwhile, her husband sat at the computer in his home office. He noticed tonight when she went up to bed without saying a word to him again.  He noticed when she ignored his return from work.  He wondered about their upcoming anniversary date.  What was there to celebrate?  Sure, the marriage had survived, but their friendship was gone.  It had been months since they’d had sex.  He had tried, but she put him off. She seemed disinterested in the events he still loved and she used to enjoy.  His companions to art galleries and plays had become his children – who would go with him when they left the nest?  Weary of asking her to accompany him and face an eye roll and rejection again, he wondered about the anniversary date.  Feeling helpless, he sent her an email, suggesting she pick a restaurant.

Many relationships trudging down the path to divorce court and the others that somehow cling together still suffer a myriad of problems.  The marriages that do not terminate seem destined to trudge along with both people existing as roommates with separate lives, the hope of a deeply intimate relationship with their life partner all but gone.  Unfortunately, the downward spiral is inevitable to most couples.  Most relationships suffer conflict and stress, but with both spouses lacking in conflict-resolution skills, unresolved hurts are often left to fester, eventually erupting into damaging arguments, leaving scars upon both people.  Our culture handles conflict poorly, either by avoiding it, or engaging in it in unhealthy ways.  In our mission of helping wives facilitate relationship changes, we help couples reconnect and create healthier habits of interacting and working through conflict.  We also see women as uniquely gifted at relationships due to their biological composition. Brain research has long indicated that women are more wired for relationship creation and maintenance than men are (at least in general, due to the bonding hormone, oxytocin), so we help wives learn how to positively impact their marriages by tapping into these strengths.

We see marriages start to turn around when wives learn to speak love to their husband via the language of respect.  We see focusing on his very specific wants and needs through the vehicle of healthy communication begins positive change within marriage because one woman’s husband may be different from another’s.  After a wife worked to lay the ground work, we have found that most husbands are then in a place where they can more easily hear their own particular wife’s wants and needs for love and respect the way that she best experiences them and at the frequency she needs to hear them.  One of the major differences between the genders seems to be the frequency of reinforcement of the relationship – most women respond more positively to daily or near daily small demonstration of love from their husband, but many men seem to need reinforcement very infrequently. It appears that the old joke where the husband tells the wife, “I told you I loved you on our wedding day and if anything changes, I’ll let you know!” is based on truth – at least for a majority of men.  Unfortunately, that level of frequency often does not bode well from the wife’s perspective. But when a wife communicates love and respect in a way her husband can more readily experience it, he is also typically more motivated to be a better husband.  Many times, both spouses actually feel love and respect toward the other, but lack in their ability to communicate it the way their particular spouse hears it.  In a 2012 study, the University of Texas at Austin researched whether men and women show love differently in marriage.  What was interesting about their findings, is that in an effort to change the marriage, women reacted in a way consistent with how they typically like to receive affection.   The wives expressed love by communicating with fewer negative or antagonistic behaviors, and the husbands showed love by initiating sex, sharing leisure activities, and doing household work together with their wives.[1]

The simplest and most effective advice with regard to changing one’s own marriage is to once again, start doing the things you did early in your marriage with your husband.  The activities you did together at the beginning of the relationship do much in bringing couples back together.  Maybe you took a dance or dog-training class, or built a closet or a room addition, or put in a garden. The same principle applies to men, who need to refrain from negative and antagonistic behaviors, but if he does not naturally, which he probably won’t, a wife should ask for what she wants by specifically telling her husband what makes her feel loved.  Give him some time to figure things out while you keep speaking to him in the language he hears.  There’s also research by analyst Shaunti Feldhahn that points out that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected. Know too, that when he is feeling disrespected, he is not going to naturally want to move towards you relationally.  In other words, get the respect piece right, then ask for what you want. It is a simple method that surprisingly enough, works for many marriages in turning things around to a more loving and respectful relationship.

older coupleWe encourage a few simple behaviors for wives who want to take their marriage up a notch or two, or want to turn their marriage around. These small behavior changes, when done in order, can dramatically impact the relationship:

  1. Remind yourself why you married him in the first place, creating a positive place in your own heart from which to start.
  2. Ask him what his favorite things are (that you did together) from the early days of your marriage – then set up a time to do those (or similar) things again, if he is interested in doing them.  If his interests have changed, do something new at his suggestion.
  3. Initiate sex every couple of days – and if he responds to you by saying or doing something loving, put your hand on his shoulder and tell him how much you appreciate what he said/did and then initiate sex or flirt for later if the kids are around.
  4. Ditch the negative behaviors that communicate disrespect like the eye roll, exasperated sigh, etc. An entire list is available here on The Respect Dare blog.
  5. Ask him specifically what makes him feel loved – then do that.
  6. Ask him for what you want (affection, dates, physical touch outside of sex, cleaning up after dinner, etc.), if he hasn’t started these things already.  When he does what speaks to you, initiate sex again. Most men will respond positively to the above six steps.  Just keep repeating through them.
  7. If your husband is extremely analytical, he may struggle more than most men in showing affection.  You may perceive this as his refusal to do things that you want, but understand that he might not know how and gently let him know it hurts you.  If your tears have an effect on him, cry.  If he cannot hear that, send him a brief text message. Do not initiate sex, and when he pursues you, say something like, “I’m really struggling with sharing this part of me with you when you hurt me like you did.  I just can’t get my head or heart into this until you treat me better.” Know that if you start here, however, without learning to lovingly communicate when you are confronting, and when he doesn’t feel respected by you in the first place, you’ll just add difficulty and potentially more damage to your relationship.
  8. If he still refuses to change, stop scheduling time with him to do leisure activities for a while, and make an appointment with an older couple he deeply respects who has a good marriage.  Share your frustrations with this man and his wife, and ask them to be part of a confrontation with your husband about his behavior.  If you attend church or his parents or your parents do, they or a counselor may be good choices for this discussion.  This should also be done with your heart in a place of love towards him, otherwise, he will view it as a personal attack and become defensive.  Often, if #7 has done in a truly loving way, this step will be unnecessary.  Prior to doing this, you should also let him know that this is what you are considering.  There is a difference between manipulation and a loving confrontation about someone else’s damaging behavior.  You can’t treat him like a child, either, or this will not have positive results.
  9. Be on the lookout for loving behavior by him – and initiate sex or physical contact when you see it.  Men often experience connection through physical intimacy, so positively reinforcing what you want more of in this way is not manipulative, but rather encouraging, unless your heart is in a place of trying to control him, instead of trying to improve both of your experiences of your marriage.

This is a long and difficult process and many books have been written on the subject.  Know that your husband is not your enemy, and that both of you can benefit from learning how to work through these difficulties.  Concerted effort is not enough to turn a marriage around, however, effort on the most impactful activities makes all the difference in the world.

 

 

Nina R

Nina Roesner is the author of The Respect Dare, recently released by Thomas Nelson. It is a book that is best described as an experience that connects women deeply to God and their husband through the application of respect.  She is the executive director of Greater Impact, a training organization which equips men and women of faith in relationship skills and public speaking abilities.

 

 



[1] Elizabeth Schoenfeld’s work, “Do Men and Women Show Love Differently in Marriage?” appeared in the November 2012 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.