Friday, November 30, 2012

Uprooting bitterness

Few pet sins will more quickly choke the marital garden than bitterness. The "Well, he.../Well, she..." interchanges, rather than bring some kind of resolution and restoration, dump Miracle-Gro all over those weeds. Emerson Eggerichs in his superb work on husband/wife interaction, "Love and Respect," aptly calls this "The Crazy Cycle."

How does one eradicate such a tentacled weed from their garden?

Let me back up a few days. One night earlier this week during the evening when I had been reading through the Bible with my daughters, we took a hiatus from Isaiah and flipped to the beginning. I had some lessons I wanted to impart upon my girls, but God had some lessons he wanted to impart to me. As I took them through the history of Cain and Abel, I hoped to share with them the importance of sin's destructiveness, and while this is a true premise, I was moved by God's conduct throughout the ordeal (Genesis 4:1-16).

Consider God's grace,

1. God doesn't accept an inappropriate sacrifice. Rather, in his goodness, justice, and grace, God provides instruction (read: discipline) in that rejection to move Cain to repent of that sacrifice and to then offer a proper sacrifice.

2. God provides a warning. When Cain became angry at God, God continued to lavish grace, love, and discipline upon Cain, his child, by pointing out his improper displeasure, by warning him about sin's close proximity, and by encouraging him to get himself right before things went far worse.

Understand this: God would have been completely justified in ending Cain's life when he offered the improper sacrifice and especially when his anger flared at God because the Lord did not accept Cain's improper sacrifice. Isn't that like us? We get angry when our sin isn't coddled or understood. It's your fault I sinned! Back to God's great grace.

3. God provides an opportunity to repent. Cain kills his brother. Does God then sentence him to a swift and agonizing death? Nope. More and more grace. God does for Cain just as he did for Cain's daddy, Adam. He offers an opportunity for repentance. As God called out to Adam, "Where are you?" in hopes that the man would step forth and confess, God calls out to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" God knew where Adam was. God knew where Abel was. In fact, Abel's blood cried out to God from the soil. How's that for haunting imagery? In his goodness, God gave both the opportunity to come to him before he confronted them.

4. God restrains his wrath. Cain sasses God. No, really. All out and from his toes, Cain gives God lip. "Am I my brother's keeper?" I imagine him doing so with a sullen intonation and a shrug while not having the masculine fortitude to look God in the eye. Such a response from my child would ignite a fury in my stove. Had I been God in that situation, you would not have found a particulate left of Cain in the cosmos. God, in his grand grace, restrains his just wrath.

5. God indicts, sentences, and provides hope. No more quibbling. God makes plain that he knows all things, that Cain has been measured in the scales and found wanting. Once again, rather than destruction, God separates Cain. Cain, with blood still beneath his nails, knows the jig is up, and he frets that the increasing multitude that has sprung from the offspring of Adam and Eve will seek to slay the murderer. God's inexhaustible grace lavishes forth again upon Cain. You are marked. None will harm you, you have my word. Because Cain is allowed to live, God grants him time to take stock, assess, and hopefully turn back to God in repentance for what he had done.

We never know what happens to Cain after that apart from his offspring, but it is possible that he repented before he died. Would we expect any other result from God's amazing grace?

All of these things overwhelmed me as I chatted with my daughters. It made me think of Peter's self-centered query to his Master about how often he should forgive. Rather than mock or ridicule Peter, Christ (yep, in his grace) instructs the buffoonerous disciple. "Seventy times seven." Translated: stop keeping count! God demands of his children what he already is and does. How many times has God forgiven you?

So where is all of this going in your relationship with your wife when it comes to the weed of bitterness and resentment? You know full well. Forgive her much. Pour out your grace upon your wife.The five things above that God did with Cain do not correspond with what you should do to your wife except that they exemplify God's extraordinary love and grace toward Cain. As God has done with us, so he expects us to do with others, especially those near and dear to us, and especially our brides.

Some practical apps:

1. Don't keep score. You'll never win. And you will never have a bigger tally than the one that God's NOT keeping against you.

2. Hear her. This comes up again and again. Typically, when a bride's bile rises against her man, the man's bile immediately counters. DON'T! Take a Tums. Then listen to her. Really hear what she has to say. You'll be amazed at how that will reduce the intensity from her perspective when she knows you are listening to her.

3. Don't divert. What do I mean by that? Stay on topic. Don't bring up something that she has done that has caused you to act like a burro. She's responsible for her conduct. You are responsible for yours. If your conduct has brought harm, own it. Confess your sin to God, and apologize to your bride.

4. Be a man. This is no longer junior high school. Your bride will offend you at some point future as you will offend her, BUT one does not permit the other. If she steps on your toes, man up and show her grace. Trust that she does love you and that the slight was not intended. I'm not saying to not call it to her attention, but when you do so, show her respect and that you trust in her love. Don't take a toe-crunch as an opportunity to drive your beloved into the dirt. Act like a man and not a prepubescent bully.

5. Remember your paid debt. Yes, the one forgiven much should forgive much--unless you've forgotten how much you've been forgiven. How do you keep a sober mind in that regard? Think often about the cross of Christ. If you've not read through the Gospels recently, do so. Twice per year would be the bare minimum for a believer. When we consider much what God has done for us, it is far easier for us to then lavish the grace bestowed upon us onto others.

So brothers, if you catch sight of the bitterness weed getting hold of your heart, give it no place. Go to the cross and let God pull it up so you can in turn love him and your wife as he intended.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"I wanna be that man"

Often times artists--be they painters, cartoonists, film-makers, or novelists--capture in a few moments what theologians can't communicate in tomes.

Here's a song. Let it move you to purpose in your heart to be that man for your woman. For your children.

For Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coming storms...

You're hated. Get used to it.

Do you believe marriage is for one man and one woman? You're a bigoted homophobe.

Do you think that a baby in the womb is a human being and therefore deserving of the protection of any human being? Your an anti-choice and have no thought for a woman's fundamental freedoms.

Do you really believe in a six-day creation and a young earth, Noah and the ark, Jonah and a great fish? Do you believe in the tooth fairy, too?

Do you really believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven? You are a fundamentalist extremist, the kind that runs planes into buildings.

Yes, folks will care for you and your convictions. Peter said as much.  "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:12-13a). Jesus said as much to his disciples. Twice! "You will be hated for my name's sake" (Matthew 10:22, 24:9)

With such prescient training, I don't get flummoxed when I hear the Bill Mahre's of the world lampoon the religiously convicted. I don't get too stressed (okay, maybe a bit) when the followers of Christ are lumped in with the followers of Muhammad and Allah. It's to be expected.

Consider this Facebook post. All is in the original to include the parentheticals and the subject-verb disagreement; I just bold printed a few statements:

Apparently the social conservative faction of the Republican Party (read anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-gay) are declaring war on Karl Rove - the most devious political operative since Halderman. They claim that Rove virtually controlled the nomination process (probably true) and that Romney, Rove’s choice, lost because he wasn’t conservative enough (ARE THEY ON CRACK??). So who do you root for, evil genius or superstitious dunderheads?
More and more, those who follow Christ in all corners of their life will suffer such scorn. I have a friend who, like many others, decided to post every day in November something for which they were thankful. As a new believer in God and the Bible, much of it was directed to him. It only took a week before she took blow-torch heat for her convictions. She posted,
" ::Day 7:: Today I am thankful for my rights as a US citizen. I am thankful that for the time being I have the right to voice my beliefs and concerns about this nation and its leaders without being stoned, I have the right to worship my God and carry my Bible without being beheaded, and I have the right to bear arms and protect my family if needed."
Pretty benign. A pretty patriotic post. In response to a comment from a friend, she added,
"I explained to my son why I voted for the person I did and explained as believers that we need to vote for the candidate that holds to biblical truths. Then having to tell him who won this morning, and he asked, 'why does America hate God?' Good grief.............."
And then the whip cracked.
"Good grief... I'm removing you as a friend. I do wholeheartedly support your right to believe in your religion, but hearing that you've brainwashed your child to believe that America hates God because we elected a Christian man, who happens to be a democrat is sickening, ignorant and utterly ridiculous. People like you are the basis of religious fanaticism, and if anyone remembers September 11, 2001 we all remember what religious fanaticism causes.

I pray that your child gets an excellent education that will help him move beyond such narrow minded and ignorant thoughts in the future. I hope that his education allows him to balance his faith and his knowledge in a constructive way that is realistic for today's world.
I'd like to say such responses and attitudes are a rarity. They are not. A couple of thoughts for you as you love and lead your wife and family:
1. Prepare them for darkness. I'd love to paint a rosy picture of the world around us, but truth is, it is a dark place. Yes, there is much good and beauty, but my wife and I do not have Concealed Handgun Licenses because of bunnies and butterflies. The truth of God's word speaks of a fallen world and the sinfulness of mankind. These things will intrude into every life. Ignoring such and failing to lead our families in the full counsel of God's world will not prepare them for the storms ahead.

2. Bolster them in hope. It's not all doom and gloom. Even in the fallen world, bunnies and butterflies do exist. I saw a sunset last night that stole my breath for fifteen minutes. Extraordinary. But it's not simply for these brief blessings that we hope. Jesus Christ died and rose that one day we would be with him in eternity. Despite and through the difficulties in this life, we will know glories in the coming age. Teach your family these things.

3. Protect and defend them when you can. There are bullies out there. Do not let them touch your family. Not all bullies are physical. Some come in through the television. Some try to bludgeon through the internet. Some will deceive and destroy through enticing melodies and noxious lyrics. You, man, have a responsibility to protect your bride and children.

4. Protect and defend mine when I'm not around. Few spend 24/7 with their families. It's not possible. As such, if I am not around, you have my permission to intervene for my family. I will do so for yours. When bullies are bullying, stand in the gap.
The numbers of those who loathe and despise us will not likely wane in the coming days. As the apostles did, rejoice that you are counted worthy to bear reproach for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41; it's him they are persecuting after all [Acts 9:4]). Be ready for the coming storms.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keep your promise!

Howdy, gents.

Racing toward another volatile election, the airwaves continue a non-stop bombardment that this election will prove a pivot-point for our nation. While I won't dismiss the importance of the November vote, it's not the man in the White House that will determine our nation's future. It's the man in the mirror.

The other day my son watched a program on ESPN about the murder of a youth on the streets of urban Chicago who promised to be the next basketball phenom. The piece pulled on heartstrings but failed to address the prime failing in our urban jungles, the disintegration of the family. Let's aim the scope with a bit more precision because most of the time the disintegration of the family occurs because the man (husband, father) refuses to act the man, refuses to shoulder his responsibility, refuses to fight his temptations, and refuses to honor his vows, his covenant to his wife and to his God.

I can sit hear, fingers pecking away, and plead that you should love your wife. I've done that plenty and will continue to do so because God's word tells us to do that, but telling you to love your wife will have as much impact on your family as our next president will have upon our national throes because what we are as a nation depends not so much as who's at the top but upon the quality of the people.  Likewise, who I am as a husband, father, and friend depends upon the quality and treasures of my heart. There is only one way to change a heart, let God do it.

A lengthy passage from Ezekiel, but let it resonate:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
As is true for Israel, so true for man today. A man may will to do, he may try to do, but in the end, he will reap frustration (Romans 7:24). He will remain a self-absorbed, self-impressed, self-loving husband, father, and friend. Only the power of God in a redeemed life can impel and motivate a man to love another as Christ has loved him (John 15:12-13) and to lay down his life for another, especially his wife (Ephesians 5:25).

Dinesh D'Souza
This is why Maggie Gallagher's story of Dinesh D'Souza (here) and stories like it are particularly grievous. "Is it a bad thing that I am engaged before my divorce is final?" Might I ask why a Christian is divorcing his bride in the first place?

Yes, I know, sin can ravage any marriage. Yes, God did provide a wafer-thin avenue for divorce when a spouse has shown disregard and contempt for the vow that they have made. At the same time, when a man loves the Lord his God with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, and all his strength, he will love his wife as Christ loved the church, and if he so does, I contend that his wife would be hard pressed to leave her man. If a man pursues his woman with so compelling a love, divorce rates will shrivel in the land.

Here's how Ms. Gallagher closed her essay.
After all, is marriage such a horrible cross to bear?

With marriage, you choose one woman. You promise to love just her the way that God loves everyone, until death do you part.

So love her. Keep your vows close...Show your children, show other people's children, that in this too-swift race between love and death, which is all that our lives are, that love can be trusted.

If Christians could just do that and nothing else, it would transform our culture.

If we cannot do that, I fear, nothing else will.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Husband, love your God.  Love your wife.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Battling the common

Chaucer may have first penned "familiarity breeds contempt," but Solomon alluded to it millennia earlier in his pull-no-punches proverb "Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you."

And really, any man who has slept beside his bride for more than a week knows the dangers of this viper. Thinking you are immune to taking your spouse for granted you become like the religious snake handlers who overestimate their abilities and underestimate the lethality of their idol (here). I know what you think. I know what you feel. I know how you'll respond. As such, I no longer ask. I no longer plumb the depths of your heart. I no longer engage you and examine you like the amazing creature that you are. To me, you have become common.

Such common treatment fosters bitterness and callused hearts, the very things that fuel this marriage immolation. The one feeds the other which feeds the other and before long, only a heap of ashes remain on the pyre.

But there is hope.

This is the truth of the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. Hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). The old has past, the new is come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Marriage, which God intends to depict and glorify the great love of Christ for the Church, can be renewed. That which is shattered and tattered can become something more beautiful than on the day it began.

It requires a choice.

In reality, it requires a choice that only the power of the living Christ in you can compel you to make. I forget who said it, but I heard a pastor state "You are never more like God than when you love your enemies." While you might not consider your wife to be your enemy, you may be treating her that way. What if I rephrase it this way: "You are never more like God than when you love those who have hurt you?" Does that open your eyes a bit wider? Petition God to give you strength, and then go and serve.

You know this. God loved us so much that when we were without power, when we could do nothing to restore the shattered relationship between us and him, that's when God the Son took on the mantle of flesh to restore the relationship. God stepped down to bring this healing. Can we do any less in our marriage?

Some little things:
  • Leave her a note. Dry erase on the mirror works like a champ. Post-its in her Bible or in the book she's reading can bless her soul.
  • Hold the door for her. Yes, she does know how to open a door, but such a simple act of kindness can convey more than a dozen roses.
  • Buy her flowers. I have one friend whose wife doesn't care for flowers so he buys her donuts. Score!
  • Hug her just because. Hold her like the prize that she is. Let her feel the security of your arms and thereby your love. The corollary is a good one, too:
  • Kiss her just because. And not just on the lips. When's the last time you kissed her nape when she was putting on makeup or busy in the kitchen or taken her face in your hands and kissed her forehead?
  • Date her. I have slipped on this one recently. Time ticks away. Weeks slip into months and soon you cannot remember the last time you sat across from her and enjoyed her company. You call the sitter. You make the arrangements. You make the effort.
You know these things. I've written them before, and there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes we need a swift kick in our complacency to not let this most amazing thing, the marriage relationship, become something that is common and abused.

Put on fresh eyes that you might see how God would have you love your wife!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The tested heart

Does anybody like taking a test?

During my twenty-four years in the Air Force, examiners evaluated me every year to determine if I would retain my qualifications in that particular aircraft. It didn't matter how many years I'd been flying the plane, I always felt like the physics teacher had called for a pop quiz, and my breakfast started trampolining from my belly to the back of my throat.

The purpose of a test, really, is to prove what you do know. Yes, it does seem like some tests attempt to trip you up rather than prove your knowledge, but that's not the intent. It is definitely not the intention of a good and loving God.

"The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts."
~ Proverbs 17:3

Consider, the quality of silver and the purity of gold does not change by its testing. It is proven. It is revealed. The craftsman can better see and scrape away the slag leaving the pristine mineral.

I have a couple of dear friends going through a very difficult trial right now. As a crucible crushes and as the furnace breaks down, so does God use the circumstances of life in a fallen world to prove the work he has done in our lives. The slag will be manifest only to be scraped away by God's good hand leaving a creature who shines a little more like the perfect material, the living Christ.

We stare at the clock and look ahead to see if we can get it all done in the allotted time. We long for the afternoon when the test will be behind us. But this, right now, is where God would have you be. Trust his hand to continue to hone and mold you into the man, husband, and father he would have you to be, a vessel for his good and glorious purpose (James 1:2-4). Give thanks to him for this very thing as difficult as that may be (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

As much as we would like to know the quality of our mettle, we do not, but God does. How awesome that he loves us so much that he would continue to take us through such trials that we might be conformed to the image of his Son, revealing to us our deficiencies that we might confess to him and our weaknesses that he might strengthen us through worship, prayer, study, fellowship, and service.

Let him test and prove the man that you are.

I hope this testimony, this prayer, this song by Steven Curtis Chapman can be yours, too:

Bring It On
by Steven Curtis Chapman

I didn’t come lookin’ for trouble
And I don’t want to fight needlessly
But I’m not gonna hide in a bubble
If trouble comes for me
I can feel my heart beating faster
I can tell something’s coming down
But if it’s gonna make me grow stronger then…

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, maybe you’re thinkin’ I’m crazy
And maybe I need to explain some things
‘Cause I know I’ve got an enemy waiting
Who wants to bring me pain
But what he never seems to remember
What he means for evil God works for good
So I will not retreat or surrender

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, I don’t want to sound like some hero
‘Cause it’s God alone that my hope is in
But I’m not gonna run from the very things
That would drive me closer to Him
So bring it on

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let it make me fall on the One who’s strong
Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let me be made weak so I’ll know the strength of the One who’s strong
Bring it on
(Youtube audio here)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shallow man

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice? 
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet. 
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors...
Proverbs 8:1-3

We are shallow, and we don't care.

As America swirls with greater speed into the porcelain abyss, we get more and more and more talk. We get very little thought and almost no reflection. In the debates that have taken place for a Republican candidate and will certainly come for President and Vice President, the respondents will have 30 seconds to craft an argument. Folks, you can't develop an argument in thirty seconds. You can cough up a sound bite or a hair ball, but a man must build  an argument upon foundations of substance and not propaganda, emotion, and slander.

If we elect substance over form in the coming election, it will only be by God's good grace. Few will do their homework before November.

This past week, I spoke with a young man who had just returned from an overseas mission trip. He said to me, "Mr. Pond, I was amazed because men just don't want to get involved within the church." He meant in the country where he had ministered, but I turned it back on him, "It's not just in foreign lands. In the American church today, it is the women who are hungry for the things of the Lord."

Consider, brothers:

-- Do we know God and his word? (John 17:3)

-- Is his pleasure the most important thing to me in everything that I say and do?

-- Do I even know what his pleasure is? Have I ever read the entirety of his word? Do I feed upon it, study it, and know it?  But I do know how many RBI's Josh Hamilton has.

-- Does my understanding of the world around me pass through the lens of God's word? Do I scrutinize my life and the world around me based upon what God's word says?

In light of that point, I am dumbstruck when I hear Christians talking about the American political process and our government, and the things they say fly in the opposite direction of God's clear proclamations.


-- As a man, how are you serving in your church? What do you do to help the body be the body on a regular basis?

-- Is your pastor bold and unashamed about stepping on your toes, confronting sin in the church, confronting sin in our nation and culture not by standing high atop his pulpit and pointing down in condemnation but by announcing with clarity what God's word says?

-- Has he ever dared preach a message on damnation and salvation? If he has, does he ever not? Does he get past the salvation message to preaching of the full counsel of God's word so that the believer might be equipped to move beyond baptism toward living life in a fallen world in a manner that pleases our God and Savior? 

-- Are we taught and disciplined toward reflecting Christ above all things that we might love him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength?

We say it. We know it. But we do not do it. It's like loving your wife. We might cover the passages in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3 regarding husbands and say "Oh, yeah," but when it comes to living it out, our legs are as useless as the man beside Bethesda. When Christ commands, "Get up and walk," if we just sit there, our newly strengthened legs avail us nothing.

Wisdom calls aloud in the streets. God is not hiding from us. We know right where to find him.

When I began my first blog, Ripples Across the Pond, I did so to spur on the men of my church. Our discussions over the things of this life in light of God's word seemed to get cut short on Wednesday nights, so I started writing about those things through the lens of God's word to encourage and prod my brothers forward. Today, most of my readership is women.

Our nation's Founders didn't have Call of Duty VIII; they answered the call to duty. They labored hard at their business or at their farm or both, and in the evening, they fed upon God's word and upon great works of literature. They didn't avoid conversations about politics and religion, those were the topics of conversation because those were the things that mattered. These men hammered their ideas and convictions upon the anvil of God's word, and as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), they further honed them in debate and argument with one another.

Husband, if we want to be men that matter in the darkening days our nation's history, we must work. Read well and read deep. Study God's word in all its pages first and foremost, but read widely, too. Read history. Read great fiction. Read great non-fiction.

And then talk. Talk with your family. Talk with other men. Rhetoric has died. "Dude, how you doin'?" is all we can muster. Challenge a brother. Challenge yourself. "Hey, Bob, I'd like to know your thoughts on Paul Ryan as a vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party," and see if you and Bob can discuss it without resorting to slander and name-calling. If you think Barack Obama has tanked the nation, can you explain why in more than three sentences? How does he compare with our Founders' intentions for a Constitutional Republic? How has he stood as a leader in light of God's word?

Brothers, I don't have all the answers, but I ache for men to spur me on. If I desire that, my hope is that other men might desire a kick in the keister, too. I write these missives not for you to enjoy but to move you to love your wife by being the man God has called you to be.

Let us not be shallow men. Let us prepare ourselves so that when God seeks a useful man, he might find us prepared, ready to be used in whatever manner he sees fit.

"Let us strive to think well." ~ Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First things first

On occasion as the need has arisen, I have had the opportunity to preach at my church.

One of the challenges with preaching one Sunday on rare occasions comes in seeking the passage upon which you will preach. The expositional pastor, the man who goes through a book of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, doesn't have to worry about what he's preaching Sunday; he follows the flow of the text. Yes, this is gross oversimplification because much goes into God-honoring expositional preaching. To my mind, it is the best preaching. Still, the passage does not have to be chosen. Pared down and poured over, yes. Chosen, no.

The guy who has one Sunday would be hard pressed to get through 3 John in three, which leaves him to search for a small passage or small topic that he can treat with respect and honor in a single Sunday. God burdened me with "The Greatest Commandment."

As I poured through the text, Mark 12:28-34 and its myriad of byways, I wondered about this blog. Jesus said with unwavering clarity,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Do I over emphasize the need for husbands to love their wives? Am I encouraging you to set your bride up as an idol? My heart leaps up in defense, "Certainly not!" That is not my intent.

I began this corner of the universe to encourage men, Christian men specifically, to love their wives because I have seen too many men junk their marriage. Honestly, they first have to junk God before they get to their wives. If my relationship with him is in tatters and his voice has no sway in my life, my bride stands vulnerable to my every whim and idiosyncracy.

The Greatest Commandment must impel me in all things.

And really, it is no contradiction to impel you and others toward loving your wife. Peter did this very thing. As did Paul. So, too, did Jesus Christ when he did not stop with the greatest commandment-- though that is what he was asked--but continued into the second which he said was like the first:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Indeed, on these hang all the law and the prophets. Our vertical relationship with God must be right, I must love my God above all things, and yet God makes plain in the pages of Scripture that our love for him must bear out in our love for one another. Our sacrificial laying down of ourselves to God, our willingness to see his name glorified at any cost to our lives, is most vividly seen in our love for our neighbor. You have no neighbor closer to you, husband, than the beauty who sleeps at your side.
  • Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness...whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9, 11)
  • Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
Hate is a strong word. Were I to ask you point blank, "Do you hate your wife?" you would look at me as if I'd just sprouted eight-legs. While we might not confess such a thing, do we live it in practice? Neglect. Biting words. Stilted conversation. No conversation. No tenderness. No nurturing. No leading. Do our actions betray us?
  • If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
Great question, John. Husbands?

If we do love God, it will blossom in our love (care, concern, affection, etc.) for others. So says the word of God.
  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
  • Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (4:11)
  • If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (4:12)
  • He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (4:20)
  • And this is the commandment we have from him, whoever loves God must also love his brother. (4:21)
C.S. Lewis summed it up with his usual incisiveness:
When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.  In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all.  When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
The priority remains: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength. If you find me deviating from the course in these proddings, prod back. Let me know if the supremacy of Christ is lacking in these things.

Since you cannot have the one without the other, I pray you will understand what I mean when I spur you on with, "Husband, love your wife!"

Friday, August 3, 2012

A note to the wives

I have to laugh when I upload one of these blog musings to Facebook and the majority of the comments that I get are from women. So, ladies, I know this is "Husbands, Love Your Wives," but this one's for you.

Some time ago, I began reading through the Bible with my daughters.  They had gotten past the kiddie picture Bibles, and since one of the greatest times of growth in my own life came when I first read through the entirety of Scripture, I thought I would introduce my lovely daughters to the full counsel of God's word. That, in a nutshell, takes us to Proverbs.

As we scour that treasure cache of gold bullion together, I try to help them see how it applies to them. I often change the "hims" and "sons" to "hers" and "daughters" that they might hear God speaking to their heart. The other night, two verses stuck out as though in bold print as we hunted through chapter nineteen.  First one:

A foolish son is a ruin to his father,
and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. (Proverbs 19:13)

So I ask my girls (because they have had a great example of what a wife is as they have looked to their mother), "Do you want to be like a leaky roof to your husband, an annoyance to him?" In unison they responded with brows knit and heads shaking, "No, of course not."  The very next verse:

House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:14)

Time for definitions.  Prudent. "Wise or judicious in practical affairs; sagacious; discreet or circumspect; sober," says (does anyone use the book version anymore?). Such a wife is from the Lord. "Girls, would you rather be this kind of woman to your man or the other kind of woman?" Really, is there any other answer.

As I asked my girls these questions, I literally thought of you all. For a Christian woman who loves the Lord above all else and seeks to honor him, the answers are obvious. I hope. But while you may want to be this kind of woman for your man, are you? What would your man say if you asked him sincerely, no retribution? Would he say that you are more prudent or more quarrelsome?

Considering I don't know whose eyes grace this site, I point at no one in particular. How does the mirror of these two consecutive verses in Proverbs help you see yourself? The descriptions are his. And if you're a daughter of the King, you know his commands full well. Carrying this out? Not so easy. If you believe that you have been more dripping than prudent toward your husband, submit yourself to the loving and correcting hand of God, and let him change you from the inside out.

Wives, go love your husbands!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A woman's take on a REAL man

Sometimes figuring out what your woman wants can be as difficult as explaining string theory or figuring out what movies will get nominated for best picture.

Deep down, a godly woman wants a godly man, though she might not say so. How does she need that fleshed out? You'll find that in God's word.

Often, it bears fruit to just listen to your bride. No doubt it will vary from lass to lass, but here's a list from a wife who follows after God to give you some idea. She's doesn't hammer, belittle, or berate men but encourages women to hold out for real men who live by these ennobling traits and characteristics. They are out there.  Here's hoping it's you.

As far as it jives with God's word, be this guy (parentheticals, mine):
    A man who communes with his Creator daily and strives to live a life that glorifies God.

    A man who works long hours and spends his hard-earned wages to care for his family, [care for his church, care for the lost, and care for the poor]. And on occasion treats his family to a Cherry Limeade and Redbox rental.

    A man who reaches down to pick up his little girl when she trips and falls and holds her close until her tears are gone.

    A man who gathers his children around him at night to tell them a story.

    A man who would never go see a movie about a group of female strippers, no matter how many people were saying it was okay.

    A man who researches recipes on the internet and makes a huge and messy meal in the kitchen so his beloved doesn’t have to make supper one night.

    A man who treats the elderly with respect and dignity by listening to them tell stories about their glory days.

    A man who tends to the azalea bushes by the front porch, clipping them down when they need it and watering them morning after morning after morning.

    A man who hops up from his reading when he hears you doing the dishes and gives you a hand [or does the dishes always since she crafts the most sumptuous meals].

    A man who thoughtfully answers every question his little boy has about “why?” and “how?” the world and everything in it works.

    A man who leaves whatever he is doing to help you when your car breaks down.

    A man who gets up at night to fix the baby a bottle while you lay drooling on your pillow [or if nursing, changes the diaper and brings you the baby].

    A man who comes home with the new book you’ve been wanting, and its not even your birthday.

    A man who has trained his eyes to look away from other women, even when they look better than you do.

    A man who is humble enough to grow, long after he has become an adult.

    A man who wants you and finds his satisfaction in you, and you alone, after many years of marriage and fidelity [think "marital plane" and not spiritual absolute; then we would be speaking of God as our sole satisfaction].

    A man with happy wrinkles around his eyes that prove how many times he has smiled at you.

    A man who sets up controls on his computer to avoid even the temptation to look at pornography.

    A man who has dignity and modesty and self-control.

    A man who refuses to speak profanity and hushes others when they use it in your vicinity.

    A man who would give his life for you and the children, in a heartbeat.

    A man who says “I do”…for better or for worse…for richer or poorer…in sickness and in health…forever.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A husband's biggest mistake?

From the other room, I heard a sober "Wow," fall from the lips of my wife. "Check this out," she beckoned. The quote that caught her eye:


Let's apply it to where to our marriage relationships:


Really my point here is not to argue the greatest mistake or whether or not mistakes equate directly to sin. I would like you to simply let the main idea of the maxim marinate in your mind.

Let's revisit that which we've tried to hammer home in the past. 

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord."
~ Proverbs 18:22

King Lemuel highlighted the same point by driving home that an excellent wife is worth far more than jewels (Proverbs 31:10). Peter's usage of "weaker vessel" also points to the valuable and precious thing that is a wife. If a man is married, he has no greater treasure in this life than the one that lays beside him at night. She is...
    His best friend. 
    His lover. 
    His helper. 
    His completer. 
    His confidant. 
    His comforter. 
    His encourager. 
    His rebuker.
Some might bluster that these are actions of God. Yes. God should be my best friend. I should have no greater love in this life than him. He is described as Comforter and yes, he disciplines. But he is the One who has given man woman on this earth to do and be these things in the physical realm. This is a good thing (or so says Almighty God).

Back, then, to the old saw at the start of the post. Do I so treasure my woman, do I hold her in such high honor and high esteem, do I love her so deeply and so completely that if another man does make her smile, she snickers inside because she has a man at home that does so much more for her than make her smile?

    A man who listens to what she says 
    A man who loves her from stem to stern 
    A man who is tender in a manner that doesn't always lead to the bedroom 
    A man who is strong and will not be domineered
    A man who serves in the home, in the community, in the church, and in his work 
    A man who leads his family and leads his wife
    A man who seeks to satisfy her physical and emotional needs 
     A man who will join his wife in her joys from time to time 
    A man who invites his woman to join him in his
They say that the best defense is a good offense. The best way to prevent adulterous leanings? Have a great marriage now. The best way to have a great marriage now? You be a great husband now! As husbands and wives honor God by becoming one flesh (and ALL that that entails inside and outside the bedroom), they give no place for Satan to do his dirty work, destroy the marriage, and disgrace the name of God (1 Corinthians 7:5).

So husband, love your wife. Go make her smile!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Proverbs: Tend your walls!

More grim news on the marital front.

I'd love to get away from this and paint pictures of pastel posies, but that's not what's happening in the world. Really, the entire purpose for starting this blog is for it to remind husbands that we are in a war. There is a very real enemy who wants to see you destroyed and neutralized in your relationship with God. One of the greatest ways to cripple you and destroy your testimony is to blow your marriage to smithereens. Consider these posts a bit of a STATREP (status report) on what's happening along the front and a tactics brief for countering the enemy wiles. Some grim markers today:
  • The general:  Baby-boomers are now divorcing at higher rates. Joy. That's older folks in longer marriages bit by bit putting their relationship with their spouse through the shredder. The dismal report here.
  • The closer-to-home: My bride is friends with a woman who shared that two couples she was close to ended their marriage. Both had been married for more than twenty years.
As our culture dismantles marriage one thread at a time, it becomes easier and easier for us to give in to the entropy and let our relationship with our woman erode like a sandcastle before the tide. Which brings me to the Proverbs.

It seems that every year I head back to the Proverbs for a season, starting on the first of the month and reading one of the thirty chapters each day for the entirety of the month, and then as the calendar page turns, I start again the next month. Usually, I'll do this for three months running because their is so much treasure in the Proverbs. I want these little nuggets to become part of the fabric of my being. Today's chapter ended with a crucial brick for establishing a marriage's foundation.

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into
and left without walls. 

~ Proverbs 25:28

Once again, brothers, the issue begins in the heart of the man in the mirror. There can be no success without self-control. Discipline. Going the right way. Doing the right thing. Speaking the right words. And really, you know this full well, if you don't administer discipline yourself, it will eventually be imposed upon you either from the world (1 Peter 2:13-14, Romans 13:4) or perhaps a friend (Proverbs 25:12, 27:17). In either case, discipline comes at God's hand (Hebrews 12:4-11).

If we do not maintain consistent discipline in our lives, like termites in our beams, the walls begin to be eaten from the inside out and often completely unseen.
  • Will you repeat that ribald joke?
  • Will you take a second look at the co-ed you passed in the mall?
  • Will you see where that enticing link will take you?
  • Will you let the words fly from the bow string of your lips deep into the heart of your wife in a moment of anger and frustration?
  • Will you take those dollars because no one will know, no one will see?
The warnings of Scripture abound. Truly, we are without excuse for the things that bring us down. As Rome was not built in a day, neither did it's demise come like lightning. The decay and rot takes root in a moment and grows and infects over weeks, months and years. Soon, the walls fall with nary a breeze.

Will we exercise the courage to say "No" or exhibit our love for God by fleeing when necessary?

Husbands, what have you entertained? Where have you not exercised needful self-control? Repent. Now. Only God can provide the strength and cleansing to rid your castle of the rot and the termites that have done their damage. Only he can restore our walls (1 John 1:9). Then, as you go through this day, choose to serve your Lord with each of your decisions. 
    Glorify him in your work. 
    Glorify him in your living room.
    Glorify him in your church. 
    Glorify him in your bedroom. 
    Glorify him at your keyboard. 
    Glorify him on the highway and in the mall.
    Glorify him with your children.
    Glorify him with your friends.
    Glorify him with your wife.
One great way to be a man of self control is to feed upon the Proverbs. As June draws to a close and July kicks off, would you consider reading a chapter of Proverbs each day through July and August, really letting God speak to you on issues of finance, marriage, work, parenting, the tongue, anger, etc.?

Open your ears to hear. Be a man of self-control so that the walls of your marriage will withstand the onslaught of the enemy and your castle will thereby bring honor and glory to God.