Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shout it from the mountaintops!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
     Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 
     So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 

     In this brief passage from Luke 2:8-18, the single most important announcement in history is delivered—in the person of Jesus Christ, God has come into the world!  The shepherds receive the good news and are told specifically what signs to look for as they search out God among us.
     Although we are not heavenly beings like the angels on high, in Christian marriage, we are called by God to carry the same commission—to announce the presence of God in the world.  While we do not announce the birth of a baby, we do announce the presence of a King.  And just as the angels told the shepherds what to look for, there are definitive signs that will validate our announcement.
     When you love your spouse, when you seek his/her well-being above your own, when you forgive, when you speak words of blessing and encouragement into your mate’s life, when you provide a place of safety and goodness, when grace and mercy flow freely, when God reigns in your hearts and in your home, when you live out your faith first-and-foremost with your spouse—in those moments, you loudly and powerfully proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Lord and Messiah, has come into this world and is living among us.
     Please, let your marriage “shout it from the mountaintops” —the good news that will cause great joy for all the people—Jesus is here.

Looking for a fun, practical, Biblically-based, couples' study that can be used with individual couples, in small groups, or in a Bible class?  Check out Marriage: A Blessed Promise.  It's less than four bucks and available now from 21st Century Christian.  Makes a great, inexpensive Christmas gift that will have lasting benefits.  Order online here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


     It’s hard to believe it is almost here!  We’ve been waiting anxiously for a long time!  Lisa and I are excited!  The kids are bouncing off the walls!  So many childhood memories keep flooding my mind.  And it's almost here!!! That’s right—the new Star Wars movie premieres this weekend…oh yeah, and it’s also almost Christmas.  (I won’t spoil the new Star Wars movie for you by telling you that Jar Jar Binks is the hero and he saves the day when he flies the U.S.S. Enterprise into Hogwarts to rescue the Tardis from the dragon Smaug.)
     Whether it is a favorite holiday, a much anticipated movie, a new child or grandchild on the way, an upcoming trip, a bonus at work, a visit from someone you love, or something else, anticipation is powerful.  Anticipation can give us hope, renew our strength, allow us to keep moving forward, fill us with joy, and help us to envision a brighter future.
     Anticipation is a powerful part of a healthy marriage.  There is something amazing that happens when a husband and wife are joined together in expecting something good—not just a vague “something,” but a specific event or intimate time together.  Especially when a couple is walking through “a desert-time” together, anticipation becomes critical because it helps them realize that an oasis of refreshing water is ahead.
     What are things that you can do to help create exciting anticipation in your relationship?  Certainly you have to be realistic about what you can do based on time and money, but creating or planning something special for you and your covenant lover to do together is a great way to bring a renewed connection into your marriage.  Regularly, give each other a special time, a special place, a wonderful experience to look forward to sharing together—something that breaks out of the ordinary, even if just for a short time, and allows you to grow closer together.
     But be careful.  Building anticipation, then continually putting your spouse off will create frustration and resentment.  As the proverbist says, Hope delayed makes the heart sick; longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12, CEB)  Whether it’s connected to a movie, a holiday, or something more amorous, how can you create positive anticipation and be “a tree of life” to your marriage?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent and Marriage

     Advent is a word meaning “toward the arrival.”  For hundreds of years, Christians have observed it as a way of celebrating Christ’s arrival and preparing for his next coming.  Advent began this past Sunday, December 3, and goes through Christmas Eve.
     Whether you formally celebrate it or not, Advent has powerful implications for marriage.  You see, if you are a Christian and you are called to marriage, then God expects you to use your marriage as a way of bringing glory and honor to him.  He expects your marriage to reflect your love for God and your love for others who are made in the image of God.  Christian marriage is not supposed to look like secular marriage with some “Christian window dressing.”  If the only difference between your marriage and the non-Christian couple next door is that you go to church on Sunday, you’ve missed the point of what God is trying to do through you and your spouse together for the sake of his Kingdom.
     That being said, how does your marriage reflect the hope and joy of Christ’s presence in your covenant relationship?  How does the most significant event in human history, God becoming flesh and living among us, change the way you love, honor, respect, and give of yourself for your spouse?  What does it mean to your marriage that in the person of Jesus Christ, “God made his dwelling among us”? (John 1:14)  How does the light of his presence in your marriage penetrate the darkness of this fallen world that is trying to overtake your union?
     As we look forward to Christ’s return, does your marriage point others toward the time when all things will be made new?  Do they see the love, goodness, grace, redemption, and forgiveness in you that gives glimpses of the final eternal Kingdom to come?
     The Advent season is upon us, so use this time of celebration and observance to renew your commitment to Christ and to your marriage.  Give thanks for God’s presence in this world and in your marriage, as we anxiously await Christ’s return.

Looking for a fun, practical, Biblically-based, couples' study that can be used with individual couples, in small groups, or in a Bible class?  Check out Marriage: A Blessed Promise.  It's less than four bucks and available now from 21st Century Christian.  Makes a great, inexpensive Christmas gift that will have lasting benefits.  Order online here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living love through gratitude...

     The primary calling of all Christians is to love God with all
our hearts, souls and minds. (Matthew 22:37-38)  Part of loving someone is showing gratitude.  Undoubtedly, we owe thanks to God.  But there is a reason that when Jesus was asked for the greatest commandment, he also gave the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:39)  Our love for God is fully lived out and manifested in how we love our fellow humans who are the image bearers of God, and you won’t find a closer, more intimate neighbor than your spouse.  So, just as part of loving God is giving him the gratitude that is due to him, part of loving your spouse is giving your mate the gratitude that is due to her/him.
     Sometimes it is harder to show gratitude to your mate than it is to show gratitude to God.  Why?  Well, at least in a physical sense, God doesn’t get in your face, offend you, or otherwise give you grief.  God hasn’t hurt you in the past.  God doesn’t have human flaws that you are so keenly aware of each and every day.  Your mate does.
     Yet, when you show gratitude to your spouse (who is just as broken and imperfect as you are) you demonstrate God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and goodness at work in immeasurably powerful ways.
     So, with that in mind, how attentive are you to showing your love for your mate through gratitude?  When was the last time you spoke words of appreciation to your wife or husband?  Do you remember to say thank you for the simple daily things that your mate does for you to make life better—things like preparing meals, laundry, filling the car up with gas, being a great mom or dad for the kids.  While those things might be your spouse’s “job,” remember how much he/she blesses your life by doing them.  Do you thank your spouse for special things he/she does for you, or when he/she gives you that extra attention or goes the extra mile?
     As we move though this season of giving and thanksgiving, keep a journal of things you spouse does for which you are thankful; everything from regular tasks to special efforts he/she makes for your sake.  If you pay attention, it shouldn’t take too long to fill up page after page of things you mate does for you.  Think in terms of specific things he or she does for you, not just the larger, all-encompassing characteristics.  After you fill it up, take the journal and give it to your mate as a gift; a visible reminder to both of you of your gratitude for the many things he/she does for you.  Let your gratitude be a manifestation of your love.  If you start your journal now, you should have a really nice surprise for your wife or husband by Christmas.