What’s the Matter with Marriage?

Matt+Tiffany_026 - CopyDoes toilet paper belong in the under or over position? Does silverware belong face up or down in the dishwasher? Does the butter belong in the refrigerator or cupboard?

Does it matter?

If you’re in a relationship and you’ve had the misfortune of asking that last question in the heat of the moment, you may have found yourself sleeping on the couch. For many couples, the answers to these questions matter a lot. The right answer brings peace and structure to the relationship. The wrong answer can be a threat to one’s personal well-being. Thus a loud, heated debate seems warranted as self-defense. But let me be bold in asking the question again, does it matter? So that I don’t find myself sleeping on the couch tonight, let me explain.

In his book Sacred Marriage, author Gary Thomas shares an early point of tension in his marriage; empty ice cube trays. Thomas explains that as a child his family had a rule. If you took an ice cube, you filled the tray back up. However, when Thomas got married he discovered that his wife was oblivious to this rule and rarely refilled the tray. This frustrated Thomas so much that he timed how long it would take to complete the simple task. Seven seconds. That seven seconds was proof to Thomas that his wife could easily fill the trays, but it was not as convincing to her. Rather than convincing his wife, those seven seconds actually taught Thomas a valuable lesson and exposes an underlying virus that affects all relationships.

“It finally dawned on me one day that if it takes Lisa just seven seconds to fill an ice cube tray, that’s all it takes me as well. Was I really so selfish that I was willing to let seven seconds worth of inconvenience become a serious issue in my marriage? Was my capacity to show charity really that limited?”

 

Selfishness spoils relationships. It turns us from loving our best friend to yelling at them over ice cubes and toilet paper. That seems ridiculous reading it on the screen, but couples do it every day. They find their blood boiling because in their eyes, the way things should be is not the way things are.

In the early months of our marriage, I found myself regularly rearranging the dishwasher. I did not do this to be more efficient, but because things were in the “wrong” place. The bowls needed to go one way and the cups another. As I moved them around I felt frustrated that I had to do this so often. One day I caught myself entertaining that frustration. I stopped, stood up, and asked myself “Does this really matter? Is this really something worth getting worked up over?” I feel like I heard God shout, “No”.

I don’t love dishes more than my wife. I don’t love toilet paper or ice cubes more than my wife. That sounds silly, but when I put my petty preferences above her then it sure seems like they are more important. She is worth sacrificing my preferences for. In the long run of our marriage and eternity, the way the dishes are placed does not matter. The way the toilet paper is positioned does not matter. What does matter is setting aside my selfishness and choosing to serve my wife.

Rather than seeking to serve my selfish desires, I need to seek to serve her. That’s what marriage is all about; serving the other. Because I love her, I want to show that love by putting her first. That is what Christ did for us. He selflessly served us by sacrificing His life on the cross for us, that we would not be bound to sin and death, but that we may be set free (Romans 5:8). Since Christ did that for me, the least I can do is selflessly serve others, especially my wife.

If you want to know what is the matter with your relationship consider who you’re serving. Are you serving yourself or serving others?

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Starving for Hope

The wind in town has changed directions, and its blowing in our faces. Over the last few weeks there has been a significant rise in bullying, self harm, and suicide in the community where I live. Most notably among young students. I wish I could say that the only real “rise” is in my community awareness and not in the actual number of these terrible incidents.

Unfortunately, the local news has reported that five young people have taken their lives since mid-January; the average is seven a year. This is on top of several major incidents of bullying, one of which involved middle school students attacking another student with a knife, a bat, and a tire iron.

This stream of news has run continuously. It seems like every day my wife comes home from teaching and shares another heartbreaking story. The public school where I volunteer has not been able to hand out the newspaper to students for three weeks because of the headlines. I am discouraged, I am sad, I am crushed for these kids.

Our world is starving for hope. When death seems like a friend, it’s because hope is a stranger. How devastating that children see suicide as the answer to escape bullying, anxiety, and problems at home? They feel as though there are no other options, that they are alone, and that the weight is too much to bear. Purpose seems lost and hope has run out.

We need to restore hope!

Hope has not run out. Hope has not disappeared. Hope is here and we need to remind one another that it exists. The world is desperately starving for something that is completely available. The only shortage is the number of people handing it out.

As followers of Christ, we have the greatest hope that there is. A hope that doesn’t just meet the needs of a moment, but meets the needs of eternity. Christians believe that God saw the brokenness of our world, brokenness we create and brokenness thrown on us (Romans 3:23). That brokenness has significant ramifications for all people (Romans 6:23). But God did not want anyone to suffer from that brokenness so He sent His Son, Jesus, to fulfill the solution by sacrificing Himself on a cross. After dying, He rose from the dead, conquering death. And now for those who believe in Him, He gives the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). We are set free from the brokenness of this world and have hope in Christ, whose love is endless (Acts 13:38-39).

This great hope is available for everyone. God cares about every single person on the planet. No one is too broken for Him to love. Every human being matters to Him and deserves to know His boundless love. So who are we to withhold that hope from them? If you’re standing in front of the starving with bread in your hands, wouldn’t you share it?

We have the hope that the world is starving for. God has given us a love like none other, that others have never experienced, let alone heard of. They are desperate for just a fracture, of a glimpse of hope. They need to know that there is more than the brokenness and pain of this world. That there is something more to this life that is worth living for. They need to hear that someone loves them and that someone believes that they have worth.

The voices of this world that bully, discourage, and tear apart life cannot be the loudest voice in the room. They cannot be the loudest voices in our schools and across social media. It is time, now more than ever, for hope to be heard above those voices. Hope must be shouted from the mountaintops so that our children, our families, our neighbors, our communities, and the world will know without a doubt that there is hope and it rests in Jesus.

How will you shine a light of hope in this dark world today?

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter. 1:3-6

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Where’s My Calling?

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What do you want to be when you grow up? I used to think that this question was reserved for children, but I have heard men and women of all ages repeatedly ask this same question. Even with a family and job in hand, the question still lingers on their lips. We may have created a life for ourselves, but still we ask it. We are unsure if we are really doing what we were made for.

Christians describe this as a calling. It is that God-given purpose that we all search for. Even when we have a career, we may still second guess ourselves, wondering if we are where we should be. I have struggled with this myself. In college I studied science in pursuit of one day entering into the medical field. However, after an accident I felt God calling me into ministry instead. Now, almost eight years after the accident, I am serving in a college ministry that I deeply love. But there have been days when I’ll look at my science degree hanging on the wall, wondering if I heard God correctly. Maybe I heard wrong and I was supposed to go into medicine. It makes me wonder if I did something wrong and my chest begins to feel heavy.

I believe there is a difference between calling and giftings. For Christians, that calling is the same for every believer. Our giftings, however are different from person to person. Let me explain my understanding.

I recently asked a room full of students what they would do if I gave everyone $100 to give away. Someone shared that they would give it to the homeless. Another voiced that they would use it to buy new clothes for foster kids. One creative answer after another was shouted out, each different than the next.

“The point,” I shared, “is that our calling in life is the same, no matter who you are. In our scenario, you each received $100. No one received anything less, it was all the same. God has given each of us the same calling. We are called to share the Gospel. To share His love with others, so they may know the same love we have in Christ. That is our calling. How you go out and fulfill that, is up to you. Just as you each had a different idea of how to give away your $100, so too we have different ways of executing our calling. These are our giftings. God gives us each different strengths and skills, that lead us into a myriad of different ways we fulfill our calling. We share the Gospel as doctors, teachers, and students. We share while we work, while we volunteer, or even while we ride the bus. Our calling to share the Gospel is universal and how we share depends on the unique and wonderful gifts God gives us.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? As I type this question across the page again, there is more confidence in the answer. I know what my calling is because of what Scripture says in Matthew 22:36-40; 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8. I am called, like all believers are called, to share the Gospel with the world. How I do that has been guided by my giftings. I know what I’m passionate about, what strengths others have affirmed in me, and what God continues to reveal through prayer and His Word. I find that these three things reveal one’s giftings and from there can point toward vocation.

I am surprised to see my life as calling and giftings collide. It turns out that I am actually practicing both medicine and ministry. I am a physician of the soul. In fulfilling my calling I have been placed in a position in pursuit of restoring souls back to good health. To help turn them from darkness and point them toward light (Acts 26:18). And then nurture them so that they may be presented as mature before God (Colossians 1:28).

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be the person that God has called me to be! How about you?

Grasshoppers & Giants

“We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” Numbers 13:33

In Numbers 13, Israel is on the edge of taking their long awaited Promised Land. Before they all journeyed in, Moses sent 12 leaders to survey the land. Forty days later they returned with a stunning report of a land “flowing with milk and honey”. They also brought back an unbelievable display of fruit that only reinforced what a rich and bountiful land they were heading into.

Then some of the men began to report on the people they would be up against. The excitement in the crowd quickly disappeared. They described them as strong and powerful giants. If the people weren’t afraid enough, the men made the situation worse by comparing themselves to grasshoppers in the eyes of these towering giants.

The people quickly began to panic, even going so far as to wishing they had remained slaves in Egypt. Through the chaos, a voice of courage spoke up. Caleb stood among the leaders and the crowd went quiet. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the leaders pushed back, convincing Israel that taking the land was an impossible feat.

Again, Caleb stood up and this time Joshua with by his side. They reminded the people that God was with them. He was more than able to bring Israel into the Promised Land. Despite what should have been a compelling reminder, the people wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua rather than believe them.

We all have obstacles that seem insurmountable. Paying off debt, conquering an addiction, overcoming fears, repairing family ties, going after your lifelong dream, the list could go on. It is easy to respond to these like they’re unconquerable giants. We see them towering over us and we are gripped with fear. Just thinking of our obstacles can be discouraging. We can relate to the Israelites who felt like grasshoppers in the shadows of the giants. Any confidence we had shrinks away. We feel small, incapable, and defeated before we even face the battle. Running away seems like the easiest thing to do.

Yet running didn’t save Israel, it actually sent them back to wandering in the desert for forty years. If there is anything that we learn from Israel, it is our need to see ourselves like Caleb and Joshua did. They recognized that the giants would be tough to defeat, the did not deny that. But they didn’t see themselves as grasshoppers. Caleb and Joshua chose to see themselves as conquerors. That is exactly who God said they were and that is exactly who God says you and I are.

God was ready to give the Promised Land into Israel’s hands. Caleb and Joshua remembered God’s promise and love. They knew and spoke without a doubt that God was for them and would give them the victory. Caleb and Joshua lead like conquerors. In Romans 8, the follower of Christ is reminded that God is for us. Therefore we are more than conquerors through Him. We may have giants in our life, but our God has made us more than capable of overcoming any obstacle. We are not grasshoppers, we are conquerors through Christ.

On My Honor

At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, an elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well.

Lady Diana’s failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds the lady was wearing and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am. I didn’t recognize you without your crown!”

Queen Elizabeth replied, “It was so much Sir Robert’s evening that I decided to leave the crown behind.” Queen Elizabeth wanted Sir Robert to be honored above herself, so she set her crown aside that night for him.

Honor. Anymore, it’s just a word that is thrown around. We look at the world and see people fighting, bullying, and lambasting one other. Honoring one another seems to be far from our lips. We are more concerned about finding honor for ourselves than giving it. And when everyone is looking to gain, nothing is given. Maybe honor is a word meant just for memorials and statues. Maybe honor needs a memorial for itself as we have left it in the past.

Yet when we open Scripture, God seems to put tremendous importance on honoring one another, right alongside of loving one another. Romans 12:10 even goes so far as to command the reader to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” And 1 Peter 2:17 reminds us that honor is not for a select few, but for everyone. God desires that all those created in His image be treated as people with the value and worth that He gave them. No one deserves to be disrespected or attacked. We should honor everyone as the sons and daughters of God that He created us all to be. No matter who they are or what harm they’ve caused you or others, they are still made in God’s image and Christ died for them. We need to start seeing each other as God sees us, which means treating every person with honor.

At the heart of honor is humility (Proverbs 15:33). Humility is the difficult, but priceless factor in honor. To honor others, means that we put others first after placing our own wants and needs aside. Just like Queen Elizabeth did, in order to honor Sir Robert, we get to take the spotlight off of ourselves so it can shine on others. However, this is difficult because it’s not what we are told to do. We are told to do everything we can to keep the spotlight on ourselves. We are more concerned about receiving honor than giving it.

Despite this natural obstacle, we have the full capabilities to overcome it and joyfully honor one another. Philippians 2 describes how Jesus humbled himself by becoming human and sacrificing himself on the cross on our behalf. While we are undeserving of His sacrifice because of the wrong we have done and the hurt we have caused, Jesus still died for us so that we might be honored rather than condemned. If Jesus was willing to put me first by sacrificing His life, then that’s plenty of reason for me to do the same for others. I can take His love and share it over and over again. Christ did not die for a few, but for all. If everyone was worth dying for, then I need to see everyone as Christ does and give honor to all, not just a few.

How will you show others honor in the days and weeks to come? How will you honor God and put Him first in your life? How will you show others honor and put them first?

Whatever you choose to do, change the status quo. Don’t look for how others can honor you, look for how you can honor others!

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Speed Dating

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A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article in Relevant Magazine titled “Why are Christians so Bad at Dating?” It caught my attention not only because of the intriguing perspective, but because I tend to agree. As Christians and more broadly as human beings, we are bad at dating.

In my experience, young Christians are usually told to wait for God to bring the right person along. However, they are not always told how they will know when Mr. or Ms. Right walks through the door. Is there something I should be looking for? Will I just know? Can God just text me their name so I can have a bit more direction?

And so, they wait.        And wait.          And wait.

This unsureness, mixed with impatience, produces the fertile grounds for bad dating. It piles up pressure on our life to quickly find that special someone, for fear that we miss our chance at finding them at all. In my opinion, usually an unwarranted fear that only fuels the speed at which we search for Mr. or Ms. Right. It is a speed that persuades us to answer the questions racing around our heart with an easy response; “does this feel right?”

As Debra Fileta, author of the Relevant article states, “Dating in wider society is often portrayed as a feel-good experience. If you feel “right” together, if you’re having fun, if there’s passion and pleasure, then it must be a good relationship.”

We allow are feelings to pick who we date and evaluate how the relationship is going. There are many dangers in this. One being that we define relational commitment based on chemistry rather than selfless love. This means that when certain chemical signals naturally slow down in the brain, we quickly interpret this to mean that we’re no longer “in love”.

The more important danger that we need to recognize are the consequences for how much weight we put on feelings. Don’t get me wrong, paying attention to our feelings and emotions is important. However, when it comes to dating, the more we lean on our feelings the less we tend to lean on God.

This is an unfortunate reality during what should be a pivotal time of reliance on God. And yet we often don’t include Him in the process as much as we should. We are prone to being distracted from God when we rush. I did this when I was looking to date and even while dating. I had more reliance on myself than on God. It came with its consequences, but I have learned from those experiences and can now confidently say that God comes first in my marriage.

We don’t have to be bad at dating. Something that is so special takes time and doesn’t deserve to be rushed. We can take it slow. Rushing causes us to give up our heart, our identity, and our love without taking time to think first, let alone diligently pray. God calls us to watch over our heart. Before running after the next good looking Christian guy or girl that walks through the door, pause! Just because your heart skipped a beat, doesn’t mean that its God saying ‘Go for it.’

Take time to pray and talk with God about His desires for your life. Take steps to create a foundation of friendship with the other individual so that you can get to know them. And continue to include God in the process; seeking Him through prayer and His Word that your steps may be directed in discernment.

 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the spring of life.”        Proverbs 4:23

 

Our Forgotten Story

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Try this. Right now, wherever you’re at, tap out the beats to “Happy Birthday.” Are you singing the song in your head? Me too.

Now, ask yourself, “Would most people guess the song based on your beats?” It’s such a well known song, so you can probably imagine others guessing the song fairly quickly.

However, according to research conducted at Stanford University, listeners will guess the correct song only 2.5 percent of the time. The really interesting part is that the person tapping out Happy Birthday thinks that the listener will get the song right 90 percent of the time.

Why is this? It’s due to what is called the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is when “we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it’s like not to know it.” * The person tapping “Happy Birthday” is singing the song in their head and so its difficult for them to imagine that the other person does not know what the song is. They don’t know what its like not to know.

Many Christians are affected by the curse of knowledge when it comes to sharing the Gospel. We forget what its like not to know the immense difference God has made in our lives. Christians fail to share the Good News because we forget what its like to experience the power of His story.

More than that, we forget the power of our own story that God has given us. Since we can’t imagine what it’s like to not know God’s love, we look at our story and can’t imagine someone getting anything out of it. Doubt begins to cast its long shadow over our testimony, diminishing it to a powerless tale. Because of the curse of knowledge, we forget how much power our story really has.

We must remember what it’s like to hear Christ’s love for the first time. We must remember the power that God has given each of our stories. We must remember that our story isn’t about us, it’s about God.

If our testimony, our story was about us, then we have plenty of reason to believe that it doesn’t have power. But because our story is about Christ, it has the power to radically transform lives. It is because of Christ’s love for us, that was demonstrated by sacrificing himself on the cross because of our broken and messy lives, that our stories have power. It’s because of His death and resurrection that we are free of condemnation and can live with Him forever. The Gospel had the power to change our lives and so it has the power to change others’ lives through your story.

Have you every played with Diet Coke and Mentos? Toss a couple Mentos in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and RUN!! A powerful reaction ensues that causes the Diet Coke to explode high into the air. It doesn’t take much to cause this spout of soda, just a couple small mints. We may look at our story like Mentos. It seems small and insignificant. But the truth is, we don’t realize the power of our story. The story God has gives us through the Gospel has tremendous power within it.

Someone out there is waiting to hear about God’s love through your story. You are fully capable, as His follower, to share the story God has given you. Remember that there is power in your words, because it’s His story in your life. I challenge you to share the Gospel this week, even if doubt is lingering. When you do, get ready for God to transform lives right in front of you.

 

*From “The Curse of Knowledge” by Chip and Dan Heath. Harvard Business Review. April 26, 2016