Friday, May 25, 2012
But it will just have to wait a little longer.... Sorry! :-)
Saturday, May 05, 2012
The basic disagreement is over expectations, and specifically, how much I can "get over" this other woman; how quickly; and in what way I accomplish that. Probably neither one of us is right in our perspective, but we both realize that our differences are getting in the way of moving forward. Further, we can "peek over the next hill" so to speak, and see that if we can just get out of our current rut, that we would be able to move ahead and make some serious progress towards putting this whole thing behind us. But in the meantime we just seem stuck -- two steps forward; one step back; one step forward; two steps back; and so on. It's not that we are not learning anything or growing at all -- we are -- but it doesn't seem to result in any real progress forward -- neither in my struggles nor in our relationship.
Early this week, I met with our pastor to catch him up with where we are, and what seems to be keeping me (and us) from moving forward. He had some good advice and encouragement, and wants to meet with both of us soon. We did arrange to meet with him tomorrow afternoon, and are praying that God will give him the wisdom to help us both see the way forward, and for us to humbly and graciously speak and listen. We are thankful for all that God has done already, but hungry for further progress, thirsty for a deep cleansing, and tired of looking back and being pulled back into our past again and again. And although we are getting along alright for the past few days, we know that we disagree underneath it all, and are anxious to be on the same page and pointing in the same direction.
During this time, I've come across a few articles and sermons and just wanted to share them with a quick note about them:
An article by John Bloom entitled, "You Don't Have to Obey" gives an interesting illustration of what it is like to have a new life in Christ by the Spirit, but still have indwelling sin from our flesh. That, and some interesting explanation of how sin works and how to overcome it. I strongly recommend this short article!
A much longer 6-sermon series by John Piper from back in 2001 on a passage in Romans 7 was also very helpful in understanding flesh versus Spirit, and related concepts. Here is the first sermon (you can read or listen) and you can just hack the link to go all the way through part 6 if you want. For me, part 6 is the best, but that is perhaps because it summarizes the first 5 and gets to the main point that interested me. If you have struggled to understand the struggle in Romans 7, I highly recommend this. And I suggest listening, because you get not only some extra stuff added by John Piper when he was preaching, but you get to hear his heart; his passion; and his love for the Word and the people.
And finally, a short article on sanctification entitled, "You Can Change! (Or Can You?)" by Tim Chester, which I also found very interesting and insightful. Oh, and it was written just a few days before the wheels really started in motion in the unfolding of our issues last May, which I found to be a kind-of cool "God thing."
Well, that about sums it up for now. I need to re-tool my weekly goal list, and perhaps get back to blogging more regularly. I just can't make it a priority when there are really important things going on here.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
1. I am a new creature in Christ, and I need to remember that every day and hour. It is my new identity, for I've died, been buried, been raised, and my life is hidden in Christ. I've been delivered from sin's dominion, and been liberated to fight against sin's remnants in my heart.
2. Sin must be attacked in every area of my life, not just one area. All forms of sin work together against me, supporting one another. I am the issue, not some particular sin, just like potato chips are not a dieter's problem, the person is!
3. Practical guidance for mortifying sin - Paul give hints in the overall passage:
A. Call sin like it really is, don't pussy-foot or down-play your own sin -- for me it is sexual immorality, impurity, evil desire, idolatry. Sin needs to be exposed for what it truly is, before we can deal with it.
B. See my sin from God's perspective, recognize that it deserves God's wrath, and I must bring it to the cross daily to see Christ bearing God's wrath against my sin. My sin does not lead to lasting pleasure, but to divine displeasure. I need to see my sin's character by the way God judges it. Sin is as serious in a believer as in an unbeliever, and is not forgiven if I continue in it -- for that would be evidences of a lack of repentance. I need to feel the shame of the sin I once committed, and now struggle against.
C. Sin is inconsistent with who I really am in Christ. I am no longer the "old man" nor "in Adam", but "in Christ". Sin is not consistent with being in Christ, so if I am not living in newness of life through Christ, then I am not living "in Christ."
D. Putting sin to death is as simple as refusing it, starving it, rejecting it. It is painful, but there is no other way.
But puting sin to death is only a part of the whole picture, and cannot be done by itself. It must be done in conjunction with "putting on" Christ. The negative will not be accomplished separate from the positive, and vise-versa. We must understand and apply the "glorious exchange" principle of the Gospel of grace in order to make advancements in holiness. Adam-like sinful desires and habits are not only rejected, but exchanged for Christ-like graces, actions, and are held together by love. This evidences itself in our private, family, and public lives, for the glory of God.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
This is my feeble attempt to try and tell our story....it is raw, it is real, it is quite ugly. But out of that ugliness, a beautiful love story is emerging....a love story of an Amazing Savior who is working in our hearts in our darkest of times, teaching us the miracle of forgiveness and grace worked out in normal, everyday people like us.
The first few years of our marriage were great...I knew that Christophe struggled with lusts, but he kind of convinced me that it was an issue in the past, that he had dealt with them and it wasn't really a current issue to talk about. Around 2006, I had a gut instinct start to kick in that something wasn't quite right...I wasn't positive....I kind of approached him about it....and I kind of buried it, where it festered and mushroomed. Communication obviously was not our forte!
It was around that time that I became aware of Christophe's interest in another woman in our Church. His head would turn, and he would watch her....he would recall things that she said for months.....and it made me feel super insecure and anxious, and had no idea how to deal with it. Stewing over it was my answer instead of taking it to our Maker and Creator who knows our hearts. There are many, many painful moments from these months and years, and it isn't profitable to spell it out in details.
In August of 2009, we gave up trying to have another baby naturally. With our oldest daughter, we went through 7 years of infertility, and we were super shocked when we found out we were pregnant. My doctor had thought that perhaps my condition had reversed itself, so in 2009, we went through the testing all over again....but all the answers were bleak at best. We left the office and in the parking lot together said that if we were going to have another baby, it would be all GOD...and we were at peace about it.
In September, just one month later, we vacationed in Maine. An incident happened that once again aroused my suspicions that things weren't quite right in our relationship. Though we had sex, my heart was far from in it, and I turned away and thanked the Lord for our infertility. That was a seed of bitterness...and that seed of bitterness fell on fertile ground, and grew and grew and grew.
I knew almost right away that I was pregnant....and with that pregnancy I was hiding a horrible secret. I despised the relationship that we had as husband and wife, and this baby was not conceived out of love and passion and desire....I was pretty positive that it was born out of passion and desire for another woman, not me! Even though I was happy that we were adding another baby into our family, my heartache (and bitterness) grew. Every time I felt nauseous, I blamed Christophe. As the time grew near to give birth, I did not want this baby to enter the world.
Our second daughter was born at 12:30 in the morning on a Saturday morning, and she was beautiful....but I didn't see beauty in her. I wasn't sure what was wrong with me, but I felt no love, no desire, no thrill at having given birth...and in hindsight, I recognize that my heart was FULL of bitterness. Three days later, our baby girl started having some health issues, and we spent the next 12 or 15 days in one doctor's office or another. It was so stressful. They were threatening to admit her into the NICU, and I just felt bewildered inside, guilty, and like this was the payment that I deserved for not having desired to give birth in the first place. There was one awful day where I just laid in our bed and cried....Christophe tried to comfort me and I just pushed him away. He had no idea the battle going on in my soul that was raging towards him. I was angry and bitter....so very, very bitter.
But God was working, even in those early months....He helped me to realize that it wasn't Baby K's fault that we had issues in our marriage, and HE planted a love for her deep in my heart that started to grow. I still felt horribly guilty for the way that I felt towards her initially, and I spent many days trying to over-compensate for it.
Unfortunately, through the winter of 2010/11, K. was once again a very sickly baby. She had horrible reflux tummy issues, and we spent that winter hunkered down in survival mode. As a result of being housebound with 2 children under the age of 5, I kind of went a little bit crazy, or so I thought. I now see that God was starting a huge work in me, but I didn't see it as that at first. At first it was just one panic/anxiety attack, but it wasn't long before I spent my days going from one anxiety attack to the next. I couldn't prepare breakfast for my family, without the feeling that my shoe was caught in the railroad track and a train was rushing at me at 100 miles per hour. These were dark days for sure.
By the time Spring arrived, something had to change...I couldn't go on living like this, and it was either pills, the loony bin, or finding courage to talk to our Pastor. I finally found nerve and approached him on a Sunday night, and went to talk to him the following Friday. I am SO THANKFUL for a Godly Pastor who is gracious, kind, understanding, and took me to the foot of the Cross and Scripture to deal with my demons. The first thing he had me do is memorize 2 Corinthians 10:4:
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God, for tearing down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God; bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
That verse became my food and drink, and was before me every morning, every noon, every night, and in the middle of the night. I learned to turn to Jesus and hold onto Him, to turn from these evil thoughts of anxiety and find peace. It was a gradual process, but I was so thankful for the relief and focus.
A few weeks later, in having that verse in front of me all the time, I became convicted that my thoughts "were not in captivity" in regards to the situation that my marriage was in. I was still very bitter against Christophe, and that was NOT obedient to Christ. So on Communion Sunday in May, I left a screaming Baby K in the nursery, and went out to confess my sin to my Savior. I poured it all out to God, K's conception, my pregnancy, her birth, my anger at both her and Christophe...and recognized that I was in desperate need of mercy for these sins that had built in my heart and soul. I also pleaded with God, offering up a mustard-seed sized piece of faith, to please move this huge mountain in our marriage that was unmovable to me.
That night, around midnight, I confessed the whole sordid tale to Christophe, and asked him to please forgive me. The feeling of freedom that washed through my soul was unlike anything I had ever felt before or since. It was liberating, freeing, and for the first time in over a year, I looked at my husband with desire. I thanked God for the courage I needed to face this head on. Christophe had no idea what had been going on in my heart, and it was a shock to him, I think. We cried together, prayed together, and I think this was the first realization that we had work to do in our marriage.
What I didn't realize was that this night, was opening up an even bigger can of worms......
(To Be Continued....)
Friday, April 20, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;I will lead them in paths they have not known.I will make darkness light before them,And crooked places straight.These things I will do for them,And not forsake them.
How good it is to have God's Word!
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Monday, April 02, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
In some ways, it is a real drag that my sin provokes Cherie's flesh to want to sin more, and vise-versa, as it adds to the enslavement and entanglement that we feel. And it just makes it harder to move forward when it seems like the other person's weakness is always working against us.
But on the other hand, we are thankful that God has shown us each our sin, and that we each are learning similiar lessons along this journey of repentance. We are able to encourage (or gently rebuke) one another, and learn from each other. Just the way God designed marriage to work, I suppose! We definitely believe that God chose to use our specific sins not only to bring us to our collective knees, but to re-build us together as we each (and together) experience God's cleansing, healing and deliverance!
Some days it is really hard. But perhaps that is the way God intended it - so we will not easily move ahead without leaning hard on Him. We appreciate your prayers!
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I don't have much time to share my thoughts on these verses, which I memorized last week. These verses have been a big encouragement to Cherie and me over the past few months, and we are slowly realizing that applying this concept is possible in our mariage! Yes, we have a lot of hard and ugly things to leave behind, and Satan would have us hang on to them and keep them in the present, but God is faithful, and He is delivering us form our past, giving us some joy and hope in the present, and we know that He is for us and desires (and is planning) a great future for us. Not that the future will be all roses and sunshine, but that we will grow in our appreciation for Him and for the marriage that He has graciously given us.
It is really hard for me to write a short blog entry, but I am trying! I just cannot leave these verses without saying that the part where he says, "that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" has been really meaningful to me, though I can't pretend to fully understand it. What I see is that Jesus laid ahold of me (in choosing me for salvation) for a specific purpose. I need to press on to to embrace that purpose and, by His grace and through His power, fulfill it. He has provided everything I need in order to complete the task/purpose that He has in mind for me, and it will be for His glory. I can bank on that, and I need to learn more of that faith, and pursue that purpose!
And it is comforting to know that He will never let go of me, for He has already laid hold of me, and He is not letting go! What a wonderful Savior!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Yes, love reveals itself in thoughts, words, and actions. But at the same time, loving thoughts, words, and actions increase love in our hearts. And if you are not feeling the love, but ask God for help and try to orient yourself towards love by actions, you will find that your love grows and these things become more natural and overflowing. That's the premise, and I believe it is true, from my (limited) experience.
Today, Cherie came across an interesting blog (linked to by The Romantic Vineyard) and read the whole thing -- all 170-something posts. Yup, it was that good. It chronicles a husband's attempts to do an act of love every day for a year to express and increase his love for his wife. I have not read it yet myself (I hope to in my free time!), but Cherie has really enjoyed and benefited from it. So many attitudes and thought patterns and feelings get worked out in real life as he pours out his hear to his wife (who does not have a clue that he is doing this blog!). It is strikingly real, and this guy has a real heart for Christ and for his wife and family. Oh, I suppose you want to find this site, right? Well, here it is: 365 Acts of Love Enjoy!
We are both thankful for this example of true-life practical everyday (pun intened) example of loving one another. We can use that right now! :-)
Friday, March 16, 2012
Anyway, today's post is a common blog idea, I suppose... share some other blogs and things that I have enjoyed recently, with a few words (ha!) to tease you with what each one is about. Here goes...
Tom & Debi Walter from The Romantic Vineyard had an article on shame this week (Shame on You!), which I found very helpful in understanding my own situation. It helped both Cherie and I to see how what I have done in our marriage has brought shame into both of our lives, and we ned to avail ourselves of Christ's cleansing. They reference and post a few excerpts from an article by Ed Welch and also provide some other resrouces on the subject. I need to go back and read it prayerfully again!
Marriage Life Ministries posted an article (MT Project: I Need to Lay Me Down) about sacrificial love and taking the lead in serving one another. Here's a teaser: "You’ll be amazed at the changes you see in your spouse (and yourself) if you begin serving and giving of yourself and caring more about your spouse and their needs then about your own." There is plenty of room for me to apply this in my life!
Paul from The Generous Husband wrote about a similar concept on his blog (Why it's good that some of it is your fault), including this, "Working on that 5% will do a lot more for your marriage than whining about the 95% over which you have no power. " I think that it would be more appropriate to classify me as having 95% of the issues, not Cherie!
I don't know much about Russell Moore, but a friend linked to this Q&A article (Should I divorce if I'm miserable) and some of it resonated with me. After writing about short-term hardship versus long-term reward and joy, he says, "But even if your marriage never becomes what you thought it might be, it is worth it to stand by your words and maintain fidelity to the wife of your youth." And if you're the kind who likes to grapple with diverse views by reading responses, there are plenty of comments to sift through! Oh, and I noticed he has written a book (Tempted and Tried) about temptation that I will consider buying and reading sometime.
Well, it's Friday evening, and that's my 3rd post for this week. It feels good to be a little closer to being on top of my goals for this week. And it's time to go get some pizza for my family to celebrate the end of this crazy week.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Cherie and I both found this Bible story and its careful interpretation very applicable to us at this point in our journey. Here is a rough outline of what was said, and then I will explain how I saw it applying to us:
- Jesus had sent the disciples on ahead (after feeding the 5,000), while He went to pray alone. So, they were obeying, which is a good thing.
- Although a storm came up, and the wind and the waves were against them, they were persevering nonetheless. They made it 3 or 4 miles, and John McArthur has said that they were out there perhaps 9.5 or more hours. No doubt they felt like everything was against them. This is the way God often works in our lives - to show us our weakness and inability to do what He has asked of us, so we will turn to and lean on Him to be our sufficiency.
- When they first saw Jesus, they were struck with great fear. Perhaps they thought that a ghost on the sea was just one more circumstance against them, as we tend to when we are having a bad day/month/year. But when they knew it was Jesus, their fear turned to faith, they believed Him, and gladly received Him into the boat. There is no record that they had prayed prior to this, and we are often slow to acknowledge our need of God too.
- In another account, Peter wants to go out to see Jesus before He boards the ship. He had faith that whatever Jesus commanded to be done, would be done, including having Peter walk to Him on the water. That was great faith in the spoken Word of God! But after Peter started walking on the water (an "impossibility"), he was distracted from Christ to the wind and waves, and faltered and began to sink. Perhaps he thought that he was walking on water by himself, and became afraid of falling when he saw the extra challenges of the wind and waves. He forgot that he was already doing the "impossible" by walking on the water according to Jesus' command, and didn't consider that Jesus would overcome those "extra" challenges to continue to do the "impossible" in and through and for Peter.
Let me just say that I have never heard this passage explained this way, and found it very helpful. Pastor tied it in with the feeding of the 5,000 to show that Jesus was focusing on His disciples and their training in both of these events.
As for application to our lives, I see how Jesus stirred up my sinful heart last May, granted repentence, and gave me the command to turn from my sin and walk righteously. (What a gracious and merciful God I have!) By His further grace, He has enabled me to obey, although I don't claim to have done it well, quickly, or completely. By His further grace, He has enabled me to persevere for 9.5 months in this new journey, although the going has been rougher than I anticipated, and I have had to learn and acknowledge my insufficiency in many ways, and turn more fully to God to overcome my sin and corruption. I too, have had fear, mostly a fear of failure when facing temptation, and that has had negative and couter-productive effects on my battle against old thoughts and ways. Like Peter, I have easily lost sight of Christ and been overwhelmed as I considered the difficulty of the new path and trying to understand how it works. My guilt over my past sin and my present inability to be completely free from its corruption has also been a heavy weight upon me. In short, I have not been confident in God and His deliverance because I have been relying on myself too much, and that is rightfully a scary thing.
What is the solution? I believe it is to persevere in faith and obedience, acknowledging my insufficiency, and being cast entirely upon the all-sufficiency of Christ. Receiving Him into my boat without fear, but with gladness, is the way to be free from my endless toil, guilt, and fear, and to rest in His full and free deliverance. Keeping my focus on God and His Word, trusting Him completely, and not trusting in my own (supposed) abilities. Knowing that He will be with me in every storm of temptation, and He is faithful, and that I can trust Him to provide the way of escape and the strength to take that escape route!
Oh, and what is that destination that I am looking forward to? It is called oneness. True heart-intimacy with Cherie. Complete faithfulness to her. Walking consistently in sanctification and honor, for the glory of God!
Monday, March 12, 2012
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1: 12-15)We know that we do sin, and therefore cannot deduce that only non-sinners get a crown of life. Who has the Lord promised this crown to? Those that love Him. So, there must be an important link between loving Christ and enduring temptation. It reminds me of something I wrote about affections last week. This verse tell me that I was on track in tackling temptation by pursuing a love for God and His Word! Loving Jesus does not mean that we will never sin, but it does keep us from being as vulnerable to temptation as we would otherwise be. Think of it this way: We cannot serve two masters. We cannot love our sin and Christ concurrently. The more we love our sin, the less we will love God. Conversely, the more we love God, the less we will love our sin. And we will be better able to view our circumstances and the temptation from God's perspective -- seeing what is true and what is a lie. So, I see a deeper love for Christ as a very important aspect of dealing with temptation.
God doesn't tempt me. He allows me to be tempted in my circumstances, and He does not always prevent Satan from bringing temptation to me, but He does not tempt me Himself. I Corinthains 10:13 goes along with this, not only showing that God filters or limits the temptation that we receive, but that He is faithful and wants us to withstand temptation: "...God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able..." We are so apt to blame God, but He is always faithful and never to be blamemd -- He is for us, and not against us (see Romans 8)
Towards the end of this passage, there is a description of how temptation works in bringing about sin and death in us. It starts with my desires, and where do they come from? They come from my sinful flesh, and they are the opposite of the new desires placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit since salvation. So it is helpful for me to understand what temptation is and how to stop it in its tracks. I can prevent (to some degree) my sinful desires from drawing me away by pursuing the desires of the Spirit. (Along the lines of what I said earlier about affections for God) I can stop temptation in its tracks by recognizing that my sinful desires are being drawn out in my present situation, and turning from them, before I myself am drawn away into sin. I will teach and remind myself what this downward progression looks like and the seriousness of where this train goes if unstopped. Being aware of the outcome of what I am being tempted to do is simply knowing the facts before making an informed decision. Satan hates us knowing the facts! But I have seen sin's efffect in my own life and marriage, and I need to remember that and flee from it at the earliest opportunity. And finally, I can learn from my failures in temptation by looking back and seeing where I missed "escape routes." I should ask God to grant me true repentance to turn from sin in my heart now, and better recognize my sinful desires and actions and the "way of escape" next time.
Temptation can be so overwhelming and frustrating. But seeing these things from God's Word can get us going in the right direction. Praise God for His faithfulness!
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Responsbile Father) posted a tip to start Daylight Savings Time a day earlier, to make Sunday mornings a bunch easier, so you don't feel so stressed on a morning when you are going to worship God. I have a similar approach designed to help spread out the transition to the new time a little bit, but don't know how effective it is. An hour's change to a young child's schedule is just a hard thing to do, period. (not to mention the rest of us!)
Here's our approach, but we aren't super-strict on it:
- Saturday afternoon: wake them up from nap 15 minutes early, give them some exercise, and feed them supper 15 minutes early (25%)
- Saturday evening: put them to be 30 minutes early, and pray that they actually go to sleep before too long! (50%)
- Saturday night: turn the clocks ahead an hour, like everybody else. No effect on the children, because they don't tell time!
- Sunday morning: get them up 15 minutes late, which is 45 minutes earlier by the sun's schedule (75%)
- Sunday: take them to Sunday School and Church (on time!?!) to immerse them in reality and get them good and tired (100%)
- Sunday afternoon: put them down to nap 15 minutes late to make sure they take a good nap (back to 75%)
- Sunday evening: 100% on new time, for better or for worse. Relax and thank God for getting us through it, but get to bed early because Monday morning will be here way to early for everybody! :-)
There you have it. Hope it helps somebody!
Thursday, March 08, 2012
I was reading something John Piper wrote about lust (he preached it too -- you can read or listen on the Desiring God site), and I will begin with his definition of lust: "a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God." This basic definition and his expansion of it was very helpful to me. I got a new perspective on the underlying principles of lust, marriage, faith, salvation, godliness, and honoring others. I was struck by the solution, summarized here in an anonymous writer that he quotes: "The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the knowledge of an irresistibly glorious God," which ties in nicely with John Piper's main theme in ministry of glorifying God by enjoying Him. It dawned on me that my efforts to fill my mind with Scripture, my wife, and other good things in an effort to get rid of thoughts of another woman are good, but somehow miss the mark. It is essential to have my heart engaged with God, to have my affections for God awakened and satisfied. Yes, reading Scripture is helpful, but the focus of it needs to be on getting to know God in my heart, and not just in acquiring knowledge or in occupying my mind.
Something else that was meaningful to me this week on this topic was a blog post by Justin Davis (he and his wife Trisha blog at RefineUs.org). In it, he tells about his recent conversations with his 13-year-old son on the topic of sexual temptation. A few things that struck me were his point that we need not be ashamed of being tempted (for Jesus Himself was); and that "Sin doesn’t come because we are tempted. Sin comes as [we] act like we aren’t tempted. Temptation only grows in secret." In other words, when we deny or hide the fact that we are tempted, our vulnerability to temptation grows -- and I can vouch for that in my own life story. It grows because we keep it secret, and secrecy is a great fuel for temptation and more and more sin. This applies to any type of sin, not just sexual sin -- deception is at the heart of sin in every form. Justin goes on to say that the solution to our temptation comes "as we share those temptations with one another and bring them into the light." This was very insightful to me, and reinforces to me that being open and honest with Cherie about my daily battles is helpful. It's helpful for me because I don't give space in a dark/sheltered place for temptation to grow into sin, and it's helpful for her because she cannot learn to trust me if I am not transparent in an area where I have been very deceptive in the past.
I am thankful for God's continuing work in my life, and am reminded of how much I have to learn and how much I can learn from others!
Saturday, March 03, 2012
Being thankful is something that the people mentioned in Romans 1:21 were not... "...Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." So, unthankfulness is associated with futile thoughts, with foolishness, darkness, and most of all, not giving God the glory due Him as God. At the root of thankfulness is a sense of humility, of not deserving what has been given, of respect for the giver. And since God is the giver of every good thing (see James 1:17), it is ultimately God that we are to be thankful to, for He is the original or ultimate Giver. We who know Christ as our Savior have all the more reason to be thankful, and can see by faith how we bring nothing to God and receive everything from Him.
There are a lot of verses exhorting us to give thanks, and a lot of examples of godly people who gave thanks. Here is one that is really clear, from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 -- "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." This one strikes me because of two key phrases...
- "in everything" -- that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for us not to be thankful, now does it? In the hard times of life, what are we tempted to be? We might be angry, or discouraged, or hurt, or disappointed, or jealous, or covetous, or indignant, or spiteful, or bitter, or a bunch of other things. They all point to selfishness or self-centeredness. How can we be any of those things while being thankful to God? We don't have God's blessing to be any of those things in any situation. He wants us to be thankful instead - to see by faith that God is good and is a giver, and is seeking our blessing even in difficulties.
- "this is the will of God" -- God has a purpose for us personally, and it is that we be thankful. If we ever have any question about how we should respond to the circumstances or people we find ourselves facing, we look to this verse and see God's will clearly shown to us. When we are blessed beyond our expectations, we certainly know what to do - give thanks! God desires glory for Himself, and giving thanks to Him glorifies Him by acknowledging His goodness and our unworthiness of receiving good things from Him. And it takes faith - to see beyond our current perspective on our circumstances and believe that God does work all things together for good. So thankfulness is a matter of obedience, and we also see that it is "in Christ Jesus", which means we can only truly be thankful through Christ. The Spirit of God produces thankfulness in us. It fights against our flesh that would cause us to be unthankful and all of those other things in point 1 above.
So how does this relate to happiness? We know we cannot be happy apart from doing the will of God. We know we cannot be happy continuing to do our own will and ignoring God's will. We know that we will be happy when we make God happy, and that we cannot make God happy on our own, but only through the perfect work of Jesus for us at Calvary. The Spirit's work in us causes us to want to obey, and to glorify God, and enables us to do so. Giving thanks to God makes us more aware of how much we have been blessed, and how little we deserve it, which makes us happy.
As it applies to my own life, I see that unthankfuless goes hand-in-hand with my past coveting or lusting after other women. It also goes well with deceiving others - because I was not content with the truth about myself, and sought to twist it. Now, as God has changed my heart, I pursue the opposite things, and see that thankfulness is all tied up with those opposites! Being thankful for my wife causes me to pursue her and delight in her as a gift from God, and turn away from other women. I am thankful for the truth, for it set me free from the walls of deception I had built around myself that kept me enslaved to my lusts. Going to God with thanksgiving reminds me of my past sin and how undeserving I am of God's goodness, which provides needed humility. That humble thankfulness changes how I see others and look to them -- not with a proud sense of deserving their respect, but with a respect for them and a desire to learn from them and see God's grace at work in their lives. Thankfulness turns me away from self and sin, and towards God and others.
In closing, I am going to paraphrase Mark 9:24... Lord, I am thankful. Help my unthankfulness!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
One of my goals was to memorize 3 Bible verses, and Cherie had suggested these, which proved to be an excellent choice. Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (I am typing them here from memory, with a little corrective action after the fact!)
Here are some ways that these verses proved meaningful for me this week:
- Our pastor's message on Sunday was about Jesus being Lord of the sabbath, and I finally gained a clear understanding of why it is that the sabbath is no longer expected to be kept by God. It is because the sabbath was a day of rest that pictured the coming "rest" from sacrifices, ceremonies, and the keeping of law which had been required of God. This rest would only be possible in the giving of His Son Jesus to bear our sins and the wrath we deserved. This was particularly meaningful for me because I grew up with a lot of legality and am still learning what it means to be free from my own efforts at righteousness and to rest completely in God's saving mercy and grace. It also strikes a chord as I learn how to fight against my sin in a new way -- one which requires my participation/obedience, but is largely dependent on the Spirit of God for motivation and implementation, and dependent on God's working to transform my heart and mind as I trust and obey Him.
- Cherie and I got to talking about guilt this week, and I realized that I have always carried a lot of guilt around, and still do. Guilt is a pattern of mine that developed as a result of un-combated sin, along with a pressure to keep myself to some level of perceived holiness. Now, even though God has turned my heart and is giving me a large degree of practical daily deliverance from sin, I still sometimes feel guilt -- for example, I feel bad that my corrupt flesh still desires to sin and tries to weasle its way into my thoughts. After our conversation, I also met with our pastor yesterday and we talked a bit about it. He pointed out that guilt has a purpose when there is truly sin, but that misplaced guilt or proper guilt that is not properly addressed both tend to hang over one's head and do 2 things: keep me feeling bad and thinking unnesccesarily about my sin instead of about God and good things; and prevent me from loving my wife (and others) the way I should. Guilt is self-focused and love is other-focused. Taking my sin to God, and availing myself of His forgiveness and delvierance, frees me to humbly seek the same mercy and grace for others, and desire to participate in the demonstration of God's mercy and grace to them. Especially to Cherie!
- It occurred to me that I struggle with being humble without acting weak (this probably goes along with the guilt issue). For example, if I am feeling freshly humbled by the realization of some additional current impact from my past sin, I am apt to feel discouraged and act defeated. I need to learn how to be strong and courageous and ambitious to move forward, while doing so humbly and respectfully and with true godly sorrow over my sin. As I worked on memorizing these verses, I saw that Christ Himself is strong (He bears the much heavier side of the yoke, and carries my burdens) and yet He says that He is gentle and lowly in heart. His strength does not come across as arrogant, inconsiderate, condescending, or impatient -- as fleshly strength often does. No, His strength is shown in my weakness, and it is shown with humility, grace, and gentleness. I need to sit at His feet and learn of Him, and thus have a better perspective on my own life and others' (especially Cherie's). I need to humbly press forward with God's strength while acknowledging my past sin and remembering His gracious deliverance -- past, present, and future!
Scripture gives us hope in God. I guess it is time to find some more verses to memorize for next week!
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Having said that, here's a little background so that today's entry will make at least a little sense. A few years ago, I slowly fell into an emotional affair with an acquaintance from church, a friend of my wife's. This woman didn't/doesn't know about my feelings for her, but I finally confessed them to my wife last May, not long before our 14th wedding anniversary. My willingness to speak the truth, and subsequently to turn from my sin, was all of God's grace, and was part of a long and intricately braided ribbon of His goodness that we so often have taken for granted; misunderstood; or missed altogether. In the past nearly 9 months, we have had to rely on Christ's gospel-grace in ways that we never did before, and have learned a lot about our sinfulness and constant need of Him. As you can imagine, a short paragraph like this one does very little to convey the depth of the impact to our marriage that my sin has had -- mostly unseen before my confession; deeply felt but far from understood on that explosive day; and increasingly devastating in the difficult days since as we have worked through the implications and roots.
Back to the present. God has really changed my heart to give me a deep love for Cherie and a passion to be 100% faithful to her. I still battle against thoughts for the other woman, but not as one who is enslaved any longer, but as one who has tasted freedom and has experienced Christ's victory in ways I never thought possible. But it still bothers me that she comes into my thoughts at all; that my mind sometimes drifts in her direction -- sometimes without obvious provocation; that I have some fear of seeing her or hearing about her; that there is any leakage of precious resources towards her which have been reserved by God exclusively for my wife. Cherie has been through so much heartache at my hands, and has shown such God-given patience and strength through all of this, and it only makes me long for complete deliverance all the more. I ache to truly meet her needs and desires; to bring her strength instead of weakness; and to rain blessings instead of burdens upon her.
With Cherie's support and encouragement, I am endeavoring to fill up my mind with good things, to employ my mind in profitable ventures, to set goals and work towards them in a way that provides plenty of opportunity to scheme and process and polish up thoughts that are helpful. And all the while, I am seeking God and trusting Him to work in my heart and mind, to deliver me from these old sinful thought patterns. Here are the goals that I have set for myself, to accomplish every week, beginning today:
- Memorize 3 relevant Scripture verses that I can challenge and encourage myself with throughout the week, and in the days ahead.
- Listen to 3 hours of audio books, and share observations and reflections with Cherie.
- Write 3 blog posts, which might be here or on a couple of other blogs we have, one of which is just for Cherie and I to share with each other, the other is a personal blog for some family and friends.
- Write to encourage and update a Christian friend or missionary that we know.
If you're reading this, I hope you will pray for me and for us, and share your own thoughts or Scriptural principles that might be helpful. Thank You!
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
An additional "one" passage that comes to mind and embodies one of our aims is John 17:20-21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." We want to connect with other believers for mutual encouragement, challenge, and blessing, and the practical outworking of the gospel in our everyday lives.
Thanks for reading!