Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sin Similarities

Over the past year, Cherie and I have been battling against very different sins, and yet we have found interesting similarities nonetheless. Our flesh try to take us in entirely different directions, but it is always away from God. And sin always tries to make itself look less dangerous or more attractive than it is, just like Satan did with Eve. And it always digs deeper when we give in to it, so it is harder to do the right thing the next time.

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

Pressing Forward!

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

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

Love -> Actions or Actions -> Love?

I've been working my way slowly through "The Love Dare" book, and remember in the introduction that it said something to the effect that our hearts (even if redeemed by Christ) tend to default in the wrong direction. We need to lead our hearts aright. Part of the way we lead it is by doing things. In the case of a loving marriage relationship, that involves acting in love; learning to love; and experiencing the joy of loving and serving your spouse. That has been an encouragement to me several times.

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

BAG - Blogs, Articles, and other Good stuff

OK, so I don't really have any readers for this blog yet -- it is kinda hard to get them if you don't even start out with friends who follow you! Sigh... But in reality, this blogging project is more about expressing myself at this point in time. I have learned that it is important for me to work through stuff in writing, as it is a practice which fits my mind well and allows me to better enter into what I am thinking about.

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

Persevering without Fear

We all know the story of the disciples (without Jesus) rowing hard in a storm; Jesus coming along walking on the water; their being afraid; Peter going out on the water too and faltering there; Jesus coming on board; the sea calming; and they were immediately at their destination. Our pastor spoke on this story as he is working his way through John's gospel. Chapter 6:16-21 was the passage, but he referred to the accounts from other gospels as well, to pull it all together.
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:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

Understanding and Tackling Temptation

As you might have guessed, I've been thinking a lot about temptation recently, and how to battle it effectively. A couple of weeks ago, I memorized these verses, and wanted to share a few thoughts that have come to me as I was memorizing and pondering this passage:

"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

An Approach to Daylight Savings Time

Whoever dreamed up Daylight Savings Time apparently didn't have young children!

A fellow blogger (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

Lust, and the Danger of Deception

This week I was struck by a couple of things other people have written about this topic, one which is relevant to me (Christophe).

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 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

Thankful = Happy

Over the past several months, both Cherie and I have been thinking a lot about thankfulness, and seeing how it is such an important part of the Christian life. It seems to be an antidote to all sorts of things, but it also comes from somewhere, doesn't it?

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...

  1. "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.

  2. "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!