Friday, February 23, 2018

What Your Wife Really Wants

This one's for the men -- the husbands.  

What does your wife really want in marriage?  The same thing all wives want -- Oneness.  She wants an intimate emotional relationship with you.  She wants to be emotionally close -- really close. 

Unfortunately we men tend to stink at this.  Pastor Tommy Nelson said, "Many husbands are close by their wives, but they are not close to them.  Men think they are close because they are close in proximity."  Your wife needs more than proximity.  She needs emotional intimacy. 

Psychiatrist Pierre Mornell was in practice for 38 years.  He wrote a famous book called Passive Men, Wild Women in 1979 that is still highly relevant today.  Consider his words.  
The reason women are angry in marriage is because of their husband's passivity.  Their job gets all their energy, but their house gets nothing; their marriage gets nothing.  
Over the last few years I have seen in my office an increasing number of couples who share a common denominator. The man is active, articulate, energetic and usually successful in his work. But he is inactive, inarticulate, lethargic and withdrawn at home. In his relationship to his wife he is passive. And his passivity drives her crazy. . . .
Of the wives I've seen in therapy none are actually crazed or disarranged, but a great many are certainly angry, vexed, and confused. They're also highly intelligent, talented women of all ages who have become super unhappy in their marriages. No doubt that's why I see them in my office.
The husbands are also highly intelligent, extremely likable, and, at least on an economic level, making it. They work hard in their business and professional lives. They're excellent providers. (They almost have to be good providers to maintain our astronomical standard of living.) But, as I said, active as they may be at work—they seem incredibly passive at home. They are increasingly impotent, literally and figuratively, with their wives. And they silently retreat behind newspapers, magazines, television, and highballs in the home. Or they perhaps not-so-silently retreat into affairs, weeknight appointments, and weekend arrangements outside the house.
Pastor Charles Swindoll noticed the same problem.
The husband says, in a dozen different ways, "I'm tired . . . just leave me alone." Frustrated, the wife thinks, "I need more from you . . . give me something I'm not getting." She makes requests; he ignores them. She gets louder; he retreats further. She adds pressure; he lapses into sullen silence. He ultimately withdraws; she goes "wild." The scenario is repeated in various themes and with different words in every corner of the globe. I doubt that there are many neighborhoods where such marital skirmishes are missing.
Men, your wife is longing for oneness with you.  And there's only one way to meet that need.  Communication.  But not just any communication.  There are three levels of communication.  1) Cliche'.  2) Sharing information.  3) Sharing feelings.  To meet your wife's need for oneness you have to go beyond cliche, beyond sharing information, and actually share your feelings.  Share your desires, your dreams, your goals, your frustrations, your pains, your fears, your worries, your disappointments.  Share it all.  Everything!  The more that you share, the closer your wife will lean in and give herself to you.  She'll be happy, and in the end, isn't that what you really want more than anything else? 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Keep Serving While You Suffer

It was a really, really bad day for Theodore Roosevelt.  On Valentines Day, 1884, his wife and his mother died on the same day.  His wife died giving birth to their first child, Alice.  In his diary that day he wrote, "The light has gone out of my life."  He then decided to run away.  He left his newborn daughter with his sister, and he rode off to the badlands of the Dakotas, breaking horses, rounding up and branding cattle, and hunting down cattle thieves (Source:  Robert Jeffress).  What a tragedy!  When life got tough the man abandoned his responsibilities. 

That's what a lot of people do when they suffer.  They run away.  They drop their responsibilities and flea.  They seek to escape.  They quit their job.  They leave their spouse.  They leave their children.  They drop out of church.  They quit volunteering.  They stop loving.  They stop serving.  They stop giving.  They stop sharing.  They stop showing up.  They stop exercising.  They stop eating right.  They stop having a quiet time.  They give up and run away.  Sometimes physically.  Sometimes just emotionally and spiritually.  

Suffering is hard.  But don't run away.  Your trials are not an accident.  God knows exactly what He is doing.  This is all part of His plan.  And if you cling to Him and carry on with the responsibilities that He has given you, then He will use this trial for your good and His glory.  And in the end you will be able to look back and see that your trial was a gift, and you are better off because of it.  But the only way that's possible is if you keep serving while you suffer.  Don't run away.  Don't stop.  Don't give up.  Keep on.

(Sources:  Robert Jeffress sermon, "Learn How to Handle Bad Days.")

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Two Causes of Trials

Trials are a fact of life.  It doesn't matter how holy you are, how much you pray, or how much you give to charity.  There's no amount of fasting that will make you exempt from suffering.  If Jesus, Peter, Paul, Moses, David, and Abraham suffered, then you will, too. 

But what are the causes of suffering?  Once you understand the causes of suffering, then you will realize that while some suffering is inevitable, other types of suffering can be avoided.  

There are two causes of suffering.

First, some suffering is caused by our sin (Pr 24:17-18).  Not only is sin its own punishment with its painful consequences, but God will discipline you when you sin (Heb 12:5-6).  Most suffering in life is self-induced by your own wickedness and can be avoided by living a holy life.

Second, some suffering is caused by living in a sin-infected world (Rm 8:19-22).  Bad things happen all the time that are not your fault:  Your spouse cheats on you; your child gets terribly ill; your wallet gets stolen; your house floods; you get laid off at work, etc.  Still, God doesn't have to allow you to suffer at all.  The fact that He does means one thing:  It's good for you.  All of us are sinful, and trials are the best teachers.  When your suffering doesn't appear to be your fault, focus on how your trial can grow you, and how your trial can be used to glorify God and point others to Christ. 

(Sources:  Robert Jeffress sermon, "Learn How to Handle Bad Days.")

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

4 Wrong Ways to Respond to Trials

In this life you will suffer and struggle (Jn 16:33).  Don't worry.  God has a plan to use this for your good (Rm 8:28).  But if you aren't careful, you can do things that will make your trials harder and more painful than they need to be.  Here are four wrong ways to respond to trials:

First, being physically exhausted.  You will not be able to weather life's storms if your body is running on empty.  Eventually you'll run out of gas and break down.  You'll break the bow if you always keep it bent.  The Bible calls those who do not work lazy, but it calls those who do not rest disobedient.  Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap, go to bed at decent hour, and take a day off.

Second, focusing on your trials rather than on almighty God.  In the middle of a thunderstorm, if you were to travel 10,000 feet straight up you would find complete sunshine without a cloud in sight.  Which is real -- the storm or the sunshine?  Both.  They are parallel realities occurring at the same time.  Your trials are real.  But there's another reality.  God is real, and He is omnipotent and sovereign over all.  Which reality are you going to choose to focus on?  The object of your focus will determine the intensity, longevity, and outcome of your trial.

Third, holding on to unrealistic expectations.  If you always expect to have good health, and conflict-free relationships, and obedient kids, and everything you touch to turn into gold, then you are setting yourself up for great disappointment.  You are expecting things that God has not promised.  Not only will you be disappointed, but you will get angry with God for not keeping His word.  Be sure that your expectations are grounded in God's promises.  Study the word and church history and observe the trials that God's greatest warriors had to endure.

Fourth, believing you are indispensable.  If you think you are totally responsible for your spouse's choices, your kids' behavior, your company's success, your health, your financial situation, and for how people treat you, then you are headed for big trouble.  First, you will take all the credit when you succeed and be filled with pride and ingratitude.  Or second, you will take all the blame when you fail and be filled with discouragement.  Realize that you are neither omnipotent nor sovereign.  You can only control your input.  Trust God with the outcome.

You can't avoid trials.  But you can avoid making your trials worse than they have to be.

(Sources:  Robert Jeffress sermon, "Learn How to Handle Bad Days.")

Monday, February 19, 2018

How to Teach Your Kids About God

The following is from a project that I'm working on to help parents disciple their kids.  I'm taking each question from the Home Discipleship Catechism and writing a short lesson that parents can read to their kids.  The bold text is the question; the underlined portion is the answer from the catechism, followed by the explanation.  At the bottom you will also find Questions for Discussion and verses For Further Study.  I hope to post a new lesson every Monday.

Question 3:  Who is God?

God is the creator and ruler of the universe.  There is one God in three persons:  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says there is only one God (Deut 6:4).  All other so-called gods are false gods that do not exist.  But God is also three:  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This is called the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Bible says that there is one God in three coeternal, coequal persons.  The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Holy Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father.  But there is one God.  This is clearly taught in Scripture.  Jesus said to baptize new believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).  At Christ’s baptism all three persons of the godhead were present – the Son in the water, the Spirit descending like a dove, and the Father speaking from heaven:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:16-17).

God is the creator of everything and everyone (Gen 1:1).  God is a spirit and does not have a physical body like us (Jn 4:24).  God is invisible; that’s why we can’t see Him (Col 1:15).  God is sovereign; that means He is in charge and in control of everything, and nothing can happen to us unless God allows it (Is 14:24; Rom 8:28).  God is eternal; there was never a time when He did not exist, and He was not created like us (Ps 90:2).  God is omnipotent; that means He is all-powerful, and there’s nothing He cannot do (Gen 1:1).  God showed His unlimited power by creating the universe from nothing, by flooding the entire earth in the days of Noah, by parting the Red Sea, by causing the sun to stand still in the days of Joshua, and by raising Jesus from the dead.  God is omnipresent; that means He is everywhere at the same time, and wherever you go God is there with you (Ps 139:8-10).  God is omniscient; that means He knows everything (Ps 139:1-6, 11-12).  He knows the past, the present, and the future.  He knew you before you were born, He knows what you are doing right now, and He knows your future.  God even knows the number of hairs on your head (Lk 12:7).  He knows the answer to all your questions, and the solutions to all your problems.  He has all the wisdom you will ever need (Is 28:29).  While God is control and in charge of everything, it is comforting to know that He is holy; that means He is morally blameless (1 Pt 1:15-16).  He does not sin, and He will never use His power for evil.  It is also comforting to know that almighty God is fair and righteous; He will never mistreat you (Ps 5:4; 9:7-8).

Perhaps the best thing about God is that He is good (Ps 107:1).  He is love, and always treats us in a loving way (1 Jn 4:8).  This is why we can trust that when God commands us to do something, or allows us to suffer, it is good for us.  God supplies our needs (Phil 4:19), and even more, He gives us a good life (Ps 34; 103:5; Jn 10:10; Js 1:17).  It is God who heals us when we are sick (Ps 103:3), protects and rescues us from danger (Ps 27:1; 103:4), is patient with us when we fail and forgives our sins (Ps 103:3, 8; 1 Jn 1:9), guides us along the best path for our lives (Ps 25:9-12), gives us strength for all of life’s challenges (Ps 18:32-40; Phil 4:13), comforts us in our trials (2 Cor 1:3-5), and hears and answers our prayers (1 Pt 3:12).  And in spite of our sins, God sent His Son to die for us so that we could be saved (Jn 3:16).  Now He is more than our God; He is our heavenly Father (Rm 8:15).

Questions for Discussion:
  1. What do the following words mean:  Omnipotent?  Omnipresent?  Omniscient?  Sovereign?  
  2. What is the doctrine of the Trinity?  How can God be one and three at the same time?
  3. What’s so great about God?
  4. What is it about God that makes you love and praise Him?
  5. What is it about God that makes you want to serve Him?

For Further Study:
  1. Psalm 34
  2. Psalm 99
  3. Psalm 100
  4. Psalm 103
  5. Psalm 139

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Cure For America

President Trump's mantra has been "Make America Great Again."  That's certainly something that I want, too.  But there's only so much that the President and Congress can do to save America.  To stop America from deteriorating into something that it was never intended to be, and from becoming a place where we don't want our descendants to live, the church is going to have to do what only the church can do.  The church is America's only hope.

Here are nine things that Christians need to do to save America's future.

First, Christians must fight to restore religious liberty.

Religious liberty is the first liberty, the most important freedom of all.  Everything rests on this.  This, more than anything else, is what has led to America's greatness.  And why?  Because of what Os Guiness calls the Golden Triangle of Freedom.  Freedom requires virtue (a moral populace); virtue requires religion (for virtue to thrive on a mass scale); and religion requires freedom (for religion to flourish).  In short, Christianity will struggle to thrive without religious liberty, and if Christianity is not thriving, then the populace will become more immoral, and as immorality rises, freedom falls.  If people are not responsible for themselves and respectful of their neighbors, then they will cry out for more government involvement and control.  Religious liberty is under attack like never before.  Christians must ensure that the government does not minimize religious liberty to the freedom to believe, or the freedom to worship, but must protect every citizen's right to live and work according to their beliefs.

Second, Christians must build healthy churches.

The health of our nation depends on a strong church.  As stated above, a strong church leads to a virtuous populace which decreases the need for a growing and increasingly controlling government.  What is needed to revitalize America's churches?  Two things, primarily.  First, bold, uncompromising, culturally relevant preaching.  Preachers must declare God's word as it relates to all arenas of life, including politics and culture, rather than avoid all topics that might encourage people to leave.  America's prophets must grow a backbone.  Second, Christians must make church participation a priority.  The average church attender in America shows up once a month.  That's not going to cut it.  There's no way for the church in America to grow and flourish if it consists of uncommitted members.

Third, Christians must reject socialism.

America has been drifting toward socialism since the early part of the twentieth century with the government attempting to solve more and more of our problems through the forced transfer of wealth.  Socialism must be rejected because it is theft -- stealing one man's property to give to another.  It must be rejected because it is slavery -- forcing one man to work for the benefit of another.  It must be rejected because it decreases human freedom -- as the government grows it takes more of people's money, and more control over their lives.  It must be rejected because it is not compassion, but compulsion.  It must be rejected because it doesn't work.  Everywhere it has been tried it has been a total disaster.  Government is necessary, but it is necessary that government remain small and limited.  As President Reagan said, "The scariest words in the English language are often those that follow a knock at the door.  The words are these:  'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you.'"

Fourth, Christians must uphold the freedom of speech.

Free speech is under attack.  Many want to create "hate speech" laws that would make it illegal to say hateful things.  The problem with that should be obvious to everyone.  Who gets to define what speech is hateful?  Answer:  Whoever is in power.  "Hate speech" laws would inevitably lead to the criminalization of Christianity, because those who most want "hate speech" laws also hate many of the core doctrines of Christianity, such as "Marriage is the union of one man and one woman"; "God made sex only for marriage"; "God made people male and female"; "Jesus Christ is the only way to God"; and "All who reject Jesus Christ will spent eternity in hell".  

Fifth, Christians must fulfill Dr. King's dream.

What was Dr. King's dream?  That people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Unfortunately America is moving further and further away from that dream, and it is doing so in the name of Dr. King!  Affirmative Action rewards people because of their race rather than merit.  Churches are being accused of racism because they are not "diverse" enough, and in response they are intentionally hiring people of color just to prove that they are not racist.  Many claim that white people are racist by default, even if they don't know it or mean it.  Many claim that any and all problems faced by black Americans are caused by racism.  Many claim that white people have an unfair privilege and therefore people of color should be given special advantages.  Many claim that it is impossible for white people to experience racism, and that white people are unqualified to speak about racism.  Many people openly voted for Obama because he is black, such as Samuel L. Jackson, but if a white actor admitted to voting for Trump because he is white, the actor would be kicked out of Hollywood for life.  This double standard is very obvious.  Black people are allowed to say things that white people would never get away with.  For example, Spike Lee said that he didn't like interracial marriage, and that when he sees interracial couples on the street he gives them "visual daggers" to make them feel uncomfortable.  Imagine if a white celebrity said something like that.  He would be burned at the stake.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was fined for calling a fellow teammate the n-word, but if a white player would have said the same thing, he would be out of a job and branded as a racist for life.  The nation that repented of the oppression of black people is now the nation that openly hates white people.   

Sixth, Christians must have more children.

The Satanic ideas that children are a burden, that large families can't give children the proper care, and that the world is overpopulated, have crept their way into the church.  More and more Christian couples are choosing to have fewer kids, or not have kids at all.  Christians must return to the Bible's teachings about children.  Children are a gift from the Lord, and the more you have the better (Ps 127:3-5).  Children are one of God's greatest blessings!  God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28).  America is not in any danger of overpopulation.  Our birth rate is currently at its lowest point in history, far below the replacement rate.  And while Christians are having fewer kids, Muslims are having as many as they can.

Seventh, Christians must be better parents.

The church's best opportunity to reach people for Christ is in our own homes -- our children.  But for far too long Christian parents have abdicated the responsibility of discipling their kids, relying instead upon the church and the Christian school.  While the school and the church can certainly help, parents must disciple their children in the home.  In particular, Christian fathers must make it a priority to sit down with their kids several times a week for intentional, systematic discipleship (Deut 6:4-9; Eph 6:4).  Christian parents must lead their kids to Christ and train them to be fully devoted to Jesus.  As well, Christian parents must do a better job of protecting their children from the world.  The days are extremely evil, but most Christian parents are launching their kids into the world before they are trained to resist the enemy.  Our children are sent to secular schools, handed the remote with a TV in their bedroom, and are given their own computers and mobile devices with unrestricted access to the internet.  Is it any wonder that the world does a better job of reaching our kids than the church does of reaching the world? 

Eighth, Christians must put an end to abortion.

A nation that not only permits, but glorifies abortion as "health care" and a woman's "right" only has a short time before it falls under the terrible wrath of almighty God.  Every vote for a pro-choice politician is a vote for legalized infanticide.  Human beings are created in the image of God and are of inestimable value at every stage of life, regardless of their size, ability, age, or mental capacity.  The beginning of human life at conception must be acknowledged and abortion for any reason and at any stage must be abolished.  The same nation that rejected the dehumanization of black people must also reject the dehumanization of the unborn.  

Ninth, Christians must get involved in politics.

Far too many Christians are civically unengaged, sitting on the sidelines of the political battlefield, just hoping that the good side will win.  But the good side only wins if the good people fight.  How many ungodly politicians have been elected, how many unjust laws have been created, and how much human suffering has occurred simply because Christians in America did not take the time to vote?  How can we avoid politics and at the same time love our neighbors when the well-being of our neighbors is so highly impacted by politics?  We need Christians to vote, to stay informed, to speak up for what is right, and to run for office.  

America is the greatest nation in the history of the world, with more freedom and prosperity than any nation before it.  But if we want our kids and grand kids to enjoy her beauty and bounty then we must do what only the church can do.  Remember the words of President Reagan.  "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

Just before he was killed for his faith, a pastor from Zimbabwe wrote about what it means to be all in for Jesus Christ.  Are you a part of the fellowship of the unashamed?
I am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up because of the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me, for my banner will be clear.