What Marriage Has Taught Me About Growing Up

This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am very thankful for my beautiful and loving wife, Leah. We have been married for 19 years. Marriage is a great testing ground for our growth in Christlikeness. Here are a few things I have learned about Growing Up through the experience of marriage:

Anger needs to be dealt with

Many times, when I have had fights with my wife and we have left to different parts of the house in our anger, I have asked God to show me what to do. To direct my next steps. Almost every time, I have been directed to find her, reach out to her, and apologize. I have never been directed to sit there and stew on my anger. That would just make things worse.

Dallas Willlard says, “Anything that can be done with anger, can be done better without it.” So, it is best for me to swallow my pride and deal with my anger as soon as possible. We may be hurt but it would be best if we dealt with the anger so we can deal with the hurt.

Love and support of a committed person brings with it strength and courage to face major problems

I remember when my wife and I found out that our baby might have severe deformities. We were in shock and bewildered. But I also remember the quiet assurance that we seemed to give each other. Her support and encouragement blended with my support and encouragement to strengthen us for the uncertain months ahead. We were fearful and overwhelmed but knowing that we were there for each other and going through this together, eased our anxiety and gave us courage. I can’t overestimate the power of honest and true love and support. It can absolutely make the impossible seem possible.

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You can’t think about yourself for very long and if you do, be ready for problems

There is no such thing as “It’s all about me” time in a marriage. There may need to be time for space or time for personal recreation or entertainment but to shut off all burdens of commitment and time to your spouse so that you can do your own thing is not part of the contract your signed when you got married.

Commitment to commitment means something and our own wants should never outweigh our commitment to our spouse or to God. I have to consistently check myself and my motivations. Is my heart burning with selfishness and self-absorption? If so, I need to get back in the spiritual laboratory and let God take back control. For my benefit and fulfillment and hopefully for the benefit and fulfillment of my wife.

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Two Mistakes We Make In Growing Up

Jesus, in the Greatest Sermon Ever Given, talked about these things:

Anger

Lust

Lying

Revenge

Pride

Greed

Worry

Judging

Falseness

Our great defense mechanism as humans is to recognize these traits in other people but not in ourselves.

If we start reading Matthew 5-7 and get to teachings on pride or lust or anger we let other people’s face cross our mind’s eye instead of our own. We think that because I have heard this passage before or have heard a few sermons where Greed is discussed, I have already figured these things out. Someone else must have a problem with these things and not me. What a mistake this thinking is and what a tool of Satan to have us dismiss these crucial teachings as not pertaining to me.

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Just this past week I have struggled with Worry about many things. I have lusted. I have delighted in someone who I am not fond of getting some comeuppance. I have judged constantly. I have stretched the truth. I have let Pride dictate some of my actions. I have grown Angry and lashed out at people around me. I have wanted something to happen strictly for financial purposes only.

I am in need of a daily heart transformation that only Christ can bring and discusses in the Sermon on the Mount and so are you. Forget the obligation of obedience, imagine what your life could be if you made progress in just one of the areas above?

If our first mistake in transformation is not seeing the need for it, then our second mistake is thinking that change will only come from our will power and determination. This will only take you so far. Many people are finding this truth out as their New Year’s Resolutions are losing steam.

No, the only determination you need is to make progress and to daily let Christ work in your life. To be open to Christ’s work and whatever form that takes. To take him in and let him be the Lord of your life. Change will come, transformation will come.

I have told you that I have a long way to go but I am better than I was 10 years ago. But self-improvement is not the goal. Being a light to the World and fulfilling God’s plan on earth is why I need to reflect the nature of Jesus in all that I do or become.

 

Committing Murder In Your Heart

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that

Anger Controlls Him

Anger Controlls Him (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Jesus is addressing the heart of an individual. The heart is the extreme focus of Jesus. He spends the better part of the Sermon on the Mount addressing this. Jesus knew that avoiding murder is largely a physical issue but avoiding anger is a spiritual one.

Jesus always emphasizes the spiritual over the physical. I may never reach a point of wanting to murder someone but that doesn’t mean that anger doesn’t have a hold on me. That doesn’t mean that the contempt I have for another person isn’t tearing myself and that person apart. Dallas Willard says, “Anything that can be done with anger can be done better without it.”

There are some Christians that think that it is their Christian duty to be angry people against those that are hostile towards them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Encountering those who are against us in a loving and respectful way instead of a belligerent and rageful way is to follow the example of Jesus. To do otherwise is to follow the ways of the world and to work against Jesus’ teaching on the destructiveness of anger.

 

 

How Christ Made Me A Better Person Pt. 2

Here are three more examples in my own life of personal changes coming as a result of the work of Christ in my life. Let me note that Christ taught me these things through his Word, through prayer and meditation on scripture, and through great teaching from the likes of Dallas Willard, James Bryan Smith, Brennan Manning, and Henri Nouwen, just to name a few.

See anger for what it is and what it is not – In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spends six verses driving home the point against anger and its partner in crime, contempt. I have learned that anything that can be done with anger can be done much better without it. This has helped me in disciplining my kids and points of contention with my wife. Sure I get angry and sometimes respond to things poorly but more and more I am able to remove anger from these situations so that I can try to help the situation instead of making it worse.

To avoid second looks– Lust has got to be the biggest problem that men face and I am as guilty as any man but Christ has taught me that the real problem is not with the first look but the second, third, and fourth looks. That is when simple awareness of attractiveness turns into lust and objectification of an individual. I work on a college campus where there are young attractive females but I have learned that there is nothing good that can come if I continue glancing their way. And best of all, Christ has taught me to value more those that aren’t on the surface attractive and beautiful.

Accept who I am – One statement that has probably meant more to me than any single teaching from one of my heroes, Dallas Willard, is this, “Discipleship is becoming the person Christ would be if he were I .” In other words, I am not called to be Christ because he has already been on this earth, I am not called to be my pastor, or Mother Theresa, or whoever else we consider to be a spiritual hero. I am called to be me, who has been transformed by the work of Christ.

In the past, I have felt that there is something wrong with me because I don’t have the enthusiastic outgoing personality you often see in churches. But Christ is not calling me to be someone I am not, he is calling me to be me but with a heart change. So that means that my personality, my gifts, my background, my context are perfectly acceptable to God and not just acceptable but needed in the work that God is doing on Earth. I was made the way I am because God needed me to accomplish a specific thing and that thing could not be accomplished if I had a different personality or different characteristics.