Archive for November, 2010

Seeing & Seizing the Relationship Potential of the Holidays

November 22nd, 2010

As a young adult I spent 11 months doing missionary work in the Philippines. When I came back to the USA after that time abroad I had a fresh appreciation for this amazing nation where I grew up. Though America is currently facing some tough economic times we are privileged to have a rich cultural heritage that observes two profound holidays. The Holidays-Thanksgiving and Christmas-present each of us with a remarkable opportunity to intentionally invest in our most valued relationships if we can keep the priority of those connections clearly in view.
A couple of months ago, while speaking as guest speaker at Desert Cross Community Church, I presented a message titled “Live Like You Were Dying”. In that talk I made the point that each of us have an unpublished expiration date which will come sooner than we think and that wise people intentionally invest in what matters most while they can. What if this is your last Holiday Season with someone you deeply love? Would it change your priorities if you knew that this Thanksgiving or Christmas was the last time you’d get to share the Holiday with your Dad or Mom or your spouse? As you gather with loved ones this Holiday season be sure to take time to enjoy one another. Ask meaningful questions and listen to what’s said. Express your love while you can!
Pushing Back Against the Culture
Our western culture moves very fast and bombards us with so much information that it’s easy to become distracted and to lose our focus on what has lasting value. The shopping, cooking and holiday parties on top of an already maxed-out schedule is a recipe for STRESS! As we enter this holiday season be careful not to over-commit. If this was your last Holiday season I’m certain that you would want to spend quality time with your family intentionally focusing on your deepest values. Do your children/ grand-children understand the meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas? If you are intentional about this Holiday season you could impact your family by creatively communicating the reason for the season. Don’t assume the young people you’re with over the Holidays understand the reason for the season. The other day I heard of an elementary school worksheet that emphasized that the Pilgrims came to America so they could “own their own land”. Property rights and the pursuit of happiness were secondary motivators for the brave Pilgrims but their core value was the quest for religious freedom. If your children don’t hear that from you they probably won’t hear it at all!
What you DO speaks more clearly than what you SAY
Jesus teaching about faith cuts through the fog of moral relativism and provides action-oriented priorities that guide our actions. He said that what really mattered is to “…. love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) As your family gathers for Thanksgiving why not model your love for God by facilitating a conversation where those present could share what they are thankful for? You don’t have to look far to find someone whose hurting these days. Think of the positive impact that your family could both make and experience if you led them to serve others who were hurting this Holiday season.
Go Make A Difference
For some of us the Holidays are emotionally overwhelming. If that describes you consider the following: A famous psychologist was once presenting a talk on mental health and after speaking opened up the floor for questions. This individual had been very involved in developing techniques for psycho-therapy and many of the questions revolved around his research. Someone in the audience, knowing the Doctor’s passion for psychotherapy asked, “Doctor, what advice would you give to someone who thought they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown?” Everyone was expecting this question to be a platform for the Doctor to focus on the benefits of counseling and psycho-therapy. But his answer took them all by surprise. “If I thought someone was on the verge of a nervous breakdown my advice to them would be to get up out of their house, go across the tracks, and find somebody who needs your help. That is the best prescription for mental health.”
Praying that this Holiday season finds you thinking clearly and acting intentionally!

Acknowledging the Giver in the Gift of Your Spouse

November 16th, 2010

A.W. Tozer wrote that how people view God is critical in shaping who they become. He said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.” (1)

What Tozer suggested on the large scale of people groups also applies to marriage. Marriage was God’s idea and a thriving, life-giving marriage will be one where a husband and wife see God’s hand in their marriage and work together to fulfill His purpose in bringing them together.

As I read the Bible, one of the themes I see emerging on page after page is God’s great compassion and wise-care for His people. (2) Of course we also find instances where we see God disciplining or judging people, but He delights in being merciful and generous to human beings. One of the most evident illustrations of God’s kindness to people is seen in the way God acted to meet Man’s fundamental need for a life-partner.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (3)

Marriage, as God describes it was designed to meet the need Men and Women have for companionship. God, the Creator, recognizes that being alone is “not good” and creates a “helper” for Man. The following comment from the NetBible explains what “helper”, a complex Hebrew word means:

“The English word “helper,” …… does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (’ezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role…… In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here.” (4)

When God made Men and Women for each other, one of His purposes was to supply them with an “indispensable companion”; someone who could meet needs and help solve problem that they alone would be incapable of adequately addressing.

Would your marriage be any different if you started to view your spouse as a personalized gift to you from your Creator, uniquely suited to meet needs in your life? How much more joy would you and your mate experience if you would each value the other as someone you wouldn’t want to live without -aka -“indispensible”?

Differences: A Point 0f Connection or Contention?
It’s more than a little ironic that spouses sometimes become critical of their partners because of their difference. We all know that the differences between men and women are more than superficial, plumbing issues. Men and women process information differently; they typically orient to problem solving from a unique place leading them to have divergent strategies and priorities. Please don’t miss this: It is precisely in the differences between the sexes that God works to blend the components that make up masculine and feminine to create a wonderful wholeness! As a wife and husband humble themselves and seek to cooperate in this blending process their character is shaped to reflect God’s redemptive purpose (5) and their united course of action, rooted in honoring their God-given differences, enables them to discover God’s purpose for their marriage, family, careers, life-mission, etc…Often our lack of oneness in marriage stems from failing to recognize God’s purpose in the differences between the sexes and instead of enjoying completion and connection in our differences we experience contention.

Are you struggling in your marriage? Maybe you find it difficult to trust your mate’s judgment? What if, instead of feeling frustrated and critical over his or her behavior you invested your energy praying for God to guide your mate and additionally looked for ways that you could become a more “indispensible companion” for your spouse? He or she might not change dramatically but you would undoubtedly find God meeting you with more grace and your marriage would probably improve!

Acknowledging the Giver in the Enjoyment of the Gift
It is in God’s pure nature to only give good gifts to His children. (6) But maybe you’re thinking, “What if my spouse and I started our relationship in a less-than-honorable way? Can God still bless our marriage?” Yes, remember, God is merciful and when we come to Him in sincere repentance & faith and align our lives with His plan He will accept us by His Grace. (7) It’s also encouraging to realize that historically, God has a marvelous track record of taking people’s poor choices and bringing about wonderful things. (8) If you have guilt over anything in your life seek God for His forgiveness made possible through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

God intends for your marriage to be a source of rich blessing to you. According to the Creator’s original design for marriage He wants to lead you and your spouse to enjoy oneness. This comes about as men and women “leave” their families of origin, “cleave” or hold fast to their mates, and in the process “become one flesh”. (9)

The author Matthew Henry captures God’s intention for marriage in his commentary on the book of Genesis: “….the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” (10)

Don’t miss God’s best for your marriage! He knew what He was doing when He made men and women different from each other. Include the Giver in the enjoyment of the gift and you’ll find that you and your mate can really connect and experience the deep joy that comes from living and working together in unity.

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Endnotes
1 A.W.Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, Chapter 1
2 Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103
3 Genesis 2:18-25
4 http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Gen&chapter=2&verse=18&tab=analysis (emphasis by J. Schaeffel)
5 Romans 8:28-29
6 Luke 11:13; James 1:17
7 Acts 17:30; 1 John 1:8-2:6; Romans 5:6-11
8 This is illustrated in the life of Joseph in the Genesis 37-50. Joseph’s summary was “…you meant evil against me but God meant it for good”. (Gen 50: 20 )Nowhere is God’s Providential work through poor choices more abundantly displayed than in the death of Christ and the subsequent blessing that has come to the human race through Him. (Acts 2:22-41; 3:13-15; 4:27,28
9 Leaving one’s family of origin implies cutting emotional dependency from parents and orienting instead to your mate. Genesis 2:25
10 http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=4&contentID=629&commInfo=5&topic=Genesis&ar=Gen_2_18

Ten Powerful Words that Could Save Your Relationship by Pastor John Schaeffel

November 2nd, 2010

I love seeing wildlife. Even encountering one of Arizona’s many lizards brightens my day! Outside of my office window I have a bird feeder on metal pole that attracts finches and doves and drives my cat crazy as he longingly watches them from the window. All I have to do is buy a little bird seed and keep the feeder full and I can enjoy the pleasure of seeing these graceful creatures 365 days a year.

Just as a birdfeeder requires maintenance so do the relationships we have with people. Our spouses, family members and friends expect that we will care enough about them to bring our best to our time together. Unfortunately, we live in an intensely fast-moving, high-pressure, sensory-overload culture that frequently distracts our attention and often depletes our emotional reserves. If we aren’t intentional about giving priority to maintaining our relationships we’ll find ourselves drifting away from those who we care most about.
The other day I came across a booklet called Standing Together that contains 10 words that can powerfully impact your ability to maintain vital, life-giving relationship with those you love.

“It’s been said 10 words will protect a marriage. They are: I was wrong. I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you. These 10 words may restore your marriage (or other relationships). Is it time you ask your spouse (friend, child, parent, fiancé) for forgiveness? Is it time to rekindle your love?”

If you’re at an impasse in your relationship please know you don’t have to face it alone. There are skilled individuals who can help you work through the problems you’re facing and equip you with the tools to enjoy a life-long love!

If you’re planning to get married or if you’re married and struggling to get along please consider investing in your relationship by meeting with a qualified counselor. In my work with receptive couples I use the highly regarded Prepare/Enrich®resources to help them overcome challenges and enjoy a satisfying marriage. Learn more at our website www.azweddingpastors.com

Standing Together: Help For Strengthening Your Marriage, Copyright 2000, a booklet in the Tapestry Series, IBS Publishing, IBSDirect.com