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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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The Worst Valentine’s Presents EVER!

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!

love-903178_1920Regardless of who St. Valentine actually was (yes, he was a real person in human history), the day has become a day for Americans to demonstrate romantic affection towards one another.

As is the custom with significant others, I had in mind to buy wife wife a gift to demonstrate my own affection. Our conversation when something like this:

V-Day

That got me thinking, “What do other people think are the best AND worst gift ideas for Valentine’s Day?” So at church we did something a little different and had some breakout groups. Half the room was to come up with the BEST gifts and the other half was to come up with the WORST gifts.

Some of the Best:

  1. Spa Day
  2. Arranged Baby Sitting
  3. Partner’s favorite thing (guitar, car, etc.)
  4. Tickets to a loved event (sports, music, etc.)

And some of the Worst:

  1. Exercise equipment that wasn’t requested (hey, honey, maybe you should work out more…)
  2. Soap
  3. Socks
  4. Waterbed (and when we split up he took the waterbed with him)

Here’s the thing that bugs me about Valentine’s Day: it’s superficial and shallow. It reduces “love” to romantic feelings and affection. Thinking about love in those terms sells short real love. To use the words of the classic rock band Boston, it’s “more than a feelin’.”

So what is love?

John 3:16,arguably one of the best known Bible verses of all time, says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The way our language is today I hear people talk about the passage as if God loved the world “SO MUCH.” But that is a poor understanding of the word “so.” The real sense of the word means “in this way.” You could rephrase the verse:

For this is how God loved the world – he gave his only Son….

Love is not a feeling. It’s not about affection and romance. Real love is about concrete action the pursues the well-being of the other. Real love can be costly and is demonstrated by self-sacrifice. Jesus says again in John 15:13:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

sky-195430_1920Man, that kind of sacrifice is moving. It’s Jesus on the cross, paying a price we could never afford to pay on a debt that wasn’t his own. We also see examples in our lives. It’s the Marine or Soldier who jumps on a grenade in order to save the rest of the squad. It’s the parent that jumps in front of a moving vehicle in order to push her child out of the way.

But it’s easy to act in loving ways towards people on our side and towards our loved ones. Jesus takes it a step further.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 5

We are called to ACT in loving ways towards others – even towards those who might loath us. This Valentine’s Day please celebrate your affection towards your significant other. That’s a god thing. But remember that REAL love isn’t dependent on affection and emotion, which can shift from day to day.

Real love is a self-sacrificial pursuit of the well-being of another.

For reflection:

  • How have you seen self-sacrificial love played out in your life?
  • Have you ever been able to “love” someone even when you didn’t feel like it?

Why on Earth Did God Invent Marriage?

Today it’s my pleasure to have marriage expert (and my dad) Paul Linzey as a guest blogger. After seeing several marriages fall apart in the last couple months, I approached Paul and asked him to guest-write on this topic, and he graciously agreed. So, without further ado, take it away!
—————————————————-

The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word for a married person is “Helper.”

 After each day of creation, God looked at what he made and said, “It’s good.” But after he made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

It’s important for both husband and wife to keep in mind that their first and most important role in the marriage is to help. It’s also a good idea to understand what “help” means and what it doesn’t mean. Ambro ID-10044259For example, when God made a woman to be the man’s helper, it does NOT mean she is less important. It does NOT mean he is the main character and she is the assistant.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. We see this in Exodus 18:4:

“My father’s God was my helper.”

And in Deuteronomy 33:29:

“The Lord is my shield and helper.”

Two of the many Psalms that refer to God as helper are Psalm 10:14:

“God, you are the helper to the fatherless,”

and Psalm 46:1:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

In American culture, we tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important. A good analogy would be a sidekick, a companion or colleague who is usually considered to be subordinate. The sidekick is not the hero, not the leading role. It’s a support character. But this is NOT what God had in mind when he created woman for man, and man for woman.

When helper is used in the Bible, it’s just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. And this is the term used for the first woman. God has no intention of men thinking they are the more important person in the marriage. No hint that the woman is of lesser value.

Nenetus ID-100365439The point is that in marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed, his agent to help in time of need.

We need to understand this not just in theory, but in practical ways, as well. For example, next time there’s an argument or a conflict, what would happen if the husband and wife said to themselves, “My lover is obviously upset about this. What can I do to help? What words can I choose that, instead of making things worse, will actually help make things better?”

Think for a minute about your spouse. What chore around the house does he or she hate? You could offer to do that. Does your partner have a huge project to get started on? Perhaps you could volunteer to assist, without trying to take over and be in charge.

My wife is a teacher, and has a ton of books – literally! When she had to move to a new office across campus, I volunteered to spend a day helping move her books, files, and other stuff. Then a few weeks later, I took an afternoon to help her rearrange the bookshelves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my computer because it wasn’t behaving how it wasangry man supposed to. Have you ever yelled or talked to your computer? If so, or if you’ve already switched to Windows 10 or Office 16, you understand. In my desperation, my wife stepped in and asked if she could help.

YES! PLEASE!

She solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

The fact is, we all need help from time to time. What if when we’re on our way home from a tough day at work, we turned our thoughts towards home and started thinking about the minute we’ll walk through the door, how we can be a helper to the people living there. Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner and kids?

Life is hard in many ways – financially, emotionally, physically, relationally, career, parenting, and more. Life beats us up. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.
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Paul LinzeyRetired from the Army chaplain corps, Paul Linzey is now focusing on writing, speaking, and mentoring. He’s a teaching pastor at Friendship Church in Lakeland, FL, and an adjunct professor in the College of Christian Ministry and Religion at Southeastern University, also in Lakeland, FL.

His training includes a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA; Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, He and his wife have spoken at marriage and parenting seminars and retreats for many years.

You can check out his website at PaulLinzey.com or find his author page on Facebook.

This Isn’t the Kind of Wedding Surprise You Want!

Saudi Wedding

It’s not often you get to see a Bible story play out in real life. But one just did!

I just read a story about a wedding in Saudi Arabia that was arranged by the bride and groom’s parents. They had never laid eyes on each other until after the ceremony.

When the bride lifted her veil, the groom said:

You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.

Pretty crazy, right?!?

There’s a story in the Bible that is just like this. It’s the story of Jacob wanting to marry Rachel but being surprised when he was stuck with Leah.

So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, and they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed. I want to sleep with her.” So Laban invited all the men of the place to a feast. That evening, Laban took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and he slept with her. And Laban gave his slave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her slave. When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Wasn’t it for Rachel that I worked for you? Why have you deceived me?”

The difference here is that Jacob does the honorable thing to his wife and does not divorce her, even though he was tricked into marrying her. The Saudi husband had no such notions of honor and said, “I’m outta here!”

There is something to be said about people who stick to our word and follow through with our obligations. Our world is more and more becoming a “throw-away” world where we discard the things that displease us no matter what the consequences. Our focus is more on what makes us happy rather than doing the right thing.

I hope you never get tricked into marrying the wrong person. Chances are you’ll never find yourself in this specific situation.

Still – wherever you find yourself – don’t give in to the throw-away culture. Be a person of honor. Do what you say you’re going to do.

Do the right thing, even if it’s not the thing you wanted to do.

Are Gay Little Monsters Destroying Your Way of Life?

Gizmo

It seems Gizmo is out of the closet and he’s bent on destroying the conservative Christian way of life.

Well, not Gizmo, actually – all homosexuals.

Last week, Congressional Candidate Anthony Culler was railing against same-sex couples and posted a video in which he called such couples “Gremlins” who “want to destroy traditional marriage and our way of life.”

Personally, I believe that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. I don’t have a disagreement with that concept. My problem is with this man’s mouth. There is no excuse for derogatory name-calling. In fact, it seems to fly in the face of biblical principles MORE than the behavior Mr. Culler is railing against.

There’s more in the Bible about controlling your tongue and using words than there is about gay marriage. Yet we often find it excusable to engage in put-downs when we disagree with someone’s beliefs or behavior.

Not cool.

But Chris, what about Jesus? He called the Pharisees a “Brood of Vipers.” (an argument I’ve actually heard)

Here’s the thing – Jesus was addressing the people who were supposed to be religious leaders. He wasn’t addressing people who disagreed with him on morality. In many ways, Jesus and the Pharisees came from the same perspective. This isn’t the case with conservative Christians and the LGBT community. In every case Jesus came into contact with someone who he would have considered a sinner or unrighteous person he always used his words to speak grace and love into people’s lives.

I get the Mr. Culler was trying to stoke conservative ire in order to get votes. I get it. But don’t trash the reputation of Christianity for the sake of appealing to your base.

Words can heal.

Words can hurt.

As Christians we have a holy obligation to make sure that we are speaking words of life to this world. That doesn’t mean we agree with everyone or ignore immoral behavior. But we can have conversations in such a way where we make our position crystal clear without ever being derogatory and denigrating.

Speak life.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

Calling It Quits: What Jesus Says About Divorce

Unhappy CoupleSomeone once asked me if I could describe the Gospel in just two minutes.

Yes. You see it all comes down brokenness. We are broken people and we live in a broken world. But brokenness isn’t God’s design or intention. It’s the same when it comes to marriage. N.T. Wright notes that anyone who even reads the words of Jesus out loud will most likely be called mean, unforgiving, Pharisaical, or worse. Jesus said:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Many people swing into two camps that are polar opposites: on the one side you have people who say, “I can be a good Christian and pursue divorce and get remarried.” On the other side you have people who stick to a very literal and rigid reading of Jesus’ words.

And we cannot deny the words of Jesus. He clearly says in Mark 10:

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

At this point everyone who is divorced or who has been affected by divorce in some way shuts down, turns off their ears, and stops listening to the message.
That’s what often happens.

But that’s because preachers who read the words of Jesus in this case never go all the way with the Gospel. Hear me out.

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

These guys have no real concern about understanding God’s truth about marriage and divorce. Jesus is now in the area that John the Baptist had been when John condemned the behavior of Herod marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias. John told Herod, “This is not right!” But that’s just John. He tended to get emotional.

In fact, you could say he lost his head.

When the Pharisees approach Jesus they’re trying to put in in a tough spot on Herod’s turf – wanting him to make a declaration about marriage and divorce that will get him killed. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it.

He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

In the ancient world the certificate of divorce was a way of saying that the husband gives up his right and claim on the woman. Another man can have her without fear of the husband coming after him. There’s only one passage in the Torah that explicitly addresses divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1 says,

“If a man marries a woman, but she has become displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her on her way from his house.”

And Jews fought about what this passage meant. A hundred years before Jesus was born there were two major schools of thought. Those who followed Rabbi Shammai said that “something improper” meant infidelity. Those who followed Rabbi Hillel said it could be anything that displeases the husband – even burning the soup.

They missed the bigger picture.

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

The law passed down from Moses doesn’t declare divorce right or wrong – it simply assumes that divorce is a fact of life and seeks to protect the wife. The certificate of divorce meant when she remarried she would not be accused of adultery. But Jesus tells them that this was not God’s original design and intent.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The problem is not with God’s ideal or the Law – the problem is with people and their hardened hearts. We are broken people who live in a broken world. That means we will do broken things to each other. This is not the way God designed it to be – it’s a sad fact of brokenness.

And Jesus does an amazing thing here. Instead of simply ruling out divorce he elevates the idea of marriage. It’s not about how and when you can split. Jesus says that the way God designed human marriage to work is for two to lose their individual identities and understand that they are now part of the same person. Jesus puts marriage on a whole new level.

If this is God’s design and intention, who is man that we should split it up?

And that’s where most preachers stop. And people listening who have suffered through a divorce shrink lower and lower into their seats. But that’s not the end of the Gospel.

You see, the Gospel is about restoration and reconciliation. The Gospel says, “You matter enough to God that He paid the price to fix your brokenness – a price you could never afford.”

The Gospel says, “The only thing that is unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”

That means that divorce, though not God’s design and desire,
is not an unforgivable sin.

That means that, as a divorcee, you can rest assured that God still loves you and that you are not separated from Him because of your marital status.

That means that, as Christians, we can treat friends and family with love and respect even when they have gone through divorce and remarriage.

The Gospel is bigger than all of us, and God’s grace reaches farther than we could ever imagine. We are called to be people of reconciliation and restoration. When we deal with people who are divorced or going through a divorce. When we live the life of a divorcee. God’s grace reaches to us all and calls us to act towards each other with that same grace.

‘Cause it’s only when we’re acting with this kind of grace
that we’ll see true reconciliation and restoration happen.

Related Posts:
Beyond Divorce: Living After Heartbreak and Separation
I QUIT! What to Know Before You Divorce

Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 3

Marriage ConflictToday we continue in the series on preventing extramarital affairs. Remember, this is not about picking on men. Infidelity is a problem that both men and women need to get a hold of. God wants us to thrive in healthy and happy marriages, and we do great damage to that His design when we let infidelity creep into the relationship. This topic can get a little blunt – obviously it’s not for kids… 🙂

So, tip #3 for preventing infidelity:

Set boundaries on sharing and hearing about intimate marriage issues with people of the opposite gender.

The intimate details of a relationship belong within the confines of the relationships. It would be highly inappropriate if I were to share with another woman any private information about my marriage. Not only is it not anyone’s business, but it would be a betrayal of my wife.

I have heard people justify their behavior with lines like, “But he’s such a good listener and I need to unload my relationship problems somewhere.” Ba-lo-ney. If you’re having problems with your partner the appropriate person to talk to is YOUR PARTNER!

This actually mirrors a biblical principle Jesus taught about resolving problems between people. Rather than blab about our problems to others we ought to be handling problems directly with the person/people involved.

Handling your relationship problems directly with your partner might not feel as good as venting to a friend. It can feel good when a friend of the opposite gender listens and comforts us. But such behavior leaves us vulnerable to inappropriate emotional connections and infidelities.

Rather than talking about your relationship woes, you should always seek to mention your partner positively. And, on a practical level, Dr. Rosenau mentions that “avoiding secret emails or phone calls, controlling sexual talk and joking, and preserving modesty” are important tools to preserving strong boundaries with members of the opposite gender and preventing infidelities.

Our mouths and minds lead us down the road to infidelities long before our bodies get there. The Bible cannot speak strongly enough about the power words have. We set the course for our lives by how we talk and to whom we talk. If you want to protect your relationship, make sure that you never speak negatively about it to others. Only speak positively. Deal with the negative elements in the appropriate time and place and with the appropriate people.

For additional reading, see A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Dr. Douglas Rosenau – don’t worry, it’s a Christian book 😉

Related Posts:
Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 1
Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 2

Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 2

fighting couple

Today we continue in the series on preventing extramarital affairs. Remember, this is not about picking on men. Infidelity is a problem that both men and women need to get a hold of. God wants us to thrive in healthy and happy marriages, and we do great damage to that His design when we let infidelity creep into the relationship. Over the next few months I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how we can actively work to prevent affairs in our marriages. This topic can get a little blunt – obviously it’s not for kids… 🙂

So, tip #2 for preventing infidelity – Keep all sexual fantasies that you intentionally create focused on your partner.

Dr. Douglas Rosenau says:

Your sexual thought life needs to be carefully disciplined. Sinful lust and acting out sexually are encouraged by obsessively making people sexual objects or continually fantasizing about a person…outside your marriage.

Within the boundaries of marriage, just about anything goes between willing partners. I’ve talked to people who believe that it’s morally wrong for a married couple to do anything other than basic baby-making. But there’s nothing in the Bible that condemns a man and woman in a married relationship from exploration and variation. As long as both partners are willing and the sexuality stays within the marriage.

The moment things move beyond the married couple it becomes wrong.

Jesus talked about the matters of the heart and fantasy/lust:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

While adultery is often seen as a sin of ACTION, Jesus changes things and now makes it a sin of the mind and heart. Dang – He ain’t playin’!

If we want to maintain healthy marriages that are free from infidelity we need to be intentional about not letting our minds wander and think about people who are not our spouses. This includes pornography (men, listen up) and some romance novels (ladies, do you hear me?). It can include television shows, movies, magazines, and music. It can include the people you encounter in the store or people you see while driving down the street.

Keep your mind to your partner and you’re a big step to preventing infidelity in your marriage.

For additional reading, see A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Dr. Douglas Rosenau – don’t worry, it’s a Christian book 😉

Related Post:
Preventing Extramarital Affairs – Part 1

Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 1

Unhappy Couple

I recently officiated a wedding. Part of my wedding message was about God’s design that marriage be a permanent covenant, not merely a part-time gig to try out until you get unhappy or something else comes along.

At the reception a gentleman who attended the wedding was talking to my wife and me and thanked me for including that part in my message. He commented that many people seem to think marriage is something you stick with while it is convenient then bail when the going gets tough. He said in the decades he and his wife and had been married there was a time when they thought they weren’t going to make it. My wife and I looked at each other and I said, “We had a time like that, too.” To which this gentleman replied, “Most couples go through something like that, I think.”

And it’s true. Any long-term relationship will have rough patches (some rougher than others). There will be times when we want to call it quits. But marriages can survive even the tough times – if we’re smart about it. And nothing is stupider or more difficult to overcome than an extra-marital affair.

Before you start accusing me of bashing men, research shows that infidelity is not limited to men. The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy released some startling numbers.

Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57%
Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54%

This is a problem that both men and women need to get a hold of. So over the next few months I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how we can actively work to prevent affairs in our marriages.

So, the #1 tip to preventing affairs – Make a decision and commit to the idea that you will never have an affair. No circumstance can justify infidelity, so simply decide that an affair is never an option, no matter what happens in the marriage. The Bible indicates that there is something powerful in putting our minds to something.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:1-5)

I have friends who are hard-core road bikers.

No. Not
Easy Rider

I’m talking
Peleton

They tell me that the racer’s vision is HIGHLY important to the direction of the bike. Where your vision goes your bike will start to move in that direction. Where our brains our bodies will follow. If we take the Apostle seriously then we need to keep “our minds on things that are above.” Decide that infidelity is not an option in your life. Stay tuned throughout the series as we cover more tips for preventing affairs.

For additional reading, see A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Dr. Douglas Rosenau – don’t worry, it’s a Christian book 😉

Related Posts:
Preventing Extramarital Affairs – Part 2

The Best Worst Marriage Advice…EVER!

Marriage

I’ve got a Twitter friend who is getting married in a few months. In honor of his impending nuptials I asked a bunch of friends to throw out some of the “Best Worst” marriage advice we could come up with. You know, the stuff that really SHOULDN’T be done if you care about having a healthy relationship.

Here are some of the gems we came up with. Enjoy!

In all seriousness, marriage can be wonderful. It does, however, require effort on the part of both people. One of the best books I’ve read on marriage is called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman.

Do whatever you can to work on your relationship. Read the book. Take a seminar. Talk to a pastor/counselor. Do the OPPOSITE of everything we suggested above!

Marriage can be wonderful – if you put in the time and effort to make it so.

How about you? What advice would you give to a couple about to get married?

Related Post:
8 Things Every Husband Needs to Do

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