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Author Archives: Gary E. Davenport

About Gary E. Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Recovering from guilt…the purpose of being guilty is to bring us to Jesus


Satan really gets around!

While he is not omnipresent, like God, his influence has a daily influence against us. And our desires allow an opportunity for nose-to-nose combat.

When we succeed, we’re relieved. When we fail, Satan enters into his favorite position of all. He loves to accuse us of our sin and cause us to feel the guilt.

And his work is greatly enhanced if he can cause you guilt even when God has granted forgiveness!

Satan wants you to feel guilty. He wants you to experience regret and remorse, but not repentance. He wants to keep accusing you so that you focus your attention on yourself and your sins.

guilt Paul had a situation like that in the church at Corinth. One of the members had fallen into sin and had refused to repent and make things right with God and the church.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul told the church to discipline that man; and apparently they did, for Paul wrote, Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.[1]

At first, when this sin was detected, the Corinthian believers were very complacent and refused to act. Paul’s letter shocked them into their senses; but then they went to the other extreme and made it so hard on the offender that they would not forgive him! So Paul had to counsel them, So that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him…in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his also schemes. [2]

Excessive guilt and sorrow can only lead to depression, despair, and  defeat. Sometimes it leads to destruction; even Christians have been known to attempt suicide in order to escape satanic accusation. What, then, is your defense against Satan’s accusations?

It is true that Satan stands at our right hand to resist us and accuse us. But it is also true that Jesus Christ stands at God’s right hand to intercede for us!

It’s not unusual that those of us who ‘ought to know better’ don’t often do better. We can even learn from the youngest among us.

A man went to steal corn from his neighbor’s field. He took his little boy with him to keep a lookout, so as to give warning in case anyone should come along. Before commencing he looked all around, first one way and then the other; and, not seeing any person, he was just about to fill his bag when his son cried out, “Father, there is one way you haven’t looked yet!” The father supposed that someone was coming and asked his son which way he meant. He answered, “You forgot to look up!” The father, conscience-stricken, took his boy by the hand and hurried home without the corn which he had designed to take.

I have heard often of the anonymous man who felt ‘guilty’ for some past tax returns. He wrote, “Gentlemen: Enclosed you will find a check for $150.  I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since.  If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest. Sincerely, A Tax Payer.”

To err is human, a little plaque on my office desk proclaims, but to blame it on the other guy is even more human!

It might be a way of life for some to believe that we have only one person to blame, and that’s each other.

It’s sad, but I’ve learned that often the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his need to cast blame on others.

What’s the natural response when we’ve seen God? We’re convicted of sin. “Woe is me, for I am undone.” The closer I walk with God, the more quickly I feel my sin and realize how much I need God.

It’s like a huge mirror with a great big light over it. When we stand away from the mirror, things look pretty good: suit looks in order; tie looks straight; the hair, what’s left of it, is combed.

But as we begin to move towards the mirror, things begin to show up. The suit has a spot on it. The tie is a little bit wrinkled. The hair is out of place. The closer we get to the bright light, the more we realize our defects.

It’s the same way when we get close to God. When we get close to him, we realize how much we need him and how far we are from him. We’re convicted of our sin. [3]

Man does not like to admit that his sinfulness and rebellion are at the heart of the problems of society. He’s much more comfortable discussing imperfections, weaknesses, mistakes, and errors in judgment. These terms are socially acceptable, and almost everyone identifies with them. But an outright acknowledgment of guilt before a holy God, a 100-percent acceptance of responsibility for wrong-doing, runs against the grain. Yet this kind of honesty is the first step to the freedom from sin and guilt that God longs to give us and has provided in the death of Christ.

When the preacher says we need forgiveness, he’s not just fanning moonbeams with his hat — we need forgiveness!  Human nature in the raw is not nice at all.  When surveyors promised not to tell, 31 percent of the people questioned confessed infidelity, 91 percent regularly tell lies, 36 percent regularly tell dark lies — the kind that hurt people.  Half of all workers confess to calling in sick when they’re not, and only thirteen percent of all Americans believe in all ten commandments.[4]

When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language.  So they had to make one which meant, “not being able to think about it anymore.”

The Chinese consider Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness unmanly.  A Christian Chinese was once explaining forgiveness to a group of people gathered in the chapel by the mission hospital.  He said, “I will tell you how we obey this commandment.  When you are sick or hurt, you come to the hospital and we nurse you, dress your wounds, and care for you, but you go away and revile us and lie about us. Then, when you are sick once more, you come back and we nurse you, and care for you again and again.  That is forgiveness.

Some heed admonitions to gentleness and treat those about them with great kindness, but are unmercifully hard on themselves.  They exercise little understanding where their own faults are concerned.  True, we should, like Paul, feel we are least of all the saints, but one cannot let this feeling of unworthiness keep us from effective service for the Master.  Some have never forgiven themselves for past mistakes or great sins.  Their lives are lived in torment, and beneath the surface is a soul writhing in agony. 

C.S. Lewis had this to say about forgiveness:  “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves.  Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

If God were not willing to forgive sin, heaven would be empty.

Jesus never attacked the sinner. He simply said, “I am willing to forgive you.” Meanwhile, he attacked the self-righteous with a vengeance, because He knew that until they felt guilty, they couldn’t be forgiven.

Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.

The heaviest load any man carries on his back is a pack of grudges.

I get a ‘kick’ out of the story of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent.  “Well,” remarked Frederick, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too?”  “No, sir, I’m not,” replied the man. “I’m guilty and deserve my punishment.” Turning to the warden, the king said, “Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!”

Christians aren’t perfect—just forgiven.

It is important that we learn to distinguish between Satan’s accusations and the Spirit’s conviction. A feeling of guilt and shame is a good thing if it comes from the Spirit of God. If we listen to the devil, it will only lead to regret and remorse and defeat.

Like a log tossed on a frozen lake, God’s word may appear to be rejected and ignored, but when the cold, hard heart thaws, the “log” of  truth sinks in and becomes a part of that life.

Guilt works like an inescapable video-tape machine that refuses to forget the mistakes we’ve made.

Guilt can be good, since it makes us aware of the need for a turn around. 

Many of the later-model cars are equipped with theft alarm systems. The more sensitive ones can be annoying to the general public. … But that obnoxious sensitivity is purposefully designed to be protection against unwanted entry.

God has built into each of us an alarm system to warn us of the unwanted entry of sin into our lives. The alarm system is called guilt. Guilt is our friend. Without it we would go on in sin until we were dominated and defeated by it.

In our pleasure-seeking, anything-goes, feel-good society, guilt is anathema. We run from it … but we can’t rid ourselves of it! … The only thing that can “wash away” our sin and guilt before God is the blood of Jesus Christ.[5]

Erwin Lutzer, in his book Managing Your Emotions, writes: “We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself. Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer.”

Lutzer concludes by saying, “Alexander the Great conquered many cities. He conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own self.”

When the Spirit of God convicts you, he uses the Word of God in love and seeks to bring you back into fellowship with your Father.

When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sins in a hateful way, and he seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless. Judas listened to the devil and went out and hanged himself. Peter looked at the face of Jesus and wept bitterly, but later came back into fellowship with Christ.

When you listen to the devil’s accusations (all of which may be true), you open yourself up to despair and spiritual paralysis. “My situation is hopeless!” I have heard more than one Christian exclaim, “I’m too far gone—the Lord could never take me back.” When you have that helpless, hopeless feeling, you can be sure Satan is accusing you.

      Charles Wesley has put all of this into a beautiful hymn:

Depth of mercy! Can there be Mercy still reserved for me!

Can my God His wrath forbear, Me, the chief of sinners spare!

I have long withstood His grace, Long provoked Him to His face,

Would not hearken to His calls. Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

Lord, incline me to repent; Let me now my sins lament;

Now my foul revolt deplore, Weep, believe, and sin no more.

Still for me the Savior stands, Holding forth His wounded hands;

God is love! I know, I feel, Jesus weeps and loves me still.

 

We need to depend on what God’s Word says, not on how we feel. Rest on the grace of God—he has chosen us, and he will not forsake us.

Guilt_ResponsesWhen Satan wanted to lead the first man and woman into sin, he started by attacking the woman’s mind. This is made clear in 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Why would Satan want to attack your mind? Because your mind is the part of the image of God where God communicates with you and reveals His will to you.

The doctor says, “You are what you eat.” The psychologist says, “You are what you think.” Satan knows the tremendous power of your mind, and he tries to capture it for himself. If Satan can get you to believe a lie, then he can begin to work in your life to lead you into sin.

A new product called “Disposable Guilt Bags” appeared in the marketplace. It consisted of a set of ten ordinary brown bags on which were printed the following instructions: “Place the bag securely over your mouth, take a deep breath and blow all your guilt out, then dispose of the bag immediately.” The wonder of this is that the Associated Press reported that 2,500 kits had been quickly sold at $2.50 per kit. Would that we could dispose of our guilt so easily.

There is nothing on this earth powerful enough in itself to dispose of our guilt. We cannot fix ourselves, which is what many of us are trying to do. That which makes it possible to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be healed, that which makes it possible for us to receive our life back again, fresh and clean and new, is the power of God’s Grace in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

True guilt is a valuable asset for living.  It helps us when we hurt others or betray our own standards and values.  God uses guilt to influence us to change our minds about what we are doing, leading us to repentance.  If we never felt guilt, we would not follow rules or standards, obey the law, or have good relationships with loved ones. [6]

Only the inspired Word of God can reveal and defeat the devil’s lies. You cannot reason with Satan, nor (as Eve discovered) can you even safely converse with him. Man’s wisdom is no match for Satan’s cunning. Our only defense is the inspired Word of God.

It was this weapon that our Lord used when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

One solid solution is deciding what we will allow ourselves to ponder: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things( Philippians 4:8).

Our Lord went through some one-on-one temptations from Satan but did not use His divine power to defeat Satan. He used the same weapon that is available to us today: the Word of God. Jesus was led by the Spirit of God and filled with the Word of God.

The Word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17); and the Holy Spirit can enable us to wield that sword effectively. If you and I are going to defeat Satan’s lies, we must depend on the Word of God. This fact lays several responsibilities upon us.

We must know God’s Word. There is no reason why any believer should be ignorant of his Bible. The Word of God is available to us in many translations. We have the Holy Spirit within us to teach us the truths of the Word (John 16:13-15).

There are a multitude of Bible study helps available. We can turn on the radio and listen to excellent preachers and Bible teachers expound God’s Word. In local churches, there are ministers and teachers who minister the Word; and in many areas, there are seminars and Bible study groups for further study. If an intelligent believer today does not know his Bible, it is his or her own fault!

This mean, of course, taking time to read and study the Bible. No one will master God’s Word in a lifetime of study, but we should learn all we can. We must make time, not “find time,” to read and study the Word of God.

Just as a machinist studies the shop manual, and the surgeon studies his medical texts, so the Christian must study the Word of God. Bible study is not a luxury; it is a necessity.

One more thought: I have known people in my life who “want to want to.” They want to do something for the betterment of mankind (or even a simple deed for their spouse) and will think about it and even talk about it with others. But they never seem to be ‘moved to action.’

Many people seem to have an ingrown appreciation for “Ziggy”, the lovable, roly-poly, albino cartoon character. He comes across as being “real.”

In one Ziggy episode, he spots water dripping from the ceiling and comments, “I should fix the roof.” Then he notices how dirty the floor is and adds, “I should give the floor a good scrub, too.”

On a tour of his house he also took note that he should fix the cracked plaster, should clean out the closet, and that he should use his time better. In the final frame of the comic strip, Ziggy is perched in his easy chair reprimanding himself. “I should stop ‘shoulding’ myself.”[7]

James 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Finally, leaving behind guilt and grasping forgiveness, we are then allowed the glory of moving forward and beginning again.

In 1986 Bob Brenley was playing third base for the San Francisco Giants. In the fourth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves, Brenley made an error on a routine ground ball. Four batters later he kicked away another grounder. And then while he was scrambling after the ball, he threw wildly past home plate trying to get the runner there. Two errors on the same play. A few minutes later he muffed yet another play to become the first player in the twentieth century to make four errors in one inning.      Now, those of us who have made very public errors in one situation or another can easily imagine how he felt during that long walk off the field at the end of that inning. But then in the bottom of the fifth, Brenley hit a home run. Then in the seventh, he hit a bases-loaded single, driving in two runs and tying the game.

Then in the bottom of the ninth, Brenley came up to bat again, with two outs. He ran the count to three and two and then hit a massive home run into the left field seats to win the game for the Giants. Brenley’s score card for that day came to three hits and five at bats, two home runs, four errors, four runs allowed, four runs driven in, including the game-winning run.

Certainly life is a lot like that–a mixture of hits and errors. And there is grace in that. [8]

Forgiven souls are humble.  They cannot forget that they owe all they have and hope for to free grace, and this keeps them lowly.  They are brands plucked from the fire–debtors who could not pay for themselves–captives who must have remained in prision for ever, but for undeserved mercy–wandering sheep who were ready to perish when the Shepherd found them; and what right then have they to be proud?  I do not deny that there are proud saints.  But this I do say–they are of all God’s creatures the most inconsistant, and of all God’s children the most likely to stumble and pierce themselves with many sorrows. [9]

   Ronald Reagan’s attitude after the 1982 attempt on his life made an impression on his daughter, Patti Davis: “The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking.”

Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them so much.”

[1]  2 Corinthians 2:6

[2] 2 Corinthians 2:7, 8, 11

[3] Rod Cooper, “Beholding the King,” Preaching Today, Tape No.  150

[4] Associated Press, 4-29-91

 [5] Anne Graham Lotz in The Glorious Dawn of God’s Story. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 7.

[6] Brenda Poinsett in Understanding a Woman’s Depression. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 4.

 [7] Fritz Ridenour, How to Be a Christian Without Being Perfect, p. 167

[8] Nancy Becker, “A Theology of Baseball,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 115.

[9] J. C. Ryle in Foundations of Faith.  Christianity Today, Vol. 32,  no. 4

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

Challenges a congregation must meet: four practical challenges to congregational life


(Revelation 3:11-13)  “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. {12} Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. {13} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Isaiah 26:4 (66 kb)

If he can, the devil would like to hinder the gospel from being spread. He is intelligent enough to be very subtle and shrewd in his attempt to obstruct our progress in the Lord’s work.

(Genesis 3:1)  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””

(2 Corinthians 11:3)  “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

The result is that we may attend to certain of the devil’s “diversionary tactics” — all the while overlooking some of the things that are really holding us back.  There are some challenges that any congregation of Christians must meet in order to serve the Lord faithfully.

I. A CONGREGATION MUST REMEMBER WHAT ITS WORK IS: SOWING THE SEED

It requires constant discipline to stick to our work and let the Lord do His.

(Jeremiah 7:27)  “”When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.”

 (Ezekiel 2:7)  “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

It is our work to “plant” and “water”; it is the Lord’s work to give the “increase”

(1 Corinthians 3:1-6)  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. {2} I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. {3} You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? {4} For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? {5} What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. {6} I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

Ultimately, the Lord will want to know not how many people we baptized, but how many people were left in our community that we never confronted with the gospel.  We are constantly tempted to bypass the work of seed-sowing or to believe that we are doing “enough” — we must resist both of these temptations.

FaithAtHome bookmark WEBII. A CONGREGATION MUST LIVE ABOVE PETTINESS

It requires constant discipline to keep away from “itsy-bitsy thinking.”  Selfishness, gossip, and factionalism are the bane of the Lord’s work in many places.

(Philippians 2:3-4)  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

 (Philippians 4:2)  “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.”

 We need a sense of proportion and priorities. It is disastrous to “major in minors.” We must be able to see the largeness and importance of the work we are doing in comparison to our own personal concerns.

(Philippians 1:12-18)  “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. {13} As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. {14} Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. {15} It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. {16} The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. {17} The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. {18} But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”

What the Lord’s work is about is co-operation

(Philippians 1:27)  “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”

The emphasis on “together” in: (Ephesians 2:19-22)  “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

 (Ephesians 4:16)  “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

III. A CONGREGATION MUST BELIEVE IT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ITS COMMUNITY

It requires constant discipline to be confident we can bring about significant changes for good where we live.  Without some hope (desire + expectation), our work will cease altogether. When Christ sets before us an “open door” (Revelation 3:8)  “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” ), no one can shut it.

We simply must keep in mind that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world

(1 John 4:4)  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

IV. A CONGREGATION MUST MAINTAIN GRATITUDE FOR ITS BLESSINGS

It requires constant discipline to emphasize the positive rather than the negative aspects of our congregational situation.  Few congregations have had more problems than Corinth — yet there were still things to be thankful for:

(1 Corinthians 1:4-9)  “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. {5} For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– {6} because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. {7} Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. {8} He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Conclusion

We must determine to meet these challenges successfully.  It is true, congregationally as well as individually, that with every temptation there is a “way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13).

But we must have the honesty to see temptation for what it is and arm ourselves against it – (Ephesians 6:10-11)  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. {11} Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed –

(Romans 13:11-12)  “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. {12} The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

(Hebrews 4:1)  “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2019 in Church

 

Asking ourselves the age-old question: “What are you looking for in life?”


(Eccl 2:10-11) “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

We are all looking for something that brings JOY. Our perpetual busyness rat-race is a search for JOY!
1. We are trying to find a spiritual experience within the material world.
2. We are trying to find something that validates our life.
3. We are trying for an eternal reality in every day life.
4. We are trying to find “God-with-us” in the material things of life.

James 1:2 (44 kb)Biblical truth: True joy is found only in Jesus Christ! (Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of joy, while Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the epistle of joy–even though it was written from prison. The New Testament continues to stress OT usages of joy, but also adds the thought of “joy in suffering and pain.” The joy of service is also stressed to a greater degree in the teaching of Christ and the apostles.

Every Life Needs Joy More Than Happiness
Happiness is external Joy is internal
Happiness is based on chance Joy is based on choice
Happiness is based on circumstances Joy is based on Christ

The Joy of Living
We may put it this way whatever be the ingredients of the Christian life, and in whatever proportions they are mixed together, joy is one of them. In the Christian life joy always remains a constant. ‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ Paul writes to his Philippian friends, and he goes on to repeat his command: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice’ (Phil. 3.1; 4 4). ‘Rejoice always,’ he writes to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5.16). It has been said that ‘Rejoice!’ is the standing orders of the Christian.

Every virtue and all knowledge is to be irradiated with joy; even the patience and the endurance which might well be bleak and grim things are to be lit with joy. ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ Paul wrote to the Romans, ‘is righteousness and peace and joy’ (Rom. 14:17).

There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy; there is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illumined with joy. A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the one constant in the recipe for Christian living.

When we examine the references to joy in the New Testament in all their variety and their multiplicity, they fall into a certain pattern, and they tell us of certain spheres in which the Christian joy is specially to be discovered.
(a) There is the joy of Christian fellowship.
The New Testament is full of the simple joy of what can best be called ‘togetherness’. It is a joy even to see such fellowship. Paul writes to Philemon to tell him what joy and comfort he has received from the sight of Philemon’s love and from the sight of the way in which the saints have been refreshed by Philemon’s loving care (Philemon 7).

In the famous saying the heathen looked at the Christian church and said, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ It must never be forgotten that one of the greatest evangelizing influences in the world is the sight of true Christian fellowship, and one of the greatest barriers to evangelism is the sight of a church in which fellowship has been lost and destroyed. It is a still greater joy to enjoy Christian fellowship.

It rejoices Paul’s heart that his Philippian friends have remembered him with gifts (Phil. 4:10). To see Christian fellowship is great, to be wrapped around in it is greater yet. It is a joy to see Christian fellowship restored.

When Titus came back from the troubled church at Corinth with the news that the breach was healed and fellowship restored, then Paul rejoiced (I1 Cor. 7:7, 13). It is a joy to experience Christian fellowship reunited. The New Testament knows the simple joy of meeting friends again. John trusts that he will meet his friends again, and then his joy will be complete (II John 12).

In the New Testament there is nothing of religion which isolates a man from his fellow men. The New Testament vividly knows the joy of making friends and keeping friends and reuniting friends, for friendship and reconciliation between man and man are the reflection of fellowship and reconciliation between man and God.

(b) There is the joy of the gospel. There is the joy of the new discovery. It may be said that the gospel story begins and ends in joy. It was tidings of great joy that the angels brought to the shepherds (Luke 2.10), and the wise men re¬joiced when they saw the star which told them of the birth of the king (Matt. 2.10). So in the beginning there was joy.

There is the joy of receiving the gospel. It was with joy that Zacchaeus received Jesus into his house (Luke 19.6). The Thessalonians received the word with joy (I Thess. i.6). Repeatedly Acts tells of the joy which came to men when the gospel arrived in their midst. Philip’s preaching brought joy to Samaria (Acts 8.8); after his baptism the Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8.39). There was joy in Antioch of Pisidia when the Gentiles heard that the gospel was to leave the synagogue and come out to them (Acts 13.48). The New Testament makes it clear that con¬version should be one of the happiest experiences in all the world.

There is the joy of believing. It is Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Rome that the God of hope will fill them with all joy and peace in believing (Rom. i5.i3). It is the joy of their faith that Paul wishes to increase for the Philippians (Phil. 1.25). The New Testament makes it clear that Christian belief is followed by Christian joy. It was said of Burns that he was haunted rather than helped by his religion. There have always been those who have made an agony of their religion. But for the New Testament belief and joy go hand in hand.

There is a certain sternness in this Christian joy. It is a joy which rejoices even in discipline and in testing. James bids his readers to count it all joy when testing comes (James 1.2). The Christian joy is like the joy of a woman whose travail has passed and whose child has come (John 16.2 1, 22).

It is a notable thing how often in the New Testament joy and affliction walk hand in hand. In spite of persecution the Christians in Antioch are filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy (Acts 13.52). The Christian may be sorrowful but he is also rejoicing (II Cor. 6:10). The gospel brought tribulation to Thessalonica but it also brought joy (I Thess. 1.6).

This joy in tribulation can be a very wonderful thing, and its wonder lies in the fact that it is endured and under¬taken for Jesus Christ. Peter and John left the Sanhedrin and its threats rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5.40. Peter encourages his people by telling them that when they suffer they are sharing the sufferings of Christ himself (I Peter 4. 13).

The most startling passage in the New Testament is in Col. 1.24 where Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings. ‘In my flesh,’ he says, ‘I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.’

How can there be anything lacking in the sufferings of Jesus Christ? How can anyone in any sense complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Let us take an analogy. It may be that in his laboratory or his operating theater or his research room a scientist or a surgeon or a physician toils and sweats and labors and suffers and endangers and risks and destroys his own health to find some cure or some help for the pains and ills of men.

But that discovery remains useless until it is taken out from the laboratory and made available for men all over the world. And it may well be that those who take it out to men have to sweat and toil and suffer and sacrifice to make it available. And it may accurately and fitly be said that their sufferings to make the gift available to men fill up and complete the sufferings of the great man who made the original discovery.
The work of Jesus Christ is done and completed. But it has still to be made known to men. Time and time again in history men have laboured and suffered and died to tell men of that which Jesus Christ did for them. And in their sufferings they may well be said to be completing the sufferings of Jesus Christ himself. Here is the great uplifting thought that, if ever our loyalty to Jesus and our service of him cost something, it means that we to are completing the suffer¬ings of Jesus Christ. What higher privilege could there be than that? If this is so, it is true that ours is a joy which no man taketh from us (John 16.22).

(c) There is the joy of Christian work and witness. There is joy in the sight of God in action. The Seventy re¬turned with joy, because the devils were vanquished at the name of Christ (Luke10:17). At the sight of Jesus’ wonder¬ful works people rejoiced because of the glorious things that were done by him (Luke 13.17; 19.37).

There is joy in the sight of the spread of the gospel. Barnabas was glad when he saw the Gentiles gathered in at Antioch (Acts 11.23). The tale of the spread of the gospel brought great joy to the brethren (Acts 15.3). The gospel is the last thing which any Christian wants to keep to himself. The further it spreads and the more who share it, the greater his joy. There is the joy of the teacher and the preacher in the Christian progress of his people. The news of the obedience of the Christians in Rome has spread abroad and Paul is glad on their behalf (Rom.16:19).

The unity of the congregation is the joy of the minister (Phil. 2.2). Even in his absence Paul rejoices at the steadfastness of the Christians at Colossae and the progress of the Christians at Thes-salonica (Col. 2.5; I Thess. 3.9). John rejoices when his children walk in the truth (II John 4). `No greater joy,’ he says, ‘can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth’ (III John 4).

It must never be forgotten that, as the New Testament sees it, the object of all Christian preaching is to bring men joy. ‘These things have I spoken to you,’ said Jesus, ‘that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (John 15.11). Jesus’ object in speaking to his disciples was that they might have his joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17.13).

John’s aim in writing to his people was that his and their joy might be complete (I John 1.4). It is Paul’s desire for the Corinthians that he may work with them for their joy (II Cor. 1.24). Paul would wish to be spared for a little while longer that he may help the Philippians in their pro¬gress and joy in the faith (Phil. 1.25).

It may be that a preacher has to awaken sorrow and penitence in his people; it may be that he has to awaken fear within their hearts; it may be that he has to rouse them to self loathing, and to humiliation. But no Christian sermon can ever end there. The sermon which leaves a man in dark despair is not a Christian sermon, for after the shame and the humiliation of penitence there must be the joy of forgiveness claimed and the love of God experienced. No man should ever rise from a Christian service without the possibility of joy flaming and blazing befbre him.

Stanley Jones tells of Rufus Moseley ‘the most bubbling Christian’ he ever knew. Someone said of him: ‘The first time I heard him I thought he was crazy, but the second time I heard him I knew he was crazy.’ Someone once asked Mosely if he thought that Jesus ever laughed. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘but he certainly fixed me up so I can laugh.’

It may be that in the end of the day the greatest of all will be the joy in the people whom we have brought to Jesus Christ. To Paul it is the Philippians and the Thessalonians who are his joy and his crown (Phil. 4.1; I Thess. 2.19, 2o). The writer to the Hebrews urges those who are set in leadership and authority to be so faithful to their trust that they may render account at the end of the day not with grief but with joy (Heb. 13.10.

And so we come. to the end, for this joy is nothing other than the joy of God, for the joy of God is the joy of one who finds things which have gone lost, like the shepherd and the lost sheep (Luke 15.5, 7; Matt. 18.13); like the joy of the woman who found the coin that was lost (Luke 15:10); like the joy of the father whose lost son came home (Luke 15.32).

For man and God alike the greatest of all joys is the joy of love reborn and love restored, and the joy of the pastor in his people is nothing other than the joy of God.

SOME ENEMIES OF JOY
Sometimes we’re robbed of joy by the differences between generations. There have always been generation gaps, but it seems to me that generation gaps are more obvious now than they’ve ever been before.

A second enemy of joy is unresolved guilt. A lot of people are unable to accept themselves, & to accept the forgiveness of God. You may have come through a divorce & you feel that you’re inferior in the sight of God. Or you may have had a brush with the law & you feel that you’re not welcome in God’s house. Or that people would not understand if they knew the secrets of your life.

David was the same way in the O.T. He had committed adultery, & he felt enormous guilt over it. He wrestled with the guilt & finally came to God in Psalms 51:12 & prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…”

A third enemy might be a wounded ego. A lot of us walk around with our feelings exposed, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing or not to say anything at all. And it happens. People don’t always act the way we would like. They don’t always say the right things. Sometimes they offend us, & our feelings are hurt. We feel unloved & unneeded & left out.

The fourth enemy of joy is unpleasant circumstances. All of us, I think, begin life with unrealistic expectations as to what life is going to be like. I know that I started out thinking, “Well, I’ll marry the perfect woman.” And I did. “And we’ll have perfect children.” And we do. And that we would live in the perfect house, & make lots of money. Which we haven’t. And we would be wondrously happy all of our lives, & there would never ever be any problems.

But problems do come, & they come to everybody. You may lose your job. Your children may disappoint you. There may be heartaches. Your health may break. Problems do come.

But here’s the good news. Even though the circumstances are unpleasant, God still wants to give you joy, to change who you are, & the way you think.

True joy allows us to live with this motto: Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know. Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me. I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine. And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures. As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

A treadmill becomes a treadmill because it doesn’t answer our real needs. It carries us along, gathering momentum because we’re secretly feeling worse – we secretly give up hope, as feeling better seems increasingly elusive.

The Workaholic Test
1. Is work the primary source of your identity.
2. Do you believe work is good, and therefore the more you do the better person you are? Do you brag about the “long hours?
3. Do you feel you are unworthy unless you are pushing to the point of fatigue?
4. Do you think you are indispensable; do you often work while you’re sick?
5. Do you control your work or does your work control you?

The Eight Characteristics of a ‘Driven’ Person
1. Are you gratified only by accomplishment, and the need to acquire more?
2. Are you preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment, status symbols like: titles, office size, flow charts and special privileges?
3. Are you obsessed with growing “it” bigger, faster?
4. Does your personal integrity sometimes lose out to your ambition?
5. Do you sacrifice people and people skills for the job?
6. Do you find ambition is a competition to have and hold onto more than others?
7. Do you have a temper when things don’t go your way?
8. Are you abnormally busy, and too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family and friendship – even God?

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Suggestions gleaned from 48 years of a happy marriage


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The key to a successful marriage is treating your spouse as the ‘most important person in the world’ every day and putting their needs ahead of your own.

  1. Listen
    To be truly heard is the longing  of every human heart, and your wife is no exception. It sounds simple, but  listening can be harder than it seems with so many distractions around us and within us. Set aside some time every day to look into yourwife’s eyes and really listen to what she has to say. You may be surprised at what you hear. (James 1:19Matthew 11:15)
  2. Communicate
    Don’t make her guess what you are thinking or feeling. Talk.
  3. Sing  Her Praises
    Shamelessly brag about her good qualities and quietly pray about her bad ones. Her reputation is your reputation. (Proverbs 31:28-29)
  4. Pray For Her
    Praying on your wife’s behalf  not only enlists the help of the Almighty, but also puts her and her needs at the forefront of your heart and mind, right where they belong.(Philippians 4:6Matthew 18:19)
  5. Value Her Individuality
    Your wife is wonderfully unique. Don’t compare her to your mom, or your ex-wife, or your old girlfriend.  Your mom may make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, but unfavorable comparisons won’t win you brownie points.
  6. Put the Seat Down
    Perpetually raised toilet seats are a pet peeve of wives everywhere. And while you’re at it, tidy up a bit. A little consideration goes a long way. (Philippians 2:4)
  7. Throw  Your Dirty Clothes in the Hamper
    It’s likely just a few steps from wherever you are dropping them anyway. Make this a habit, and it will let your wife know your don’t consider her your personal maid.
  8. Turn  Off the T.V.
    Lay aside the video games, pocket the iPhone, and shut off the computer, as well. It is staggering how many hours we waste gazing at some sort of screen instead of      interacting with the real people in our lives. Consciously set limits on      your tube-time, whatever form it takes. Use the time saved to invest in      your marriage: take a walk with your wife or play a board game together      instead. (Psalm 90:12)
  9. Loosen  the Purse Strings
    We all have to keep an eye on our budget, but an occasional splurge can be well worth it. Seemingly frivolous things like flowers, jewelry, and overpriced restaurants let her know that she is more valuable to you than a number in your bank account.
  10. Practice  Servant-Leadership
    All organizations have a  hierarchy. It’s impossible to function without one, but being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin. Jesus washed his disciples feet and then died on their behalf. It’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, but that is what being a godly leader entails. (Matthew 20:28,Philippians 2:1-8Mark 9:35)
  11. Remember that Intimacy’s a Two-Way Street
    Unfortunately, men are  notoriously selfish in the bedroom, yet are dumbfounded when their wives are less than enthusiastic in this arena. Make this area of your relationship as pleasurable for her as it is for you and it will pay huge dividends. It may mean washing the dishes or helping with the kids, so that she has energy left at the end of the day. It may mean cuddling  and candlelight, so that she can relax and let the worries on her mind drift away. If you aren’t sure where to begin, just ask her, and then listen. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
  12. Give Her Time to Herself
    Everyone needs an occasional break to rest and recharge, and this is especially important for a wife who is at home all day with young children. Yet it’s very easy to neglect this legitimate need unless you regularly and intentionally schedule time  for it. (Luke 5:16)
  13. Set Aside Couple Time
    Soak in the tub together each evening or go on a date night once a week — whatever gets the two of you alone on a regular basis. (Genesis 2:24-25)
  14. Be Careful with Female Friendships
    We all have friends and colleagues of the opposite sex, but tread cautiously. Not all affairs are physical ones. Honoring your marriage vows means remaining faithful in thought and word as well as in deed. (Matthew 5:27-28)
  15. Use Good Hygiene.
    It is amazing how meticulous guys can be prior to marriage in their attempts to impress a girl, but once they walk down the aisle, all bets are off. Clean up a little; I promise it won’t kill you.
  16. Limit the Gross Stuff
    Few women find burping nearly as hilarious as the typical guy does. Good manners are always a win. (Ephesians 5:4)
  17. Be Patient
    In whatever way this applies to you and your situation, apply it. (1 Corinthians 13:4Proverbs 14:29)
  18. Cherish  Her Children (they are your children, too)
    A mother’s bond to her children runs immeasurably deep. When you invest time or energy in them, you are investing in her as well. Kindness to them counts as kindness to her. (Malachi 4:6)
  19. Choose Her Over Hobbies and Buddies
    Invariably there will come times in your relationship when you will be forced to choose between your wife and something else that you enjoy. Always choose her.
  20. Provide for Her Needs
    This is so much more than just putting food on the table. It is all-encompassing. Whether it is physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, you name it — do your best to provide. Sometimes life’s circumstances hinder us in one area, but we can      compensate in another area. Often the effort is as important as the outcome. (Galatians 6:2)
  21. Dial Down the Anger
    Your caveman instincts are handy on the battlefield, but horrible for a happy home life. Every outburst or flare-up is a relationship setback. To go forward, the first step is to stop going backwards. Learn to control your temper or it will control you, your marriage, and every other aspect of your life. Just because your wife puts up with it and your co-workers tolerate it, doesn’t make your short fuse an asset. Do whatever it takes to gain victory in this all-important struggle that has haunted man since Cain slew Abel. (Ecclesiastes      7:9,Ephesians 4:31)
  22. Cut Out the Condescension
    If you have been blessed with a quick wit, you can either be the life of the party or a pain in the neck depending on the circumstances. Condescension is anger’s younger brother. It isn’t as loud or as dramatic, but it can be equally hurtful and all the more so for its subtlety. Lay off the snide remarks, the sarcasm, and the belittling. Speak to your wife in the same way that you would speak to a respected colleague. She is, after all, your partner in the most valuable investment of your life — your family.(, (Ephesians 4:29Colossians 3:19)
  23. Actively Seek Your Wife’s Insights
    Value her input and give it a preferential place in your decision-making process. (Proverbs 19:2012:15)
  24. Learn to Forgive
    Freely forgive your wife’s past, present, and future offenses. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and at the heart of every meaningful relationship. (Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:13)
  25. Verbally Express Your Love
    There are lots of ways to show your love, but women still like to hear it spoken.

Obviously no list is comprehensive, and one size certainly doesn’t fit all, but hopefully this one will prompt you to compile a list of your own, tailor-made for your own wife.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2019 in Marriage

 

Witness Without Words – 1 Peter 3:1-2


1 Peter 3:1-2 (ESV)
1  Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

In an intimate relationship like marriage, actions often speak louder than words. Words get preachy, but actions demonstrate reality.

Words can create division, but loving action builds trust. Words lay out propositional truth—the information about salvation—but actions show the living Christ in the believer’s heart and life.

Did Peter forbid a spouse to witness? Obviously not. Words built on trust and love can transform a life.

Does Peter downplay street preaching, testimonies, sermons, and personal witnessing? Truly not. He was advising married partners how to treat unbelieving spouses.

If your husband is a nonbeliever, you can strengthen your marriage not by preaching, but by living, loving, and letting God provide the opportunity for you to witness.

Under the circumstances, the wives’ best approach would be witnessing by their behavior. Their attitude should reflect loving service: They should show their husbands the kind of self-giving love that Christ showed the church.

Their lives should reflect both purity and reverence. “Purity” refers to behavior that is free from moral defilement. The wives should be pure for their husbands’ sakes, yet they would have to disobey should their husbands ask them to do something morally wrong or to participate in pagan practices.

“Reverence” is the same word translated as “respect” in 2:18 (phobos), referring to healthy fear. The wives had no protection from violence (other than murder) under the law. So these wives should not do anything to incur the displeasure of their husbands. By being exemplary wives, they would please their husbands.

At the very least, the men would then allow these wives to continue practicing their “strange” religion. At best, their husbands would join them and become Christians too.

A changed life speaks loudly and clearly and is often the most effective way to influence a family member. Peter instructs Christian wives to develop inner beauty rather than being overly concerned about their outward appearance. Their husbands will be won over by their love rather than by their looks.

This does not mean that Christian women should be dowdy and frumpy; it is good to be cheerful and attractive. But their priorities should be virtue and moderation. Live your Christian faith quietly and consistently in your home, and your family will see Christ in you.

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2019 in 1 Peter, Marriage

 

Understanding and Honoring Your Wife – 1 Peter 3:7


I read a fictional story called “Johnny Lingo’s Eight‑Cow Wife” (by Patricia McGerr, Reader’s Digest [2/88], pp. 138‑141) that is a parable on our text. It took place on a primitive Pacific island, where a man paid the dowry for his wife in cows. Two or three cows could buy a decent wife, four or five a very nice one. But Johnny Lingo had offered an unheard of eight cows for Sarita, a girl whom everyone in her home village thought rather plain looking. The local folks all made fun of Johnny, who they thought was crazy to pay so much for a wife.

But when the teller of the story finally sees Johnny Lingo’s wife, she is stunned by her beauty. She asks him how this could be the same woman—how can she be so different? Johnny’s reply shows that he’s nobody’s fool:

“Do you ever think,” he asked, “what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two? This could not happen to my Sarita.”

“Then you did this just to make your wife happy?”

“I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. You say she is different. This is true. Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands.”

“Then you wanted—”

“I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman.”

“But‑‑” I was close to understanding.

“But,” he finished softly, “I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

People tend to live up—or down—to how we treat them. If we offer repeated praise and affirmation, the person responds by living up to it. If we run the person down, they oblige us by meeting our negative expectations. Peter tells husbands that, like Johnny Lingo, they should treat their mates as eight-cow wives. Husbands should understand and honor their wives.

The reason Peter gives this command may startle you, if you aren’t overly familiar with the verse. We are not to treat our wives well so that we will have happy marriages, although that will be one result. Rather, we are to treat our wives properly so that our prayers will not be hindered! Isn’t that startling—that there is an undeniable connection between how you treat your wife and your prayer life! Since effective prayer is at the heart of a walk with God, this means that if a man mistreats his wife, I don’t care what he claims, he cannot be enjoying close communion with God.

Husbands are to understand and honor their wives so that they will have an effective prayer life.

Although it is only a single verse, it is brimming with profound truth that will transform every marriage if we husbands will work at applying its principles. I would translate it freely like this: “Also, husbands should dwell together with their wives according to knowledge, assigning to them a place of honor as to a delicate instrument, namely, a feminine one, as a fellow‑heir of the gracious gift of eternal life, so that a roadblock will not cut off your prayers.” There are two commands and one result: (1) Live with your wife according to knowledge; (2) Grant her honor as a fellow‑heir of the grace of life (= salvation); (3) The result: So that your prayers will not be hindered.

1. Husbands are to understand their wives.

We all have a deep-seated longing to be understood by at least one other person who cares for us and accepts us for who we are. We all enter marriage with high hopes for a deepening understanding to be built between us and our mate. And yet, all too often, a couple grows increasingly callused toward one another.

In American culture, for some reason, men are often inept at understanding their wives on a deep level. So there are disappointments and hurt feelings that never get resolved. The husband shrugs his shoulders, ignores his wife whom he doesn’t understand, and pours himself into his job, which seems to be something he can handle. She shares her feelings with women friends and gets caught up in the frenzy of raising children and running a household. And then the nest starts emptying and the wife starts thinking about going back to school and getting a fulfilling job at about the same time the husband realizes that he isn’t fulfilled through his job and what he really wants is intimacy with his distant wife (or with a younger version who excites him more). It’s no surprise that the divorce curve shoots up at this point in life.

A. Understanding your wife involves developing and maintaining togetherness in your marriage.

Peter says that you should “live with” your wife. You say, “I’ve got that down! We both live at the same address and share the same bed and eat many meals together.” But the Greek word means more than just sharing living quarters. It is used only here in the New Testament, but in the Greek Old Testament it is used several times to refer to the sexual relationship in marriage. Peter uses it to refer to the aspect of togetherness. A husband is to promote a spirit of emotional, spiritual, and physical closeness that is only possible in the commitment of marriage.

It’s significant that Peter puts the responsibility for togetherness on the husband, not on the wife. In our culture, women are often the relational ones. Men aren’t real communicative; they just sort of grunt. But the Bible puts the burden for intimacy in marriage primarily on the husband, not on the wife. If there is a drift in your marriage, men, you are to take the initiative to bring things back together. This doesn’t mean that a wife can’t act first if she notices a distance in the relationship. But it does mean that as men we are to be active, not passive, in developing and maintaining a close relationship with our wives.

It may sound perfectly obvious, but one way to develop and maintain togetherness in your marriage is to do things together. So many couples live in their own separate worlds. Men, help your wife with the dishes sometimes, not just because she needs the help, but to be together. Take walks together, go shopping together when you can. If you can’t tolerate shopping, at least drive her there sometimes and sit in the mall and watch the people or read a book. The idea is, to be together so that you intertwine your lives. As Simone Signoret observed, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”

B. Understanding your wife involves knowing her well.

“Dwell together with your wives according to knowledge.” This comes partly through spending time together. The Greek word means to grasp the full reality and nature of the object, based upon experience and evaluation. It is the apprehension of truth, especially (in the N. T.) of spiritual truth (see point C). But here it refers not just to spiritual knowledge, but also to a knowledge of your wife based on careful observation.

Every husband needs to become an avid student of his wife. You need to know her personality, her likes and dislikes, her needs, her strengths, her weaknesses, her fears, her hopes, her joys. Such knowledge is a personal trust to be guarded with great care. You should never bring up a vulnerable point as artillery in a disagreement.

C. Understanding your wife involves knowing God and His truth well.

To dwell with your wife “according to knowledge” means knowing her well. But also it has the nuance of knowing spiritual truth well. This is implicit in the phrase, “as fellow‑heirs of the grace of life.” This points to the vast spiritual riches that are ours equally as men and women through faith in Christ (1 Pet. 1:4, 13). As a husband leads his wife spiritually into a fuller knowledge of all that God has prepared for those who love Him, they will grow together in a depth of intimacy the world can’t know. In knowing God and His Word, we will come to know ourselves and our wives and thus be able to relate to them more adequately.

This means, men, that if you’re spiritually passive, you’re not being obedient to what God wants you to be doing as a husband. A lot of men feel inadequate spiritually. Their wives spend time going to Bible studies so that they know more about spiritual things than their husbands do. Many men leave early for work and come home late, too exhausted to spend time alone with God. I know it’s tough. But you can do what you want to do, and if growing and leading your family spiritually is a priority, you can do it.

Thus our first responsibility is to understand our wives, which means developing togetherness, knowing her well, and knowing God and His truth well.

2. Husbands are to honor their wives.

The word “grant” means to assign or apportion that which is due. A wife deserves honor (the Greek word has the nuance of value or worth). Grammatically, the phrase “as a delicate instrument, namely, a feminine one” can go either with “dwell together according to knowledge” or with “assigning her a place of honor.” I take it with the latter, the sense being, rather than take advantage of your wife because she is physically weaker, you should treat her carefully as you would a valuable instrument. A doctor would never think of taking an expensive, delicate instrument and using it to pound a nail. He would “honor” that instrument by treating it well.

In my opinion, if Christian husbands had practiced this well, we wouldn’t have the backlash of the so-called “evangelical feminist” movement. Notice the fine balance that Peter lays out: On the one hand, the wife is the “weaker vessel,” who should submit to her husband (3:1) for the protection and care she needs. On the other hand, she is a fellow-heir of the grace of life, which means that she is not inferior personally or spiritually. Her husband is not to dominate her, but rather to assign to her a place of honor. Thus the Bible maintains a distinctive role for the sexes, but it does not put down women as second-class citizens.

A major part of honoring your wife involves how you speak to her and about her. There is no room for jokes or sarcasm that put down your wife. Also, if you have children, it is your job as head of the household to make sure that they honor their mother. You model it by treating her with honor, but you enforce it by disciplining them for disrespect toward her. You should join the husband of the virtuous woman (Prov. 31:10‑31) in singing her praises. One of the things I often say to Marla and about her behind her back is that she makes our home a refuge for me. She serves you as a church by doing that, so that I get recharged for the ministry by being at home with her.

So the two commands are, Understand your wife; and, honor your wife. The result is:

3. The result of understanding and honoring your wife will be an effective prayer life.

As I said, this is a somewhat startling conclusion. I would think that Peter would have said, “so that you will have a happy marriage,” or “so that God will be glorified.” Both will be true, of course. But Peter is calling attention to something we often forget or deny: That there is always a correlation between your relationship with your wife and your relationship with God (Matt. 5:23-24; 6:14-15). If you don’t want a roadblock thrown up in your prayer life, then you must understand and honor your wife. It’s also interesting that if the Greek word translated “dwell together” has a sexual connotation, then both here and in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Scripture brings together that which we invariably separate, namely, sex and prayer. (I’ll let you explore the theological implications of that!)

But please note: If your prayers are not effective, your life is not effective in the ultimate sense. Prayer is at the very center of life, since it is our link with the living God. Everything else in life hinges on having an effective prayer life. Yet, sadly, many Christian couples never pray together. If you don’t pray with your wife, men, why not swallow your pride or fear and begin?

Conclusion

Husbands, your work is cut out for you: To make your wife an “eight-cow” wife! You are to understand her and honor her so that your prayers will not be hindered.

The late Bible teacher Harry Ironside once had a super-spiritual young man come to him and say, “Dr. Ironside, I have a spiritual problem. I love my wife too much!” He probably thought that Ironside would commend him for his great dedication to God. But instead, Ironside wisely asked him, “Do you love her as much as Christ loved the church?” When the young man stammered, “Well, no, I don’t love her that much,” Ironside said, “Then go get on with it, because that’s the command.”

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2019 in 1 Peter

 

God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. We must strive to be peacemakers, too


God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. So, if we want to be God’s children and Christ’s disciples, we must be peacemakers too. We should also diligently wish to work for peace in this world where peace is difficult to find. We might ask daily these questions:
1. Do I strive to live in harmony with others?
2. Do I strive to be sympathetic to the feelings of others?
3. Do I give the benefit to others I would give to myself?
4. Do I tend to insult or bless?
5 Do I spread goodwill with my conversation?
6. Do I pray for people to be in harmony with God and others?

You should pray when you’re in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect such an opportunity. You should pray when you’re not in a praying mood, because it would be sinful to remain in such a condition.

Mark 4:39 (45 kb)Never let a day begin without it. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

Never let a day end without it. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17

Never face a situation/problem without it. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding..” Proverbs 3:5

Never neglect it when it seems unnecessary. A little boy when asked by minister if he prayed everyday, said, “Not everyday. Sometimes I don’t need anything.” That’s the response of an immature individual.

Keep submitting your heart to God. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15.

Peace is the deliberate adjustment of my life to the will of God.

Everything starts with your thought life. “If you sow a thought, you reap an attitude. If you sow an attitude, you reap an action. If you sow an action, you reap a habit.”

“… every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.” James 1:14-16

You can fill your mind with many different things. If you want peace, though, you must fill your mind with God. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Men and women of the 21st century are worn out, fatigued, and overcommitted. The man with a full resume always pays a price to get it. Something has to suffer when we are an elder, a businessman, a civic leader, and a sportsman. When we run in the fast lane, precious little time remains for God and our family. Wouldn’t you like to get out of the fast lane?

Prayerfully ask God to help you make the right choices. If you were speeding down the inside lane of a busy interstate highway at 80 miles an hour and decided to get off the road, you wouldn’t swerve sharply without warning. You would turn on your blinker and start to work your way over. Even then you would have to wait for an exit ramp.

God is not so much interested in your position as He is in your attitude, in where you are as in where you are going. When we make the decision to get out of the fast lane, God will help us, will bless the direction in which we are moving. He will empower us to make the adjustment, to find an exit.

Winston Churchill said “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last.” I’m reminded of what happened just prior to World War II. Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, had a policy of appeasement in regards to Nazi Germany. Whatever Hitler wanted he gave in return for a guarantee of peace. As he got off the airplane he waved in the air the peace treaty signed by Hitler. He spoke bravely of “peace with honour” and “peace in our time.” Just two weeks later Hitler’s armies invaded Czechoslovakia.

We have our peace movements, and all we want is peace abroad and at home. But if by peace we mean appeasing tyranny, compromising with gangsters and being silent because we haven’t the moral fortitude to speak out against injustice, then this is not real peace. It is a false peace. It is a farce and it is a hoax.

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. Herbert Hoover said, “Peace is not made at the council tables, or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.”

Peace does not mean the end of all our striving, Joy does not mean the drying of our tears;
Peace is the power that comes to souls arriving Up to the light where God himself appears.
Joy is the wine that God is ever pouring Into the hearts of those who strive with him,
Light’ning their eyes to vision and adoring, Strength’ning their arms to warfare glad and grim.

A young soldier was going off to fight in World War II against the Japanese. As his father put him on the train and waved good- bye, he turned with bitter tears and said, “If my son is killed, I hope every Jap in the world is killed!”

A year later the son was killed. Soon $10,000 in life insurance money arrived. The father did a most surprising thing with the money: he sent it to the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and designated it for missions to the Japanese.

How could the father do this? Obviously, he got the peace, the shalom, that Jesus speaks of in our text.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2019 in God, Jesus Christ

 
 
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