Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Sunday June 8, 2008

Genesis 2:24, Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NLT), Hebrews 13:4

We’re going to speak about marriage today. Marriage is not simply a word; marriage is a sentence- a life sentence

The playground game that every young child loves to play is the teeter-totter. Or, to some of our old-timers, the see-saw. The goal of the teeter-totter is for one person to sit on one end of a board and the other person sit on the other end and then push each other up and down. Kids love this as much now as we did when we were children. And there is only one rule to the teeter-totter: the loser is the one who tries to win.

Marriage is like a teeter-totter. The wife enters the marriage on one end and the husband enters on the other end. They find their place and the game begins. But too often in too many marriages, the joy of early love soon gives way to one trying to change the other, the other trying to dominate the relationship, and pretty soon all that is left of love is the shadow of a fading dream of “’til death do us part.” The death of a marriage is by far the greatest tragedy in all of humanity.

This is not God’s plan for you and your marriage. And so today I come to this message with a heavy heart for you and your home. I see far too many give up too soon. I see far too many who are not willing to give one way or the other. I see far too many broken vows, broken homes and broken hearts. This is not the way it is supposed to be.

What is it that we can learn from our Lord this day that will make a difference for you and your home and your children who come after you? I have three understandings that I want us to focus on this morning that I believe will make all the difference in your marriage.

The first for us to understand is that a married couple begins on…

1. Opposite Ends of the Same Goal.

When Naomi and I got married nearly a quarter of a century ago we climbed on that teeter-totter with a lot of junk in our trunk. She told me of a time while teeter-tottering as a child the other kid jumped off and she landed with a tremendous thud. After that incident she found it very difficult to trust other kids- fearful they might do the same thing.

That word trust is very important to a marriage. You have to trust the other person for the marriage to work. If you cannot trust them then you are going to be filled with questions.

When a marriage begins, a couple has to learn that they are very different from each other. It is true that compatibility is very important but when you put two souls together their differences will rise to the surface.

What are they?

a. Strengths and Weaknesses.

Every person has strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes these are very different or opposite of the other person.

To maintain a strong marriage you have to learn to allow your strengths to feed the marriage in order to overcome the weaknesses that both partners bring. You cannot allow your self to feed off the weaknesses of your spouse. Look for their strengths and allow their strengths to feed you and nourish the marriage.

b. Blessings and Bruises.

Every couple brings blessings and bruises into the marriage. Your gifts and abilities, your heritage as a Christian are blessings that you bring to the marital circle. Just as well, those hurts and pains from childhood, an abusive home or tragic incident are bruises that can breakdown the relationship. When one person begins to revert to the very things that damaged their childhood, the clock starts ticking.

c. Microwave and Crock-pot.

A further difference between men and women in the marriage is the old saying that men are microwaves and women are crock-pots. Let me make clear that generalities don’t make good rules and the same holds true here. I am speaking in a generality.

Guys, you need to realize that your wife needs continual affection that does not always lead to sex. Ladies, you need to realize that your husband has sexual needs that only you can meet. These differences are not intended to create strife but to bring a spiritual understanding and togetherness.

Men are turned on by thoughts, feelings and visuals a whole lot quicker than women. Women are more slowly brought along. But in learning more about each other, the couple should be able to realize that even though they come into the marriage on opposite ends they still strive towards the same goal of creating a holy environment for the glory of God.

The second understanding we need to have in our marriages:

2. Complementary Means for the Same Purpose

Even though we are very different- kind of like lady and the tramp in some cases- there are still those balances that give the marriage the kind of supplements it needs to grow in grace and holiness.

a. The Art of Listening.

I found this humorous observation about some marriages:

Married life is full of excitement and frustration:
* In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens.
* In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens.
* In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.

Listening to the other is critical.

And you have to listen to more than words. Why is it that us guys have the hardest time of truly listening to our wife’s feelings? This is where the next point comes into play.

b. The Aid of Learning.

Marriage is about learning. Learning what the other person likes or doesn’t like. Learning what his favorite meal is or her favorite flower. Learning about each other is what marriage is all about. Marriage is more than a legal contract. This is a harmony of souls that God has brought together.

A third point that needs to be understood is.

d. The Act of Love-making.

Hebrews 13:4- “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pre, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

God is the creator of sex. He set human drives in motion, not to torture men and women but to bring them enjoyment and fulfillment. God saw that Adam had no suitable helper. So he created the woman. Instead of being opposite they were complimentary to each other and similar in every way except their reproductive systems.

Whatever you do in your marriage keep your bed pure! Honor God with your bodies by remaining true to each other and in so doing true to God.

A very real and problematic issue for some marriages is sexual dysfunction. Sometimes there are physical issues that a doctor needs to be consulted about. Other times, though, there are emotional issues and a good counselor needs to be consulted. There should never be any shame to any person who is striving to be all that they can be for the glory of God and for the satisfaction of their marriage partner.

There is a third understanding about this teeter-totter marriage that we have to address:

3. Transformed Hearts by the Same God.

God’s ultimate purpose for your marriage is to make you holy. Marriage is his sanctification tool to cleansing your heart and life.

When a couple gets married their whole life changes. And the later a person marries, the tougher the changes.

This transformation by God in the hearts of a husband and wife comes with some imperatives:

a. The Dynamic of Balancing.

You learn as a spouse to balance things out. A good teeter-totter game allows both on each end to use a counteracting force to put the teeter-totter in motion. Each person learns to push just enough to off-set the other and vice-versa.

Balancing each comes when you take up the slack for the other’s weakness. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Naomi and I have had our problems but yet have learned to balance these things with our strengths.

b. The Process of Living.

This balancing act is really about a process of living that we have developed. There are habits that we have gotten into that really has knit our hearts and lives together. When we are apart for a week it begins to seem like an eternity. The house is very quiet when my wife is out of town. But I do get all the covers at night though!

c. The Gift of Forgiving.

If there is a most important piece of advice I could give and that is the gift of forgiving. Forgiving the other is a gift- not only for the forgiven but the forgiver. Learn to apologize. Learn to forgive. And then make up and forget. Move on. Let it go. And if it happens again, go through the process again. Remember, forgiving each other isn’t just for church folks but for those closest to us.

Conclusion: The True Power of Love.

Song of Songs 8:6-7- “Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised.” (NLT)

Where does the power of love truly come from? Do you long to have the kind of love in your marriage where the many stormy waters cannot quench love? Do you long to have the kind of love in your marriage where even the flooding rivers cannot wash it away?

On the teeter totter with husband and wife at both ends stands Jesus Christ in the center. When we allow him to take over we can know that our marriage will never be the same. Jesus is the one who can bring balance to your teeter-totter marriage. Jesus is the one who can bring fullness to the otherwise off-kilter people who have tied the knot. Jesus is the one who can make you holy through marriage.


Sunday June 1, 2008

Isaiah 8:17-18, John 4:46-53, Ephesians 6:4

John Maxwell once said: “The only thing parents can take to heaven is their children.” And no matter how much money we make in life, or the success of our business venture or the fame and fortune we might amass, those things we cannot take to heaven with us. But what we can take to heaven is our children.

Isaiah speaks as a father of two children. Isaiah, his wife and his sons had a prophetic impact upon their people and the surrounding countries. We find in Hebrews 2:13 that these verses would have significance in the coming of Jesus Christ.

The nobleman or “royal official” came to Jesus because his son was gravely sick. He wanted Jesus to come to his home and heal the boy. Instead, Jesus called on the man and father to simply believe. Out of compassion and grace Jesus speaks and the nobleman believes. The son is healed- even though it is not in the way the man wanted. The result? He and his household became believers in Jesus Christ.

The Apostle calls on fathers not to exasperate their children. His goal is to get parents to realize that their actions can just as easily impede their children’s spiritual growth as the actions of the world. We have to understand as parents our role and the importance of having a spiritual family life that truly honors God and each other.

God wants to use your family in saving the world. I have all summer to preach on the different aspects of the Christian family but yet I approach this message with a certain amount of desperation. Your and your family are important to God’s plan to save humanity. Just as God used Isaiah and his family and God reached with mercy into the nobleman’s family he wants to use you and your spouse and children to make a difference in a world that desperately needs to be difference.

With that in mind, I want to share five essentials that Naomi and I have found to be important to having a solid Christian family home-life. By no means do we proclaim to have set the standard as parents but yet I believe that we do have something to offer to you from our own experiences as parents.

These may seem to general ideas but they must be more than general if your home-life as a Christian family is going to be all that God wants it to be.

1. The Treasure of Each Other.

I would hope that after nearly 25 years that our family has learned what it means to treasure each other as family members. Are we the most perfect family? Not likely. But yet we have learned to cherish each other.

As parents, Naomi and I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. We love to celebrate their accomplishments.

Three important aspects of this treasuring each other we have found important:

a. Connection.

Stay connected. Our kids know that they can call us anytime. Over the four years of Charity in college we learned more about Instant Messaging and long distance phone cards and all of that. We want to stay connected with our kids. And yes, it costs money to be connected but it’s well worth it to us. And if we don’t hear from them, we call. Now if we want Josh we send him a text message- its faster and more likely to get a response.

b. Celebration.

Celebrate each other’s successes. The greatest moment of my life is when I was ordained. And yet, it was not about my success but about us as a family. Everyone shared in the ordination. Why? It goes back to our trailer park days with me on a Saturday night studying at the kitchen table. It was the family sacrificing the security of dad being gone for a week to take classes. It was Naomi letting go to let God work.

Next year, we will embark to New Brunswick one more time- Lord willing- to watch our kids, Charity and Andrew, graduate college. And a year after that, we will be there when Joshua graduates. We want to be a part of each other’s celebrations as well as each other’s hurts and pains.

c. Humor

I’m not so sure we are the funniest family. We don’t play too many mean jokes on each other but we do know how to laugh with each other and even at each other. A family that laughs together stays together.

d. Vacation.

The greatest family advice my foster dad gave me was to take a family vacation at least once a year. Family vacations are those memory markers that you and your kids will cherish for a lifetime. I don’t have time to speak of our drive up Porcupine Mountain in Tennessee or the Natural Bridge State Park or the sauna on wheels in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. These times and others create memories that you will never regret. Did we have the money to do these things? Usually not- but the purchase far outweighs the price.

e. Apologize.

One of the most important aspects for any family member is learning to apologize when wrong. If you can’t do that as a Father, husband, mother, wife, son or daughter, you are short-changing the grace of God in your life and in your family. Saying “I’m sorry” and really meaning it, can make all the difference in the spiritual life of a family. I’ve had to apologize far more than I care to admit but I would not once take back a single apology.

These are merely five thoughts about ways that you as a family can treasure each other.

Something of utmost importance is…

2. The Importance of Salvation.

As Christian parents we have placed a very high importance on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Two things that I believe have really had an impact on our family life when it comes to our personal relationship with Christ.

a. Telling the stories of Jesus.

As a family we need to tell each what Christ is doing for us. Our kids need to hear it from us and we need to hear it from them. While Charity was training for Child Evangelism she told us of how she learned to depend on the Holy Spirit’s help in order to memorize scripture. These are the kinds of things that a family learns to share with each other about.

b. Living the stories of Jesus.

But what good is telling the stories unless we are living the stories. Everyday life will tell each other far more than words about where our hope and trust are at. Who we are will overshadow what we do and say. And the first ones to pick up on this is our family. They see you with your “hair down.” They see the grumpy side of you. But what they really need to see beyond your holy perfection is the real you being made holy.

None of us has arrived to that spiritual perfection of faith. We all are in the process of growing in Christ. And that is what your spouse and your kids need to see. They don’t need to see Mom or Dad striving to be pompously holy in public but experience their fits of rage in private. They need to see Mom or Dad apologizing and then making good on the apology by striving to improve their behavior.

A key part of emphasizing salvation is found in…

3. The Value of God’s Word.

Long before I became a pastor, I have always had an intrigue with the scriptures. I have read and studied the Bible, read what others say about its passages, and have exalted it as our standard for family life.

In what ways can we allow the scriptures to be valued once again in our homes?

a. Read the Bible.

There needs to be a place in your life as a parent in reading the Bible. Make it a part of your life. Realize the values that the Bible teaches as a part of your life.

b. Be honest about the Bible.

There are some hard things in the Bible that are difficult to understand. However, we can be honest about them without taking away the significance of the Bible. I don’t like reading certain passages but I also realize that the Bible is honest about everyone else it depicts so I can be assured with being honest about those things that don’t mesh with my thinking. I strive then to learn more so that I can relate those tough problems with the rest of the family.

c. Talk about the Bible.

We strive to look for the Biblical values we can draw from movies, television shows and the like. Why? There is so much trash out there that somebody needs to say something positively- even in with a negative context.

What do I mean? After our family watched the movie “Minority Report” my son and I discussed the issue of pre-determination vs. pre-destination. While watching “The Matrix” we talk about the this world’s values versus the ideals of the Bible. There are all sorts of ways that you as parents can inject your Biblical world-view into the conversations of your family time.

Of course, we could not go on and on about the spiritual family life unless we spoke of…

4. The Significance of Prayer.

Pray and pray some more. But what do we really do with this “greatest spiritual” resource in our family life?

a. Be Thankful.

Prayer is about more than just a family altar. A family needs to be praying together and allowing the blessings of prayer to permeate every need. Prayer is about being thankful.

Unless we are truly thankful to God for all we have, our prayers will be hollow to the rest of our family. Learn to become more thankful. Give thanks to each other, give thanks to others and give thanks to God.

Have a thankful heart in everything and for everything you have.

a. Be Realistic.

Don’t hold out unrealistic expectations for your family altar. Some families are scattered to the wind when the morning sun rises. However, find those opportunities to do things together that bring you together in a prayerful atmosphere.

Eating together brings that opportunity. The family dinner table is a lost art in America. We need to find ways to recapture that in all the hustle and bustle that we engage in. Over the years we have done that as a family in a variety of ways.

There were times in my roofing days that Naomi would bring dinner out to the job sites. Oftentimes, we would meet as a family at a restaurant. These times bring an atmosphere of prayer to the family circle.

b. Pray together.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of just simply praying together as a family.

One of the most important times at the end our day when the children were young was me as the Dad going in a praying with our kids. “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Those days may be past but prayer certainly doesn’t lose its luster.

Naomi and I as aging parents have learned to rediscover prayer together. Though we are not consistent on an everyday basis we still value these times as significant to our own spiritual well-being and to us as a couple.

I have spoken of the Treasure of Each Other, the Importance of Salvation, the Value of God’s Word and the Significance of Prayer.

There is one more thing that must not be forgotten:

5. Respect for the Church.

I absolutely will not tolerate disrespect within our home for the Church or the people of the Church. We can disagree as the people of God within the Church ministry but rest assured that our children will not hear us air out our grievances against anyone. We may not agree on a variety of issues- and that may be fine or not, I’m not sure- but you will not be down-graded in our home.

There are times when church people have hurt me by the things they have said. Most of the time people say things without intending to hurt me or my family. I understand that because I realize that there may be times I say something that comes out the wrong way and have hurt someone without intending to. These things happen.

And even if someone does say or do something to hurt me, it doesn’t get told at home. My kids and many times my wife will be completely unaware that there might be a conflict. Why should they be hurt in the process of God’s people working together?

So our home will not be a place of putting down the people of God or the ministry of the Church.

Why? The Church is the Bride of Christ. The quickest way to get into a fight with a man is to disrespect his woman. And the quickest way to lose out spiritually with our Savior is to disrespect His Bride.

So how can you bring respect within your home for the Church and be blessed in the process?

a. Be careful what you say.

Words can come out wrong and so we must be quick to correct something we might say. The best way to be careful of what you say is to…

b. Speak positively about everyone.

To my kids, everyone probably seems like my best friend. That’s the way it should be. There is no room to put down other people- especially the people of the Church that I am called to pastor.

I try to find the best of motives in others. That includes you. If someone is critical of me or what the church is doing and are faithful members in attendance and tithing then I believe that they have the best of motives. They want the church to succeed in ministry. They aren’t seeking their own will but the will of God. And if they are doing something self-centeredly then God will sort that out.

c. Participate in the ministry.

Your family needs to be involved in the church ministry in some way. There are countless ways that a family can participate in ministry. Come and speak with me and we’ll get you busy.

d. Support your church.

Don’t forget to pray for your church. Pray for your pastor as a family. Pray for your church as a family. Pray for the lost as a family.

Support your church. Be there with your volunteerism, finances and energy. Let your family know that church has a high place of value in every facet of your life.

Conclusion: Valuing God’s things.

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