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What’s Wrong With Love

What’s Wrong With Love

No question mark? Some of you may be of the opinion that my “C” average English skills are starting to seep into my writing.  While I will not deny that possibility, it is not so in this case.  The missing question mark is intentional, for the title is not a question but a statement.  Now this may be confusing to some because often, in today’s world, people have a desire for this statement to always be categorized as a rhetorical question.  “What’s wrong with love?”  The reason why it is most often relegated to the realm of the rhetorical is because people think the answer to the question is obvious.  Nothing, isn’t that always the answer?  Nothing is wrong with love.  Love is always right and therefore love makes all things right.  You see as long as love is the driving motive than who among us dare criticize the action, statement, belief, or newly stated cultural norm.  We drape it in love and now love becomes the end all be all that justifies every action or relationship.  What’s wrong with love?  Nothing, absolutely nothing…or so we are led to believe.

As much as we do not want to acknowledge it, we have been led down an unfortunate path by our exaltation of love’s supremacy.  It is a path that dead-ends at a dark destination.  It is a destination where a person or culture can proclaim as right any standard or action without being pigeonholed by outdated cultural expectations or antiquated Scriptures whose “guidelines” for living are viewed as pedantic and foolishly out of place for the 21st century.

Two examples serve to make the point.  Within the last number of weeks two former public proponents of the sanctity of marriage, Senator Kirk of Illinois and Senator Portman from Ohio, have reversed themselves and have now come out in favor of gay marriage.  The reason for such a change in their former moral certitude you ask?  Love.  It’s all about love.  Senator Kirk said “Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back – government has no place in the middle.[1]”  Based on that logic, I am expecting the Senator to soon announce his support for polygamous marriages and incestuous marriages…assuming that the individuals meet the criteria of “who you love and who loves you back.”

Senator Portman took it a step further when he, in poor hermeneutical form, invoked the Bible to justify his reversal.  He told a group of reporters: “The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.[2]”

While we must be careful never to diminish the true nature of love, we must recognize that when it comes to the attributes of God, love is no greater than any other attribute He possesses.  The unchanging and unalterable truths of God’s standard for human conduct and relationships flows from the completeness of His character and the perfection of His attributes.  We may think that all we need is love, but not so.  For when we begin to take one attribute of God, which is perfect and complete, and we hold it up as more perfect and complete than the rest, trumpeting it’s superiority, we distort His character.  Eventually God no longer becomes the determiner of standards but the exalted attribute takes His place.  When this happens we will find ourselves immersed in a culture that eerily resembles the day when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

What’s wrong with love?  Nothing so long as we recognize its place and do not unwittingly use it to change that which can never change – the standard God has established for human relationships and conduct which flows from the perfection and beautiful interworking of all of His flawless attributes.

[1] Chicago Tribune News: “Kirk announces support for same-sex marriage.”  By Katherine Skiba on April 2, 2013.

[2] “Sen. Rob Portman comes out in favor of gay marriage after son comes out as gay” by Sabrina Eaton, Plain Dealer Washington Reporter on March 15, 2013 at 12:01 AM, updated March 15, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Your best isn’t good enough

Your best isn’t good enough

It is not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God. 2 Cor. 3:5

No matter what subject I teach from now on, I think I’m going to call it, “Loving People Who Are Hard to Like.” You should probably do that, too, if you teach some sort of class somewhere and want lots of people to come. I’m serious. Call it that, even if you’re really teaching a class in aroma therapy. Just trust me on this. People will come in droves.

That was the title of the seminar I taught at the BGCO statewide ladies’ retreat this weekend, and WOW! I had no idea how popular the topic would be. I wish I had taken a picture so you could understand how packed that room was each of the three times I taught it. There were 2300 women at this retreat, and it seemed like they were all trying to fit in the room at once. 30 minutes before the session started, all the chairs were taken, and people just kept pouring in. At “go” time, I had about 1 square foot of space to call my own, and women were standing in the doorways and out in the atrium to listen from there.

Of course, that so many people long for that sort of relational help says a lot, and could be a blog topic all on its own. But, for today, I want to talk about something else.

After the first two sessions on Friday afternoon, plus participating in the two main sessions in the auditorium, I was pretty spent. I found myself dragging a bit on Saturday morning as I made my way up the hill back to my room for the 3rd and final session that I would teach. It seems like it’s easy to get geared up to teach that first time, but by the third, the temptation is to just coast. Add that to the weariness, and the fact that I hadn’t found a Coke Zero anywhere, and I was facing the very real possibility of coming across much like the monotone economics teacher who put everyone to sleep on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Anyone? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. Voodoo economics”

I didn’t want to do that, so I prayed. It went something like this: “God, I just want to give them my best.” And just as soon as the words came out, He spoke to my spirit: “But we could give them so much more.”

First, I laughed. Because I knew exactly what He meant and how right He (naturally) was. But I’m not gonna lie, my second thought was, “That’s kinda scary.” I mean, I’ve read the Bible. I know at least some of the stuff God can do when people leave things up to Him. I wasn’t sure I was really up for that.

I don’t know about you, but I think I probably forget just how powerful God is, and how He can reveal that power through me, way too often. Also, I shy away from it from time to time because it scares me. Ephesians 3:20 says that He’s able to do far more than we can ask or imagine through His power that works in us. When Job considered all the ways God has revealed His power, he said, “These are but the fringes of His ways; how faint is the word we hear of Him! Who can understand His mighty thunder?”

Clearly, I was praying too small. Don’t get me wrong. Certainly God is pleased when we give Him our best. But. as we do, it’s important to remember that, even on our very best day, we aren’t sufficient in our talents and abilities. Our sufficiency comes from God, and He has plans way bigger than we ever could.

You can do your best at your job this week, and you should. I’m sure your patients, clients, employer, or employees will really appreciate it. Your best can earn you a nice paycheck and the admiration of people. Some people might feel good because of your efforts, and that’s great.

I’m just wondering what would happen if you, and I, invited God to give them more.

Originally posted on Cynthia’s blog.

Rest your weary soul

Rest your weary soul

“Do your work for six days but rest on the seventh day so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave as well as the foreign resident may be refreshed.” Exodus 23:12

How much does Yahweh love us? So much that He specifically set aside one day every week so that we could rest and “be refreshed.” He created us in His image, after all, and He rested on the Seventh Day.  It only makes sense that His divine design is that we are created to rest.

But what happens when we can’t find that day of rest?

One of the aspects of being an Army spouse living through a deployment is learning how to do “it all” solo. Literally, “it all.” All the house. All the kids. All the bills. All the “keeping family up to date.” All the community involvement.

There’s not a lot of time for rest.

One night I was laying in bed after days of non-stop activity and facing more to come, my body aching from hours upon hours of constant motion, my “day of rest” too many days away. My spirit cried out to God, “How on earth will I keep going?”

Then, in a clear answer to prayer, I remembered a lesson I heard once about how Jesus is our Sabbath, our perfect Sabbath rest. Hebrews 3-4 tells us that the true Sabbath, true rest and restoration, is found in Jesus. “For we who have believed enter the rest…a Sabbath rest remains, therefore, for God’s people.”

I have access to the Sabbath rest at all times because I have access to Jesus at all times. As that truth presented itself anew to me, I prayed that Jesus would share with me an extra portion of that rest to prepare me for the days ahead.

That night, God blessed me with the best night of sleep I’d had in weeks, and a peaceful calm and focus the next day.

What a comfort to know that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to provide His promised rest not only in eternity, but in this life as well.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The grass is never greener (married edition)

The grass is never greener (married edition)

This month, I have been divorced for 5 years. Before that I was married for 5 years. I say that as a reference to you before you read any further. I don’t claim to know much of anything about having a successful relationship or tips on how to make a marriage work. However, as I said, I’ve lived half my adult life married and the other half single. So I have perspective on both. I’ve reached through the fence a few different times, thinking the grass was greener and turns out it’s not.

Here are my thoughts on this dilemma, today directed to the married folks….

For whatever reason, I’ve recently had conversations with several good friends (both guys and gals) about marriage and divorce. Not sure if it’s in the water or it’s something this storm is bringing in or what. But it’s a trend that disturbs me because of my personal experience with divorce.

As I said from the top, I have no advice that you can implement that will change your married life overnight. But what I can give you and what I describe to everyone I meet with about this topic is this.

Here is a picture of what your life will be like if you decide to get divorced…and specifically to those of you with children.

  • Be prepared to rarely; if ever tuck your kids in at night.
  • Have a lot of Kleenex the first 3 years. You will need them.
  • Get your story ready to deliver to your kids when they ask you why you left their mother/father.
  • Alone. Lonely. Defeated.
  • Say good-bye to waking your kids up and dressing them for school every day.
  • Get ready for most people to look at you differently.
  • Depressed. Discouraged. Constantly.
  • Get your profile pic ready for the dating site of your choice.
  • Get prepared to watch other women…. “mother” your children, dress your girls, love what was your spouse.
  • Embarrassed. Insecure. Distraught.
  • Don’t forget how many kids you have, because every potential suitor will ask. Then walk away.
  • Buy a football for the guy who will be teaching your boy how to throw it.
  • If you do find someone, get ready to be asked to pick one. Them or your kids.
  • Just be primed to say “it’s ok” when your kids call you the wrong name. Yes, I mean not mom or dad, but the other “persons” name.
  • The “rings” will come off, the lawyers will control everything and you will be served papers. Publicly.
  • Pick out which Christmas mornings you want to spend with your kids. You no longer get them all.
  • The thought of love will be sickening, yet you’ll long to have it back. Many will search for it for years with other people.
  • Failure. Desperation. Darkness.

I don’t share these intimate details in hopes of you inviting me to a pity party. In fact not all of these examples and emotions are from me. The list is more of a culmination of examples from my life and dozens of other divorced men and woman whom I’ve counseled. Friends who thought the grass was greener elsewhere. So why do I share? I share these specifics in hopes of slapping some of you across the face with the reality that will be your life if you break your vows. Five years after divorce I still deal with several of these issues and emotions on a weekly basis. Now, my life is what it is today and I believe God has grace that covers a multitude of sins. And that I am living proof that God does and can restore and make all things new. But it comes with a price, a very brutal and often times painful price that few people fully realize.

My message is this. Single or married. The grass is NOT greener elsewhere. You are where you are for a reason. Take charge of your marriage, claim your contentedness and grab some gratefulness for your situation.

Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5

But most of all forgive and love. …. just like you have been forgiven and loved.

Read the singles’ edition of this post here.

Defining Marriage

Defining Marriage

If you’re like me, your head is virtually spinning from all the talk, Facebook icons and pithy slogans surrounding the gay marriage debate.  As the Supreme Court faces a difficult decision that could send shockwaves throughout the cultural and religious landscape, it is not the argument on both sides that I find disturbing, but the conversation it seems we are not having.

The difficulty I see in taking arms for or against redefining marriage is that while people are talking about the re-definition, no one is talking about the definition.

So why add one more voice to the confusion?  My aim is to help Christian readers define what it is we are actually defending.  For those who will immediately dismiss my argument, I want us to recognize the fact that what we are differing over is not an emotive or equality issue, but is a division over biblical authority.  What is being missed in large part on both sides of the debate is the understanding of marriage’s original definition and why some are so stalwart in opposing a re-definition.

This is not about “hate,” cultural neanderthalism or tradition.  For those who believe the Bible is the true word of God, we trace marriage back to the very beginning.

“The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  – Genesis 2:20-25

From this passage, and the preceding creation account, we see that God is a God of separation, boundaries, and order.  He separates light from dark.  He separates land from sea and provides boundaries for both.  He creates creatures for sea and creatures for land.  He creates man and woman.  He gives order, roles, and purposes.

Then the God who creates separation, boundaries and order performs a startling act.  The one thing he reunites after separation is the man and woman in the act of marriage.  God brings the woman to the man (v. 22).  There is covenant language (v. 23).  There is a pronouncement made (v. 24).  The woman is then called his “wife.”

For Bible believers, this is the gift of marriage initiated, ordained, and purposed by God.  This is the definition of marriage.

Biblically, marriage is to be a life-long covenant (Mal. 2:16, Matt. 19:6) between male and female (Matt. 19:4) and should not be separated (Matt. 19:6-8).  It contains boundaries for the sexual relationship (1 Cor. 6:16).  This purpose cannot be fulfilled by a male/male or female/female relationship (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:25-32) nor in a human/animal relationship (Lev. 18:23), nor incestual (Lev. 18:6-17), or polygamist (1 Tim. 3:2, 12).

This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, there are biblical boundaries for marriage.  Ultimately, Paul sums up the purpose of marriage in Ephesians chapter five.  He says the marriage relationship is given by God as a representation of Christ’s relationship with the church.  It is for mutual building up, humble service, love and respect.  He again quotes the Genesis 2:24 passage as Christ does in Matthew 19:5 referring to the male and female counterparts of the marriage relationship.

This is what marriage is.  It is the genesis and definition.  I did not make it up.  I did not define it.  If you find it objectionable, you are not bound to participate in it.  You have all the right in the world to say, “If that’s marriage, then I don’t want it.”

The difficulty stems from the fact that the government has borrowed the term “marriage” to offer governmentally sanctioned privileges such as tax breaks, hospital visitation and the like.  The issue is, while these are governmental rights attached to marriage, they have nothing to do with marriage itself.

The government is free to give rights to whomever the government wishes, assuming the government is free to bequeath those rights.  But the government has no right to alter the definition of marriage any more than it has the right to redefine baptism.  This is because neither marriage nor baptism are given by the government.  Their parameters are given by God.  Therefore He stands as the judge and standard-bearer.

Whether or not the government should afford the civil privileges to a gay couple that they provide for heterosexual couples is an entirely different debate.  However, the government cannot call those rights “marriage” or redefine the term to have civil implications that are not, or were not, originally attached to it nor coincide with its Author’s intent or design.  They should not be officiated by a minister, but a senator or government official.  They are not ordained by God nor do they honor Him as they are not in line with His purpose and design for what the Bible defines as marriage.  It is something else entirely.

If you are for so-called gay marriage, hopefully this article provides some clarity on the discussion and its terminology.  If the idea of marriage repulses you, you are not obligated to submit to it – just don’t use the term to describe something it is not.  Biblical marriage is not simply “traditional” marriage since it is not tradition that gave us marriage.  Biblical marriage is just that: biblical.

I believe we can aim the discussion more precisely when our terms are properly defined.  When we are borrowing words and remaking boundaries that are not ours to make, the shouting match ensues and no one comes across clearly in a shouting match.  May we be able to approach one another with love even as we disagree.  I do not hate gay people.  I am not afraid of gay people or homosexuality.  What I do object to is anyone, gay or straight, misusing the institutions or words of God for their own agenda.  Let the comments ensue and may they be graced with as much tolerance and love as we seek for ourselves.