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Ephesians 5

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

“Husbands love your wives like Jesus loves you.”

Jesus adores me. Jesus is absolutely devoted to me and cherishes the relationship we have together. Exactly.

For a husband to be devoted to his wife as his #1 neighbor is the foundation of well being for our families, and beyond that for the society.

Now, this is not about romance, it is about focus. It is about understanding. To be devoted to my wife’s well-being is to have compassion and feel her needs. Where is she vulnerable? How can I be the kind of husband who will pay attention to this?

So often in marriage there is the challenge of husband’s having their main focus and devotion being on something other than their wife. There is nothing wrong with paying attention to other areas of life, if loving neighbor #1 is #1.

You see Jesus doesn’t command us to love everyone. He loves everyone, but we can’t because we don’t have his capacity. Love needs to be specific. We simply don’t have the resources to be that specific and devoted to the well-being of everyone.

This is why we start small. We start with our wife. When we devote serious attention, thought, prayer and service towards her, we will be changed in a way that makes further devotion possible. We expand that love to our children and/or those closest to us. And so on. And the range of our influence over the well-being of society grows.

ME

What are ways a husband might take a wife for granted?

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Ephesians 5

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

For wives, this means devoting yourself to your husband as you devote yourself to God. The phrase the Bible uses concerning the husband’s role is, “For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church.”

Husband the head? How sexist! Before you decide this is old fashioned and outdated it would be better to actually understand before you respond.

This has nothing to do with the husband being the boss. The husband in the family is to be like Jesus with the church. Giving himself for the sake of the well being of his wife just as Jesus gives himself for our sake.

If the husband is bullying or arrogant in the relationship this is not the model of Jesus giving himself freely to the church, so that is already a false way of looking at with it means to lead.

For the husband to take the lead in marriage is like being a good shepherd. It has to do with security and provision. Just as Jesus is responsible to protect and provide for his people, husbands are to take the lead in protecting and providing for their family. O, wives protect and provide for their family, too, but it is the husband who is ultimately responsible.

Simply outrageous! How outdated. Really? How’s it working when the husband is not responsible for security and provision?

ME

What are the qualities of a good shepherd?

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Ephesians 5

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When Jesus is asked what is the most important teaching in faith he replies, in summary, “Love God, love your neighbor as yourself.”

We love something when we are devoted to its good or well-being. When we love God, we want what God wants.

When we love our neighbor we want what God wants for our neighbor. When we love ourself we want what God wants for us.

To be devoted to the good of ourselves and others begins with a loving God who is already devoted to us. When we live out of that love we can truly love our neighbor as ourself.

Love has to do with compassion. Where we feel the needs of others. This is what God has for us. A constant devotion to our well being. We are to have this with our neighbor.

And who is my neighbor? My most important neighbors are those most closely connected to me. If I am married, this means neighbor #1 is my spouse. When I am devoted to the well-being of my spouse, if we have children, I can expand that devotion outward to them.

So, if I am married, devoting my life to God begins with my devotion to the well being of my spouse. But, if we are to feel the needs of spouse and be constantly devoted to their well being, immediately there is a great challenge. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in life. Those closest to us are often those we are most hurt by and those whom we most hurt.

Why is that? We haven’t practiced the devotion that is required to truly learn how to love like God loves.

We are most vulnerable to those closest to us. We are most challenged by them. So, in order to learn to live a life of loving your neighbor, God designs life for us to start small. We don’t have unlimited resources of compassion and devotion. We start with our spouse and expand from there. If we don’t focus on our spouse first, we won’t get anywhere else with our love in the long run.

ME

Why is this verse often neglected when talking about husbands and wives?

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Ephesians 5

20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s gratitude again. A common theme of LIFEhouse. Appreciation. If you desire to have joy and peace in your life, even in the middle of times of pain and suffering, thank God. Not because God needs our thanks and appreciation, but because we need to realize God is good no matter what is happening around us.

There are two common phrases we use today that are not helpful when it comes to the pain and suffering around us.

“It’s all good.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

First, it’s not all good. I can’t dismiss the evil that is in people’s choices and the resulting actions that take place, including my own evil and actions by saying, “It’s all good.” Like I’m reciting some magical incantation. It’s not all good.

And what do we mean if we say, “Everything happens for a reason?” Do we mean when horrible things happen there are reasons that inform why they happen? OK, I get that.

But I think when some people say, “Everything happens for a reason,” it’s because they simply don’t know what to say. Or it has to do with their perception of God. “Everything happens for a reason” is not a quote from the Bible and it is not the overall message of the Bible.

According to Jesus and the Bible, God does not directly cause everything to happen, like he is waving a magic wand. God did not orchestrate a child to get killed in a hit and run so the child’s parents could strengthen their marriage, for example. Believe it or not, I’ve heard that one. Heartless nonsense.

And even if something challenging has happened to you and it makes sense that it comes from God, you can’t assume God is directly responsible and you don’t necessarily know why God did it.

For instance, God did not necessarily get you fired from your job because he has something else in store for you. He might have, but you don’t know that, specifically. You do know however, that God wants you to work and he will be with you and work with you to get another job.

What we do know is God is greater than the things of our life that bring pain, suffering, tragedy and such, and God will bring good into our lives again. We are always to have hope 100% of the time, and we can see that often in our lives we do grow spiritually and emotionally as a result of being challenged, even severely.  When we thank God for everything, we are thanking him for being with us in everything.

ME

Why do we try to explain things of God that God hasn’t given us to explain?

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Ephesians 5

19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 

One way we can be joy-filled is the influence of music. How interesting God wires us for music. At least that’s what brain researcher’s seem to be saying today. Without the God part:) They are discovering that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.

Music has the potential to rewire the brain and affect its function. For instance, stroke patients who have lost verbal function- may be helped by music and regain the ability to speak.

I experienced something similar when my mom, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, lived in a memory care center. They would bring in musicians to play music, including popular songs from her generation’s past. Even though mom nor other residents were able to speak the lyrics of popular songs from their past, once these songs were played and sung, many of the people, including my mom, could sing along!

God speaks to us through music. At least the Bible gives many examples of God’s Word coming through song. The book of Psalms, as you know, is the songbook of Jesus.

But, music doesn’t just tweak our emotions, music also is a helpful way to drown out negative or overwhelming thought that bombards our minds. Humming, whistling, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a healthy way to keep out, what is called, “Stinkin’ Thinkin.’” Just don’t drive the people around you crazy by being too loud!

ME

Musical taste is like food taste. It is foolish to try to convince someone they don’t like the taste of something they like.

 

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Ephesians 5

18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit

The most destructive pain that comes into our lives is attachment pain. This is the result of separation from or the loss of someone to whom we are attached. Death, divorce, separation, and abandonment are ways this can happen. Also there is attachment pain, when those who are supposed to bring health and security into our lives, primarily our parents, bring pain and suffering through action or abandonment.

When this happens prior to 12 years old, our brains can rewire and keep us from conscious awareness of the attachment pain. We don’t even know why we feel lonely, homesick, rejected, heartbroke.

So, what do we do?

We get attached to others things as a way of trying to ease the attachment pain and the negative emotions and experiences that come with it. We get attached to other things to increase our pleasure or decrease our pain.

Paul speaks of too much wine as one way we deal with the pain. Other ways? Comfort foods, sex, exercise, work, performance approval, codependent relationships, exciting experiences, gambling, entertainment, alcohol and other drugs. Anything that triggers a surge of pleasure or dulls the pain.

Now most of these things are not bad in themselves, and some of them may even appear healthy, but when we become attached to them to deal with the pain or bring temporary pleasure, they keep us from the true “painkiller” God makes available.

A joyous relationship with God and joyous relationships with other people. Discovering a sense of shalom with God, where we know everything is going to be OK, even if we don’t know why.

Jesus makes it possible for us to be in joyful relationship with God and others, where we are glad to be with them, by giving us his Holy Spirit along the way. Covering us with his blessing and filling us with his power to be able to be people of joy and peace.

ME

What are you attached to that brings you pleasure or dulls your pain?

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Ephesians 5

16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 

First, remember every age is a time of evil days. Evil simply means working against God, and there is never a time in human history we humans haven’t been working against God’s ways. Bringing pain and trouble is another way the Bible describes this evil.

As a Christian who is a light in the world, I have the opportunity to be a light and do something about the pain and trouble, rather than be a judge who simply sits back and tells you what is wrong.

So, to act thoughtlessly is to act according to my human nature, which is corrupt and self-centered. The  only way I can stop acting this way is to invite God into my life, live and learn everything I can from God through the teachings and model of Jesus, and also model my life after the Christians around me I want to be like. In this way, I am able to cooperate with God and develop habits that overcome my automatic behavior, which will not be a blessing.

ME

When we try to get people to be fearful, we gain more influence over them if they think we can help. Be discerning of the rhetoric of someone who wants you to question your security.

 

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Ephesians 5

8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. 10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 

Here is where we are at.

Is Jesus Lord of your life? Then let him rule. If he is your Lord he will give you his light. Then live your life to shine his light into the lives of those around you. When you are living with the light of Jesus in your life, the Holy Spirit works through you and he finds ways to show up.

Notice in the Bible that people who are not living like Jesus, still come to him and want to hang out with him. The woman at the well (John 4) for instance, doesn’t share his same views about faith or sexuality, but that doesn’t stop a relationship from forming. When the Holy Spirit has the freedom to work through us that which is good and right and true, he brings blessing. We are not here to condemn the world, but to work for the good of others, and not be surprised when God builds a bridge to himself through the relationships we share. Especially those who think differently.

ME

Why did “tax collectors” and “prostitutes” want to hang out with Jesus? What are some of his attributes that others found appealing?

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Ephesians 5

5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do.

Paul says greedy sexual obsession separates us from living God’s ways. We can’t maintain an intimate relationship with God if we are consumed by other idols in our lives, including sex. We end up experiencing the anger of God. What is this anger of God?

Bishop NT Wright explains it this way. “It isn’t an arbitrary thing whereby God makes up some rules to stop people enjoying themselves and then threatens to get cross with them if they go ahead anyway. God’s wrath is built in to creation itself. There are certain ways of behaving which are so out of line with the way God made the world, and humans in particular, that they bring their own nemesis. Sexual misbehavior certainly comes into this category.”

Jesus spoke this same way when he focuses on those who are driven to gain wealth.

Matthew 19

23 I tell you the truth, it is very hard it for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

This is really about identity. Who am I? What defines who I am? If I am focused on accumulating wealth as my identity, then my primary identity is not as a child of God, it has to do with my wealth. It is same for sexuality.

God is not defining us by our sexual desire. God does not see someone as homosexual or heterosexual. He sees us as his precious children and we are way more than our sexual orientation. So, we ought not define ourselves or each other in this way, either. We are all created in God’s image. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.

Granted, if you follow the traditional views on sexuality of the New Testament and the first churches Jesus started, you will be at odds with our society.  Today, rather than sexual relations between husbands and wives as the model, sexual relationships are simply to be celebrated between people who care for each other, whether is is same-sex or heterosexual, married or single, as long as there is consent- sex is embraced.

So, for  some Christians who don’t consider same-sex sexual relationships as God’s Plan A, for instance, don’t be shocked if they are considered bigoted by some. Same if they disagree with consensual sex of other kinds outside of between a husband and wife.  They will, at the very least, be labeled a prude.

Paul, of course, is very aware of this thinking in his own day.  Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins.

But, Paul is not trying to work against Roman sexual customs. He is not trying to forcibly dictate his morality on others. He is simply inviting Christians to look to another way. Don’t participate in the things these people do. 

ME

What are things that our culture accepts as good that you don’t find helpful?

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Ephesians 5

3 As for fornication, uncleanness of any kind, or greed: you shouldn’t even mention them! You are, after all, God’s holy people.

In our society- sex, sexuality, sexual identity, romance, anything related to sex- is everywhere. Sex sells.

Sex is used to influence our buying choices, sexual issues raise funds for our political parties, and sexual content entertains us endlessly. It seems like half the news, three quarters of all entertainment, and 90% of all advertising is somehow, someway related to S-E-X.

But the Bible says, hold on a minute. Stop the obsession. What in the world is going on here? This is about porne, the Bible word translated, “fornication.” This is sexual obsession, sexual greed, and it tarnishes our relationship with God and others. As followers of Jesus we are to be “set apart” for God’s way of living.

We are to avoid fornication – the casual sex that demeans and cheapens not only the participants but also the gift of sex itself. But the best way of doing that is to work at taking it out of our mind altogether; and the main way that happens is removing it from our speech.

OK…sure…that’s easy…

ME

In one day, try counting how many times are you exposed to some kind of sexual content/ innuendo/ message. Don’t go looking for it, but just notice:)