Marriage is Not Hard Work

A Different Perspective on a Popularly Used Phrase

We’ve all heard this phrase time and time again: “Marriage is hard work.”

In fact, we’ve heard it repeated so many times that it is ingrained in our psyche. Now, many of us are apprehensive to even get married. Just think of it like this, if you have to consistently work hard for everything in life: jobs, education, health and fitness, then why would anyone want to be in a relationship that requires a work ethic equal to or greater than that just for the relationship to survive? Many of you who are single and reading this are thinking, “I can be frustrated and worn out all by myself!”

However, after being married for a while we’ve realized something. Repeat this statement out loud:

Marriage is not hard work – I am!

Will every day of your marriage be like walking through a botanical garden on a 73-degree day, while sipping lemonade, with the perfect combination of sunshine and shade? Absolutely not. But this is not due to the fact that marriage is hard. Marriage, at its core, is simply committing to consistently and unselfishly meeting each other’s most basic – as well as most important – emotional needs. It is committing to serve and protect your spouse. Those things, if we’re honest, are relatively easy to do.

The hard work lies in us. In order to pull off the core elements successfully, we have to do some things. We have to let go of pride. We have to let go of selfishness and the desire to always be right. We have to be willing and ready to relinquish our individual wills for the good of the marriage team. And for many of us that is the hard work.

You will need to do some work – on yourself!

If you talk to couples who have been married for a while you’ll notice that there are at least 5 areas that they have intentionally committed to. We believe that successful progress and execution in these areas make for smoother sailing in your marriage. We call them the

“5 C’s of a Successful Marriage”

  1. Communication: You must have several conversations…about everything!
  2. Compassion: You have to genuinely care about the overall well-being of your spouse.
  3. Compromise: You will have to relinquish the idea of always getting your way.
  4. Concession: Sometimes, you have to take a “loss” in order to gain a “win” later.
  5. Connection: You have to consistently connect on all levels…including sexually.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “they just mapped out a bunch of ‘work’!” However, if you are honest with yourself, none of the above 5 things require a “great deal of effort and endurance” (well, some things might require endurance…wink, wink). The truth is, in order to successfully navigate the above 5 areas, you will need to do some work – on yourself! Once selfishness and harmful pride are eliminated, you will notice that the above areas are merely by-products of the commitment that you have chosen to settle in to.

The turning point came in our marriage when we started living and acting in accordance with the commitment we professed to make.

Remember…

Everything you want to see in marriage you have to first develop in yourself.

The realization of the above statement made the difference in our marriage. Oftentimes, we go into marriage with the notion that our needs are going to be met. Our whole approach to marriage centers around the idea that this person is responsible for my happiness, my satisfaction, for covering my weak points, etc. But this idea is wrong! Marriage is not about getting it’s about giving; it’s not about being served, but serving. Like we stated earlier, marriage has everything to do with unselfishly meeting the needs of your spouse.

So, to all of the single readers – take the statement above and run with it. It will save you years of headaches and frustration when you do get married.

Remember, it’s not that marriage is hard work. If there’s any hard work to be done, it will be in working on yourself.

If you’re dating and thinking about marriage, or already married, ask yourself these questions:

How much ‘work’ am I willing to do on myself, and on my character? What am I willing to do to ensure that the success of my marriage requires minimal effort and endurance?

Think on these things…




It Takes Two: [Re]Connecting Our Sexuality and Spirituality

When it comes to sexuality, it takes two. You can’t talk about sex without talking about spirituality because sex is inherently connected to the heart and image of God. Where there is one, there will always be the other.

Everybody knows you can’t have mashed potatoes without gravy, spaghetti without sauce or bread without butter. In fact, there are several things in life that seem weird when you have one without the other. That’s because most of nature operates off of a dual partnership. For example, it takes both hydrogen and oxygen to get water. Your wallet constantly reminds you there are two sides to every coin. And even the Bible teaches that the complete Word of God needs both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, if you ask me, I consider these things dysfunctional unless they’re together, but we can agree to disagree.

The point is, all of these things teach us that you can’t have one without the other. It takes two.

The same is true for sex. You can’t talk about sex without talking about spirituality.

However, so many Christians struggle with this very point. So many have separated their sexuality from their spirituality making it even harder for them to truly understand either one. In fact, this has become such an issue The New York Times recently published an article called How Should Christians Have Sex? In it, Katelyn Beaty shares how the purity culture of the 1990s was harmful and dangerous, but that its recent demise has many Christians looking around for guidance on how to navigate sexual intimacy.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Unfortunately, church culture has made talking about sex and sexuality taboo. This fear of sex and sexuality that has silenced the Church on the topic has conditioned many Christians to divorce spirituality from sexuality. This disconnect deepens the more Christians underestimate and ignore where these desires come from.

The truth is: Sex is spiritual! Sex is spiritual because the source of our longing flows directly from the heart of God, whose very nature and being is relational. The triune God created humans to exist in relationship not isolation. This relationship between the human family was to reflect God’s existence as eternal relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (See Genesis 2:23, 24). This is why spirituality is at the heart of every relationship.

[Re]Connecting Sexuality and Spirituality

There is a universal, human longing for connection. So God created sex as means of expression within relationship to promote connection and intimacy. You heard me right. God created sex! And because God created us to exist in relationship and then created us to express our connection within relationship through sex that makes sex within relationship spiritual. Dr. C. Wesley Knight talks about the spiritual origins of sex in his book Thirst: Quenching Your Deepest Desire. He says:

Sexuality was the creation given to them to help perpetuate what they ultimately received from God’s presence. Sex was created so that we would be reminded that we are not alone. Sex was to remind us that we can be ultimately united with another soul. Sex was to be a representation of unconditional love. It was created to allow us to enter into an experience that would remind us how much we are loved.

Dr. Knight goes on to explain that sex began its process towards corruption the moment humanity ceased trusting in God. In other words, sex outside of sacred relationship – marriage – is our attempt at meeting our own needs, satisfying our own desires, or quenching our own thirsts.

The guy who jumps from bed to bed for casual, detached encounters with women is using sex to meet a spiritual need for connection and intimacy. The single woman who occasionally feels incomplete because she doesn’t have a husband to satisfy her has a spiritual need for connection and intimacy. Even couples who carry layers of resentment in their hearts towards their spouses, but continue to engage in sexual intercourse hoping it will make things better are looking to their sexuality to fix their spiritual need for connection and intimacy.

These expressions of sexuality are dysfunctional and unsatisfying. And the truth of the matter is that our sexuality will remain dysfunctional, dissonant, and unbefitting of God’s ideal so long as we continue to turn off, ignore, or minimize how our spirituality and sexuality intersects.

Steps to [Re]Connecting Our Sexuality and Spirituality

Here are three mindset shifts that helped deepen my awareness of the harmonious connection between sexuality and spirituality.

1. My Sexuality is Singular – “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31 NLT).

Every outfit calls for a specific purse that compliments what I’m wearing. Sometimes this means that I have to transfer the contents of one bag to another so that I have everything I need. But when it comes to sex, I don’t have a variety of bags. I have one bag called Life and that’s it!  When I made that subtle shift in my thinking, everything changed. I went from having a spiritual life and a sexual life to having one life where God is glorified in everything I do by His grace.

Our sexuality disconnects from God when we choose to compartmentalize our life rather than consolidate our life into one single focus.  Aligning all our sexual decisions so that they bring glory and honor to God will naturally be met with resistance from our flesh. But I challenge you to ask God to help you to stop compartmentalizing. This week, allow Him to consolidate all your life choices for His glory.

2. My Sexuality is an Opportunity – “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1 NLT).

For many of us our sexuality is viewed as a point of contention with God. It could be because you may be struggling with your sexual identity and wonder why God made you this way. For others, sexual immorality might be an addiction and it feels like a thorn in your flesh that won’t leave. Or an unmarried person may not be having sex but think it’s unfair and frustrating that they can’t.

I can tell you from experience that a major mindset shift happened when I began to see my sexuality as an opportunity to deepen my longings for God, instead of as reason to get angry with Him.

This week, don’t allow your sexual desires or sexual mistakes to prevent you from deepening your craving for more of God. Instead, let your real feelings drive you unashamedly nearer to the heart of God.

3. My Sexuality is Welcome – Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NLT).

Growing up, many of us were taught to repress or ignore our sexual desires until we were married. Oftentimes to even have sexual desires before marriage was considered shameful and sinful. This presents a challenge in today’s society for two reasons. First, more and more people are waiting later in life to be married. According to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of first marriages for women in 2018 was 27.8 years. For men, it’s slightly older at 29.8 years. That’s the longest Americans have ever waited to get married. To put it in perspective, in 1990 the average age of marriage for women was 24. It was age 22 in 1980. And back in the 50s most women were married by 20 years old.

It’s simply unrealistic to think that healthy Christian men and women are exempt from having sexual desires until marriage. Secondly, a quick observation of our anatomy confirms that we will always be sexual beings no matter our relationship status. Thus, what has helped me is choosing to acknowledge that my sexuality is welcome in the presence of God simply because he created me that way. It’s not a dirty or shameful part of me that needs to be suppressed. We surely don’t have to give in to those desires outside of God’s will, but

learning to embrace the freedom we have to bring our entire self into worship will shift how we experience His satisfying love. God wants to fulfill our need for intimacy and connection but it won’t happen if we feel those needs aren’t welcome in our sacred moments with Him.

This secular, post-modern society will have you believing that Christianity is a killjoy, anti-sex religion. But that is simply is not true. Nothing in the Bible says that sex is wrong. Instead, It talks about how our sexuality was designed to reflect how deeply connected we can be to God and each other. This should always be the ideal we strive to achieve. And thankfully, when we fall short God is gracious and merciful enough to reconnect us back with Him. Because with God it takes two. And to Him, we are whole beings that are both deeply spiritual and deeply sexual all at the same time.




Where My Strength Lies

This is the Faith I live by: Faith is my strength

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, June 6, 2019

Audio Linkhttp://bit.ly/ThoughtsinWorship

Theme Text

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Hebrews 11:1-10

Life is Laborious

I must admit. This life is no cakewalk. There are so many obstacles that litter our paths everyday. We encounter unreasonable people, difficult assignments at work, bill collectors, flat tires, road rage, and so much more. We have internal struggles with low self-esteem, overwhelming guilt, feelings of anxiety or depression, sometimes we feel unappreciated by loved ones, and sometimes it’s just hard to get through the day. And to top it all off, we have to deal with our sin problems. Some of us are addicted to food. Others of us are addicted to questionable entertainment. Some of us have questionable relationships. And others of us have pride and other dysfunctions to process. Honestly, if left to our own devices our lives would be a mess.

Are God’s Expectations Unrealistic?

It doesn’t help that God has lofty expectations of us. He said that we should be holy because He is holy. Then He added that we should have the mind of Christ. Not to leave out the part about not esteeming others higher than ourselves. Oh yeah! And don’t forget, never lean on your own understanding, and make sure to seek Him first and everything you need will be added to your life.

How? How in the world can we have such odds stacked against us. From the moment we begin developing in our mother’s womb God has these desires for us. How in the world can we ever measure up?
Faith. The answer is faith. I admit this may sound like a cliche answer. It may even seem like it’s missing something. But it’s the truth. If the Bible says that it is impossible to please God without faith, it stands to reason that with faith, we can overcome all of our human inadequacies and ultimately please our heavenly father.

Faith Makes Up For Our Inadequacies

But what is faith? The Bible defines faith in our theme text cited above. I’d like to rephrase it in this way: Faith is the conduit through which God’s power to live according to His will comes into our lives. Remember I introduced us to this concept yesterday. Whatever is impossible in our own strength, God makes possible through faith. When our faith lays hold of God’s power we can overcome every evil tendency, doubt, weakness, and poor thinking pattern.

So my encouragement to you today is this: ask God to increase your faith. Ask Him to reward your tiny, mustard seed faith with His limitless power from Heaven. Take some time this morning to ask God to originate, nurture, and blossom the kind of faith that pleases Him. The kind of faith that can remove any mountain that stands between you and God’s ideal for your life.
By God’s grace, this is the faith I live by. Let this be the same for you, in Jesus’ name.



Get Plugged In!

This is the Faith I live by: Faith is the cord that connects me to God

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Audio Link: http://bit.ly/ThoughtsinWorship

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Substance. Hope. Evidence. Faith. Get plugged in!

Hall of Faith

Faith is one of those principles that even if you don’t understand every nuance, you use what you do know to understand it. For instance, we know that Jesus is the author and Finisher of our faith. We know that Abraham had faith that YHWH would bring Isaac back to life even though there was no record of resurrections before that time. In Exodus, we learn that Moses had faith the children of Israel would traverse the Red Sea and not drown with Pharaoh’s army. In the New Testament we see that Peter had faith to walk on water with Jesus; albeit for a short time. And we know Jesus had faith that His Father’s will was supreme as He faced the dismal separation of His crucifixion. What is the common denominator in all these examples?

How Does Faith Work?

Well let me see if I can give an example of how faith works. Imagine a power cord. Is there any power in the cord? Well, that depends on when you ask the question. Disconnected from an electrical source the cord has no power. Even when one end of the cord is attached to your iPhone or refrigerator, neither of these appliances will work if they are not plugged into the wall where they can connect to electricity. It is only when the cord is connected to an electrical source that it has any power.

Faith is similar. Faith is the cord that connects us to our Father. We can’t activate our purpose, obedience, or righteousness when we are disconnected from God. Truthfully, we can’t even serve others unless we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Which means that faith plays a role in our Christian walk that should never be underestimated. Faith is such an important factor in our daily Christian walk because living out what we believe is inhibited and incomplete whenever we are disconnected from God. Godly faith is the conduit through which all heavenly power and blessings move from God’s storehouse into our lives. By faith, we move from dormant potential to empowered vessels for His glory.

So, it’s time we get plugged in.

By God’s grace, this is the faith I live by. Let this be the same for you, in Jesus’ name.




Who is Jesus to You?

 

 

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, November 17, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 16

Who is Jesus to you? There are few people anywhere in the world who have not at least heard of Jesus. Most, whether they have respect for Him or not, do have an opinion. Some consider Him a public figure that religious people talk a lot about. Others say He was one thought leader among many in history. Still others refer to Him as a prophet or a good man. Who is Jesus to you?

I know it is difficult sometimes to grasp the idea of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is God [the Son], who divested Himself of the comforts of His eternal throne, to become clothed with human form, so as a representative of humankind, while retaining His divinity, He could die in our place so those who believe in Him could have eternal life. This is a basic tenant of the Christian faith.

While all I have said is true, somehow I sense the need for more. Not that the expression of the gospel is lacking, but Jesus wants to be more in our lives. Even as I type this, I yearn for a deeper connection to the One who loved me so much that nothing in the universe could hinder Him from doing His level best to save me. As you read, all of heaven is astir, because God [the Father] has commissioned holy angels to guide and protect you; God [the Holy Spirit] to lead you into all truth and empower you to have victory over self and sin; and the Son’s agreement with His Father’s love that makes this all possible.

Gone are the days, if ever there were such days, when we should be satisfied with merely knowing that Jesus died 2,000 years ago, is written about in history books, or is the Head of the Christian church.

 

Gone are the days, if ever there were such days, when we could be satisfied with surface reading about Bible facts and figures.

It is our privilege today, no matter at what station in life we are, to prayerfully meditate upon the Scriptures, fixing each principle in our minds. It is our privilege to have close encounters with God as we are directed by the Spirit. If we search the Scriptures as those seeking hidden treasure, we will be amazed by our connection to the living Christ depicted there. As we receive this blessing, our lives with become closely aligned with His, and we will welcome others to experience the same.

Who is Jesus to you? Hopefully, though He is high and holy, He is your new found Friend.