Tuesday, October 14, 2014

 

Out of the mouth of babes...

Andrew Joel Ridgell is my 6 (almost 7) year old grandson.  He is in first grade and we got to hang out last weekend. So we get to talking and have the following conversation.

Andrew:  Pops, we do not want to hold to fire in our hand.

Pops:  That's right, Andrew.  That would burn us and that would not be good.

Andrew:  But Pops, if God said to hold fire in my hand I would.

Pops (trying not to choke up):  Me too Andrew.


It was special and sweet because he absolutely meant it with all of his heart.  You have had those same kinds of conversations with your kids and grands also.  But I have to tell you, that conversation scared me a little.

Part of me is scared because I know what radical faith demands.  What danger, persecution, and pain await him with that kind of obedience?  But God will see him thru whatever comes.  Just like he does the rest of his family.

Maybe I'm afraid of how unpopular that kind of faith would be in our culture.  And maybe afraid because I know how unpopular it would be among most churches.

But here is what scares me the most.  I am afraid there will be Christians who will discourage that kind of faith.  People that would try to explain why God can't mean it if he asked that kind of obedience.  Maybe well meaning, but those who would explain why radical obedience like that was something for Bible times, not today times.  People who will always stay in the boat instead of walk on the water.

I pray Andrew will always keep that kind of radical faith and obedience.  Because someday God will call him to hold fire in his hand.  To do something that he would not ordinarily do.  To do something that requires incredible courage and faith.  And I pray he will.

Me too.

So thanks to his parents who are raising him to be a radical believer.  Thanks to Bible class teachers who are molding him into a real Jesus follower.  Thanks for the radical spiritual heroes he sees in the Bible and around him today.

And thanks to Andrew for reminding me that I don't need to hold fire in my hand.

Unless God tells me to.

Out of the mouth of babes...



Thursday, October 09, 2014

 

Christians are not afraid of death...

Ebola is in the US.  Merv is here too.  People have died from both of these.  Cancer and heart disease are still around.  Car wrecks happen every day.  School and work shootings.  Tornado, earthquake, fire, and flood.  Hurricanes and tsunamis.

Death threats are everywhere.  Our world is terrified.

So here is our reminder why Christians are not.  But instead of terrified, we are courageous in the face of death.

Jesus beat death.  When he was raised from the dead, he defeated death.  We too will be raised from the dead.

This world is not our home.  We are aliens and strangers here.  Our real home lies on the other side.  Death is a door to life for us.

We believe that how we die is as much a testimony as how we live.  Finish strong.  Live what you believe, but also die what you believe.

We are hope grievers.  Of course the people you leave behind will grieve, but not like those with no hope.  We have hope.

Dying is better because of what is on the other side.  We live so we can die so we can live.

Jesus has overcome the world.  This world is full of trouble, but Jesus is bigger.  Even bigger than death.

Jesus tells us to not be afraid.  And he knows what he is talking about.

So in a world full of fear and panic over deadly diseases and death... we are different.

Do not be afraid.  Do not be terrified.  Be courageous.  Be bold.  Live strong.  Die strong.

Be faithful right up till death.  Do not be afraid even when walking in the valley of the shadow of death.

That is our testimony that we believe.

And we do.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

 

God does heal a lot of broken marriages

As I have blogged recently about Christians and divorce, it dawned on me that I ought to remind everyone that lots of faithful Christians end up with marriage trouble.  Sometimes, people who love God commit sins that are incredibly damaging to a marriage.  Sometimes Christians take their marriage for granted and wake it to realize they are in trouble.

Or Christians lose their focus on Jesus and end up in situations that have deeply wounded their relationship with their mate.

And God heals a lot of broken marriages.  If two people love God, he can fix their marriage.  After all, God hates divorce.  And he is in the business of changing lives.

So here are the words my wife and I love to hear from marriages in trouble.

I love God.  It starts there.

I love you.  In in badly damaged marriages, love can be restored.  You fell in love once, you can fall in love again.  But real love is a choice, not just a feeling.  And real love acts for the good of others.  So words may not be enough, but they can be a place to start repair work.  They give hope.

I am sorry.  Don't assume your mate knows you are sorry.  Say it.  And mean it.  Then follow thru on what it means.  Being sorry is the beginning of of a long, hard process to change.  It is the start of repentance.  Sorry for sin, for hurtful attitudes, for neglect, and for pain caused.

Me too.  I don not believe in the "not my fault" rule.  One partner may have crossed lines they should not have, but I never seen a perfect mate.  And that is not the same as saying it is your fault.  There is plenty of fault to go around.  Healthy marriages heal when both commit to work on ways they can each strengthen the relationship.

You are forgiven.  Powerful words.  And again, just the beginning.  Forgiveness takes real work too.  It is hard.  It is worth it.

Of course there are so many more things to be said about healing broken marriages. I am not a professional counselor.  But Marsha and I do a lot of spiritual counseling.  We have seen a lot of marriages in trouble.  We have seen many -- even most -- of them healed.  So these are just some things we have learned.

Truth be told, most good marriages I know about had times when they could have fallen apart.  One, or both, could have quit. And maybe that is the key for all of us.

Don't give up.  Don't quit.      

I know God can fix marriages.  After all, Marsha and I are living proof.

So to all the struggling marriages who may read this...

God is the great fixer.  Try some of these words..

And see what God will do.


 

 



Thursday, October 02, 2014

 

Can you love God and still get a divorce

Can I love God and still end up divorced.

Yes you can.

I know many faithful Christians who did everything they could to save their marriage and could not.

Healthy marriages make it because there are three in the marriage:  Husband, wife, and God.

God can do amazing things to heal broken marriages.

But only if you both want him to... and there is the problem.

You may want to save your marriage, but you cannot control your mate.  If your mate decides not to follow Jesus in your marriage, then you may not be able to stop the divorce.

And let me be clear here.  I do not believe that faithful is interpreted as perfect.  Passionate, committed Christians who are radically sold out for Jesus are not perfect.  But they are faithful to God.  They try to live more like Jesus.  They repent when they are not.  They follow Jesus.

So I am not talking about perfect mates.  Marsha and I frequently tell couples in trouble that we do not believe in no-fault problems in marriage.  There was only one perfect person on this earth and he never married. And it is not either one of them.

But as much as you may love God, and as much as you may try to follow Jesus... you cannot force your mate to do the same.  It is tragic, it is heartbreaking, it is painful.  Life will never be the same for the Christian whose marriage dies.  But God will see you thru.  Like he does in every other tragic circumstance in this fallen world.

If your mate chooses someone else and will not repent, you can divorce them.  Jesus even said you can remarry.

But when your mate gives up on Jesus, gives up on you, and gives up on your marriage... then you cannot prevent divorce.

Stay faithful, keep loving God, pray your mate repents, go on with your life, serve others.

Just like the rest of us.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 

Truths you need to know before you divorce

It is heartbreaking when Christians divorce.  God hates it.  And I have never known two faithful Christians that decide to break up their marriage.  They both may have once been faithful.  Maybe there will be repentance and they will be faithful again.  But someone -- or someones -- are not being faithful to Jesus for a marriage to end in divorce.

And I am not talking about two faithful Christians in a mess but trying to make it.  That's life in a fallen world.  Nor am I talking to the one doing all they can to save a marriage.  It takes two wanting to save it.  And you cannot control anyone else.  

So here are three things I tell Christians who want a divorce.

Your marriage is not about you.  When you were crucified with Christ in baptism you died and committed to let Christ live in you.  You became a voluntary slave to Jesus and committed to follow God.  So when you find the reasons you want to divorce start with the word "I"... you are missing the point of being a Jesus follower.

I need to be happy, I need to find myself, I, I, I, I,

My wife helped me figure this out in our marriage counseling as an elder and wife.  I used to start conversations with Do you love him/her?  But she figured out there was a more fundamental question.  We now start every discussion with one question.  Do you love God?

So understand your divorce is not just a rejection of your mate, it is a rejection of God.


If you will not forgive your mate, God will not forgive you.  I know the pain caused by sin in a marriage.  And I know the blessing of repentance and forgiveness.  We used to spend a lot of time trying to get people to repent (from adultery or addictions, or temper, or whatever), and work to save their marriage.  These days it seems we spend a lot of time trying to get people to forgive to save their marriage.  And we do call for repentance when they do not forgive.  I know how difficult forgiveness is.  It takes time and effort.  But if we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive us.

That is serious business.


Divorce teaches your kids to quit on God.  When you walk away from your marriage,  you are teaching your children to quit.  You claim to want them to be Christians but your life message is now  to only be a faithful Christian until you are not happy with something.  Or until you love someone else more than your mate (and more than Jesus).  You are teaching that things have to be like you want them to be in this world to be faithful or content.  Not gonna happen in this world.  But that is the message of your life.  So you best hope that your abandoned mate, or someone in their church family, are giving your kids a clearer message about Jesus.  Or they will end doing exactly what you taught them to do.



Most people who have decided to divorce do not want to hear these.  But Christians walking away from the light often do not want to hear truth spoken into their lives.  But some do.  And they listen.  And they ask God's help.  And they make it.  Even if they don't, we must speak truth.

And by the way, as one of my readers reminded me... if you are going to expose the lies of Satan or tell the truth of God, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and go to work.  Healing marriages -- or lives for that matter -- is hard, messy, and dirty.  And exactly what family does.

Speak truth.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

 

Lies about marriage and divorce

Maybe it is just among people I know and not some kind of church-wide trend.  I pray that it all it is.  But I have been saddened by the number of divorces I am seeing among Christians in their 50's and 60's.  And when asking why, I continue to hear them repeat what I believe to be lies from Satan.

And let me point out that I am talking about marriages where both mates profess to be Christians and claim to be living under the Lordship of Jesus.  And of course I do not believe every marriage dissolves because the following reasons.  And yes there are reasons for divorce.  Jesus acknowledged that.  I am talking about something different.

Excuses used by Christians in an attempt to justify abandoning their mate.

And I believe them to be lies and contrary to God's call for faithfulness.

Here are three of them.

"God wants me to be happy in my remaining years."

Of course God wants you to be happy but I think as Christians we should recognize that he knows best what makes us happy, not us.  Maybe the thing to do is work on your marriage.  Or seek contentment in Christ.  Or quit listening to the world's definition of happiness.  And if you really are not happy in your marriage, maybe the call of God in your life is to be faithful in a hard circumstance.

It just seems this idea centers around what you want more than what God wants.  Christianity is not about us... but God.

"My mate is keeping me from doing the real ministry God has called me to."

When you married the two of you became one.  So when God calls you (as a family) to ministry, it should be a call you both hear and feel, not just one of you.  And faithfulness to your marriage is a higher calling than faithfulness to a particular ministry.

To dissolve your marriage to do better ministry seems contradictory at best and hypocritical at worst.  I cannot fathom a ministry that does not make following Jesus the core message.    

"I have lost my identity and need to find me again."

Seriously.  At 50 or 60 years old.  And married for 30 or 40 years.  It seems more like you want to find a new identity that will be "better" than the one you have now.

And as a Christian, you have your identity.  It is in Jesus.  And doing something God hates (divorce) is not compatible with who you claim to be.


I know marriage can be tough.  At 20 or at 60.  So is life.  We live in a fallen world.  Every marriage has pressure and battles.  You did not marry a perfect mate.  Neither did they.  The answer is not to quit.  It is to be faithful.

So when your Christian friends listen to the lies of Satan, speak God words into their life.  Call for repentance.

When our young families repeat these, speak truth into their marriages.

Hard times come, Jesus overcomes.  Be faithful.  To him and to your marriage.

That is what God calls you to in this life.

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

 

And today is my birthday...

No I am not going to talk about why I love me am proud of me.  But I thought I would share a few reflections.

I am 63.  It sounds old when I see it or when I hear it spoken.  But I don't feel any different.  I just don't think much about growing old.  I just figure God is in charge and till he takes me home he has a job for me to do here.

I thought about what I did this last week when I was 62 and what my first week of 63 looks like.

A couple of sessions with people wanting to know about Jesus:  one teenager, one grandmother.  Spent time talking to a couple of brothers in my flock who are battling their demons.  Fighting the fight.  Looking for help and strength.  Seeing someone who made it.  Did the same thing with another brother from a different city.  Preached last night at my home church.  Spent last weekend in New York equipping and motivating people to talk about Jesus.  Will do the same this weekend in Tennessee.

Took Marsha's Dad to the Dr.  Visited with her Mom.  Talked to my Mom.  Heard from all the kids and grands wishing me happy birthday.  Jogged this morning at 5:30.  Marsha and I will get to hang out together this weekend and for a couple of days after.

Wrote.  Did lesson and sermon prep.  Worked on material for Summit at ACU.

Played with the dogs.  Think I'll get to squeeze in a dove hunt next week.  Gonna work at the farm.

And you know what?  I am a blessed man.  Doing what I love with people I love.

Been a hard road sometimes.  But the end destination is wonderful.

Not sure I'd change much about my life.  God can if he wants.  But for today, I am happy and blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Thanks God.  

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