I was texting with a friend of mine back east this week. I hadn’t had a chance to check in with her in a few weeks, and I could just sense something was wrong through some things on social media. So I checked in on her. I asked if everything was ok. She had recently started dating someone, and I just had the sense that something bad had happened to that relationship. And unfortunately I was correct. He had ended the relationship with my friend, and she felt betrayed. Her heart was broken, and she was still processing what was going on.
We didn’t have a lot of time to chat at the time, but the whole situation got me thinking about betrayal. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something in human nature that seems to make us betray one another. If you have never faced the betrayal of another human being, I would count you very fortunate. Even Jesus Himself was betrayed. And that betrayal came from one of His twelve closest companions over the last three years of His life.
My heart hurts for my friend. She deserves so much better than what happened. But the fact remains that we all face betrayals from time to time. That doesn’t make it any easier to process them when they happen though. Whether it’s a significant other turning their back on you, a friend spreading a rumor about something that you told them in confidence, a co-worker stabbing you in the back to get ahead, or whatever other betrayals you could imagine, being betrayed hurts.
Betraying others hurts as well. And whether we want to admit it or not, as much as we have faced betrayals from others, we have probably betrayed someone ourselves at some point. Whether we wanted to or not. That doesn’t make it right, but that is the reality of sin. It makes this world that we live in broken. And broken people treat each other horribly at times. That’s where God’s grace comes in. Through a relationship with Him, through the blood of Jesus, we can set aside that human nature, and strive to treat each other with love and respect.
God will never leave us or abandon us.
That doesn’t mean that we will never sin or mess up again. Of course we will, because we live in a broken world. But that is no longer our default setting if we have truly given our lives to Jesus in being a Christ follower. People are going to betray each other, and that hurts. Pretty much everyone of us knows that firsthand. But here is the best news of all. God will never leave us or abandon us. He will never betray us. The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 13:5; “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” He is quoting a passage from Deuteronomy 31, where God promised that He would never abandon His people.
Put your trust in God. Give your life to Him. Life will always be tough. We will mess up, and we will hurt one another. But we have a promise from God that He will never betray us!
I’m not the perfect husband. In fact, I get marriage wrong more than I would like to admit. I love my wife, but there are times that I don’t treat her as well as I should. But I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to love her with the love that she deserves. I want to have the strongest marriage possible. In other words, our marriage is a work in progress. Most are. I’m not a marriage expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m trying to be the best partner I can be for my wife.
I write that to get to this. We have seriously got to change our attitude, thoughts, expectations, and even our jokes about marriage in this country. This is especially true if you are a Christ follower. I almost wrote this post a couple of months ago, but decided not to at the time. I can’t sit silent any longer. We have an incorrect view of what marriage should be. It’s a partnership in life and love, but most of the time you hear it talked about as a competition. Who gets the most out of it, and if you’re not the one winning, what do you need to do to get what you deserve?
At least that seems to be the attitude that is most prevalent in our society today. Let me give you an example. This is what finally pushed me over the edge to write this post. I came across this picture the other day on social media. It reads, “Marriage is simple. Your wife does whatever she wants and you do whatever she wants.”
Really? That’s what we think about love and agreeing to spend the rest of our lives with someone anymore? And it’s not just this one picture or thought floating around out there. It is hammered down our throats everywhere we look. There is a winner and a loser in marriage relationships. Fights are normal. Make sure you win, no matter the cost. There is an episode of the sitcom Friends that shows this same thought process. Monica and Chandler are discussing something, and Chandler thought they had already come to a decision. Monica, however, makes another decision. Chandler responds with something like, “but we’ve already discussed this and I won.” Monica’s response is the attitude I’m talking about here. She says, “…and now that you’re marrying me, you don’t get to win anymore.”
Like I said earlier, I’m not a marriage expert, but that attitude is not healthy. I know that most would argue that the picture above is something that was done as a joke. I would agree, at least I would like to think that. But even if that is the case, it eventually leads to a misperception about marriage. If you joke about something long enough and to enough people, you start to believe it, even if you never intended to in the first place. And the real issue is that a fellow Christ follower is the one that posted the picture. That’s not the Biblical picture of what marriage should be.
The same day I saw the pic above, I found what follows (shared by the same person). You see the difference right? Like the description says, it’s not about control. It’s about respect. Mutual respect. No one partner any more important than the other. A true partnership. There may be different roles in a marriage, but it should be a true partnership.
That’s what I see when I read the instructions for marriage throughout the New Testament. It’s not about the man being the dominant partner. It’s not about the woman being the dominant partner either. It’s about a true partnership. Let me share this with you. This is part of a wedding ceremony that I did last year. Names have been removed for privacy. It starts with a reading of Ephesians 5:21-33.
Let’s take a look at what Paul writes about marriage in his letter to the Ephesians. Reading from chapter 5:21-33;
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Over the years, this passage has been taken out of context and been used to say only that women should submit to men. But there is something so beautiful in this passage when you realize that Paul is actually giving equality to men and women in marriage. During the time of Paul, women were considered little more than property, so when Paul turned around and said that husbands were to love their wives as Christ loves the church, that was a radical new idea.
So, Groom, while it is true that Bride is encouraged to follow your lead, you are encouraged to love her sacrificially, putting her wants and needs in front of your own. You are encouraged to care for her. You are encouraged to love her with an unbreakable and unending love. And you are encouraged to love her in Christ.
Bride, the same can be said for you. You are encouraged to love Groom sacrificially, putting his wants and needs in front of your own. You are encouraged to care for him. You are encouraged to love him with an unbreakable and unending love. And you are encouraged to love him in Christ.
Marriage is not a competition between two people, and when we treat it like it is, even in a joking manner, we make a mockery of what God intended to be a life partnership. One that He uses to also describe the relationship that He wants with us. Christ followers, stop falling into the trap that society is perpetuating. Marriage is a beautiful thing. It is God-honoring when done correctly. We are to be helpmates to one another in our marriages, not fighting against each other to see who can “win”. When that is what we focus on, neither partner truly wins. It’s a loss across the board.
I normally don’t do this, but I’m asking publicly for prayer this morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for prayer on my behalf anytime, but I just don’t ask for it (maybe I should do that more anyway). But today is a little different. Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the day my dad died. I was fifteen at the time, so that means I’ve spent over half of my life without him now.
It’s always a hard day. This year, however, is a little different only because this is the first year that I will actually be preaching on this anniversary. I love preaching, and I know that my dad would be proud of me being in ministry. My mom told me after I had accepted the call into ministry that my dad always said he thought I would be a minister (I had no idea he thought that).
Preaching is one of those things, though, that I need to be as clear headed as I can be. Not because my sermon depends on me. But I need to be able to step out of the way and allow God’s message to be what is heard.
I’m sitting here in my office as I do my final prep time. There is a little less than two hours from the start of our worship service, which means I have a little over two hours before I will be preaching. The closer I get to that time, it seems the more I think about my dad. So, I am asking you to join with me in prayer that I will be able to focus this morning, step out of the way, and let God’s message shine through.
As I type this, TobyMac’s song, “Steal My Show” come to mind. That’s what I want to happen every time I preach or teach. It’s not about me. It’s about letting God shine through what He allows me to do. If you aren’t familiar with the song, the chorus is as follows:
If You wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch You go
If You got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need You to steal my show, can’t wait to watch You go
So take it away
Thank you for your prayers, and let’s all ask God to steal our show!
Join me today wishing my wife, Kelley, a very Happy Birthday!
Isn’t God’s encouragement amazing? His timing is perfect, but almost every time we are surprised when it happens. Just yesterday, I wrote about some questions that were hanging heavy on my mind and my heart. I wouldn’t say that I was depressed, but I was feeling a little down. I was feeling inadequate, and had lost my focus on God’s amazing grace. I had forgotten that my strength is found in Him and not on anything that I do on my own.
God’s timing is perfect, but almost every time we are surprised when it happens.
Even after I had written those words yesterday morning as I was preparing to preach, God began to remind me of who He is, and whose I am. Through the music i was listening to, He reminded me that His grace is enough. You can read all about that here. But it went further than that. As we went into worship with our faith family yesterday, other things just kept happening to remind me of God’s all sufficient power in my life.
God began to remind me of who He is, and whose I am.
Then the kicker happened today. I got an unexpected message on Twitter from a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a long time (I wrote about him here). All he asked was for my phone number. Thinking that he had probably just gotten a new phone or something and just wanted to make sure he had my number if he needed to reach me later, I sent him my number and didn’t think much else about it. That was until about three hours later and my phone rang. Byron’s name popped up on the caller id.
(Left to right: Kelley, Me, Byron)
I wasn’t expecting to hear from him. Like I said, I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. But here he was calling. I answered, and he went on to tell my about how much my writing here has been an encouragement to him lately. How he is always excited when he sees a new article pop up on my Twitter account. How my text to him a couple of months ago about Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” had been an answer to his prayers, as he is considering going back to school to get some form of degree in Worship Ministry and potentially pursue vocational ministry.
I was blown away. Here he was thanking me for being an encouragement to him, and how God had used something from me to help give him confirmation about his prayers. But what I was able to tell him is that his phone call was an answer to prayer for me. He was encouraging me through thanking me for my encouragement to him. I love writing on here, but hearing from someone that is excited to read what I write gave me so much encouragement to keep doing what I am doing. And it gave me some extra motivation to press on and actually write my book.
So, I’ll say it again. Isn’t God’s encouragement and timing amazing?! He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Byron and I were best friends in middle school and high school. Then I moved away for college to pursue ministry as my calling. We still consider each other great friends, but distance and life happens. I was a groomsman in his wedding, and he was the best man in my wedding, but we just don’t have the opportunity to talk that much anymore. Yet today, when he called out of the blue, it was like no distance or time had ever passed. We picked up where we had left off pretty much. And that is because we have the bond of not only friendship, but also brotherhood through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t God’s encouragement and timing amazing?!
If you are down or discouraged, take heart my friends. God knows your pain and He knows your need. You never know when and where His encouragement is going to come from. Keep your head up and trust God!
I had a great reminder today of what a servant’s heart looks like. Before I actually jump into that, I want to take a moment to mention one think. As Christ followers, we are all called to be servants of some kind. Jesus modeled it. He told His disciples, and us through them, that we should follow His example and be a servant. In John 13, Jesus is recorded as saying the following in verses 12-17;
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
In washing the disciples feet, Jesus took the lowest of the low positions in Judaism. Home owners would have their servants wash the feet of their guests, but none were provided where Jesus and His disciples were going to have the Passover dinner. Yet none of His disciples were willing to wash each others feet. It too Jesus, their Lord and Teacher to lower Himself and wash their feet. And then He commanded them to do the same; become servants. So in that respect, we are all called to be servants in some way or another.
We are all called to be servants in some way or another.
In Romans 12 (read it here), Paul lays out potential spiritual gifts that Christ followers may receive. One of them is serving. So, it seems that while we are all called to be servants, some of us are actually gifted to serve and are prone to do it in a great way. That’s what I mean by a servant’s heart. And I got to see it in action from two different people today that I hold dear in my life. The best part, if either of them end up reading this, they might actually be embarrassed about being highlighted for their service. They weren’t doing it to be noticed. They were serving because that is their first instinct.
Kelley and I went up to Guadalupe Christian Camp this afternoon for an event that the church at the camp was hosting. It was a great afternoon with good food, good music, and a great message preached by the former manager of the camp. Some people from our congregation here in Carlsbad were there, and we were all able to share lunch together around the same table. The church that was hosting the event was planning on doing all of the cleanup afterward, but Ed had other plans.
He started sweeping around and under the table that we ate at, and asked me if they were planning on just throwing away the plastic table cloths that were on the tables. I let him know that I really didn’t have any idea, but that wasn’t good enough. He sent me to ask the new camp manager, so he could clean up our table as much as possible before moving over to the chapel for the music and message portion of the afternoon. I kind of hung back and just watched after confirming with David, and Ed is the only one that stayed and cleaned up the table that he and his family (and our church family) had eaten at. And he did it to serve, not for any recognition.
While all of this was going on, I went into the kitchen where I saw Bev in action. You see, Bev is Rusty’s wife. Rusty and Bev ran the camp for 40+ years before retiring about a year ago. Bev ran the kitchen over those years, and always wanted to be serving in some way. A year into retirement, where did I find Bev? She was helping clean and put things away in the kitchen. I approached her and jokingly mentioned that even in retirement, she just couldn’t stop serving. She smiled and told me that that is the only place that she feels comfortable.
This conversation with Bev brought back a memory from last March. At a retirement party in honor of Rusty and Bev, not only did Bev make some of her world famous cinnamon rolls, but when it was time for the desserts to be served, Bev was right there in the serving line passing out cinnamon rolls to anyone that wanted one.
(Back row, left to right: Me, Rusty, Ed; Front row, left to right: Kelley, Bev, Dorie)
These two people, Ed and Bev, are the embodiments of servants at heart. They are great examples of how to try to follow Jesus’ example. I long to be a servant like that. My spiritual gifts are in other areas, so serving in that capacity doesn’t come second nature to me. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find ways to serve. May we all find ways to serve, and not for praise from other people. Bev and Ed, thanks for reminding me what a true servant looks like!
My wife has been babysitting for a young mom in our church over the last few months. It’s just a couple of hours a day in the afternoons. If you know much about me, I usually don’t deal well with little kids. I just feel awkward around them. Jr. high and up is usually the age groups that I seem to work well with. So Kelley babysitting in our home has been a growing experience for me.
This is my buddy Aaron. He’s around a year and a half old. He has a smile that will just melt your heart at any time. Like I said, him being around has been a growing experience for me. I’ve actually gotten to the point now where I miss him being here on days that he’s not at our house. His little personality is so awesome to watch develop, and he is on the verge of talking, which I’m sure will just be a whole new experience.
He’s taken to me, and loves when I take him outside. The other day, we had a pretty funny exchange. It was one in which I realized just how much he really understands, even when he can’t fully speak yet. He had woken up from nap time and Kelley was in the other room for a minute. I asked him if he wanted to go outside and you could just see his face light up. But then he really blew me away. He walked over to his diaper bag and pulled out his jacket that we normally make him wear when we take him out. He didn’t need it that particular day, because it was actually pretty warm, but his comprehension amazed me. I couldn’t help but laugh at how excited he was to go outside as well.
The best part about having Aaron around though is just watching his joy and wonder taking shape as he discovers new things around him. Watching him trust others without a care in the world is refreshing. As he is around us more, the more he trusts us. And like I said, his smile can just melt your heart (It doesn’t matter how upset he is, me trying to do a Daffy Duck impression brings this huge grin to his face).
Being around his curious and trusting personality has brought life to a passage of scripture. Jesus talks a lot about children throughout His ministry. There is a story in Mark 10, however, that really shows how much He cares about children. The story is found in verses 13-16,
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
I’ve always known about Jesus saying that no one will receive the kingdom of God unless they do it like a little child. But something clicked when I was reading through this again recently. Did you notice Jesus’ mood when His disciples were trying to keep the children away from Him? It says He was indignant. Not a word that we use much anymore, so let’s take a look at its definition. Indignant: feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. Jesus was angry at His disciples.
The faith of a child is a wonderful thing. Aaron has shown me this in a very personal way. Watching the way he learns is just incredible. You tell him something and he believes it. The faith of a child is what we need when we are pondering the kingdom of God. And that is why Jesus valued them so highly. Children can teach us how to learn. They can teach us what it means to have faith in Jesus. And according to Jesus, we have to have faith like a child to inherit the kingdom of God. May we all have the faith of a child.
I woke with a sadness in my heart this morning. Over the last few days, I have been seeing a prayer request posted and reposted on Facebook from a friend in Tennessee, asking for prayers for her friend Jane. What I didn’t realize over that week was that she was asking for prayers for a Jane that I highly respect and has been a huge supporter for Kelley and I over the last few years. I just found out yesterday morning through a separate friend’s post that it was my friend Jane that was needing prayer. Sometimes this long distance thing isn’t any fun.
While watching a couple of shows last night, and winding down for sleep, the news came across my social media feeds that Jane had passed away. I’m just blown away. Jane was someone that I would have never expected to pass this soon. While she was older, she seemed in great health the last couple of times we were able to go back to Tennessee for a few days.
You see, Jane’s husband David and I served on the board together at Crossroads Christian Church before Kelley and I moved to New Mexico. Dave became an elder at the same time I became a deacon. David and Jane were constantly encouraging us, praying for us, and genuinely excited for us in our opportunities for ministry. After moving to New Mexico in September of 2014, I always looked forward to seeing them when we would go back home for a few days. They always wanted to know how things were going, if there was anything that they could be praying for for us, and would always have that encouraging word and piece of advice for us.
For the last few months we were in Tennessee, Kelley and I were in the same Sunday school class with David and Jane. It was amazing to see their love for the Lord, their interest and knowledge in the Word, and their genuine care for those that didn’t know Jesus yet. They have served as missionaries, especially David, who uses his background as a doctor to invest in lives overseas.
Jane was the type of person that could always put a smile on your face. She was talented, energetic, and just plain fun to be around. She had a lot of talent in the drama field, directing a few different dinner theaters and dramas at the church over the last few years. Her love for God, people, and service will be greatly missed.
I started off saying that I have a sadness in my heart this morning. And it’s true. I’m sad that I will never get to talk to Jane again. I’m grieving over our loss here on earth. My heart is breaking for David. Even as I type these words, I feel myself choking up. But I’m also rejoicing right now. I have this intense sense of joy because Jane is no longer suffering! I’m confident (as confident as I can be in regards to someone else) in her relationship with Christ. I’m rejoicing that while she has been taken from this earth, her work is done. She’s heard “Well done my good and faithful servant”. And in that sense, as sad as I am she’s gone, and as joyful as I am that she is not in pain, I’m a little jealous.
Jane’s finished her race. She’s won her prize. She’s at the feet of Jesus!
Jane’s finished her race. She’s won her prize. She’s at the feet of Jesus! Rest well my friend. While I miss you and hurt for your family, I’m so incredibly overjoyed for you! Thank you for all your love and encouragement over the years. You’ll never know how much it meant to Kelley and I. Until we meet again my friend.
Valentine’s Day. A day that you see all the couples you know posting sweet little notifications across social media. I have seen more pictures of candy, food, babies, and couples spending time in the candle light today than I ever thought I would. None of that is necessarily a bad thing either. There is nothing wrong with wanting to show someone how much they mean to you, however, like almost all of the “major holidays” anymore, it seems to have become way too commercial. It is all about how much money you can spend and the more you spend the more you care about the person you are spending on.
My wife and I got married on February 6, 2010, and when we set that date, knowing how close it was to Valentine’s Day, we made an agreement. I cannot remember who’s idea it was, and really it doesn’t matter. We agreed that with our anniversary being only a little over a week before Valentine’s Day, we would basically combine the two celebrations. Even before we set our wedding date, we did not go out of our way to celebrate the holiday anyway.
Here is the way I look at it. If I have to go all out one day a year just to prove to my wife that I love her because I have not shown her that love throughout the rest of the year, then I have not been the husband that I should be anyway. Am I perfect at treating my wife well, and always showing her how much I love and care about her? Absolutely not. None of us are. But again, if I look at it like I can just do something on one day of the year and then not have to worry about it again for another 365 days, I have failed in a big way.
Being a Christ follower is trying to live a life full of love; Love for fellow human beings and also a love for Jesus. Showing our love to others is all about service. Jesus says in John 13:13-17; 34, 35;
13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them… 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We show our love for God by serving our fellow man. Why? Because that shows that we are trying to be Christ followers with the way that we live.
But it can’t be just a one time thing. Or a once a year thing. It has to be a lifestyle of service. Just like I cannot just take one day a year to try to prove my love and care for my wife, we cannot just assume that one act of service is enough to show how much we love Jesus and our fellow man either. I am not talking about earning the love of Jesus. That is something that is freely given. But we should be progressing through our relationship with Jesus in such a way that it produces the works of service in our lives.
If you are a Christ follower, then you should be finding ways to serve God and others in your daily lives. There is nothing wrong with a big service project like a mission trip, but what are you doing in your neighborhood? How are you showing what God has done in your lives to those that you are around on a daily basis? I think we all have room for improvement, and will until the day that we get to see Jesus. Don’t get down on yourself if you mess up, but let’s all find ways that we can serve one another and show the love of Christ in our lives!