Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jesus ~ Your Name Be Praised

These words remind me that while my thankfulness and love for Jesus is shallow and inadequate and imperfect, his love for me is just the opposite.  There is no one like him, no one who can turn my face like he does.  No one who is kind like he is. No one who always does good to me. I am reminded today that all my shame and all my disappointments and all my pain is covered by his power - Jesus.  He is stronger than every single difficulty in my life, every hard place, every struggling relationship.  Jesus, there is no one like you.





There is no one
There is no one like You
No one like You





Only good things
Could ever come from You
Even Your judgment
Righteous and true

And Your name is sweeter
Than the rain that falls upon
The face of dry and weary lands
And causes us to turn our face again

Your name be praised...

There is no one
There is no one like You
No one like You

And every morning
There are mercies new
Your kindness
It brings us back to you

Your name is stronger than the pain
It's covering the shame
Of all these weary hands
And causing us to turn our face again

Your name be praised

~Michael Gungor

Listen - Higher

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marriage

I am putting together an article on marriage. I'm  sure not an expert and would not have chosen this assignment. Not because I have anything against marriage, it's just that after 29 years of being married I realize more and more all of the mistakes I've made. And, I see more clearly than ever the truth that marriage.is.hard.           

What's so crazy though its that there are more books, sermons, movies, counselors and blogs giving advice and help for marriages than ever before in the history of mankind! A quick peak on Amazon revealed these book titles:


4 Days to a Forever Marriage

The Ten Commandments of Marriage: The Do's and Don'ts for a Lifelong Covenant 

The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work 

5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great

Reading these book titles leads one to believe it's so easy.  Look, in 4 days you too can have a forever marriage.  In just 5 steps your marriage will be great. With all this help, what continues to be the problem?  Why is it that all this education and wisdom has not been able to help stop or at least reduce the growing number of struggling marriages and divorces?  What in the world is going on here?

I don't know about you, but when I read or hear advice like this, I feel burdened and it weighs on my heart.  I think, what's wrong with me?  Why can't I get it together?  Why can't I be the kind of wife that just applies all these time-tested secrets?  Why can't it all be perfect?  What is so hard about following these 5 simple steps?  Why can't I do it?  I'm a failure, that's why.  The world shouts at me, just do this!  What's wrong with you?  (which by the way applies to all areas of life - parenting, work, ministry and self-improvement programs to name a few) Where does it end? How many steps must I take to continue this path to "success"?

As I wrap up my research for the article I am convinced that just like the world, the church is sending the same message to wives and husbands. Work harder, do more and you too can have the marriage you've always dreamed of. The sobering reality is that it's simply not that easy and relationships definitely do not respond to a 5 step plan or a cookie cutter process. I would never want to take anything away from all those who labor to guide and instruct engaged couples, newlyweds and long time marrieds - we need that and it's important. But to instruct others to believe that it's all up to them is a burden they were never meant to carry. It bears some resemblance to a prosperity gospel. Do all these things, check it off on the list and you will get what was promised. Do the 5 steps and you will get a great marriage. But it begs the question, what if I've done those 5 steps and my marriage is still struggling? You say, "surely I must have done something wrong.".

Let's face it, none of our marriages are perfect.  There are seasons that are better and there are seasons that are extremely difficult.  Newlywed bliss is pretty much a myth.  Even those couples who have made it to their silver anniversary have difficulties and challenges.  Sinners living together 24/7 will have relational strain - there is no way around it.  

If 5 Steps and 10 Commandments aren't the answer...what is the answer?

The short answer is rest. Listen to these gospel words:

Romans 3:10:
as it is written:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Romans3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 5:6
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Galatians 5:1
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

What would I tell a couple preparing for marriage?

I don't have it figured out.
Marriage is beautiful.
Marriage is hard.
You will have struggles. It's not a matter of if, but when.
5 step programs won't get you through.
Knowing Christ and his love and forgiveness provides all the security and comfort and acceptance you long for.
Christ came to set you free from striving for what he's already given you.
You are free to love, free to make mistakes.
You are forgiven when you fail and shown mercy when you're angry.
You have received grace upon grace.
When you mess up (and you will over and over in marriage) you fall on Jesus. His love is infinite, his mercy knows no depths, his forgiveness is as far as the east is from the west.

Jesus is the answer to all our struggling and all our striving. It's true.  He really has set us free!

Monday, November 7, 2011

No More Huffing and Puffing...

I don't know about you, but I am continually reminded of how I seek to save myself day after day by the things I do rather than what Christ has done.

Even if I give lip service to Christ's finished work on my behalf I find I am drawn once again to believe that somehow I can manage on my own. 

This past week as I have reflected on an ongoing struggle in my life I caught myself wondering why things have not changed, why the situation has not improved and why it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Haven't I done all the things I was advised to do? It is a serious amnesia that permeates my every day.

I forget who I am... 

and what has already been done for me. I struggle and strain and shine my halo all the while forgetting that the struggle and strain has already been done - the halo is in tact on my behalf! Reading the following words from The Ragamuffin Gospel is of great refreshment to me, a weary soul...a beggar who needs to hear once again that it is finished!
Is not the Son the Father's unsurpassable sign of love and graciousness? Did he not come to show the Father's compassionate care for us?

He is not our enemy. If we think that we are wrong.

He is not intent on trying and tempting and testing us. If we think that, we are wrong.

He does not prefer and promote suffering and pain. If we think that, we are wrong.

Jesus bring goods news about the Father, not bad news.

We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate.
We have to be converted from the bad news to the good news, from expecting nothing to expecting something.
The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles and visions...Grace abounds and walks around the edges of our everyday experience.
Author Donald McCullough writes :
Grace means that in the middle of our struggle the referee blows the whistle and announces the end of the game. We are declared winners and sent to the showers. It's over for all the huffing, puffing piety to earn God's favor; it's finished for all the sweat-soaked straining to secure self-worth; it's the end of all competitive scrambling to get ahead of others in the game. Grace means that God is on our side and thus we are victors regardless of how well we played the game. We might as well head for the showers and the champagne celebration."
~Waking From The American Dream


God is on my side.  
He has declared that in Christ it's game over!