Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Abundance vs Deficiency - II

The differences in a deficiency mindset versus an abundance mindset are many, and all can manifest for good or ill in a marriage relationship. Someone with a deficiency mindset is always “on defense.” He or she is worried about lack, and loss. They think that even if it is not happy or fulfilling, what they have must be better than what would result if things changed. Fear paralyzes them from action… they walk on eggshells trying desperately to preserve the status quo at all costs. Unable to act, all they can do is react to what goes on around them. In contrast, a person with an abundance mindset can go ‘on the offensive.’ (attacking problems - not their spouse!) An abundance mindset frees the mind from fear - of loss, of change - allowing dynamic action, allowing risks to be undertaken seeking the rewards of growth and increased love and intimacy. When both partners are secure in what they have, and yet still know there is room for improvement they can be proactive, knowing that whatever steps they take in faith can be blessed by God, and increased. Unafraid to upset the apple cart, both spouses can communicate and come to a unified, shared vision for their marriage that they can work toward. This is not to say that the abundance mindset makes everything perfect. It does however, allow for regular course corrections when things go awry. When either spouse feels that something is off, wrong, or missing, the right mindset fosters an atmosphere of trust that allows honest communication. Both people know that they are on the same team. The resultant comfort and openness eliminates so much stress from the equation. Life is stressful enough without your primary earthly relationship adding to it! Key to developing an abundance mindset is recognizing blessings for what they are. Take time to reflect - alone and with your spouse - on all the ways you have blessed each other, and how God has blessed you both. Make a list. It helps to have something to refer to when things are shaky. A reminder that God has been with you before can be reassuring, helping you to believe that He is still there and will not abandon you. My wife and I often look back on when our son was born. He came three months early after a difficult pregnancy. The medical costs that accrued during that time could have bankrupted us - and would have, had they occurred at any other time. That was the one year - in our entire married life - we had insurance that covered everything! Now, when things take a bad turn, financial or otherwise, we can say “Remember when God had our backs then? He still does.” Loving fully is risky business. It is counter-cultural, and against human nature to love without pretense, unconditionally. That same act IS God’s nature though, and that is what we are called to emulate. It is only when we lean on His strength that we can begin to love this way. It is a step of faith to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable. When we believe that God will take what we offer and multiply it, it becomes easier to take those risks. The status quo ceases to have a hold on us when we believe that God has so much more in store for us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Abundance or Deficiency

Is the emotional atmosphere in your marriage borne from a mindset of abundance, or deficiency? Are your actions and attitudes coming from a place of want or plenty?

In the book of Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is trying to convince the young church to give generously to fellow Christians in Jerusalem, and he uses the metaphor of a farmer sowing seed. The message is that if you want to have a bountiful harvest, you must sow liberally. This is the mindset of abundance; a farmer with a deficiency mindset worries about the seed they have running out, and plants too carefully, too sparsely. As a result, the resulting harvest is also meager. But what does this have to do with marriage? In Proverbs 11:24 the writer takes this point and applies it to relationships.

Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.

Summed up, the more you give, the more you get. Withhold, and get less. In the presence of hurt though, or in cases of broken trust it is easy to become scared to give. A deficiency mindset sets in, and we withhold forgiveness, not wanting to appear to condone the actions that hurt us. We forget Jesus’ examples of mercy, of grace. We silently withhold affection, waiting for our partner to act the way we want them to. Or worse, we express that there are conditions for our attention. We forget the example that God sets for us of love that is unconditional. A deficiency mindset is at its core a lack of faith; we stress over what we lack instead of trusting God to provide.

In Malachi 3:10 God tells us to beware that our hearts are not hard and shuttered. When He says to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, he follows with

Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

He takes what we give with joy and multiplies it, so it becomes a blessing not only to us, but to others flowing out from us. I believe this applies not only to finances and material resources, but to emotional stores as well. Love freely and receive love in return. Forgive, and receive mercy. We must train ourselves to believe in the abundance of His provision, and not act out of perceived deficiency. In The Leadership Bible, John Maxwell lists ten differences in these two perspectives. In the coming months we will consider how these views apply to our marriages, and how our marriages can thrive when we love from an abundance mindset.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Another - LOVE

Of all the “one another” verses, the various ones that say “love one another” - there are ten such verses - should be the most obvious in how they relate to marriage. But how should this manifest? 1 Peter 5:14 says “Greet each other with a kiss of love” (three others say “greet one another with a kiss”) When you get home after a long day, do you and your spouse drop everything to make sure you follow this command? If not, do you think it would change things if you did? There are complex scientific reasons for why we kiss, and how it affects us; there’s even a book called the Science of Kissing. Kissing is the subject of poems and songs, and is cinematic shorthand for “happily ever after.” Think about it, it is the climax of many a movie love story. In the Song of Solomon 1:2, the bride says “Let him kiss me with the the kisses of his mouth.” In marriage, sometimes we take this important act of affection and bonding for granted, and stop giving it the attention it deserves. At our wedding, friends gave us the advice to kiss goodnight, every night, without fail. As Julia Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman” famously inferred, kissing is even more intimate than sex, so the act requires you to lay aside all that may have gone wrong during the day, to intentionally overlook anything that has come between you, and in essence recommit to the union. Romans 12:10 says “Be devoted to one another in love.” Devoted is defined as “zealous or ardent in attachment, loyalty, or affection.” Are you zealous in your affection? Demonstrative, both publicly and privately? Willing to go to great lengths to let your spouse - and everyone else - know how you feel? This is what we are called to be! Again from Song of Solomon (2:4) “He brought me to the banquet house, and his banner over me was love.” Devotion and love is also manifest in truth, honesty and transparency. Ephesians 4:25 says “Speak truth to one another,” and Corinthians 3:9 implores us “Do not lie to one another.” Of course it’s also right there in the original commandments, “Do not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) These must be followed completely if trust is to remain unbroken. There can be no lies of omission, no bending the truth. Honesty is not only the best policy, it is the basis, the foundation for all successful relationships.
We should also always be our spouse’s biggest fan, and they should be ours. We are in this thing called life together, as partners, as teammates. We need to be each other’s cheerleaders too! 1 Thessalonians 5:11 reads “Encourage and build up one another,” and Hebrews 1-:24 says “Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We are supposed to be better together than apart, capable of things that either spouse, alone, could not do. Our strengths should complement our partner’s weaknesses, as our own are covered by their strengths. Of course, none of this is ever easy. Life is difficult, and we are all finite and imperfect. There will be times when we are hurt by our spouse, or worn down by circumstances outside the home. There will be times when we feel unable to love as we are called to do. Our human ability to love will always fall short and let us down. We have vowed though, to do just that; to love our spouse, in all circumstances good or ill. Regardless of feeling, we must always choose to love, to keep our vows. Consider Psalm 15:1 and 4: Lord who may dwell in your sacred tent, who may live on your holy mountain? [he] who keeps an oath, even when it hurts and does not change his mind This is what we are called to, for the betterment of ourselves, our spouses, our communities and our world.

Monday, September 12, 2016

One Another - UNITY I

Among the “one another” statements in the Bible, several speak to the theme of unity.

Unity is important in a church congregation, but between spouses it is vital for a marriage to be healthy. In Genesis 2:24 it says “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Word says “they become” but in reality, it takes work from both husband and wife to maintain a constant state of “becoming.” It is a lifelong commitment, not a one-time event.

This idea of one flesh is confusing; spouses are still two separate people, with their own thoughts, feelings, tendencies, quirks and personalities. How then do we live out the oneness that God states is the nature of marriage? Romans 15:6, 2 Corinthians 13:11 and Phillipians 2:2 all use the phrase “of one mind.” This is of course not suggesting that two people will think exactly the same. What it is suggesting though is for people - for our purpose, spouses - to put their heads together. Communication is key, especially in times of crisis or important decisions. Husband and wife must discuss priorities, goals, and values. Each spouse must bare their soul (Phil 2:2 also says “one in spirit”) to the other sharing their dreams and desires, and in the spirit of unity come to consensus. This is easier when additional “one another” commands are adhered to, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:15: “strive to do what is good for each other” or Romans 12:9 “Honor one another above yourself.” 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not self serving or proud, and it is when both spouses are thinking not of themselves but of their partner, of their union, that oneness is strived for and achieved

Too often spouses try to “win” against each other. In marriage, if one spouse wins, both lose. Husband and wife must approach all obstacles as a team, not as adversaries. James writes “Don’t complain against one another” (4:11) and “Don’t grumble amongst one another” (6:43) and Paul implores the Galatians “Don’t challenge or envy one another” (5:26) and more dramatically “ Don’t bite, devour or consume one another (5:15) All these verses come from the same place, advocating for the idea that we are in this TOGETHER. As spouses it our imperative that we act like it. As Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Instead of fighting, embrace each other. Be each other’s greatest fan, biggest supporter and staunchest ally. As Jesus says to his disciples in Mark 9:50

Be at peace with one another

It makes facing obstacles much easier when you are locked arm in arm, moving forward together.

One Another - UNITY II

Now that we are focused on being of one mind, concentrating on being on the same time, working on living out the edict that husband and wife are one flesh, scripture give us practical steps we can take to help accomplish those goals.

Paul tells the Ephesians (4:2) “Gently and patiently tolerate one another.”

That doesn’t sound very romantic; “tolerate” seems a pretty low bar to hurdle in the context of marriage. One of its definitions though is “accept,” and that is key. Romans 15:7 says explicitly “Accept one another.” Too often we expect the other person to change when things aren’t going smoothly. There is an old adage “Women enter marriage expecting their husband to change, and they don’t. Men enter marriage expecting their wife to stay the same… and they don’t.” It is critical that we accept the person our spouse IS at any given point in time. We can’t pine for who they were, and yearn for who they could be. Our job is not to change them, mold them or shape them, but to encourage them and love them. When a person is set on changing another, disappointment is almost guaranteed. The vows we took were not stated with conditions; they were absolutes. We promised to love, to keep, to cherish. When acceptance is the goal, peace is much more often the outcome. As for the rest of this verse, gentleness and patience are both fruits of the spirit, and are qualities to be sought as we deal with all people. How much more so should we seek them when dealing with the person we have chosen to go through life with?

Gentleness and patience are important since none of us are perfect. We are all finite and fallible. James 3:2 says “we all stumble in many ways” and Paul in Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Knowing that we are just as guilty, just as imperfect, we are called to show the grace that we know we receive from on high. Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with and forgive one another.” and Ephesians 4:32 implores “Be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving.” Knowing we are in this together, we must strive to minimize the strife that can divide us and weaken us, sap our strength and lead to selfishness, distance, and sin. In the midst of conflict, “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1)

Even when our partners falter, we are called to be like Christ. The natural human reaction is to seek retribution, to punish the one at fault but again, that is not our job. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says we are “not to repay evil with evil” but instead we should “seek good for one another.” This is not easy when we are hurting, but if we can look beyond the behavior we may see the other person is hurting too. Or scared, stressed or anxious. We must focus on forgiveness, on healing, on wholeness.

On unity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One Another

http://overviewbible.com/one-another-infographic/

In the New Testament there are 100 uses of the Greek word “allélón” (or ἀλλήλων ) pronounced “ah-LAY-loan” which we translate in English into the two words “one another. These 100 instances are contained in 94 verses, 60% of which were written down by the apostle Paul. 47 of these verses are instructions for the followers of Christ. The website above lists many of them, breaking them into categories such as Unity, Love, and Humility. I’ve used these verses as a counterpoint when friends of mine have tried the argument “I’m spiritual, but my faith is a private thing… I don’t need a church.” It’s impossible to carry out the “one another” instructions by yourself! We are designed to live in community, doing life with like-minded people whom we can love and support and encourage, and look to for the same.

At first glance, only two speak directly to married couples:

Ephesians 5:21 prefaces the familiar submission and love instructions for wives and husbands stating: Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:5 is the most marriage-centric, imploring spouses do not deprive one other of physical intimacy, except by mutual agreement for a time to devote yourselves to prayer.

What about the rest though? What can they tell us about how to behave in a married relationship? A few times in Jesus’ ministry, he holds up an example of God’s goodness in some minor matter, and then compares it to God’s goodness to us, saying “If God does this, then how much more should we expect, being his children?”

(See Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! or Luke 12:28
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!)

Marriage is a holy institution, designed by God to be picture to the world of his love for all of us. The church is described as Christ’s bride, and in Revelation it is the image of a wedding feast that heralds the reconciliation of God and creation. With that in mind, if the “one another” commands are how we are to act towards all our neighbors, than how much more should we who are married display those behaviors towards our spouses?

In the fall I’ll begin a series looking at many of these commands in detail. Consider these verses over the summer, with regard to how you and your spouse treat each other.

Remember that four of the one another verses are about kissing.

And work on living out that one from 1 Corinthians.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Need


In our human frailty, in security is all too common. The world beats us down, telling us we’re not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, fit enough. Endless commercials tell us we need this product or that product to improve ourselves physically or otherwise, that this thing or that thing will fulfill us, make us happy. Being in a relationship sometimes acts as a salve to this condition; being loved by another person validates who we are, reminds us we are worthy of love. Problems always occur though, since the other person is also finite and imperfect, just like we are. When we seek validation from other people, we are bound to be disappointed or hurt eventually.

Also, neediness is never attractive. The more we seek acceptance and from outside sources, even our spouse, the less we are likely to receive it. We must look first - and indeed, only - to God for our validation. We must look also to God for the love that is required to successfully do marriage. God’s love is “agape” love, eternal, unconditional, without strings. We as humans are incapable of this on our own, but with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

A wise friend of mine once used the analogy that we must be like a compartment in an ice cube tray. When we position ourselves to receive God’s love we get filled up, but since God’s love is endless, we soon overflow, and that love spills out from us, into those who are nearest to us. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, God’s love flows through as, an everlasting spring providing eternal life. When we are secure in our identity in God, confident in who God made us to be we are free to love others not transactionally (expecting love in return) but from a position of joy. We are free to receive love with true gratitude instead of nervous relief that our needs were met.

In her book Counsel from The Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes:

“When spouses begin to grasp the depth of God’s love for them in Christ, the need for romance, respect, and attention will rapidly diminish.  Rather than seeing themselves as needy sponges, trying to soak up every drop of earthly, human love, they will see themselves as wells supplied by a divine Spring, overflowing with living water that is meant to satisfy, cheer, and serve those around them.”

Accepting God’s love for us is akin to building our house on the rock (Matthew 7:25). It becomes the foundation of our identity, a place from which we are able to go forth and do the work God has intended for us. For married folks, that work begins at home: loving your spouse in a way that honors God and provides the picture of his love to the world.