The Irrefutable Solution to Irreconcilable Differences

I wasn’t being nosy. I didn’t even ask. In fact, it started with a casual conversation about our dogs, and somehow we got all the way around to his admission, “Well, I used to have a family.”

In the course of seven brief minutes, in the hospital corridor, this complete stranger unveiled pieces of his story. “I was married once…you know, my son…but she kept the dog…don’t see them much…life was better then—when I had a family.”

My heart sunk a little, distracted from the surface of our conversation by the sadness in his eyes. Moments later, we parted and I’ll likely never see him again. But my heart was bruised with sympathy. What a loss! What loneliness; what a painful realization: “I used to have a family.”

The next day, I called my mom during my morning walk. Her precious voice, the assurance that I have a family who deeply loves me, filled me with joy as bright as that early morning sun peeking over the trees.

“You know, your dad and I had the strangest conversation the other day,” she told me. “Now that we have grandkids and all, it’s strange to wonder what life would have been like if we hadn’t hung in there through the first tough years of our marriage. We wouldn’t have you! We wouldn’t have your youngest sister. I can’t even imagine life with out each of our grandchildren! It’s startling to consider that if we had given up on us—we would have given up everything else! The entire course of our life would be so different. We would never had experienced the joy of each of our children and their children! So many fewer friendships, hugs, tears and promises.”

One of the most common reasons given for broken marriages is, “We just weren’t compatible anymore. We had irreconcilable differences.” Incompatibility—there is a Biblical App[lication] for that.

Ephesians 5 is often quoted over Christian marriages. You can almost see a finger wagging in your face, “The Bible says submit to your husband!” or, “The Bible tells you to love your wife!” Both statements are true, but just one verse before those instructions is another command we rush over on our way to our favorite ones.

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)

The Greek word translated “one to another” is allelon. It means, “reciprocally, mutually”. Those words are eerily similar to the English word, “compatible”, which according to thesauraus.com means, “like-minded, together, sympathetic, on the same wavelength, cooperative, congruent”.

Compatibility isn’t something that just happens. The phrase, “submit yourselves to one another”, can aptly be paraphrased, “subordinate, or arrange yourselves mutually beneath the other”. In essence, “make yourselves like-minded, together, cooperative, congruent, reciprocal”. It is not acceptable to simply be incompatible, anymore than it is okay to simply be cruel. Scripture indicates we are to make ourselves compatible.

The impossibility of this command weighs heavy on spouses that have struggled, with blood, sweat and tears, and still find themselves hopelessly at odds. But light dawns with the next two verses, the ones that usually sound ugly, harsh and demeaning:

“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:22-25)

In his book, The Power of Right Believing, Pastor Joseph Prince says, “…we need to teach the entire verse…The emphasis is on Jesus’ love for us. Everything we do today under the new covenant of grace springs from our love relationship with Jesus. His love needs to first work in us.”

Prince gives the example, “How would you like your husband to say to you, ‘God says that I should love you and that we should talk more, so let’s go out for dinner tonight.’? Then he sets a timer on his phone and says, ‘Alright, lady, your time begins now.’ Hey, no self-respecting woman would accept that, right? You want your husband to take you out for dinner not because he has to, but because he wants to.

“That’s why the Word of God doesn’t simply exhort husbands to love their wives and then stop there. It goes on to teach husbands just how to go about doing so—the power to love comes when husbands first experience how Jesus loved them and gave Himself for them.”

The instruction in Ephesians 5:21, “To submit yourselves one to another”, is a command. It’s a non-negotiable. Rather than a shackle for women, is a lock on the door to an easy escape from one’s marriage vows. However, God never leaves us in a position to “buck up” or “grit our teeth and bear it”. The Bible walks us right into the truth that Christ goes before us. “We love because He first loved us”. (1 John 4:19)

The answer to our irreconcilable differences is the irrefutable truth that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. A convinced, firm, heart-grip on the knowledge that Jesus loved us enough to die for us even when we were still sinners (and still sin), even when our abject rebellion was decisively incompatible with His holiness—that knowledge, shods our feet in the Gospel of Peace. It enables us to walk mutually, sympathetically, submissively, cooperatively and congruently. His unshakable love for us—husbands and wives, sin-stained all—sheds a new light on our differences, and if we accept it, brings peace to our homes and longevity to our marriages.

This first appeared on Start Marriage Right

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“Assent From Darkness” Review, Day 3

Satanism is essentially all about self; it literally forces you to turn inward in such a way that all of your thoughts are dominated by the desire to please the self.

Since the Tower of Babel, actually since Eve ate the fruit in her desire to, “be like God knowing good and evil,” mankind has been tirelessly driven to gain power, to conquer, rule and master his environment. Oh that he would spend as much time working to master and gain control over his own passions.

In his book, Accent From Darkness, Leehan admits that one of the complications that made it so difficult for him to walk away from Satanism is loss of personal power.

I held on to my depression, hate, and anger with a vise-like ferocity. This was the fruit of my satanic harvest, and I refused to surrender it. I was intent on holding onto the dark power I’d gained.

It’s amazing that this Satanist felt more power in his daily life than most Christians feel in a lifetime. How is that possible?

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Eph. 1:18-23

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are not without power and that the power available to us is infinitely greater than any power leveled against us. So why so weak? (Believe me, I’m preaching to myself here.)

A key difference in the tiny, self-serving power offered by Satan and the limitless power offered by our Father, is that God does not give us power. God remains the sole possessor of His great power.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstbornn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Romans 8:29-34

It remains that God is the one who chooses. He is for us, He sacrificed for us, He rescued us, He defends us, He pleads for us, He glorifies us. To know and experience God’s power for and through us we must learn humility, submission, gratitude. But isn’t that more wonderful? In Christ we can rest like a child, fight with courage and win like a warrior – for eternity. 

Day One Review of “How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior”

If God created everything, then He created evil. So, by that line of reasoning, I decided that God was responsible for evil, controlled it, and was in fact, both good and evil. He had to be responsible for the tragedy that was my life. And if He was responsible for all the suffering in my life, how could He possibly care about me? Since God didn’t care for me, I might as well serve His enemy. If God didn’t think I was good enough to save, why shouldn’t I serve His evil counter part? This evil counterpart is Satan, the god of this world. In my crippled thinking, I viewed Satan as God’s alter ego.

By the time you read that paragraph you’ve started Chapter 2 in Michael Leehan’s book How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.  Pretty intense. I picked up this book after hearing Leehan interviewed by Janet Parshall. I confess, the sensationalism of Satanism was the driving force behind my interest in the book. That and the fact that what is a more appropriate topic for a blog about Predatory Lies, than a book that shows God’s defeat of the Father of Lies?

I expected a gripping story; and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I didn’t really expect to address the problem of pain and God’s role in human suffering. I didn’t think about how many decisions Leehan made prior to his final decision to serve Satan. There were tiny steps along the way that seemed harmless enough and unrelated. Things that culturally we might recognize as poor choices, but hardly map them into a progression toward the ultimate rebellion against God.

In truth, is there an “ultimate” rebellion, or is sin simply sin and separation from God simply separation from God? How different are you and I from Leehan in his darkest moments?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.          Eph. 5:15-16

Another thing that piqued my interest in Leehan’s book is that he is “close to home” for me. Leehan’s story takes place mostly in Oklahoma. The church body that reached out to Leehan even as he plotted to murder their pator – is in my home town! So, let me also take this moment to put in a plug for Lifechurch.tv.  There’s a reason that the pastor, Craig Groschel, was on Satan’s hit list. Lifechurch.tv as well as the mobile phone app, YouVersion and their many other FREE resources are unparalleled.

 

 

The Gospel and Tough Love

Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough, focuses on the practice of tough love in marriage. He advocates, in some circumstances, an offended spouse (offended by habitual infidelity) to create a crisis by stepping away from the transgressor.

Most of this week, I have wrestled with this concept. How can I (or anyone) emulate God’s unconditional love, if I appear to withdraw from the person who has sinned against me? Can it possibly be loving to draw a hard line, demanding repentance and reconciliation? Is a crisis, designed to force the sinner to face the music and the consequences of their actions, loving?

Paul compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:23-32 “For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body.
As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”

In redemption, God paints the perfect example of tough love. In the same masterpiece, he depicts the problem of pain and makes it a beautiful work of art. Let’s look:

Eve reached up and selected the most delectable piece of fruit, dangling from a limb laden with temptation. She wondered, what have I been missing by faithfully obeying, serving and loving my creator? What delight have I not tasted by enjoying only what has been given to me? Without further thought, before she could talk herself out of it and before Adam arrived to chastise her, Eve plucked the fruit from its branch and sank her teeth into its flesh.

With one bite, Eve betrayed the One who loved her soul, the One who knew her intimately and had limited her to His own goodness. God responded with swift, tough, promised consequences. He banished Adam and Eve from His presence. God withdrew from them – no more long, sweet garden walks. Pain, sweat, tears and frustration followed Adam and Eve down their chosen path of sin.

Fast Forward:

As centuries elapse, death continues to haunt each and every man. Sickness. Pain. Failure. Sadness. Longing. Fear.

A woman who has never believed in a God, much less an intimate creator, bends over he son’s hospital bed. She had never credited God with the sculpting of his small, tanned arms that loved to throw a baseball. She hadn’t considered a Master-creator who had given her son his quick wit, cheery wink and spontaneous laughter. But, as her boy balances on the precipice between heaven and hell, life and death, now and forever, there’s no where else to go.

“God!” her heart screams. “You’re my only hope, my only refuge. You’re the only one in this room with me, the only voice my son can hear. Let him live! And if you take him, give me the grace and strength to live.”

Remember September 11, 2001? Remember how news anchors marveled at the mercy and compassion that such tragedy spawned among strangers? Remember the suddenly permissible public prayers for courage? Pain and the consequences of evil often send us running back to the one we know, the one we trust, the truth.

That’s what God’s tough love did, and that’s the hope Dobson extends in practicing tough love in human relationships.