Posts Tagged ‘Bitterness’


Without grace Christianity is nothing. Without liberty a Christian remains in bondage to sin, unable to live as God pleases.   

GraceLife is all about living in this wonderful grace of Jesus, no matter what is going on in your life. GraceLife is living in the power and beauty of Jesus Christ.

GraceLife is characterized by three things, which briefly stated are:

1. GraceLife is not about following rules, but about allowing the Life of Jesus to be your life.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

    • God isn’t watching how well you follow the rules and saying “attaboy”- here is a blessing, or “Uh Oh” – here’s a lightning bolt.
    • God is loving you into His Son! This is what He works in our lives.
2. GraceLife is not about your happiness and quality of life. GraceLife is about power to live life REIGNING with Christ.

Romans 5:17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

    • To experience GraceLife you have to commit to suffering for the sake of the Grace of God abounding toward others.
    • Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered. We not only learn through our sufferings, we benefit the body with GraceLife!
3.    GraceLife is not about the Appearance of the Vessel, but the Quality of the Vessel.

So let’s explore GraceLife in greater depth.

1.  GraceLife is Living the Life of Jesus

Are you “living by the rules,” or are you letting God’s Grace work in you?

There’s a big difference between the two. If you’re living for God—living by the rules—you’ll always be exhausted. You’ll feel that you’re not doing enough for God and that if you don’t “measure up,” He will be displeased with you.

But God never meant for the Christian life to be that way! His Love for us isn’t based on how we perform for Him. He sent Christ to set us free from rules. He didn’t call us to serve Him in our own feeble power, but to let His power flow through us—a power that is without limit!

What’s more, this power is already available to us right now. God has provided everything we need for a truly meaningful, joy-filled life here on earth…all because of His marvelous grace.

Rest in God’s grace, and let Him live through you. Find out how in GraceLife.

For example, if you’ve been around church a while, you might have noticed something very strange that happens when someone comes to Jesus. Before they are saved, they are told, “It’s all about Jesus! It’s not about you. It’s all about Him and what He’s done for you!” But once they’re saved the tune changes. Now it’s “all about you and what you do for Him!”

Before salvation it’s faith, faith, faith! But once the honeymoon is over, it’s works, works, works!

“Every true believer fully understands that he did nothing to become a Christian. He simply trusted Christ. Yet many believe that they must now do something to become a victorious Christian. So they substitute trying in place of trusting.” (Steve McVey, Grace Rules p.21)

 “Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God.” No that is a lie…“It really strokes our human ego to think that we can do something for God. Yet the truth is we cannot. Jesus said that “Only God is Good.” In His infinite grace He allows us to participate in what He is doing by placing His life inside us and then expressing that life through us.” (pp.13-14)

God is after so much more that our work. God is after intimacy. Our Father wants us to know Him and abide in Him and allow Him to express Himself to us and through us. As McVey says,

“Spiritual service is not our gift to God, but rather His gift to us.” (p.198)

What about the Rules?

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

When you put the emphasis of living the Christian Life on how well you keep “the Rules”, you are living in bondage to the flesh. You are depending upon your fleshly efforts to please God and meet His “standards”! This is living by “another gospel” that Paul spoke so strongly against in Galatians. If we obey “rules” it is becasue Christ is living in us and empowering us. If our life is in and through the life of Christ, there are no rules, because Christ is living through us! He is our standard! Obeying rules feeds the flesh. It promotes pride, and pride stops GraceLife!

2. GraceLife is joining with the Power of Christ to Reign over Life (if you commit to long-suffering)

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (are surrounded by various adversities)

James 1:2 -4 (phillips)When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

GraceLife is founded upon the assurance that everything happens, (suffering, tragedies, circumstances) so that abundant grace will bring thanksgiving from many to redound to the glory of God. Everything has purpose!

Principle: GraceLife in a Few brings Grace to Many

A. Empowers Others to Reign

2 Corinthians 4:15 – For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant (pleonázō super abounding) grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound (perisseúō = super abound, fullness to the point of excess) to the glory of God.

This is a simple yet profound concept. What this means is that God’s Grace is poured out on many because a few react to life according to His grace. Conversely, the Grace of God on many is blocked and thwarted because a few resist God’s grace at various moments in their lives.

A Few can Block Grace for Many

Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

B. Empowers us to See Him who is Invisible

2 Cor 4:16-18 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Only as we see the benefit of sufferings do we begin to see Him who is invisible. Sure, we see Him in a flower’s blossom, a baby’s smile or a child’s outstretched arms. We see His beauty, but do we see His strength, His tremendous love for us and work on our behalf. No, we see that only in the midst of suffering.

Long-suffering (endurance) has two ideas in view:

1. Commitment to Bearing up Under

Romans 5:2-5 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience (hupomoné – “endurance, patience, perseverance or constancy under suffering in faith and duty” “pictures bearing up under in spite of circumstances)[1]; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

2. Commitment to Waiting with Constant Hope in God

James 5:7 Be patient (makrothumía) [2] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

Heb. 6:15, makrothuméō is used of Abraham’s patient faith in God under the pressure of trying circumstances (James 5:7,8). Makrothumía is patience in respect to persons while hupomoné, endurance, is putting up with things or circumstances.

God’s mercy (éleos ) is coupled with makrothumía  to indicate it is long suffering.  This is an apt description of God’s ‘hesed’ or steadfast love.

All the time you are holding up these trials and tribulations as Charles Atlas holds the world, You are looking patiently to God and confidently expecting Him to work!

Without this resolve, you will be tossed about by your circumstances, you will be putting yourself first, blaming others and growing frustrated by the apparent lack of God’s work in your life. Grace will be blocked from working in your life and others, because your bitterness at what God has or hasn’t done will infect you life and spread to the lives of others. 

C. Example of Moses

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

A Commitment to Longsuffering in your Christian walk means that you realize there is an abundance of Grace available to you, and as you ‘bear up’ in Christ, this superabundance will provide for others who are weak, hurting and disillusioned, so that they will have all the Grace they need, with plenty left over. Grace loves to multiply! Grace is the very nature of God!

Such a commitment is to magnify Grace and thanksgiving to the glory of God. Therefore, forgiveness and long-suffering is an integral part of GraceLife. If they are missing from your life, you are blocking GraceLife from multiplying in your life and touching the lives of those around you.

D. Our Calling as Disciples
  • Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
  • Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Paul says that our that our glory and inheritance with Christ is tied in with our suffering with Him. Further, not only are we to believe on Him, but we are to suffer for His sake!

3. GraceLife Produces Quality Vessels

Romans 9:20-21 Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

The way you respond to circumstances determines whether you are a vessel unto honor, or a vessel unto dishonor.

We are not talking about how “good” you appear on the inside. We are not talking about how many titles or positions you hold at church. We are talking about whether the Grace of God is actively working in your broken vessel or not.

Are you surrendered to the Potter’s hand, or are you proud and resistant to His work in your life. Are you bearing up under the circumstances He has you in, or are you running away to an easier place. Are you zealous for God and His Word, or are you apathetic and even ignorant. Are you praying for the lost around you, open to the hurting around you, or are you content with your own needs being met.

If you are apathetic, ignorant, content, self-centered and unconcerned, you are a vessel that is of no use to the potter, so you are a vessel unto dishonor. Vessels unto honor are useful and purposeful for the lost and hurting around them. God never makes a vessel for self-service. We are to benefit each other.

This is how the Grace of God continues to abound!

GraceLife allows broken vessels dishonored by sin to become vessels of honor, honored because they have become treasured vessels to God, and use by Jesus Christ, who is the fulness of all in all. This is the meaning of John 1:16, and the message elsewhere:

John 1:16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Ephesians 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 4:12-13 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

GraceLife is a life that desires and enjoys and needs the fullness of Christ. GraceLife is empty of self and full of Jesus Christ! There are no rules to living in GraceLife other than needing the fullness of Christ. Jesus Christ is the rule-maker and the law-giver. Why stop at the rules when you can experience the life of the one who wrote the rules!

So, what characterizes Vessels of Honor? What characterizes a person living in GraceLife?

What is GraceLife?

  • GraceLife is the power of God that brings purpose to sufferings, hurts, troubles and trials.
  • GraceLife is the power of God that brings life to the spiritually dead, and manifests the Life of Christ in sinful flesh.
  • GraceLife is the power of God revealed in our thanksgiving to God!
  • GraceLife is the power of God which allows us to see Him who is invisible.
  • GraceLife is power for Living in Jesus Christ! GraceLife is enjoying the Fullness of Christ!
Understand first of all that Grace is not something you receive passively. It is not something that falls upon you as you sit in your easy chair and contemplate life! Grace is an active force that never, never leaves you the same!

Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

GraceLife Profile

Growing experience of God’s mercy and steadfast love such that:
  • lives that are sensitive to sin, quick to repent,
  • growing in faith to believe God
  • being saved from this evil world
  • know their acceptance to God is in Christ and not in their works
  • growing in riches from Christ
  • receiving good things from God
  • always thankful, never complaining
  • overflowing with faith and love enough to touch others.
Growing Experience of God’s Justice such that:
  • Christ’s character become your character (partaker)
  • New identity in the justification that is in Christ
  • Growing power to overcome sin (freedom from destructive habits)
  • Growing strength of Spirit and meat of the Word (builds us up)
  • Ready access to God’s power and grace in times of need.
  • Stable walk and life.
  • Singing in your heart, regardless of the circumstances.
Growing Experience of the Righteousness of Christ
  • Life is continually changing and becoming like Christ
  • Growing power in service
  • Endurance in the face of trials
  • Speech that is seasoned by grace
  • Behavior that is acceptabel to the world
  • Testimony that teaches others
  • Ready aid in times of struggle and temptation
  • Service to God that is acceptable and reverent
  • Full of Hope no matter how dark
  • Grace of God is visible to those around us.
  • No confidence in our fleshly works.
  • Power to witness
  • Righteousness of Christ reigns in our body

Grace brings us to the Cross, where our eyes are open to see the overwhelming Love of God for us. This pure love as seen in His Son cuts our hearts open to reveal our sin and our need for a Savior. Grace propels us into the arms of Jesus, where we find forgiveness, sustenance and strength. Salvation is ours, not just for the future, but also for the Now’s of Life.

Once we are placed into Christ, He starts to grow in us through the Holy Spirit and His Word. Our lives are changed by the power of the Word. We become a living testimony to the Victory in Christ. Our want-to’s change. Our character becomes framed and molded by the character of Jesus Christ.

Our lives become dependent upon His victory. Our weaknesses are made strong in Him. We learn to walk in victory over sin. Our lives become testimonies to those around us of the Grace of God. It is not because of our ability, but by the Grace of God!

Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

When the mercy, justice and righteousness of God and Jesus Christ is actively working in a body of believer’s, you have GraceLife!


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “hupomoné”.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book,

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On May 1, 1992, after four police officers were acquitted of the savage beating of Rodney King, Rodney uttered this now famous line: “Can we all get along? Can we get along? . . .

That phrase instantly became a joke, yet as we view the world in conflict and turmoil, as we view Christians in conflict and turmoil, is it possible for us to all get along? No, not unless we commit to following the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Only at the Cross is there Peace

Colossians 1: 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting (moving or falling away) from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul addressed a fleshly church in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:20-21 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity(uncleanness of soul), sexual immorality (porneia-idolatry like Israel), and sensuality (seeking your own pleasure) that they have practiced.

Paul said two things that are pretty amazing in their importance.

  1. When the church is overtaken with “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder”, it should not make us quit or get angry, it should humble us, and bring us low before the Lord.
  2. The only way to cleanse such a church is to repent of uncleanness. We have been made morally and spiritually ‘dirty’. We need to repent and ask for God to cleanse us.

This is why I have been saying since 2007 that you cannot allow yourself to listen to gossip, bad reports, or ‘whispers’ that are negative about someone or something. When you do, it taints your soul, it brings uncleanness to your heart. If you listen to such reports, in order to be clean, you must go to that person and check things out.

I made a covenant with my Dad and all the employees of Tompkins Industries in 1983 that I would always give a good report. If I could not say anything good about a person, I would simply be quiet, or if able, go to that person and tell them why I could not give a good report about them. This is a wonderful way to live your life.

The Lesson of 1945 Germany Churches

If you could imagine being a pastor in Germany in 1945, you could get a glimpse of pastoring a church that has gone through a war.

Churches were torn apart, suffering and discouragement were throughout the land. God directed the pastors of the Evangelical Church in Germany to gather and issue what has been called the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. It was issued by unanimous proclamation on October 19,

The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt, was issued on October 19, 1945 by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland or EKD), in which it confessed guilt for its inadequacies in opposition to the Nazis and the Third Reich.[1]

The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt

by the Council of the Protestant Church of Germany, October 19, 1945

“we not only know that we are with our people in a large community of suffering, but also in a solidarity of guilt. With great pain we say: By us infinite wrong was brought over many peoples and countries. That which we often testified to in our communities, we express now in the name of the whole church: We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Socialist regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves for not standing to our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently. Now a new beginning is to be made in our churches. Based on the Holy Scripture, with complete seriousness directed to the lord of the church, they start to cleanse themselves of the influences of beliefs foreign to the faith and to reorganize themselves. We hope to the God of grace and mercy that He will use our churches as His tools and give them license to proclaim His word and to obtain obedience for His will, amongst ourselves and among our whole people[2].”

There are three elements of the Stuttgart Confession that bear noting:

1. It was an expression of solidarity with the nation in its sin and suffering.

The confessors were not standing in judgment against a guilty nation that had been brought to its knees. They were experiencing the pain of the nation and acknowledging their part in its guilt. They did not make excuses.

2. They did not give a false sense of guilt.

They stated that they opposed the Nazi regime and suffered as a consequence. But this did not take away from their share of the guilt of the nation.

3. Their sense of guilt did not drive them to despair but to fresh commitment.

They committed themselves to a new beginning. Repentance should lead to real change and a commitment to action[3].

As Germany sought to rebuild and re-unify their nation, they chose to work toward a goal rather than stagnate in blame and despair.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians church, and encouraged them to walk worthy, walk in humility, bear with one another and maintain the unity of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:1-3 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Unity is never maintained when people resort to blaming others. Now is the time to humble our hearts before the Cross of Jesus Christ and seek His forgiveness and righteousness. Now is the time to cry out for God’s Justice to reign in our church, for His Word to have free course in our midst, and for His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come.

Hebrews 12 is the “Keep on Pressing On” Chapter

Keep pressing on for Jesus, pressing on for His Body, pressing on for His Kingdom

Hosea 6:1-3 1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

A. Keep on Pressing on for Jesus

  • Jesus is the head!

1. Consider the Cost

a. The Cost to Jesus

b. The Cost to all those witnesses.

Hebrews 12: 1,2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

1) He began the work

2) He will finish the work

c. The Cost to Us

1) We must lay aside every sin and every weight

2) We must endure, regardless of the cost.

2. Consider our Coach (and a great host of witnesses)

a. Jesus endured hostility

12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

b. We must struggle with Him against sin

12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

3. Consider our Character

a. Value Discipline

12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

b. Discipline is Sonship.

12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

12:8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

c. Discipline allows us to Share His Holiness

12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

B. Keep on Pressing for a Healthy Body

We all want healthy bodies. That usually involves exercise, training, strengthening. But as in all things, we get weary, we get tired, we may not feel like going on. Especially if we don’t lay aside those things that distract us.

12:12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

12:13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

1.  Following Jesus Requires Effort.

a. Arms and Hand droop
b. Knees get wobbly
c. Feet wander, grow hesitant, even halting.
d. If there is no effort, our joints become affected and even infected. (we can even get out of joint)

Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.[4]

A little weakness can affect the whole body. Just one arthritic joint can affect your health and well-being.

2. Hold Fast to Jesus and find Healing & Growth

a. “rather be healed”

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

See the rest of the story in Isaiah:

Isaiah 35:3-6 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;The lame will leap like a deer. Blind will see, deaf will hear, mute will sing. There will be life springing up in the desert because water will break forth, there will be “streams in the desert.”

b. Strive for Peace and Holiness

12: 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

3. Hold Fast to Grace

12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

12:16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

12:17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

a. Danger of Losing God’s Favor.

b. Lost through Bitterness

1)  Causes Trouble

2) The many are defiled
(made common, tainted)

Absalom (close to sister Tamar, who was violated by Amnon, and he became bitter)

c. Lost through uncleanness

1) Esau had “REJECT” stamped across his forehead

2) He chose his satisfaction rather than God’s.

d. Literally cross a threshold and lose your inheritance.

C.    Keep on Pressing for the Kingdom

1.  We look for an Invisible, Eternal Kingdom

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest

19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.

20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”

21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

2. We Look for the City of the Living God

a. Consider the Prize

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

b. Always Heed His Word

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

c. Things get shaken

12: 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

d. What remains are the true worshippers

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Who is Mitsuo Fuchida? He Cried TORA TORA TORA! As he led the Japanese atack on Pearl Harbor!

Mitsuo Fuchida fought the United States throughout WWII and was intimately involved in the planning and leadership of the Japanese war effort as flight commander and later as a senior operations officer. After the war, Fuchida was a defeated warrior in occupied Japan, farming to meet the needs of his family. In 1950, Fuchida miraculously came to know Jesus Christ as Saviour through a tract handed to him while exiting a train in Tokyo. The tract was entitled, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” written by Jacob DeShazer who was one of the famous Doolittle Raiders. DeShazer trusted Christ as his Saviour while held captive by Japan for 40 months. DeShazer went to Japan in 1948 as a missionary and preached to the nation who held him captive. Fuchida faithfully served Jesus Christ as an evangelist until his death in 1976. “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” is Fuchida’s testimony of salvation.[5


[3] De Gruchy, John, Reconciliation: Restoring Justice, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002, p. 109

[5] http://www.biblebelievers.com/fuchida1.html

You were first introduced to him on December 7, 1941, at 7:49 A.M. on a cloudless Sunday, the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor. In two hours:

* 2,403 Americans were killed
* 1,178 were wounded
* 169 U.S. aircraft were totally destroyed
* 5 battleships were mauled
* the Arizona was scrapped for good
* the Oklahoma, California and West Virginia were sunk
* the Nevada was beached in a sinking condition
* 18 other battleships were damaged
* nearby the airfields, barracks and dry docks were also crippled

This incredible attack was led by a 39-year-old Japanese top gun pilot, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. whose life hero was Adolf Hitler. Fuchida led 360 Japanese airplanes into the harbor at Honolulu and devastated a whole nation and triggered, as you know, the massive death that came about through American atomic retaliation as well as conventional weaponry. Mitsuo Fuchida, a name that you read over and over and over and over in anything you ever read about World War II. His plane was hit numerous times as he came and went from Pearl Harbor, but he survived.


I love this verse from Stuart Townend’s song “How Deep the Father’s Love for us”

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

If you have been a Christian for many years, it is easy to forget what a wretch you were. If you continue to walk close to the Lord, you will be mindful of that wretchedness. It is the walk of a wretched man saved by Jesus that is best suited to being a “Good Samaritan”. If you think you are something for God; if you walk around thinking that God is sure glad He got you, you will not be a Good Samaritan. Oh, sure, you love yourself, but you love yourself too much to ever reach out to the wretches living around you. The love you have for yourself is blinding you from seeing the needs of other wretches around you.

A Good Samaritan has no “walls” when it comes to the needs of his neighbors. A good samaritan is not afraid to get close to other “wretches” to see what their needs are. He sees no color, no race, no status, no religion. He sees the forsaken, the diseased, the impoverished, the disabled, the alone, the abandoned, the damaged. He not only looks close, but he does what he can to meet the needs of the “wretched”. Everything he has is Gods, and he holds nothing back from God or his neighbors.

The Good Samaritan does not go around boasting of what he does. You see, he is simply one wretch helping another wretch.

A person who is a living, walking, Good Samaritan reveals what is in his heart.

The Heart of a Good Samaritan reveals two things:

1. Our love for God and His Son Jesus Christ

2. Our love for people, the people that Jesus died on the cross to redeem the other “wretches”

  • These people were ugly, hateful, sinful, vile, sin-sick, hopeless, rebellious
  • But Jesus loved them, died for them
  • These people were you and me.

In effect, being a Good Samaritan unites us with the heart of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate Good Samaritan. He gave his all for our sake, the wounded, the captured, the bruised, the broken, the forsaken.

Satan and Sin had us in an eternal death grip, but Jesus Christ came to our side and freed us from the death grip of sin. He was our personal Good Samaritan.

The question I want to answer today: How do we continue our comittment to being Good Samaritans?

Now, I know that you do not normally think of yourself as being selfish, uncaring and unconcerned. Certainly the lawyer who asked Jesus the question “Who is my neighbor?” did not see himself as that way. He thought he was a model Jew, the best of the best. However, Jesus cut to the very depth of his soul by revealing his bias toward the Samaritans. He challenged him to see everyone, regardless of his or her religion or culture as his neighbor, worthy of his love.

Face it; it is easy to overlook certain people. It is easy to judge, condemn, and even isolate ourselves from certain people. However, Jesus challenges us to know that there is not one person on this earth that is not worthy of our love. Jesus wants us to know that He died for everyone, no matter how vile they are, or regardless of their religion or culture. We are not special. We are not better than anyone else is. They are our neighbor and needing our love because such were we! What is more, because of our busy and isolated lives, we lose sight of the needs of people who don’t live by us, or who are in neighborhoods we do not go to.

Practical Advice about Trip Hazards

Before we look at Scripture and see what can trip us up, I want to offer some practical advice for any Good Samaritan.

One problem facing many of us Baby Boomers in the troubled times we are in, is caring for our elderly parents, caring for a son or daughter out of work, caring for a spouse with a debilitating medical condition. Many find themselves in a Caregiver Role. To be a Caregiver is to provide financial, relational, physical, spiritual, or emotional support to someone who is unable to live independently like:

  • newborns or small children
  • those recovering from an injury or illness
  • aging loved ones
  • anyone facing a terminal illness
  • those who are disabled in some way (physically, mentally, emotionally)

This just about covers parents and people from all lifestyles and all ages, so it probably affects you or someone you care about. There are dangers involved in being a Caregiver or a ‘good Samaritan.’ One of those dangers is in the form of overwhelming stress or an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

There are CARETAKERS and there are CAREGIVERS.

A caretaker provides a level of compassionate service for someone in need. It is not usually overwhelming enough to create compassion fatigue or massive distress because there are clear boundaries, defined duties, and reasonable expectations, as well as defined hours of service.

Caregivers do the same work, but often with greater intensity, since they often aren’t compensated in some way and just work out of the goodness of their hearts to show compassion to the person in need. They often give and give expecting nothing in return, yet that is often why they run out of energy and burnout. They do not have defined hours, schedules, or budgets. It can get very stressful, very fast because they cannot do everything for everyone all the time without it leading to caregiver stress.

The Caregiver Stress Checklist

  • Am I easily agitated with those I love?
  • Am I becoming more critical of others?
  • Am I having difficulty laughing or having fun?
  • Am I turning down most invitations to be with others?
  • Am I feeling depressed about my situation?
  • Am I feeling hurt when my efforts go unnoticed?
  • Am I resentful when other family members are not helping?
  • Am I feeling trapped by all the responsibilities?
  • Am I being manipulated?
  • Am I missing sleep and regular exercise?
  • Am I too busy for quiet time with God?
  • Am I feeling guilty when I take time for myself?

Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress:

  • Physically – exhausted and worn out
  • Emotionally – resentful, stressed, bitter
  • Relationally – feeling used or unappreciated
  • Financially – overwhelmed or depleted

It is right to care for people in need. It is healthy to show compassion. Those are good things and make us feel better for having made a difference in the lives of others. You can show care in many ways and should. Caring is important, but there are some hidden dangers if you do not realize a simple truth.

TEAM GOOD SAMARITAN

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a timeless story of being a compassionate caregiver.

We should not miss the truth of how to protect the Good Samaritan from compassion fatigue.

Yes, he jumped in to help a stranger, and, yes, he showed great love for another human being, but he did not do it alone! The Good Samaritan started a healing process in the life of a wounded man and allowed others, like the innkeeper, to be part of the team to make a positive difference in helping a man rebuild and recover. When you are part of a team helping someone going through a crisis, you are less likely to burnout. And that’s a good thing for everyone so you can have a lot more energy to help others for years to come.[1]

If we are to love our neighbors, and not suffer from burnout, or compassion fatigue, we must be part of a team. We must discover that there is help from a higher power!

For the heartsick, bleeding soul out there today who is desperate for a word of encouragement, let me assure you that you can trust this Lord of heaven and earth. There is security and rest in the wisdom of the eternal Scriptures. I believe the Lord can be trusted, even when He cannot be tracked. Of this you can be certain: Jehovah, King of kings and Lord of lords, is not pacing the corridors of heaven in confusion over the problems in your life!  He hung the worlds in space. He can handle the burdens that have weighed you down, and He cares about you deeply. He says to you, “Be still, and know that I am God”. Psalms 46:10   — James Dobson, Ph.D.[2]

GO TO THE THRONE

To be a Good Samaritan means that you memorize and take to heart Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

We often think this verse applies to when we are being tempted. And that is a strong part of it, but the truth is that the weaknesses spoken about refers to illness, physical exhaustion, lack of strength, any condition of weakness that could lead us to lose heart, give up, have a breakdown, get hard hearted, get calloused, disillusioned. In other words, Jesus sympathizes with those conditions that could lead us to give up being a Good Samaritan, to give up following Him, to give up loving our neighbor.

We need to be a part of His team, we need to come boldly to the throne of grace, not only for help and strength for us, but for the ones we are caring for.

Mother’s, when you don’t think you can take care of an aging mom any more, when you have had your heart broken by a wayward son or daughter, when you are about to give up caring, go to the throne, go to the one who has been there, and realize His strength is yours, His grace and mercy are overflowing for those in need, exactly at the time you need it most!

What Will Trip Us Up?

What Keeps us from the throne? What will cause us to stumble and stop being a Good Samaritan?

There are four major reasons that we may stumble and fall, which will keep us from the throne of Grace.

These are found in verses preceding of Hebrews 4:14

1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:1-13

FOUR TRIP HAZARDS

  1. Faith Connection (Weak or non-existent)
  2. Disobedience (Idolatry, Iniquity and Immorality)
  3. Bitterness (Hard Heart leading to no ability to sympathize)
  4. Grumbling- (Temporal Focus because of a messed up heart!)

1.  Faith Connection

  • Verse 2: For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

Even though they had witnessed miraculous acts, God was still invisible to the wandering Jews. Whatever their thinking about who this invisible “I AM” was, it did not settle into their heart.

If you are going to continue to be a Good Samaritan, you have to have a daily faith connection to this awesome God, “the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 1 Timothy 6:15

For anyone who desires to please God must believe that He is. Not only on Sunday, but you need a faith connection every day of the week.

Faith is a solid, substantiating force that sustains us during good times, bad times, and difficult times. Satan delights in getting you to doubt God, to ignore God, to resent God. Satan tries to sever your faith connection every day!

You faith connection will allow you to see God in the midst of the storm, in the midst of your exhaustion, in the midst of your struggles, in the midst of your frustrations.

This Christian walk is by faith and not sight, and as soon as you lose faith, or weaken in faith, you will stumble from being a Good Samaritan.

Genuine Love for you hurting and weak neighbors comes from your faith in our Loving God!

2.  Disobedience (Idolatry, Iniquity and Immorality)

  • Verse 6: “and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience”
  • 1 Cor 10:7-8 – Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.

The Wilderness Jews had a problem with idolatry. They put other things before God. Their broken faith connection did not allow them to see God in their everyday lives. So when Moses was gone for 40 days, they got nervous and afraid, and made their own god to worship. They disobeyed keeping the law, they disobeyed Moses, they lusted after things rather than desiring God.

Their disobedience grew from having a small god and large appetites for themselves. They put themselves before God.

It is good to do a heart check every so often. What are you desiring, what are you obsessing over?

When we take our eyes and our hearts off the desires of God, and put them on what we want or what we think we need, then we will stumble from being a Good Samaritan. We will take our eyes and our hearts off our neighbors.

Are you having conflicts in your marriage, in your relationships? Do a heart check! Perhaps you are putting your desires ahead of the other person. You may think you are right, but try humbling yourself before God, and then seeking Him until His desires become your desires in that situation.

Too many times conflict is caused and sustained by our selfishness and by putting things before our relationships.

3.  Bitterness (Hard Heart leading to inability to sympathize)

  • Verse 7: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”.
  • 1 Cor 10:9 – We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,

When we lose our faith connection, when we start putting our desires before God, it will not be too long before something happens in your life that causes you great hurt, great resentment, great anger. The Jews were upset over the desert, the food, the leader. They were angry, upset, and bitter. This bitterness led to hearts that were hard and insensitive to God.

You may have experienced this yourself.

You lost something/someone very dear to you, a son, a daughter, a wife. Or it could be an important job, a friendship. Children get bitter when they are forced to move, when divorce splits the home. Sickness, disease, an accident…anything that happens that directly affects our comfort, our life, our control. When life seems out of control, when our heart is broken, when we get angry, when we question what is going on…there is a temptation to lash out, get resentful, and the bitterness grows.

We must not put Christ to the test

Sinners are said to tempt God (Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12; 10:25; Acts 5:9, peirázō; 1 Cor. 10:9), putting Him to the test, refusing to believe Him or His Word until He has manifested His power (Sept.: Deut. 6:16; 8:16; Ps. 78:18). When God is said to try (peirazō) man (Heb. 11:17 [cf. Gen. 22:1; Ex. 15:25]), in no other sense can He do this (James 1:13) but to train in order to elevate a person as a result of the self-knowledge which may be won through these testings (peirasmoí <G3986>). Thus, man may emerge from his testings holier, humbler, stronger than when he entered in (James 1:2, 12). [3]

I have known people who were so excited about serving God, who were so in love with Jesus, and because of some tragedy or some loss, have lost that love, that enthusiasm. They test Christ by saying, “if you love me, then you will make this right!” They believe that Jesus owes them and they get upset with Him when things don’t work out the way they think they should. What joy it is to know mature saints who have grown sweeter with the years, who have faced sorrows and heartaches yet their heart is still tender to God, still tender to the needs of those around them

We have a great friend of the family in Swann Bates. She is in he eighties now, and I had not seen her since my mom died in 1996. I had always admired her love for Jesus, her love for the word. She was one of those ‘refreshing’ saints that lifted everyone she met. I knew they had had some financial setbacks late in life, and i wondered how she would be when I went over to her place last Christmas. She was exactly as I remembered her, bubbly, in love with Jesus, refreshing, concerned about me and my family. She had grown sweeter with the years. A couple months ago she lost her daughter, Donna, to breast cancer. I called her up and left a message of consolation. She called me later, and instead of being down, expressed to me her praise for the Lord, her praise for the love of Christ. I could sense the tears, but her love for Jesus came through strong and loud.

I want to be a Mrs. Bates if I make it into my eighties! Don’t you? Praise God for the power of Jesus to make us sweeter through all this life brings us!

If you hear of someone’s need, or see someone hurting, and the Holy Spirit can’t tug at your heart, perhaps there is some bitterness that is spoiling your love.

Bitterness can ruin relationships, especially between a husband and wife, can ruin friendships, and can ruin your enthusiasm for worship, for serving in your church. It will harden your heart to the point where your love for your neighbor is gone, and all that is left is a huge fence.

It is hard putting your heart out there for anyone to step on it. It is hard serving people who are not grateful, who don’t seem to do anything for themselves, or who just seem to be milking the system. It is easy to say it does not do any good, but remember, Jesus Christ died for that person. Jesus Christ died for you. He put His heart out there for everyone to spit upon to beat to mock, and yet He still loved us, still suffered that horrible experience of the wrath of God being poured out on Him.

How is your heart? Is it as tender as when you were in school? Do you still care about the needs of those around you? Or is your heart crusted over, hardened by bitterness and unfulfilled expectations, hurts and losses. Any hurt, any loss pales in comparison with what Jesus Christ experienced for you.

4.  Grumbling- (Temporal Focus because of a messed up heart!)

  • Verse 13: And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account
  • 1 Cor 10: 10 “nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer”.
  • And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Numbers 11:1
  • Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.   John 6:43

When we lose our faith connection, when we lose our desire for God, when our heart becomes hard, it isn’t long before our attitude is affected. You can always tell when someone has a problem with God when they start grumbling.

It can be a little thing, but in my experience, grumblers never stop with little things (like the weather). Grumbling reveals that some things are not right in your heart. In addition, if your heart is not right, the grumbling will come out louder and with greater intensity.

I am not saying that all grumbling is bad. However, I am saying that God hates grumblers, because grumblers are not being thankful for Him!

“How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Numbers 14:27

DOES THIS SONG DESCRIBE ANYONE YOU KNOW?

The Grumble Song by Thoro Harris

In country, town, or city
Some people can be found
Who spend their lives in grumbling
At everything around
Oh yes, they always grumble
No matter what we say
For these are chronic grumblers
And they grumble night and day.
Chorus:
Oh, they grumble on Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday,
Grumble on Thursday, too
Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
Grumble the whole week through.
They grumble in the city
They grumble on the farm
They grumble at their neighbors
They think it is no harm;
They grumble at their husbands,
They grumble at their wives
They grumble at their children
But the grumbler never thrives.
They grumble when it’s raining
They grumble when it’s dry
And if the crops are failing
They grumble and they sigh
They grumble at low prices
And grumble when they’re high
They grumble all the year round
And they grumble till they die.
They grumble at the preacher
They grumble at his prayer
They grumble at his preaching
They grumble everywhere;
They grumble at God’s people
And say ’tis all display
But holy folks don’t grumble
They have only time to pray.
If you don’t quit your grumbling
And stop it now and here
You’ll never get to heaven
No grumblers enter there;
Repent and be converted
Be saved from all your sin
You know that grumbling Christians
Find it hard a crown to win.

Being a Good Samaritan can be difficult. Never do it on your own. Realize it is TEAM GOOD SAMARITAN THAT WILL ENDURE.

Come daily to the throne of grace, there you will find a loving Savior who sympathizes with everything you are trying to do, with everything you are going through. He wants to join His heart and strength with yours in meeting the needs of your neighbors. He offers His grace and strength at just the right time.

  • We need to give Him our hearts daily
  • We need to follow Him daily
  • We need to rejoice and be thankful daily

JESUS is our example. He is our Good Samaritan.

If we lose our faith connection, if we start going our own way, if our hearts get hard through bitterness, if we start to grumble because we have taken our eyes off Jesus and started looking at circumstances instead of Him, then we will give up being a good Samaritan, we will lose our love for our neighbors, we will build walls around our lives, and we will become a grumbler.

And like the Jews in the wilderness, we will lose our way and be overcome in the wilderness.

Do you love Jesus?

Do you love Jesus?

Do you Love Jesus?

Then feed HIS lambs! Jesus says, “Feed My lambs.” Jesus wants us to take care of HIS lambs. And for us to do that, we must be connected to Him by love. His heart must be our heart!

The Lord would answer, “Ah, Peter, and I love you”; but He did not say so, and yet He did say so. Perhaps Peter did not see His meaning; but we can see it, for our minds are not confused as Peter’s was on that memorable morning. Jesus did in effect say, “I love you so that I trust you with that which I purchased with My heart’s blood. The dearest thing I have in all the world is My flock: see, Simon, I have such confidence in you, I so wholly rely on your integrity as being a sincere lover of Me, that I make you a shepherd to My sheep. These are all I have on earth, I gave everything for them, even My life; and now, Simon, son of Jonas, take care of them for Me.” Oh, it was “kindly spoken.” It was the great heart of Christ saying, “Poor Peter, come right in and share My dearest cares.”[4]


[2] Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group, http://www.LifeWorksGroup.org eNews (Copyright, 2004-2008, by the LifeWorks Group in Florida. 407-647-7005).

[3] Complete Word Study Dictionary, The New Testament.


God-Centered SpouseDo you remember what is was like to “fall in love”? Even the wisest man that ever lived, Solomon, could not understand how a man and a woman fall in love:  “There are three things that are too hard for me, really four I don’t understand: the way an eagle flies in the sky, the way a snake slides over a rock, the way a ship sails on the sea, and the way a man and a woman fall in love.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NCV)

While we may not understand why certain people “fall in love”, we do understand why people “fall out of love.” Because of trials, wrong priorities, selfishness, needs go unmet and two people who were once falling toward each other “in love” are falling away from each other in either hatred or indifference.

Helen Rowland states: “When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of all the other men she knew for the inattention of just one man.”

Mudpreacher and lydia datingI remember the first time I ever laid eyes on my wife to be. I was in charge of a freshman reception and was chatting with the incoming freshmen. It was outside, late August, and I was naturally checking out the incoming freshmen girls. I turned around and noticed this shy gal with the sweetest smile and expression. I went over to talk with her and her friends, but there was just something about her that grabbed my heart. She had the sweetest spirit of any girl I had ever met. Well, it wasn’t but a couple months and we were engaged, and marriage came within nine months of our meeting. (Just a coincidence)

We were flying back from our honeymoon and this guy next to me asked if my trip was business or pleasure. I said pleasure, I’m on my honeymoon. He looked at me, mystified, and said, where’s your wife? I said, a couple rows back, cuz they couldn’t get our seats together. We were still at the gate and he said, I’ll be happy to change seats. I said, “Naw, that’s ok, we’ve been together all week.”

Hopefully you can remember those days when you excitedly ran to meet your future wife or husband. You may have even met them at the door wrapped in Saran Wrap, or with a sexy nightie. But soon those days melt away to kids and diapers and headaches. If you’re lucky the kids still come to the door to excitedly greet you. But after they get older, hopefully your dog comes and greets you, wagging his tale. But once he gets too old, you are pretty much on your own.

Studies show that married couples spend an average of just 27 minutes a week actively communicating.

I’m not talking about, Honey, what do you want for dinner? You respond “Ugh” They say OK. That doesn’t count.
I’m talking about meaningful shared conversation.

Most of us fall in love, and if we are not careful, we let trials, selfishness, neglect, anger, problems lead us to fall out of love.

Two Stumbling Sinners Falling Toward God and Each Other

We need to realize it’s ok to stumble, it’s ok to fight, it ok to have struggles in your marriage, as long as you are falling the right way. Falls are inevitable, but we can take some steps that will enable us to control the direction we fall.

Just as my wife and I fell in love rather quickly, the danger is always there that we fall out of love. We learned that love is not a passive emotion. God intends us to actively engage in love, to be purposeful with our love, just as God actively uses marriage to accomplish His purpose for our lives. God wants our marriage to be much more than polite “civil” arrangements. He wants us to be dynamically involved with Him in allowing this marriage to make us more like Jesus Christ.

If you have stopped moving toward your spouse, you have stopped moving toward God. The opposite of “agape” love isn’t hate, it is “apatheia” which is no emotion, indifference, apathy. If you are not purposefully moving toward your spouse, you are indifferent toward your spouse. To make matters worse, if you have stopped moving toward your spouse, your love for God is lacking. God has inextricably combined our love for our spouse with our love for Him.

DIFFICULT FOR MEN

communication difficult for menThis active moving toward your spouse is more difficult for men.

1. Men Are Less Communicative

  • We think warm and fuzzy thoughts about our wife
  • We have trouble expressing those thoughts
  • Men do not realize the damage they do by simply staying quiet

2. Men View Independence As Sign Of Strength And Maturity

  • We must be willing to stand alone
  • God is always moving toward people
  • To flee relationship is an act of cowardice
  • Easier to get someone young
  • Maturing relationship challenges his authority and power
  • We sulk when we don’t get our way.
  • We can’t take the “give and take” of a real relationship, so we pour ourselves into our work and play.

God calls men to centrally move toward your wife. This moving toward your wife is what will mold you into the image of Christ.

There Will Be Emotional Highs and Lows

Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) wrote a little poem which expresses what many couples feel at one time or another. She directed this toward God:

Dear God,
I hate you.
Love, Madeleine

Her love for God is the foundation of her hate. Even though she hates Him at the moment, she says she still loves him. Even in the moments of anger, betrayal, exasperation and hurt, we are called to pursue this person, to embrace them and to grow toward them.

WE EACH MUST INITIATE INTIMACY

annie hallMarriage is much more than “I agree to never have sex with anyone else.” Marriage is a GIFT of SELF that goes way beyond sexual fidelity. You can have a great marriage in the eyes of the world by doing many external deeds of love, but all the while you are holding back the most precious gift-your inner self. That gift must be consciously and continually given through communication.

Verbal Communication

You need times of communicating, not just through raised voices. You each need to learn how to accommodate your spouse and their particular communication skills or lack thereof:

From Annie Hall: Alvy addresses a pair of strangers on the street:
Alvy Singer: Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
Female street stranger: Yeah.
Alvy Singer: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
Female street stranger: Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Male street stranger: And I’m exactly the same way.
Alvy Singer: I see. Wow. That’s very interesting. So you’ve managed to work out something?

Physical Communication

While men certainly need to discover the importance of nonsexual touching, most wives discover that if a woman is not pursuing her husband sexually, just about every other movement toward her husband will go unnoticed.

“A wife may demonstrate her love in many ways, but it is often negated by her rejection or lack of enjoyment of sex. You may be a great housekeeper, a gourmet cook, a wonderful mother…but if you turn him down consistently in the bedroom oftentimes those things will be negated. To a man, sex is the most meaningful declaration of love and self-worth” (Love that Lasts, p 152). Men and women just have a totally different view about the importance of sex:

In the movie  “Annie Hall” you see a split screen with Annie and Alvy both in conversation with their respective therapist:

Alvy Singer’s Therapist: How often do you sleep together?
Alvy Singer: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
Annie Hall’s Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Annie Hall: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.

Now communication either verbally or physically is not the focus of this message. (THANK GOD)
What I do want to emphasize is this, communication is important to please God and see Him working in your marriage.

  • Some of you men may say “Why should I talk to her or be affectionate when she never wants to have sex?”
  • Some of you women may say “Why should I have sex when he never talks to me or shows me he cares for me?”

The question you should ask is how can I keep moving toward God when my wife or my husband is causing me so much pain or frustration or problems. The answer will be found in how God wants you to keep falling toward your spouse when you want to do the exact opposite.

Typically a marriage book will say “Well you have to do A if you want to get B! Husbands, if you do this it will get her revved up and jumping into bed. Here is the point-if marriage is about making God happy, it involves a lot more than going to sleep with a smile on your face. God wants to use your marriage for your spiritual benefit and growth. It’s all about God remember?

MARRIAGE METHODS

Differing Approaches to our Spouse1.Self-Centered

  • Withholding Approach –Selfish, moving away, marriage is more about getting what you want
  • Wanting Approach – Basically self – centered; you realize to get what you want, you have to give a little. So you move toward each other, but you still guard yourself. Marriage is a continual process of give and take, but the intimacy is on a constant roller coaster.

2. Spouse-Centered

This is the Willing Approach. You have given your marriage to God and you realize that your spouse is important to you, right or wrong. So you pay her attention, you focus on her needs, you treat her with love. She does the same for you. It’s not always perfect, but for the most part you are willing to honor your spouse.
You can still fall short of spiritual intimacy and growth.

There is a spiritual discipline that you must consider following. It is the:

3. God-Centered

This is the Waiting Approach. You add another dimension to the willing approach. You consider God as you seek to love and communicate with your spouse. In fact, God is the very reason you fall toward her, communicate with her, have physical relations with her. You treat your relationship with your spouse as you do God. No matter what God does good or bad in your life, He is God, and you owe Him your undying devotion and attention. No matter what your spouse does or says, they are your spouse, and you owe them your undying devotion and attention. Wait means “To wait or to look for with eager expectation”

The waiting approach applies if both spouses are moving toward God, or if only one is.

  • Psalms 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
  • Psalms 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.
  • Psalms 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
  • Hosea 12:6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
  • Psalms 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

A Christian is never dependent upon the response of others to grow spiritually. He is looking to God and waiting expectantly Our relationship with God is dependent only upon our heart decisions. If you have truly given yourself to God, you will want to give yourself to your spouse. If you are holding back areas of your life from God, you will hold back parts of yourself from God.

The WAITING APPROACH TO MARRIAGE

Waiting Approach to Marriage1. God’s Will and Pleasure is Supreme
2. God uses your marriage and your spouse to refine you into likeness of Christ
3. Just as you keep moving to God, you must keep moving toward your spouse by giving yourself (whether they do or not)
4. You look to God with expectation of His provision and power in your marriage.
5. You Forgive your spouse
6. You Serve your spouse

Fellowship with our spouse that mirrors our fellowship with Christ is one which acknowledges our sinfulness and embraces His forgiveness. The challenge is not to keep on loving the person you thought you married, but to love the person you did marry! (A Sense of Sexuality, p. 197)

Falling Forward will always involve Forgiveness

Marriage must have forgivenessThe Prodigal God showed us that while the Father let the son go, he was constantly looking out for the return, so that He could fall forward upon the neck of his son. We can’t depend upon someone else to determine what we do. God was actively seeking the lost when He sent Jesus to this earth. We often use our spouse’s sin to pull back, to hold back to Withdraw. We all sin, so even in our sin we should fall forward into the arms of God and the arms of each other.

A Stonemason was charged with inscribing a headstone for a woman’s husband. He inscribed the husband’s name and this common phrase: “Rest in Peace”
A few months later the wife discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. In a fury she returned to the stonemason and had him add these words to the gravestone:
Rest in Peace…
Till we meet again.

None of us got married for the reason “It gives us an opportunity to forgive!” But we certainly must…

How to Build a Forgiving Spirit into your Life

1.See Yourself as God Sees You – A Stumbling Sinner

Spirit of ForgivenessTo constantly be moving forward to God means we must be continually forgiven. To see that same spiritual growth in our marriage, and to move toward each other, we must also practice forgiveness. We do so by realizing our need for forgiveness on a daily basis. We must see that sin is anything that we do without dependence upon God. We don’t hold up God’s Law to our spouse and say “How Could You!” If anything, we hold up God’s Law and say forgive me Father, I am unclean. I have no right to condemn.

Romans 3:20 (NIV) Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

The law wasn’t created by God for two spouses to hold each other up to an impossible standard with which they can beat each other over the head. A “self-righteous” spouse is an obnoxious spouse, even though they are momentarily blameless. Eventually the spouse will slip to. The worst thing you can do is to hit your husband over the head with a Bible Verse.

2.Realize to Withhold Forgiveness is to Invite the Cancer of Bitterness into Your Life and Marriage.

Hebrews 12:12-15 (ESV)Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Focusing on the sin invites a cancer into your life. God says to lift your hands and strengthen your knees and make straight paths, so you can be healed. To not do so, to not forgive, to not seek holiness, you are blocking God from your heart. Instead, bitterness will crust and harden your heart, it will spread, and it will bring more trouble into your life and those around you. This is especially true if you are in a second or third marriage. If there is still unforgiveness from those prior marriages, you are bringing bitterness into your present marriage.

Shoah is a documentary film on the Holocaust. In one scene the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising talks about the bitterness that remains in his heart toward the Germans. “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you!”

3. Forgiveness invites God’s Healing Into Your Marriage and Life

James 5:16 (ESV) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Example of Forgiveness

How Can I ForgiveGary Thomas tells of Melissa and Bryant, who after 25 years of marriage began facing a severe problem. Melissa discovered Bryant had been cheating on her. She had contracted an STD. Melissa remembers the day Oct 16 1997. She went totally numb. She tried to find answers from the Bible, but she could find none.

To compound the problem, Bryant was pastor of the church they attended, and Melissa sang on the worship team. To her horror, she remembered she was to sing this Sunday at a special service in which most of Bryant’s family would be there. One of those people was her unsaved brother-in-law who was dying of lung cancer.

Surrounded by Bryant’s family, Melissa led the worship team and listened to her husband preach. Then she watched as their brother-in-law came forward and received Christ as his Savior. She thought that even though her pain was devastating, it wasn’t bigger than God.

She remembered looking at her husband and saying “I know I have to forgive you and I’m going to. But she was not flooded with a great sense of forgiveness. She was confronted with the truth of having to forgive.” Forgiveness was the only way she could stay right with God.

In the months that followed Melissa was constantly confronted with forgiving her husband. She learned that there had been more than one affair, and she knew she was in her rights to kick Bryant out of her life. But she said “Forgiveness was the harder option, but I never felt in my heart that divorce was the right thing to do” “I’ve always lived my life by conviction and the harder road is not something I’m afraid to take.” I’ve learned that even when you are in great pain, we’re not excused from considering others and from carrying out our call to witness to God’s faithfulness.”

Melissa told Gary that forgiveness kept bitterness and anger at bay. It saved her marriage, brought Bryant around and moved Melissa many steps closer to more fully modeling the person of Jesus Christ. Melissa took the bitter juice of her marriage and by offering that to God, made spiritual honey in her life.

We love the sinner but hate the sin. Except when it comes to our spouse. Yet, turn the tables around and we love ourselves in spite of our wretched sin. We learn to forgive ourselves to maintain our own health, So why not our spouse?

“As an old man, Bill, looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strike you most forcibly–that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering.  Not success, not happiness, not anything like that.  The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about–the joy of understanding, the joy of coming in contact with what life really signifies–is suffering, affliction.”Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith by William F. Buckley, Jr. (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1997) p. 211; quoting Malcolm Muggeridge.

(This accords with the ancient Greek proverb “pathein mathein”–“to suffer is to learn” and calls to mind that most mysterious of NT verses, Hebrews 5:8, “Though a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”)

A God-centered spouse who practices the Waiting Approach:

  1. Waits Upon God
  2. Gives YourSelf By Communicating
  3. Forgives Your Spouse
  4. Waits Upon Your Spouse by Serving

The Waiting Approach requires you to actually wait on your Spouse. You become a servant of your spouse.

Falling Forward will always involve SERVING

Marriage is about becoming a servantThe essence of our falling forward toward God, toward our spouse is found in Phil 2:
Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Most marriages begin by bringing certain things to the table:

  • Wife brings her body, her admiration, her dog, her funny personality, her debt, her money, her organizations skills, cooking abilities…
  • Is my wife attractive to me, will she take care of me, wash my clothes, feed me, take care of the home, keep it nice, look good when we go out…
  • Husband brings himself, his career, money, strength, confidence, hopes, dreams, debt, money, endurance, strength, cooking abilities…
  • This is why we marry: Can this guy support me, would he make a good father, do I find him attractive, will he make me feel special and loved.

If you keep expecting from your spouse, you will keep going through those withholding – wanting – willing cycles. Eventually you either get too hurt, or too tired or too anything. You end up leaving because your found someone else that meets your expectations better, or you end up settling, living as individual people separated by a wall of politeness and preoccupation with what you want to do.

A God-Centered Spouse keeps falling toward God and that spouse He brought into your life. You don’t fall away, you fall toward.

  • Forgiveness is a must to keep the hurts from piling up and building that wall of separation.
  • Servant hood is a must to keep you falling toward your spouse.

SO we must learn to ask ourselves: How can I serve my mate? Most people do not enter into marriage with the idea of becoming a servant. It is demeaning to women, and emasculating to men.

Why is it empowering to give yourself as a servant to our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet demeaning or emasculating to give yourself to your spouse as a life-long co-servant? To fully sanctify the marital relationship, we must live it together as Jesus lived His life-embracing the discipline of sacrifice and service as a daily practice. In the same way Jesus gave His body for us, we are to lay down our energy, our bodies and our lives for others, especially our spouse.

Instead of “will you do this for me”
“Will you accept what I want to give?”

You become consumed with how well you are carrying out the duty of serving your spouse.

SERVING YOUR SPOUSE

Serving Your Spouse1.Serving Because God Lives Within Me

1 John 3:16-18 (ESV) By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

2.Serving Because I Want God To Live In Them

John 3:17 (NIV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

  • Serving not because they deserve it
  • Serving regardless of reciprocal treatment

3. Serving With A Willing Spirit

Eph 6:6,7 doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men (your spouse)

  • Dutiful isn’t necessarily beautiful
  • Beauty of God is reflected in our attitude and Spirit
    • Verbal expressions –sigh, puff of exasperation, rolling of eyes, hunched up shoulders, the headache grimace, grunting when I have to do something.
    • Expressed attitudes reveal a self-serving spirit, a wanting spirit, a selfish spirit.

4. Serving in Practical Matters

a.Time & Money

  • Quarrels over money reflect a demand to “own” our own life rather than serve each other with our money, our things and our existence.
  • How much am I willing to sell my marriage for-30 pieces of silver?
  • Ask, how does spending this money serve my spouse?
  • Am I putting money before my spouse?
  • Same applies to our time and the things we use to occupy it.
  • Am I spending time to serve my spouse?

b.Sex

In 1958, when Player won his first tour event in Kentucky, he was asked for his reaction to a new Callaway driver he had helped develop and used during the victory. “Like a fool, I said that if I had to choose between the driver and my wife, well, I’d miss her,” Player recalls, laughing. “A week later I’m at the next tournament in Oregon and I walk in the (hotel) room and there’s my driver on the bed with a negligee wrapped around it.

  • Sex brings a husband and a wife under tremendous relational power.
  • Sex can cure everything from depressions, to migraine headaches, although those usually keep you from wanting sex.
  • Sex between a husband and wife can be a powerful experience in serving.
  • Likewise it can reveal the lack of serving.

The problem with illicit sexual behavior – sex between other people besides a married husband and wife, is it focuses on getting. Sex becomes the preoccupation, rather Than the needs of the spouse. Each spouse should constantly be asking:

  • Is sex something I’m giving or withholding
  • Is sex something I’m demanding or offering
  • Is sex something I am using as a tool of manipulation or as an expression of generous love?
  • If God looked at nothing other than my sexuality, would he consider me a mature Christian or as a near pagan.

God-centered Spouses see God in every aspect of their marriage.

See God in Your MarriageForgiveness and Serving-two powerful results of focusing our lives on God. When our spouse errs, hurts, even abuses us, we forgive for Christ sake who loved and gave himself to us. This forgiveness is not dependent upon anything our spouse does. We must not allow any bitterness or resentment or hurt or pain get in the way of our relationship with God. We must not allow our partners sin build a wall of bitterness on our heart.

Serving is the way we see God in a more powerful way. We need to see Him in our lives, or else we won’t have the strength or the spirit to serve. We must see that by serving our spouse, we are serving God, and God will use this to open our spouse’s heart to God. We must see the importance of service in every aspect of our marriage – money sexual relations, spending time. Marriage and the willingness to serve will bring the reality of the cross to your life.

Do you see the face of God in your spouse? Do you see God as your Father-in-Law, watching the way you regard his son or his daughter.

Servant LeadershipJesus knew that the time of His death was near. He also knew that none of his disciples would stay with him. He knew Peter would deny Him, Judas would betray Him. Yet Jesus went one by one and washed their feet. Do you think he really rubbed Judas feet till they hurt? No Jesus washed each one as if he was washing the feet of His Father. He wanted God to be so much in their lives.

Becoming TotallyMarriedAre You Falling Toward Your Spouse? Or Are You Falling Away?