The rich soil of marriage

Men, this is such a huge issue.  Huge.  Marriage is under an all-out attack in our culture.  It is intense.  From countless conversations with men – Christian men – I know marriage is under assault in the church.  So many issues, so little time… pornography, money, in-laws, raising children, stress, past sins that still haunt us, unforgiveness, wives with no interest in sex, husbands too focused on sex…the list goes on and on.

If the marriage is under attack and we have the daily stress of money and the battlefield of work, it is no wonder that Thoreau once said men live “…lives of quiet desperation”.

We need our wives.  We need strong, strong marriages.  We need a complete, nurturing sex life with our wife.  We need the early comfort that only Eve can bring her man.  Not just the sex but the complete “oneness” that comes from a Godly marriage.

But many of us are not there.  Our marriage can appear dry and dusty like the dirt in my South Georgia backyard.

It is awfully hard to cultivate a lush garden in this kind of soil.  Plants struggle (gasp) for nutrients and water.  They wilt and it gets tempting to just pull the plant up and toss it.  But it isn’t the plant’s fault.  It is the soil’s.

For many of us, our marriage feels like this kind of dusty, void-of-nutrient soil.  We are tempted to just yank the marriage out and start over.  But we are being lied to.   Remember, we have an enemy who is the “father of all lies” and who seeks to “steal, kill and destroy”.

No, indeed our marriage – the covenant of our marriage – is not this parched soil.  In fact, it can be a lush, deep, nutrient-filled, rich soil capable of sustaining and nourishing life.  Given the picture above and the analogy to your marriage, wouldn’t you rather picture your marriage like this…

You know the old saying that “Behind every great man there is a great woman” is just so true.  My wife has the ability to build me up, affirm me, fulfill me, empower me like no other soul on this earth.  God knew what He was doing when He designed marriage.  He knew Adam needed a helper.  Oh how I need my helper.  When we are “off” and not connected, the rest of my life falters and I hit on about 5 of the 8 cylinders.  And when we are “on”, I can climb any mountain.

The covenant of our marriage IS this rich soil pictured above.  The years we’ve had together (22+) are rich.  We’ve raised two beautiful daughters together.  We’ve been through tough times together – financial stress, starting a new business, in-law issues, illnesses, etc.  Through all my ego, my desire to be something, my lusts, my greed, my failures, my hidden insidious anger…she has stayed with me.  Where I’ve gone, she’s gone.  My people have become her people.  Our two fleshes have become one.  She took my name.  She joined my tribe.

Through it all, we have remained together.  Bound together.  Covenanted together.  All based on that one promise… “that I will never leave nor forsake you.”  It is the same promise that caused Abraham to pack it up and follow a Presence.  That called to Moses and sent him into Egypt promising He would never leave Moses’ side.  It is the promise that Jesus came to deliver…that He would make a covenant on our behalf and that He would never leave nor forsake us.

Our marriages are all about the promise…

  1. The promise to be faithful and remain faithful
  2. The promise to stand by her no matter what
  3. The promise to never flee
  4. The promise to continually and steadfastly fight for her

And it is rich.  Men…it is so deeply rich.  This woman, this Eve took your name and joined your tribe and makes your house a home.  She raises your children, puts up with your occasional childish behavior.  Together you have a covenant and it is deeply rich.

So the sex life isn’t what it needs to be.  So the money issues keep coming up.  So the problem with the in-laws are still there (and yes, the holidays rapidly approach!)… and through it all … she took my name and joined my tribe and has stood by my side all these years.  It is the covenant that God designed and it is glorious.  Don’t let the world or the enemy lie to you and tell you otherwise.

Celebrate the covenant.  Love your woman as Christ first loved the Church.

Live UP.

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Love your wife…

David Platt on marriage…

“It’s not always easy.  As soon as I say – I know that as soon as I say, “Men, the priority in your life is to love your wife.  Love your wife”, I know that there are men that are saying, “You don’t know my wife.”  I know.  There are difficult situations represented across this room.  You say, “Well there are a lot of reasons not to love my wife.”  This is where I want to remind you, men, that your love for your wife is not based on her worthiness to be loved.  It is based on God’s command in you to love them.  And that is huge.

The world says your love for your wife is based on what you get back.  It’s based on how much they deserve it.  It’s based on what is most fair and right.  And if they don’t do something right, then they don’t deserve your love.  That is not what Scripture says.  Scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives.”  And this is why – this is why we need to see the connection between the Gospel and our families.  How can men who live with unlovable wives love them?

The only answer is the Gospel.  This is the picture of the Gospel. The whole picture of the Gospel is a God, not who loves the lovable, who loves the unlovable – who gives his life for us when we were the most undeserving.  How in the world can you love your wife?  By the love of God in you.  It’s his Grace in you.  It’s 1 John 4:19.  We love, why?  Because He first loved us.  This is a love that God alone can give in us.  This is why the Gospel and Grace is at the foundation of our families, because his Grace is the power to do this.

And you think about these tough marriages, tough wives, and you think, well how – how can God call me to love my wife in those situations?  And the answer is the Gospel – it’s the Cross. It is you going to God and saying, “God, my wife is very unlovable right now.”  And God says, “Loving the unlovable is my specialty.”  And he gives the Grace – God never gives a command that he doesn’t empower us to carry out.  Say that one more time.  God never gives us a command that he doesn’t empower us to carry out.  His Grace – this is why we need the Gospel, this is why we need Grace.

Culture says as soon as things are inconvenient in marriage, when things are not working out with your preferences – well, then you move on.  No, the Gospel says when things are inconvenient, when things are not working out in preferences…then you love your wife.  You love your wife, you love your wife.  This is priority, you loving your wife.”

And now CCC men, this is for us.  THIS is the test.  THIS is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where we integrate our beliefs into our action and get integrity.  What we say (I am a Christian), we mean (I, therefore, will love my as Christ loved me).  This is where we really can demonstrate the words Live UP.

A father’s gift to his son

Shared by Michael Wood…

My dad is lying in a hospital bed in tremendous pain.  He is 82 years old and has had rheumatoid arthritis for about 35 years.   It has racked his body, twisting his fingers and toes into almost unusable, angled, swollen features.  His once beautiful, fluid handwriting is gone, replaced by semi-legible pain inducing letters.  His strong hands that remodeled a civil war era home and built bunk beds, are lying still at his side.

About a week ago, while washing down their patio, his feet got tangled in the hose and he fell.  Not a bad fall, so we thought, but a fall none-the-less.  After a few days he started having severe pain in his right shoulder and elbow.  After a very restless night on Monday he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  His pain has been so severe that he still moaned and groaned while on morphine.  An MRI revealed several disks are damaged and pinching his spinal cord.  With surgery not an option, 2 of my 4 sisters and I had to make the painful decision to move him to the Hospice House for “Pain Management”. 

I grew up knowing that my dad loved me!  How did I know?  He told meA lot!  Also, he was proud of me!  How did I know?  He told me.  A lot!  He also told me the things I was good at doing.  These were gifts he gave me my entire life.  But this is not the gift I am talking about.

For the last two days he has been in and out of sleep because of the pain medicine.  When he was awake, he was lucid but in intense pain.  He would speak in short phrases but would grimace in pain.  When the medicine would take over, he would sleep fairly peacefully but was completely unaware of our presence.

The Gift…  Friday at lunch I was not going to go to the hospital because it was just too painful to see him in such pain.  With 2 of my sisters here and at the hospital, I figured I could wait until after work.  However, my beautiful and loving wife asked me to stop by and see him.  When I arrived he was mostly out of it and I really wanted to leave.  I stayed and he gave me the best gift he ever gave me!!  He stirred and became fairly lucid.  He recognized me and said “Hey Bud, How are you?”  Just like him to be concerned about others more than himself.  Then before I left, I told him goodbye and that I loved him.  He looked up at me and softly said “I love you too, see you later.”

Later may be in another lucid moment, or when we are reunited in Heaven.  Either way, I will see him later and I know my father loves me!

Fathers – Tell your children!!  Tell them you love them!  Tell them you are proud of them!  Tell them that they are good at what they are good at!!  Time is short.  Start now.  It is never too late.  I do not care if your children are 6 or 60.  Tell them!!

It will be the greatest gift you will ever give them!  God gave me a gift in my dad.  My dad gave me the gift of knowing that he loved me!!

My father was moved to the hospice house on Friday evening.  We were told that he had signs that his death was “imminent”.   On Saturday at about 4:25 in the afternoon, his pain stopped and he got to see his Lord and Savior!!

He gave me many gifts over the 46 years that I had him with me.  But far and away, the best gift that he gave me was the last words that he spoke to me!  “I love you too, see you later.”  I already miss him, but I know where he is and that he is no longer in pain.  He is walking and running with feet that have straight toes.  He is fingers are no longer gnarled and painful.  He can stand straight.  He can hear the singing saints without his hearing aids.  And he can see the face of his savior without his glasses!   

He gave me a great example to live up too.  He gave me a higher standard.  I pray that I can…

Live UP 

It isn’t about me…

Serve in the shadow God places you…

The New Testament introduces him as “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”  Peter’s shadow is cast over Andrew from the beginning.  Andrew is mentioned 12 times in the NT and in 10 of those, he is mentioned alongside Peter and Peter is mentioned more than 150 times.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of Jesus’ very first disciples and, in fact, Andrew went and “found his own brother Simon” and brought him to Jesus (John 1:41-42).

But Jesus had bigger plans for Simon than He did for Andrew.  Simon became Peter (the Rock).  Peter got the press.  Andrew didn’t and served in his brother’s shadow.

Andrew had learned that “a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).  So Andrew knew and was quite comfortable that any blessing he had was due to the Lord’s grace and he learned to be content in his role.  John saw Jesus’ rise and his own decline in prominence and said with joy, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

This is the cry of every servant of the Lord.  This entire thing isn’t about our prominence.  It is about Jesus’ prominence.  To God be the glory.  Not me.

The world preaches the gospel of “It is all about me”.  Our society is drunk on self-satisfaction, me-first thinking… “I just want what I want”.  Jesus preaches a very different Gospel.

Be content with what you have.  (Hebrews 13:5)

Be faithful with what you have been given.  (Matthew 25:21)

Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, trusting that He will exalt you at the proper time in the proper way (1 Peter 5:6).

Be like Andrew – this shadow servant was faithful, obedient, responsive, trusted, willing and courageous.  He continued to preach and plant churches until he was martyred by crucifixion about 30 years after Jesus’ death.

It isn’t about me.  It is all about Him.  To God be the glory.  Live UP.

Chase Daylight

Erwin McManus in his book Chasing Daylight said this…

“There are few things more inspiring than a life lived with passionate clarity…those men and women you admire, who somehow seem to live life to the fullest, would probably be the first to tell you that they are no different from you and me.  It is not about talent or being gifted or having intelligence; it is about moving out of passivity into activity.  It is about refusal to live a life in neutral and to value the irreplaceable nature of every moment.  For those individuals, time is a precious commodity.  It is about treating each day as a gift from God and recognizing that every moment lost can never be regained.”

Seize the moment.  Live wide awake.  Live UP.

How the world pictures men…

In this first ad, we see several men and the voice over sounds half-dead listing all the things he will do (for her)…the man is “dutiful”.  “I will say yes when you want me to say yes”… “I will listen to your opinions of my friends”… “I will be civil to your mother”… “I will put the seat down, I will seperate the recycling”… “I will carry your lip balm” … “I will watch your vampire TV shows with you” … “I will put my underwear in the basket”…

And because I do this… I will drive the car I want to drive.

Do you see it?  Man is dutiful.  Man is really a little boy – cleaning up and doing the things Mommie tells him to do.  Man is emasculated.  But man is also “dumb” —  I will do all of this just so I can drive the car I want to drive (and thus, this is all I really care about)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RyPamyWotM

And then…there is the follow up ad…this one from the woman’s point of view…

“I will wash your underwear.  I will prepare meals for you.  I will clean the kitchen.  I will let you keep that power tool you bought (this one is really a slap!).  I will raise your children.  I will continue to do the household chores by a factor of 3 to 1.  I will be the prime bread winner.  I will start 70% of all new businesses.  I will be responsible for making the major financial decisions in 95% of US households…

And because of that, I will stop payment on your gas guzzling, ego stroking, macho mobile…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkBWhrGa9gc&feature=related

And there it is…Woman is in control.  She does all the work at home.  She will let you keep that power tool you bought (like a Mama letting her little boy keep his toy).  She will be the primary bread winner and she will decide if you can keep that car.

I’m not attacking women here – so if you are a lady reading this, don’t get mad.  I’m trying to point out that this is the picture of manhood today in America.  Man has been emasculated.  Man has been rendered “helpless” and really almost pitiful.  Man can’t lead.  Man can’t make financial decisions. 

This is dangerous.  It subverts God’s design.  It has become a given in America that men are weak and almost useless.

This is the result of the breakdown of fatherhood in America.  40% of all households in America are fatherless and up to 70% of African American homes are fatherless.  In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Dads checked out.  They went into the factory or hit the road as traveling salesmen and left Mom in charge.  Divorce rates soared and now many women now don’t even want a husband or even a man living with them – they just want the baby and then they can do the rest.  It is a lie.

Our culture flounders.  We have a sense of hopelessness spreading across our nation.  There seems to be a real lack of leadership in our society.  Why?  What is missing?

We’ll go deeper into this in the posts to come…

Keep living UP.

What is LiveUP ?

This is the first post for the Christ Community Church men’s group’s “Live UP” challenge.  The genesis for this “Live UP” theme (or battle cry) came after a series of events in our Church.  We are teaching “The Quest for Authentic Manhood” this fall.  We had a great men’s retreat a few weeks ago and we saw some powerful things happen in our small groups – men in bondage and warfare, coming clean and doing business with God.  We are spending time at Carver High feeding the football team each week and we see the impact we are having (and they are having on us).  Many of us have read John Eldredge and been to his retreats but also Erwin McManus and others – the call to men is for “MORE”…a deeper, fuller, richer walk with God.  Many of us have read David Platt’s book Radical and the call there is the same – there is more to this life than material possessions and comfort.  People all over this world and just down the street from us are desperately lost and in need of our Savior.  The call UP is to start living beyond “me” and “self” and live into the bigger picture.

The call just seems so clear.  We are called to help men “Live UP”… 

UP to a higher standard

UP to continually pursuing our wives and battling for them.

UP to standing firm in our faith and fighting to defend the culture from the onslaught.

UP to being men of integrity – integrity with our money, our time, our work, our kids, our wives and with our sexual purity.

UP in our desire to fight for those less fortunate.

UP for standing for what is right.

UP in a passionate pursuit of Jesus.

UP even in things like getting in physical shape, pursuing bold adventures and building a community of men vs. fighting this battle all alone.

All the pieces seem to come together.  Men need a battle cry.  We need a higher vision.  We need boldness.  Eldredge says, “Something immensely dangerous is unfolding all around us.”  It is attacking our wives and children and spreading hopelessness across our nation and the world.  We need a call to action.  Manhood is under attack and we need our men to wake UP and realize there is a better way and a much fuller life in Jesus.

And so…we’ll see where this goes.  We’ll use this blog to put up our posts, videos, information and ideas.  This “Live UP” call (movement?) is just in its infancy in us.  We desperately seek God in this – that it isn’t our agenda…we sense it is His stirring but we are so open to being wrong in our understanding.  We’ll take this wherever God wants it to go.

All aboard…