Posts Tagged With: Paul

The Love of Christ – How Are You Measuring Up?

Awe, the enchanted memories of yesteryear… That bejeweled white dress, a crisp tuxedo, beautiful flowers adorning the isles, and dear old Dad kissing his daughter just before handing her off to her Knight in shining armor. You know that time; when the rosy-colored glasses are almost too thick to gaze through. Yes, I’m talking about that milestone in a couple’s life, your wedding day. Well years begin to pass, and that once hard body you had when you first met, has now transformed from six-pack abs of steel to something resembling more of a rusted out pony-keg. Then throw in a couple of kids, that new house that will be yours in just 355 more payments, and an unrelenting boss; and you’ve got stress. How’s the view through those rose-colored glasses now?

On the day we said “ I Do,” we did so because we were motivated by one thing; LOVE. Love is such a powerful emotion that it motivates many aspects of our lives. Heck, why did any of us get married in the first place? Because we felt like we were “in love.” Strange… we feel like we are “in love,” yet more than half of all marriages end in divorce. Could this be the problem in today’s society? Having gone though a divorce myself before coming to Christ let me tell you, I like everyone today had missed a very clear message in scripture. Love in the sense of a secular world is completely different from the type of “true biblical love” God has called us to have for one another. If you take nothing else from this blog get this point straight; the Bible does not teach that “true love” is an emotion that can simply come and go. TRUE LOVE IS A DECISION!

Let’s turn our focus on one of the most widely recited scriptures used during many weddings today; I Corinthians 13:4-7. In this scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” If one takes the time, we realize that Paul is not stating what one should “feel” for one another, but a “decision” we should make. This decision is to commit ourselves to one another so selflessly, that we share the common goal of practicing biblical love in or homes.

As I sat down to write this I knew I had to make it clear, I’m not trying to come off as “holier-than-thou.” I too struggle with the same issues that everyone is faced with today. Life does get in the way at times and unfortunately it does bring out the worst in us. I slip up just as much as every one else. However, the point to be made here is that even during those times of strife, we can always rebound, repent to God, and ask for grace from our partner. My intention for writing this blog was not only about asking you, but asking myself as well, “As outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, how is your love measuring up to the love Christ has called us to have for our spouse?”

As the New Year is quickly approaches and people begin making those New Year’s resolutions that, let’s face it, end within the first 30-days; I’d ask you to join me in thinking about what Paul’s epistles has called us each to ask of ourselves.

1. “Love is patient.” Are you willing to bear with your spouse’s worst behaviors and attitudes regardless of the reasoning behind them, and without seeking revenge?

2. “Love is kind.” Are you making the effort to seek ways to be useful in your spouse’s life through loving kindness?

3. “Love is not jealous.” Are you more concerned with your own personal advancement, or do you find joy in the esteem and honor we are called to give to our spouse?

4. “Love does not brag.” Are you striving to standout and draw attention to yourself, setting aside your spouse in an effort to remain “one-up” over them?

5. “Love is not arrogant.” Have you become so self-absorbed that your main focus is striving to be the more important one in the relationship?

6. “Love does not act unbecomingly.” As our spouse’s look to us for Godly counsel, are you insuring you don’t lead them astray into ungodly activities?

7. “Love does not seek its own.” Therefore, is your top priority after God to be marriage and spouse oriented?

8. “Love is not provoked.” Are you making the effort not to resort to anger when difficulties between yourself and your spouse arise?

9. “Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Are you keeping a record of wrongs against your spouse instead of focusing on the positive aspects they hold within themselves?

10. “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.” Are you condoning your spouse’s unrighteous behavior? Are you fueling the fire by joining in its expression?

11. “Love rejoices with the truth.” Are you showing your spouse praise when you notice truth prevailing in your spouse’s life?

12. “Love bears all things.” Even when you feel that you can’t stand it anymore, do you remain publicly silent about your spouse’s faults?

13. “Love believes all things.” Do you express unshakable confidence and trust in your spouse?

14. “Love hopes all things.” Do you remain hopeful by confidently expecting future victory in your spouse’s life, regardless of their current imperfections and struggles?

15. “Love endures all things.” Are you willing to standup and defend your spouse against every assault that Satan tries to use to break up your marriage?

So how are you measuring up? If you’re like me and be honest with yourself, you’ll admit that what Paul calls each one of us to do is not always as easy as it sounds. Our poor choices and behaviors lead us away from the path of making the “decision” to love one another, to the one that is based strictly on “emotion.” Can this hurdle be overtaken? The truth is, YES; we are all capable of having that “true love” feeling. We just need to change our mindset from thinking like secular man, and make the effort to close that gap that separates ourselves from the “true biblical love” that Christ has called us to have for one another.

I heard it once said, great marriages don’t just happen by chance. They happen when two people make the “decision” to love one another unconditionally. No matter if you’ve been married for 1-day or 50-years; every marriage needs continual refreshment through frequent confirmations of these biblical truths. With Paul’s words applied, good marriages will become great. And that weak marriage can begin to gain its strength back. In the end, when we finally take off those rose-colored glasses and get real about our love for our spouse, we’ll find that it really is important to distinguish between following our emotions or following God’s will for our lives. For in the area of marriage, God’s will is easily defined. Paul shows us that True love is a “decision” not just an “ever-changing emotion.” And “True biblical love” is about loving someone all of the time; not just when you feel “in love.”

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

 

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Categories: Marriage and Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Preparing for Spiritual Warfare

Many people believe that when one becomes a Christian all our troubles are over. Yet, as many of us know, when you become a Christian essentially our troubles may just be beginning. But how can this be? God is supposed to take care of me; right? The truth is, He does! But what many fail to realize is that because the unbeliever was once closer to being on the side of Satan than God, Satan really never gave them a second thought. Now with a shift to the “good” side, the new believer must get ready to sit in the same passenger seat as other Christians. Essentially, you’ve just become a high-valued target. And as many of us know, it can make for a very bumpy ride at times.

As a former military man, Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Armor of God)has always held a special place in my heart. It is in this passage that Paul brings the Ephesian church to recognize the nature of the battle that not only they faced, but the battle we still face today. As Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul’s words prove significant as they teach us that even when evil presents itself we can stand our ground. We gain the ability to do this when we equip ourselves with the tools that God has given each and everyone of us. This passage brings man to see the real truth; that the Christian life is not a playground, but essentially a spiritual battlefield. As Christ’s followers, Paul provides us with the insight into not only the aspects of the battle we are faced with, but also the protection and weapons with which we are afforded to fight this battle.

Paul begins this passage with a call of unity before the Lord, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10); for Paul was fully aware of the impending spiritual battle that each man, woman, and child would face in their lives. As the passage unfolds a metaphorical explanation of God’s armor is provided to the reader. This approach details how one can stand firm against the evil strategies of the devil while using the metaphoric tools of war that God provides to each one of us. While I would love to provide my full exegetical discourse, for the sake of blog space, I will provide a brief summary of the passage in hopes that it will wet your appetite and desire to know more.

As one goes through the armor that God provides in order, Paul begins with the belt of truth. This belt may be looked upon to serve two purposes. To not only serve as a stabilizer for the body, but also to protect the mid-section while providing a restraint to ones garments that sometimes move in the heat of battle. For the believer, this signifies knowing the “truth” of the Bible. When one knows the truth it will help stabilize, protect, and prevent us from stumbling when caught in the battle for our lives.

The next piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate refers to the armor that protects ones most vital organs; most importantly ones heart. When man lives holy, we are less susceptible to Satan’s attacks. To insure we remain protected, we take up this piece of armor to protect our hearts from the possible attack of Satan. If Satan is allowed to inflict a wound to ones heart, there is an increasingly high chance that the wound will become fatal. Therefore man should look at this metaphor as a reminder from God that we are to live in righteousness.

The third piece of armor is the shoes that protect ones feet. Roman soldiers wore sandals, which were adorned with nails that were driven through the bottoms of the soles.  This provided the soldier with the ability to stand firm and remain sure-footed. This metaphor provides man with the understandings that we are to be well grounded in our faith and knowledge of God. We must be sure we have a firm foothold on what we believe so we will remain steady when the enemy comes against us.

The shield of faith is the fourth piece of armor. While many may envision a small rounded shield, for the Roman soldier, it was a large rectangular shield used to take refuge behind when the fiery arrows of the enemy were launched at them. As believers, we know our shield is not made of iron, but our shield is our faith. And this shield allows us to deflect the wickedness that attacks us while never allowing our bodies to be left exposed.

In his last request, Paul tells us to, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Each soldier is equipped with a helmet. Without a helmet, the soldier’s brain would be left exposed. And no matter how protected one may be, without protection of the head, one precise blow could leave the soldier useless. This salvation helmet offers the necessary protection to guard our minds from the enemy’s attacks. And what would armor be without a means of attack? Therefore we are provided with a powerful sword. The sword was an effective weapon in hand-to-hand combat and a necessity to the soldier’s survival. For the believer, this is the Word of God. It is God’s Word that allows us to defeat our enemy with every battle we are faced with.

Paul’s last verse states, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). This verse is written almost as if we are witnessing a briefing room experience. If we are left to go to battle without having a plan, we fail. Yet here we see that we have an advantage over the enemy. We have on-on-one communication with our commanding officer (God). As the old saying goes, the greatest offense is to have the greatest defense. Paul’s words show us that when we use these tools and walk in the Spirit, we are assured to have the distinct advantage over Satan and always walk away from the battle as the victor.

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

Categories: Ephesians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Divorced? Are You Disqualified to be a Pastor?

Today, divorce strikes at the heart of over 50% of our nations homes. More shocking, you’re only a few Google clicks away from discovering that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce. When I was a newly ordained minister, I filled out many resumes for employment. It had become almost second nature to know that one of the first questions asked is “Have you ever been divorced?” This immediately placed me in the mindset that as soon as I answer “YES,” I might as well just get ready to be Triple-X’ed like a bad act on America’s Got Talent. If you took the time to read my testimony you already know that I have been divorced before. It was a time in my life that I was not a follower of Christ nor understood God’s true design for marriage.

Through my job search experience, I became amazed at how many pastoral leaders try to use a divorce in a person’s past as means to say that they are not qualified to be a pastoral leader today. For instance, I think the best example I found used by church leaders was in reference to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. These scriptures point out many qualifications as pastoral leaders aside from just the “faithful to his wife” part. Do these scriptures really convey that a divorced man is not qualified to lead God’s flock?

Let’s break down what I believe to be a huge misconception that is flowing in our churches today. When looking at these verses as reference, it should be noted that Paul’s letter to Timothy was written to give instruction to Timothy concerning the pastoral care of the churches in Ephesus. “The overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). This was not written to assert that Christian leaders must be perfect; however, it does mean that he should be a man filled with integrity who, as they say, “keeps short accounts.” Paul’s qualification standards also note, “A man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” (Titus 1:6). I will be bold and say that many people who have attended a church service can attest that there is a much higher probability of seeing a pastoral leader with wild and disobedient children running around than a pastor who once was divorced. So the question begs to be asked. Using these standards of judgment, a pastor with wild and disobedient children should be removed from the pulpit?

As men living in a fallen world, we all have a sinning nature. Therefore, none of us have been “blameless’” over our entire life, for example. To take the view that this passage is going back over a person’s entire lifespan with regards to marital history is simply not what the passage is saying. The qualifications for which Paul addressed refer to the present life of a man; in the past few years, has his life met these qualifications? The irony of this view is that some people who have been “married” for years, but yet have been flirtatious, promiscuous, or have even engaged in pre-marital sex before marriage, are still allowed to be pastors or deacons later on in their lives. Yet if some poor guy’s wife leaves him to perhaps run off with another man, he’s removed from pastoral consideration for life.

The real question becomes one of, “During the person’s present spiritual life, have they remained faithful to the qualifications of God’s Law?” While the Bible does detail God’s negative view of divorce, the same person that wrote the guidelines for scriptural qualifications for elders and pastors, Paul, provides further clarification. Paul provides occasions when remarriage is permitted; one of these is when the unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15). In summary, while God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), He is also gracious to the innocent party in different situations. Since remarriage in itself is not a sin, it is not necessarily a blight on a man’s character.
In the context of ministry, more importantly as a pastoral leader, I do not look at my marital past or other pastoral leaders as a blemish. In my opinion, the real testimony of marriage and divorce is not on the one who says they have never been divorced. It lies within the testimony of the one that can say that they have walked through the fire and into the loving acceptance of God’s grace. My past is a testament of why sexual abstinence and waiting for God to provide you with the right person is so important. God uses circumstances in our lives to get us ready for the purpose for which He has called us into; “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

I live my life today as I would convey to every youth I come across, “Don’t let anyone look down on you… but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Albeit, a pastor falling after ordination is a completely different topic I’ll address at a later date. However, to sum up this topic, I’ll close with one thought. In my case, had I never been divorced it is highly doubtful that I would have ever found the Lord; nor accepted God’s calling into ministry. It is by the grace of God that He calls men and women into ministry who have not followed biblical standards before coming to Christ. Make no mistake Satan has a vested interest in your future. He may intended to harm me, “But God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

Categories: Marriage and Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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