Walking Through Sadness Together

“I just received a text about my dad. My heart is breaking for him.”

My father-in-law has been dealing with several health issues for awhile. He has declined greatly due to a fractured hip coupled with dementia.

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Come Around the Fire

Monday’s Ministry Encouragement: Written to encourage you, my friend in ministry, to be refreshed and renewed as we live for Christ and look toward the Bema.

Before men’s prayer breakfast on Saturday morning, a real concern gripped my heart. The men arrived, filled their plates, and gathered around the firepit. On this cloudy, 34 degree morning, the roaring fire felt really good!!

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Monday Ministry Encouragement

Monday’s Ministry Encouragement: Written to encourage you, my friend in ministry, to be refreshed and renewed as we live for Christ and look toward the Bema.

Pastor, ministry friend, you are two weeks away from 2023! Turn around and . . . it’s here!

So far, this has been a month filled with opportunities, expectations, programs, preaching, singing, eating, laughing, weeping, etc.

In these final days of 2022, you will probably travel to visit family or have a house full at some point in the next two weeks or possibly be invited to share in other families’ holiday traditions.

No matter the scenario, 2023 is fast approaching? Are you ready?

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He Adores Her

Feeble and weak, he shuffled a bit wobbly toward the couch carrying a prized possession. In my 89 year old father-in-law’s hand was a photo mousepad. As he sat down on the couch next to me he said, “This is a picture of Mil (Mildred) and me after our first date.” He then proceeded to tell, with great delight, a bit of laughter, and a tear of joy how he got his sister to sit in the back seat of the car so the girl of his dreams would join him in the front seat. And as they say, “The rest is history.”

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Get Off the Interstate: Picnic for Two With a View

A hurry-up life-style results in a throwaway culture.

Chuck Swindoll

Indeed, many, many marriages are thrown away or put-on-the-back-burner because of the hurried pace and expectations of today’s society. There’s little time to develop attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize the culture of a good, godly marriage.

So, I offer a simple solution that can have positive “cultural” effects by way of two examples. If you don’t live in East Tennessee or travel these roads, just adapt to your neck-of-the-woods!

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But We’ll Be Late! | The Pastor’s First Ministry

There she was, sleeping so soundly. After a very draining week emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, my wife was snuggled securely in bed in a deep slumber.

“What time is it? What day is it?” Those were her words when I awakened her.

Slowly she crawled out of bed and began to make herself ready for the day.

What day was it? Sunday.

What time was it? Suffice it to say, she had overslept!! Didn’t hear her alarm either.

We have pre-service prayer meeting on Sundays at 8:30. As I watched the clock and began to fix her a to-go breakfast, she came down the stairs. My wife was ready to go to church on the outside, but I could see that she was not on the inside. And based upon my ever present “I’ll fix this situation” manhood, I declared, “I’ll go on ahead, and you can come in your Jeep.”

Wait a minute! It’s raining, she’s fighting off a migraine, and she is definitely not crusin’ along on all eight cylinders.

It was then and there that my first ministry captured my attention. Serving my wife was more important than being at prayer meeting on time. She had no business driving by herself. She needed her husband. She needed her pastor. She needed her friend.

Pastors, Christian leaders, missionaries, we are so prone to put the ministry above our wives, leaving her in the dust with her brood as she carries seven diaper/book bags, Bibles, a purse, and wearing her “running shoes” to keep up with you. I mean, after all, you are the pastor and you must be there to open the door and lead in prayer! What will people think if you are late!!!

Men, you know the words of Matthew 22:37-39 quite well. May I encourage you to remember that your wife is your neighbor. She is to be loved more than your church congregation (Ephesians 5:25). Your ministry to your wife, and your church member, I might add, is an example to all the other believers. She is your first ministry.

Fighting the urge to drive a bit more aggressively and take some of the curves on two wheels, we had a nice, easy and enjoyable journey.

Interesting enough, folks gathered for prayer as always, and . . . we were the second ones in the parking lot. No harm done. Compassionate, caring love shown to my wife.

Thank You, Lord, for stopping me in my tracks and reminding me what is of greater value.

“C’mon, Hon. Take your time. I’ll wait. Let’s go together.”

Twitter and Humility

In today’s social media world, anyone can become a celebrity in a matter of seconds! Post a video or tweet or reel that grabs the attention of many in a short span of time, and you can have “rock start” status!

A word of caution, if I may . . . there is only one celebrity, one individual that is worthy of undivided attention, one person that is to be lauded, followed and worshipped. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).

There is only one celebrity!

If we are truly born again (John 3:1-18), a follower of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26), then He lives in us to live His life out of us (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This is the preeminent status for us in this life! This is who we really are.

Therefore, let’s be careful when and if our numbers begin to climb that our pride is not stroked by how many followers or commenters we have. Any influence in this world we have only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory and honor of God the Father!!

Remember the words of John the Baptist . . . He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

Faithfulness and loyalty to God is much more important than being a celebrity.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage #6

One Year & 41 Years of Marriage

A marriage declines over a period of time. As I said at the beginning of this series, no man decides on a whim to get a divorce.

Sadly, the decline occurs when marriages experience more “withdrawals” than “investments.”

Obviously, if you continue to use your debit card without putting any funds in the bank, your withdrawals will overcome your investments and your are overdrawn. You have a negative bank balance.

Some husbands and wives are overwhelmed in their marriage; their “marriage bank account” is depleted and dry.

If that is you, may I encourage you make the following investments?

Investment #1: Believe that no marriage is too far gone to be recovered and renewed by God’s grace.

The absolute, preeminent starting point for every sin, heartache, issue, perplexity, uncertainty, fear, sorrow, risk, hardship, etc. is with God (Psalms 61:1-3; 66:1-5; Matthew 11:28-30).

Read, meditate and pray through each of the passages of Scripture given above and below and others, calling out to God on behalf of your spouse and your marriage. The best investment you can make is prayer! Please don’t underestimate the power of God in prayer! He is able, and His grace is sufficient!!

Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17)

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity. (2 Corinthians 9:8 AMP)

Investment #2: Forgive one another now and often.

Our old sin nature and our heart will lie to us telling us that we don’t deserve such treatment; that we have a right to be happy; that holding a grudge and seeking revenge is the way to go!

At this point, you must look at the cross and see Christ taking your place as your substitute (Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Peter 2:24), paying the price for all your sin by His blood and forgiving you all of your sin, past, present, and future (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14; Hebrews 9:22). Now you are no longer under condemnation or the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9; 8:1).

With that view, if you are born again; a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you cannot hold a grudge over your spouse, pour out your wrath upon him or her, or keep a record of wrongs done to you, in other words, get “historical.” Just as you have received the covering and removal of your sin by the precious blood of Christ in forgiveness, you must forgive, too!

There’s a form of debt in your marriage (and all relationships) far more dangerous than financial debt.

It’s relational debt.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is not talking about personal finances or budget. Instead, he’s talking about something that’s supposed to happen in healthy relationships—forgiveness.

Why is it such a struggle to forgive? Why don’t people forgive at all? The sad reality is that there is short-term power, albeit destructive, in refusing to forgive the other person. There are dark “benefits” in keeping someone else in our relational debt.

Keeping a record of our spouse’s wrongs gives us the upper hand in the relationship. There is power in having something to hold over another’s head. There is power in using a person’s weakness and failure against them, so in moments when we want our own way, we pull out some wrong against our spouse as our relational trump card.

How ugly and selfish is that?

It seems almost too obvious to say, but forgiveness is a much better way than unforgiveness. It’s the only way to live in an intimate, long-term relationship with another sinner. It’s the only way to negotiate through the weakness and failure that will daily mark your marriage.

Forgiveness is a relational transaction that needs to occur in moments when sin has gotten in the way of the unity, love, and understanding between a husband and wife (or any two people for that matter).

Paul David Tripp

Forgiveness lifts the burden off our shoulders of bearing wrongs and restores what has been broken.

The more you are willing to pursue forgiveness, the more you experience its blessings. It’s the only way to deal with hurt and disappointment. It’s the only way to have hope and confidence restored. It’s the only way to protect your love and reinforce the unity that you have built. It’s the only way not to be kidnapped by the past.

Canceling relational debt is a beautiful and necessary thing, not only for your marriage but in every single relationship in your life. (Paul David Tripp, Wednesday Word, 2/23/2022)

What investments will you make in your marriage today? Grace and forgiveness will restore any broken relationship if you will “lay down your sword” and run to the cross in utmost humility. (James 4:1-3, 6-10)

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (5)

So far this series, we have seen at least four ways to divorce-proof your marriage:

  1. Make a habit of praying together.
  2. Reject living your lives on two separate tracks.
  3. Don’t make a habit of sleeping single in a double bed.
  4. Humble yourself and do not wait to seek help when needed.

Now, you say, “How did you come up with this list?”  These are common threads seen in all the couples we have counseled over the years whose marriages were falling apart. 

The fifth way to make sure your marriage is divorce-proof is to make communication a priority. 

Let’s begin with the “mute” side of things:

  • When you go out to eat, you are not engaged in conversation; your mind and your eyes wonder all over the place.  You are more interested, for instance, men, in eating, watching the TV screens or checking your phone than creating meaningful conversation.
  • You limit your conversation to the basic elements of the day such as:  “What time will you be home?” or “Who’s getting the kids at school today?” or “What’s for supper?”
  • Neither husband nor wife are willing to take time to listen to each other share about their day and their personal cares.
  • You connect in more meaningful conversation with your children and co-workers than your spouse.
  • You do not discuss future plans, purchases, or goals.
  • You carry past hurts and offenses around in your heart for days, weeks, months, years.

How do you correct this “mute” situation?

  1. Set aside a time each day to just talk to each other.  If you have children, have a set time for them to go to bed each night.  Don’t let your children come between you and your spouse working on your communication.  If you are empty-nesters, talk with each other in the morning or at a meal.  Give each other at least ten minutes of your undivided attention FOR TALKING. . . and concentrated listening.
  2. The person you should have the most intimate conversations with is your spouse. Therefore, guard emails, Facebook messages, texts and tweets to the opposite sex.
  3. Men, you initiate the conversation.  Your wife is longing for you to talk to her which helps fulfill her need for security.  It tells her that she’s important and what she has to say is important.  Ask her about her day, her concerns, her disappointments, what God is teaching her from the Word, about her ambitions and desires, what she has been thinking lately about life, church, school, the children, etc.
  4. Wives, talk about things that matter to your husband—his work, his goals, his desires, how God is working in his life, etc.  Please take this in the right spirit please, wives, learn to be quiet and let him talk.  Don’t interrupt.
  5. Let love cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Don’t harbor grudges, offenses, or bitterness.  Talk lovingly about what concerns you and respond biblically.  Take it to the cross; run to Christ (Philippians 2:5-11; Ephesians 4:29-32).
  6. Learn to be transparent and vulnerable with each other.  Trust has to be developed, but complete openness between one another is priceless.  This produces wholesome intimacy (Genesis 2:25).
  7. Return to the days when you had a love language that was all your own with pet nicknames, love songs, terms of endearment, whispering in each other’s ear, etc, etc, etc. Do you catch my drift?????

Recently, while standing in line at a funeral calling, I became acquainted with a young man in front of me. He asked me how long I had been married, and I said, “41 years and it’s gets better every year.” Quickly he said, “What’s your secret?” I answered “Work at your marriage every day.”

So, which one of you will start the conversation going today?

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (4)

So, you just had another disagreement.  Cross, jabbing words were spoken.  Anger is written all over your face.  The strength of the door frame and hinges have been tested again.  You are courtroom sure that you are in the right! What are you going to do? 

The fourth way to make sure your marriage does not end up in divorce is to humble yourself and not wait to seek help.

Marriages don’t disintegrate over night.  They eventually reach the critical point when:

  1. You think “hiding it under the rug” will make the problem go away.
  2. You refuse to accept that you have a problem.
  3. You think you can work it out on your own by your own schemes.
  4. You are too proud to ask for help.
  5. You are more concerned about what someone might think of you.

If you are in this situation, stop fooling yourself into thinking it will get better. 

First, admit to God your problem/sin as well as your insufficiency to correct it. 

Second, be honest with your spouse in a loving manner. 

Third, call on a trusted friend, pastor or mentor who will give you loving, forth-right biblical counsel (not tell you what you want to hear).

Forth, repent and change. 

Last of all, walk by faith in the principles and promises of God’s Word.

Proverbs 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:14  Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety

Proverbs 26:12  Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Ecclesiastes 7:8  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

James 4:6  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

If you are in vocational Christian ministry and your marriage needs refreshment; perhaps a caring, listening ear, and/or a place to just get away, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. My wife and I would love to connect with you!