Man of Mystery, Part 3

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

God designed us for companionship. When He created everything in the garden, He said it was all good except for one thing.  It’s interesting to me that, before man disobeyed and sin ever entered the picture, God noticed something wasn’t good.  What could possibly not be good in God’s perfect creation?  God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Many women believe that God looked at Adam and said, “I think I can do better,” so He created Eve!  But, the truth is that God knew man required a companion suited for his needs.  Both men and women share a need for companionship in their marriage.  Yet, part of the mystery in marriage is understanding what men need in contrast to what most women need.  While our motives are sincere, often conflict occurs when we don’t understand those differences.  When we try to meet our mate’s need for companionship out of our own need, we often wonder why it’s not working.  So, what’s the difference?  For most women, companionship is relational and conversational.  No offense ladies, but that really isn’t on a man’s radar when it comes to companionship.  For most men, companionship is sexual and recreational.  Verbal affirmation and nonsexual touch may meet a woman’s need for companionship, but most men feel desired and loved through physical connection and sexual fulfillment.  Is it any wonder why couples struggle to connect when it comes to meeting each other’s need for companionship?  The challenge for men is to choose love over lust.  I read a recent study that over 60% of men within the church are addicted to pornography.  Because men are visually stimulated and with the accessibility of pornography today, I’m not surprised that so many men struggle in this area!  Lust is a perversion of a legitimate need for love and companionship that God designed in men.  Men are wired to notice if they see a beautiful woman.  It has nothing to do with their love for their wives.  This is not an excuse, though, to keep looking.  Job dealt with this in his life by making a proactive commitment.  He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” Job 31:1 (NLT)Pornography is so destructive to a marriage and disables a man from having a healthy sexual relationship with his wife.  You may need to not only make a covenant with your eyes but also get a filter for your computer and block some cable channels from your TV.  In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, the Apostle Paul challenges men, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”  Choose love over lust!  This past weekend I was so proud of the men who stood in every service at our church as they made a public commitment to be that kind of man!  Ladies, affirm that commitment in your husbands.  Encourage them in this battle.  It is every man’s battle.  Work together to meet the unique God-given need for companionship in your marriage and watch how your intimacy and unity will grow!   

Man of Mystery, Part 2

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

A man’s greatest confidence often comes from his wife.  Every man wants to feel supreme confidence.  Yet, the truth is that most men feel insecure and inadequate.  A man’s biggest fear is that he will be found out to be a fraud!  He often feels like he lives in a house of cards that, one day, will collapse around him.  Men often ask themselves, “Do I measure up?”  It’s what drives men to be workaholics.  He measures his worth based on his performance, and the more successful he is, the more insecure he feels.  Like a spy, he feels like he is playing a role on the outside but wonders when he will be found out for who is really is on the inside.  That’s why one of the greatest gifts a wife can give her husband is the gift of confidence, to let him know that she believes in him and trusts him.  Yet, only one in four men feels appreciated by his wife and kids.  Only 25% of men say they feel appreciated by the most significant people in their lives.  The most fragile thing in the world is a man’s ego.  Perhaps that’s true across the sexes but it’s especially true among men.  It must be why Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica and told them to encourage each other and build each other up.  To encourage someone is to put courage in, to give them courage, to build up, not tear down their confidence.  Still, as much as we are told to encourage one another and build each other up, there is only one true source of confidence, and that is to discover our true identity in Christ.  If you struggle with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, you must first recognize your true identity in Christ.  Your performance will rise and fall on good days and bad, but your identity in Christ will never change!  You are more than what you do!  Paul describes our identity in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 when he said, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”   What a powerful confidence booster!  In Christ, I am a brand new creation!  In Christ, old things have passed away!  In Christ, all things are becoming new!  In Christ, I am reconciled to God!  In Christ, I am completely forgiven!  In Christ, I am righteous and holy and blameless, without a single fault because Jesus took all my sin!  If you want to build up your confidence, choose your true identity over temporary performance.  We’ve got enough in life to knock us down.  Look for ways to encourage others and build them up!

Man of Mystery

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Ephesians 5:31-33 (NIV)

 Part of the mystery in marriage is trying to understand your mate!  Men and women are definitely wired differently.  I love how the Phillips translation paraphrased 1 Peter 3:7.  It tells husbands, “… you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with ….” The emphasis is on the word “try.”  It seems like Peter is conceding that it is the best a man can do!  But, what about men?  Are they as complicated for women to figure out?  When it comes to how a man thinks, one woman said, “Never let your man’s mind wander – it’s too little to be out on its own.”  The truth is men are a little more complex than we may appear on the surface.  This week, we are going to take a closer look at a man’s heart and reveal the truth that every man wishes a woman understood about him.  We’re also going to see what the Bible says about how a man can keep his way pure in an impure world!  This would be a great blog to discuss with your mate after you’ve both had time to reflect a bit on it.  I’m praying it will open a dialogue between you that will take your relationship to another level.  Let’s begin with what the Bible says is a man’s deepest need.  In Ephesians 5:33, the Bible instructs wives to respect their husbands.  While the husband is instructed to love his wife, the wife is told to respect her husband.  God knows the deepest needs in each spouse.  A man longs to be respected.  Many men try to gain that respect through the wrong channel, and it creates frustration and dissatisfaction.  Men often try to gain their respect through success.  They work hard to make their way to the top of the corporate ladder only to discover that, when they get there, it was leaning against the wrong building all along.  Solomon talked about that in Ecclesiastes.  When he reached the top and achieved it all, he said, “But when I turned to look at all that I had accomplished and all the hard work I had put into it, I saw that it was all pointless. {It was like} trying to catch the wind. I gained nothing {from any of my accomplishments} under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11 (GW) I call this death by success!  While there are some men who bottom-out, there are even more who top-out.  The respect men desire will never ultimately come from success.  As great as it is to be successful in business, real respect, self-respect, comes from significance.  A man must find his significance in who he is, not in what he does!  This is why every man needs Christ.  When Christ is our life, we discover significance and life takes on meaning and purpose for us!  We are designed to be inhabited by God.  Apart from Him, our lives are dysfunctional because we were created in His image and after His likeness.  The Bible puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:17.“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Have you been struggling to find respect through success and still feel empty inside?  Open your heart to Christ, and receive His life and forgiveness of sin.  In Christ, you will discover your significance and real purpose.  Don’t make the mistake Jesus warned about in Mark 8:36-37 (NKJV), “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Choose significance over success. Don’t lose your soul.

Marriage Mystery, Part 4

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)

We’ve been looking at the clues that the Bible gives us in Ephesians 5:21-33 to solve the marriage mystery.  What are the secrets to lasting love?  So far, we’ve uncovered three of the four clues found in the book of Ephesians.  Like the game, Clue, I’m identifying each Biblical clue with a room in our homes.

Clue #1:  The Kitchen is where we nourish one another’s souls with encouraging words and loving actions.  Verses 25-26 say, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.  Christ’s love makes the church whole.  His words evoke her beauty.  Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her.”

Clue #2:  The Library is where we study each other’s needs and learn how to speak one another’s love language.  Verse 33 tells us, So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Clue #3:  The Hall provides the opportunity for us to walk hand-in-hand with mutual submission.  Verse 21 reminds us to “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Clue #4:  The Bedroom is the final clue for solving the marriage mystery.  The bedroom is the place of deepest intimacy.  It’s the place where we rest in our commitment to God and one another.  Commitment is the fuel that feeds the fire in a marriage relationship.  Couples that are committed to God and each other agree to work through rather than walk away from the hard times.  No marriage is perfect.  Every marriage will face struggles and tug-of-wars.  We’re all human.  The secret of a lasting love isn’t that you won’t have conflict.  It is the commitment to God that, in the midst of your conflict, you will stick together.  Unity can only be experienced in Christ. Think of your marriage like a triangle with God at the top.  Your mate is on one side, and you are on the other.  The closer you both draw to God, the closer you draw to one another.  The easiest way to express that commitment is to worship and pray together.  Why not renew that commitment this weekend at church?  When you both rest in your commitment to God and to each other, you feel secure with a love that will last a lifetime!

So how are you doing?  I’m including a Marriage Stress Test that we did last weekend at church.  It’s just eight questions.  Compare your results after you take the test.

MARRIAGE STRESS TEST

Do you look for ways to lighten your mate’s load? 

       Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

Do you talk together about your stresses?

        Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

Do you have fun together?

      Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you have at least two marriage getaways a year?

        Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                  1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you kiss each other goodbye every morning before

        you leave the house?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

   Do you pray together every night?

           Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you go to church together every week?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

    Do you have a weekly date night?

         Empty ___________________________________________ Full

                   1       2       3       4       5       6       7      8       9       10

ADD UP YOUR SCORE

 0-31    Running on empty (Your marriage could collapse under crisis)

32-48  Your  emotional tank is only half-filled (Your marriage is susceptible)

49-62  Your emotional tank is 2/3rds full (Take it up a level and add the sizzle back to your marriage)

63-75  Your emotional tank is filling up (Your marriage is starting to sizzle)

76-80  Your marriage is sizzling or you’re in denial (Please check your spouse’s score card for a reality check!)

Marriage Mystery, Part 3

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

The marriages that go the distance understand the secret of lasting love.  It’s always fun to interview the couples in these marriages.  One of the common denominators I’ve discovered about them confirms the clue that Paul gives us in Ephesians 5:21 when he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  It’s the third clue for solving the marriage mystery.  If you want to understand how one plus one can equal one, you have to begin with the word submission.  Before Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, he says to both the husband and the wife, “submit to one another….”  How well are you doing that?  An Old Testament character named Amos asked, Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 (KJV) Agreement is the result of mutual submission.  It’s a voluntary yielding of my will to the greater purpose of finding consensus that promotes unity.  It’s being on the same side of a struggle.  You know what being on opposite sides of a struggle is called?  A fight!  Jesus said that a house divided against itself would never stand.  Marriage is never about my way – but “our” way.  This clue is best found in the hallway of life.  Do you walk hand-in-hand with your mate in the hall of life?  Think literally for a moment.  Do you hold her hand?  Do you consider her opinions?  Do you adjust your own desires or schedule to accommodate her?  Do you work through issues, or do you walk away from them determined to have your own way?  To walk hand-in-hand implies that you two are both of equal value to God.  While the wife may be told to submit herself to her husband, it in no way implies that he is superior.  It just means that he is accountable to God for the spiritual leadership in his home.  How you respond in the hallway of life determines your emotional oneness.  One of the ways the husband submits is found in verses 28 and 29.  “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”  If it’s been a while since you have taken your spouse by the hand, why not take a walk together? It’s a great opportunity to talk about the issues that have challenged you as a couple until you come to a mutual consensus.