I’ll never forget the day my sister and I got in a huge fight in our backyard. This led into a bit of a physical altercation that prompted me to chase my sister down. I knew if I could catch her, I would come out on top. However, as we ran into the house she quickly slammed the back door in my face. My momentum carried me right through the glass door leaving me cut in several places.
She had won the battle, but not the war.
Numerous stitches later, I was assured that I would be fine, but there would forever be scars to mark this epic fight. For years as a kid I would proudly show off my scars with friends hoping to garner the “prize” for the biggest scar. It was proof that I was tough. It was a symbol that I had survived. I often left out the minor detail about getting beat up by my younger sister that day.
Over time, though, I became quite self-conscious of that scar. It’s interesting how childhood innocence fades away into grown-up mind-sets that teach us that scars are to be hidden. And not just the physical scars, but the emotional ones as well.
One of the most intense, surprising, and hopeful scenes in Scripture is centered around scars. Following his resurrection, Jesus’ followers are holed up in a room, scared that their lives are in jeopardy.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. To prove his identity, he showed them his scars and invited them to touch the scars.
Can you imagine the moment?
Jesus offered his scars as irrefutable evidence of his identity.
Each Friday we post an article aimed at helping families, particularly families with teenagers. Today’s article is about marriage. Why? We believe a strong marriage is a foundation for a strong family. Enjoy!
By Doug Fields
Mending wounded relationships is NOT simple and band aids are rarely effective, but there are some simple, practical, and transforming actions that can be taken to change a tone/vibe/environment within your home and marriage.
Try these five actions for a week and see if the temperature in your home doesn’t change a little. Plus, even if your relational temperature is “fine,” these ideas may make it even better.
1. Walk away from your smartphone. When you come home from work, it’s too simple to get lost in texting, checking, and reading from the phone. Don’t make the mistake of believing you are so critical to the world that you must be accessible at all times. Walk away from your phone when you should be focusing on your spouse. Better yet, turn it off. (Yes, there actually is a way to shut off a phone!)
2. Close your laptop. Computers are wonderful. But when the computer is on, I’d swear it calls my name incessantly, “Hey Doug! Yoo hoo! I know you’re there! Pay attention to me!” It’s too easy to come home and “get lost” in the computer that’s always on and calling your attention (blogs, email, Quicken, etc.). Turn it off and see if you can turn on some dialogue with your spouse.
3. Show up on time. If you tell your spouse that you’ll be home by 6:00 p.m., get home! Not 6:30…not even 6:05. If you make a time commitment to your spouse, honor it. It’s amazing what simple actions will communicate about love and respect.
4. Reduce TV time by half. I’m not asking you to go all Amish and ditch all TV. I’m suggesting that you cut your viewing time in half. Many of us eat dinner while watching TV. Try turning it off and engage in dinner conversation. In some homes, the TV is on even when no one is watching. It becomes the soundtrack to our lives. So again, turn it off, and create your own soundtrack of dialogue with your spouse.
5. Leave a short note. The emphasis on this is “short”… I’m not suggesting two pages, typed out, double-spaced. What if you left your spouse a short note every day for a week? Short words of affection and encouragement can be powerful. And if it’s not a regular practice, these notes will become treasures.
Yes, some relationships need BIG changes (intervention, counseling, accountability, etc.), but some relationships can be dramatically altered by some very SMALL and doable actions.
My sister called me the other day in tears.
“I’ve been praying so hard, every day, for God to work in my husband’s life, and I just don’t see any changes. It gets so hard sometimes. I just wish God would throw me a bone and give me a sign to let me know my prayers are being heard.”
I felt her pain as I listened to her cry over the phone. How many times have we prayed earnestly for something or someone and it seems God is not listening? Our prayers appear to fall on deaf ears, and we become discouraged wondering if we will ever receive an answer.
As we were talking, it occurred to me our obligation is not to wait anxiously for responses to our petitions, but our responsibility is simply to pray. That’s it. Often, when our prayers are not answered in our time frame, or in the manner we expect, we toss aside this vital communication with God.
“My prayers aren’t working so why should I bother?” is a statement I hear frequently. James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If you are only praying expecting your answer in your time, you are missing the purpose of prayer. Prayer is powerful and effective because it reflects an intimate fellowship with God. This deep, personal relationship is demonstrated in our prayers and acceptance of God’s will in his answer.
My daughter and her husband were expecting a little girl over a year ago. On a visit to the doctor, it was revealed the baby’s brain was not developing. In fact, the baby had no brain. It was devastating news for them, but we prayed for God’s intervention. I believed with unwavering faith God could change the circumstances. What better way to demonstrate His supremacy? However, the results I desperately prayed for did not come to pass, and my precious granddaughter passed away. It was heartbreaking, and I couldn’t understand why God allowed such a tragic situation in the lives of my precious daughter and son-in-law. Nevertheless, I still believed God was in control, and His will was done.
There are two important things to remember when we think our prayers are going unheard.
When we think about a “successful” Christian life today, we tend to look at Christians who have large followings on social media or from a pulpit. They seem to be the models for everyone else to emulate. Whether we would say this in so many words or not, we think these people – the movers and shakers in God’s kingdom – are who matter most. They are the privileged few sought out by organizers of conferences and international Christian gatherings to provide the keynote address, to set the standard for strong leadership. We want to know their secrets so we can share in their success.
But we need to ask ourselves some questions: How does this perspective jibe with scriptural truth? Is this view one we’ve received from God or one we’ve adopted from the world and brought over into the church?
When I first became a Christian, about 40 years ago, I was eager to follow Him with my whole heart, to be all that He had called me to be and do. So I looked around for mentors and Bible teachers who could help me. I also poured over the Scriptures, looking for principles to guide me. I assumed as I made Him the center of my life, I would soon discover the “spiritual secrets” that would make me great in His kingdom.
Like any new baby, I sampled everything that came across my path. Assuming I could do anything in the power of Christ, I eagerly jumped in, teaching Sunday school classes, hosting strangers in my home, praying for miracles, sharing my faith with neighbors and friends. On fire with love for Jesus, I was game for anything. And my assumption was that as I gained experience in these ministry areas, I would soon be a leader among Christians. I would be a mover and shaker for His kingdom, someone looked up to and emulated by others.
My in-laws recently moved into our garden flat but months before the removal truck arrived, a huge trailer loaded with what seemed like their entire garden came crawling up the driveway. It was loaded with potted plants. Not just any kind, though; the kind that I don’t like – cactus-like plants. They were huge and there were so many of them. I wanted to cry. I left for a meeting, which may have saved some relationships, and upon my return found the plants dotted not just around their flat, but also all around our house.
What shocked me was how great they looked!
They suited the character of our home! Upon close inspection these plants are downright ugly. Zooming out, though, they add to a pretty picture.
My mother-in-law had all these plants labelled with white plastic signs like the ones you see in pots at a commercial nursery. They tell whether these plants will flower in spring or summer and they describe the color and shape of the flowers to be expected soon. Some are in full sun and others are in the shade – on purpose. She clearly knows them as if they were her kids.
Your kids and mine can be like those potted plants.
One of the primary reasons nonbelievers cite for their lack of faith is Christians’ hypocrisy. This is echoed in Gandhi’s damning judgment about liking Christ but not liking Christians. The history of moral failures and sexual scandals from some of the church’s most public figures need not be repeated here, but their negative effects are indeed far-reaching and long-lasting.
According to philosopher and cultural critic Charles Taylor, our secular age is the age of authenticity. Our culture expects a “what you see is what you get” experience and insists the most heroic thing we can do is be true to ourselves. The greatest offense is being inauthentic.
The virtue of authenticity, or “being real,” is both one of the greatest needs for the church and also its greatest threat. The church’s testimony regarding Jesus, salvation and truth is scrutinized largely by how well we display this claim to redemption. Nonetheless, the church must resist the temptation to make authenticity the chief end of the Christian life or even what receives the most emphasis in our self-reflection.
Why Authenticity Matters
Authenticity is an all-important theme for the Christian life. Relationships built on authenticity are rightly cherished. Love and trust are built on transparency and true knowledge of the other.
My mind swirled in a sea of emotions as I left the doctor’s office. One moment I felt as if I would drown, the next I felt determined to ride this wave to the shore unscathed. One thought overrode all others: “I will need help.”
We finally had an answer to what was happening with my husband. As an occupational therapist, I knew the journey in front of me was not for the faint of heart. Social stigma and isolation were a real possibility with a diagnosis that involved mental health. A local church provided free counseling to those in ministry; my husband was a pastor, so we qualified. I called that afternoon and made an appointment with the counselor, John.
One of the most horrifying news stories of recent months is the kidnapping and killing of thirteen-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell by two Virginia Tech students. Lovell desperately sought to fit in. A life-time of battling medical issues, her red hair, and her freckly face were all things targeted for teasing by her peers.
Like many of our kids, Nicole sought acceptance in the online world of social media. One thing led to another and she was anonymously contacted through the social media app known as Kik by Virginia Tech students David Eisenhauer and Natalie Keepers. The two allegedly lured Lovell to a meeting place, where they wound up slashing her throat then burying her body in a shallow grave. Tragic.
While social media didn’t cause Nicole’s death, the story does serve as a powerful reminder of our need to set social media limits for our kids. We believe that thirteen year olds should not have their own smartphone, and that parents should know where their kids are spending their online time. This is especially important in a world where one survey is reporting that 53% of our kids own their own phone by the time they reach their 7th birthday. . . and yes, if you just read “7th birthday” you read that right.
And when it comes to where they’re spending their online time, you need to know about the apps they are using, including Kik. You also need to teach them how to follow Jesus and live Christianly to the glory of God on the digital frontier. We offer loads of help with that at our Digital Kids Initiative site.
Here’s a little video on Kik from the folks at TeenSafe. . .
Can I put in a good word for hypocrites? At least they’re trying half the time! At least they know what they should act and talk like. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we could say they’re halfway right rather than halfway wrong.
What got Jesus riled up wasn’t hypocrites who, as yet, lacked consistency in their lives; it was the proud hypocrites who intended to keep right on being just the way they were. Jesus didn’t denounce hypocrites who were in the process of integrating their faith and practice.
There are good hypocrites and bad hypocrites, depending on whether they’re emerging into their new life in Jesus or just plain stuck and complacent in their sin.
Freedom in the Spirit
I’m a big proponent of the truth that God’s Spirit, at work in our lives, can free us in this life, even right now, from the clutches of evil thoughts, evil actions and everything that’s less than perfect love. We can be freed from the bondage of the curse under which we were born.
We’re not stuck with our personality “flaws,” much less our twisted inclination toward rebellion and self-assertion. I believe in freedom from sin and its power. We can be freed to love even as God loves. Hypocrisy is never a descriptor of what we should be.
Redemption in Action
And yet I am routinely surprised to discover a fine new sinful temptation in my own life. Yes, I’m freed to perfect love, and, yes, I’m free to sin. Is that hypocritical? No, that’s redemption in action.
When you recognize that you’re not fully what you know you can be, you choose to either sink into a hypocritical spiritual-stupor — stuck in sin, faking it on the outside — or you choose to enter the entourage of the One who “breaks the power of cancelled sin,” of the One who “sets the captive free.”
A hypocrite, moving toward the cross, is a wound healing. A hypocrite, proud and stuck, is a wound gone septic.
Tweet this: Give me a hypocrite who’s aware and trying over a resigned Christian.
BISHOP DAVID ROLLER served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary in Mexico and then for 10 years as Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions. He was first elected a bishop in 2007.
Kiddie Kollege Update:
Last day of school-Thursday, May 19
Graduation-Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
We have 7 openings left in our 3 day Pre-K class, but all of our other classes are full for the 2016-2017 school year and have waiting lists! We are thankful to be blessed with families that choose our program for their child’s early education. Please pray for these children, their families and our staff for the upcoming school year.
Kiddie Kare Update:
Since December of last year, we have had four child care facilities close their doors, making for many panicked parents, as they have had little notice to locate new care for their children. Our little program has grown but our building is not equipped to house as many children as these former, larger facilities. When we first opened our child care in 2008, we saw the need families had in our community, not only to have a place that would provide quality care for children but also provide Christian instruction. Right now in all of Warsaw and Winona Lake, our child care is only 1 of 2 child care ministries left. I am asking that our church family will rally together and pray for this situation. God could be providing an opportunity for our program to grow, which could stretch us all (change is never easy!). Please pray for all those involved in making decisions for our child care, that God would provide guidance and that He will bless us to be able to serve both Him and many families for years to come.
Thanks for your support,