Good marriage and calling on marriage

              A good marriage is one that consistently puts the other first and chooses the couple unit. How well do you put the others needs first in communication, survival, emotional well being, etc.? This is a metric for all relationships. “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

              The second portion I assert is choosing the couple unit. This is the wisdom part. Sometimes putting the other person ‘first’, I use human comparisons, may put the couple unit at risk. At times we will have to ask the other person to bend or put in more effort for the sake of the couple and the couples calling.

The constant call upon the married persons life is to choose and return to the other as a couple. This also helps decide on where time is spent in wisdom. We are called to love everyone. But time and resources are limited. After creating a marriage covenant we choose to love them first before others. They are the deciding factor (not their feelings but them as a person) in how our time is spent. All of this together is then subject to the purpose of the marriage before God.

The call on the couple is living out the Kingdom mandate. The terminology of ‘Kingdom mandate’ or ‘kingdom call’ is undermined by our separation of secular and sacred. The ministry to win souls and be in church is the sacred and eternal – everything else is temporary and secular. When this divorce within the Christian life takes hold of our psyche the only way a couple can be doing good for the Kingdom is in church ministry. Difficult to do when you already work a full time job. I argue the Kingdom call is supporting the other in whatever good work is before them in Christ. This may include activities together or encouragement for when they are apart. This is a broad simplification and is intentional. Live life well. The Christian walk is as simple as giving a cold cup of water to someone who is thirsty. So do good and enjoy what the Lord has given you.

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Marriage is undefined, singles are lost, and pastors are the problem

In my last post I critiqued a lack of creativity and definition of a good marriage. My concern in defining marriage well is for the purposes of dating. Dating for the Christian is a process aimed at marriage. Marriage needs a clear definition for the single person to pursue.

Marriage and relationships are common issues for pastors to cover. So why is there still confusion? Pastors are the problem, but it is not really their fault. Most pastors writing books on dating went straight into the pastorate after college. They are in a bubble when it comes marriage, choosing a spouse, and the Kingdom of God.

I agree with the pastors, authors, and psychologists that claim a marriage needs a goal bigger than themselves. Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Search” and “Sacred Marriage” (one of the few dating books I recommend) rightly claims that a kingdom minded view is the best view for the call upon our marriages. For those going into fulltime ministry the ‘Kingdom Call’ is easy to see in their marriages and provides an easy filter during the dating process. Those not going into full time ministry do not have such an easy structure.

Concerning the dating process, Church ministry itself the filter – there are general expectations on a minister and their spouse. The girl or boy that has the same mission will already be in church. It is a neat little ecosystem that is simple and strait forward.

Outside of church this becomes complicated. I want to run my own business. This means long 90-hour work weeks. I may be in Law school and starting at a new firm. Long work ours. My work may require traveling. I can’t volunteer at church. How will I find a spouse there? What is the common calling of spouses that are a lawyer and an engineer? An artist and a city worker?

Concerning marriages, the ministers’ job is clearly involved in advancing God’s Kingdom and doing his work. They can work 40 hours, feel accomplished and then relax in their own time. How does the career person serve God with minimal free time? When I worked for a Fortune 50 company, I had two free hours a day. A portion of that time involved meal prep, cleaning, and daily chores. How does my future spouse and I work on the Kingdom calling together when we have separate vocations?

Good Marriage

Secrets to a good marriage. Take a good marriage to great. Have a healthy marriage.

These phrases ooze out of book titles, sermons, and conversational pleasantries. They are as pleasant as losing your keys. What is a ‘good marriage’ vs a ‘bad one’. Can I get a tester at the hardware store? Is there a list of ten key items so that I can grade my relationship? This would be useful and absurd.

Yet, that is what we are looking for. A test to objectively critique a relationship. What measuring rod do you use for two human hearts? The modern desire for measurable knowledge turns a rod intended to measure into one used as abuse. Yet sparing the rod spoils the relationship.

Without any clear guidepost we won’t ever find what we are looking for. If we don’t know what a good marriage is we won’t ever be satisfied in one. We may find it. But we won’t know we have found it. “This is cool. … Better keep looking” the search never ends.

 “It is always in the last place I looked” Is true bey comical definition. I never found something and thought to myself, well, better keep looking under tables and around corners (except in the hunt for a spouse). Once you find it the quest is completed and there is satisfaction. But if you don’t know what that ‘it’ is, then the looking can never stop.

Not all who wander are lost. But some who wander are most definitely lost. If the destination is the goal, but you do not know the destination you are most assuredly lost when wandering. If you are enjoying the journey as the goal then you can wander to your hearts content and be satisfied. If you want a destination as the goal then the destination must be known.

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Relationship Skills

I had the opportunity to be friends with my ex, I’ll call Holly, and visit her over the weekend in LA. I sat behind her at the bar while she was doing dishes and cooking breakfast. She shared mixed feelings for a guy she was talking to over the last few weeks. Holly stopped, turned off the water, and turned around to look at me. I looked at her bright blue eyes.

“I shouldn’t be sharing this with you. It isn’t considerate of our relationship. I am sorry.” She said with all care and sincerity.

I muddled something incoherent in reply and looked out the window or something. She waited. I returned I contact and shrugged. Satisfied she changed the subject and returned to cooking.

I do not know anyone as adept at communication skills as she was. The more books I read on neuropsychology, communication, relationships, and emotional intelligence the more I am amazed at how she just does everything naturally. No research. No books. Just good well intentioned relating.

I have had a few dates with young girls who are very present and engaged. It isn’t a completely lost art, but it is definitely difficult to find. I think it is an affect of social media and cell phones. Eye contact has become increasingly difficult to manage. Many are so lost and disillusioned that they have difficulty ignoring themselves long enough to really listen and engage with another human being.

That is the goal. Learn the habits that lead our hearts to putting the other person first. Some of us naturally put the other first. Others need a lot of help with lots of practice. I lived genuinely selfless before others and developed a severe selfishness disorder. The last five years have been fighting to get it back. I still fail regularly.

A few months after this interaction I unfortunately didn’t think of Holly first. I put her in an uncomfortable situation because I couldn’t die to my own desires first.

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Celebrate our Independence

USA Independence Day is a celebration of America’s separation from Britain. Typically it is a celebration of freedom. Os Guiness claims in his book Last Call for Liberty, Great Britain considered themselves free. In contrast with the other European nations they were. The United States were the free of the free. We took liberty to the extreme.

Christians typically are ones to take pride in the freedom of the American experiment of freedom. Unfortunately, some go so far as to call our nation a Christian nation. Some critique of America and say it is, “post-Christian”. Either claim is a misuse of ‘Christian’.

A Christian is one who follows Christ. Nations do not follow Christ, people do. The misuse of the term degrades the word when we use the same one to identify ourselves.

Christians in America do have unique was to conduct themselves in the Christian life. As we celebrate our independence and celebrate freedom this ought to include thankfulness to God for giving us opportunities that we have. It is from God that we have the political challenges we face and it is from him that we have the significant freedom to live well.

What is the most Christian response to freedom? Diligent use of that freedom to do well, thankfulness to God for that freedom, and consistent prayer for those that are not as fortunate. It is in God’s good nature to shape nations and shape his people by those nations. As we celebrate our country let us also celebrate the many blessings it affords us in thankfulness to God.

Happy 4th of July!

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Secular and Sacred Pt. ii

The separation of secular and sacred is rooted in Gnostic Dualism. The belief that the perfect state of man and woman is spiritual. There is a perfect design or blueprint of a person. The only way to reach perfection is to shed the physical state and become a perfect spirit.

               This is not Biblical. God made us with a physical body. When Christ returns and makes a new heaven and earth, we will have physical bodies. Christ himself is raised from the dead in his physical body and ascended into heaven in his physical body. We will be like him in the resurrection. We are made to be physical.

In the creation narrative Adam and Eve were gifted the responsibility of tending the garden. The command to subdue the earth is prior to the fall (Gen 1:28). The narrative then moves into a detailed look at Adam and Eve. God commands Adam to tend the garden God made (Gen 2:15). The intent for responsibility and work is present before the curse.

The curse after disobedience extends from our calling to be stewards of the earth. Adam’s curse was to toil with the ground. His job and life endeavor did not change.

The law that God gave to the Israelites continues the theme of earthly importance. Contrary to several surrounding religions, God gave commands regarding food, building their houses, and even their waste hygiene. Other religions gods did not care about the ‘earthly’ and ‘mundane’, only the spiritual.

Our spiritual health is important. But the spiritual is present here. The laws given to the Israelites to separate them from the surrounding nations were specific regarding how they lived their physical life. The Israelites were commanded to be different in their daily lives.

Finally, as James tells us, “Show me your faith without your actions and I will show you my faith by my actions.” The actions that show our faith is every aspect of our lives. Job, free time, shows we watch and don’t watch all point to what we believe in.

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The Secular and Sacred

There are two great lies the church hands out freely. We are to love ourselves first and there is a separation between secular and sacred. The first is more widely held and defended. When I politely suggest that loving yourself first is not scriptural it is Christians who respond viscously. Those who do not profess Christ easily accept it. Christians are supposed to love others more than themselves. That is Christ like, is it not?

               More subtly is the separation of the secular and the sacred. The separation is not taught as much as implied. Sermons, books, conversations, bible studies, and tweets imply that the unseen spiritual world is of more importance. Church ministry, worship songs, winning souls for Christ, reading the Bible all have value. Everything else is just pointless filler.

               If you are working a secular job, it is good to tithe and not do wrong things in front of your coworkers and invite them to church. But your real life is the spiritual things you do around your job. You have the unfortunate position of only getting in a few hours of spiritual work. Blessed be the church ministries that get to do spiritual work 40 hours a week.

               Christ cares for conduct of all people, everywhere, in every action. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it well unto the Lord. If this means taking extra time to clean the runners in your sliding door unto the Lord, then do it well. If it means leaving that task undone to respond to a friend on Facebook, then do so to the Lord.

                 The separation degrades most of our life from diligent stewardship of God’s gifts into pointless tasks. Those not in full time ministry feel lost and without purpose. It strips lives of opportunities to serve and glorify God. Worship moves from all people, all places, everywhere to fifteen minutes on Sunday morning and listening to Phil Wickham in the car.

               Our crowns are created and shined on earth. They are shown in heaven. The next several posts I will be covering how to change our thinking to undo the separation of secular and sacred.