The Original Attack on Marriage

the-original-attack-on-marriage

I have always supposed that the great fall of Satan, his wicked rebellion against God, happened in eternity past. I assumed it occurred eons before God created the Earth.

But, what if it didn’t?

When we meet him, [biblegateway passage=”Genesis 3:1-13″ display=”just a few pages into the book of Genesis”], Satan is in full and glad rebellion against the Creator. Did Satan already have a long record of defiance? Or, was this his first offense?

Cyprian, a church father who was born in the year 200, proposed a theory for Satan’s fall: “When he saw human beings made in the image of God, he broke forth into jealousy and malevolent envy” and determined to rebel. In other words, the great sin for which Satan and his demons were banished from God’s presence was the pride that made him intent on dragging Adam and Eve into his insurrection.

Can I say, for sure, that it happened this way. No. The Bible doesn’t specify. But, it sure does make you think.

Why does this matter?

There has been so much upheaval surrounding marriage. Who should be able to marry? Who shouldn’t? And, who gets to decide? The government? The Supreme Court? The States? Who’s agenda wins the day? All the discussion and debate has widened the gap between people who take opposing views. Each side has succeeded in demonizing the other. And, it’s all a mess.

Christians, are we missing the point? Is it possible that we are fighting the wrong enemy?

Marriage has a greater enemy

Who’s the enemy?

On the one hand, the liberal media isn’t the enemy. Gay-rights activists aren’t the enemy. Hollywood isn’t the enemy. Neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court is the enemy. On the other hand, the religious right isn’t the solution. Evangelical leaders aren’t the solution. A majority of Republicans in Government, the courts, and the White House isn’t the solution. Christian media and movies aren’t the solution.

God help us. We’ve boiled the issue into simple dichotomies. But, it’s not “us” against “them.”

If Satan’s defining rebellion—the cataclysmic act for which he and a third of the angels were eternally expelled from God’s presence—was the original attack on marriage in the Garden, then shouldn’t we focus our energy on opposing him, his accusations, and his schemes?

And, shouldn’t our counter-rebellion begin in our own homes?

Curses and blessings

All sin has [biblegateway passage=”Genesis 3:16-19″ display=”consequences”]. For Eve, painful childbirth and conflict regarding her role. For Adam, ceaseless toil, diminished returns, and death. The struggle continues today. We still experience the result of the Garden’s curses. But, we can also know the blessings of obedience to Christ in our marriages, even in the midst of a fallen world inhabited by a very real enemy.

Satan still does all he can to divide us. He knows that his success in wrecking marriages accomplishes profound collateral damage. But, we have a choice. We can choose not to perpetuate the evil that Satan plots by cultivating [biblegateway passage=”Matthew 19:4-6″ display=”marriages that will last”]. We can build our marriages on [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:21-33″ display=”mutual submission, respect, and sacrificial love”]. And, we can choose to [biblegateway passage=”1 Corinthians 13:4-7″ display=”love unconditionally”]. That is the path that leads to blessing.

Marriage has a greater hero

Satan’s rebellion seals his fate. God makes it unequivocally clear to Satan that [biblegateway passage=”Genesis 3:14-15″ display=”his destiny is Hell”]. Eve’s offspring, Jesus, would one day crush Satan’s head (but not without himself suffering from the Serpent’s poison). Because of Jesus’ victory over Satan, he took the penalty of our rebellion and made it possible for us to again be united to one another and, most importantly, to our heavenly Father.

Satan will do all he can to tempt, accuse, and divide our marriages. It’s his rebellion’s original strategy. But, we have a Savior who has made it possible for us to resist his temptations, deflect his accusations, and remain united.

Let’s fight for our marriages. But, let’s make sure we’re fighting the right enemy.

To Please God’s Heart

to-please-gods-heart

As a believer, my greatest opportunity and responsibility is to please God’s heart. There’s nothing I should want more.

Recently, I was asked to speak at a fundraising banquet for an awesome new organization located here on Indy’s west side. (If you haven’t heard of Active Grace, here’s your chance.)

As I prepared for my short devotion and thought about Active Grace’s mission to display the grace of Jesus by meeting the needs of people in our community, Micah 6:8 popped into my mind. And, I realized—of all the wonderful things we could attempt to do to please God’s heart—there is one thing in Scripture that seems to rise to the top of the list.

The following is my outline from that night. As you attempt to please God’s heart, I hope this is an encouragement to you.


What can believers do that most pleases God’s heart?

Is it heartfelt worship? In Psalm 100, the psalmist exhorts Israel to come before the lord with gladness, joyful songs, thanksgiving, and praise. Certainly, God is pleased when his people worship him and glorify his name. In fact, he wants us to live the entirety of our lives as a personal act of worship to him. He is worthy of praise.

Is it doctrinal precision? In his first letter to his protégé, the Apostle Paul told Timothy to apply himself to his life and doctrine and that by persisting in that effort he’d save himself and his hearers. God has revealed himself to his people in the Scriptures; they are God-breathed. The Scriptures reveal all we need for life and godliness. If he has revealed himself to us, it stands to reason that his people should invest the mental effort to know him with great precision and to prevent doctrinal error.

Is it personal purity? In the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples that unless their righteousness surpassed that of the religious leaders of their time, they wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. God, who is holy, created us to bear his holy image. Without a doubt, God wills his people to put off sin and to put on his holiness.

Is it possible that all three of these—whether separate or combined—somehow fall short when it comes to pleasing our Heavenly Father? Almost in exasperation, [biblegateway passage=”Micah 6:6-8″ display=”the prophet Micah”] reflects this struggle:

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

The answer to these rhetorical questions, of course, is that none of these (in any amount) will suffice for one who desires to stand in the Lord’s presence. Not glad, heartfelt worship alone. Not doctrinal precision alone. Not even a spotless heart.

Well, then, what can believers do that most pleases his heart?

Micah continues with the answer to the question:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Justice. Mercy. Devotion. God is most pleased when his people worship him by showing justice, by being merciful, and by walking humbly with him.

Over and over again, in God’s Word, he demonstrates his love for people on the margins of society, those who are oppressed by the powerful, those who are systemically deprived of justice, the poor who cannot provide for themselves, the sick who are in need of healing and hope, widows with no one to care for them, and orphans who are abandoned and alone.

Why is God so interested in these people? He created them. They bear his image. And, they are precisely the people who most easily recognize their need for him, for his provision, and for the salvation that can only come from him.

And, these are precisely the people God consistently urges believers to protect, to provide for, to honor, to welcome with glad hearts, and to love. This truth is so pervasive in Scripture that Micah can equate the act of providing justice to others with true worship, the showing of mercy with doing God’s will, and both as central to a thriving relationship with him—as devotion and as worship, pleasing to him.

To exploit the fatherless is to invite God’s wrath:

Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you, ([biblegateway passage=”Proverbs 23:10-11″]).

God defends those who are most defenseless and calls his people to do the same:

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing, ([biblegateway passage=”Deuteronomy 10:18″]).

God calls us to be active in showing his grace:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow, ([biblegateway passage=”Isaiah 1:17″]).

He wants us to show kindness to the needy:

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God, ([biblegateway passage=”Proverbs 14:31″]).

Providing for the poor is tied to spiritual blessings and curses:

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses, ([biblegateway passage=”Proverbs 28:27″]).

Perhaps all of this is so true of our heavenly Father because of what he did in and through Jesus Christ:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich, ([biblegateway passage=”2 Corinthians 8:9″]).

It’s no coincidence that James, Jesus’ own half-brother, summarized this issue so well. What is most pleasing to the Father?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world, ([biblegateway passage=”James 1:27″]).

When I first heard about Active Grace, I became so excited. I immediately thought of Micah’s words. And, I knew that God would continue to do amazing things in and through this organization because I could see that what was so close to their heart is precisely what is closest to God’s heart: caring for the poor.

Once again, let’s hear Micah’s words:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


Do you want to please God’s heart?

God is most pleased with his people when we’re most focused on bringing justice and mercy to those who most need it and when we humbly walk with him.

A Prayer Resource for You

The_Apostle_Paul

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of teaching about the prayer priorities and practices of the Apostle Paul. As a part of the experience for participants, I put together a 42-day prayer guide to help all of us pray the Scriptures and put to practice what we’re learning.

It’s been a challenging experience for me and several others with whom I’ve talked.

Several have asked me to make it available online. So, here you go. A prayer resource for you! Enjoy.

As you pray, I’d love to hear what you’re experiencing. Share a comment or email me to let me know how it’s going.

Back in the Saddle

back-in-the-saddle

If you would have asked me a year ago what I thought would happen in 2014, I guarantee I couldn’t have guessed.

It’s been a wild ride.

In the spring, a long chapter in ministry came to a close. We settled into a new church and a new chapter in the corporate world began almost immediately. We had a fantastic summer, got to experience a wonderful vacation with family, and returned home to the news that our great friends and next-door neighbors were opening a new chapter out of state. Then, the same week we watched their moving van pull away, I got pulled into my boss’s office and found out I was a part of a reduction of force. Terminated.

Ouch! That was a very bad week.

Sometimes, I think God wisely strips away the things we lean on to provide the clarity we need to follow him with renewed focus. A lot of times, what we’re leaning on—jobs, relationships, financial peace, status, familiarity—are the very things that keep us from leaning on him.

As we have done so frequently in the past, we circled the wagons, took a deep breath, and began scanning the horizon for signs of what God might be up to.

First, I should back up. When my ministry ended in the spring, I felt absolutely convicted that God hadn’t released our family from our ministry in the community in which we live. I didn’t want to chase ministry all over the country because I saw all the ministry we were continuing to do. And, to be honest, I had simply refused to enter into any conversation about getting back into ministry. I wasn’t having it. Looking back, my heart was a little hard. There was some hurt that had to heal. And, I knew I needed time.

About two weeks after that really bad August week, he began his work in my heart and in our family because a friend dared to follow his lead and speak up. One Friday, a good friend asked my wife, “Why doesn’t Kevin apply for the ministry position that’s open at Plainfield Christian Church?” Kelly didn’t know what to say; we hadn’t considered it. She texted me; I didn’t know how to reply. So I sat and thought about it. And, for the first time in several long months, I felt warmth, light, and enthusiasm begin to creep slowly back into my heart.

It was an awesome feeling.

That afternoon, Kelly and I decided we’d think on it over the weekend and that we’d honor God by pursuing it if he moved us in that direction. A couple hours later, a friend messaged me out of the blue and told me that I should pursue the opening at PCC. Strange. Then, later that evening, my parents came to visit. When we told them what had happened that day, my Dad got emotional and told us he’d been praying for ministry opportunities for us. The sermon that Sunday spoke directly to me and was the final straw. We talked and prayed that evening and determined that I needed to make a call the next day.

That Monday afternoon, I ended up having a conversation in the church office and a new adventure began to open up in front of us.

It’s been a month since I’ve officially been back in ministry. It is so good to be back in the saddle. God is good. I can see what he’s been up to. I know that what he has allowed has been for our good, our healing, and our protection. And, I am so excited for the future.

We’ve learned some incredible lessons … but I’m going to have to save that for another day.

The Power To Do Good

the-power-to-do-good

A particular proverb has been rattling around in my brain for some time. It’s one of those bits of wisdom that has a way of sinking down and taking hold in my heart.

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act,” (Proverbs 3:27).

Nineteen words. Twitter-worthy at fewer than 140 characters. Limitless in application. Truly, I don’t believe I could ever exhaust the application of this short snippet. Here’s how this verse has been provoking me lately.

1. I have the power to do good.

I have almost unlimited potential to do good. The problem for me is when I begin to substitute “heroic” for “good.” I don’t have many opportunities to help elderly ladies across the street, pull children out of burning buildings, build hospitals, or make grand public gestures. But, I can remember to ask my friend how his grandmother’s health is. I can take the time to get to know the people around me and take a genuine interest in them. I can lend my help to carry furniture for my new neighbor. I can give a generous tip, open my house to guests, or buy a sandwich for someone who is hungry.

2. The good I might do is due to more people than I might initially imagine.

The homeless woman who sits outside of Starbucks every day. The coworker who treats me with less respect than I believe I deserve. The neighbor kid who is spreading dandelion seeds in my back yard. The single mom who is serving me at the restaurant. My boss. My family. Who deserves respect? I can tell you that there are many more who do deserve respect than there are who do not. I go wrong every time I glibly assume someone isn’t worthy of my respect. And, I miss opportunities to bless and encourage them.

3. Sometimes it isn’t in my power to act; but most of the time it is.

I easily become overwhelmed in the fact of others hardships. I routinely think, “What could I possibly do to help? Their needs are so much greater than I have the capacity to impact.” When I look around and see problems, there’s something very important I’m not seeing: people. I might not be able to reverse a social injustice, but I can be kind to a woman who is oppressed. I might not be able to reverse someone’s financial slide, but I can buy him lunch. I simply can’t continue to write off opportunities to do good for people because problems are too daunting.

As uncomfortable as it might be, I hope God continues to rattle my cage with this verse. I’ve passed up so many opportunities in my lifetime. I don’t want to let them continue to slip by without giving them a second thought.

What about you?

Do you recognize that you have the power to do good? How broad—or narrow—is your perception of whom you might impact? And, have you failed to realize when it is in your power to act?

May all of us realize that we have the power to do good!

How to Know You’re In Love

how-to-know-youre-in-love

Everybody wants to be in love. We enjoy love stories and sappy songs. We all long for that tingly, butterflies-in-my-stomach, kind of feeling that comes with being in love. It makes us feel alive. Excited. Hopeful. All of us long to be part of a love story that spans the test of time.

But, most of us have no idea how to make that happen.

How do you know you’re in love? Truly in love? Then, how do you stay in love?

I think I have the answer. I predict that it will be unpopular. But, I know how to know you’re in love. My answer won’t jump right out and grab you like a story on the silver screen or a dreamy fairy tale with a dashing prince and swooning princess. It’s a counter-intuitive answer. My idea isn’t original to me. It’s found on the pages of the Bible, way back in the book of Genesis. Surprisingly (to some), there’s a tender love story in the middle of the book. It’s the story of Jacob and Rachel:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her, (Genesis 29:16-20).

(First of all, poor Leah! Can we just say that?)

If you read the rest of Jacob and Rachel’s story, there’s a lot of tension and conflict. (Show me a love story that doesn’t have it’s share of those ingredients.) Their story isn’t a perfect story. But, it holds some great clues about how you know you’re in love.

So, how do you answer the question? How do you know you’re in love? How do you stay in love?

You know you’re in love if you’re willing to serve and wait for the person you love.

Jacob worked for seven years to earn the hand and heart of the woman he loved. Seven years! And, in one of the most touching anecdotes in the Bible, those seven years flew by as if they were only a few days. Jacob was committed to Rachel so he was willing to serve and wait.

How many conflicts do we face in our marriages because we’re simply unwilling to serve and wait for our spouses? How many conflicts could we avoid if we were willing to meet our spouses’ needs first? How many rifts would be mended if we were willing to simply, lovingly, wait?

Jacob figured out something that all of us are still struggling with. If we’d learn from Jacob’s example—better yet, if we were to follow his example—we’d be able to know whether or not we’re truly in love. And, we’d be able to stay that way no matter what we might face together.

Embracing Our Mission

saturday-serving-spotlight

The concept of serving has always been close to my heart. It’s been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I have always enjoyed the experience of doing something significant—or seemingly not so significant—simply from a place of love and a desire to encourage someone.

It’s that time again: time for this week’s installment of the Saturday Serving Spotlight.

//////////

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago,” (Ephesians 2:10).

God has already planned all of the good things he wants to accomplish through you. Isn’t that an awesome thought! He already knows what you’re capable of accomplishing with his guidance. In fact—before time began—he knew you, had a special plan for your life, and loved you more than you are capable of understanding. What an amazing God!

Even though God has done all of the preparation, some believers still find it difficult to discover and embrace God’s will for them. Why is that?

  • Some of us are blind to opportunities.
  • Some of us are so convinced that we know what God wants us to do so we miss where he’s really leading us.
  • Some of us are too busy.
  • Sinfulness and selfishness keep many of us from experiencing his guidance.
  • Some of us never have been taught that God wants to use us in special ways.

For whatever reason, it’s tragic when a Christian—saved by God’s grace and filled with his Spirit—fails to embrace and live out God’s calling.

It’s easy to make God’s will for the good things we might do more mysterious than it really is. His will is simple; he wants us to love him and to love others (Matthew 22:37-40). The way we uncover the specifics of this mission is simply to begin moving—to begin loving and serving. In the act of embracing our mission, taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities to share love that he gives us each day, he directs us deeper and farther along into his will.