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.

Broken But Useful

broken-but-useful

When I was young, our television quit. My Dad and I took the TV to the appliance repair shop in the next town. We dropped it off, drove home, waited a couple of weeks, picked it up, lugged it back into the house, hooked it up, and used it for a few more years.

Aside from making me feel old, this foggy memory illustrates something:

We live in a throw-away culture. 

If my television stopped working, I’d put it in the junk pile and head over to the electronics store to buy a new one. (I’d probably get a bigger one, too; don’t tell my wife.) You and I would agree that the time and money we’d invest in fixing a broken appliance would dwarf the cost of a new one.

It’s amazing what we throw away. People used to mend the holes in their socks and patch the knees of their jeans. They tinkered with the lawn mower until it began working. They rolled down the car windows when the AC quit. Today, it’s not that we lack the resources. We reason that fixing stuff takes too much time, effort, skill, and care. And, because everything we need is at our fingertips, it’s just much more expedient—and gratifying—to shop for something new.

And, I suppose, when we’re talking about electronics, clothing, appliances, or vehicles, that’s fine. 

But, what do we do with broken people?

Do we discard them? Or, do we invest in them? Do we shop for someone new? Or, do we renew our commitment? Write them off or embrace them? Ignore them? Or, draw nearer?

There are two types of brokenness

These affect everyone we encounter:

First, we are broken because of  the sin with which we struggle. Sin affects us all. We rationalize it. We compare it with the sin we perceive in others. We hide it. Keep it at bay. It breaks our relationship with God and with those we love. It consumes our time and takes our strength. And, by God’s grace, eventually it breaks us and sends us to the only One who holds the cure.

Given godly sorrow, repentance, and accountability, people who are broken by sin ultimately get an experience of God’s forgiveness, grace, and power.

Second, we are broken because of the trials we all endure. God permits dark days. He allows tests and trials. He guides us into valleys. He stretches us. He moves us past the margins of our strength and resources. And, he meets us in our brokenness, shining the light of hope and peace into our fear and upheaval.

Given time, faith, and ample amounts of courage, this type of brokenness is the distinguishing characteristic of a true servant of God.

What do we do with people broken people?

First, we understand that we are just like them. Then, we draw near. We offer accountability. We provide comfort. We bear burdens. We beat back loneliness with our presence. We shine light into darkness. We speak God’s truth. We restore. We remain for the long haul. And we help them discover their new place in service to God’s Kingdom.

The men and women who have been broken, only to experience the healing touch of the Father, are precisely the ones who are humble and hungry enough to be the most earnest and effective workers in God’s Kingdom. People can be both broken and useful. They’re not to be thrown away. They’re to be restored and released for the glory of God.

Why? Because God is a loving Father. He is in the business of redeeming all kinds of brokenness. He doesn’t just discard us and move on to someone new. He doesn’t get frustrated and walk away. He remains. He doesn’t turn his back, ignoring us until we give up and leave. He commits. He loves, forgives, heals, restores, and calls us to greater service than what we could have asked or imagined before being broken.

What about you?

If you’re broken, take heart. If you seek him, allowing him to do his work, there are great things ahead.

If you’re tempted to discard someone who is seeking God in his brokenness, reconsider.

Back in the Saddle, Part 2

back-in-the-saddle

I recently wrote about the journey our family has taken over the last 12 months. Now that I’m back in the saddle, I want to share the lessons God has been teaching me in the process.

1. God never changes.

It doesn’t matter what craziness is going on in the world—and there is so much of it—he never changes. He is always good. Always present. Giving us grace upon grace. Forgiving. Leading. Guiding.

In the same chapter in which he encourages us to be joyful in our trials, James reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (James 1:17). It’s not a coincidence that James reminds us about God’s constant nature in the same context in which he talks about painful trials. The weight of God’s unchanging glory is the ballast that keeps our ship upright during all of life’s storms.

There have been so many times when I’ve been amazed by God’s presence and provision during the last year. And I’m so grateful that he doesn’t ever forget about his people. That’s been crystal clear.

2. God’s people are amazing.

It has been truly humbling to be on the receiving end of so many prayers, gifts, and notes of encouragement. Seriously! How does anyone survive difficulties without God’s people surrounding them? For all the flak that Christians get in our cynical culture, try having a struggle or a need in their presence. Then, try not to be overwhelmed by the help you receive.

Our families pitched in to make sure our ends met. Neighbors’ parents dropped off boxes of groceries and an envelope full of gas money. Anonymous gifts appeared in our mailbox. People dropped by to offer help. Countless people prayed on our behalf. Coworkers (Kelly’s, not mine; I was out of work!) showered us with gift cards.

God used his people to continually remind me that he would “supply all [my] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19).

3. God is a Redeemer.

God must leap for joy when he encounters an outcast, a down-turned, cast-away, broken, bruised or damaged person. He never delights in our pain. Rather, he thrills to roll up his sleeves and to set about redeeming and restoring. He’s the champion of lost causes.

It’s incredible to see. It’s even better to experience.

God has reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that he “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [him] and are called according to his purpose for them,” (Romans 8:28). If you’re hurting, keep waiting and watching. I can’t tell you what he has in store for you but I know that he’s at work and that, in the end, you’ll feel the same way I feel.

I’m back in the saddle

It’s been a wild ride. But, now that I have the privilege of being able to look back over the experience, I wouldn’t change it. I am right where God wants me to be. My family is thriving. Ministry is getting more and more exciting every day. It’s great to be back in the saddle!

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.