Archive for January, 2013

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Breathe…Bring an Element of This Week’s Lesson into Everyday Life

January 30, 2013

Today’s Reading | Luke 9:1-25 | The Key to Marriage

When our marriages struggle we often ask, why should I “act first and let emotions come later?” Why should I serve my spouse when they are unloving or disrespectful? They don’t deserve it! I deserve better! In these moments we have an opportunity like no other to show the world what God is really like. The outside world may not see all that is happening in your marriage but over time they will witness your faithfulness.

“You see…when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) In the Old Testament God demonstrated His faithfulness to an unfaithful people—He was the faithful husband to an unfaithful wife (Hosea 3:1). In the New Testament Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. He gave Himself up for people who only deserved His wrath. That is the definition of love. (1 John 3:6)

The key to marriage is the cross. Self-denial is the path to a flourishing marriage. When you deny yourself for your spouse, especially when you have been hurt, you are very much like Christ. You display His love to the world. We may talk about God’s love but in marriage we can display it in real life.

This week spend 15 minutes in prayer. Ask God to show you how to deny yourself, your desires, or your expectations in order to love your spouse more fully. (If you are not married, the teaching of self-denial still applies to your relationships. Seek to love others sacrificially.)

 

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Trail…Pursue God by Practicing a Spiritual Discipline

January 29, 2013

Today’s Reading | Ephesians 5:21-33 | Mutual Submission

The biblical picture of marriage is diverse. Biblical writers lived in a society where marriage was more often defined by prevalent culture than by God’s ideal. Polygamy was common and women were treated as property. However, in this darkness the Apostle Paul writes to first century Christians in Ephesus and his advice sparkles like a diamond lost in a landfill:

Submit to one another…(v. 21) Wives, submit to your husbands…(v. 22) Husbands, love your wives… (v. 25)

We often misunderstand Paul’s teaching because we forget that telling a first century husband to submit to his wife would have been ridiculous. Men owned their wives. But Paul turns the values of the day upside down and commands husbands to love their wives sacrificially. This creates a picture of mutual submission and mutual love. When couples pursue this together, they become “imitators of God…just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:2)

What we see here is that two people with individual needs come together and become “one flesh” (v. 31). The individuals don’t disappear; a third element is created through their marriage. Each individual must now seek the best, not only for themselves and each other, but also for their relationship.

If you are married, sit down this week with your spouse and discuss this: looking beyond your individual needs, what does your marriage need most in order to flourish? How can you submit to one another more? (NOTE: Only suggest ways you should submit to your spouse…not the other way around.)

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Deliberate…Engage Your Mind by Connecting with Scripture

January 28, 2013

Today’s Reading | Song of Songs 8:6-7; Hosea 2:14-3:1The Beauty of Marriage

Place me like a seal over your heart…for love is as strong as death…It burns like blazing fire… Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. Song of Songs 8:6-7

How did these words end up in a Bible full of polygamy and sexual immorality? Despite the failures of the best biblical characters, God’s vision for marriage is one of profound joy, dedication, self-giving, and love. We hear it in Adam’s words to Eve in Genesis 2:23. It resonates through the Song of Songs.

Marriage is a sacred covenant of love between a man and a woman through which two people give themselves to each other fully and finally. In this way, marriage is one of the key pictures of God’s relationship with His people. God repeatedly refers to Himself as a husband who loves, pursues, and shows faithfulness to His precious bride. (Hosea 2:14-3:1; Ephesians 5:31-32) God wants us to see ourselves in this kind of intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to know He will always be faithful.

That’s the background and beauty of marriage. When we proclaim our wedding vows, we reflect the heart of God—as long as we are there for the right reasons. When we live out our marriage through good times and bad, we reflect God’s faithfulness, as long as we too are faithful.

Today reflect on how marriage is a picture of God’s relationship to us. How does that affect your image of God? If you are married, consider how your marriage reflects (or conceals) the heart of God.

 

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Relate…Involve Others by Acting on What You Are Learning

January 27, 2013

Today’s Reading | Genesis 24:66-67 | Love Takes Action

Love is a beautiful thing. We know how the script goes: tall, dark, handsome man professes his love for a beautiful woman who, after some resistance, shares her love with him as well. They marry and live happily ever after, all of this with little emphasis on their wedding vows. In fact, most movies don’t even include them. In Hollywood’s script, emotions come first, actions flow from them, and they last forever.

Unfortunately, almost no one experiences love exactly this way. Couples strive to reproduce their own version of the script and at times it can be a lot of fun. The feeling of love seldom lasts forever; yet it often becomes the primary measure of a good marriage.

That’s when we become disappointed and are confronted with the reality that real love goes deeper than feelings. What do you do when marriage leaves you disappointed? Consider Isaac. His marriage was arranged but he chose to love Rebekah. In the biblical script, emotions come and go. So we allow actions to inspire emotion.

Arranged marriages aren’t ideal, but this story reminds us that our lives seldom fit into Hollywood’s script. We often walk through disappointment and are called to be faithful anyway.

This week watch the movie (or read the book) The Vow, an inspiring true story of one couple’s relentless dedication. Consider how God is calling you to love your spouse (or others) despite how may you feel.

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Breathe…Bring an Element of This Week’s Lesson into Everyday Life

January 26, 2013

Today’s Reading | Proverbs 19:17; 14:21, 31 | Do It All for God’s Glory 

It was the Father’s good pleasure to fashion us in the image of Christ to advance his cause on this earth. God designed us to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10) Our great calling is to engage in works that promote the love of God among our neighbors.

However, the goal is not the good work itself. Nor is it the feelings we have when we do something good. The temptation is to do good works because it makes us feel good, but that makes our good works more about serving ourselves than serving our neighbor. Plus, serving others doesn’t always feel good. There is only one motivator when we engage in good works: to give God glory. 

Today read the above passages and choose some way to act in compassionate ways toward someone in need.  Fight the temptation to seek praise or to focus on how you feel. Do it to simply give God glory through your actions.

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Trail…Pursue God by Practicing a Spiritual Discipline

January 25, 2013

Today’s Reading | Galatians 6:7-10 | Do Good

We’re saved in order that we may become conduits of good in our world. Good works have a significant place in the life of the believer. Without good works, our faith is dead. Grace itself calls us to respond in redemptive ways to the world around us. “Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earn- ing” (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission).

Today read these three Scripture passages:

Identify one element in your life that is at odds with what you read here. What is stopping you from acting in redemptive ways to needs around you? Confess it to God and then commit to obeying what you read in these passages.

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Deliberate…Engage Your Mind by Connecting with Scripture

January 24, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 25 | Be Available

After we become aware of people’s needs, we must become available to people’s needs. This involves two things: time and love. The first step to being available is freeing our schedule of unnecessary clutter and making room for others in our lives. Too often the biggest reason we aren’t available is we’ve wasted our free time in front of the TV.

The second step is cultivating a heart for others—a compassion for people so that we genuinely suffer when we see others suffer.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses” (The Weight of Glory, p. 45-46).

When we see our world through God’s eyes, we start to see those around us differently. We see them as the image of God and as objects of God’s grace. Thus, when you give a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty, you do it for Him (Matthew 25:40).

Today read Matthew 25. Let it inspire you to care enough about people to do good for them.