Friday, August 2, 2019

Married to Christ (Part 6 of 7)

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4 ESV)



For a long time, I certainly didn't "walk in the truth." Not even near it. I didn't know what the truth was, or why I should care. I was occasionally curious enough to extend some sort of effort to find out. But mostly not.

Was truth even knowable? If so, who was closest to finding out? Scientists? Philosophers? The classical writers? Ancient civilizations? Religious leaders? Seminary scholars? Spiritual gurus? Mom? Dad?

Maybe truth wasn't knowable, even though it sometimes tugged on me hard enough that I'd slip into its pursuit. Maybe it wasn't even relevant to life. So what if I found truth? What would I do with it? Would anyone believe me?

Then one day my older brother shipped to boot camp in preparation for his Navy career. I was given a small box of stuff he brought with him, but couldn't keep while there.

One of its content items was a Bible. Curious, I picked it up and started reading it, randomly. The book of Proverbs was particularly interesting, very interesting. In fact, at times I felt Someone had been watching me over my shoulder, and they knew me better than I knew myself. Where did such wisdom come from?!

I opened other books within its covers and had two thoughts as I read: 1) this was incredibly profound, and 2) this was incredibly confusing. I'd have to come back to this, but for now I had young adult issues to deal with. Discovering truth was an on/off, fair-weather friend kind of a relationship, even while at church.

Fast forward to today. I know now God's Spirit, through His common grace, was convincing me that the light I was seeing at the end of proverbial tunnel was real.

It's been a twisty, challenging, refreshing, gritty, painful, joyful journey coming to know God, and being saved, all the while struggling to make sense of His place in the world. Why did denominations compete? Why were there still apparently conflicting verses in Scripture? And most of all, having turned to many resources to help me understand, why did I believe what I truly believed?

Was there more truth beyond the salvation of my soul and visible changes in moral behavior? Was worship more than gathering together on a weekly basis? Mostly, could I prove (to myself) from Scripture, not from among man's many interpretations, that God's word made perfect sense?

It was with such gladness in my heart that I discovered the positive answers to those questions, especially the latter. Then I recognized my salvation, as great as it was, was merely a door. Far more truths, deeper truths, were awaiting me inside its warm walls and cathedral ceilings.

God's Spirit Himself would guide me into many rooms, and the whole structure would glory in its exquisite details. I stood at the threshold of a gorgeous mansion when I realized I was neither visitor nor guest. I was home.

My heart rejoices greatly. And now it brings me such joy to hear when others have gone beyond the threshold and into the mansion, walking in the light as He is in the light. Walking as One in the Spirit.

Thank you for reading.

Married to Christ (Part 5 of 7)

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4 ESV)



Sometimes, I just delight in Him. I'm not sure how to describe it. It's like my mind and heart are in harmonious contemplation of His words and His thoughts, and they are so soothing, comforting, and encouraging.

(If you have one, get out your copy of God's word as I leave a trail of Scripture references below. Or use the Internet, such sites as BibleGateway, or smart phone apps, like YouVersion.)

I could not have imagined the wonderful things He planned for me from before the ages. Things He planned for all who believe in Him in this church age. (1 Corinthians 2:6-7)

No one could have asked or thought of what He can do. For it is exceedingly abundantly beyond our capacity. Yet, what no heart has imagined God prepared for those who love Him, He has revealed through His Spirit. (Ephesians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

I delight in knowing who I am, Whose I am, why I'm here, what is my purpose. No, I'm not wealthy, nor am I poor. I have a job, but I'm not wildly successful in business. I have some stuff, but nothing luxurious or exquisite. Yet, I'm perfectly content. In all honesty, however, I have yet to completely conquer complaining. (Philippians 4:11-14)

Most of all, I delight in knowing these are His words and His thoughts. To me, what this world has to offer is ultimately trash compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus.

What are the desires of my heart? To delight in Him!
(Isaiah 55:8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 3:7-8; Psalm 37:4)

What are yours?

Married to Christ (Part 4 of 7)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ESV)



I think one of the most amazing grace salvation passages in Scripture is this: in Christ, God is reconciling the world to Himself, NOT counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19)!

Along with passages like Romans 8:38-39 (nothing can separate us from the love of Christ), 1 John 2:2 (He is the propitiation for the sins of the world), and Ephesians 2:8-9 (by grace you have been saved through faith...) it contributes to the foundation of our understanding just how permanent and real salvation is.

There is nothing 'right' for us to accomplish. It's not about working hard at being good enough. It's about trusting Christ did the right thing for us. In salvation, we learn to trust in His obedience to His Father, now our Father. It's about relying on His work as the only work that could ever secure our salvation.

It's like spreading out your arms on a warm fall day and falling backwards into a hammock where our only response is refreshing gladness and true rest.

Salvation is by grace. It is a gift from God. It is not of our effort. None of it. No one, therefore, has anything to boast about. Certainly, there are no grounds upon which anyone can stand to judge others. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Reconciliation with God is purely on His terms. I've learned the secret to contentment is to accept His terms. Now I make my marriage to Christ my priority. How can I help but love Someone who loves me so much He would sacrifice everything for me, even His life, and then never let me go?

I'm happily married now, but I've been married and divorced before. I've been in and out of relationships that were supposed to mean something. I had issues, baggage, etc. In fact, I still use "had" lightly.

Remember the other day when I admitted I made and make mistakes? Only a few were private. I've hurt people, some deeply. I'm so sorry. I've apologized to some, and don't know where to start with others. Reconciliation seems impossible.

But, God took the initiative toward reconciliation with me, and with you. Could we have imagined having our many mistakes, or even blatant disregard for God, not count against us? How could this be? Isn't it all based on our behavior?

Thanks be to God we don't have to prequalify! He did the work us. All He asks is that we believe in His solution for our reconciliation; the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He put forth as a propitiation for us and for our salvation.

In Him, there is no condemnation, at all!

Married to Christ (Part 3 of 7)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)


I've made lots of mistakes in life. Hopefully, I make fewer as time goes on. Partially, because I just don't have the interest or ability to try different things as I age. But, mostly because as I walk by the Spirit I do not gratify the desires of the flesh, for these are opposed to each other (Galatians 5:16).

Thank God for the Spirit He has freely given me to understand even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)! Even though I may wander away from Him, or even push Him away, He is always ready, willing, and able to take me back in His loving arms.

To turn back to Him takes genuine honesty and sincere humility on my part. But, He is always ready to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness, so that I may get back into fellowship with him. (1 John 1:9, 1:6-7) And that's a joyful thing!

There is a unique kind of intimacy with Him that has no worldly equal. Scripture calls it fellowship, but it is not simply sharing a meal or going bowling with the guys.* It transforms the desires of my heart to delight in Him (Psalm 37:4).

* Careful: neither is confessing the same as getting back into fellowship. Rather, with humility, continue to diligently seek Him.

I can see now why he uses the analogy of an ideal marriage to help us understand the possibility of this relationship (Ephesians 5:31-32). Most of all, I'm so happy to know that nothing will separate me from this love.

Nothing at all.

Married to Christ (Part 2 of 7)

Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23 ESV)


What does the "profound mystery" in Ephesians 5:32 (see Married to Christ, Part 1 of 7) mean to me? It means my suspicions as a young adult were right.

God got my attention (off and on) through my circumstances growing up, even into adulthood. Somehow, I just knew, or at least hoped, that He had more to offer believers than what man's religion, traditions, rituals, humanity, and new age (sometimes "spiritual, but not religious") had to offer.

Getting married to Christ means becoming one with Him, being of one mind and one spirit.

What does it mean for me to love my Spouse (who is Christ) from a spiritual sense? It means getting to know Him intimately, taking His word for truth, and not trying to fit Him into my reality.

What is my reward for marrying Him? Everything! Through loving Him, deep in my heart and soul, I found purpose, comfort, contentment, joy, peace, and love.

So, not only does He reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Not only does He work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, [which is not the prosperity gospel]). He and His Son make their home in my heart.

What's not to love?

Married to Christ (Part 1 of 7)

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV)


Many marriage books, studies, videos, and seminars were built on verses in Ephesians chapter 5 starting with verse 22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands...", verse 25 "Husbands, love your wives..." Etc.

Then the lessons start, answering questions such as:

  • What does it mean for wives to submit to their husbands? 
  • How and when should wives be submissive? 
  • How are husbands supposed to love their wives? 
  • What does it mean to give himself up for her, sanctify her, and cleanse her?
  • How should they argue and resolve differences?
  • Who has a say, or the final say, in important family and financial matters, such as which church to attend, education for the children, caring for elderly parents, etc.?

Then the analogies start in order to boost the authority of whatever anwers that particular marriage seminar, workshop, or retreat provides. Instructions about marriage become heavenly, godly, and lifted up with phrases like, "as to the Lord," "as Christ is the head of the church," "as the church submits to Christ," and "just as Christ loved the church." Pray for each other. Pray with each other. Share devotionals. Schedule date nights. Cook for the one. Pay the bills for the other. Etc. Perform your spousal roles and occasionally offer to help the other.

However, these verses in the context of Ephesians 5 are actually relevant for anyone, married or not. How? Simple. The marriage-seminar-minded have it backwards. Christ and the church is not the analogy for a godly marriage. The godly marriage is an analogy for Christ and the church, and being united with Christ is neither dependent on, nor enhanced by, one's marital status.

Let us not be so focused and concerned about the earthly roles of husbands and wives. Let us not exclude ourselves or others because we or they are not married. Instead, let us turn our attention to the "profound mystery" that Paul was really talking about: Christ and the church. The two shall become one.

"In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:20 ESV)

"I do not ask for these [my disciples here with me now] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21 ESV)

"There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)

Verse 33 is an incidental "by the way." Of course, for those who are married, let the husbands love their wives, and let the wives respect their husbands.

But, let neither husbands nor wives, nor any of us, lose focus of what's really important here, which is the marriage that was truly made in heaven, with Christ. For all who believe are His body and made One with Him. Let us apply the marriage seminar advice and tips to Christ and the church.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Married to Christ (Part 7 of 7)

The Apostle Paul worked hard ... that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3 ESV)



Has my heart been "knit together in love?" Have I reached "all the riches of full assurance of understanding?" How about "the riches of full assurance of the knowledge of God's mystery?"

Paul and I are referring to my spiritual, Christian marriage to Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is the bridegroom. The church, His body, of which I am a part, is the bride. Together, the two have become one.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

In today's verses from Colossians 2, we have the word "mystery" again. In Part 1 of this "Married to Christ" series of posts, I quoted from Ephesians 5, which is often used as marriage seminar material. I attempted to show that earthly marriage was merely used as a metaphor for the "profound mystery," which was the real subject. This "profound mystery" is what Paul was emphasizing in this passage, not the earthly marriage.

I used to believe that the cliche "God moves in mysterious ways" applied whenever the word "mystery" was used in Scripture. I assume whatever was a mystery was unknown and couldn't be known. More often than not, I'd skip over it, or at least tread lightly thinking I was not going to be enlightened to what it really meant. I'd find out in the next life.

But, after quite a bit of study, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and sound teaching and reasoning from Scripture, I came to understand how the original Greek word translated as "mystery" applied to the profound thought Paul was communicating. It was not known or even hinted previously, but now it is revealed in its entirety. The hidden treasures of full assurance of the knowledge of God was being revealed, and I was missing it. Until now.

Unlike the genre of movies where certain knowledge is forbidden and remains shrouded, like a passing shadow, its usage here in Scripture describes something previously hidden but now fully revealed. This is special information that God has been saving up. Now He "desires all people to be saved and to come to the [full, accurate] knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).

This mystery is unprecedented unity with God the Father and Christ, His Son, and through all of us sharing the same Holy Spirit.

That is why I say I am married to Christ, whose work, not my effort, made this all possible according to the will of the Father. Am I happily married? You bet!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

My Theme for the Year


"Don't cling to a mistake just because
you spent a lot of time making it.
" ~ Unknown

Guilty! 

But no more! Major changes have recently occurred for the better in my life as a result of letting go. Now my mind is set on moving forward.

To that end, I've adopted a theme to apply to my life at this stage. It's a combination of choosing and committing. You could say it's committing to my choices, or choosing to commit.

The central theme in both is the same:

Commitment!

What does commitment look like for me? It boils down to these four steps:

1. Define and clarify my priorities, then set goals.
2. Schedule time in my calendar to work on my goals.
3. Eliminate what does not contribute toward my goals.
4. Strengthen the performance of these steps into habit.

There are a few areas of my life that need refinement based on my priorities. Let this be the year I focus on those things.

More to come...