- Marriage is a lifelong commitment. (NEVER marry someone who does not have “covenant” in their soul.) “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” – Matthew 19:6-8
- Your marriage will go through tough times. (Remember – it’s a lifelong commitment – “for better, for worse.”) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” – James 1:2-3
- Be a servant to your spouse, putting his/her needs before your own. (Lay down your own “rights” long before you stand at the altar and say “I do.) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” – 1 Cor. 13:4-5
- Learn to forgive. (This is simply FOUNDATIONAL.) “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15
- Admit when you are wrong, and seek reconciliation with your spouse. (NEVER marry someone who can’t say the words “I was wrong.”) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
- Make plans together, but don’t be surprised when things don’t turn out the way you planned. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
- Communicate often, but don’t try to change your spouse. Instead, encourage and strengthen each other. You can’t change the other, but you can be changed yourself. (NEVER, EVER marry someone with the hope that you can change them and they will be different when you are married.) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Luke 6:41-42
- Don’t depend on your spouse to fill all your needs. Only God can do that. (Marry someone who loves God and finds their life in God more than they love and find their life in you. “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5
- Mutually submit to one another. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” – Ephesians 5:22-28
(Annie Dieselberg & Linda)
Dallas Willard writes: “The realities of Christian spiritual formation are that we will not be transformed “into His likeness” by more information, or by infusions, inspirations, or ministrations alone. Though all of these have an important place, they never suffice, and reliance upon them alone explains the now-common failure of committed Christians to rise much above a certain level of decency.”
This typical Willard-quote explains why so many Christians live lives of spiritual mediocrity. What is needed is: to learn what it means to abide in Christ, like a branch is connected to a vine, with Jesus being the Vine and you being the branch. The fundamental secret of caring for our souls is found in a verse like Psalms 16:8-9: “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.” Willard writes: “Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him.” Then, as this happens day after day after year and after year, our trust is in a God who can morph our souls into for the form of Christ.
If, during the Great Mayfly Hatch Moses-esque Plague, you drive at night in downtown Monroe or, worse yet, in Luna Pier, the mayflies are as thick as snow. People literally shovel them off the sidewalks. Some years ago, feeling bored on a summer night, I asked Linda, “Want to go downtown and watch the mayflies?” She said, “No.”
(Linda’s dad Del & our son Dan in Ypsilanti)
Henri Nouwen, in Spiritual Direction, writes of three things that were deepened in his heart as a result of his move to L’Arche and caring for handicapped people.
1. Being is more important than doing.
Nouwen writes: “God wants me to be with him and not do all sorts of things to prove I’m valuable.” (44) God loves you, not for what you do, but for who you are; viz., his beloved son or daughter. Human loves are often performance-based. God’s love is not. The distinction between the two is supremely important. Internalize this. Pray, Nouwen-like, “God, bring this truth that is in my mind into my heart.”
2. The heart is more important than the mind.
Nouwen writes: “When you’ve come from an academic culture, that’s hard to learn.” (44) Nouwen was an academic who taught for two years at Notre Dame, ten years at Yale, and three years at Harvard. In his work with the mentally handicapped that he “saw that what makes a human being human is the heart with which one can give and received love… People with physical and mental disabilitiies easily can let their hearts speak and this reveal a mystical life unreachable by many intellectually astute people.” (45)
Yes, we are to love God with our mind. But when Paul wrote this it was out of a culture that had not yet been Cartesianized. Hebrew culture does not make an absolute metaphysical distinction between “heart” and “mind.” Jesus is after the human heart. Human “minds” vary greatly in ability. While God wants us to use whatever mental capacities we have for his glory, God can work through the heart of a mentally handicapped person. Mental assent to Jesus is not enough. But when the heart is captured, one’s mental abilities are neither some special asset nor debilitating detriment to God.
3. Doing things together is more important than doing things alone.
At L’Arche Daybreak Nouwen lived ten years with Adam until he died. Nouwen writes: “Adam’s story is my story of weakness, vulnerability, and dependency, but also of strength, authenticity, and giftedness.” (46) Our non-tribal Western culture values autonomy more than community. Many of us have been trained by our culture to want to do thing by ourselves, even giving us the idea that we will do a better job if we do it alone.But when we work together, more people get to own the results. The more corporate ownership there is, the better “church” will be. Plus, as Nouwen says, there is much to be gained from others as we learn to collaborate. God uses collaborative, tribal activity to teach us things about ourself and others.
I worked at United Cerebral Palsy of Will County, Illinois for three years. The first year was between my Master’s degree and the beginning of my Ph.D studies. Sandwiched between hyper-academia was a year of helping the physically and mentally handicapped. We did many things together, and the entire experience deepened in me love, understanding, and needed character development.
(Jeff & Annie Dieselberg & Family)
Jeff & Annie Dieselberg will be at Redeemer this Sunday morning and evening, June 20. They just arrived in the states from Bangkok, where Jeff pastors a Thai church and Annie directs NightLight, a ministry that rescues women out of sex trafficking. Annie and NightLight are featured in the movie “Furious Love.”
Come this Sunday morning and hear Annie speak – Redeemer Fellowship Church, 10:30 AM.
Come Sunday evening – 6 PM – and hear Jeff and Annie speak, + worship!
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
NightLight is an international organization committed to addressing the complex issues surrounding trafficking and prostitution by catalyzing individual and community transformation. NightLight’s vision is to offer intervention to sexually exploited women and children, to enable them to discover their dignity, and to provide a program of holistic transformation, empowering them to live and work in their community.
NightLight’s mission is to build relationships and provide hope, intervention, rescue and assistance to women and children exploited in the sex industry by offering alternative employment, vocational opportunities, life-skills training and physical, emotional and spiritual development to women seeking freedom. NightLight builds support networks internationally to intervene and assist women, men and children whose lives are negatively impacted by the sex industry.
Mark Galli asks where did we get the idea that “church” is supposed to be a place dedicated to making us all feel comfortable? He says that “some evangelical churches pride themselves on eschewing any Christian symbols whatsoever. A few do so to honor the biblical prohibition against graven images. All well and good. But most of these churches, unlike their Lord, abolish the cross only because it’s not a friendly symbol.”
OMG! I mean that, literally. If I were not a Jesus-follower but was looking for Jesus the last place I would go is some church that’s missing the core symbols of our faith. If I wanted non-church or pure secular I would not go to a “church” to discover it and feel comfortable about it.
“The Chicago Tribune ran a piece titled “Graduations at church cause unease.” It described how many schools hold their graduation ceremonies in one particular megachurch in the metro area because, as one participant put it, it doesn’t feel like a church. The absence of any visible sign of the church’s Lord is apparently a point of honor for this congregation. According to the article, one of its staff said the lack of crosses and other Christian iconography “makes the space more welcoming for newcomers and more conducive for secular events.”
“We don’t want people to get hung up on that kind of thing,” he said.”
But I do. I do want to get hung up on the thing about Jesus getting hung on a cross. Real “Christianity is ruled by a Lord who has a habit of making people feel uncomfortable and offended because, yes, he demands their unqualified allegiance.”
I’m reading through Ron Sider’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. He quotes theologian Michael Horton as saying: “Evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.” (In Sider, 17)
Sider says, about our behaviors: “The statistics are devastating.” (Ib., 17) George Barna reports that the percentage of born-again Christians who divorce is actually higher than the percentage of non-Christians who divorce. In many parts of the “Bible Belt” the divorce rate is 50% above the national average. Studies show that, generally, the more money Christians make the less they give in proportion to their incomes.
Remember “True Love Waits,” A program sponsiored by the Southern Baptist Convention? The effort was: to reduce premarital sexual activity among our youth. Largely, the program failed. In their study of True Love Waits researchers from Columbia U. and Yale U. found that 88% of those who pledged sexual abstinence reported having sexual intercourse before they got married. Just 12% kept their promise. (In Sider, Scandal, 23)
Sider says: “To say there is a crisis of disobedience in the evangelical world today is to dangerously understate the problem… Our very lifestyle is a ringing practical denial of the miraculous in our lives. Satan must laugh in sneerful derision. God’s people can only weep.” (Scandal, 29)
Sider tells the story of Graham Cyster,a Jesus-follower he knows who lives in South Africa. One night, Cyster was smuggled into an underround Communist cell of young people who were fighting apartheid. They asked Cyster, “Tell us about the gospel of Jesus Christ.” They wondered if there was an alternative to the violent strategy they were embracing.
Cyster gave a clear, powerful presentation of the gospel. He showed how personal faith in Jesus transforms persons and creates a new body of believers where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, rich nor poor, black nor white. The communist youth were listening. Then, one 17-year-old said, “That is wonderful! Show me where I can see that happening.”
Cyster sadly responded that he could not think of anywhere in South Africa where Christians were truly living out the message of the gospel.
The 17-year-old angrily said, “Then the whole thing is a piece of crap.”
Sider writes: “Within a month he left the country to join the armed struggle against apartheid – eventually giving his life for his beliefs.”
Jesus said that those who love him keep his commands. It sure looks like there’s not a lot of love out there for the Real Jesus.
(My favorite coffee cup, given to me by one of our MSU students, circa 1982. The handle broke off years ago. Coffee tastes better in this cup than in others!)
I’m sitting on my back porch with a hoodie on over my head and my legs wrapped in a blanket. There’s food in my various bird feeders, nectar in my hummingbird feeder, a few snacks, a cup of coffee in my favorite mug, my journal, a pen, James Cone’s God of the Oppressed, Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Direction, my Bible, and my laptop. I’ve got 5 hours to dwell closely in God’s presence, listening, praying, writing as God leads me.
Nouwen’s book is spectacular. I’m reading what he says about self-rejection, and acceptance of our core identity, which is: I am a son of God, and God finds favor with me. Self-rejection concerns “the darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that declares we are loved.” (31)
Self-rejection manifests itself as either shame or pride. Either arrogance or low self-esteem. Nouwen writes: “Self-rejection can show itself in either a lack of confidence or a surplus of pride.” (31) “The greatest trap in life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection, doubting who we really are.” (31)
Like Nouwen, it has taken me a long time to experience this great truth in my heart. I’ve known it in my mind. But what’s needed here is not theory, but experience.
Our worship leader, Holly Benner, will record her first cd tonight and Saturday night. Holly has written some beautiful worship songs!
It’s a live recording with Holly and her band, so we’d love to have you come be part of it.
Redeemer Fellowship Church
Friday, June 4, 7 PM
Saturday, June 5, 6 PM
In my spiritual formation classes for pastors and Christian leaders I begin by sending the students out to pray for an hour, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus. My instruction to them is simply: when God speaks to you, write it down. Upon returing from their hour with God I have found that many of them will have heard God say the words, “I love you.” Some of them have not heard those words in a very long time.
Henri Nouwen wrote that he was “firmly convinced that the decisive moment of Jesus’s public life was his baptism, when he heard the divine affirmation, “You are my Beloved on whom my favor rests.” (Spiritual Direction, 28) When God tells someone “You are my beloved,” or “I love you,” the most intimate truth about that person is revealed. “The ultimate spiritual temptation is to doubt this fundamental truth about ourselves and trust in alternative identities.” (28)
Who are you? Nouwen counsels us not to define ourselves by the following alternative identities.
1. Do not define yourself as: “I am what I do.” He writes: “When I do good things and have a little success in life, I feel good about myself. But when I fail, I start getting depressed.” (Ib.) To define yourself by what you do is to live on a spiritual and emotional roller coaster that is a function of your accomplishments.
2. Do not define yourself as: “I am what other people say about me.” “What people say about you has great power. When people speak well of you, you can walk around quite freely. But when somebody starts saying negative things about you, you might start feeling sad. When someone talks against you, it can cut deep into your heart. Why let what others say about you – good or ill – determine what you are?” (Ib., 29)
3. Do not define yourself as: “I am what I have.” Don’t let your things and your stuff determine your identity. Nouwen writes: “As soon as I lose any of it, if a family member dies, if my health goes, or if I lose my property, then I can slip into inner darkness.” (Ib.)
Too much of our energy goes into defining ourselves by deciding “I am what I do,” “I am what others say about me,” or “I am what I have.” Nouwen writes: “This whole zig-zag approach is wrong.” You are not, fundamentally, what you do, what other people say about you, or what you have. You are loved by God. God speaks to the deep waters of your heart and says, “You are my beloved son or daughter, and on you my favor rests.” To hear that voice and trust in it is to reject the three alternative ways of self-definition and enter into freedom and joy.