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Archive for the month “February, 2014”

Comparison is the Thief of Unity (Caroline Smiley)

 

Diversity in the unity. Unity in the diversity. This is one of the most essential truths about the Trinity, and given that we were created in the image of God, it’s also an essential truth of the church. We are different: some were given to be apostles, some teachers and some evangelists. Yet, we are unified. In Christ, we grow and join together to be a holy temple, a dwelling place of the Lord. The very way He sculpted the earth reflects the beautiful complexity and variation of His creativity.

The Lord has a good design for our differences. Diversity helps us grow and mature. Our various strengths and weaknesses rub against each other in community, moving us toward the cross as iron sharpens iron. We also fill out the body of Christ, for truly on our own we cannot be all and do all. The world, though, doesn’t always see it that way. When sin entered the picture, our communion with God and with each other was fractured, and enmity was sown in its place.

How Comparison Kills

The seed of enmity flowered into competition of the deadliest kind. Instead of appreciating the unique way each person was designed, we pit everyone against each other to see how we all stack up. Who’s the smartest? Who’s the best? Our obsession with this competition infects every part of our lives and compels us to compare ourselves to everyone around us.

We’re not content with what the Lord has given us; rather, we want to have it all and have it right now. In a nasty twist of depravity, we’ve brought that attitude into the church. We compare our path of sanctification to that of everyone around us, defining our failures and successes by how we measure among others.

Comparison kills joy, steals gratitude and destroys relationships. It is a conniving enemy that sneaks into everything and brings out in us a blubbering pool of insecurity (when we feel we’ve been found wanting), the stench of self-righteousness (when we feel we’ve come out on top) and sometimes just plain jealousy. It incites us to question and grumble: “Why her and not me?” It urges us to pat ourselves on the back in pride and echo the Pharisee in Luke 18: “Thank God I’m not like him.”It even has an uncanny ability to turn jealousy into judgment: “No one can really be that pretty; she must have had plastic surgery.” Comparison provokes us to sneer at other people’s gifts in order to puff ourselves up.

What Jesus Thinks About Comparison

Peter once felt the same way. Jesus told Peter in John 21 that he was going to die by crucifixion—that was how Peter was going to glorify God in his death (v. 19). Perhaps staggering under the weight of this news, Peter pointed at John and asked, “What about him?” and Jesus lovingly replied, “What is that to you?”

What is that to you? What is it to you if the Lord has a different path for her? What is it to you if that means hisjob pays better, she’s smarter, their kids are better behaved, her ministry is bigger or he leads worship so well? What is it to you if their marriage is easier, their finances aren’t as tight, she didn’t have to struggle through miscarriages and infertility or his child doesn’t have cancer? Isn’t our lot, like Peter’s, to follow Christ on the unique path He has set out for us?

Stop Playing the Game

Put aside the “bless her heart but…” and the “if only I was…” and remember that He loves you. He is for you.You are greatly loved. He intricately wove together all the details of you and your life, and He uniquely wired you for the good works that He prepared in advance for you. He did not withhold any good gift from you, but laid down His Son willingly. He promises to bring each of us to completion at the return of Christ. He’s moving in and among us, reconciling all of our enmity in His own flesh so that He may join us together in all of our unique ways into a unified dwelling place of His glory. Believer, allow His grace to set your eyes fast on Christ. By raising our gaze to Him, we will have enough grace for ourselves and for others to stop this cutthroat game of comparison and to run with endurance the race marked out for us.

Strive for unity among believers and appreciate God’s diversity in creating each of us unique. Resist the thief and destroyer that is comparison, for all of us enjoy equally His extravagant and undeserved love and favor.

Love In a Fallen World (by Paul Tripp)

 

We all face the same thing. Our marriages live in the middle of a world that does not function as God intended. Somehow, someway, your marriage is touched every day by the brokenness of the world. Maybe it simply has to do with the necessity of living with the low-grade hassles of a broken world, or maybe you’re facing major issues that have altered the course of your life and your marriage. But there’s one thing for sure: you will not escape the environment in which God has chosen you to live.

It’s not an accident that you’re conducting your marriage in this broken world. It’s not an accident that you have to deal with the things you do. None of this is fate, chance, or luck. It’s all a part of God’s redemptive plan. Acts 17 says that he determines the exact place where you live and the exact length of your life.

God knows where you live, and he’s not surprised at what you’re facing. Even though you face things that make no sense to you, there’s meaning and purpose to everything you face. I’m persuaded that understanding your fallen world and God’s purpose for keeping you in it is foundation to building a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.

You see, most of us have a personal happiness paradigm. Now, it’s not wrong to want to be happy, and it’s not wrong to work toward marital happiness. God has given you the capacity for enjoyment and placed wonderful things around you to enjoy. The problem isn’t that this is a wrong goal, but that it’s way too small of a goal. God is working on something deep, necessary, and eternal.

God has a personal holiness paradigm. Don’t be put off by the language here. The words mean that God is working through your daily circumstances to change you. In his love, he knows that you’re not all that you were created to be. Even though it may be hard to admit, there’s still sin inside of you, and that sin gets in the way of what you’re meant to be and designed to do (and, by the way, that sin is the biggest obstacle of all to a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.)

God is using the difficulties of the here and now to transform you, that is, to rescue you from you. And because he loves you, he will willingly interrupt or compromise your momentary happiness in order to accomplish one more step in the process of rescue and transformation, which he is unshakably committed to.

When you begin to get on God’s paradigm page, life makes more sense – the things you face aren’t irrational troubles, but transforming tools. And there’s hope for you and your marriage, because God is in the middle of your circumstances, and he’s using them to mold you into what he created you to be. As he does this, you not only respond to life better, but you become a better person to live with, which results in a better marriage.

So, somehow, someway, this fallen world and what it contains will enter your door, but you don’t have to be afraid. God is with you, and he’s working so that these difficult things will result in good things in and through you.

Have Sex With Your Husband More Often (by Rachel Hansen)

If you are a woman who isn’t having sex with her husband then I salute you for taking the risk to wander into this potential land mine of a blog post. I must warn you though, I’m not the kind to pull any punches so put your big girl panties on and let’s tackle this thing together. If you are having frequent sex with your husband but I’ve peeked your curiosity I hope this post encourages you in some way. And if you’re a man who is going to read this and forward the link to your wife, well you are one brave man! 

The Bible is full of thoughts and advice on sex. It’s clear God wants us to have it and enjoy it – an entire book of the Bible is dedicated to the pursuit of two lovers (and in case you didn’t know, the book of Song of Songs was off limits to Jews until they were of marrying age). Where Song of Songs is pretty erotic and sensual, 1 Corinthians 7 goes into more explicit practical advice and even commandments about not refusing one another or abstaining unless it’s mutual and for a short period of time that was only set apart for prayer. Many Christian marriages are abstaining currently, but it’s not by mutual consent and the time isn’t being spent solely in prayer nor is it a short period – when’s the last time YOU’VE had sex?So why are way too many of my friends NOT having more frequent GOOD sex with their husbands?

Besides being a wife, I am a mom to two very active kids, one entering the teens soon and full of that wonderful drama. I volunteer a LOT and end most days feeling like life has been drained out of me. On top of all that, I was a victim of sexual abuse for most of my childhood. There are a lot more reasons we tend to put off our husbands and if you have more to add then you certainly have a bigger challenge. I want to acknowledge that our problems and the stress caused by them can contribute to our sex (or lack of) life. I don’t want to discount our issues or tell you (as more than one well meaning person has said to me while I was in a pile of tears) that you need to “just get over it.”

As a Christian women, one thing I’ve been very convicted of lately though is something I’d love to get into your mind. Underneath all our issues, underneath all our busyness and lack of desire for our husbands I really want you to really get this – not having sex with your husband is a sin.

Unless your husband has physically cheated on you and there is concern of STD’s – or your husband has some other issue where he should be in the justice system (like sexual attempts or actions on children, physical abuse of you or someone else, you get the idea) there isn’t a reason you can say that is justifiable for your lack of a good sex life.*

I know we get busy. I know our minds can wander (and yes I mean during sex). And hell, there is nothing much more disturbing than seeing your perpetrator’s face in the middle of getting it on with your husband… we have all kinds of reasons to avoid sex. All kinds of hurts. All kinds of wrong thoughts from our upbringing. Maybe sex was such a taboo topic in your house that even though you didn’t suffer from any traditional kind of sexual abuse you still carry the stigma that ‘sex is bad.’ Maybe you just don’t like your husband all that much these days and the thought of him touching you skeeves you out. These are ALL very real reasons women suffer and tell their husbands no night after night. And if your husband hasn’t even asked you in a while that’s an even worse sign of where your sex life is currently and where your marriage is headed.

I don’t say all this to make you feel bad. I just want to say that I get it. I understand that sex isn’t the top of your list most days. And all the road blocks to making it happen can be crazy insurmountable at times. But until we get it in our hearts that we are sinning in this area we cannot begin to heal and overcome.

Sometimes I think we can get real proud of all we do. I made a homemade dinner for my family. I drive my kids to school so they don’t have to take the bus. I keep the house spic and span for my husband. I volunteer in a hundred places. I’m part of the PTA. I go to church and sing on the worship team. I’m always there for my friends. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I didn’t have sex before marriage (ironic NOW isn’t it?).

It’s like we’re saying, “Look how good I am God! All for you!” And God whispers back, “Great, now go have sex with your Husband!”

Maybe you believe the lie that God isn’t relevant to your sex life. Or that it’s not applicable to a Christian life or our spirituality. But know that the Christian life is about surrender and trust in God. I’m sure you do it already in a lot of areas. Sex is something God created just like His other creations. I’m willing to bet and want to challenge you on this thought: if you’re not having sex with your husband you are not surrendered to and trusting God fully.

Reasons. I know I touched some nerves. Your mind is flooded right now with reasons YOU are exempt from that truth. Please stay with me here. Would you accept any reason to stay in sin from someone who is doing a sin you detest? Think about the sin you hate the most (we all have that ONE that rubs us the wrong way) and ask yourself – is there ANY reason that person could give you where you’d say, “Ok you’re right, no one else but YOU is exempt. Feel free to indulge.”

Now understand that you wouldn’t expect someone sinning to drop everything and change in a day. Of course there is a process. Let me be very transparent here for the sake of gaining your heart. Thanks largely in part to a life of sexual abuse as a child, for a long time sex for me was terrible as a married woman. That did NOT change in a day. There were times I’d start crying in the middle, put things on hold, make myself say my husband’s name over and over in my head or even out loud (discreetly of course to avoid ruining the mood for him), times I’d run to the bathroom and throw up when we were done and many nights I cried myself to sleep when it was all said and done. To be clear in case it isn’t already, my husband was not pushing me into things (and for his sake I kept him as ignorant as possible to many of my struggles). This was at a point where I so desperately wanted to overcome this issue and would not back down. However, in all fairness to the reader my past wasn’t my only issue, my husband added to the problem with his own issues and sins. But boy did I get through that – and let me tell you if you’re struggling, you CAN overcome a past, you can overcome any issue your husband may be bringing to the table and you CAN have a healthy sex life that you ENJOY.

No matter your issue, how big or how small, can you be brave? Can you surrender your sex life to God? Scripture says we are to deal violently with sin. If your hand offends you cut it off, if your eye offends you gouge it out! This exaggerated talk is to make a point that you don’t coddle sin and make excuses for it, you DEAL with it and OVERCOME the issues. It’s hard. So what. It’s scary. So what. It’s not something you desire. So what. So what. So what. Sin robs, sin steals, sin is terrible, horrible, and from an enemy that hates your guts. DECIDE that you won’t play around with it anymore, no matter what it takes. Cut if off, gouge it out.

To be blunt, if your answer is “well you just don’t know what he did to me…” or “you can’t possibly know how I feel…” then I guess you’d better go get the divorce papers now. Many people are quick to say that divorce is a sin then they trap their spouse in a loveless, sexless marriage instead. In all reality, they are both sins. At least with divorce you aren’t being fake and putting an image out into the community of a perfectly fine marriage. Or another thing we do, blast our sexless marriage details out there or admit to everyone we can’t stand our spouse and make a mockery of the power of God in our marriage and in our lives.

As hard as it can be, the better answer is surrender. Give into God, trust HIM. You think things are bad now, no matter how bad they are they can be exponentially GREATER when God gets involved. You can love your husband again. You can want him again. You can have everything God wants for you. What are you waiting for?

I want to challenge you to take a HUGE step of faith. Grab the phone and call a friend or family member – ask them to watch the kids tonight at their place. Text your husband something naughty and tell him how you desire him and can’t wait for him to be home… then spend the rest of the day thinking about him. Think about how you felt when you were young and in love – how handsome he is to you, how the curve of his body fits right into yours… think anything and everything that is true and noble, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phillippians 4:8).

And when you hit those bumps in the road, don’t give up. Don’t let one bad moment ruin a potentially awesome thing. Hang in there. Try again. You can do this.

*If you have a valid reason like ones I stated or one I missed then staying with your husband but not having sex with him is not the answer and won’t fix anything. Alternatively, a marriage involving a sex addict situation is a lot more complicated and simply having more sex will not only not fix your marriage but will put more undue pressure and stress on you as a wife. If you need help please get it for yourself and others and either get out of your marriage or get into therapy with your husband. Don’t just settle for what you have currently if it’s broken, get help! My opinion and advice does not presuppose I know everything about your personal situation. If you feel my advice is off the mark for you then please seek wise counsel for the safety of your family. This post was written for the average married woman who has average normal issues in her marriage and I am not attempting to give advice to anyone whose spouse is involved in illegal activity.

 

C.S. Lewis on Heartbreak (by Jonathan Parnell)

 

If you were having a cup of tea with C. S. Lewis on Valentine’s Day, and you asked him sincerely, “Mr. Lewis, am I better not to love because it’s so risky?” — he might say something like this:

Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that his teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The Four Loves, (New York, Harcourt, 1960), Kindle Location 1541.

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