Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart September 25th, 2022

Antidote for Ungratefulness – September 27th, 2022

Hi, this is Pastor Ken coming to you once again with my Monday Marriage Message, thanks for taking the time to join me. If you enjoy these marriage podcasts and find them to be helpful or encouraging, please share them with friends and family.

This weekend I heard a preacher make an incredibly deep comment. The subject He was speaking about was not marriage, but as soon as he made this profound statement, I thought just how fitting it is in the marital context as well. His proclamation; “Gratefulness is the antidote for ungratefulness!” You might be thinking, “Really…that’s it?”, but I promise accepting the truth and consequence of that statement can radically transform any marriage.

What things do you wish were different in your marriage? Go ahead, pause the podcast and take some time to make a list. When the list of things you wish were different is completed, make another list of the things from the first one that you complain about to your spouse, to others, and yes even to yourself. If you have compiled your lists, we are ready to begin again…Among the people you complain to, perhaps you have even been taking these things to God. Certainly there is no problem with that, He invites us to bring our cares and concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7). However, we must be careful how we do this, God asks us to cast our cares upon Him, but He does not welcome our grumbling. In fact, the bible tells us that the grumbling or ungratefulness of His people is one of the things He finds problematic. His word teaches us that one of the greatest sins of the Israelite people that He freed and led out of Egypt was their ungratefulness. In contrast, Philippians 2:13,14 instructs us to; Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

This is an interesting scripture. These verses don’t even try to make the insinuation that our lives are free of trouble and therefore should be without complaint. This passage takes the difficulties of our lives and yes perhaps even our marriages into account. It says that we should avoid complaining and disputing (ungrateful behavior) in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. In other words, God knows our lives and yes often our marriages are not ideal situations. He understands there are many difficulties we must endure, many problems we have to work through, and yet He cautions that ungrateful actions and attitudes on our part are to be avoided. Why is that? First, the verse just before these says that implementing these instructions are how we work out our salvation. This does not mean that we do these things to obtain our salvation, but that they make our salvation evident. By acting contrary to “normal behavior”, we and others have opportunity to see God’s impact on our lives demonstrated. Second, the verses above tell us gratefulness is the key to us becoming blameless and harmless. This means that when we choose gratefulness over ungratefulness we respond differently. We don’t allow ourselves to further the difficulty of the situation, rather we become a part of the solution. Studies have long shown that an attitude of gratefulness prompts positive responses, which in turn foster positive outcomes. Choosing to be grateful when a complaint would seemingly be more appropriate, allows us to respond to challenging circumstances and difficult people in ways that will move to heal rather than further the hurt. Finally, when we choose gratefulness, we stand out. It’s easy to be ungrateful for problematic situations; anyone can do that. It is normal to be ungrateful for perplexing circumstances. No one thinks we’re unjustified if we complain about the difficult relationships in our lives. However, as Christ followers, indwelled by His Holy Spirit we are enabled and instructed to respond differently than the world around us.

When you consider it carefully, gratefulness and selflessness go hand-in-hand. The same correlation can be made for ungratefulness and selfishness. When we are being ungrateful, essentially we are saying we don’t like what we are enduring or how we are being treated. Our attention is on what we don’t think we deserve, what we don’t appreciate that others are doing, or how we want to be treated differently. This kind of inward attention is clearly selfish. However, when we employ the antidote for ungratefulness and choose to be grateful, our position and direction change. Gratitude flows outward toward others and upward toward God. Rather than being inward focused on ourselves, gratitude makes us outward focused on others, in other words, more selfless.

Interestingly, selfishness causes tunnel vision, whereas selflessness dramatically widens our view. The former asks the question how am I being affected by the situations and circumstances around me, the latter asks how can I affect the situations and circumstances I encounter. The first seeks to be helped, the second, looks to see how it can be of help. If you have heard me make note of it once you have heard me proclaim it many times, Marriage is intended to be reflective of God. Clearly, God is selfless. God created everything we can comprehend, and then gave it all to us to use and enjoy. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof Psalm 24:1 says, and He uses it all to provide for us and sustain us each and every day. Most impressively, God made the ultimate sacrifice by allowing His son to die in our place so we could live eternally with Him. God is selfless in every way, and so, our marriages, intended to reflect Him are also purposed to reflect selflessness. Selflessness is the atmosphere in which a marriage breathes easily. Selfishness on the other hand sucks the very breath out of marriages. It develops an environment that will slowly deplete the life of any marriage, ultimately bringing it to a slow and painful suffocation. When you consider that ungratefulness promotes selfishness and gratefulness supports selflessness, gratitude becomes the antidote for much more than ungratefulness alone.

Consider of all of the problems that arise from selfishness in a marriage. Many of the things you come up with in response to that query, may have been found on those lists I asked you to compile at the beginning of this podcast. When we consider the things we complain about in our marriages, they are likely fueled by selfishness. When you also consider that ungratefulness on our part only serves to further selfishness in the relationship, this time from our direction, the importance of a grateful heart becomes increasingly evident.

James wrote that we are to count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4). In his letter, James laid out the strategy for a obtaining a grateful heart in adversity. He said that we could be joyful in our various difficulties knowing that a grateful response to these problems will develop our patience. What I believe James was saying is that the more we choose gratefulness as a response to problems, the easier gratefulness in the face of difficulty becomes. Most of us have proven this to be true on some level in our own lives. As experience teaches us that certain problems are not “the end of the world”, our level of patience with those particular problems increases. We may even come to a point where something that formerly would have caused great difficulty for us, is now responded to as if it were no big deal at all. I think James meant for us to understand that the more we respond to trying circumstances with joy and gratefulness as God desires us to, the more prone we are to follow His Holy Spirit’s prompting in our additional responses to that difficult situation. As a result, the positive outcomes bring about a patience in trials yet to come. James went on to say, when fully developed patience make us perfect and complete. Apparently, God wants to utilize the difficulties in our lives and in our marriages as a refining process to bring about the changes necessary to make us more fully reflective of Him.

Questions to answer:

  • In light of God’s instruction found in the scriptures we looked at today, what items from your original list of things you wish were different in your marriage have you been responding to incorrectly?
  • When your spouse is ungrateful toward you, what response does that elicit in you?
  • With that in mind, how might gratefulness on your part toward your spouse impact situations the two of you encounter more positively?

Actions to take:

  • Discuss the correlation between gratefulness and selflessness and the connection between ungratefulness and selfishness. Talk about how these connections have impacted your marriage both positively and negatively.
  • If you have listened to past podcasts about the primary relational needs of Love and Respect Husbands, discuss how gratefulness & ungratefulness on your wife’s part impacts your view of the respect she has for you. Wives, discuss how gratefulness & ungratefulness on your husband’s part impacts your view of the love he has for you.
  • As a couple, seek each other’s forgiveness for ungratefulness toward one another, ask God to forgive a selfish and ungrateful spirit that has perhaps resided in your marriage, and ask Him to help you together to do a better job of reflecting Him and His ways.

So now, with a grateful heart toward each other and toward God for all He has done and continues to do in the perfecting process of your marital mirror…Go Be Awesome!

Fat Man’s Misery – September 22nd, 2022

Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Fat Man’s Misery

Lest anyone believe I am being insensitive or have stooped to “fat shaming”, let me put that to rest right away. The title for this post comes from the name of a very narrow passage in the subterranean recesses of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. I was actually surprised that a quick Google search revealed that the name of that passage has not been changed. I guess social justice doesn’t really run that deep after all.

I was introduced to “Fat man’s misery” as a young boy. Somewhere around the age of twelve my parents took me and my two brothers to Mammoth Cave for a vacation. We enjoyed tent camping, campfires, and spelunking for an entire week. Mammoth Cave, aptly named is the world’s longest known cave system and has several different tours available for visitors. While there we did many things that left lifelong (to this point anyway) impressions on me. The 40 plus years since I was there have not taken from me vivid memories of that vacation. One I will never forget was my first experience with total and absolute darkness. My parents allowed my younger brother Gary and I to take a children’s tour without them one afternoon. Following a park ranger with lanterns affixed to helmets on our heads we crawled through a small entrance to one of the innumerable recesses that make up the entirety of Mammoth Cave. After a walk inside of perhaps 200 or 300 yards, the guide had us sit down on rocks, be completely quiet and one by one switch off the lights on our helmets. Lastly, the ranger turned off her light and the darkness enveloped us completely. It was a surreal experience. I recall expecting that my eyes would adjust to the darkness and I would regain at least some ability to see, but that never happened. I remember thinking that I understood what it must be like to be totally blind. I also remember beginning to feel uneasy and insecure in the total darkness and silence. Though the spiritual depths of this are begging to be explored, and maybe I will in a later episode, I want to move on to another memory from that family trip.

During another tour of the caves we took as a family, we followed our guide as a group of people made their way down a long set of steel stairs to one of the entrances to the cave. About an hour later, we emerged in a completely different place in the forest hundreds of yards from where we began our journey. There are several things from that particular tour that I remember. There was a huge room where the “ceiling” was several stories above. That room, named “The Cathedral” was so called because of its size and sound echoing acoustics. I was surprised and somewhat shaken to learn several years ago that the “ceiling” weighing many thousands of tons had come crashing to the floor. Weird to think that as a young boy I had stood under that very space looking up at all that rock, now understood to have been somewhat precariously perched above us.

As a part of that tour we meandered through a series of fissures in the rock that had been worn into smooth paths. Sometimes the “walls” were wide and ten or twenty feet apart, other times much closer maybe a four or five foot span. At one place, the path narrowed to about fifteen or eighteen inches and the walls were only about four and a half feet high. This part of the path, known as “Fat Man’s Misery” was so named not only because it is so narrow but also low and requires one to bend over to pass through. I can only assume that some people have had to turn around and return the way they came, unable to navigate “Fat Man’s Misery”. Even then at my young age that experience caused me to consider Matthew 7:13-14 that I had heard about in Sunday school. That scripture reads as follows in the New King James Version, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, there are few who find it.

Obviously, that particular passage came to mind all those years ago in that cave because the way in front of me was so narrow and difficult to traverse. I remember thinking however, that this narrow path in front of me was the only way to the destination…the exit of the cave. In my way of boyish thinking, if you wanted to get to the preferable destination then there was only one choice…forward. I remember pondering this scripture as a boy and wondering the same thing about eternity. If eternal life in Heaven was only through the narrow gate, even if the path was difficult, why would anyone ever choose anything else? What allure could the wide gate with the easy path have?

I like the way the paraphrase “The Message” puts these verses. It says, “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. The reason I like this particular paraphrase of this scripture is because it so accurately reflects our present societal reality. Overwhelmingly we respond to surveys that we are people of Christian belief. Though it is declining somewhat, just two years ago 65% of American adults considered themselves to be Christian. I can say with a good deal of certainty that 65% of the American adult population is not looking for the narrow gate and the difficult path. The fact is that it didn’t matter to those people who were unable to navigate “Fat Man’s Misery” what percentage of others couldn’t either. They were the ones that found themselves unable to arrive at the destination they desired. They were each for all intents and purposes a statistic of one. The same is true for us in regards to our relationship with Jesus. It is called a personal relationship because it is necessarily personal. It will be developed to the degree that we allow and desire to see it developed. There are all kinds of things in life that seek to take our attention but when all is said and done there is only one way to eternity with God…having a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. With such important implications that relationship should get the Lion’s share of our focus.

In his gospel, the Apostle John records that Jesus himself said this.  In John 14:6 Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Jesus was clear there is only one way to the destination of eternal life in Heaven with Him. He is The Way, indicating that there is no other. Why? Because He is The Truth. Truth is an absolute. There is only one truth and the ultimate truth leads to life…Eternal Life. So, why is it so difficult? Why so narrow? Essentially, we make it so. It is one of those things of which I like to say it is difficult but not complicated. It isn’t complicated because the process is simple…Make Jesus Lord. It is difficult because we have to slip off of the throne of our own lives and allow Him His rightful place there. In the natural, we don’t want to do that. We like to be in control. We like to make the rules. We like to decide the direction we will go. Simply put, we like to think we are in charge. The gate to destruction is so wide because people want to believe they can make the rules, they can be in charge of their own lives…they can be their own lord and sit on their own throne…and if they are “Basically good people”, they will get to go to heaven someday.

Jesus said that’s not how it works. Only those who are righteous can spend eternity…or even a nano-second for that matter in the presence of God. Romans 3:22-25 lays out plainly that because of our sin we have a problem, but through genuine personal relationship with Jesus (the way the truth and the life) we have been gifted a solution. Those verses read as follows in the New Living Translation, We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (in our place).

You are also a statistic of one. When faced with the narrow gate and the difficult path will you turn away and go back the way you came, or will you follow Jesus. Just as our guide knew the way out of the cave and led us back into the light of day, Jesus said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Following Jesus is the only way to emerge in eternal life with God.

So now, entering the narrow gate with a smile on your lips and a grateful heart that Jesus has made a way for you…Go be awesome!

Marital Conflict Worldly Wisdom vs Wordly Wisdom – Session Seven – September 19th, 2022

Hi this is Pastor Ken and this is my Monday Marriage Message. This is will be the seventh and final installment in the series looking at Marital conflicts…Worldly Wisdom vs. Wordly Wisdom.

In this edition, we will look at the Worldly Wisdom position that “The Ends Justify The Means”. Most of us understand that concept and many intuitively and internally shudder when we consider it, knowing there is something we find unsavory about the idea. Even so, on some level most people subscribe to it just the same. We drive faster than the posted speed limit because we have places to go, people to see and things to do. Social media has such a hold over us that we feel compelled to “Check it…just for a second” even though we are being paid and trusted by an employer to be doing other things with our time on the clock. The justifications don’t stop there. In marriage many are willing to allow the ends to justify the means. Maybe we tell our spouse “Little white lies” because telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth might leave us vulnerable to their criticism. Perhaps there is an expenditure that we know our spouse wouldn’t approve of, but it is justified because we really want what we have our eye on. It may be that we join in at work or with friends as conversations center around our distaste for the things our spouses do. Even if we don’t feel right about it, we justify that everyone is doing it, and we want our friends or co-workers to find us acceptable. These are some examples we might view as benign, there are others that are engaged in every day that are much more harmful. People use all kinds of justifications for engaging in activities that have the potential to be incredibly detrimental to their marriages.

Wordly Wisdom insists that the ends do not justify the means. Jesus said that our yes needs to be yes, and our no should clearly mean no. (Mathew 5:37) We often interpret this scripture to simply mean that if we say yes or no we shouldn’t need to add anything to illustrate that we really mean what we say. However, a deeper understanding has to include the overall effect this has on our integrity. If we avoid wishy-washiness, and if our yes always means yes and if our no always means no, we won’t need to swear by anything else…people will simply be able to count on us. Perhaps most importantly, our spouse. If we are consistent about what we choose and the things we are not willing to allow in our lives, our spouse can enjoy the confidence that our every action, thought and word is for their benefit and blessing.

Wordly Wisdom also argues that the ends do not justify the means, but in fact, it is we who are supposed to end up justified. In other words, God wants to use our marriages to guide us into a life of justice and righteousness. In his book, The Joy of the Sacred Marriage Gary Thomas suggests that God is far more concerned that our marriages make us holy, than that they make us happy. He rightly says God uses our marriages perhaps more so than any other experience in life to move us toward holiness. I simply say that according to Genesis 1 and 2 God designed marriage to reflect His image and likeness. Our marriages are purposed to be a mirror God can look into and see Himself. To Gary Thomas’s point, God is holy and therefore we are to be holy also. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” Here we are being told that the point of our lives and in fact our marriages is to be holy like God is holy. We are supposed to be clean and clear mirrors that God can look into and see himself. When we accept the worldly view that says the “Ends justify the means”, we risk allowing our mirror to become dirty, clouded, scratched up and far less capable of producing a good reflection of our God.

What about the dirt, scratches and the cloudiness we have allowed to accumulate on our marital mirrors because we have accepted that in certain situations, the ends justify the means? Thankfully, God has an answer for that. 1 John 1:9 tells us that If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. God desires to forgive us for the dirt and damage we have inflicted on our mirrors. He promises that if we ask him to, He will clean us of all of the dirt we have allowed to rest upon us. In Ephesians 5:16 He lets us know that He even wants to help us redeem time. Though most of us would like to have the ability to do so, we simply can’t go back in time and fix errors we have committed. However, we serve a God who can take those errors and transform them into wisdom essentially redeeming the time in which the errors took place. So, there is even a plan for the dirt and many of the scratches we have allowed to cover our marital mirrors.  God wants to forgive us for every scratch, every bit of cloudiness and all of the dirt we have allowed to accumulate there. He not only wants to wash our mirrors clean so that he can see Himself more clearly, but He will even buff out some of the scratches so they don’t take away from His reflection either.

Some scratches are too deep to buff out and eliminate completely. Some marital mirrors have been through too much and some of the damage remains even after forgiveness and a good cleaning. So what do we do about that? God has a plan to address that damage as well. Romans 8:28-30 offers a promise to take the deep scratches and the chipped portions of our marital mirrors that have happened as a result of allowing the ends to justify the harmful means and even use those to justify us, and help us better reflect God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Thank God for His miraculous marital mirror restoration abilities!

Though God has graciously offered to restore our marital mirrors, He also asks us to refrain from damaging them further. The Apostle Paul Spoke to that in Romans Chapter 6:1-11 There Paul wrote, Well then, should we keep on sinning (in other words, damaging our mirrors) so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

God wants to look into the mirror of each of our marriages and see an unblemished reflection of Himself. He is Holy so what He expects to see when He looks at your marriage, my marriage…is holiness. He promised to forgive us of the dirtiness of sin we have so carelessly splattered all over our mirrors and once again make us clean. He has enabled us through the redemption of time to have some of the lesser scratches polished back out. He has also said that if we will allow  Him to, He even wants to use the deeper scratches and chips to cause us to reflect Him even better. God also hopes we will be very careful with our mirrors going forward, and that we will realize just how valuable they are to Him

Questions to answer:

  • Has allowing the end to justify the means created problems for your marriage?
  • What difficulties has this caused the two of you in your attempts to reflect God like you want to?
  • If you make the priority of your lives as one to reflect the One who gave it to you, what differences could that make in your marriage?

Actions to take:

  • Gratefully give God thanks for His desire to take the imperfections of your marital mirror and restore its ability to reflect Him…then make reflecting God THE priority of your marriage.

So now, taking incredible care of your marital mirror so it can do what it was intended to do and reflect God…GO be awesome!

Let Him Be Your Guide (Mark 14 : 27-31) September 19, 2022

Shine For The Light (Romans 6 : 1-13 & Galatians 3 : 27-28) – September 11, 2022

The Equalizer (Mark 14 : 22-26) – September 4, 2022

Three Simple Steps To Finding The Will Of God In Your Life! – September 1, 2022

Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Three Simple Steps to finding the will of God in your life.

Have you ever noticed that the marketing world loves to use “Three Simple Steps” to sell us nearly anything? No matter what you may be looking for…or maybe not looking for, someone wants to sell you their fool-proof, money back guaranteed solution in just “Three Simple Steps”. There a books upon books available that utilize this principle. There is one simply called Three Simple Steps – A Map To Success In Business And Life . Another one that looked interesting was Will Work For Fun: Three Simple Steps For Turning Any Hobby Into A Business. You can find three simple steps to losing weight, buying your next car or house, cooking gourmet meals or becoming wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. There is probably somebody out there who has tried to market a book about three simple steps to counting to three…hmmm, I am an author,  maybe I should consider…no it wouldn’t be right…funny, but not right.

Why are we so ready to buy something if it is broken down into three simple steps? Who ever got anywhere exciting by taking just three simple steps? I can clearly see from where I sit, where three simple steps will take me in any given direction…so let me check…nope, nothing earth shattering or life changing is just three simple steps away from me right now. So, what ever happened to ideas like “Anything worth having is worth working for”, or “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”, or one of my personal favorites…”If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it”. As far as I can tell, everybody isn’t meeting with wild success. So, can we agree not everything can be broken down into three simple steps?

The Apostle Paul did write about three simple steps for finding the will of God in your life, but this wasn’t a marketing ploy to sell books, nor was it deceptive in any way. This one is the God’s honest truth. These three steps are laid out for us in his letter to the Thessalonian church. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says this: Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Three simple steps, laid out in three simple verses. Simply put however, these simple steps seem kind of complicated. How are we supposed to always be joyful? Are we supposed to start praying and never get to the part where we sign off with a reverent “Amen”? Are really expected to be thankful in all circumstances? One might counter that these three simple steps don’t look simple at all…they look impossible!

Ok let’s start with step one –  Always be joyful. Paul indicates here as well as other places like in in his letter to the Philippian church that joy is always appropriate. In Philippians 2:17,18 he writes, But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. In Philippians 3:1 he writes, Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord… And further in Philippians 4:4 he says it again,  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Ok, so I’m starting to detect a pattern here…Paul really does think it is possible to always be joyful. So I went to my trusty Greek-English Bible and looked it up. It seems that what Paul was trying to convey is that God’s grace or favor toward us is something we should always be joyful for because that grace is always is present in our lives. In other words, God’s grace is always with me regardless of my day-to-day situations. Paul isn’t necessarily telling me to be joyful for the specifics of my day, they may be viewed in a positive or negative light, but I can and should be joyful that God’s grace accompanies me through all of those situations whatever their outcome may be. I can be joyful because no matter what I face, I do not face it alone. My joy can be found in the One who accompanies me, even if it cannot be found in what we are walking through together.

Now for step two – Never stop praying. I shared regarding this scripture just a few weeks ago in my podcast entitled Dad…Dad…Dad…Dad. There I went into greater detail breaking down the meaning of this particular passage. In that episode I pointed out that in Luke chapter 11 Jesus told a story about a man who woke up his neighbor in the middle of the night to ask for some food he needed because an unexpected guest had arrived at his home, and he had nothing to feed him. Jesus said that the sleepy neighbor would likely refuse to help because of the late hour, but that if the one at the door continued to knock incessantly, his neighbor would in fact, give him what he needed, not because of their friendship, but because of his persistent knocking and asking. He went on to say this about the value of Simple step number two…never stop praying. His words are recorded for us in Luke 11:9-10, there he said, And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds. And to everyone who knocks the door will be opened. In verse 13 he let us know what those who ask, seek and knock, could expect…God will give to them the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. According to Galatians 5:22-23 with The Holy Spirit’s influence we are able to face every situation life throws our way with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, we were created in His image and His likeness, asking that the fruit of His Own Spirit might be displayed in our lives certainly fulfills God’s will that we would be reflective of Him. Additionally, Jesus made the point that God does not answer us because He is annoyed by our persistence as the sleepy neighbor in His story was. Jesus was quite clear. God is good and responds to us out of love, not frustration. God desires that we ask, seek and knock continually because that action on our part indicates to Him our desire for a continual relationship with Him. James 4:8 tells us that if we draw near to God, God will in return draw near to us.

Simple step number three to finding the will of God in your life – Be thankful in all circumstances. Paul understood a great psychological truth. An attitude of gratitude causes us to view the things that are happening in our lives with corrected vision. Giving thanks to God every day is an act of faith, because not every occurrence in our life is a positive one. Some things are downright negative, bad, wrong…maybe even evil. So are we really supposed to give thanks for all those negative circumstances we encounter? Absolutely. Even more so in those situations. Meeting our literal God-given potential to be reflective of Him is relatively easy when all is going exactly as we would like it to. In those instances, we may not even see a great need for His assistance, but when all is not going well, or perhaps seemingly nothing is going as we want it to, giving thanks will illustrate our faith in God. A grateful attitude during times of duress, difficulty or even despair highlights our belief that He is interceding for us and that He will use those challenging times for our good by helping us to become even more like Christ. (Romans 8:26-29) One of the scriptures that is near and dear to my heart that speaks so clearly of why, when where and how we should give thanks in all circumstances is found in Psalm 100. Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Finally, Hebrews 12:28 offers an unshakable reason for step three…be thankful in all circumstancesSince we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

So there you have it, just three simple steps. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances and God’s word says the result of those are that this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

So now, you have the three simple steps…following those steps and finding God’s will for your life…Go Be Awesome!

Marital Conflicts – Session Five – August 29, 2022

Hi this is Pastor Ken, welcome to the Monday Marriage Message…Marital Conflicts – Session Five

Continuing with our series of marital conflicts between worldly wisdom and Word-ly wisdom, found in the Bible, today I want to speak about the potential of our marriages. Worldly wisdom or common sense dictates that its participants determine the potential of any marriage. How far that marriage will go, how long it will last, what it will look like and what it will leave as a legacy is all up to the two people who have entered into it. This understanding hinges on the premise that a marriage is made of two people who enter into an agreement to stick together and stick it out as long as there is continued value in doing so. The potential of their marriage is determined by the purposes they alone decide their marriage has and how much they are willing to do to see those fulfilled. This thinking allows that there is no standard to be maintained except that which is decided upon by that particular couple. No one else ought ever have any ability, authority or right to impose any guidelines or regulations onto their marriage. Whatever is ok for that couple is ok, after all whatever happens behind their closed doors is up to them…Right?

Why would this thought process seem reasonable? For starters, no one likes to be told what to do. As human beings we start life out with this mindset and most of us end it with little to no discernable change. We like to make our own rules so that we can adjust them whenever it suits us and we prefer not to be required to give answer for our changes. In our marriages, we conclude that we possess autonomy so that we are able to rest in the false belief that we cannot act in error. The problem with this thought process for marital longevity is that by definition, autonomy can’t really be shared…not even by as few as two people. Selfish desire will eventually cause conflict and disharmony highlighting the fallacy of the marital unity being experienced in that setting. Additionally, if a couple agrees that they alone are qualified to determine the standards for their marriage, they become the only ones who should decide that the marriage should dissolve if and when it no longer produces the desired outcome. They believe no one else has the authority to challenge that decision. Finally, in order to maintain a (quote-unquote)“successful marriage” the supposed autonomous couple will likely need to downgrade some of the formerly decided potential of their marriage commensurate with the disappointing outcomes they experience. If those involved in the marriage are not the ones deciding the purposes of their own marriage, this lowering of potential and expectations becomes impossible. For many couples, determining their own marriage’s purpose and potential is not only desirable, but must necessarily be kept fluid for their success to be assured.

When you say the quiet part out loud it sounds kind of shallow doesn’t it? So, what does Wordly wisdom have to say about the subject? What are God’s thoughts when it comes to the potential of our marriages? If we look at our marriages as something we have done, we set the parameters and decide the potential. However, if we view our marriages as something God has done, we must look to Him for the guidelines designed to ensure we arrive at the full potential He sees in every marriage as He joins a man and a woman together as one.

In Genesis 1:26 we find that the purpose of creating mankind was to reflect the image and likeness of God. In verse 27 we are told that the creation of mankind required both a male and a female. This fact is often viewed solely as a necessary component for the procreation of people and the survival of the human race. Though it is true that it takes a man and a woman to create another human being, regardless of current disinformation, that purpose is secondary (as noted in verse 28) following the primary purpose of reflecting the Creator (found in verse 26). We read in Genesis 2:21-23 that God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman as a married couple identified by Adam’s recognition that they were created by God “One Flesh”. Following Adam’s proclamation, (in verse 24) God proclaimed that every marriage going forward from that time would be a re-creation of the “One Flesh” condition experienced and enjoyed by Adam and Eve. As I have said before, the Apostle Paul reiterated that fact in Ephesians 5:31-32. Jesus Himself spoke of the oneness of marriage being something continually re-created by God and not by man, in Matthew 19:3-6 and Mark 10:2-9. God’s primary purpose for marriage was then and still is today,to create a singular entity of oneness that is reflective of His image and His likeness. Since He is the originator of the union we call marriage, and the purpose for marriage is also specifically noted as being His, then a perfect, infallible God would necessarily give the potential for every marriage to meet that intended purpose. Your marriage absolutely contains the potential to act as “One Flesh” and to reflect the image and likeness of God. Any other conclusion would be blasphemous.

In Luke 17:6 Jesus spoke of possessed potential. That verse says: So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’, and it would obey you”. This verse has often been misunderstood to mean that if we had faith as big as a tiny seed, we could command incredible things to take place and they would happen just as we said. When the original Greek is examined however, we find that what Jesus was really saying was that a mustard seed though very small, does not question its potential to become a very large plant. It simply lives up to its potential. Jesus made this statement following His disciples asking for additional faith to do something He said they should do. Essentially, they were questioning the potential they had to accomplish His plans for them. Following Jesus’ words about the mustard seed simply fulfilling its potential, Jesus expounded further. In the following verses Jesus asked His disciples a question. He asked if a servant should expect that after a partial day of obedient service, the master would likely tell them to stop serving him, take it easy for a while, do whatever they wanted to do, and then later resume service to their master? Or, He asked them, should a servant expect that faithful obedience would be the requirement until the potential for the day had been reached and their purpose had been fulfilled? Jesus was expressing that the master determines the purpose and potential for the day. It is not for the servant to question the goal, but simply to obey, expecting the potential will be realized. Much like the mustard seed does not decide for itself what it should grow to be, but rather simply expects its God given potential will be achieved.

God has placed the Potential in your marriage to be reflective of Him. He has installed the ability to meet that potential through the development and growth of your “One Flesh” condition. According to Jesus, your job, my job, is simply to obediently do our best to realize our full potential allowing Him to enable us to do what we lack within ourselves. The potential is there, all we have to do is refrain from denying that potential exists and allow it to be developed by Him. A mustard seed does not deny its own potential but also cannot become the large plant it is purposed to be without the sun, rain and nutrient rich soil, all things added by God. Mark 9:23 speaks to this. It records that Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes”. In other words, what God wants to see take place in our lives and in our marriages absolutely can be done if we are willing to allow Him to help us reach our full potential and see His purposes realized in our lives.

Psalm 19, one of my personal favorites, speaks of the perfect ways of God. It tells us that if we will acknowledge that His ways and plans for our lives (and marriages) are superior to anything we could imagine, the results will be sweet and desirable for Him and us as well.

Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Questions to Answer:

  • In the past, what would you have said the purposes of your marriage were?
  • What would you have said the potential was for your marriage to see those purposes realized?
  • How much potential did your marriage have to reach both of your purposes for your marriage?
  • How much potential do you see in your marriage to fulfill the purpose God has for it?

Actions to Take:

  • Discuss why you answered the final question for today the way you did.
  • Talk about the steps of obedience the two of you could take to move your marriage toward reaching its God-given potential.
  • Pray and ask God to help you be obedient to Him in this regard and ask Him to give the two of you what you lack to fulfill His purposes for your marriage.

So now, allowing God to determine the purpose for your marriage, and simply agreeing with Him that the full potential can and will be achieved…Go Be Awesome!

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