Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Bridal Shower Devotional for Melanie

Hi, Mel, wish I could be there but I was very honored when Aunt Karin offered me the privilege of writing a devotional for your shower and grateful for Auntie Annie being willing to be my mouthpiece.  Greetings also, to all who are there with you.

When I was in Mammoth this summer with the family, it was so much fun to receive your call that Ryan had proposed.  Marriage is God’s gift to us of a life-long, best friend.  We all erupted into cheers of joy, because we love you and Ryan and are so excited for you to be entering into this union with such a great guy. 

I’m going to pass along some wisdom nuggets which I have been so blessed to receive, four things that you can put into practice, Melanie, for the years that God gives you together, that bring honor to Jesus Christ, from which flows a life of blessing and joy.

1)   Be Ryan’s biggest FAN. 

In other words, be Ryan’s greatest cheerleader.   Let him know often how much you love him and appreciate him and the things he does for you.  This sets a protection on your marriage and will guard against a husband going elsewhere for affirmation.  God has created husbands in such a way that they thrive on significance, and wives, thrive on security.  If you are affirming Ryan often, he will only come to you for it, and he will desire only to love and serve you, and be your protector.  You will then experience that security which God has set into your heart.

2)   FOLLOW Ryan.

Marriages work the best when one leads, and the other follows.  God has designed marriage so that the husbands are to lead.  When you are following and supporting Ryan, his significance will go through the roof.  The Lord has given us wives wisdom for helping our husbands.  If we see them headed down a path we know is not good, we can and should lovingly speak into it.  But in the end, let Ryan lead you.  This will call for trusting the Lord.  Ryan will not lead perfectly and you will not follow perfectly, because we are not perfect.  We are broken.  Mistakes will be made, but let following Ryan and coming under his leadership be what characterizes your marriage.  Following God’s design always produces blessing in our lives.

3)   Live with a spirit of FORGIVENESS

I want you to picture a field of beautiful flowers.  You are in it, running towards Ryan, and he is running towards you. There’s a gentle breeze.  The aroma from the flowers is sweet.  You almost reach Ryan’s outstretched arms but right before it happens…you both land in a huge...cowpie, and now that cowpie is everywhere.  Yeah, it’s pretty gross, and very messy.  This is the reality of life, isn’t it?  Because we live in a broken world, because we are broken image bearers of the One who made us, sin happens.  We fall short of God’s perfect righteousness, which leaves our love broken and faulty, and we land in cowpies.  We sin and hurt people and others sin and hurt us. We don’t love each other perfectly.  I have a great definition of love for you.  It’s easy to remember – it’s just three words.  You before me.  Love is putting the other person first.  It’s sacrificing what we need and want, for the good and need of the other.  It’s how Jesus loved us, to redeem us, and repair our brokenness.  We are to love this way, too, but, we become selfish and want our way first.  You are going to say things and do things that hurt Ryan, and Ryan is going to do and say things that bring you pain.  When this happens, be quick to forgive.  Quick readiness to forgive comes from that wonderful knowledge and experience that we have been forgiven by Jesus Christ.   

Forgiveness has three parts, or is a three-part contract:

1.     I will not hold the sin against the offender. 

Conditional love only sends a marriage down a rocky path.

2.     I will not talk to others about it.

Our propensity is to go to others and vent.  Instead of covering the sin against us with the blanket of love and forgiveness, we commit the sin of gossip, and sometimes slander.  We know we have forgiven if we absorb the hurt and don’t go to someone else with it.

3.     I will not bring up the offense to myself again.

True forgiveness doesn’t rehash the sin and hurt.  We don’t marinade in the pain.  All this does is plant a seed of bitterness.  We put it off.  It’s gone.  When we feel it coming back, we tell ourselves, “Nope.  Not going there.”

This is the way God forgives.  This is our model for forgiveness.  You will need to forgive the same hurt, more than once and you will need forgiveness, over and over again.  Ultimately, all our sin is against God.  Our debt is to Him for it.  But the good news is that God’s inexhaustible bank of grace and forgiveness is freely given to us, because Jesus stepped into our place and paid the price for our sin, so we could experience God’s forgiveness and so that we might offer it generously and liberally to others as it's so generously and liberally offered and given to us.  There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness.  Your relationship with Ryan will thrive, if you live with a spirit of forgiveness. 

4)   FINISH Ryan.

Uncle Tim and I hadn’t been married for very long.   At the time, Aunt Sheryl lived close to us.  Her in-laws had come for a visit and we had everyone over for dinner.  Uncle Tim and Uncle Skip’s dad were so kind and did the dishes afterwards so the rest of us could sit and visit.  A little while later I went into the kitchen and saw that the stove was still messy.  I had made spaghetti or something like messy that.  Instead of thanking Uncle Tim for doing the dishes and then quietly cleaning up the mess on the stove, I let Uncle Tim know he’d missed that part of the clean-up –  it was truly a genuine significance killing moment.  But Uncle Tim is a gem of a husband, and he’s always been quick to forgive my failures and hurts against him.  Ryan is going to leave some things undone, unfinished.  You as a wife can love him and help him by quietly finishing him.  If he leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, smile and thank the Lord that you have him.  Quietly pick them up and put them in the hamper for him.  We take away our husband’s significance when we voice our criticism to them over something so small and petty.   Guard and protect your marriage too, by not criticizing Ryan’s faults to others.   Work out the big things with Ryan.  Quietly, absorb his little idiosyncrasies with gratitude, rejoicing that you have been given such a great, life-long, best friend, by God. 

Fan Ryan.

Follow Ryan.

Forgive Ryan.

Finish Ryan.

Live your life in such a way that no other human relationship compares in importance to the one you will have with Ryan.

Love you, Mel.  May the Lord bless you and Ryan with many, many wonderful years together. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Loving Equals Keeping

"If you love Me, 
you will keep My commandments...

...But so the world may know that I love the Father, 
I do exactly as the Father commanded Me."

John 14:15, 31

When we walk in the truth of God's Word, when we obey it, we are being just like Jesus, and we are loving Jesus, just like He loved the Father.  This is our calling as believers - to love Jesus by keeping His commandments, by doing exactly what He says.  We should never grate at this because He has given His commandments out of His love for us.  He made us and He knows what's best for us.  Obeying always benefits us, and those around us.  

We need to practice daily repentance, which Jesus never did, or had to because as God, He is without sin.  The truth that we can greatly rejoice in, and rest in, is that Jesus obeyed perfectly, for us.  He loved the Father, perfectly for us.  What's left is to love Him by abiding with Him in His Word, by being with Him, by walking in His footsteps, striving to become more faithful in our obedience.

We will never be perfect at mirroring Jesus this side of heaven, but like Jesus, we are to hate sin, we are to sorrow over sin.  But unlike Him, we are also called to turn from sin - what He became for us, which is exactly what the Father wanted Him to do, and He obeyed, so we could be accepted and loved by the Father, and not forsaken.

Don't despair over your failures.  They don't define you.  What defines us is the love Jesus has for us.  Rejoice and be thankful in this love, and for Jesus' perfect obedience, for you, which is why you will always be loved, and welcomed by the Father.