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Four Promises of Forgiveness

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 207.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

I once heard a joke that described a frequent failure in forgiving. A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When her pastor said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”

Food for Thought
Take a moment today to remember the Four Promises of Forgiveness:
1. I will not dwell on this incident.
2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Then take a moment to remember something else: This is the way God forgives you. It’s natural for us to read the Four Promises of Forgiveness as another set of laws to which we’re presently failing to live up; however, the gospel reminds us that they should be read first and foremost as God’s commitment to us because of the sacrifice of his Son. That commitment says that he will never “get historical” in bringing up sins for which we have been forgiven!

Is there an area in life where you feel condemned even though you’ve genuinely repented before God? Take a moment to hear God speaking the Four Promises of Forgiveness to you with regard to that particular issue. As you read them again, try adding your name to the beginning of each promise as a reminder that God speaks them personally to you. Remember Romans 8:1 applies to you, not just other Christians: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you accept this and apply it to your own life, prepare to be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will become to apply the Four Promises of Forgiveness to others who have hurt you.

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Depression: Lamenting Our Losses to God

by Bob Kellemen, Ph.D.
 
When experiencing grief, sorrow, or depression, one of the most important responses is to face our suffering face-to-face with God. To do this deeply, we need to understand and practice biblical lament.

The biblical genre of lament expresses frankness about the reality of life that seems inconsistent with the character of God. Lament is an act of truth-telling faith, not unfaith. Lament is a rehearsal of the bad allowed by the Good. Lament is vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering.

When we lament, we live in the real world honestly, refusing to ignore what is occurring. Lament is our expression of our radical trust in God’s reliability in the midst of real life.

According to Psalm 62:8, if we truly trust God, then we’ll share everything with God. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Drawing Near to God

Psalm 73 is a prime example of Lament. Asaph begins, “Surely God is good to Israel” (73:1). He then continues with a litany of apparent evidence to the contrary, such as the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the godly (73:2-15). When he tries to make sense of all this, it’s oppressive to him (73:16). He then verbalizes to God the fact that his heart is grieved and his spirit embittered (73:21).

His lament, his complaint, drew him nearer to God. It did not push him away from God. “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand” (73:23). He concludes, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge.” (73:28).

It was Asaph’s intense relationship with God that enlightened him to the goodness of God even during the badness of life. “Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. . . . As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O LORD, you will despise them as a fantasy” (73:17, 20). Spiritual friendship with God results in 20/20 spiritual vision from God.

Asaph illustrates that in lament we come to God with a sense of abandonment and confusion (Isaiah 49:14; Jeremiah 20:7; Lamentations 5:20). We then exercise a courageous, yet humble cross-examination. Not a cross-examination of God, but a cross-examination and a refuting of earth-bound reality with spiritual reality.

Being Real and Raw

That’s exactly what occurs in Jeremiah 20:7; Lamentations 5:20; and Psalm 88:18. In all three passages, it appears by reason alone that life is bad and so is God. Yet in each passage, God responds positively to a believer’s rehearsal of life’s inconsistencies.

In Job 3, and much of Job for that matter, Job forcefully and even violently expresses his complaint.

What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning? Instead of bread I get groans for my supper, then leave the table and vomit my anguish. The worst of my fears has come true, what I’ve dreaded most has happened. My repose is shattered, my peace destroyed. No rest for me, ever—death has invaded life.

In Job 42:7-8, God honors Job’s complaint saying that Job spoke right of life and right of God. God prizes lament and rejects all deceiving denial and simplistic closure, preferring candid complexity.

You Are Never Alone

Depression, by its very nature, causes us to feel alone, separated, alienated. Lament, by its very nature, helps us to feel connected, in relationship, in communion—with God. Never suffer alone. Never battle depression without God. Lament to God. Tell Him your painful external circumstances and your internal hurts and agony. God invites you to make use of your suffering, to admit your need for Him in your pain, and to rehearse your feelings of depression (external and internal) before Him.

Psalm 72:12 assures us, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out” (KJV—when he crieth). Psalm 34 reminds us, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). God’s good heart goes out, especially, to the humble needy. When crushed in Spirit, turn to the Holy Spirit. When battling depression and feeling comfortless, lament to the Comforter.

Listening and Guidance

(Adapted from The Disciplines of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan)

We have been created to be in a listening relationship to God. As we draw near to God, we begin to hear His voice and receive affirmation, encouragement, correction, and direction for our lives. Jesus says, “�My sheep listen to my voice�(John 10:14-16). We listen in order to receive guidance! The outcome of a close relationship with God is guidance and invitation into partnership with Him.

Jesus didn’t get up in the morning and say, “What great thing can I do for God today?” He said, “Father, what are you doing today? Show me what you are already doing so I can do it with you. I will do only what I see what you doing” (see John 5:19, 30). Jesus’ secret of guidance was His relationship of dependence on the Father – listening for God’s voice, being observant of His Father’s work, paying attention to His Father’s leading in every circumstance of His life.

Do you believe God talks to people? That He wants to talk to you? Do you think it strange or unusual to hear His voice or to receive regular guidance and direction form Him? Jesus believed that listening was fundamental to the Christian life and a natural consequence of deepening relationship with God. He encouraged believers that if they belonged to God, they should expect to hear from God. He rebuked the unbelieving religious leaders of His day saying, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47). As we draw near to the One who comes to us to draw us to Himself, we enter into the disciplines of listening and guidance. We learn to hear the Shepard’s voice, to distinguish it from the many voices that compete for our attention, and to know and respond to his wooing and guidance.

Hearing from God is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes God’s will clear to us as we engage in the discipline of listening and guidance. Jesus promised us His own guidance through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). When the Spirit of Truth comes, Jesus says, “He will guide you into all truth�He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you: (John 16: 13-14). The truth John speaks of here is not an idea, concept, or doctrine, but a true relationship. To be led into truth is to be led into the same relationship with Jesus that Jesus has with the Father.

G. Campbell Morgan encourages the believer to wait for guidance:

To the individual believer, who is, by the very fact of relationship to Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit�.there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.

The Apostle Paul emphasized that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the deep things of God to us. We are so affected by our sin and rebellion that we cannot understand the things of God unless the Holy Spirit reveals it. He is our teacher. In reading the Scripture, we must sit before the Holy Spirit and respond to His leading. As we pray, we must expect that answers will come as the Holy Spirit guides us to Scripture, or through circumstances or wise counsel, or through personal words or a divine encounter.

Our Part in Listening and Guidance:
* Let the Spirit build in you a desire to be yielded and obedient to God’s will and plans.
* Starting where you are, seek after God with your whole heart, striving to know him intimately.
* Resolve to want to glorify God and bring honor to His great name in all things in your life.
* Be alert and sensitive at all times for the Spirit’s promptings. Seek guidance from God; watch for it, expect it. Remember that the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
* Take time daily to listen and be in conversation with God. Get in the habit of asking questions like, “What are you doing, Lord? What do you want me to see and understand in my current   circumstances?”
* Wait for confirmation. “Test everything” (1Thess. 5:21). God isn’t in a hurry. Trust that He will confirm His will through Scripture, wise counsel, and circumstances.
* Take steps to respond obediently to the guidance you receive; trusting that God will provide confirmation and blessing (See James 1:22; 2:17).

Means of Guidance:
* The Bible, God’s Word – God speaks primarily through His Word, as we read and meditate on it. The Scripture is our standard of measure for all other forms of guidance. What the Spirit guides us into will always be consistent with the teaching of the Bible and will never contradict it. In addition, we must be careful to interpret the Bible accurately.

* Prayer – Conversation with God – Prayer is not just talking to God, but dialogue with God. We listen for, and hear, God’s voice in the midst of prayer.

* Godly Counsel – God often speaks to us through the wise counsel of mature Christian believers – pastors, church elders, leaders, accountability partners, counselors – people who walk closely with God and who know Him intimately.

* Providential Circumstances – God can work through even our most difficult circumstances to guide us in a particular direction.

* Sanctified Common Sense – As we think and engage in theological reflection, and weigh the pros and cons of options open to us, God works through our reason in bringing us to a decision. Even when it seems God has not spoken clearly, there may be times we have to choose an option because it is not possible to wait further. In such cases we need to use our best common sense to choose the alternative that will bring glory to God as the Holy Spirit leads us (1Cor. 10:31).

* Inner Witness and Peace – Generally, the Holy Spirit confirms God’s will to us by giving peace in our hearts (Col. 3:15). However, this does not mean we will always – or immediately – receive peace regarding God’s guidance. There may be anguish or struggle, such as Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane in the process of obeying Gods’ will to go to the cross and die for a sinful world. Jesus prayed and was obedient to God’s leading, but experienced peace only later (Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22: 39-44).

* Inner Promptings of the Holy Spirit – Based on 1Cor 12:8, 10, the Holy Spirit can guide us through factual truths we did not know before and through wisdom or the specific applications of God’s Word or Truth to a particular situation. Such words generally come in the sense of a subjective inner voice, but at times they can seem to be audible words (1Sam. 3:2-14). God has spoken to His people through visions and dreams in the past and certainly can do so in the present (Dan. 2:19; Acts 9:10-16; Acts 10:9-23; 18:9-10).

* Nature – God has revealed Himself generally through nature and His creation. However, there are times when God touches us afresh and guides us through some part of the beauty of His creation – the grandeur of the stars on a clear night or the colors of a sunset.

* Heavenly Visitation, or the “Hand of the Lord” – There are times when God reveals Himself by an angel or special manifestation of Himself (Acts 8:26, 29; 9:3-6; Dan. 9:20-23).

We are meant to be in a listening relationship with God. At any moment, anytime, day or night, in the midst of ministry or the most mundane tasks of living, God can and will speak to us.

Increasingly Aware of God’s Presence
We can grow in listening and guidance until we are “practicing the presence of God,” increasingly aware of His presence and gentle leading in all the circumstances of our living. This kind of living does not happen effortlessly. We must desire it and seek it with all our hearts. It requires choosing a course of action that will draw us into constant communion with God. It means entering strongly into the disciplines of listening and guidance as a crucial means of experiencing deeper intimacy with God and receiving His transforming power. Listening becomes a launching pad for effective service and ministry in partnership with God; guidance brings confidence and peace that we are indeed in relationship with the living God; and hearing God’s voice brings events of the Bible alive for us and allows our faith in the Truth of the Word to rise beyond abstract conviction to heart knowledge of the truth.

The Process of Guidance

Here’s how George Muller sums up the way he entered into a “heart” relationship with God and learned to hear and discern God’s voice:

I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusion. I seek the Will of the Holy Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me rightly and fully. Thus, 1) through prayer to God, 2) the study of the Word, and 3) reflection, I come to deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.

We open ourselves to mistakes if we allow the opinions of others to sway us from the clear instructions of Scripture, or if we are impatient in waiting for God’s timing, or when our own wills are so strong we cannot get our hearts ready to respond to the guidance He gives. Guidance from God is seldom a simple occurrence; it is almost a process of listening, testing, and discerning that leads to confident obedience. F.B. Meyer describes the process of guidance as follows:

God’s impressions within and His words without are always corroborated by His providence around, and we should quietly wait until those three focus into one point.  If you do not know what you ought to do, stand still until you do, and when the time comes for action, circumstances, like glow-worms, will sparkle along your path, and you will become so sure that you are right, when God’s three witnesses concur, that you could not be surer though an angel beckoned you on.

The Holy Spirit seldom uses all the means of guidance, but usually does bring several together in a process that brings conviction to an individual or group along with confidence to respond in obedience.

BOUNDARIES – What Are They?

(Adapted from Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend)

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. 

We are responsible to others and for ourselves. “Carry each other’s burdens, ” says Galatians 6:2, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse shows our responsibility to one another.

Many times others have “burdens” that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; He saved us. This is being responsible “to.”

On the other hand, verse 5 says, “… each one should carry his own load.” Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular “load” that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own “load.”

Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Boundaries are not walls. The Bible does not say that we are to be “walled off” from others; in fact, it says that we are to be “one” with them (John 17:11). We are to be in community with them. But in every community, all members have their own space and property. The important thing is that property lines/boundaries be permeable enough to allow passing in and out, but strong enough to keep out danger.

Examples of boundaries:

Words – The most basic boundary-setting word is “no.” Being clear about your no – and your yes – is a theme that runs throughout the Bible (Matt. 5:37; James 5:12). “NO” is a confrontational word. The Bible says that we are to confront people we love, saying, “No, that behavior is not okay. I will not participate in that.” The word “no” is also important in setting limits on abuse. People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that is they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control.” Your words also define your property for others as you communicate your feelings, intentions, or dislikes. It is difficult for people to know where you stand when you do not use words to define your property. God even does this when He says, “I like this and I hate that,” or “I will do this, and I will not do that.”

Truth – Knowing the truth about God and His property puts limits on you and shows you His boundaries. To be in touch with God’s Truth is to be in touch with reality, and to live in accord with that reality makes for a better life (Ps. 119:2, 45). Satan is the great distorter of reality. Honesty about who you are gives you the biblical value of integrity.

Geographical Distance – Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did. Or, you can remove yourself to get away from danger and put limits on evil. The Bible urges us to separate from those who continue to hurt us and to create a safe place for ourselves. Removing yourself from the situation will also cause the one who is left behind to experience a loss of fellowship that may lead to changed behavior (Matt. 18:17 – 18; I Cor. 5:11-13). When a relationship is abusive, many times the only way to finally show the other person that your boundaries are real is to create space until they are ready to deal with the problem. The Bible supports the idea of limiting togetherness for the sake of “binding evil.”

Time – Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.

Emotional Distance – Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living. Sometimes in abusive marriages the abused spouse needs to keep emotional distance until the abusive partner begins to face his or her problems and become trustworthy. You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until the real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back. Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness and not make sure that the other is producing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Forgive, but guard your heart until you see sustained change.

Other People – You need to depend on others to help you set and keep boundaries. For many, a support system gives the strength to say no to abuse and control for the first time in one’s life. There are two reasons why you need others to help with boundaries. The first is that your most basic need in life is for relationship. The other reason we need others is because we need new input and teaching. Boundaries are not built in a vacuum; creating boundaries always involves a support network.

Consequences – Trespassing on other people’s property carries consequences. “No Trespassing” signs usually carry a threat of prosecution if someone steps over the boundaries. The Bible teaches this principle over and over, saying that if we walk one way, this will happen, and if we walk another way, something else will happen. Just as the Bible sets consequences for certain behaviors, we need to back up our boundaries with consequences. God does not enable irresponsible behavior. Consequences give some good “barbs” to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

What falls within our boundaries; what are we responsible for?

Feelings – Feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge. The Bible says to “own” your feelings and be aware of them. Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships. They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem. But, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.

Attitudes and Beliefs – Attitudes have to do with your orientation toward something, the stance you take toward others, God, life, work, and relationships. Beliefs are anything that you accept as true. We need to own our attitudes and convictions because they fall within our property line. We are the ones who feel their effect, and the only ones who can change them. People with boundary problems usually have distorted attitudes about responsibility. They feel that to hold people responsible for their feelings, choices, and behaviors is mean.

Behaviors – Behaviors have consequences. To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behaviors is to render them powerless.

Choices – We need to take responsibility for our choices. A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay the responsibility for them on someone else. We think someone else is in control, thus relieving us of our basic responsibility. We need to realize that we are in control of our choices no matter how we feel. Throughout Scripture, people are reminded of their choices and asked to take responsibility for them. Making decisions based on others’ approval or on guilt breeds resentment. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for our choices. We are the ones who make them. We are the ones who must live with our consequences.

Values – What we value is what we love and assign importance to. Often we do not take responsibility for what we value. When we take responsibility for out-of-control behavior caused by loving the wrong things, or valuing things that have no lasting value, when we confess that we have a heart that values things that will not satisfy, we can receive help from God to “create a new heart” within us. Boundaries help us not to deny but to own our old hurtful values so God can change them.

Limits – Tow aspects of limits stand out when it comes to creating better boundaries. The first is setting limits on others. In reality, setting limits on others is a misnomer. We can’t do that. What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right. God sets standards, but He lets people be who they are and then separates Himself from them when they misbehave. But God limits His exposure to evil, unrepentant people, as should we. Scripture is full of admonitions to separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways. The other aspect of limits is setting our own internal limits. We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out. We need self-control without repression. We need to be able to say “no” to ourselves. This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.

Talents – Our talents are clearly within our boundaries and are our responsibility. Yet taking ownership of them is often frightening and always risky. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:23, 26-28) says that we are accountable — not to mention much happier – when we are experiencing our gifts and being productive. It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure that the “wicked and lazy” servant gave in to. He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult. He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.

Thoughts – Establishing boundaries in thinking involves three things.

  1. We must own our own thoughts. Many people have not taken ownership of their own thinking processes. They are mechanically thinking the thoughts of others without ever examining them. Certainly we should listen to the thoughts of others and weigh them; but we should never “give our minds” over to anyone.
  2. We must grow in knowledge and expand our minds. One area in which we need to grow is in knowledge of God and His Word. We must use our brains to have better lives and glorify God.
  3. We must clarify distorted thinking. We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways. Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong. Also we need to make sure that we are communicating our thoughts to others. Many people think that others should be able to read their minds and know what they want. This leads to frustration.

Desires – Our desires lie within our boundaries. Each of us has different desires, wants, dreams, wishes, goals, plans, hungers, and thirsts. We all want to be satisfied, but too often we are not. Part of the problem lies in the lack of structured boundaries within our personality. We can’t define who the real “me” is and what we truly desire. Many desires masquerade as the real thing. We often do not actively seek our desires from God, and those desires are mixed up with things that we do not really need. God is truly interested in our desires; He made them. God loves to give gifts to His children, but He is a wise Parent. He wants to make sure His gifts are right for us. To know what to ask for, we have to be in touch with who we really are and what are our real motives.

Love – Many people have difficulty giving and receiving love because of hurt and fear. Having closed their heart to others, they feel empty and meaningless. We need to take responsibility for our God-given loving function and use it. Love concealed or love rejected can both kill us. Many people do not take ownership for how they resist love. They have a lot of love around them, but do not realize that their loneliness is a result of their own lack of responsiveness. Often they will say, “Others’ love can not ‘get in.'” This statement negates their responsibility to respond. We maneuver subtly to avoid responsibility in love; we need to claim our hearts as our property and work on our weaknesses in that area.

Considering all of the above, setting boundaries and maintaining them is hard work. But it is worth it!

The Husband's Role Defined

(Adapted from Different by Design by H. Dale Burke)

Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. (Eph 5:28-29)

and

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:22, 33)

These Scriptures are saying simply that men feel loved when they’re respected and women feel loved when they’re cared for. These are the primary needs of men and women.

The question for men to answer is, “How are you to apply your servant-spirit on your wife’s behalf?”

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph 5:23-25)

To live out the high calling of a husband, you must assume the role of a servant-leader. The text clearly states that the husband “is the head of the wife.” Unfortunately, extreme interpretations of this text have obscured its intended meaning. Some have said that it has absolutely nothing to do with authority. This is not true. Paul was speaking here of a leadership role for the husband. His emphasis was on how that role is to be carried out. The appropriate model is Jesus Christ. The husband is to lead by following Jesus’ example, which means His leadership is not as a dictator, which is not the biblical model for leadership. We are to lead as He leads, as a servant.

Another misinterpretation is the suggestion that husbands and wives are co-leaders in the home. It’s true that teamwork is essential for success in marriage. Men and women were created as equals. However, the issue here is not one of equality. It’s a matter of responsibility. And the apostle Paul was making clear that responsibility is central to the man’s role as the servant-leader. Just as Jesus takes responsibility for the needs of the church, so He expects the husband to take responsibility for the needs of the home. In saying this, we’re also acknowledging the husband’s responsibility to exercise initiative. If things at home are not as they should be, it’s the man’s responsibility to get the ball rolling.

A Servant-Husband Sacrifices. A husband sacrifices for his wife. The American Heritage Dictionary defines sacrifice as “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of someone or something considered to have greater value.” It is saying that we’re to incur a loss in the transaction as we give ourselves for our wives. Imagine how your love would grow and your marriage would strengthen if every day you looked for ways, large and small, to give up things you value for your wife. And I’m talking here about things that cost you something.

A Servant-Husband Nourishes. In verses 26-29 of Ephesians Paul explained why men are to love their wives sacrificially the way Jesus loved the church:

So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for not one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.

You love your wife by caring for her. Another translation indicates “to pamper” your wife. What Paul was talking about here is meeting the needs of the other person, helping that person grow to maturity. The idea is that you want your wife to blossom. A good husband is to be about the business of attending to the needs of his wife, of helping her become all that God wants her to be. If you tell your wife that your intent is to nourish her, to care for her as you own body, you’re making a statement of radical love to her. To nourish her is to do whatever is necessary to see her become all God wants her to be, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. As husbands, our mission in life is to help our wife be “all that she can be. Bottom line, if she’s not healthy and growing as a woman of God, it’s our job to nourish that growth.

A Servant-Husband Cherishes. We must also cherish our wives. What does this mean? Nothing more or less than to hold dear and to value highly. Cherishing is saying to your wife, “You’re number one.” It goes beyond just meeting her needs. It’s also tuning in to who she is and saying with your words and actions, “You’re precious. You’re special.” If you tell your wife that you choose to cherish her, you’re saying she’s your top priority. Nothing means more to a man’s wife than to let her know there’s no one ahead of her on the list of people who matter most. What we are talking about here is the nature of your priorities in the daily world of relationships and the demands of life. Make sure your wife knows where she stands on that list. Tell her with your mouth – often – that you count it a privilege to have her as your wife. There’s a big difference between the special treatment a man gives something he deems to be of value versus the routine care he gives something he merely owns. We need both. Every marriage requires routine maintenance to stay in good working order. Part of it comes from the care that’s involved in nourishing your wife. But cherishing is essential as well, doing those special things, small and not so small, that communicate that vital message, “You, above all others, are special.”

A Servant-Husband Honors. Consider 1 Peter 3:7-

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

God says that if you don’t honor your wife, the effectiveness of your prayers will diminish. Honor signifies something you give to acknowledge value and worth. Something priceless. The idea is to esteem another person in such a way that you affirm their dignity. God wants our wives to be honored and praised. Every time you honor your wife with your words, follow them up with action. Just ask a simple question: “What can I do to help?”

How can you show honor? Consider:

*Praise her publicly
*Say “Thank You” often
*Open doors for her
*Wait on her joyfully
*Wait on her patiently
*Seek her opinion
*Take her advice
*Respect her feelings
*Bring her a gift
*Listen, listen, listen!

A Servant-Husband Understands. The phrase (in 1 Peter 3:7) as with someone weaker is not a signal of inferiority. The word weaker as used in this context means fragile. Peter was saying that a wife is more like fine crystal than a plastic container. The point is to handle your wife like fine crystal, not like cheap plastic. Be sensitive to her moods, feelings, and needs. She is different by design. She’s more fragile, delicate, and tender, often more aware of feelings and emotions than you are, and often more intuitive and interpretive of subtle nuances of communication that the average guy. We’re to work at understanding how they think, what their needs are, and how they most desire for us to meet those needs. We need to focus more on listening for the purpose of knowing and understanding our wives. That’s more important than listening so that I can fix my wife’s problems, which is the typical male approach. Most of the time, what a woman wants if for her husband to love her by listening in such a way that he hears exactly what she’s saying and seeks to know her better as a result. Our wives want to know that we care more about them than about their problems.

To sum up, a husband says, “I love you” by caring for his wife, by sacrificing for his wife, by nourishing his wife, by cherishing his wife, by honoring his wife, and by understanding his wife. The beauty is that love expressed like this has a profound impact on a man’s wife. It actually sets in motion a cycle of love that creates not only harmony but strength in marriage.

  HE FEELS LOVED SHE FEELS LOVED
  He gives more care She gives more respect
  He sacrifices She admires
  He nourishes She accepts
  He cherishes She supports
  He honors She trusts
  He understands She respects

A Servant's Heart In the Home

(Adapted from Different by Design by H. Dale Burke)

After the Garden of Eden, both man and woman, as different as they are, have had to learn to live together on a sin-scarred planet. The Creator not only understood Adam and Eve in all their glory and perfection, He knew the implications of their tragic fall into sin. Yet even with that knowledge, He wasn’t about to quit on mankind or on marriage. Just as He had a plan to save and restore their souls, He had a plan to save and restore the joy of marriage.

What is the element that’s so essential to the success of our marriage? Servanthood. Our model is Jesus Christ. By applying servant-love, husbands and wives can be freed to welcome the undiluted blessing of God on their marriage. Nowhere is the lofty desire to serve another person brought more quickly down to earth than in marriage. Nevertheless, the success of a marriage rests heavily on a couple’s ability to put this bit of wisdom into practice. The more intimate the relationship, the more important a servant-spirit becomes. As you read these verses, envision your marriage through this new paradigm for love –

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

It is in the heart – the seat of our intellect, our feelings, and our will – that we invite the Lord of the universe to do that special work which will equip us to launch into a life of service to the one we love. When it comes to living in marriage, what husbands need in themselves and at the center of their marriage union is the heart of a servant. And, yes, the same holds true for wives.

No matter how the husband looks and acts in his role, he’ll only be effective if he has the heart of a servant. Likewise for the wife. A servant’s heart is the prime directive no matter what shape her roles and responsibilities take day by day. To be what God demands, spouses must first be servants. This requirement is at the core of both of their job descriptions. Your goal in serving is to meet the other person’s needs. To do that, you must first identify and understand those needs. Moreover, the servant-lover sees a need and simply does it. It consists of daily little acts that sweeten the relationship a little at a time.

Remember, Jesus the One who did not come to be served but to serve, is the example we need to follow (see Phil 2:5-11). Jesus Christ was both a real man and a servant, the model servant of all time. In His example, we can see that the word servant is not synonymous with terms like fake, wimp, insecure, indecisive, people pleaser, or victim.

To begin to serve, don’t focus first on behavior. Check the attitude that’s driving how you behave. The servant who honors God is real, genuine, authentic, and serving from the heart of humility.

Despite modern misconceptions, being a servant does not mean relegating yourself to a position of weakness. As a servant, you operate from a position of strength because you’re following the example of the all-powerful One who “existed in the form of God.” The best servants are those who know their strengths and know what they have to offer their spouses. The goal of a servant-husband or wife is to use whatever gifts, abilities, power, or position you possess to support and serve your spouse.

To serve well, a servant must be secure, not second-guessing, not perpetually wondering or worrying about what others are thinking. The secure husband can humbly serve his wife and not worry about what the world thinks of him. Likewise, the secure wife can respectfully follow the leadership of her husband even if her friends don’t understand or agree.

A lot of people think serving is analogous to being taken advantage of, that it’s a decision to become subservient to someone else. Serving is not about being taken; it’s about choosing to give. Servants like Jesus willingly suspend their rights, privileges, time, and agendas to meet their spouses’ needs. Unlike slaves, whose lives of servility are forced upon them, spouses who follow Jesus’ example make a deliberate decision to serve. And, in so doing, servants learn to make tough choices.

Too often we fail to serve our spouses because we don’t take the time to learn their language. The way men and women think and process things can be dramatically different. You need to enter your spouse’s world and learn about those differences. Become a student of your spouse.

A common concern voiced is that my husband/wife is “going to walk all over me. I will be just a doormat.” But serving Jesus’ way does not demand that you become a doormat. Jesus became a willing sacrifice. What’s even more remarkable is that He came obediently to serve, knowing that this outcome (death on the cross) awaited Him. By becoming a willing sacrifice, He secured victory for those He came to serve. Always remember – the difference between a victim and a servant is as pronounced as the contrast between a doormat and a sacrifice. The doormat is a loser, but the one who willingly lays down his life for another is a hero. When we as men and women choose to lay it all on the line to serve the one we love, God honors our sacrificial, servant-love.

When you try to be a servant in marriage, the question of motivation comes up. If I’m serving strictly to please my spouse, or if my motive in serving is simply to get my mate to serve me, I’m in trouble over the long haul. What happens if I give and don’t get back? Chances are better than even that pretty soon I’ll stop giving. If, on the other hand, my primary motive is to glorify God through the way I love and serve my spouse, then even if he/she doesn’t respond, I keep serving. I know my Father in heaven is pleased with how I’m treating my spouse. And if my greatest motivation is to please my God and Savior, then I can keep on serving, keep on loving, keep on giving, knowing that my reward may never come on this planet. My perseverance also boosts the likelihood that my spouse will eventually take notice and respond in kind.

Truthfully, we are to serve one another in the marriage relationship even to the point of radical sacrifice!

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