I Never Knew Jesus Could Be Like This

I Never Knew Jesus Could Be Like This.

These are words that have lived with me for the past 24 hours. They are words that have lifted my heart and challenged my soul.

I have a pattern in my “post-church service” conversations. Guests are my priority to talk to. Yet, I try to connect to as many as possible. By the end of that time, I’m finally seeing and talking to long-time attenders. It is here, I could see a young woman out of the corner of my eye who’s been waiting patiently to talk to me. And she deposits these eight words within me,

I Never Knew Jesus Could Be Like This.

Honestly, I didn’t associate it with my preaching or the song choices of the worship set. It wasn’t about the style of the service nor the denomination of the church.

She experienced the presence of Jesus.

And it was the experience of the morning. The greeters. The friendliness of the people.  The intercessors in the prayer room before the service. Those who serve “behind the scenes” that makes a Sunday at Kfirst happen. The congregation capturing the heart of worship. The gathering around the Sacraments. The local church lifted up Jesus. And because of that, she got to see Him. (Which is good, because it’s all about Him and for Him.)

The local church becomes “Church” when we make much of Jesus and not a personality in a pulpit. We become Kingdom when we point everything to the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)  And it’s in that place we can unleash our passion for Him in worship. It is there we can humble ourselves and seek His face.  We get to be vulnerable with our humanity by being real about ourselves AND being real about who Jesus is.

And the beautiful byproduct of a local church doing this: People can see what Jesus is supposed to look like.

He is the Friend of Sinners.
He is the Hope for the nations.
He is the Healer for those in pain.
He is the Freedom for the oppressed.
He is the Liberator of the prisoner.
He is the Comforter of the hurting.
He is the Filler for those who are empty.
He is the One who revives us.

As I said earlier, her words that have lifted my heart and challenged my soul.

Why? While I celebrate being able to do this as a congregation on Sunday, how can we do this Monday through Saturday? I am encouraged in my heart but I am compelled to examine my life outside of Sunday gatherings. How can those in our sphere of influence experience that? What do we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so that the people we interact with every day can say…

I Never Knew Jesus Could Be Like This.

My prayer today is the words of an old chorus,

Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me
Melt me, mold me
Fill me, use me.

Here I am. Start with me.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Do you even hear yourself?” 3 Thoughts of Fixing Your Marital Gait

Last week we began our annual vision series at Kfirst. And for every series, we have a sermon “bumper video.” It’s a very short video that brings the focus of the service to the message that is about to be preached. Usually, I see the video before it’s launched. But last Sunday, I was seeing it for the first time along with the rest of the congregation.

Just in case you want to see the video:

My first response was tears. The sight of people serving, laughing, worshiping, and engaging in ministry was humbling. It touched my soul.

Then I fixated on something else: My face.

It seems that, in the pictures of me baptizing, I’m looking “angry” or “intense.” And, obviously, the moment was everything but what my face was communicating. It was a time of rejoicing and celebration; it was a day that brought both smiles and happy tears. But, from a simple glimpse, you might not get where my heart truly was.

And it’s here that I’ve begun to remember so many conversations with couples who struggle, not with verbalizing words, but with the factors that surround communication. Simply said: Just because you are good at talking doesn’t mean you are an effective communicator. On the flip-side, just because you heard the words that were said, doesn’t mean your spouse feels like you listened. If you don’t understand your marital “gait,” then you run a danger of misrepresenting what your intentions are in how you speak (and listen). Your gait can literally reshape and restructure your verbal communication.

Simply defined, a “gait” is a person’s manner of walking. And every person has a “personal gait” that is seen way they step, hold themselves, posture their back, and position their feet. Sometimes you can tell how someone’s day is going by their gait. If their head and shoulders are slumped, they may be having a “down day.” Perhaps you see someone walking briskly with a smile may project that they’re motivated to tackle the day’s activities. Your “gait” says a lot about you.

Some of you have never realized what a “gait” was, let alone, had one. We all do. But let me take this a bit deeper: The way you carry yourself (your gait) sets the atmosphere for words you speak. It can be the thermostat for your communication (or lack thereof).  Just by your demeanor, you can set the temperature of what a conversation will look like and/or be received. This can happen at work, in church, and yes, especially in your home. Most of us are aware of the words that come out of our mouths, but unaware that your “gait” may be changing everything you are trying to say.

For example, over the past 18 years, both Anne and I have said to each other variations of:

  • “Do you even hear yourself?” (Tone is mis-communicating my heart.)
  • “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror when you say that?” (My face says something different from my words.)
  • “I don’t think YOU understand HOW you just came off to…” (Speaking of the technique of my approach communicated the opposite of what our words were saying.)

We’ve all been there (some of us are still here). Why? The longer you are married, the more comfortable you get with your spouse (which is a good thing). But with the passing of time we do run the danger of taking our gait for granted in our marriage. We assume our spouse knows what we’re trying to say and we get lazy with our communication.

“I know that’s what I said, but you should know what I meant.”

So the question comes: how do you work though marital “gait” issues?

Stop the selfish argument. I’m so tired of hearing “this is just who I am” or “this is how God created me.” I’m sorry…that’s crap.

It’s just another way of saying, “I refuse to grow and/or allow the Holy Spirit to change me that may be healthier for me, my spouse, and my family.” It’s a pride statement from a refusal to face the fact that, first, something you may be doing is incorrect and, second, you may need to adjust something in your life that you’ve never addressed.

You don’t always hear your tones. Some mannerisms can come out of nowhere and confuse your listeners.  Stop arguing for the way you’ve been acting and be humble enough to admit you may not have it all figured out like you think? If an antibody is what the immune system uses to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses that threaten us, then humility is the “antibody” that we use to address and neutralize the pride that threatens our marriage. Lord, teach us to be “humble in doing right,” teaching us your way (Psalm 25:9).

Be humble enough to ask for help? What better way to hear about your gait than from someone who isn’t you. Because the truth is: We are not always aware of ourselves. And who better than a trusted source that loves you enough to say what needs to be said. I love Proverbs 27:6 which says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” If you trust your spouse and know his/her motives, then allow them to speak into this area. Communication is relational currency. And if you can maximize the use your words with your gait, then you not just spend the “relational currency” well, but you’ll put to death things like misunderstanding, assumption, and doubt.

Shape your gait. What I’ve discovered is the change I need is not always the change I want. Shaping your gait is as simple as making necessary adjustments while welcoming outside accountability. And I’ve learned to do this inside my home as well as outside of my home.

I’m thankful for a staff who helps me. I may be their boss, but they are my sounding board. And if I can be a more effective communicator, I have give people a greater image of the “Christ in me” instead of the “David in me.” This was the apostle Paul’s concern for the church in Colossia (Colossians 1:27)  and it’s a huge challenge for all of us.  It’s more important for people to see Christ than it is to do what is easy (remain the same).  Change is necessary for growth and, most of the time, change is located out of my comfort zone.

I love you all. I pray that you would develop some “gait awareness” that may be adjusting your communication far beyond you realize.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Flirtationship: 3 Steps to Keep Flirting in Marriage

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage…” Hebrews 13:4

For a while, this blog has been developing in my heart. I know that the potential of it can create a firestorm of responses of emotion and opinion. If you don’t know me well, my heart is always of compassion driven by the love of Christ. I do not blog out of a place of judgement. I write out of a position that strives to stay humble and teachable before God as I recognize my life AND my marriage are a continual mosaic being formed by the Holy Spirit.

My heart is for healthy marriages and to help encourage practices that help build marriages…

…AND to help identify those practices that are destructive to couples.

Flirting is a topic you don’t hear much about as something detrimental to a marriage. I think part of it is the glamorization of it in most entertainment. It’s just accepted as something men and women “just do.” The sensation of catching the eye of someone else, the flattering feeling of receiving attention from someone, and the thrill of being pursued by someone is what we see amplified. You’re living in a flirtationship; you’re more than just a friend but less than a full-blown relationship. What you think is innocent is really deteriorating the intimacy of your marriage. Flirting should only be reserved for your marriage.

Flirt verb \ˈflərt\ 1. to move erratically  2. a : to behave amorously without serious intent b : to show superficial or casual interest or liking

Notice the words, “to behave amorously.” It means with a sexual or intimate desire without serious intent. Over and over I’ve heard people say,

“It was harmless flirting.”

Now some would say that I may be blowing this out of proportion, but is not flirting generally the first step towards developing romance, as this is what singles usually do to signal interest in others? When I was single, flirting was about catching the eye of someone else. It was taking a chance to make a contact.  The contact was intentionally laced with the potential of a next step (connection, date, relationship, someday marriage). I can’t say I was the best “flirt” as a single. I didn’t have the pickup lines or the smooth conversational styles. (Sometimes I wonder what Anne saw in that awkward 18-year-old.)

But can we just admit that we all know what flirting is and not cover it up with flashy words or excuses? I really don’t think we need to debate it. We could argue about whether it’s intentionally wanting sex or not, but that’s not the point. The point is that we know flirting is about creating intimate connections. And when we are creating intentional intimate connections with people outside of our marriage, we are flirting with marital disaster. It’s why Jesus warned us about our thought-life and they way we look at others that are NOT our spouse in Matthew 5:27-28

But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

Flirting with someone other than your spouse VIOLATES

Honor: It removes the “worth” from your marriage. It takes the priceless attention and affection reserved for your spouse and directs them elsewhere. The sensuality of our hearts should always and completely be directed toward your husband/wife.
Trust: It develops a two-sided heart as you are splitting it between your spouse and whoever you are flirting with. And it is difficult to trust a spouse who has one eye on you and another eye on someone else.  NOTE: Flirting also develops a lack of trust in yourself. The rush you can get from flirting is addictive. Thus this next point…
Desire: It confuses your senses. Why? Because flirting focuses on what is easy about the relationship (attraction) and not the hard work that makes it work. Desire is closely related to…
Vision: It seduces you to think you are missing something in your relationship and/or makes your marital struggles look larger than reality. It seeds a false sense of discontent. Instead of putting more effort into your marriage, it’s easier to focus energy into others who are outside of your relational strife.
Mind: Flirting with others invites them into your thoughts and fantasies. You begin to play “what if” and before you realize it, the passion begins to die down as you slowly disengage from your spouse without even realizing it.
Faithfulness…Why? Flirting doesn’t want to stay stationary. It wants to grow. Again, is flirting not what we did before marriage as to create an inroad into a potential relationships? Can flirting be done without action? Maybe for a season. But what is allowed to grow inward WILL manifest itself on the OUTWARD.

How does a marriage avoid “Flirtationships?” Try these 3 simple steps:

  1. Keep your spouse’s love tank filled. I’ll never give a free pass to anyone starting a “flirtationship.” But a great way to prevent one is to keep the “love take” of your spouse filled. Most “flirtationships” I’ve dealt with (most that ended in an affair) started with one person having a void in their heart. Their spouse didn’t fill it. Again, it’s not an excuse, but an explanation. Don’t give the Devil a place to tempt. Find out what their love language is and DAILY speak it. Think of it like a glass. If you keep it full, there’s no room for anyone else to add anything. Which leads to #2…
  2. Flirt with your spouse. What I love about the scriptures is when it is silent on a subject, it’s saying something. If it is NOT silent on something, it’s screaming something. When it comes to our intimacy and sexuality (which flirting is a part of), we have parameters of keeping all sexuality in our marriage. Within the marriage, the silence of scriptures give us creativity (thus the Song of Solomon). Do ANYTHING you feel you’d like to do to catch the eye of your spouse (as long as it’s safe, legal). Get creative BUT make sure you’re kids are guarded so they don’t get scarred from the “dirty” text you sent your husband. 🙂
  3. Be cautious of admonition. I believe that Christians should be the most encouraging people around. You can give compliment without sexual connotation. You can offer a nice sentiment without anything suggestive. BUT if it’s being received as anything BUT admiration, then back away, dismantle any mistaken expectations, and inform your spouse of the misunderstanding. It will build trust between you two. Of all of the temptations, anything that is of intimate in nature, scripture tells us to flee from them.

As Hebrews 13 says, “give honor” to your marriage.  Hold it in high regards by keeping your attention and affection completely to your spouse. Be creative with it and re-find the joy in the pursuit of flirting with you spouse.

I believe in you. I’m praying for you.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

To listen to our recent marriage series, click on the link.

 

Rearview Mirrors: 3 Simple Steps to Keep Your Marriage Looking Forward

“…But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Being a dad of a 16-year-old, I have a lot talks about using the car. In fact, I’m trying to get Cammi used to my car instead of Anne’s. It’s a bit longer and a little more of a challenge to deal with. And if she’ll get used to it, it’ll prepare her to be a better driver. 

But after she backed over my mailbox, I’ve come to realize we’ve still got some work to do. She was trying to focus on her rearview mirror and got confused. Even though she was backing up, if she’d just look in front of her, she’d see how straight (or lack-thereof) the car was. 

In a car, a windshield is ginormous in comparison to the rearview mirror. The mirror is there to assist you and not be the focal point. What’s the focal point? It’s this huge piece of safety glass in front of us called a windshield. Our eyes are to be looking forward only to access the mirror for moments of clarity.

The past is a like a rearview mirror: Give it a glance and keep going forward. Too much focus on it has catastrophic results. Unfortunately, too many couples (even singles) struggle with this. You’ve got a “windshield” to experience the present and move forward into the future. But because of some challenging seasons you’ve went through, you continue focus upon the past.  It’s then you get caught up staring and don’t realize that living in the past sacrifices the present and mortgages the future. 

How do you keep looking forward? It’s in the simplicity of what I’ve been encouraging our congregation to do every week through our marriage series, Mosaic Marriage.

1 – Encourage Effort. Encouraging effort keeps your eyes looking forward. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should out encourage you when it comes to your spouse. For some reason, we only encourage “successes” and not effort. And what ends up happening is, because “success” is based upon individual’s interpretation, encouragement is used very sparingly between couples. From the small moments to the large steps forward, don’t wait for results to be encouraging, cheer on the attempts move forward.  I’d rather have someone who’s failing in their efforts than failing to make ANY effort. Keep looking and moving forward by encouraging your spouse.  

2 – Celebrate Progress. Celebration is largely underestimated. Couples tend to only celibate weightier progress or large steps of progress. But can I present a thought to you? Progress, big or small, is still PROGRESS. When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, I learned that whether I lost 7 lbs. or 1 oz., it was all progress. And ANY progress is to be celebrated. Progress helps develop momentum.  It’s that momentum that helps develop the strength to move forward. Want some marriage momentum? Big  or small, celebrate progress.

3 – Feed Hope. This is how you keep your eyes looking forward. Hope fixes your focus. Like it or not, if you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Take your pick, despair, anger, resentment, cynicism, etc. all are bottom feeders that will find sustenance off of hopelessness.  My simple, and practical approach: Cut off what is stifling the flames.  Push past the feelings of hopelessness and foster an atmosphere of hope. Purpose in your heart that hope is just as valuable to your marriage as breathing is to your body. And the more you feed hope, the more life you breathe into the lungs of your marriage. 

Today, give the past a glance and only a glance. It’s there to assist you and not be our focus. 

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

And remember…

The power of the past is the permission you give it to influence the present!

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 18

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Matthew 5:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You may already know that October is Breast Cancer awareness month. There is a group doing a special event auctioning three unique pieces of furniture. All the proceeds of the sale will go towards Breast Cancer awareness charities.
You can see the details here:
http://www.regencyshop.com/charity-auction.html

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 9

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Psalm 101:3

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.

2 Minute Marriage Devo – Day 10

Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we are in our Annual Marriage Series at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God and we’re going through devotions for couples. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Proverbs 11:27

Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it.