When I was a kid I didn’t like to read.
I’m at a place where I can’t quit. I can’t get enough. Because, I’m further behind than when I started.
When I was a kid I didn’t like to read.
I’m at a place where I can’t quit. I can’t get enough. Because, I’m further behind than when I started.
Many times I have been asked, “What is the real secret to a long-lasting, happy marriage?” Usually I give some pithy, poorly attempted humorous response like, “for us, I think it has been that we were just too stupid to quit” (there might actually be some serious truth in there somewhere).
However, I have discovered that regardless of a couple’s particular belief about matters of faith, applying biblical principles to the relationship always leads to improvement (can everyone say a big collective “duh!”), regardless of whether they are believers or not. I realize this may seem elementary to some. However, sometimes even the most devout Christians can forget their Christian graces when they walk into their own homes, with the most important relationships they have, that is – their spouses and children.
For example, men are often patient, understanding, and forgiving with business partners or employees. But those same men can be inconsiderate, unforgiving, and outright rude with their families. Although they listen intently during strategy meetings at the office, they often don’t take the time to listen to their wives or children. Conversely, the same women who are caring and compassionate with their friends can become demanding and insensitive at home.
There are hundreds of passages of Scripture to draw relationship principles from. For today I would like to focus on just two verses – two verses containing nine simple words. Words so profound that I am convinced if they were properly applied, could heal every single broken marriage, struggling marriages could be put on a firm foundation, stagnant marriages could be revitalized, and happy marriages could go to an even higher level with deeper intimacy. In fact, applying these nine words could revolutionize homes and families! It may seem like a tall order but, I am convinced it is true. Follow along with me.
The Apostle Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Wait a minute. Read that again, ruminate for a moment and let those words sink in … (pause). Love … Joy … Peace … Patience … Kindness … Goodness … Faithfulness … gentleness … Self-Control. Now, try putting your name at the beginning of that verse and read it again, asking yourself where you stand:
“David is loving in his relationships.” Am I?
“David is joyful with those around him.” Am I?
“David is peaceful, patient, kind, full of goodness, faithful, gentle and David operates in self-control (that one hurt!).”
When I read it that way I am confronted with a huge personal challenge and tremendous goals for me to strive toward. Because, these nine simple words all address my own behaviors and attitudes.
Let me caution you, this is not an opportunity to start pointing the finger of blame at your spouse. Taking responsibility for how I act, regardless of what my spouse does, can radically impact our home for the better. I believe that when we pursue and practice these nine simple concepts, when we address our own attitudes and behaviors, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and help us along the way.
Spirit-led people do not throw fits of rage, they practice self-control.
Spirit-led people are concerned for the good of others.
Spirit-led people are patient and kind, and forgiving.
Spirit-led people carry the essence of joy.
When we begin to act in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe, I promise you – the Lord will bless it. Imagine what would happen in your home and marriage if you applied and practiced these nine simple words. I think you will find your marriage is better than ever.
Enjoy the Fruit!
One Saturday several years ago I exited the house and quickly discovered that my car had a flat tire. I wasn’t in a hurry that particular day so the frustration that would normally accompany this unexpected deviation from my proposed schedule wasn’t present. Instead, I decided to take advantage of this moment. I went inside to look for my 10 yr old son, Samuel.
I found him exactly where I had anticipated, deeply engrossed in some highly intellectual Saturday morning television programming. Though I hated to interrupt his extra-curricular education, I asked him to come help me. After the usual pre-adolescent protests, he begrudgingly joined me outside.
First, I showed him where to find the necessary tools for this job in the back of the vehicle. Second, I taught him how to release the spare tire from underneath the car. During this phase I remember him saying,
“Dad, I don’t understand why you need my help. I’m just a little kid.”
To which I responded, “Just trust me buddy, I need your help.”
I taught him all of the tips and minor details of how to make this a safe and quick job. The first thing we did was put the emergency brake on. I taught him to loosen the lug-nuts before jacking up the car. After I started loosening one lug nut I let him try the rest. Of course, his ten year old arms didn’t have quite the strength that mine did, so after he attempted each one I would finish that portion of the job. I showed him how to find the appropriate spot to put the jack and allowed him to place it there. We then started jacking up the vehicle as I explained to him why we do it this way during the whole process.
As we were jacking up the car he experienced several missteps, including: cranking the wrong direction (several times), wrench slips, tired arms – to the point where I had to do the last several turns myself because he wasn’t able, and even a scraped knuckle on the pavement with a little blood as evidence. After quite some time, we finally jacked the car up enough to remove the tire.
Removing the old tire and replacing it with the spare, we then did the whole process in reverse.
During our tire-changing adventure there were plenty of giggles and laughter, conversation, and just plain old having a good time together. Finally, we finished the job – which took 2 to 3 times longer than it would have had I simply done it myself.
Tired, greasy, dirty, and a little bloody – we went inside to wash off the grime from our hands and arms as a result of handling this highly mechanical job. As he was cleaning himself up Samuel had a slight grin on his face. I said to my son, “Thanks, Samuel, I really appreciated having your help changing the tire.” To which he replied, “No problem.” He paused for a moment then continued, “Ya know dad, I still don’t really see why you needed my help but – I was glad to do it.”
Today I am reminded of the reality of God’s call.
Sometimes we struggle with a lot of …. Stuff.
The truth is – everybody faces … stuff. No one is exempt. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how great your job is, how fantastic your family is, how often you go to church, or even how much you pray – stuff is going to happen.
The challenge for the believer is, even when we are struggling through our stuff, we are called, maybe even obligated, to represent Christ well.
I think the world is looking for something different. Or better yet, some-one different.
I don’t think they are looking for someone to always be upbeat or continually happy. That seems … fake.
No, I think they are looking for someone to simply be … real. But real in this way: Someone who acknowledges the “stuff” but is not controlled by it. Someone who is not derailed by the “stuff” but rather sees the stuff for what it is, just … stuff. Someone who can see through the stuff to something greater. Someone who wrestles with the idea that sometimes purpose can be found in the midst of … the stuff. Someone who can face the “stuff” but still have peace … and hope.
Is it possible that the “stuff” is actually an opportunity? Is it possible that going through “stuff” with faith, hope and peace actually provides the best possible way for us to represent Christ well? Could it be that this is the call of God for us?
Perhaps the Apostle Peter meant something like this when he said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
So today I pray that the “stuff” would be an opportunity for the calling, rather than the stuff derailing or pulling against the calling. I pray that we won’t be overwhelmed nor dismayed by … the stuff. Rather, that the “stuff” would be a launching pad for the calling. I pray that peace, hope and even joy, would be found in the midst of the stuff because recognition of the temporal nature and the true purposes of the “stuff” resides in our hearts. I recognize that it is difficult, maybe even impossible, to walk in the calling when we’re being suffocated by …. The stuff. And THAT my friend and my God, is why we need Your Spirit, Your strength, Your Presence, Your Reality … today. So that’s what I’m asking for Lord: Help us to walk in the Calling in the midst of the Stuff. For Your glory and honor may we represent You well today, by the power of Your Spirit – Amen.
Many times when we look at our history, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the mistakes and successes, it can be easy to beat ourselves up. And truthfully, maybe we should beat ourselves up from time to time. But, the wisest man who ever lived once made this astounding statement, He said “The godly (good or righteous) may fall seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked” (Proverbs 24:16).
There are two things I want to say about this verse …and about you. First, it seems clear that the real issue is NOT about never falling. Never falling only makes one self-righteous, not godly-righteous. Never falling makes one arrogant and haughty, not humble and meek. Never falling can make a person self-centered, and prideful rather than others-centered. Never falling does not make one good, righteous, or godly.
No, the truth is, for the good man, stuff happens. Stuff knocks him down. Stuff knocks the wind out of him. Stuff catches him by surprise. Stuff causes him or her to get discouraged, depressed or at the very least, off-track.
Yes, sometimes a good person gets knocked down. But sometimes, he just falls down of his own volition. Nobody pushed him there. Nothing caught him by surprise. No, sometimes decisions are made, intentional choices, mistakes, and as a result failure arrives. Sometimes, a good man just … falls down.
Here’s the interesting thing, Solomon never told us how or why the good man falls. He never discussed what caused it. He simply said, “a good or righteous or godly man falls down seven times.” It appears that the source of the falling is irrelevant to the author. Falling down because he was caught by surprise or falling down by bad choices. The issue simply isn’t the falling down.
Possibly the most important piece of this verse is …
“HE GETS BACK UP AGAIN!”
It seems clear that Solomon was saying the thing that makes a person godly, righteous or good is the fact that they get back up. This is the piece that separates the men from the boys, as they say. Getting back up. Knocked down, but getting back up. Falling down, getting back up. Good people – drop the ball … and get back up. Make bad decisions … and get back up. Don’t plan appropriately … and get back up. Get disappointed but … get back up. Question God … and get back up. Fail …and get back up.
Let’s be clear: this is Solomon’s description of a good person, a …Righteous person … a godly even. Seriously?
This roller coaster ride, this up and down, this battle, is not what I picture when I think of a righteous, godly man. No, not at all. I think of Moses, face glowing, holding the newly etched Ten Commandments. I picture David slaying the giant Goliath. I think of Elijah calling down fire from heaven. These are depictions of righteous men …right?
The truth is that when you study the scriptures you will find every single man or woman that was greatly used by God fits the description found in Proverbs. Every single one of them dropped the ball, made mistakes, reacted poorly, made bad decisions, questioned God, or even defied God. Every single one … Falling … and getting back up again.
This is what I know about you. I know there have been times you have declared, “I just don’t really get it, I don’t know the next step or where to go or what to do.” But, the key is …getting back up. Yeah, I know you’ve been down. I know you’ve made mistakes. I know you’ve even experienced failure. But, those things really aren’t the core issue. The issue is, figuring out how important it is to simply … get back up again.
Sometimes when stuff happens and a person is knocked down it can bring them to a point of questioning their purpose, their abilities, and their hope. And sometimes falling, whether by our own volition or by the surprises of life, can cause us to even question God. Can I trust God? Has God forgotten me? Have I blown it so bad that I am permanently derailed?
But listen, there is something deep within you telling you, “I’ve just got to get back up …again.” I can picture God standing by your side right now, whispering in your ear, “you’re gonna make, you’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna get through. I know because … I’ve seen this before. I have watched you before. I KNOW, yes I know, you will … pick yourself back up again!”
Here’s the second thing. I am convinced that Solomon came to the conclusion that a person can’t really be “good” in the sense he is talking about unless they have fallen down a few times. How can someone truly have compassion, understanding, forgiveness, grace, or mercy for others unless they have “been there?” How can a person truly understand someone’s pain unless they’ve experienced some of their own? How can someone empathize with another’s failure unless they have failed a few times themselves? A person who has fallen and has received the grace to get back up knows how to reach down and help others who have fallen.
This, my friend, is part of your great calling on this earth. Embrace people. Love people. Give them compassion. Feel their pain. Where ever they are at that moment in life. And help them … get back up. You know what it means to battle, to struggle, to fail. But, you also know what it means to get back up – sometimes out of your own strength, sometimes through a measure of faith, and sometimes by the sheer grace of God. So help them … help them get back up.
From my view, your gifts, your abilities, and your talents, though important and part of the call of God on your life, are not the most important thing. There is no denying those are real and significant gifts. You really are talented. But, my friend, in my humble opinion, they are not what make you who you are. What makes you a good person, a righteous person, a godly person is this: a good man falls down a few times, but he always gets back up.
The New Testament reiterates this concept. In my opinion, the great call of God on your life embraces this verse, “He comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the same comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4).
So, get back up, righteous man or woman. Get back up … and help others do the same. Amen.
Here is a quick list of some Do’s and Don’ts for you when multiple things hit you all at once like they just did a for “a friend”:
(1) Don’t fuss and complain. It helps nothing. In fact, it usually just raises your level of anxiety, frustration, pain, or whatever (BTW – sharing with a trusted friend or loved one who can encourage, guide, pray, etc. is different to me than fussing and complaining).
(2) Don’t play the victim. Everybody has junk that happens. Look around. Sure there are folks a lot better off but, there are tons of folks worse off. Both issues are irrelevant. They’re not running your race. You are. And, you’re not running their race. Let it go.
(3) Don’t compare and especially don’t use Facebook as the measure of people’s lives or happiness. Neither should you use their social media produced life to measure your own happiness. It should more appropriately be called “faux-book” because it’s not real life. You only see what others want you to see. Some folks only put positive out there. Some folks do nothing but point fingers, gripe and complain. IN either case – it’s fake, folks. It’s only one small part of the story. Doesn’t matter – what they have and do has nothing to do with you. [#2 & #3 really go together].
(4) Don’t overreact.
(5) Don’t get overwhelmed. Slow down – look at your situation. Break it down into bite sized pieces if needed. Handle what you can. Look and ask for help if needed.
(6) Do pick yourself up, brush yourself off and face reality. Yes,I know it can be overwhelming at times, especially when it all comes at once but, all you can do is … deal with it.
(7) Do – learn from your mistakes. You have to evaluate. How did I get here? What part did I play that brought me to this current situation – or all of these situations? Sometimes you did nothing. But, you can still learn from your current situation by asking questions like: how do I avoid landing here again?
(8) Do make the necessary adjustments to handle your junk – maybe focus on one issue and challenge at a time.
(9) Move on with life. Your life wasn’t all sunshine and roses before, and it probably wasn’t all misery either (hopefully). Nor will it be either of those things going forward. Some things will get better and you’ll have reasons to rejoice. Other junk will happen and you’ll have reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, whatever. welcome to ….life. Deal with it. Embrace it. Live it. Love it.
(10) Embrace the positive! It is there. You might have to look for it but, it’s worth it. This is what brings life, hope, and joy.
I just starting writing and it came out as 10 nicely packaged points off the top of my head. So, there it is. This is how my “friend” deals with it when multiple “life” things hit all at once.
Finally, you all should know that for me, trusting, believing and praying to God is my greatest asset, source of strength, and peace.
Hope this helps.
Contrary to U2’s famous song, I think you will find EXACTLY what you’re looking for.
The tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions is known in Psychology as “confirmation bias.” It is the type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and look for what confirms one’s beliefs, while simultaneously ignoring or undervaluing the relevance of what contradicts them. We like to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective. But, they are often based on paying attention only to the information that upholds our ideas while ignoring the information that challenges them. We read about, hear and see data and facts about any given topic but come to different conclusions because of our own preconceived ideas. We see this playing itself out all the time in various political, theological, and cultural arenas. But, the truth is confirmation bias even manifests itself within the minutia of our everyday relationships.
One of the biggest challenges in many marriages is that we are often looking through bad lenses. Much like a cheap pair of sunglasses causes us to see the whole world through a warped tint, the lenses we wear, the perceptions we have, skew and distort truth. If your perception is that your mate is uncaring or selfish then everything they say and do will be filtered through that lens. Suddenly your perceptions will be reinforced by what you see. The dirty socks they left on the floor in the room you just cleaned becomes “They don’t care about me!” when filtered through your lens. Soon it seems that everything they do confirms your previously held beliefs. So even though your spouse took out the trash, cleaned your car, and mowed the lawn, it’s the dirty socks that stand out and substantiates your view. If you’re not careful you can become fixated on this bad perception and it can completely destroy your relationship.
But, the flip side is also true. If your lens is that your spouse is caring and attentive with a servant’s heart, you will see all the things they do that reinforce that belief. Simultaneously you will also subconsciously minimize the things that detract from that perspective. It all depends on which lenses you are wearing.
This is true of all relationships, by the way. We have lenses through which we view our bosses, our employees, our co-workers, our team-mates, our pastors, our children, and our parents. In every case our preconceived ideas about that person will almost always be confirmed by what we see and hear. You will find what you’re looking for.
Maybe Jesus meant something like this when He said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, you are full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Lk. 11:34).
The good news is your perspective CAN change. We need to ask Holy Spirit to give us corrective lenses to replace our cheap, warped sunglasses. Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord … has chosen me to bring … recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). We are often blind to the truth. Sometimes it’s as simple as CHOOSING to see the good. Most of the time it’s right there in front of us, we just haven’t seen it.
So, I challenge you to a treasure hunt. I challenge you to try to catch your spouse, your child, your co-worker, your boss, doing something good, every day. Make a note of it. Acknowledge it. Tell them you noticed. Affirm and appreciate them. Look for the times when they are helpful, caring, or self-sacrificing. I’m convinced that when you intentionally try to see the good in someone else you WILL find it. And many times your relationship will almost instantaneously improve without the other person changing a thing because now it is the negative things that have taken a back seat.
In April of 2015 I had the opportunity to share 2 important messages with the folks at Living Word Church in Cleveland, TN.
At one time or another I think all of us feel like maybe we’ve made one too many mistakes to really achieve our potential, our dream, our goals, or true success.
Fortunately … God never feels that way.
From God’s view, mistakes, or even failure, is not the end of the story. God’s perspective is one of hope. Everybody falls. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody fails. You can not let those things define you. The issue is not whether you have fallen. The issue is whether you get back up. In fact, God anticipated a few falls along the way. But, He declares “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16).
If you need hope and encouragement … if you need to be reminded that God has not given up on you, then this message is for you.
This is a message I shared with Living Word Church in Cleveland, TN in April of 2015.
If you have ever wondered if you’ve made too many mistakes to achieve your dream or your goal … if you need some encouragement, this might be for you.
“We sure know how to have fun!”
It was another brilliantly crafted moment of sarcasm from one of the Gray boys that will be recounted anytime hiking lore is on the agenda.
Moments earlier the only thing that could be heard was the whipping wind, the constant patter of rain, and the chattering of teeth as the four of us huddled together in a three-man tent. The tent had been thrown together as quickly as possible on an incline that caused about two inches of ice cold water to pool on one side of the tent – right where my sleeping bag lay.
We had taken a beautiful two-day hike into the Wind River Range, WY and spent one day relaxing, recuperating, and fishing a crystal clear mountain lake. However, my dad, my two older brothers and I crawled out of our tents the next morning to discover a deceitful fog had settled into the valley and a cold drizzle through the night had soaked the landscape and all of our gear. The overcast sky broadcast its intentions for the day. We had a choice to make at this point. We could hike back the same way we came in or stick with our original plan to hike up and over Flat Top Mountain. Somebody said, “I think we can hike ABOVE the weather” (I won’t tell you who it was but, his initials are D.A.D.). Probably not one of the smartest things one of us ever said.
So, up we went. Lizard head Trail across Flat Top Mountain ascends to about 11,200 feet. This particular mountain got its name because the top of it is … flat. In fact, it’s flat for so long that when you hike across it you can forget you are on top of a mountain. The temperatures dropped to the low thirties. Because we were above the tree line the gusts of wind had no obstacles to hinder them from cutting into our faces. Down-pouring freezing rain and sleet were our faithful companions the entire day. The four of us exchanged our usual chatter for silence as we trudged along the trail.
Seven hours later I don’t know if I was in a determined zone or a hypothermic daze. My head was pointed downward to avoid the sting of the sleet as I watched my feet slosh through the water covered trail. I was feeling extremely sleepy and forcing my eyes to stay open as I marched along. Suddenly I felt someone tug on my jacket, pulling me behind a huge boulder. The others had decided we had gone far enough. We quickly set up a tent to shield us from the never-ending storm. My hands were so cold that they felt like nubs at the ends of my arms. No matter how hard I tried I could not move my fingers and I couldn’t pull off my gear. Despite his own soaked clothes, cold and pain my oldest brother saw my predicament and stepped over to help. He had to peel my jacket off for me as I stood there a little like a frozen mannequin. I was surprised by my own spontaneous, uncontrollable tears that began to flow down my face. Prior to that moment I didn’t realize how bad our situation was.
For the next sixteen hours we huddled together in that small tent attempting to get warm and escape the mountain’s antics. It was then that my brother uttered those now famous words, “We sure know how to have fun!”
It was also in this moment that I realized the power of these words:
“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. If one falls down, the other helps.
Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped” (Eccl. 4:9-12 Msg).
I like being independent. Usually, I try to handle things on my own. I don’t like being told what to do and I especially don’t like admitting that I need help. When I walk into church on Sunday, or in the office through the week, I want people to think that I have everything under control and that I am always cool, calm and collected.
I want to be someone my kids can look up to, someone they respect, someone they can count on when they are in need, and someone they can go to for guidance. Even my sweet wife, though she knows me better than anyone else – I want her to think I am a strong man who knows the answers and always knows the best decisions to make.
Independence. Men tend to idolize independence. Strong, independent, lone-ranger types garner our attention. We are drawn to the ones who beat all the odds and rise to the top; the sole vigilante against the world of injustice; the singular superhero. It’s the guys who don’t seem to need anyone else, who have the drive, perseverance and tenacity to push through regardless of the obstacles that we admire. We eat up the stories of people like Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, and Warren Buffet. We love movies with characters like Rocky Balboa, Pale Rider, or Superman. Not only do we love those stories – we want to be that guy!
I didn’t realize how much trouble I was in that day. I would have continued on that path headed for disaster if my brother had not stopped me. I was determined to keep on marching down the trail regardless. I was in a zone. The problem with the man who doesn’t think he needs anyone else is he usually doesn’t know when he’s headed for trouble. God knows that without the companionship, strength, and encouragement of others we will be defeated. My Dad said, “Looking back I’m glad we had that experience together. It makes you a stronger person.”
God never intended for us to go through this life alone. He never intended for us to face the hardships, difficulties and circumstances of life by ourselves. When God saw Adam alone was the first time in the history of the universe that He declared something was “not good.”
To ask for help, advice, or even an opinion is in a small way an admission of weakness. Weakness is the last thing I want to be associated with. But, this is exactly the position God wants to bring us to. It’s only when we get real and admit our weakness that God can really show off. It is in recognition of our weaknesses that we understand our desperate dependence on God. Our deficiencies prove our need for the other members of the body of Christ.
The good news is that God already knows you don’t have it all together. He declares, “My strength is made perfect in weakness!” When you recognize this truth, there can only be one conclusion: “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT).