More Than Just Words: Cherish – The Varnish of Love

“To Love and To Cherish”

It seems that love gets a lot of stage times at weddings.  Heck, you could say that love gets most the repetitions in our vocabulary as a whole.  We love all kinds of stuff.

  • We love our favorite football team
  • We love our car
  • We love our dog
  • We love our haircuts
  • We love music
  • We love our kids
  • We love a good steak

Don’t get me wrong love is great!  Even Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that if you had to choose between hope, love, and faith…love should be #1 so I’m all about some love.  But what do you cherish?

To a guy, this sounds like such an effeminate term.  Cherish.

What, are we going to go shopping for Precious Moments figurines after we get done reading this?  Come on man!

But when it comes right down to it cherishing something is what separates our “love” for our golf clubs and the love for our kids.  Cherish is what makes us want the doctors to do all they can to save him.  Cherish is what makes us stay up until 2:00 am to make sure they are safe even if we’re mad.  Cherish is what tells you to stay even if the job falls through and the bills are coming due.

Cherish is the varnish we put on top of our love for one another that helps to protect it from the elements of life. 

The only way to fully grasp what it means to cherish someone requires gaining wisdom into the person.   Wisdom is the key to the lock on the heart of your spouse that once open will show you how and what you cherish about them the most.  However, in order to know someone that well it will cost you dearly.  The writer of Proverbs tells us that “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 
She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown. “ (Proverbs 4:7-9)

Marriage requires effort and every part of you committed to making it work.

If you want a marriage, then when you look the person you are vowing to spend the rest of your life with in the eyes and promise to “love and to cherish” them you are taking on an amazing task.

You are telling them that you are in constant pursuit of they heart.  You are promising to them that you are protecting this love above any other human love.

It’s this intense commitment that marriage demands that causes Paul to warn those considering marriage to not do it unless you really know what you are getting into.  In fact he goes so far in 1 Corinthians as to tell people NOT to get married because of the potential effects it could have on a person’s relationship with God!

But once you have decided and once you have vowed to love your spouse with a love that only God himself could have created it is amazing.

I truly believe there is nothing more powerful in our world today than a strong, committed, loving, and Christ-following married couple.  The power of two people loving each other with this intense love that can only be measured in the heavenly realm is epic to our culture.

A marriage of this caliber can only serve to shine such an intense light into a dark world filled with broken marriages, broken promise, and broken hearts that anyone that looks at it can’t help but be effected.

When you look in each other’s eyes, vow to be that type of marriage.  A marriage flied with cherished love in high amounts and a willingness to draw on wisdom from God to unlock the heart of the person you love.

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More Than Just Words: I Won’t Tap Out

“In Sickness and in Health”

Hospitals do something to you.

I’ve walked through the doors of many a hospital in different capacities.  I’ve been a patient, a visitor, a student, an employee, a friend, a father, a grandson, a nephew, and a pastor.

Hospitals just do something to you.

They are places of healing and joy, but within the very same walls are juxtaposed feelings of suffering and sorrow.  But through all of these emotional ups and downs there is one common thing.

It’s the human element.

You see, in each room you don’t find robots you find real people, with real stories, with real emotions, and who need a real God.

As a pastor I have had the unbelievable honor of being by the bedside as loved ones pass.  I’ve seen newborn babies being held by their mother for the first time.  I’ve held the hand of friends that are fighting for their last days.  I’ve been in the waiting room as people wait to hear test results.  I’ve seen little ones with wires and tubes coming out of them as parents sit helplessly by their side.

But through all of it I’ve seen God move and He is Good.

I’ve also seen husbands leave wives sick with MS and 2 kids.  I’ve seen “men” make their wives find their own rides to chemotherapy.  I’ve heard stories of parents leaving their newborn baby in the NICU for the hospital to deal with when the thought of raising a disabled child was too much.

But through all of it I’ve seen God move and He is Good.

You see God is consistent.  We are inconsistent.  He is not affected by our emotional roller coaster.  He does not succumb to our weaknesses.  He has always been here and will always be here far after we are gone.  He is the Rock that does not move.

It is the confidence in an unchanging, unflappable, unconditional God that allows us to look our spouse in the eyes and tell them we will be with them “in sickness and in health.”

It’s because the God we worship did not tap out when the going got tough.  He didn’t bag it when the pain was excruciating, when the wounds were bleeding, when the whips were tearing, when the guards were mocking, when the people were spitting, and when His father was forsaking.

1 Peter 2:23 – 24 tells us, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

I believe leaving your sick spouse in the middle of their time of need is like leaving a soldier wounded in the middle of a war with enemies all around.  If a soldier did that they would be dishonorably discharged and disgraced by their country, but if we do that to our spouse it’s called “making sure we are happy.”  We can’t tap out when the going gets tough.  We can’t tap out when the medical bills get high.  We can’t tap out when being intimate with them is never again a possibility.  We can’t tap out when sickness is more common than health.

Jesus did not give up on us in our time of need because of His love for us and because of that we should NEVER give up on our spouse because of our love for them.

In sickness and in health has no limits.  It means I won’t tap out!

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My GPS Is Stupid

After reading Proverbs 16 today I thought this may be a good one to repost.  Have a great weekend everyone!

I remember back in the day when you needed to have a person in the passenger seat of your car for more than just putting their feet up on the glass.  They actually did something other than complain about the radio station you picked.

It worked like this.

When you would want to travel from point A to point B and weren’t familiar with the route, you needed help.  The person on your right would open this book with pictures called a map and give you directions on how to arrive at the destination.

It was a glorious interaction between two intelligent people that would normally end up with one of you calling the other person an “idiot” or if you were really tired the phrase “I know you are but what am I?” would spew out.  However you would usually get from point A to point B…eventually.

Well that wasn’t good enough for us.

Now we have satellites that follow us all over the place and provide our Global Positioning at all times.  We are able to translate this data into words through our GPS systems in our cars.  If you are truly trashy, you probably chose a different voice to say the directions to you like Snoop Dogg or Hannah Montana because…well…who the heck knows.  So now instead of yelling at the passenger next to you, you yell at a computer trapped in a box the size of a sardine can that taunts you in a Chuck Norris voice.

I have a one of those GPS deals…I chose a British voice…I named her Lilly.  There, I said it.

However, Lilly is stupid.  Let me tell you why.

I will plug in the address to my destination, hit “Go”, and follow the directions blindly.  I mean, it’s a computer what could go wrong?  However, from time to time I will miss a turn and have to take an alternate route that Lilly recalculates.  Here is the kicker, 9 times out of 10 this route is faster than the first route she told me go on!

What in the flim flam is that all about?

You would think that Mr. Global Positioning System-man would be able to know that I would much rather get from Point A to Point B in 20 minutes rather than 45, but noooooooo.  I get the route that takes me next to Aunt Bee’s Lama farm and forces me to fill up with gas twice before I get there.

I about “placed” Lilly on Interstate 294 the other day to let her think about what she had done.

That got me to thinking though.

I really believe this is a similar scam that Satan uses.  More people than not believe that there is a god, but everyone is searching for the way that will get them to him with least amount of work and the least amount of disruption to their current lives.

So Satan will drop a little doubt into our glass in the form of fear.

The fear usually comes in the form of this question: “What if I choose a path to follow God and later find a faster, easier route?”  I mean, what if I can find a path to God that lets me keep sleeping with my boyfriend, doing drugs, and cheating on my taxes?  Honestly, if I could find that option I’d be a lot “happier”…wouldn’t I?  I bet Oprah would even want to know about it!

So most either don’t follow anything or they simply choose to follow everything in hopes that they can cover all their bases before they die.  As if God will stand at the gates of Heaven with a clipboard checking off the buffet of religions you tried in order to get to Him.

As Christians we have this assurance found in John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one gets to the Father except through me.”

I’m not sure you can find a much more direct route to God.  When God incarnate tells you just follow Him and He will lead you to eternal life that seems pretty cut and dry.  There is no need for us to check our spiritual GPS for redirection or for an updated route.

I wasn’t great at geometry, but I do remember that the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line.

Bottom line is Jesus took out the guess work and destroyed any fear we may have about what happens next or what route is best.  He was so serious that He died to prove it.

Now that’s something I’ll follow.

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More Than Just Words – From Riches to Rags

“For Rich or For Poor”

Just the other day I was playing golf with a great guy from our church that invited me to his Golf Country Club.  The golf course was amazing, but the company was even better.  While fighting through drizzle and poor golf shots we came across a tee box next to an enormous 3 or 4 story house with more air conditioning units than the penguin exhibit at the zoo.  I asked my friend if he knew who lived there and he said he did, but that the appearance didn’t tell the whole story of what is going on inside.  He went on to share with me the financial strain, the sting of suicide, and the cultural weight that this family experienced behind the clean, white, brick walls of this mansion.  How could this possibly be?

For so many couples, money and financial security is the bar by which happiness is gauged.  However, the elusive Joneses and the American Dream place us in a never-ending tunnel of want that leaves no cost too high to obtain the financial happiness we desire.  Sadly, even the richest people in the world are in that tunnel with us and they too are in pursuit of that same happiness.

The University of Virginia conducted a study back in 2009 looking at the effect finances has on the marriage relationship.  They found that  “If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.  The same study also found that couples with no assets at the beginning of a three-year period are 70 percent more likely to divorce by the end of that period than couples with $10,000 in assets.”

Our culture demands that we find our happiness in our money.  Every TV commercial, every billboard, and every Facebook advertisement will be taunting you with the next best thing that you need.  If we allow this to seep into our marriages we start to lose site of the vow of loving our spouse “for rich or for poor”.  This cancer will spread through our relationships and shows itself as resentment, pride, arrogance, frustration, and anger towards one another.

However, there is another way.

As Christians we follow one of the most culturally backwards leaders in Jesus.  Consider what He chose for us:

  • He chose to leave the perfection of heaven for the imperfection of earth
  • He chose to serve not be served
  • He chose to come as a meek baby not as a mighty king
  • He chose outcasts for His disciples not the upper class
  • He chose to give up His life for us after we gave up on Him.

The world eats up rags to riches stories, but we pity riches to rags stories.   We never like to see someone go down in his or her social status or financial worth because we attribute that to failure.  However, I doubt that anyone would consider Jesus Christ a failure, and He is, by our definition, a riches to rags poster child!

When you get a chance read Philippians 2:1-11.  Paul has a beautiful way of illustrating to us how we should act as Christians to one another and the reason why we should do it.  His reason?  Jesus.

What we learn from Jesus, especially in our marriages, is that our savings account or 401(k) do not define our happiness.  Our happiness is rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ.  Our marriage success is rooted in Jesus Christ.  Our self-worth is rooted in Jesus Christ.  It’s all rooted in Jesus.

So when we vow to our spouse we will love them and be with them for “rich or for poor” we say that because we believe Jesus Christ is all we need and He isn’t going anywhere.

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More Than Just Words – The Good, Bad, and The Unbelievable

“For Better and For Worse”

I always find it funny when people say “I wish I could just know what the future holds.”  It’s funny to me because there is no way they would want that wish to come true.

If you want to know the future it comes with both sides of the coin.  That awareness comes with the good side and the bad side.

  • You get to know when you are going to get married, but you also see when you are going to get into that auto accident.
  • You see that promotion you are going to get, but you also see when the doctor says the results don’t look good.
  • You see the birth of your first child, but you also see when your wife says I’m moving out.

The good stuff is what we’ll eat up, but the bad stuff, we’d rather leave that on the plate with the veggies.  Fortunately, we don’t get the glimpse into the future we’d like, but when it comes to marriage it shouldn’t matter.

When we look our spouse, our best friend, in the eyes on our wedding day and promise to be there for them for “better or for worse” it’s not said as a question.  It’s not said with a little more emphasis on the “better” and mumbling the “worse.”  No, loud and proud we vow to our spouse that we will be there with them through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As Christians, we know where we get this level of commitment, and it’s not from Mel Gibson riding a horse with Smurf paint on his face.  It’s Jesus Christ.

 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  – Matthew 28:16-20

You gotta love this section of Scripture.  So, despite the fact that He spent 3 years with them, did miracles in front of them, cast out demons in front of them, was crucified in front of them, and now is resurrected in front of them “some still doubted.”  Nice!

So hang on, despite the fact that there were some doubters in the posse He still commissions them to go and spread the Gospel to the world.  Then, to put the cherry on the top of the unbelievable cake, He tells them despite the doubters and despite the fact that He KNEW they would not be perfect after He ascends to heaven, He says “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

There it is.

He’s with them despite the good, the bad, and the unbelievable.   He’s with them NO MATTER WHAT!

So when we as Christians enter into our marriage vows to our spouse that’s the intense dedication we come into it with.  We come into it humbly following the lead of our Lord and Savior, that despite our sin and imperfection, promised to be with us always.  So if we are completely sold out to Him then we must be completely sold out to our spouse.

  • So when your husband is lazy and doesn’t help out around the house like you think he should, you stick with him.
  • So when you wife is amazing one minute and totally crabby the next, you stick with her.
  • So when the butterflies are gone and you don’t sit on the couch and make-out like you used to, you stick it out.

For better and for worse” is our opportunity to show our spouse that we are in it no matter what.  And when people look like you are crazy to stick it out you need only point to Jesus when asked why you do what you do.

If He was willing to love and trust us with spreading the Gospel despite our good, bad, and unbelievable hearts then the least we can do is show that same commitment to our spouse.

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More Than Words – To Have And To Hold

“To Have and To Hold, From This Day Forward”

The culture we live in is addicted to sex.

You can’t even market a stick of gum without having to use some cleavage, a sweaty guy working on a truck, and possibly a waterfall in the background.  “Sex sells” is the tattoo that all marketing students received when they graduate college it seems.

Children are being exposed to sex at younger and younger ages and these children are becoming parents so young that it almost makes the show 16 and Pregnant seem like those couples waited a long time.

In our world, we are able to fulfill any sexual fantasies we have at the click of a button or the swipe of a credit card.   We spend enough money in America on pornography each year that if that amount of money were spent on world hunger it wouldn’t exist.

Tragically, this addiction to sex has done more than causing us to buy more cars and loosen our computer firewalls.  This addiction has robbed marriage of one of its most important vows.

When we look our spouse in the eyes on our wedding day and vow, “I will have you and hold you from this day forward” we are promising to them they are our one and only intimate relationship.  That I will hold you close, care for you, and place you as my standard of beauty forever.

Sadly, in today’s world this vow really means:

  • I will have you and hold you until the day I find something more sexually gratifying.
  • I will have you and hold you as long as you don’t gain a bunch of weight.
  • I will have you and hold you, but I will be having and holding other people behind your back.
  • I will have you and hold you so I can use sex like a weapon in our marriage to get what I want.

But God’s design was not for us to have Sexual ADHD where we can’t focus on one partner for more than 6 seconds before we move on.  God wants for us to have and hold each other in the bonds of marriage for more than our sexual gratification.   He wants us to demonstrate to our spouse our promise to be completely vulnerable, completely trustworthy, and completely there for them no matter what.

However, if relational monogamy were all it took to have a successful marriage then why don’t more work?  If all we had to do were to have a good sex life, try hard, and just do enough good things to stay together then why is the divorce rate still 50%?

The reality is that God needs to be part of all areas of your marriage including your sex life.

Listen to the words of King Solomon.

“…if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:11-12

Let me be quick to remind you that God created sex.  It wasn’t like Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden playing Jenga one day and said “You know what?  I think I’ve got an idea!”  No…God created it from the beginning.

That means that He wants us to enjoy it not just for our satisfaction, but for His glory.  When we enjoy the gift of sex that He designed, in the context of marriage, we actually are worshiping Him.  But when “to have and to hold” is only words and not a God-driven vow we lose sight of His design.

Our only hope for a lasting marriage is to get beyond the physical and find our strength in Christ.  That is when you really will have a marriage truly worth having and holding onto.

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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: My Daughter Speaks A Foreign Language

I’ve noticed lately that my daughter has seemed to adopt a foreign language that only she knows fully and my wife and I are deciphering a word at a time.  Here are some of the cryptic messages we have encountered as of late.

  • Piecer Choclat Pees – Translation:  I’d like a piece of chocolate since I went pee-pee on the potty.
  • Goggies PeesTranslation:  Can I have my sunglasses please?
  • Seeping B – Translation:  Sleeping Beauty
  • Fank You Daddy – Translation:  Thank You Daddy

It’s amazing, the more we listen and are around her we begin to translate quicker.  Also it is HUGE to have two of us there so we can use both of our decoder rings to figure out what the flip she is saying.

Even though she isn’t necessarily ready to start writing textbooks with her vocabulary, Cherie and I are so proud of her for trying and little by little she is getting the hang of this English thing.  Granted, I’m sure some of the Taiwanese kids I met a few years ago were speaking 4 languages as a fetus, but we gotta start somewhere right?

As Christians sometimes reading the Bible and doing what God wants us to do is like trying to decipher a 2 year old’s vocabulary.  However, in this case the concepts seem to be over our head instead of below them and we get overwhelmed and frustrated.  Let’s call it for what it is.  The Bible can be down right confusing at times can’t it?!

Well before you think I’m going to give you a hall pass to stop reading your Bible sit back down in your highchair and wait to be “excuse me table…peees” (Translation:  Excuse me from the table please).

Just because you don’t understand everything in the Bible doesn’t mean you don’t understand ANY of it.  I don’t think we need to over analyze things like:

  • “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 (NIV) – Translation:  Treat people the exact same way you’d want to be treated.
  • “No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor!” – Deuteronomy 5:21 (MSG) – Translation:  Stop wishing you had your neighbors stuff and quit being so creepy.
  • “…Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mark 12:33 (NIV) – Translation: Love all your neighbors and not just the ones you like.

Oh, and sometimes we get paralyzed in following Christ because we think that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, and dog gone it people don’t like me!  I mean if we aren’t able to understand the Bible maybe I’m just dumb or something?

I love when Paul says in Romans 14:1-2 “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.”

He’s saying you don’t have to be a carnivore Christian right away, in fact being a Vegetarian is okay too!  This is the only time where I believe that not eating meat is okay.  However, if you are a vegetarian, all I ask is that you give me your portion of steak allotted to you. :)

The key…the key…the key…is to just keep eating.  Start chewing on something.

Translation:  Begin living, believing, and pursuing the things that you understand and keep chipping away at the other stuff.  As you live what you know and pursue what you don’t, God will meet you in the middle and guide you every step of the way.

So go grab a fork and dig in gang!

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More Than Just Words – I Take You

“I take you to be my spouse.”

When I do a wedding ceremony I always start to get anxious when the time comes for the couple to recite their vows.  The main reason is that I have nightmares of saying the wrong names for the couple, or saying something dumb like “do you John take Suzy to be your husband,” and then realizing I was one tuxedo away from conducting a civil union.  It’s terrible!

I can thankfully say I’ve yet to do this only by the grace of God, but I’m sure now it’s only a matter of time.

As we start breaking down the traditional wedding vows it doesn’t take long for us to get to one of the most intimate parts of the marriage vows.

“I Take You.”

Man, just think about that for a minute!  “I…Take…You.”

That is intense!

Consider what you are saying. You are telling the person (and God) that you are accepting this person into your life as is.  There are no qualifiers.  I Take You doesn’t allow for exceptions like “I’ll take you if you lose weight” or “stop drinking” or “choose a new sports team” or “get a better job.”

No, I Take You means you have ended the dating, the window shopping, the considering, and you’ve made up your mind.  You’ve taken in all the information, experiences, and opinions you needed in the time you think was appropriate and now it’s done.

This person is going to be your spouse and you promise to take them as is.

Let me ask you something that may sting.

Are you holding resentment towards your spouse for things he or she does that you looked past before you were married?

In other words, are you deciding now not take your spouse “as is” anymore?

Part of getting to the I Take You moment is taking the time to really get to know the person you are going to marry beyond how they look in a dimly lit bar.  It’s asking real questions that have real answers and not just ones that can be answered Yes, No, or LOL.

It’s knowing who you are first and what you want in a spouse second.  You need to establish priorities that are nonnegotiable like God, kids, and finances before you get in the white dress or penguin suit and are all hopped up on emotion.

Proverbs 20:25 says “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.”

In other words, don’t promise first and then think second.  You need to think through what you are doing, whom you are doing it with, and what that could look like in the future before you look that person in the eyes and say “I Take You”.

Now don’t kid yourself.  There isn’t a flawless person out there for everyone.  My wife got the last one.  :)

All of us have our nuances and garbage that we come to the table of relationship with, but what is critical is that we call these things for what they are and not ignore them or glamorize them into something they are not.

  • A person that can’t balance a checkbook is not just free spirited, they are irresponsible.
  • A person that gets drunk every night isn’t the life of the party, they are an alcoholic.
  • A person that doesn’t believe in God isn’t “finding himself or herself,” they are an atheist who will pull you more away from God than you will ever know.

You need to call it for what it is now so that later on you aren’t staring in a mirror asking “what happened to my life?”  I want you to be fully aware of all that it means to be a spouse to someone and enjoy the ride that is called marriage.

Because when you stand in front of your loved ones and God on that special day and say “I Take You” that is the beginning of a vow that lasts a lifetime.

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