Don’t Insult My Bride or His

My wife came back into the kitchen visibly upset; “those guys are really messing with me!” She explained that a table full of drunken men were hitting on her, saying things about her, and making disparaging remarks about her marriage. We had been married less than a month and had both gotten jobs for the summer at a small restaurant, I was the cook and she the waitress. We were college students and were home on a summer break. That particular night the owner of the restaurant asked if we could hang over past our normal shift to help with the bar crowd, and we agreed.

I had been saved for a little over a year and had come out of a pretty rough background. I was a college football player and was used to a hell raising sort of life. In situations like this (someone messing with my girl) I would have handled with intimidation and/or physical violence. Jesus had obviously been working on my temper but I wasn’t as mature as I am today.

Before I knew what happened I had stormed past my wife (who was probably telling me not to do anything crazy) and was heading out to the area where those drunken creeps were sitting. A zeal had taken over me and I sprang into action. I remember looking at the table full of men as I headed towards them. From their look I realized I must have looked pretty fired up.

I knew I couldn’t just tear into them, because I was following Jesus, but I didn’t know what to do because they had just messed with my bride and I was very fired up about it. Instead of grabbing them I did the only think I could think of short of hitting them, I yelled, and I think it was the Spirit prophesying through me, “WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER LET NOT MAN PUT ASUNDER!’

It even caught me by surprise! Wow, I didn’t hit them and I quoted Scripture, pretty cool! Recognizing it was God, I settled down and spoke to them about God’s plan for marriage, our marriage, and what Jesus had done in our lives. Obviously with my actions I had a captive audience (those men as well as the rest of the customers who were looking on expecting a fight). The men ended up being apologetic and I witnessed to them about their need for Jesus.

Second Story Same Zeal

A had a similar experience a little over a year ago. I was listening to a couple talk about all the problems he had with the church (Jesus’ wife). The more I listened to him talk that more I felt that slow burn of anger rising up on the inside of me. You may know the feeling. It was similar to the feeling I had when my wife came in and told me about the guys messing with her.

It’s that feeling when someone is slamming something or someone who is important to you. I get especially upset when someone is slamming someone I love that they don’t know very well or have very little concern for. It is even worse if it is someone whom they should know better.

The couple I had been talking to lived in another state. I had not seen them for several years and was catching up with their life. At one time they were leaders in churches I had been involved with. Now they have been out of church for several years. Some of the problems they expressed were legitimate as they had been in some difficult church situations.

But as they were expressing their disappointment with church, I felt that they crossed over a line. It became more of a bashing session that had no constructive design in it. They kept making points over and over about how the church is failing and not doing her job. They really began expressing this about “all” churches, not just the ones they have been a part of.
As they kept making points about how the church was not doing her job, I began to think of all the people I know who are sacrificing greatly in many areas of church life. These people making their blanket statements about the failure of the church were clueless about others who make sacrifices daily to help the church become all God intended her to be.

These same people I know are also deeply committed to also seeing some of the things my non-churched friends were complaining about. My thoughts were “these people are not lifting a finger to do the very things they are complaining bout. They aren’t even casually involved in a church, let alone serving at any level the way many of my friends are, yet they complain.”

To quote a radio host I have listened to, “This just makes me want to drink battery acid.” People who stand outside the church and fancy themselves experts about all the things churches are not doing, is like a person standing outside of a natural house and throwing stones at it. It is easy to do when you bear no responsibility to sacrifice for her improvement. This isn’t the attitude of Jesus or Paul.

Eph 5:25-27 NASB Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) so that He might sanctify her…

Col 1:24-25 NASB Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. (25) Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God

Please don’t insult my wife or His, especially if you don’t have enough commitment in you to lift a finger to help.

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Self-Help or Spiritual Maturity

Paul has been a great baby! God has really blessed us with such a wonderful boy! We are a little concerned however, about his progress in potty training. He just can’t seem to get interested in going on a big boy potty. Buying diapers is getting a little old because it seems that he should have gotten the potty thing down by now. We don‘t want to push him, you know, just let him develop at his own pace, but he is a little behind his peers. This fictitious story probably sounds normal until you find out that Paul is 14 years old. Now we know there is a problem.

Why does it seem that spiritual maturity is so elusive for many Christians? Why do they start out in seasons focused on growth only to lapse into spiritual cruise control? Paul lays out the importance of maturity in Philippians.

Php 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (Gk full adult, full age, complete, mature) have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;

Self Improvement Is Not Necessarily Spiritual Maturity

I don’t know all the reasons why people don’t mature, but I think a misunderstanding of what maturity is can be a big deterrent. The popularity of the therapeutic, self-help, and self-improvement industry is now a multi-billion dollar business. There are multitudes of voices in modern media that call us to grow, expand, learn, develop, broaden our horizons, and reach for the stars. Relentless attempts are made to pressure us to make constant improvements to our diet, our body, our marriage, our love-making, our communications, our leadership skills, our parenting, our career management, our investment portfolio, and on and on. It is full of catch phrases designed to inspire us to “become a better you.” Remember, “You may not be able to direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails” so “let’s get growing.”

We must understand that self-help and self-improvement is not necessarily spiritual maturity. You can improve your weight, eat healthier, and even discipline your schedule to fit in Bible reading and still not be maturing spiritually. I like the Message translation of Luke 9:24 because it really lays out the true essence of spiritual maturity.

Luk 9:24 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, My way, to finding yourself, your true self. Any thing we do, even good things, that had a motive of self in it can lead to problems.

Paul’s exhortation of Phil 3:12-16 can be taken and used by the self help craze of our narcissistic culture. Unfortunately, many of the leading voices in the Christian community in America would go no deeper than the average humanist in the interpretation or the application of Paul’s words in Philippians 2.

A rousing speech on the necessity of goal setting and dreaming big dreams would be standard fare in many pulpits today. Much of the Christianized self-help teaching simply produces adult babies pursuing a better life under the guise of maturity. Paul and Jesus are after something much deeper.

I think we could be witnessing a devaluing of maturity into a celebration of childishness. Personal development and improvement does not have to be a spiritual endeavor. People outside of Christ do it all the time. Personal growth and professional development that leads to the goal of material success, prestige, and riche isn’t spiritual maturity. Here is a perspective from Paul on spiritual maturity that I think gets at the heart of what it is.
1Co 13:11-13 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

Three Things That Reveal Spiritual Maturity

Your inner desires: In the natural realm you notice that your childhood toys no longer interest you. I think spiritual maturity works in a similar way. When you are growing in Christ, the world’s pleasures that are often wrapped up in things lose their appeal. At the same time your hunger for God increases. You want to be with Him (prayer etc) and you become more motivated and sustained with making Him known. You want more of Him moving in and through your life. That desire gradually begins to overshadow all others (like Jesus said the Kingdom would do in the parable of the mustard seed Mt 13:31-32).

Your understanding: When you were young, your understanding of the world was very limited. As you grew up you began to see the world from a broader, more mature perspective. It works the same way spiritually. As you grow you begin to see life from God’s perspective. You evaluate opportunities as well as temptations from a bigger perspective. It becomes more difficult to be pulled into things that have no real eternal value. Serving God becomes the most important thing in this life and everything else takes a back seat.

Self-centeredness: One of the most obvious traits of infancy and childhood is selfishness. Babies want their way and they want it now! Mature Christians are more submissive to the Lord. They become more concerned with His world than their own. They are willing to sacrifice and wait for Him. More and more of their life source is found in Him and His world, rather than their own. Instead of God existing to bless their world a mature perspective takes over and they begin to see that they exist to serve His world.

If we are going to “press on” and grow to maturity we have to be willing to put away “childish things.”  Let’s not mistake me-centered, or self-help spirituality for genuine spiritual maturity lest our worship of God ends up being like the following .

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Has Our Culture Effectively Redefined Tolerance?

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised today as I saw cars backed up for about 45 minutes waiting to get into a local Chick-fil-A as a show of support for their stand, and the backlash, regarding their support of traditional marriage. Most people waited at least 90 minutes to get their food.

By now almost everyone has heard of the controversy. In a July interview with the Baptist Press Dan Cathy, Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, was asked about his support of traditional marriage. In his response Cathy committed what you could call our current culture’s unpardonable sin. He expressed a personal opinion supporting traditional marriage. Cathy replied to the Baptist Press, “Well, guilty as charged… We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” He went on to say something that is at the heart of the current controversy, “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.” I wonder if he questions that now?

The media storm grew larger when a June 16 radio program, The Ken Coleman Show, had Cathy on and he underscored the need for children to have a mom and a dad. “As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage…I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Inflaming the Controversy

Well that seemed to inflame the controversy to a tipping point. The Los Angeles Times story carried a headline, “Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay-marriage stance triggers online uproar.” The Washington Post included an online poll asking readers, “Will you continue to eat at Chick-fil-A?” The mayor of Chicago and Boston publically said they would do everything they could to keep Chick-fil-A from expanding into the cities. Pro gay and lesbian groups called for boycotts as well as “Kiss-ins” at Chick-fil-A restaurants.

As this is being played out in the media my mind drifted back 15+ years to warnings I was reading and teaching about in worldview classes. The prevailing philosophy that our culture was embracing was redefining what it means to be tolerant. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, the word tolerate means “to allow or to permit, to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked.” Other dictionary definitions include things like “fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, differ from one’s own.”

We now tolerate intolerance

Unfortunately that definition has been changed by our culture. The pro gay and lesbian crowd has helped effectively change it. Now you either agree that the gay lifestyle/marriage is okay or you keep your thoughts to yourself. If you are foolish enough to express your beliefs then you will suffer intolerant wrath.

A Philadelphia City Councilman, Jim Kenney joined the Chick-fil-A blasting, and in doing so he reveals an important foundational problem. He fired-ff a letter to Dan Cathy telling him “take a hike and take your intolerance with you,” and Kenney goes on to say he’ll introduce a resolution at the next City Council meeting condemning Cathy and Chick-fil-A for expressing intolerance and hate.

Wait just a minute, “take your intolerance with you.” My question is who is being intolerant here? Traditional tolerance means “fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, differ from one’s own.” I guess that means things except opinions that support the Bible regarding gay and lesbian issues.

Who is being intolerant of whom? Mayors who attempt to block businesses from coming into their city because others have an opinion on gay marriage that differs than their own sounds like intolerance to me. You can only have tolerance if there are differing opinions that you permit others to have. It is incredibly intolerant to punish any business or person that dares express an opinion that is different than the pro homosexual, pro gay marriage perspective. In the name of tolerance (of their own positions) they have become intolerant of any belief but their own. Pascal accurately describes our times. “TRUTH IS SO OBSCURE IN THESE TIMES, AND FALSEHOOD SO ESTABLISHED, THAT, UNLESS WE LOVE THE TRUTH, WE CANNOT KNOW IT.” BLAISE PASCAL

Here is a pro gay marriage proponent who understands the issue of being intolerant in the name of tolerance.

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