Beware a Harsh Delivery

I have never had a problem with words. As long as I can remember, words have come easily for me. Very rarely, in any situation, am I at a loss as to what to say. (The good people of my church can insert jokes about my preaching length here) But the manner, the tone, the thought, the care by which I deliver those words is often a much different story. And I have learned as I mature in Christ, that the way I say something directly impacts how the message is received.

As they grow older, it has become obvious that my children have received the same gift of words, at least to some degree. Their language skills are showing characteristics of quick wit, creativity and humor. But unfortunately, they have also received my penchant for a sometimes callous and unkind delivery. And the more I have worked to lead them away from this behavior, the more the Holy Spirit has illuminated the same issue in my own life. And I am very thankful for that grace.

‘A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’ Proverbs 15:1

The Hebrew word behind ‘wrath’ is interesting. It can mean fury or rage, as we would expect. But it is sometimes translated ‘poison’. How many of you have ever been in a poisonous conversation? One that spiraled out of control as one harsh word after another was delivered, like painful blows in a fist fight. And sadly, whatever good message we may have vanishes quickly in the heat of battle.  Our point is completely lost; buried under an avalanche of sinful communication. Healing, helpful words of truth are quickly silenced by the painful noise of a cruel voice. It really doesn’t matter how right we are, when the person we are speaking to is reeling from the harshness of our delivery. We lose influence, when we lose control.

The Holy Spirit, through Proverbs, is reminding us that gentle words are a repellent to poisonous conversations. If this is an area of struggle for you – as it is me – then may I suggest seeking scripture for practical advice and thoughts on the importance of words and how we deliver them. The bible has much to say on this topic. In addition, let’s be reminded that one of the effects of the Spirit in our life is gentleness (Gal 5:23), so ask daily that He will allow that fruit to grow quickly and exponentially in you. And finally, if your children are showing signs of your own struggle – then do not just teach them the right way to speak; but model for them repentance in your moments of failure.

Grace and Peace

David

Lamenting and Hope

Lament: (verb) to express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something. (noun) an expression of sorrow

RainbowWhen was the last time you lamented? Seriously, when was the last time you threw a good lament God’s way? (If it has been a while feel free to let one fly. God can handle it – I promise) Well, the Bible is filled with them, and the book of Lamentations contains five of them (hence the name). Lamentations describes one of Israel’s saddest moments, the destruction of Jerusalem to Babylon (587 BC).

In chapter three the author describes the agony of God’s judgment. It begins, “I am the man who has seen affliction… (v. 1).” Right away you know this is not going to be sunshine and roses. And it only gets worse. Listen to some of these phrases: enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation (v. 5); walled me about so that I cannot escape (v. 7); though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer (v. 8); he has made me desolate (v. 11); I have become a laughingstock (v. 14). And at his lowest point he says this: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD (vv. 17-18).” This is a man who has given up hope.

Almost.

A few verses later he writes:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (vv. 21-25)

He snaps back to his senses when he remembers the Lord’s love, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. I said all of that to say this: No matter how bleak things may look at times, God is still God. Wait for him. Seek him. Hope. In. Him. Our hope will not be put to shame (Psalm 119:116; Rom 5:5). Hope is the imagination of the soul. When was last time you truly hoped for something? When will be the next? How about right now? Let’s let our collective imaginations run wild, and see what God does.

Hopefully hoping (I have no idea what that means, but…),

– Immanuel Marsh

12 Myths that End a Marriage – pt 2

This article was written a couple of years ago by one of the elders at Agape Fellowship, Samuel Knowles. It is a hard read, but a GREAT read; filled with straightforward wisdom and biblical principles. I highly recommend this for any married couple, engaged couple or a single person considering marriage. A few weeks back we posted Myths 1 through 6 and today we finish up with Myths 7 through 12. May God grant you His Grace as you read…

MYTH #7: THEY HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF ME. 

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And you have unrealistic expectations that they cannot meet.  This is your spouse whom you vowed to love and cherish for better or for worse. These expectations are usually unspoken and almost always misconstrued. It really is best to get these expectations out on the table and discuss them. Your spouse does not know (though you think they should) what it is you want them to do and how you want them to do it. You are going to have to let go of some expectations of yours, but you are also going to have to live up to some of the expectations of your spouse. That’s part of being married.

MYTH #8: OUR SITUATION IS DIFFERENT.

No… it’s not. It is the age old symptom of our sin nature that makes us think of ourselves as the only one going through a particular situation. You are not alone. You may have some degree of variation, but there is nothing new under the sun..nothingPlease don’t take this as saying that your situation isn’t extremely hard, or maybe even truly horrible… or sad, but you cannot fall into the temptation of thinking your situation is special and that’s why you have to divorce.  It is a lie, plain and simple.

MYTH #9:  WE ARE NOT GOING TO LET THIS AFFECT OUR KIDS.

You simply cannot keep this from devastating your children. I know many friends who grew up in a divorced home. I lived through my parent’s divorce. I can tell you from the testimonies of others, as well as my own, that it is NEVER easy on the children and will always negatively affect them the rest of their lives. They will be divided and torn and respond one of three ways to this division. They will:  1. Follow your example of selfishness and start positioning you against your spouse for personal gain. 2. Look to their friends, and more times than not, their boyfriend/girlfriend for the security and affection they should be getting at home. 3. Feel overwhelming guilt, withdraw from everyone and everything for fear of abandonment, and implode with despair. Yes..it’s that serious. Your divorce will negatively affect your children no matter how hard you try.

MYTH #10:  WE ARE GOING TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.

If it is possible for your legs to go one direction while your torso goes in an entirely different direction, then this myth is actually true.  But that is not physically possible, and it should be just as impossible for this to be true with your spouse. I realize that I have said this over and over, but since your vows before God, you are ONE.

Mark 10:8-9 “and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

If you are going in different directions, you should join your spouse.  I hope both spouses read that previous sentence, because that is when it is most effective. There is an exception to this rule and that involves God’s direction. You should not follow your spouse in any direction that is anti-Christ, but that exception cannot be altered one bit from biblical context. Husbands, if you are loving your wives as Christ loves the church, and wives, if you are submitting to your husbands as to the Lord, then you will not be going in different directions.

MYTH #11: I’M NOT IN LOVE ANYMORE.

Marriage is not a tent you crawl into or a pool you swim around in, or a car you drive. You can only stay so long in a tent before it’s uncomfortable. The floor begins to feel hard, the room feels cramped and the air feels stuffy. You can get out of a tent to change your surroundings, stretch your legs and breathe easier. Your marriage is not a tent.  You can only stay so long in a pool before it starts getting old. Diving deep gets boring, your skin starts to wrinkle and look old, and you get tired of treading water to stay afloat. You can get out of a pool to rest, dry off, and de-wrinkle. Your marriage is not a pool. You can only drive a car for so many years before it starts to cost more than it’s worth. Your transmission can only be replaced so many times, the paint starts to chip and rust, the heat or ac starts to go out, and it becomes more unreliable after so many years. You trade in your old car and get a newer, faster, prettier car. Your marriage is not a car. It is invaluable. Your love for your spouse goes so much deeper than feelings. It is a commitment to love and cherish, to protect and provide, to nurture and enrich for the rest of your life. Remind yourself of this.

MYTH #12:  GOD IS OKAY WITH US… HE KNOWS WE TRIED. 

I want to make clear that what I’m about to say in this section does not pertain to your salvation or God’s love for you as His child, but you need to understand that God is NOT okay with your divorce.  Honestly, He could care less about your puny efforts to fool your conscience into submission for your selfish desires. I will simply let the word of God speak for itself on this myth.

Malachi 2:14-16 “You cry out, “Why has the Lord abandoned us?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made to each other on your wedding day when you were young. But you have been disloyal to her, though she remained your faithful companion, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the Lord Almighty. “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.”

Matthew 19:8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Genesis 2:24-25 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

If you have read all of this, I pray that the Lord has touched your heart with renewed strength and resolve to fight for your spouse, your marriage, and your family.  May His Love hold you, His presence sustain you, and may His Spirit give you peace in the midst of the war.

A Reward of Perseverance

HK

My wife and I recently returned from South East Asia, where we were picking up our adopted son to bring him home. I wanted to share a rather significant moment I experienced while there, related to our call to persevere in prayer.

Around 2007, I felt a rather significant shift in my life. My personal goals radically changed, and I began to deeply desire fulfillment in life in new ways. Particularly, I craved to be in full time pastoral ministry and I began to seek God on how to reach that goal. Over the next 6 years, I stayed in prayer constantly about this. In that time, I had around 5 opportunities that I was certain were going to come together and make it a reality. I went through the process each time, and each time it ended with a closed door. Great disappointment followed, but by the grace of God alone – I continued to persevere – not only in prayer but also in faith that God could be trusted in my disappointment.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I stood on top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, looking down on the city. I was contemplating how incredible it was to be in this country; how God had provided every cent for the trip; the incredible and tangible ways he had moved in the previous year and specifically in the previous 10 days to make it happen; how our adopted son was in this city and how God could have chosen anyone in the world to do what we were getting to do; and how I would have never see any of this coming years ago. And in that moment, God spoke a verse to me:

For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! Isaiah 64:4. 

God laid it on my heart at that moment: we were living out a reward of perseverance. It is not a reward we expected; it was not even what we were praying for. It was a fulfillment – but not the fulfillment we thought would come. But I would not trade it for anything. It is better than what I wanted. It is better than what I asked forIf I had received what I requested when I requested it, I would have missed out on something greater.

I believe we are called to persevere in our requests, if God delays an answer. And I believe that perseverance needs to be long-suffering; we have to be in it for the long haul. I think along the way, we may face disappointments. But by God’s grace – we keep going; we keep praying; we keep hoping; we keep trusting. Because we are praying to a good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Our perseverance will be rewarded. And when the reward comes, we will look back and be grateful that we never gave up.