Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Psalms Ch. 1

A scripture came into my head last night at work.  Not sure why.  It was Psalm 127 ESV "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.  Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate".

A note at the bottom let me to Psalm 1 ESV, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  IN all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but arr like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish".

I felt like I should share these as a blog post today so here they are.

I do not know the purpose of God leading me to them and laying it on my heart to share them.  I do know that in this time when there is so much in the world to distract us from Jesus and the Word which are intended to be life to us, we would do well to meditate on these scriptures as a reminder of who our source is and where our strength comes from.  It is so easy to forget about God and try to do things our own way.  Taking control especially when the going gets rough, when that is the time that we should be running towards him the most and giving him full control if he did not have it to begin with.

I will leave you with this last scripture that the Lord led me to as well this morning which is in the same vain.

Proverbs 3:1-8 ESV, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of  days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whats in a Lyric? Part 2 ("Religious" music)

So the first part of this post was geared toward lyrics in secular music.  The question was, How much do we really consider the message in the lyrics of a song in relation to whether it pleases God or negatively/positively affects our Christian witness.  The next issue is "religious" music.  When listening to or singing along with contemporary christian music or praise and worship music are we really thinking about the message in the lyrics?

The first concern should be, is it biblical.  Now we can nitpick this a a lot and ruin a song, however it is very easy to enjoy songs who's content is based on bad, possibly unbiblical doctrine or bad theology.  Admittedly, I don't have a lot of examples because I have not researched for specific lyrics.  However, I have read and heard many concerns expressed in regards to this idea and recall thinking it about lyrics in the past. I will say this.  I think that the concern can be over or under analyzed.  I certainly think it is a thought process worth allowing to hang out under the surface.  If nothing else it will cause us to really think about what we are singing and if the content is biblically sound it will enhance our worship experience.  This leads me to the second concern.

Do we really think about what we are singing.  As a worship leader I can tell you of times when the lyrics of a song combined with the move of the spirit have totally taken my worship experience to another level.  However, I can also speak of times when my worship experience has been dry and unmoving when some of the same lyrics were being sung.  The same is true of solo experiences when singing special music.  The extent with which we engage our brains toward our worship affects our experience.  We must bring a sacrifice of praise.  That usually means intentionally engaging in worship even when you don't feel like it.  I have sung some songs several times and all of a sudden one day the real meaning of the words hit me and I had a WOW moment because the meaning of the song came alive.  So I would encourage you, whether it's a hymn that is loaded with doctrine or a simple praise or worship song that repeats the same idea over and over that you come to it each time with an intentional, positive attitude, considering what you are singing and who you are singing to or about.  Jesus is worthy of our best effort each and every time.  That is going to look different each time you worship depending on what is going on in your life but you and God know if you are giving it your all in that moment.  

It struck me the other day as I was listening to a teaching about Paul and a reference was made to his stoning in Acts 14.  Then they referenced 2Corinthians 4:8-9.  The ESV translation of this vs is "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies".
Sound familiar?  Those are lyrics from the song Trading my Sorrows.  When you think about those lyrics in relation to Paul's stoning it seems silly that we are jumping up and down singing "yes lord".  Don't get me wrong, I understand the  idea of rejoicing in the sustaining power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to carry us through every trial and tribulation.  But lets face it.  How many of us have had to go through what Paul went through.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul describes the sufferings that he had endured to that point.  Most of us think we are suffering if someone takes our parking place, or we have a hard busy stretch on the job.  Maybe even if we go through a difficult illness.  The lyrics that Trading my Sorrows use reference suffering for the cause of Christ that a very small percentage of American Christianity knows anything about.  Other countries however, where you may die for your faith or see family members die for their faith the very same day that they except Jesus, now those people know about modern day suffering for the cause of Christ.  

I think if we studied and considered more deeply the context in which scripture was written and on which some scriptural lyrics are based we would more greatly appreciate the Savior we are praising.  This process would bring a much deeper meaning to our praise and our worship.  See, it's not enough to not indulge in or meditate on worldly things, behaviors, or thought processes as mentioned in the previous part of this post on secular music.  No, we must pursue Christ. We must pursue all things Christlike and develop a hunger for them in our hearts, minds, and how we live our lives.  We need to always be thinking of whether our day to day worship is pleasing to God.  Whether it be the songs that we sing, the songs that we listen to, or the things that we do or don't do.  If we are truly going to have Christ centered lives then everything that influences our lives and that our lives influence must center on Christ.

I close with these two scriptural thoughts. Philipians 1:27 says to "let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ".  Romans 12 which I quoted at the end of the first part of this post states the idea that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.  These thoughts encompass the essence of the expectation for purity and holiness that God desires for our lives.  Anything less is unacceptable to him.  So strive to rise to the challenge of meeting that expectation.  Cry out to Him for the grace and strength to succeed in this effort.  Not because you have to, but because you want to please your Heavenly Father and honor his Son for the sacrifice He paid so that you could have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Glory Be To God!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Whats in a Lyric? Part 1 (Secular Music)

As I am developing the posts for the Gospel series referenced in the previous blog, I have come under conviction that I should share a concern that I have had for some time. Sharing it now is fueled by a couple of experiences as of late on the topic, the first of which I will share here. I have referenced it before but this will be a little more pointed.  Here goes.

Lyrics.  Do we really put much thought behind what we are singing. or listening to.  I wonder.  Recently, I have learned of a song that I have never heard before but is apparently very amusing and popular among country listeners, sinners and Christians alike..  It is called Red Solo Cup.  I hear it spoken of with much affinity.  I have heard enough of the lyrics quoted to get an idea what the song is about.  As a matter of a fact, just now, I looked it up to make sure I quoted correctly the artist Toby Keith as it's originator.  I must admit I giggled.  My flesh enjoyed it's humor and ridiculous tongue in cheek approach.  So before I go any further let me clarify that I understand the temptation, even for Christians, to be amused and even feel drawn to the hoky feel and catchy hook of the song.  Especially if you are a musician or vocalist.

However, as much as my flesh is tempted to enjoy and giggle at this silly song and video that wasn't even intended to be a hit.  My spirit, is grieved and my heart is heavy.  This song, and especially the video, glorifies everything carnal, sinful, and ungodly.  This song is a perfect example of how Satan functions in deceptive fashion to grab the hearts of the world and the Christian alike and numb them  in regards to the sensitivity and intolerance that God has for the sinful nature.  Even if you haven't seen the video, as a Christian, the knowledge that we have of the worlds idea of a party should throw up red flags when it comes to a song like this, simply from the lyrics.

Is this song alone.  Absolutely not!  Most secular music today, no matter the genre, is geared toward subtly glorifying things ungodly.  Oh the writer or artist may not have that at the forefront of their mind when writing or performing these songs but the message is still glorifying of sin.  This is the devil's desire.  Some songs do it blatantly through hardcore gangsta rap or hard rock.  Others do it through country or alternative music.  Even love songs often allude to nighttime or bedtime activities of those in love with no allusions about whether the characters involved are married or not.  Is this to picky of a view point?  Some might say, you are reading into it Josh!  Maybe.  However, in a world where sexual immorality is acceptable and prevalent I think we as Christians should be just that nitpicky about what we listen to, expose others to, or even put out ourselves if you happen to be an artist.  Some might call this legalistic, I call it biblical.  After all, the bible does say to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  Phillipians 4:8 lists all the things that God would have us meditate on.  Wild parties and drunkeness, violence and sexual immorality are not a part of this list  No, they are rather sins of the flesh(Galatians 5:19-21).   Obviously these are convictions that the Holy Spirit has to bring however, once light is shed on potential sin and disobedience in that area, we are responsible to seek God and ask him to confirm it in our spirits, if it is biblically accurate, and to help us remove that from our lives.

There are two primary issues of concern here.  1) Are there things in our lives that are displeasing to God?(Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-32)  2) Are there things in our lives that could be a stumbling block to weaker believers or to unbelievers?(Romans 14:13)  True that it is God who saves, however He will hold us accountable for our influence in the lives of those around us. Either by what we do through sinful disobedience or what we don't do through righteous obedience.
Obviously there are many more scriptures to support the validity of these concerns.  My desire is never to suggest a legalistic approach to living out your faith.  Rather to create a thought process for biblical obedience that is pleasing to God and useful for building up the Body of Christ.  I want to be careful to clarify that I am not advocating any change in our lives as a work unto salvation.  We are saved by grace alone.  However, in the process of sanctification aka. transformation as an evidence of the salvation that God has already provided, we should always be examining our lives for anything that would reflect poorly on Christ in us.  We cannot be the city on a hill shining the truth of the Gospel for all the world to see if we are tolerating or excusing sin in our lives, no matter how small..  We must guard our hearts and the hearts of those within our realm of influence from worldly, ungodly things at all times.

Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy. to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, for this is your spiritual act of worship. Be no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will  (Romans 12:1-2). 

Love in Christ,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Gospel..A false expectation, An Ineffective presentation

     I apologize in advance for the length of this post, however I believe this is a matter that should not be cheapened by issues of brevity.  It is loaded with heavy thoughts on a serious and eternal issue.  I pray you will see it through to the end and ask God what encouragement or challenge he may have for you in this post.
Here we go.
    In this age, when the culture is already corrupting us, unfortunately the Gospel Message has been watered down into a consumeristic, soft serve message designed not to create any fear or any offense. After all, the Gospel is "GOOD NEWS"!  Right?  Of course.  But, what is Good News without some Bad News?  It's just news.  People do not realize they need to be rescued, unless they are informed they are in trouble.  They will not understand that they need a Savior, unless they are informed there is something to be saved from. They will not understand that Salvation, without repentance and Lordship, not as the cause of salvation but as evidence of salvation, is not Salvation at all. They will not understand that they cannot accomplish this on their own.  They need the grace of God provided by the Holy Spirit to come into their lives, save them, and empower them to continue the growth process.(Phillipians 2:12-13)  They need to understand that Salvation, from the moment they are born again until the moment they are made perfect in heaven, is only possible by God's grace.  That they are incapable of walking out that faith, unless God places that gift of faith inside of them.  They need to understand that there is no goodness in them capable of accomplishing this(Romans 3:9-18)  That without the price that Jesus paid on the Cross, all our righteousness is as filthy rags(Isaiah 64:4-9) We are all evil sinners deserving of God's wrath.  We deserve his wrath because God hates sin.  He is perfect and cannot tolerate sin.  So he must separate himself.  That is why God sent Jesus to drink that cup of wrath and take on the penalty of our sins on the cross.
      Today's evangelistic message tends to be, Jesus loves you.  He died for you.  He wants to come into your heart.  All of this is true  Now pray this prayer and get baptized and you will  go to Heaven.  All of this is partially accurate.  But, it is an incomplete message.  There is no mention of repentance, of dying to oneself.  The focus is much more on Eternal Life than Eternal Death. So many want to talk about God's love, goodness, mercy, and blessings.  That's great for those who are already soundly saved to understand.  There is however, a whole other side of the story.  There is God's wrath, jealousy, justice, and judgement.  That is much more pertinent to the need of the lost.  Oh, we can't talk about that. Why?  We might offend or drive someone away?  They are all attributes of God and His most Holy love encompasses them all. Many of the great presenters of the Gospel in years past (Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield, D.L Moody, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Matthew Henry, A.W. Tozer  and many others of their day) believed in preaching the whole truth.  They would not steer away from the use of the Law of the Ten Commandments and the mention of Hell.  No.  They would begin with it in hopes of planting seeds of conviction among their listeners.  In fact, they believed the law of the Lord was essential to conversion of the soul(Psalms 19:7). The law makes us aware of our need for Christ(Romans 3:19-20).  In John 6:44 Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father that sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day".  It is not our responsibility to decide whether anyone chooses to follow Christ.  Our responsibility is to share the whole truth with the world because the knowledge of the truth will set them free. (Matthew 28:16-20; John 8:32)  So we do not have to avoid truth for fear of offense.
        If the lost do not understand the fullness of God then they are committing to an incomplete idea of who God is and what the complete idea of His love is. It will be difficult for converts to fully appreciate God's love and grace if they do not also understand God's wrath toward sinful man.  Think of it this way. It is difficult to fully appreciate and understand the glory of the cure for a disease unless we first realize that we have a disease and it is TERMINAL.  The gravity of that disease must be explained and THEN a person understands just how badly they need and want the cure.  Many ministers, myself included, are concerned that this incomplete presentation of the Gospel is leading to more false converts than anyone wants to admit.
     Today's contemporary Gospel message tends to be, "accept Jesus into your life and He'll give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness".  It rarely makes mention of the persecution verbally, emotionally, and physically that is promised in the Bible.  Sometimes, unto physical death. When Jesus called others to follow him, It wasn't warm and fuzzy.  In three different Gospels (Luke 9:23; Mark 8:34; Matthew 16:24) Jesus says, "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  DENY himself?  Take up his CROSS?  Doesn't sound much like the seeker sensitive, positive thinking, prosperity based message that is often preached today does it?  Jesus said, "Foxes have holes and birds have the air, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head. (Luke 9:58; Matthew 8:20)  This was in response to someone expressing interest in following him.  Not exactly a positive invitation.  I am not saying that God will not bless us.  God says He will supply for our every need according to his riches his and glory(Philippians 4:19) whether that requires natural or supernatural provision.  And yes the Bible speaks of prosperity and increase.  However, none of these were major talking points for convincing anyone to follow him.  He never said, "I have a wonderful plan for your life"   He never told them how to get their "best life now". Paul said, "you were dead in your sins"(Eph 2:1, Col 2:13) and Jesus said "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again".(John 3:3)  He said, "no man comes to the Father except the spirit draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day".(John 6:44)  The focus of the Gospel needs to be taken off of the creation and placed back on the Creator.  The focus needs to be taken off of the gifts and placed back on the Giver.  Being blessed and provided for should be a result of our salvation and obedience, NEVER the motivation for desiring salvation or being obedient..  If someone trusts in Jesus based on the idea of having a "blessed" life then when they experience trials, tribulations, and persecution they will likely not withstand them.
    Many Christians, in regards to evangelism, want to think that the Gospel is so simple and easy. They paint a pretty picture of the goodness of God, say confess and believe and "pray this prayer with me" and eternal life is yours.  Now I am not saying that is not part of it however, in Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, "Enter through the narrow gate, For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many will enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and few will find it".  Clearly there is more to it than believing and praying a prayer.  There must be a transformation. The bible says we are a new creation in Christ.  Old things pass away.  Thus, We cannot remain the same after a genuine salvation experience.
    Scripture also makes it clear that practicing religion is not be enough to guarantee you eternity. 2 Timothy 3 makes references to godlessness in the last days.  He lists all kinds of sinful behavior and then in vs. 4-5 he says "they are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness, but denying it's power.  In vs. 7 he makes reference to people who are "always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth".
         In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out many demons and in your name perform many miracles?  Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you, away from me you evil doers".  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and goats based on how they treat "the least of these".  He says the goats who did not take care of "the least of these" will go away to eternal punishment. Matthew 7:24-27 shows Jesus refering to those having a solid foundation as the ones who put God's word into practice.  Those who do not, will not have a solid foundation and will not stand in the end.
     So if the Gospel is so simple, then why does it seem like so many will miss the mark.  Why does it seem like our salvation is tied to works?  What about the Love?  What about the grace and mercy?  What about the cross?  I'm glad you asked.
      The bible makes it clear that if we are truly born again that it is by grace through faith so that no man may boast(Ephesians 2:8-9). Then the works, that are the faith based evidence of our salvation, will be evident in our lives.  Not that we work in our own power to attain or keep salvation, but that the same grace through the cross that saved us, will also work in us, enabling growth, enabling escape from the grip of sin and the things of this world,  and enabling us to obey every command that God has given us in His Word. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".  (Philippians 2:12-13)  
     It is our responsibility as ministers of the Word, who are responsible to make disciples (that is ALL Christians) as well as every pastor, that we encourage people to check their hearts, words, actions, and motives daily.  Sometimes it seems we are so concerned about encouraging the body of Christ and not causing them to doubt their faith that we avoid the entire truth of what it means to follow Jesus and how it represents the reality of our salvation. In 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 the apostle Paul says this, "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test  yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you---unless, of course, you fail the test"?  
     So, if it is God who saves you, and God who keeps you according to scripture(2 Timothy 1:12, Hebrew 12:2) then it stands to reason that if you fail the test, you were never saved to begin with.(1 John 2:19)  There is still hope.  My prayer is that if anyone has concerns about their salvation that they come desperately before the throne of Grace and cry out to God that he would save them. 1 John 2:3-6 says, "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, " I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, , God's love is trully made complete in him.  This is how we now we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did".  If we find this to be true then we have nothing to fear.
      The Gospel in it's entirety should be the driving force behind everything that we do and say.  It should not only be lived out, but spoken into the hearts of listeners in our path every opportunity we get.  That is the greatest act of love that we can show.  If we truly believe that billions of people around the world are going to die an eternal death without Jesus and we do not love our fellow man enough to show and tell them the truth of the Gospel and their desperate need for Jesus then we are not walking in the completeness of God's love and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we have not Love, then everything else is worthless.   In fact, there is a possibility, according to 1 John 2:3-6, that God will have some serious questions for us, IF he even knows us. 
      I will be writing a few more posts clarifying and fleshing out some of the ideas in this post.  Think of this as a preamble to the next several posts dealing with salvation and evangelism. 
       I write plainly and seriously because this is serious business.  People are going to HELL and the church is not doing much about it.  My love for the Church and for the lost grows daily. My concern for the potential lost souls IN the church buildings grows daily.  My hunger is to not only to see myself grow in obedience to the Word and knowledge of the Word, but to see the Church grow in an obedience to the Word and knowledge of the Word that will empower them to biblical evangelism and discipleship.  There is NO greater cause on this earth than glorifying God through the spread of the Gospel. 
     I continually pray that these posts though direct at times, will be able to be received in a loving way.  My desire is not to chastise but to jumpstart.  It is always out of love first for Jesus, then for the people, that I ever post on any topic.  May every post be covered by God's grace and every heart be prepared to receive whatever God would have them receive as they read these posts.

Love in Christ,

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Love each other. What does that mean?

      What does it mean to love each other?  The bible says, "love your neighbor as yourself" and" love your enemies".  But what does it really mean.  Most of us don't really live that out.  We tolerate most people at best.  We maybe call ourselves "loving our neighbor" if we like them, get along well, or if they are being nice to us or "loving" toward us.  What about people who are just downright ugly?  What about that neighbor that you really wish would just move?  Forget about enemies.  They can all burn.....right?  I have heard many a person say that about enemies like Hitler, Osama bin laden, or maybe even gangsta types.  How about that enemy that shows themselves in the person of your neighbor, or boss, or even a family member?  Mom, Dad, sibling, children, spouse, inlaws.  Do we really love anyone the way that God commands us to love everyone?  Are we even able to....without God's help?
      We have all heard of love bible verses quoted somewhere.  There are plenty of people who use
1 Corinthians 13 as a part of their wedding ceremony but you look at their marriage and they look more like enemies than allies.  Let's look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  To summarize, Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not self seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  If you are "religious" or even trying to actually live a Christian life, you have heard this scripture. But we have to ask ourselves the question, do we live it?  I for one have failed miserably at it.  I can tell you that it is only in the last six months that this scripture is something that I have honestly given any serious thought.
      In that six months I have done pretty well outside of the home at beginning to treat others better and to be less selfish.  In fact, aren't we generally more well behaved for the world than we are for our own families?  I think the phrase is, we hurt the ones we love the most.  Isn't that a sad truth.  We forget that, especially if we are Christians, that our family deserves our very best effort.  That they should be as much, if not more, a recipient of ministry and our example of Jesus, as the world is.  Yet usually we rest in and abuse their love and forgiveness rather than trying to show our appreciation for it by giving them our greatest effort at showing Christlike love.
     I have always done relatively well at being loving and forgiving towards friends and coworkers, yet the closer people are to my heart the harder I have found it to show them love and forgiveness.  In ministry that has proven to be true at times but, in the last six months I have found much more success in that area.  As a husband, I have failed miserably.  Oh, I called myself being loving by much of today's standards of marriage and intra-marital treatment.  I mean, I wasn't physically abusing her, or being unfaithful.  But, God did bless me with a temper.  I believe he did it so that he could show me one day that he is stronger than my temper.
     For a long time I believed that I was a pretty good husband.  The problems I did have were way more my wife's fault than mine. Or so I thought.   I mean, when I lost my temper it was because I believed I had been done wrong by her.  Even if I was calmly disrespectful, I called myself being passionate about what I was talking about.   Then I came face to face with the details of 1 Corinthians 13.  I realized that, often I was getting angry because I was "keeping a record of wrong" subconsciously.  I realized that I was becoming less patient very often and in turn, less kind.  I  realized that in my own self-seeking I was becoming easily angered, thus loosing the ability to protect my wife's heart and keep her trust, thus killing my witness toward her.  My apologies baby girl.  I realized that in order to be effective at leading my family I had to die to myself and allow the Holy Spirit to hold me accountable for my failure at loving selflessly.  I then needed to lovingly pray about concerns that I have in regards to my wife.  Realizing, of course, that the answer to the prayer may be a change in me.
      If we have a concern or complaint about someone else, no matter the relationship, the only power that we have to effect change, if the problem is in fact them and not us, is to pray and watch God work.  He can resolve any issue whether he has to move on you or the other person to do it.  Ultimately, the only person God holds responsible is us individually.  Even though as husbands we are the spiritual leaders of our households, we cannot be effective if we are not maturing in Christ and pursuing a selfless love towards our families.  The bible says that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  That is a heavily sacrificial picture if you really think about it.  
    In regards to anyone else, including our children, I believe that the fruits of the spirit are the ultimate goals that we should be striving for when interacting with them.  The bible says that if we are in unity with the Spirit that we will exhibit these nine fruits of the Spirit : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control(Galatians 5:22-23).  If we are exhibiting these, we will always show God's love towards others.  We will not be rough, rude, or hurtful to our spouses, children, strangers or enemies.  We will not have outbursts of uncontrolled or even controlled anger. Proverbs 15:1 says,"a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger".  Oh, if only I had paid attention when I was younger and learned scripture back then.  I might have saved myself so much trouble.  Praise God that he is faithfully teaching me now.
     Proverbs 15:3 says, "the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good".  I don't know about you but if God is watching everything we do I want Him to find me being loving and obedient, faithfully striving to keep his commands.  
    Lastly, two more scriptures regarding our response to others and I will end.  Proverbs 15:18 says: "A hot tempered person stirs up conflict, but a patient person calms a quarrel".  I can attest to this personally.  I have stirred up conflict because of my temper and I have calmed my children with patience and been calmed with patience by my wife.  James 1:19 says, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry".
     I can certainly not say that I have been successful in representing these truths consistently.  However, I know God is faithful to finish what he starts and so I anticipate constant improvement in the area of loving everyone with whom I come in contact to a greater degree.  I long to represent the qualities and characteristics of Christ and his sacrificial love to everyone that my life impacts.  My sweet wife, children, other family, friends, coworkers, even enemies deserve it because Jesus died for them all and I represent that sacrifice.  As do many of them.
   I hope that you will reflect on these ideas and evaluate whether you are truly loving others according to biblical standards. If not I pray that you will ask God to show  you any area that needs improvement and that you will surrender unto His unfailing love. If you do not know Jesus, then I pray that this post has planted a seed of the love and character of God in your heart that will bloom into a moment when Jesus draws your heart unto him.  Then you will understand a love like none other this world has to offer.

Love in Christ,