Archive for August, 2012

Realizing the “Corporate” Impact of Worship

For a long time (meaning until the last couple of months), I didn’t get much from the “corporate” nature of worship at church. If I’m honest, the primary benefit was that being in a room full of people allowed me to sing louder than I normally would. To a certain degree that allowed me to connect with the lyrics more.

But, in reality, corporate worship wasn’t much different from private worship with a live band for me. I could be equally moved by a worship song on the radio or CD as I drove from one place to another. I don’t think that is necessarily bad, but I do think it reveals that I was missing something significant about what God intended for us to experience / learn from our time together in corporate worship.

Recently during corporate worship I looked around the room. It wasn’t that I was being distracted by the people around me. Instead I was marveling that this many people, with so many various backgrounds and struggles, could connect with the same lyrics / message that I was.

I began to listen to the lyrics in a less self-centered way. I began to see in the word “sin” more than my own failures, in the word “suffering” more than my own hardships, and in the word “Savior” more than my own deliverance from life to death.

No longer did the congregation feel like a choir merely in the sense that it was a large number of voices singing the same song at the same time. The congregation felt like a great movement of people who were telling the same story of the gospel from countless number of experiences.

I thought about the person struggling with chronic pain, the shame of sexual sin, remembering the slavery of addiction, grieving the waywardness of a child, struggling to connect with their spouse, uncertain about a career decision, feeling like an idiot over losing their temper again, and other struggles.

I saw there were people who already looked like they had been through Hell in their life, and people who had to admit their “good life” could never satisfy the deepest cravings of their soul.

I also thought about the person new to the Christian faith who is singing line after line and being hearing / seeing these life giving truths for the first time. I thought about the wayward Christian coming back to the faith freshly allowing these truths to penetrate their hearts after months or years of resisting. Hearing these lyrics as water to a dry and thirsty soul.

I imagined God the Father listening to this chorus of people, knowing each person and each story individually. God doesn’t hear, at least He isn’t interested in, our vocal quality. God sees His children identifying with one another as family by being willing to become vulnerable enough to proclaim the gospel in song as their life story.

As I realized that this was what I was participating in, it made the voices around me much more than a sound-shield for my own vocal deficiencies. As I sang, I was adding my story to the tapestry of redemption in that room. By singing I was identifying with everyone in the room.

They were not just singing truth so that I could hear it louder. By their singing they were adding new dimensions to what it meant to say “Christ is better,” “Jesus in my place,” and “God is enough.” As an individual I can only know those aspects of God’s redemption that touch my life. As I know my fellow church members and here them sing the truths that changed my life, I can get a vision for redemption in a thousand different colors, flavors, textures, histories, and stories.

With that in mind my experience of corporate worship has been much richer. No longer are the people around me a shield for my own vocal insecurities. Instead, my fellow worshippers become new lenses through which I can savor the grace of God found in the gospel.

GCM “Foundations” Video 3: Marriage as Covenant

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations (part 3) from Equip on Vimeo.

Section Two Resource: Marriage Evaluation_We Identity & Leave and Cleave
Worksheet One: Jigsaw Marriage Excercise

Memorize: Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV), “[Jesus] answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, 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.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “From the beginning” – Marriage’s existence and design were not God’s plan B response to anything.
  • “Leave… cleave” – Your response to the world around you, even family, is changed when you enter a marriage.
  • “One flesh” – You’re sharing life when you marry. How you think about and administrate life should display this.
  • “No longer two” – Jesus re-emphasizes the oneness of marriage to show how radically it transforms our identity.
  • “God has joined” – Once you have made a covenant, God’s seal supersedes your choice in terms of importance.

 Teaching Notes

“How a man thinks about marriage will certainly affect his perspective of his role, his wife’s role, and the relationships itself (p. 60).” Stuart Scott in The Exemplary Husband

“Society still considers the parent-child relationship to be a covenantal one, not a consumer relationship (p. 81).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“You must individually receive your spouse as God’s provision… You must accept His gift. Receiving your spouse demonstrates your faith in God’s integrity. Adam’s focus was on God’s flawless character, not Eve’s performance. He knew God, and he knew that God could be trusted (p. 87)… In the 100/100 plan, there is no talk of ‘meeting each other halfway.’ You are both willing to do anything it takes to make the marriage work (p. 94).” Dennis Rainey (editor) in Preparing for Marriage

“What most divorces mean is that at least one party, and possibly both, have ceased to put the gospel first in their lives (p. 35).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

C.S. Lewis on Gospel Phrases

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“You can express this in all sorts of different ways. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarreling with other people because they use a different formula from yours (p. 181-182).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

How often are our most heated arguments with those with whom we have essential agreement? An argument tends to draw our attention to our differences. When we argue with friends, we begin to view allies as adversaries.

In this statement Lewis is not saying that all messages of hope are equal (i.e., all roads do not lead to heaven). He is saying that the gospel is presented many different ways in Scripture. The dynamic and complete transformation it brings cannot be captured in any single metaphor.

Spirit filled, born again, made new, washed, forgiven, predestined, made whole, living water, adopted, and many other phrases capture aspects of the gospel. Based upon many factors or personality and history, each one of us may have a special affection for one or more of these phrases.

While we are not free to choose one metaphor over the others (which is what happens when we argue), we are free to jump into the gospel via whichever metaphor God uses to open our blind eyes (another metaphor).

When we rightly meditate upon and rest in any metaphor of the gospel, it will lead us to appreciate the others. It is like learning the circulation system of the body (veins, arteries, and capillaries). If you sincerely study any one part of the circulation system, it will naturally and necessarily lead you to discover the others.

Error is not only falsehood, but also truth exaggerated and truth in isolation from other truths. In that sense it is wrong to have a “favorite gospel phrase” if it creates in us a bias against other ways that God chose to reveal His work of redemption.

We are finite creatures, so we will enter into truth at a particular point and begin to discover the rest of truth from that point. Let us be humble, eager travelers on this journey. Like any explorer, when we find a new place (gospel metaphor) we should examine it carefully. But studying each metaphor will lead us to the border of other gospel metaphors and should create a yearning to discover more.

There is another part of this reflection that should humble (but not shame) us. Whatever gospel metaphor we are currently savoring should seem so glorious to us that we don’t want to be distracted from it. This is not bad, but it does create a bias that should cause us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (words of criticism; James 1:19)” to our Christian brothers and sisters who are speaking of the gospel metaphor they are currently savoring.

It is doubtful that Christians will agree on the appropriate balance or emphasis that should be given to the biblical metaphors for the gospel. But we should be able to agree that each biblical metaphor is valid (divinely inspired) and be willing to learn from those who savor it (at least to humbly learn of our exaggeration as we are more keenly aware of theirs).

GCM “Foundations” Video 2: What Makes Marriage Work?

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

MarriageEquip(Part2) from Equip on Vimeo.

Worksheet One: Sketching Our Marriage Story

Worksheet One (Completed Sample): Marriage Story_Birth to Wedding_SAMPLE

Worksheet Two: Marriage Story_ Present or Future

Worksheet Three:  Celebrating Our Non-Moral Differences

Memorize: Ephesians 5:28-30 (ESV), “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “In the same way” – We’re to present our spouse to God spotless and holy as Christ does the church (Eph 5:27).
  • “As their own bodies” – What we’d do for our self should be the minimum we’re willing to do for our spouse.
  • “Loves his wife love himself” – We best love ourselves by loving our spouse; creating a home marked by peace.
  • “Nourishes and cherishes” – We’re to be excellent (willing, skillful, and frequent) at what builds up our spouse.
  • “As Christ does” – We can only love our spouse this way because of God’s love for us (I John 4:10-11, 19).

 Teaching Notes

“We are not to live for one another, but live beside one another for the Lord. Our lives are not meant to revolve around one another, but they are meant to revolve together around Jesus Christ (p. 141).” John Henderson in Catching Foxes

“One of the riskiest, but most rewarding benefits of a marriage relationship is the exhilarating experience of knowing and being known, of revealing and having another person reveal himself or herself to you (p. 19)… If the person who knows you best also loves you most, your marriage will be truly special (p. 88).” Dennis Rainey (editor) in Preparing for Marriage

“The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice… So, what do you need to make marriage work? You need to know the secret, the gospel, and how it gives you both the power and pattern for your marriage (p. 47)… Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’ (p. 121)” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“Surely God could have made it ‘good’ on the first attempt. Pay close attention: God is creating drama to underscore something important about marriage (p. 59).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“Marital dissatisfaction is best met with prayer, ‘That is why I need you, O God’ (p. 237).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

“It is not your husband or wife’s choices that you are rejecting, but God’s… It is God who formed your spouse with his or her natural gifts and personality, and after he did, he stood back and declared your spouse ‘good.’ It is hurtful to your spouse when you disrespect her for things she did not choose or reject her for things she cannot change. Every difference is an opportunity to celebrate God’s creative artistry (p. 211).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

Special Trip III: Preparing My Youngest Son for Kindergarten

One of the things I have found most satisfying as a parent is defining special occasions and major lessons with a memorable trip. In previous posts I have discussed the kindergarten right of passage trip I took with my first son and a trip we took when he was especially discouraged at school. This post is about the kindergarten right of passage trip I recently took with my youngest son (pictures on Facebook).

With each trip I am learning things I would do differently. But the memories and value of each trip far outweigh the changes. Our schedule for this trip was to leave early Friday morning and get a cinnamon roll breakfast (his favorite) before going to the Tweetsie Railroad amusement park (he loves trains).

marshallWhen asked what he wanted to do on his special trip, he immediately said, “Climb a mountain.” So Friday night we stayed at Ridgecrest Retreat Center and climbed a mountain. Saturday we drove to Atlanta to catch a Braves game that evening. On the final day we went to the Georgia Aquarium (he loves animals) and got steaks (his other favorite food) on our way home.

Here are my thoughts on the trip (some serious, some playful).

  • It was worth every minute of planning and dollar we invested in the trip. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but I highly recommend this discipleship and bonding activity.
  • I believe my son knows that he is headed into a new season of life. As his father, I want to frame the significance of the moments instead of letting them slip by or be defined by someone else.
  • For a younger brother who adores his big brother (often using him as a security blanket), taking this kind of trip on his own was important for his sense of independence and confidence.
  • Tailoring the trip around your kid’s interest (trains, animals, and favorite foods) is a great way to remind them that you know them and enjoy them.
  • Keep the Bible study time simple. We mainly focused on Luke 2:40. I looked for several occasions to emphasize how Jesus grew in wisdom, strength, and favor with God. Several times I prayed over my son out loud asking for these things for him and that God would use him to change the world.
  • Setting my son up to succeed was a joy. I could tell going into the trip he feared his mouth had written a check (climbing a mountain) his feet couldn’t cash. Our “climb” was a ¾ mile walk up a paved, steep hill to a great view. When he got to the top, he felt like a champion.
  • Improv to build the memories. There were “Beware of Bears” flyers at the camp ground. Again, my son faced his fears to climb the mountain. Later we stopped at Bass Pro Shop to get his picture with a stuffed bear. We told Mama about the flyers after we got back down.
  • My son was so excited about having climbed a mountain that we had to do again in the morning before we left for Atlanta. He was thrilled to tell his brother and be the only kindergartner who had climbed a mountain. On the way up the second time he said, “Papa, I love you with the same love I love Mama with.” That was a gold standard promotion coming from a little boy who usually growls at anyone (including Mama) who says, “I love you,” to him.
  • Go out for late night ice cream. We’ve done this on each trip and the quality of conversation has been incredible. Kids tend to talk when they know they should be asleep.
  • Use gifts to cement the memories. A children’s pack of binoculars and compass made the outdoor adventure more real. I pray each time he plays with these he remembers our adventure.
  • Things you should say frequently on this kind of trip, “I love you… I enjoy being your Papa… These are memories I’ll never forget… I believe God will use you to change the world.”
  • Don’t tank as a parent when something goes badly. The baseball game was a complete dud. My son was bored and disinterested. All he wanted to do was to climb to the top of the stadium (still enamored with his mountain accomplishment) and explore the cheap seats.
  • Make sure you leave time for rest. If your child doesn’t get time to sleep because the schedule is too full, the end of the trip will likely go poorly.
  • Teaching him to eat cold pizza for breakfast was another fun way to reinforce that he is getting older.
  • Don’t compare. The experiences with my oldest and youngest son’s trips were very different. At times I could feel myself wanting to recreate what I enjoyed about the first one. That would have robbed this trip of its unique joys.
  • Review the trip together. On the way home we talked through our trip – activities, meals, conversations, and silly stories. It was a subtle way to reinforce the lessons I wanted to implant and help to cement this experience in his memory.

Note from Special Trip II: Six months after that trip, we were doing family worship and came to Matthew 5:13-16. I asked my oldest if he remembered that passage. Without hesitation he said, “That was what we talked about in the hot tub on our special trip when things were going bad at school.”

As a parent, that is what I want. I want my boys to remember the significant and challenging seasons of their lives were times when Papa was uniquely present and that the Bible spoke into those moments in special ways. When my son can connect those dots that clearly six months later, I become even more excited about these trips.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.

C.S. Lewis on an Awkward Picture of Evangelism

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin solider into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh: all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can do to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it (p. 179).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What a great image of how we often respond to God’s activity in our life. We are being brought from death to life and we resist it.

Think of a time when you have sat or slept in an awkward position and due to cutting off the circulation, your foot has “fallen asleep.” As the blood flows back, there is a painful tingling sensation that we would stop if we could. That is a small taste of life invading death.

Now imagine cold hard lungs becoming soft again and grasping for air, or a stone heart passing through the sensation of an intense “Charlie horse” as it begins to beat again. These mercies that would be miraculous would be experienced initially as torture.

Now, following Lewis’ lead, let’s imagine these events less self-centeredly. Imagine you are the child Lewis describes who loves his toy and wants to bless it with life so that it could know the affection you have for it in ways a dead/inanimate object cannot.

While this confounds the metaphor slightly, imagine giving life required the cooperation of your beloved tin soldier. Each time you begin the process of imparting life, the soldier resists and resents you as a mean or harsh person. But you continue to love your toy and want to give it life so that it can know your love and have a more full existence.

This is one picture (not the only picture) of evangelism. We are beloved toys (metaphorically speaking) who have passed from death to life and found the change to be of inestimable value. We are encouraging our fellow toys to trust their Owner because He is good and the changes He wants to make in them are the best thing that could ever happen.

Yet any step that is taken towards life causes intense pain (dying to self – Luke 9:23; becoming a new creation – 2 Cor. 5:20). Our testimony sounds life foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). Their experience of what God offers is the exact opposite of what we say.

Oddly, the pain of gaining life distracts them from the absence of life in which they are already existing. We realize that we cannot make blind/dead eyes see or deaf/dead ears hear the truth. The same God who must change their heart must touch their eyes and ears as well.

We are merely an example, in word and deed, that the result of God’s activity is truly life. We recognize their fear of the gospel is rational from where they are. It will cost them everything (Matt 13:44-46). From where they stand, the price cannot be “worth it” unless they accept that their everything is nothing compared God Himself.

We patiently, repeatedly, and passionately affirm that He is. We have compassion towards their fear of embracing life. But we do not agree with their fear. We simply affirm that a moment of true life is of greater value than an eternity of living death, and we ask them to accept God’s offer.

GCM “Foundations” Video 1: What Makes Marriage Hard?

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

MarriageEquip(Part1) from Equip on Vimeo.

Unit One Evaluation: GCM_Foundations_Eval1_Expectations

Memorize: Luke 9:23-25 (ESV), “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  •  “All” – You’ll never be a better spouse than you are disciple. Growing as a spouse requires becoming Christ-like.
  • “Deny” – Marriage exists in a context of limited resources (time, money, attention, etc…) and requires sacrifice.
  • “Daily” – Like discipleship, a good marriage is achieved in daily moments and decisions, not “special” moments.
  • “Save… lose… loses…save” – A satisfying marriage is the product of two people learning joy by sacrificial love.
  • “Profit” – It is good to want a great marriage, but we’re often misguided on how to attain, protect, and enrich it.

Teaching Notes

“Our personal dreams for marriage seem so beautiful and convincing that we don’t stop to consider that God’s dreams for us may be different (p. 60).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“I am persuaded that it is more regular than irregular for couples to get married with unrealistic expectations (p. 16)… The person who was once your escape from responsibility has become your most significant responsibility. Spending time together is radically different from living together. Reasons for attraction now become sources of irritation (p. 32)… Marriages don’t typically change with an explosion. Marriages typically change by the process of erosion (p. 254).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

“But here’s the problem. My wife does not learn about my sins like a physician learns about my diseases or like my counselor learns about my anger and fear. She knows my sins because they so often are committed against her… And there’s the Great Problem of marriage. The one person in the whole world who holds your heart in her hand, whose approval and affirmation you most long for and need, is the one who is hurt more deeply by your sins than anyone else on the planet (p. 162)… Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it (p. 140).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become ‘whole’ and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that it we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect of marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we will always marry the wrong person (p. 417).” Stanley Hauerwas in “Sex and Politics” in Christian Century (April 19, 1978).

“When you marry a person, you don’t know what they are going to be like in thirty years (p. 58).” John Piper in This Momentary Marriage

Closing

It would be easy to be overwhelmed at this point and think that a good marriage requires a perfect spouse. These questions reveal how far short we all fall from being a perfect spouse. But Jesus put this kind of high standard before anyone who wanted to be his disciple, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” His purpose, however, wasn’t discouragement, but revival.

That is the aim of a gospel-centered approach to marriage. We want more than marital enrichment. We want marital revival! We desperately need an intense awakening to what God called marriage to be; not a mere nudging towards more functional principles. The general condition of marriage in our culture cries out to God for a radical transformation of our “common sense” and “best practices” about marriage, because they’re not working.

If we are going to seek a gospel-centered marriage, we must realize such an endeavor will cast us to our knees begging God for the grace, strength, and wisdom to bless our spouse and homes in ways that we are, in ourselves, utterly incapable and sometimes even unwilling to do. But from our knees we will find that God is both willing and capable to give the kind of marriage we could have never had on our feet.

That brings us to one final virtue that is absolutely necessary to experience and enjoy a gospel-centered marriage – humility.

Marriage is a journey from our weakness (both spouses) to God’s strength. Due to the affects of sin, many of our weaknesses are exaggerated strengths. So even our strengths must be handled with humility or they betray us and our marriage. But when handled with humility even our weaknesses become a blessing to our marriage. It is only the gospel that will teach us to view life this way.

Enslaved: Uncovering the Truth of Sexual Addiction

I am excited to be a part of Converting Hearts Ministry’s annual conference which will be September 7-8 at Open Door Baptist Church. This year the theme will be “Enslaved: Uncovering the Truth of Sexual Addiction.” At this year’s conference I will be presenting both the False Love and True Betrayal seminars to equip churches to minister to both sides of the sexual sin within marriage.

Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has expressed his enthusiasm for the conference in this video.

Here is the schedule and line up of speakers for this years conference.

Friday September 7, 2012

Pre-Conference

8:00AM Registration Opens
8:30AM Pre-Conference Session 1 – Brad Hambrick | True Betrayal
12:00PM Steve Noble
1:00PM Brad Hambrick | False Love
4:00PM Pre-Conference Session 2 – Sam Williams | A Christian Psychology & Response to Homosexuality

Conference

5:30 PM Registration Opens
6:15PM Greeting and Worship | Worship Music by Matt Papa
6:30PM Main Session 1 – Stephen Davey
7:30PM Break
7:45PM Main Session 2 – Shawn Saunders
8:15PM Main Session 3 – Danny Akin
9:15PM Close of Conference – Day 1

Saturday September 8, 2012

8:30 AM Breakouts/Round Tables
10:30AM Main Session 1 – Tyler Jones
12:00PM Lunch | Lunch can be purchased at conference
1:00PM Breakouts
2:45PM Main Session 2 – Tony Merida
3:30PM Break
3:45PM Main Session 3 – Dwayne Milioni
4:45PM Close of Conference

For more information about this conference and to register, please visit http://pursuitofmore.com/

C.S. Lewis on a God Infection

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if he chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry (p. 176).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Let that sentence sink in, “They [joy, power, peace, eternal life, etc…] are not a sort of prize which God could, if he chose, just hand out to anyone.” That is a paradigm shattering statement.

Consider it this way. I cannot give my “likeness” to any child who makes me smile. I could give them money, candy, or make them laugh. But I cannot give them my eyes, my nose, or my sense of humor. My commodities or blessings are of a completely different nature than my attributes.

I can only pass my attributes on to my children who are “infected” with my DNA. There is no way for them to acquire those traits without sharing in me. As my children love me more, those attributes become more and more pronounced in them (even as they mature in to the young men God designed them to be).

Similarly, we cannot have those qualities which are attributes God’s (i.e., joy, power, peace, life, hope, etc…) without being “infected” with God. These qualities are not “his” as in property, but “Him.” We are asking for Him when we ask for these things. As we love Him more, these attributes become increasingly ours even as we grow into the people God created us to be.

So we come to the often asked question, “Why doesn’t God make everyone happy? Why doesn’t God give every one joy?” But this is now a much different question. We realize we are not talking about a mere commodity for an attribute of God’s character.

God does offer everyone joy when He offers them Himself. It is merely that God cannot give joy if they reject Him. To ask for joy apart from surrendering to “God’s infection of your soul” would be like the child who wanted to play in snow that wasn’t cold.

We accept the cold is an attribute of snow and that snow does not exist apart from cold. Yet in our rebellion against God we have come to believe we can define desirable things apart from God (Gen 3:5). So we are slow to accept that joy is an attribute of God and that joy does not exist apart from God.

For this reason, we ask for joy apart from God and feel offended when we are told our request is unreasonable. Yet our upset is as illogical as the child who wants to make a snowman but refuses to put on boots or mittens.

Simply put, we must realize that when we ask God for any good things we are asking for more of Him. We are not asking for a commodity to hold, but His presence to abide. Until we realize this we are likely to overlook God’s answer to many of our prayers and feel neglected when we are being offered the highest honor to any person – “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).”

The Glorious Family Meal Calendar

This may not be the most flashy suggestion, but the marital and financial benefits far exceed the common expectations from planning your family dinners a month at a time and posting them in the kitchen (generic template: Blank Monthly Meal Calendar). Consider the following benefits of this exercise for your budget and marriage and consider how many areas of your marriage will be enhanced by this simple exercise.

  • Food is a major line item in any family budget. Other than mortgage / rent, food is the next largest expenditure in many families. A monthly meal calendar creates many ways to cut the cost of food while elevating the priority of having meals together.
  • Grocery shopping becomes easier and more economical. The grocery list is breakfast food, lunch food, and whatever you don’t have to fix that week’s dinners. Shopping is more efficient (which protects family time) and more economical (less food goes bad as you only buy what you need).
  • Having a meal calendar promotes the importance of having a family meal time. You give value and honor to the things you plan. You build a sense of expectation that this is something “we do” and enjoy. No longer does there have to be “a reason” to sit at the table together; now there has to be a reason not to.
  • Cooking becomes less stressful. Deciding what to fix and figuring out if you have the ingredients is usually the stressful part of dinner. A few minutes at the beginning of the month means no more freezing up at the pantry door and less relying on the “quickie” fall back option (i.e., usually frozen pizza or chicken nuggets).
  • Plan “leftovers” to save money and relieve stress on busy evenings. You usually know what nights things are too hectic to cook. Without a plan there is a tendency to either eat out or eat something unhealthy. With a little planning you can warm up something healthy.
  • Become intentional about when to eat out. Eating out is a wonderful treat, but should not be a way of life. As a way of life, eating out is bad stewardship.
  • With a meal calendar you will be forced to consider how many “date nights” you are setting aside each month. This is a great marital practice.
  • You will eat healthier. A lifestyle of preparing last minute meals doesn’t tend to be a healthy life. Eating more fruits and vegetables can create a significant savings in medical cost and time away from work.
  • You will eat a greater variety of foods and, therefore, enjoy time at home more. Part of the reason the culture neglects home is because we’ve allowed it to become mundane and repetitive. When we put a little planning into our home life we can be intentional about bringing variety into it. You can plan when you’re going to try that new recipe you’ve wanted to cook.
  • You will begin to view month as a whole. There are huge advantages to viewing this larger unit of time (month vs. week). By looking at the evenings you’re already scheduled to be out at the beginning of the month, you know the critical times to protect in order to ensure you don’t go large stretches without time together as a couple.
  • Reveals the opportunity for community. Meals are a natural time to get to know neighbors and people from small group. When meals are planned at the last minute it often feels like a “big deal” to have people over (if we think of fit at all). As you plan your meal calendar, you can look at when you would have people over and plan a meal that accommodates more people.
  • This is a quick and easy exercise after you do it the first month. After the first month you just update the evenings you have plans, add any new recipes you want to try, and juggle your favorites to fill in the rest. The few minutes it takes will be more than replaced with the time/money you save and the marital benefits.

This tool and explanation are an excerpt from:

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Finances
Topics: Budgeting in a Way that Enhances Your Marriage

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Finances” post which address other facets of this subject.