Thursday, August 25, 2016

Making A Christian Marriage #6

What About Divorce?

by Betty Jackson

Statistics do not fully reveal all there is about the divorce rate. Some religious sources suggest that one out of two marriages will end in divorce. Others say that is not a correct way of working out the statistics. Another source says 31% of people ages 35-54 who are married, engaged, or illicitly living with someone have been married before. Whatever the correct numbers are, from our own evaluations we can logically conclude that divorce is common place in our society.

There are some who claim the percentages of divorces is declining. We would love to know that is true for the right reasons. But there are more people living together without marriage than ever before. Some even question the need for marriage. They have accepted the sad idea that it is unrealistic for two people to expect to stay together throughout life. 

Divorce is a problem among Christians. The pain that brings people to the point of divorce is real. In the world, and the church, the scriptural regulations for divorce are often ignored. If one even thinks about divorce, there is work to be done! Granted some marriages cannot be saved because of a mate’s adultery and refusal to repent. (cf. Matthew 19:1-9.)

What is God’s design for marriage? Human beings are created social creatures. Marriage provides intimate companionship and the only God-approved sexual relationship. It is the best environment for the rearing of children. But there is another purpose: to promote the spreading of the gospel of Christ. 

One of the problems for most of us is we are a bit self-centered. Unfortunately, many are adept at manipulation, which is damaging to any relationship. We generally see things through “our” eyes, and not those of God. If we kept our hearts and minds focused on marriage as an institution for serving God and his cause of redemption, many issues would simply dissolve. Marriage is truly an opportunity to grow up, to mature spiritually, and help another person get to heaven.

This six article series has not been able to address the whole of making marriage work. Perhaps there have been some tidbits of advice that can help each of us work harder at the goal of making our spousal relationships special.Those of us who seek to serve the Lord know that we can grow and mature as long as we live. So with this final article, I would like to focus upon some words found in Philippians 4:8. The inspired apostle Paul instructs us to dwell upon things that are “worthy of praise” (NASV).

It is sad to witness couples who are in a verbal war. They are the antithesis of the old western song originally written by Brewster M. Higley, Home on the Range, with the chorus wherein are these words, “...where seldom is heard a discouraging word...” How life would be made pleasant if instead of the many discouraging, demanding put-downs and criticisms, words of praise were given.

Our times are so void of social graces. Saying “thank you” is foreign vocabulary, as well as asking “please.” Some treat strangers with more courtesy than their spouses! Children will run over elderly people, and brush by without a care if they knock them down, stuff their pockets with food, eat with poor manners, etc. Pardon me, I stray! My point is, we need to return to a time of some etiquette. not only with people we do not know, but in the home.

We can find something in our mates, and they in us, that is displeasing or thoughtless. We are all sinners. We don’t always do the right thing. If we want to be treated with tolerance and respect, we must give it. Peter encourages wives to live such godly and pure lives that husbands will take notice. Even Christian men can grow because of their chaste wives. (1 Peter 3:1-4)

If we dwell on the negative, we will behave in a negative way. If we do our best to meditate upon the virtuous and praiseworthy, our hearts will be encouraged and more peaceful. Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he...” (Proverbs 23:7). In context, it has to do with a person who is stingy in his thoughts, then begrudges the hospitality that he has given. The principle is we are what we think! If we think virtuous, peaceful, loving and praising thoughts, our actions will come to match the thoughts. Does that mean we always feel like acting sweet? No. Yet, Paul said to “think about these things.” We can choose to bring our thoughts under control, then, and only then, will we be able to act the way we should.

Paul considered giving up all that prestige and honor he had with the Jews before his conversion as loss, as waste. (cf. Philippians 3:7-11). Why not consider letting go of the negatives as giving up holding on to bitterness because we don’t get all we want from a spouse as loss for Christ, and positively live to influence our mates for his spiritual good. It is difficult to give up our “feelings” but feelings are fleeting in eternal terms. Live for the eternal.

How wonderful it is to have the Lord’s description of the woman he wants us to be. Let us strive to become the “rare” woman, with the help of God. 

“An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10-12, ESV).

“Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (vss. 25-26).


Try This:

Read Philippians 4:7-9 twice a week for one month. Read 1 Peter 3:1-4 once a week for one month.

Make a mental note of the things your mate does that are praiseworthy. Do this with a good attitude. There must be something, unless he is an abusive man. In that case, you need some professional help. Remember thoughtlessness is not necessarily equal to abusiveness!

Do This:

Use good manners!  If you have not been taught, find a book or article on line. Set your table at least part of the time with something nice, a flower from your yard, or a candle. Set the mood for good manners. Teach your children how to act at the table, greeting older people, and how to sit still during worship, according to their age. Be an example.
(See: http://education.qld.gov.au/library/docs/edhistory/goodmanners)

Thank your husband, sincerely, not in order to manipulate him into doing things you want him to do. Many times we may fail to thank our mates for things they do for us. How often do we fail to use good manners when we make requests? It is easy to become too comfortable and take our spouses for granted. It is easier to grumble about his failing to take out the garbage, than to pleasantly ask with a “please.” Is it easier to complain than to praise?

Read this article:



Memorize this:

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Questions

1. Ask self: Am I really willing to do the hard work to make my     marriage better?
2.  Ask self: Am I a negative thinker?
3. Do I pray for the Lord’s providence to help me have wisdom?
4. Have I thought about how to improve manners in our home. Teach children by example. Good manners and courtesy is consideration.

Recommended Reading

Articles
Jackson, Wayne. Christian Courier:
Examine Yourselves. 
https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1445-examine-yourselves

Some Questions About Divorce and Remarriage.

Books
Jackson, Wayne. Divorce & Remarriage, as Study Discussion. Stockton, CA. Christian Courier Publications. 1983.

Ladd, Karol. Power of A Positive Wife. West Monroe, LA. Howard Publishing Co. 2003. 
(Note: Some of the contents of this book are not biblical. Yet Bible principles about marriage are true regardless of who says them.)

Loden, Patsy. Loving Your Husband —How to Transform Your Marriage and Honor Your Covenant. Huntsville, AL. Publishing Designs, Inc. 2010. (Mrs. Loden is a member of the church of Christ.)








Thursday, August 11, 2016

Youth and the Age of the Earth

by Betty Jackson

I am concerned about our youth. Nothing is new under the sun in principle; older folks have always expressed godly worry for young people. The book of Proverbs tells us
about the advice a concerned father gave his son for his spiritual welfare, which is still relevant (1-7). Paul warned his young protege to “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22).

Satan has always used tools to draw people away from God. Currently, one of his major tools is the teaching of evolution. Every media from school textbooks to nature programs promote the idea that the age of the earth is 4.5 to 5 billion years old, and that mankind evolved between 6 to 2 million years ago (http://humanorigins.si.edu/ education/introduction-human-evolution).

A few years ago, I was teaching sixth grade students my series Reasoning to Believe. Though I had carefully taught the biblical view of creation and logical reasons for the young age of the earth, I was surprised that one of the brightest kids in the class was sure that the earth was 5 billion years old. This is what he had learned from school and other sources. Seeds of unbelief were already planted.

Our Bible classes need to include the investigation of when human beings arrived upon the earth, the age of our planet, and the Bible. One may ask why study these topics in a Bible class. Aren’t those only subjects for science? Well, it is a biblical topic, for the Bible does indicate something about the age of the earth and human beings.

The book titled Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer includes surveys showing that many young adults who lost their faith began having doubts in the early grades when they were first exposed to evolutionary teaching about the age of the earth. What better weapon does Satan have than destroying confidence in the Bible’s first chapter as the historical record of creation?

I am not naive enough to believe that the only reason young people, or old, leave God is their lack of confidence in the Bible, or belief in evolution. Life is more complex than that. But it is definitely a significant factor.

John Clayton who lectures about the existence of God and his conversion from atheism, made this statement, 

"A scientist who is commenting on religion needs to be treated very skeptically, and a religious figure who is explaining science needs to be treated in the same way. ... We cannot minimize the conflict between science and faith as long as we listen to extremists on both sides who have an agenda and explain things which they know very little about” (cf.http://www.doesgodexist.org/JulAug10/Polarization-
Worsens.html).

In the first place there is no conflict between the Bible and true science. In his article, the brother insinuates that homeschooling parents are not qualified to teach science. This man is a theistic evolutionist, though he dislikes the label. However, he is quoted, “A cursory look at the issues in evolution will make it clear that evolution itself does not exclude a concept of an external monitoring agent (God)”  (http://www.doesgodexist.org/
JanFeb14/ScienceAndFaith.EnemiesOrFriends.html).

Atheistic evolutionists believe that given enough time, the impossible can become possible. With enough time, they are convinced that a big bang can bring a universe into existence accidentally, and that life can spontaneously generate. It is a simple math equation to answer those ideas. What is 0x0 or 0+0? If there was ever a time when nothing existed, what would there be now? Sadly when one is so committed to “proving” his pre-determined idea, nonsense will be marketed as sensible.

The late professor of the University of Hawaii, Victor Stenger, in a magazine article, Was the Universe Created? (Free Inquiry. 1987, Summer, Vol. 7, No. 3), wrote:

“. . .[T]he universe is probably the result of a random quantum fluctuation in a spaceless, timeless void. . . the earth and humanity are not conscious creations but an accident. . . it is not sufficient merely to say, ‘you can’t get something from nothing.’ While everyday experience and common sense seem to support this principle, if there is anything that we have learned from twentieth-century physics, it is this: Common sense is often wrong, and our normal experiences are but a tiny fraction of reality.”

Poor Victor! He believed that 0x0 equals something!

What shall we do? I want to make this point so very clear. You do not need to have a PhD to figure out whether true science reveals an earth age of 4-5 billion years, and whether humans evolved around 3 million years ago. You do not have to answer every complicated argument that is made, to prove that the theory of an “aged earth” is untrue. But what you do need to do, is to know the questions, and where the answers are. There are links and recommended books listed below.

Let’s secure the hearts of our children, and ourselves.

Recommended Reading

Articles

There are many articles worth reading on these two sites.
Apologetics Press Inc. 

Butt, Kyle:
Lyon, Eric:

Rodgers PhD, Justin:
Does the Hebrew Word Yōm Endorse an Old Earth? 

Christian Courier Publishing Co.

Jackson, Jason:
Evaluating Evolution in Plain English. 
Jackson, Wayne:
False Charges Against Creationism. 
Available from Christian Courier Publications
P.O. Box 690308, Stockton, CA 95269-0308.
(731) 256-7280 or (209) 472-2475
Jackson, Wayne.
The Bible On Trial.
Creation, Evolution and the Age of the Earth

Available from Apologetics Press
Use the links.
Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt: Truth Be Told…
http://www.apologeticspress.org/store/Product.aspx?pid=54

Available from Master Books, New Leaf Publications. 
Ken Hamm and Britt Beemer. Already Gone.
http://www.masterbooks.com/already-gone-paperback-single

(Disclaimer: I do not endorse all of the doctrines of Ken Hamm and his associates. The recommended book has valuable information and surveys.

(Picture copyright: <ahref='http://www.123rf.com/profile_fotomandm'>fotomandm / 123RF Stock Photo</a>)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Making A Christian Marriage #5

 by Betty Jackson

Making Choices


Joshua challenged the Israelites to make a choice. After urging the people to put away their idols and serve Jehovah in sincerity and truth, he said, “...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served ...” (Joshua 24:14-15). 

Today, we have the same challenge. We can choose to serve those things we make into idols, or we can choose to serve God with all sincerity and truth. Jesus gave us the great commandments to love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, strengths and minds. Then, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (cf. Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27.) It is in our power to love as Christ commands.

One of our most important decisions is choosing who we will marry. We need to realize that the Bible has something to say about choosing a mate. In the Old Testament the Israelites were taught to marry Israelites, and not pagans. The New Testament likewise teaches that Christians are to marry “in the Lord.”  In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul wrote the words of God concerning a widow’s privilege to remarry, but “only in the Lord.” Some suggest this doesn’t apply to a young person. Is that logical? If a widowed woman, who has gained some wisdom by the experience of marriage, is to marry only a Christian, certainly a young, inexperienced person ought to choose a Christian to marry. 

Christian parents must begin from the earliest days to teach their children the Lord’s will about marriage. Choosing to marry a non-Christian is a failure to put the Lord first (Matthew 6:33). Who we marry just may influence where we spend eternity!

Peter acknowledges that some Christians will find themselves married to unbelievers. (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6.) Perhaps they were converted to Christ after marrying. Others may never have been taught, or simply ignored the scriptures about marrying in the Lord. Whether married to a non-Christian or a Christian, there are choices to be made after the wedding day.

Likely you have met people who seem to float along in life. Life just happens to them. They have no direction, no goals, no real ambition. They appear stunted in their growth. We can be that way within our marriages if we are not careful. What is the goal for your marriage?

Early on in marriage, most of us are of the mindset that this spouse of mine is going to “make” me happy. He will fulfill all my needs. In reality, that is typical of youthful thinking. Yet, it is in relationships, especially marriage, that we grow and mature. The fact is no human being is capable of “making” another happy. Only the Lord is able to provide real needs and happiness. The beatitudes in Matthew 5 explain how to be happy. Nothing there is about a spouse being the “happy-maker.”

Do not misunderstand. I know it is possible to have emotional sadness. We have met people who are living in difficult circumstances, who seek relief from the burdens of cruelty or the sadness of failed or troubled marriage. If we are honest, we will admit that all of us cross the lines of making our spouses unhappy at times. We are sinners. At times we misinterpret our mate’s actions and act foolish.

In every marriage there are choices to be made. We can react or we can respond. None of us will become perfectly skilled at not over-reacting at times, but we can grow. How?

Foremost, we must know how God wants us to be. It is one thing to not react with the same bitterness someone may throw at us, and another to be without bitterness in the heart. Hard? Most certainly.

We must grow each day by studying God’s word. Then we will be able to overlook “the small stuff.” Only then will we learn how to deal with the more difficult issues that may arise. Herein we see the importance of making choices.

No one makes us act in a bad way. We choose to react. Now, all of us have a bad day now and then, and act ugly! However, if it is habitual, there are serious heart problems.

We must learn to make choices that are not self-centered. There are some women whose homes are their idols. Their husbands cannot relax there for fear they will be nagged. Money (or the lack of it) may become a serious issue that rules out God as first. Most anything can become an idol.

There are choices to be made when a mate is not spiritually minded. Decisions must be made about attending worship on the Lord’s day. Since the real purpose of our relationship is to help our mate go to heaven, we need to stand firm, instead of giving in to the “don’t you want to be with me” arguments, or “let’s go somewhere together this morning.” Other choices in such a relationship have to do with the kind of entertainment to see or do. Peter’s admonition tells us how to be the example before that spouse for a greater possibility of converting him (1 Peter 3:1-6).

I would like to recommend a book titled How to Act Right, When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernick, a marriage counselor. Her book was written for men and women. It addresses this basic problem of how to make right choices for the situations that come up between marriage partners. She stresses the diligence we must have in making choices that are not from a self-absorbed frame of mind. Though a member of some denomination, she gives some good biblical advice. Biblical principles applied will even improve the lives of non-Christians. They won’t get to heaven without obeying the gospel, but there are effective, timeless principles in the Lord’s Word.

While the Lord did not make each of us choose the mate we married, we can surely use the experiences of married life to help us grow, and be more like Jesus. His patience for our wrong doing is exemplary. (cf. Lamentations 3:22-23.) Let us do our best to follow the Lord; realizing we need to help our mates, our children, and grandchildren to love God. 

Choose today to be like Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Perhaps you can’t at this moment speak for anyone besides yourself. But choosing the goal of doing everything you can to lead by example. Then you may eventually be able to include other family members. But it most likely won't happen if you don't choose the Lord over everyone and everything (Matthew 6:33).  

Try this:

Evaluate yourself:
Have you really made the choice to put the Lord first each and every day?
Honestly consider if you are a reactionary most of the time. Or, do you wait, think, then respond?

Look up some of the verses from the book of Psalms and Proverbs listed in the section of this article titled Divine Happiness.

Memorize this: 

Luke 10:27 “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’”

Questions

1. What are some things that can become idols?
2. Define react.
3. Define respond.
4. What is the most important purpose of marriage?

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Wayne. Should A Christian Marry Outside the Faith? 
Jackson, Jason. Is a Loveless Marriage Scriptural Grounds For Divorce?