With Valentine's Day approaching this week, much will be spent on flowers, chocolate, and small baubles as men of all ages seek to communicate in just the right way the simple words: "I love you". February 14th is a day when some will even seek out the bonds of marriage, while some others may have chosen this day specifically to tie the proverbial knot. As I watch this yearly phenomena, I wonder how much of it is sincere, how much of it is advertising coercion (buy this for her and she'll love you, or don't and you're a dead man!), and last of all, how long it will last.
That last question really bothers me. I hope it bothers you, too.
How long does "I love you" last?
It reminds me of the joke where some married couple is arguing and the wife accuses her husband of never telling her "I love you" often enough. At the end of the joke he finally ends the argument by saying, "I told you I love you the day we were married. If anything changes, I'll let you know!"
The problem with a love that does not last is that it is a love based upon conditions.
Face it, we are taught to live a conditional life in a "do this for me and I'll do this for you" sort of way. Most people I know wouldn't work at their jobs very long without a paycheck. Even if they love what they are doing for a living, there has to be the condition of payment or else they could not continue to do that job indefinitely. We walk out of stores with certain needs and wants in exchange for money. We tend to treat others with varying degrees of trust that are earned. Respect is also a two way street where our ability to respect someone can decrease rapidly with how well (or not) we feel respected or disrespected. The list of conditions in all of our various interactions and relationships with others is quite long!
It seems life is full of conditional arrangements. So then, it is quite a natural idea that how we love each other, even in marriage, would be conditional. The act of divorce itself is proof enough of that. If someone can answer the question "What would make you want a divorce?" then they have answered the condition(s) upon which their marriage would rest. However, God wants Christians in marriage to love unconditionally. Even though infidelity in marriage is listed as a possible reason for divorce, the act of divorce is still discouraged.
Because a Christian marriage is supposed to be a picture of God's love for us.
Does God love you conditionally or unconditionally?
For those of you reading this who have been through divorce yourself or know someone who has been through divorce and thinking of all the reasons why a divorce is justified, stop for a moment and think about the unconditional love of God for you.I realized one day that . . . . . (for the rest of this article, please click on the link: MenRising)
Walk up to the average person and ask them what they want. With reasonable certainty, I could guess that they would say they would want money, a new home (or current mortgage paid off), a new car, or to be debt free. There are a few others out there I know who might say something like World Peace, or to rid the world of hunger, disease, or some other worldwide problem. However, that is not where I want to go with this question.
What I want you to think about is your inner personal life. When thinking about you, your life, personally speaking, answer the question: What do I want? Set aside externals, think internally. What do you want on the inside?
Whether you have something in mind or not, keep reading.
You see, many people are pursuing things they think they need, and their pursuit has nothing to do with getting their physical needs met. They are in pursuit of something missing. They are seeking to fulfill physically a need that has not been met on the inside, spiritually.
Christians like to say "Jesus is the answer" to these needs, and I would agree; however, in my estimation, the very people who say that do not understand the meaning of those words. Strange, no? Christians, who are saved and have Jesus Christ in their hearts, will say "Jesus is the answer" and still fall into the trap of pursuing physically something they need to fill a void they feel on the inside.
Sometimes these pursuits lead people (Christians included) to drink alcohol, have extra-marital affairs, fall into drug abuse, gambling, or some other form of addiction. People who did these things before they were saved still have the capability to fall into these snares again, but with a difference. Those who are saved have the answer they are seeking, but are not applying the answer. The answer is "I AM" but they do not really understand that as an answer no more than I did as a 7 or 8 year old little boy.
When I first heard "Jesus is the answer" I was about 7 or 8 years old. In my mind all I could think of is the grade I would have had if I had tried to write "Jesus" on all the answer blanks on a particularly hard test I'd had the week before.
What does that mean, really? Jesus is the answer?For the rest of this article, please click the link to MenRising.com
I'm taking off work this Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013. You see, my youngest daughter was born on January 22nd, and each year, with each of my daughters, I take them on a day-long father-daughter date. Together we choose where to go, what to do, and I take them shopping for a new dress, a new book, and generally find different places to go and be so we can spend time together.
Watching her grow up, and learning about her as her personality develops is amazing. With all her little quirks and playfulness, she captivates my heart every time I see her. I love it when she comes into my office, crawls up into my lap, gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, "Papa, I love you." I don't have any boys, though after watching some boys from other households and then looking at my experiences with my own two daughters, I believe I am much happier.
In the end though, I know I have the children God gave me. In His infinite wisdom, God knew that these two little girls would bring perspectives and experiences into my life that I needed, and that they would change me into someone that they would need. However, things did not have to be this way.
What I realized today, is that this Tuesday with my daughter quite possibly may never have even been a possibility.
You see, 40 years ago, on the same day my daughter would be born 40 years later, our country made the decision to make it legal for women to kill their unborn children. According to nature and the way things work, the very next month after the Roe vs. Wade decision was handed down, my mother became pregnant with me. She had a legal choice to make. My life was in her hands. Nine months later, on a cold November day, I was born into this world, and things were set in motion that would lead to my father-daughter date this coming Tuesday with one of the most beautiful of all of God's creations. (Though I admit I am quite biased.)
It reminds me of a saying I heard somewhere that goes, "Just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should do a thing." There is a lot of wisdom in those words. Every choice you make has implications, and there are both the foreseen intended consequences, and the far reaching and mostly unseen and unintended consequences.
I suddenly realize, looking at my family and my two daughters, that had my mother made the legal choice to abort me, then the two wonderful little girls who are my children would not exist today.
Too often people are too quick and too eager to speak up for their rights, for their choices, and for their freedoms without understanding that with those rights, and choices, and freedoms comes responsibility for the outcomes, and consequences both intentional and the unintended. As it turns out, Norma McCorvey, the woman whose personal life was used to argue the case of Roe vs. Wade, never had an abortion. Her baby was born and adopted by another family. Just two days ago, I saw a TV commercial where she openly acknowledges regret.
I believe if we were to all be open and honest, the conclusion could be made that the main reason abortions take place today are due to the personal inconvenience of life an "unwanted/unintended pregnancy" would represent. Despite the myriad of social, medical, and economic factors, the truth is simply that the pregnancy is compartmentalized as "a problem" and abortion has been offered as an expedient and legal "solution" to that perceived problem.
I cannot say I do not understand that line of thinking. My life was not easy growing up. My family had it very hard economically. I understand what it means to grow up poor. My father left our family when I was 14 years old. By all indications, the legal murder of my life would have been justified looking back on how hard and how tough life was not only for my mom and myself, but the other children in our family. If my mom could look back on her life and see with 20/20 vision how much easier her life could have been without me being born, maybe she would have decided to end my life. Furthermore, she may have chosen to end the lives of my two brothers that followed.
Yet, if my mother had only looked at her own personal circumstances and made a decision that was convenient for her, the unintended consequences of ending my life would be that my two daughters would not exist.
Abortion, as of this date, is legal; however, it is the legal killing of unborn children.
Just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should do a thing.
This Tuesday I get to go out on a date with my daughter. Exactly 40 years after the killing of unborn children was made legal, I will celebrate another year of life with my own child. As I look into my daughters eyes, I am very glad that just because my mom could do a thing, she didn't do a thing.
I begin this article with some measure of trepidation. You see, I'm not sure how you, the reader, will perceive it. I know what I am about to try to communicate, but in all things written, you the reader will read into this article from your own personal perceptions, experiences, and backgrounds. So, let me state from the beginning that it is not my desire to offend, but to inform. It is my hope that some will recognize the truth in this article and enjoy the benefits, while for others more inclined to be offended, I merely hope that you will consider with a thoughtful heart what is written, and to try to understand.
I remember a time, back in my college years, when I thought I would never get married. I was a very outgoing person, but when it came to talking with girls, I seemed to go mute. To put it bluntly, I was socially clumsy when it came to talking with girls. I had little success with dating, and in anguish I prayed for God to give me a wife while secretly thinking there is no way it would ever happen. I opened up my feelings on the matter to a close mentor who simply told me, "When the right girl comes along, you'll know it."
My question was: "But how?!?!?!
Answer: "You just will."
He smiled, gave a few more words of encouragement that I don't remember, and I walked off feeling no more comforted or assured of getting married one day than I did before the conversation.
A few years later, God put me in some very special circumstances. It is a story in itself in which I will not go into here, but suffice it to say my path crossed with a young lady who seemed to light up my world when I first laid eyes on her. Suddenly, I just knew. That very night I walked into my dorm room, and I knew I would marry this girl I had met just this very day. A year later exactly to the day, on August 22nd, she became my wife.
Now, my question to you is this: How does God speak to you?
(For the rest of this article please visit MenRising)
I once heard someone say, "I'd rather be happy than right." While I can't remember who said it or in what context, it stuck with me. I've seen too many arguments between people who were both equally convinced they were right and the other person was completely wrong. Even if one of them happens to be right, I doubt there would be much happiness in the relationship between the two of them.
If the secret to happiness were a single or several verses in the Bible, then I believe there would be a lot more happy people in this world. However, the opposite is true. I see people from all walks of life, rich and poor alike who are and are not happy. The "secret" isn't the presence or absence of money. We all know that, and so I conclude we've missed something somewhere along the way in the pursuit of happiness.
In truth, I believe the real secret to happiness is no secret at all. Being happy is just plain common sense and so obvious, that I believe there was no need to write it down in the form of instruction. Happiness just happens, if the right elements are in place.
Look at a child playing. Are they happy? Has anyone instructed them in such a way as "First, do this. Second, do that. Third, you must . . ." and so on? Nope. Children play. In case you haven't noticed before, as soon as adults interfere with rules and things, it kind of kills the fun the kids were having. Even without real toys, children find creative ways to play.
Just last week after I unpacked a box, there were these long pieces of styrofoam left over on the floor. Within minutes, these had been commandeered by my two little girls who had placed small toy animals in all the little crevices and were pushing them down the hallway. When I asked what they were doing, they explained to me that the animals were on a cruise. Huh? Styrofoam packing boards as cruise ships? Yet, there they were, playing away, and quite happy. No rules. No instructions. Just living from their hearts and imaginations.
As we grow into adults, we are actually taught to do the opposite of the very thing God programmed into us. We are taught to ignore the pleadings and desires of our hearts, and we are taught to follow rules, be responsible, and above all, ignore the imaginations and pleadings of your heart.
Without Christ in your life, maybe this is actually pretty good advice. However, as Christians, God has said that if we will delight in Him, then He will give us the desires of our HEART. (Psalm 37:4) Problem is, there is too much "Bible teaching" that you must do this and do that, wear this not that, act this way not that way, and then maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased with you and bless you.
That's all backwards! God wants us to delight in Him, recognize our kinship and relationship with Him, and as His children, our hearts desires will be fulfilled.
As a child lives from their heart and finds happiness in the discarded things of life, so we may as Christians find happiness living from our hearts. Not the heart of the old flesh that is "deceitful and desperately wicked" or the "heart of stone" that was part of the old man, but out of our new heart; the new heart God has given us to replace the heart of stone. (Eze 36:26) The heart God gave us when we were born again is not "deceitful and desperately wicked" but rather a new heart. Our new heart is a treasure to be guarded (Prov. 4:23) as something precious and valuable, because out of that new heart we may live a happy life.
The secret to happiness then, is to follow that new heart.
If time and money were no object, what would you do? First, discard the temporal things that may spring to mind like buying a new car, a new house, or traveling somewhere (that's the old heart speaking); for these are temporary. In your new heart, when you were born again, you were given a desire to do something special, something that would make the world a better place, something that would help others. If you could do anything in the world, when your new heart speaks, what is it you hear?
When we listen to the new heart God has given us, and begin to live in a way that fulfills the desires of that new heart, we not only find purpose and meaning in life, we find happiness. As a child finds happiness in discarded things that would be thrown away simply by following their own heart, so we as adults can find happiness in this life by following the desires of our new hearts. What are the desires of your new heart?