Of a Special Kind

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~ Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ~ Ephesians 5:25

Being a man often means being wrong in a man-ish sort of way.

Ephesians 5:22-33 is a glorious passage on marriage that addresses both the husband and the wife. Verse 25 is one of the key verses and well known. We start out, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,” and that’s about as far as we get. We then launch into all the ins and outs of ways that Christ loves the church. We unwittingly discourage husbands by painting a picture up high in the sky they cannot possibly reach. And, then what?

I’m not at all for low-bar standards for husbands when it comes to loving their wives. So I don’t think it wise or good to paint the high picture and then set it aside and give husbands light reading about planets and love dialects, or whatever. I much prefer the inspired Word in its context. Verses 25-33 all work together and they’re not wholly unconnected from verses 22-24. Paul did not only say, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.” He went on to explain in what way Christ loved the church that is the model for Christian husbands. He explained that Christ loved the church by giving “himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). At least, we know it is a sacrificial love that the husband is to have for his wife. However, the husband is not the savior of his wife, and Paul had no intention this way.

Paul made the application in the passage so men would know what it would look like to love this way. Mere mortal husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, meaning they are to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Paul means nourishing and cherishing your wife (Ephesians 5:29). It might seem here that Paul steps out of the Christ/church love into something else, but he maintains at the end of verse 29 that is how Jesus loves the church. Paul acknowledges the mystery in verses 32, but concludes the whole paragraph this way: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself” (Ephesians 5:33). I’m not suggesting there are no difficulties, nor anything to be learned, but loving your wife the way the Bible commands is within reach for every man (Ephesians 5:29).

Tone-deaf, Boneheaded, if you will

Men have many species of problems that are common to men, but I will select one specimen for examination. Men tend to be tone-deaf in regard to their wife’s concerns. This works out in a few different ways.

  • Dismissing. If a wife expresses a concern, worry, or even a complaint, we men are quick to dismiss it as nagging. Nagging really is a thing and women can be guilty of it (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15). That doesn’t mean, though, that anything a wife says, which her husband doesn’t want to hear, is nagging. A wife’s concerns are her concerns, whether her husband thinks she should be concerned about it or not. Since your wife is your concern, husbands should be concerned about her concerns.
  • Ignoring. When a man grows up in a busy city, he becomes accustomed to the continual din of such a city. He reaches a place where he no longer notices the noise until he goes to visit relatives out in the country where the crickets and frogs keep him awake all night. Men can also become accustomed to their wives to the point where they don’t take much notice of what she says. Maybe they say, “Yes, dear” as easily as they breathe but they do not register what she has to say.
  • Misunderstanding. Men tend to think in certain ways and approach problems in certain ways that are exasperating for many wives. So the wife comes and tells the husband about problems C, A, and B and the husband wastes time telling her she’s got the order all wrong. I mean, everyone knows it goes A, B, C, D, etc. We all learned the song in kindergarten for mercy sake. This classic male blunder is missing the point and not understanding the real cause. This reminds me of a husband and wife I saw in a store a couple of years ago. The wife was obviously upset with her husband, “You never think of me. You only think of yourself.” He was just as obviously surprised by her assertion, “That’s not true. I was just thinking of you when I walked in Walmart, because I knew I had to find you.” That is a special kind of boneheadedness that, I daresay, only a man could attain.

Duct tape for the soul

How should a husband deal with the concerning things that are a problem for his wife? Paul said to love your wife as you love yourself, or maybe we should say as you ought to love yourself. How do men love themselves when it comes to concerns that are a problem for them? They might at times be slow to get to it, but they generally address it. If a man is trying to build or fix something and he is continually frustrated by the fact he doesn’t have the right tool, what does he do? If he’s going to the deerstand or bass lake before dawn in the snow, what does he do? He makes sure that he has what he needs. If he’s going to need food, he gets it. If he’s going to need to keep warm, he makes sure he has the necessary clothing. If his boots are falling apart, he might fix them with duct tape but he’s probably going to get another pair.

I was going around my yard for the first mow of the season this spring. When I got to a certain part, I hit my face on a branch. I stopped the mower and thought about how that branch was always in the way when I cut the grass. I immediately fetched a tool and cut all the branches that forced me to stoop unnaturally when cutting the grass. This is one of the ways a man loves himself. He takes care of his problems. He anticipates needs and provides for them. Paul says to do this for your wife. You know how to take care of your problems and so you also know how to love your wife. Anticipate her needs, provide for them, and take care of her problems promptly.

I conclude with this: Don’t be a bonehead. When your wife is concerned about something, try to understand the cause. When a man is driving down the road and hears a noise from the innards of his car, he notices it. If he never hears it again, he soon forgets it. But if the noise persists and grows worse over time, he knows he needs to get it fixed. So he takes it to the shop and tells the mechanic about the noise it makes. If the mechanic treated him the way he treats his wife, the mechanic would say, “So it’s making a loud noise? Easy, just turn up your radio and you won’t hear it.”

Reading the Whole Bible

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. ~ Romans 15:4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. ~ Romans 15:4

Have you ever read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation?

If you haven’t approached the reading of all the Bible with an intentional plan and regular effort, then you probably haven’t read the whole Bible. I’ve seen some surveys in the last few years that report a little less than two-thirds of evangelical Christians have read the whole Bible at least once in their life.

For several years now I have been encouraging people to read the Bible through every year using some sort of plan for daily reading. At an average reading speed, it takes about 70 hours to read the whole bible. 70 hours works out to about 10-15 minutes per day in a year’s time. All that averages to around three or more chapters a day of reading to read the whole Bible in a year. The point here is that reading the whole Bible in a year’s time is very doable.

For the last several years I have also been surprised by the objections to the aforementioned reading. Honestly, it baffles me how anyone could be opposed to reading the Bible, but there it is. I want to deal with the most common objections I have heard, but first let’s ask: Should a Christian read the whole Bible? The Bible is typically printed in a little over one thousand pages. One thousand pages? How many one thousand page books have you ever read? I have heard that about 70% of adults in America read one book per year. If you’re only reading one book per year, I doubt it’s a thousand page tome.

Yes, Christians should read the whole Bible. No, there is not a command: Thou shalt read the whole Bible. Consider just a couple of verses about the Scripture.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
– 2 Timothy 3:16

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5

If all scripture is inspired and profitable, then we should get around to reading all scripture at some point. If every word of God is pure, then we should get around to reading every word of God at some point. If God bothered to give us one thousand pages of words that are for our instruction and good, then we should bother to read them all.

Three common objections to reading the Bible in a year

Out of a sense of fairness, which comports with my mountain-bred roots, no one I’ve talked with has actually objected to reading the Bible at all, only to reading the whole Bible in a year by a plan. I’ve heard various reasons expressed variously, but I’ve collected them here into the three most common.

  1. I don’t have enough time. I broke it down earlier that this can be done in about 10-15 minutes per day. With the mobile devices we have today, we can always have the Bible with us making it even easier to find this time. Besides, if you seriously don’t have 10-15 minutes in a day to read the Bible, your’re seriously overbooked and cardiac arrest is in your near future. I understand that everyone is busy. I have seven children. The oldest is starting college next week and the youngest isn’t yet two-years-old. I have my own business where I regularly work 50+ hours a week, which at times can be significantly higher. I pastor a church and regularly preach three messages a week. Despite all that, I am currently reading through the Bible in a year. I could go on, but the point is that we are all busy. I don’t think I’m special or any busier than anybody else. If you seriously do not have 10-15 minutes a day to read the Bible, then your priorities are out of order.
  2. I think it’s better to read just a verse or two and get something out of them than to read three chapters and get nothing out of it. I question how you could read three chapters of the Bible and get nothing out of it, but I do have two main answers to this objection. First, reading and studying are not the same things. I think this objections confuses the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that you should read the Bible in a year and not study the Bible. I am suggesting you do both. They are not the same thing. I live by the idea that you should read broadly and study deeply.

    Second, does the reading of a verse or two to get something out of them result in reading the whole Bible? Using that approach, how many times have you read the whole Bible? You don’t have to answer out loud. Without an intentional plan and consistent effort over time, most of us will not read the whole Bible. I set out many times to read the whole Bible, but I never accomplished it without a reading plan and a daily commitment.

    Besides these, did Paul write a whole letter and send it to a church with the intention that they would read the letter or just a sentence or two every now and then? Obviously, the letter was intended to be read start to finish. There is no other way to grasp the context and, therefore, the meaning of the letter.

  3. I don’t think it would be right to read the Bible out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. The objection is that reading the Bible by a plan results in you reading out of obligation to check off the day’s duty rather than reading because you want to. I’ve never experienced that myself. I’ve never experienced reading the Bible grudgingly out of obligation. I’ve found the more I read the Bible by plan daily, the more I want to do it.

    Let’s assume you have a spouse and afore posited spouse has a birthday, which you must admit is extremely plausible. Let’s also assume that your recall of said annual events is not impeccable, which you must also admit is plausible. So, in order not to be the heel of the century, you mark your beloved’s birthday on a calendar so that you’re amply prepared on the appropriate day to shower your beloved with attention and jovial celebration. A wise thing to do and a free marital tip. Is it better to mark the date in advance and plan to remember the birthday, or to only celebrate that day when you happen to remember it at the right time? Did the fact that you planned beforehand to remember mean that you acted sheerly out of obligation in whatever affections you directed to your spouse on the day of?

    One way to look at planned reading is obligation and another way to look at it is discipline. I have my suspicions that this is the real heart of most objections. We are not very disciplined and chafe at the thought of discipline. The Bible does teach that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). In every good thing we endeavor to do, we must wrestle against the flesh that opposes us (Romans 7:14-25; James 4:13-17). Finally, as long as we are in this flesh, we are not sanctified enough to only and always want to do good. If you’re waiting to read the Bible until you feel like it, you won’t read it much.

Benefits to reading the Bible in a year

If you read the whole Bible regularly, you will be benefited. You will grow in grace and knowledge. You will be better prepared to hear sermons well and get more out of them. You will be better able to fight and overcome sin by taking heed to the Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Your mind will be renewed through the Word (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 3:10, 15-16). You will be better prepared to speak a word in season to edify, encourage, and comfort the afflicted. If you think about, what could possibly be beneficial about not knowing more of the Bible?

Maybe there is another reason why we’re not reading the Bible every year

The thought of obligation, duty, and discipline is so odious to us. While I understand the substance of that objection, I ask: What is the alternative? Seriously, what is the alternative to a disciplined approach to reading the Bible. The alternative to discipline is a picture that looks alarmingly similar to the picture of the sluggard in Proverbs.

  • The sluggard is indecisive and will not get started to work though he may talk about it (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14).
  • The sluggard makes excuses or rationalizes his inactivity and lack of accomplishment (Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; 26:16).
  • The sluggard puts responsibility off until later (Proverbs 6:10).
  • The sluggard does not plan ahead and suffers for it (Proverbs 6:8).
  • The sluggard has no self-discipline but must have an overseer to make him do something (Proverbs 6:7).
  • The sluggard does not have a hard-work ethic (Proverbs 6:8).
  • The sluggard does not have the follow-through to finish what he does start (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15).

More could be said, but I will leave you with a serious question. Do you really have a good reason not to read the whole Bible, or is it just an excuse for laziness? Let each of us examine our own heart before the Lord.

Prayer Reboot

Pray without ceasing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray without ceasing.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

A devotion for prayer meeting.

This devotion calls for one of those rare moments of honesty. I know that’s the last thing many expect when coming to church—someone being honest. If we are all going to be honest though, we grow dull in prayer too often. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can speak for myself and my own experience in times of dull dryness in prayer. Sometimes I let the busyness of life push prayer from the center. Sometimes I’m tired and feel scattered and prayer is not fresh. I find in those times that prayer becomes repetitive and mechanical. I find that prayer becomes general and vague. I also find that prayer at those times becomes much more focused on me and what I need or want.

Simply put, there are times we need a reboot in our prayer life. We need a refreshing and refocusing in prayer. To help us in that, I want to look at some specific prayers from the Bible. This will not include everything we are commanded to pray for in the Bible, but some key things that will help us to refocus. In order to recover fresh zeal in prayer, we often need to come back to specific prayer needs in our own life and for others around us.

Pray for the salvation of the lost

It’s good to begin outside of ourselves and consider the needs of others. Paul gave us a good example of praying for the salvation of the lost.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
– Romans 10:1

He testified that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow” for his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” i.e. Israel (Romans 9:2-3). He had a great desire and prayed for his fellow Jews that they might be saved. Likewise, we have family who are lost. We have neighbors who are lost. We have co-workers who are lost. Let us repent of our indifference and pray to God that they might be saved.

We do not only pray for salvation, but we also give witness of the Gospel to those we pray for. In that regard, we should also be praying for the free course of the Gospel among those we pray for.

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1

We should be praying for appropriate boldness in our witness.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that i may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
– Ephesians 6:18-19

We need the boldness that the Word deserves when it is proclaimed. It may sound contradictory, but we also need to pray for meekness and humility in our witness. We need to speak the truth in love and not become angry or shout at others when we face opposition (1 Peter 2:21-23).

We should also be praying for other churches and missionaries in their work of evangelizing. We should not only be concerned about ourselves or our church, but we should have a burden for our fellow laborers and pray for them and rejoice with them when the Lord blesses them.

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered form them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
– Romans 15:30-31

We should not be all wrapped up in what we are doing. We should remember others and their labor for the Lord.

Pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters

As we pray for our own needs, we must also remember our brothers and sisters who have the same needs in several areas. We should be praying for an increased knowledge of God and his will.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9

We should pray for the flourishing of hope in our lives.

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
– Ephesians 1:18

We should pray for unfailing faith and help for our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
– Luke 22:32

We should pray for strength to stand.

Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
– Colossians 1:11

We should pray for fruitfulness in our lives. Fruitfulness glorifies God and should be our desire (John 15:8, 16).

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
– Colossians 1:10

Lastly, we should pray for deliverance from temptation.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
– Matthew 6:13

We are daily engaged in a great warfare against our flesh, sin, and the devil. We must never take it lightly, but pray continually to be delivered (Matthew 26:41).

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