Monday, March 26, 2012

Marriage Conference Man



This weekend I had the pleasure of attending and even co-hosting a marriage conference at our home Church. My wife and I were asked to assist a more "experienced" couple with the process a few months ago and we signed up. The conference was based on the material titled 'The Art of Marriage' from Family Life. It consisted of six sessions over a two day period; two sessions on Friday night and the remaining sessions during the day on Saturday.

Why would I go to a marriage conference?
Well, this is a great question. Early in my marriage and even up to a couple years ago, I would not have been a marriage conference 'type' man. I always thought they were a sign of weakness, like it was some kind of therapy session or counseling. I thought 'those things are for the couples in trouble, and we do not need it for our marriage'. Man, I can honestly say I was wrong, way wrong! A marriage conference or even a marriage class is not a sign of weakness, no; it is a sign of true strength and maturity in your marriage. These conferences are filled with great information, honest testimonies and challenging projects to make you really think about your marriage and what it means to you.

What does my wife think about me going?
She said the following 'It tells her that I CARE about our marriage and that I am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I have as many tools in my box as possible. It shows her that I want our marriage to be great, strong and have a purpose. Overall, she loves spending the time together and applying the subjects to our marriage and situations.' In short men, even if you don't want to attend a conference, do it for you wife and you might actually come away with something you had not known or tried before. If you want to make here come alive, than this is a great way to show her that you, again, CARE!

How often do I do this conference thing?
My Church has a lot of great marriage programs and beliefs. One of the ideas we learned early on when we started attending was to attend a marriage conference EVERY year! Yes, every year! I don't know about you guys, but I have to attend monthly training meetings for my work. I have to study different books to make sure I am being as safe as possible and following the right codes at work. If I did not do this for my work, I would never move up in my company and never get a raise. These things that I want are INCENTIVES! Apply this same idea to your marriage. Attend a conference a once a year; join a marriage class like 'Love and Respect' or 'Love and War' with a small group. What are the incentives? Not a good marriage, but a great marriage. You will have been trained in forgiveness, in quality time, in conflict resolution and more importantly how to make up with your spouse and much more.

As my buddy would say 'Don't Slack Men'! Step up and be the Spiritual Leader you are called to be and attend a marriage conference with your spouse. Show your spouse that you really care and are willing to do whatever it takes to make your marriage great!

Are you willing to be a Marriage Conference Man? 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Spiritual Leader!


2010

Church wasn't on the schedule, it was an after thought. You see my wife came from a family where her Father was the spiritual leader and I came from a family where my Mother was the spiritual leader. How does that dynamic translate into marriage? Well for us, it meant confusion. We both grew up in the Church, so we thought going to Church would be easy after we got married. Well we both quickly found out that the process was not so easy. Due to the family structures, I would wait for her to mention something about church and she would wait for me to say something about church. I wasn't leading, I wasn't setting an example as the leader of the household, and I was being a coward.

Sunday morning would roll around, and although the church thing was on our mind, we would maybe ask each other if we were going to church or not. Sometimes one of us would say yes, sometimes we would decide not to go. We would even consider doing other things, like going out to breakfast or playing pool. We would try to find something to fill in the time slot, when in reality we knew we should have been at our Fathers house.

This back and forth process went on for some time. We really did not even have a specific church to go to. We would try a new church once and awhile, but we would complain about the way the pastor preached or complain about the people that we saw. How selfish. We finally found a new church online and checked it out one day. This church felt different and the people were really nice too. We met another young couple who invited us to attend a small group marriage class at the church. They were not pushy or condescending in any way, just friendly. We ended up going to the marriage class on a weekly basis, which by the way was 'Love and Respect'. Notice I did not say we were going to the regular church services. Although we did not know it yet, this class was great for our marriage but it was also a way to say we were at church without being, at church. The class helped us form new relationships and opened us up to the ideas that other couples our age were struggling and having to work hard to keep their marriage going on a strong and steady path. We were invited to go to service now and then, and we did, but only to satisfy the pressure from our piers. In a sense, we would go for all the wrong reasons.

2012

Notice my lack of leadership as the man of the house. Or should I say the 'Spiritual Leader' of the house. That's right men; you are the 'SPIRITUAL LEADER' of YOUR household. Your wife should not be waiting for you to make the decision about Sunday or your walk with Christ; you should be the one to have the decision made and your faith ESTABLISHED! Don't hesitate. I can't tell you exactly why I hesitated, but I did and I did it every week. This did not show my wife strength by any means, but rather showed my lack of leadership and ultimately my inability to make a solid decision as the husband. These issues are not only noticed in this situation, but become more pronounced with all of your other decisions. She will doubt you more often, and your role will become less and less important as she has to take on the role (your role). Think about it men. The less you take the lead, the more she will have to take the lead. You are setting your own self up for destruction of your personal confidence and your marriage. YOU are called to lead. YOU are called to serve. So Do It! This is your challenge and you had better take it serious! There is no question about who will lead my household, I am the husband, I will!

READ EPHESIANS 5:21-33

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. -1 Corinthians 11:3

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On The Floor




My legs were tired from working out the week before. There were 100 other men around me and the last thing I felt like doing was putting my knees on the floor and bowing before the Father. We were all instructed to get on our knees though and that is what I proceeded to do. When I initially went down, I could feel my sore legs cry out and I could feel my bad knee start to sing. I just did not feel it. I did not feel the need or the push. Finally I asked myself, where were all of these excuses coming from? Where was all this selfishness coming from? I finally put my face to the floor.

The floor was dirty, so I put my hands on the floor in front of my face. For a minute, I thought about how dirty the floor was and the fact that my face was only inches from it. It was after this point that I started to get angry. I started to ask myself why I felt this way and why was I letting it dominate my every thought. This should be a moment of pure and selfless sacrifice to Christ. Nothing else should matter at this point. Nothing else should be so important.

With my eyes closed, I looked far into the distance and I could see the enemy. I could see him smirking at me and enjoying every moment of my doubt. I raised my hand and pointed my finger at him and told him to “Leave me” and “Get out of my site!” I could feel my heart beat getting faster and faster. As I battled with him and felt him slowly moving away, I would look to Christ and ask him to forgive me and help me. As I spoke to Christ the enemy would slowly move back towards me; trying to take advantage of my connection with the Father. I would then look back down again and face the enemy straight on and force him back again and again and again. He was relentless.

The Lord finally gave me enough strength to cast him out of my site. With my eyes closed and the vision still very real, I fell to my knees and asked God for his help. I told him that I was tired of the soft food. I was tired of the basics and I wanted to know more. I asked him to show me who he really was and is. I asked him to take away my doubt and free me from the power of the enemy. He has no right in my life and he knows it. Christ heard my prayers and answered my prayers. I had no longer felt the pain in my legs or knee. I could no longer feel the stronghold of doubt and fear inside of my head. I had fought that battle with Christ and he was again victorious. I arose from the floor with a renewed sense of strength and a renewed sense of love for my God. He is strong and He is good.

Again, Christ showed me his strength. He showed me that I can always depend on him and that he will always fight for me. He is on my team.

How has Christ brought you to the floor before? 
How has He protected you in times of need?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why the Train Tracks?

If you haven't noticed, a few of my profile pictures on my sites show a train or the tracks in the background. This is, of course, is by no accident. My wife and I were actually traveling along the top of West Virginia. We decided to take some back roads due to some potential traffic hazards that were showing up on our phone maps. These back roads turned out to be pretty cool. We left our house in Virginia to go to Pennsylvania really early in the morning. When we ventured out on these back roads, it was just getting light outside and there was some fog in the air. We passed some really cool fields, where the fog was settling just right. We traveled along the rivers edge for a few miles and enjoyed the eeriness of water ripples. Eventually we came to a point of the road that traveled alongside the rail road tracks. You see, for some time I had been praying and hoping for an opportunity to find the perfect setting for a photo of myself on the train tracks. We came up to a little side road that crossed the tracks and decided to stop.

There were two sets of tracks at this particular location and the slight fog in the air added the right touch of softness. I told my wife that I wanted to run down the tracks a ways and have her take a picture of me with my arms out and my head faced up looking to God. I proceeded to run down the tracks thinking "I hope a train doesn't come now." I looked back, struck my pose and my wife took a few photos of me standing on the tracks. Let me go back in time a little bit.


A little over a year ago, you would not have known this man who is now writing this blog. I was an angry, doubtful and hopeless man. My marriage was literally on the rocks and at the verge of divorce. My heart was long gone from any emotion and I was ready to move on with my life away from everything I knew. I had been raised in a Christian home and school my entire life, but I never actually knew who Jesus really was. Marriage only brought out this fact more and in a much stronger way. I know why now, but I had no idea then and did not care to. As I considered the idea of divorce, I had a few brothers from my Church that would continue to press into me and lead me back down a straight path. I would meet with one of my buddies on a weekly basis and listen to him try to sway me. (He is the author of A Man of Hope and Quality Construction). Near the end of this madness, I started to meet with my pastor. This was honestly one of the last things I wanted to do on my list, but for some reason I just went with it.

I entered his office thinking this was a waste of time. There was no way he was going to convince me to change my mind. I went forward and discussed the whole story with him and got into most of the ugly details. He proceeded to talk to me about what real marriage is, what it stands for and what it is suppose to mean. He challenged me with reading the book of Proverbs and to start researching what it really meant to walk and worship with Christ. Towards the end of the meeting, I told him the following phrase "In order to change, I am going to have to get hit by a Freight Train." His answer was perfect. God gave him the other half of that phrase and it was at this moment that something shifted. Something in my heart, my realist, logical heart broke. He said the following phrase:

In order to get hit by a freight train, 
you have to put yourself on the tracks.

I know it doesn't appear to be mind blowing, but for me it was life changing. The train can only hit me if I am willing to stand on the tracks. In other words, I will not find God unless I am willing to go to Him. How am I to find God if I am not willing to take the first steps to get onto the tracks? How am I to find God if I don't have the courage to stand on those tracks until the train hits me? How am I able to love God, if I don't give him my heart? Think about it. Thats all I did when I left his office. I thought about it over and over again and I started to realize what my answer was. God was, has and still is waiting for me to get on the tracks. He was was waiting for me to take the first, bold step of faith. Ever since I decided to take that first step, my life has been forever changed.

What step of faith is God waiting for you to take? Are you willing to step on the tracks?

Oh, and I forgot to mention that as we were taking the final photos, a train did 'ring' in the distance and about 5 minutes later a train came right past us, on the same set of tracks we were standing on........

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quality Construction: What are you building?



Wow, this holiness and righteousness requirement of God seems like such an impossible task to live out. In my own strength, I try to build a resistance to the attitudes, temptations, and the daily pulls I encounter.  However, an examination of my heart shows me that my best attempts are just flesh-driven habits, mantras, and resolve, easily evaporated in the heat of spiritual battles.  I need something more; I’m dependent on something greater than myself. I cannot walk this road in my own power.

What the Lord continues to do is break me, with each breaking, I become weaker in the flesh but stronger in the Spirit. My fleshly attempts at holiness have been similar to that of a man who builds his home with a faux-brick exterior but expects the performance of a real brick home. How na├»ve. As an exterior adornment, faux bricks and stonework’s look great and give the appearance of a well-built structure. What’s even more attractive is the fact that the materials are lightweight, less costly, and install quickly, having many of the aesthetic and resistive benefits of the “real thing.” From the outside, everything looks great.

However, true brick homes take time to build right and require more of an investment from those who desire this type of construction. Though costly, the investment in the “real thing” provides an increased resistance to infestation, rot, and harsh weather while providing some thermal benefits.

Translate this analogy over to your spiritual walk and you will see that we are faced with those same decisions as we choose to allow God to build our lives—or just settle for something that costs less. Have you considered the cost? Psalm 127:1 tells us, “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain.” Are you allowing the Lord to be the architect and builder of your spiritual life? We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we need a wise architect, a strong builder, and quality materials. Through grace, they’re provided through the power of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 3:10-13 (NIV), “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.”

It this relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ that builds the type of life and treasures that moths, rust, and thieves cannot destroy or steal. Pull the sign out of the yard, I’m buying! 

Are you allowing the Lord to be the architect and builder of your spiritual life?

_______________________________________________________________________________
This has been a guest post by a very good friend and brother in Christ, M. Coffin. Look forward to more great posts in the near future!