It’s On You

“The Lord God called to the man, Where are you?” – Genesis 3:9

Eve was tempted by the serpent. Eve shared the fruit with Adam. And who did God call out for?

Adam. Not Eve.

God has provided our marriages with the keys to success. It includes specific guidelines for marriage. A quick read would indicate that husband and wives have an equal stake in marital success.

And yet….God sought out Adam.

Our wives are a huge contributor to the success or failure of our marriages; however we have been given responsibility for the condition of our marriage. Are you leading in a manner that would inspire your wife to follow? Are you walking in step with Christ in a way that your wife will want to emulate? Are your actions building trust and creating security in your marriage?

God created us to lead, love, and protect our wives. Most importantly…God called us to lead by following Him.

 

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Birds of Pray

It’s almost American football season.  I wanted to share an excerpt that I read this morning.  It is written by Rob Maaddi, from his new book Birds of Pray The Story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Faith, Brotherhood, and Super Bowl Victory…..

One day after the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Green Bay Packers in their 2017 preseason opener, the reality that the NFL is a cruel business hit Carson Wentz hard. Jordan Matthews was traded to the Buffalo Bills along with a 2018 third-round draft pick for cornerback Ronald Darby. Wentz and Matthews had just traveled to Haiti together a few months earlier. Matthews was his go-to wide receiver on the field and one of his closest buddies off the field. Everyone on the team loved Matthews, a hard worker who did whatever he could to help his teammates. Wentz, Matthews, Trey Burton, Zach Ertz, Jordan Hicks, and Chris Maragos were the core of the team’s Christian brotherhood. Proverbs 27:17 says:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

These men truly sharpened each other. They lifted each other when someone was down. They encouraged each other in tough times and pushed each other to dig deeper in their relationship with the Lord. The six players gathered for an emotional sendoff dinner the night the trade went down, and then drove Matthews to the airport.

“It’s tough. This is my first time experiencing this with someone that’s one of my best friends,” Wentz said a day later. “It’s tough on him too. It’s kind of out of the blue. Replacing a guy like that in the locker room is not going to be easy.”

Pastor Ted Winsley reminded the players the trade would give Matthews an opportunity to impact a new set of teammates.

“Whenever someone leaves, it is because you have an assignment and you are supposed to take it and share it,” Winsley said. “This was a reminder how precious it is, and it was a reminder of why we’re together, to become rooted, to become grounded, and then to spread it. Players, when they leave Philadelphia, they tell other players that what we have here is special.”

Christianity is nothing new to the NFL.

Many players from Reggie White to Kurt Warner to Tim Tebow have boldly professed their faith. The 2012 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had a strong Christian contingent led by Ray Lewis. Same for the 2013 champion Seattle Seahawks with Russell Wilson. But the 2017 Eagles were a different breed of young players who passionately shared the gospel, held each other accountable, and encouraged, motivated, and inspired each other to walk their talk daily.

“We had a great brotherhood in Seattle, guys who loved Jesus passionately and were committed to the Lord, and that was the cool thing because you saw guys who were willing to put that much more into their sport because they knew they were honoring the Lord through their gifts and talents and abilities, so you saw the sacrifices probably even greater because they knew they were playing for something greater, and the same here with the Eagles,” said Maragos, who played for the Seahawks from 2011–13. “We want to bring the Lord as much glory as possible.”

Torrey Smith, who was part of Baltimore’s championship team and spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before coming to Philadelphia, was impressed by the young leaders on the Eagles.

“I think here the difference is a lot of younger guys lead,” Smith said. “As men, you tend to be very sheltered. If I am going through some things, I may not express that to the next man. Only you can expose your weaknesses and the things you want to work on, whether it’s in your relationship or your marriage or your family. When you’re able to talk about it among your brothers, among your family, it helps you grow. And when you realize that you can apply biblical principles to it, it helps us all grow.”

Stefen Wisniewski also played for other teams before joining the Eagles. He began his career with the Oakland Raiders and spent one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to Philadelphia in 2016.

“Obviously, there have been Christians before,” he said. “It’s just so special that there are so many on one team and so many that I would call committed or mature, who are believers, who are solid in their faith, and so many who are outspoken about their faith. There’s a lot of guys who would prefer to keep their faith private for whatever reason, and I think most of the Christians on this team have embraced the fact that we have a platform to share Christ. It’s a huge platform. Millions of people follow us. Let’s use it to lift high the name of Jesus. It’s so cool that so many guys have embraced that, and the fact that the quarterback is one of them, both quarterbacks, I think helps because that’s the most visible position.”

Before the Eagles drafted him, Wentz prayed daily that he would go to a team and be surrounded by guys who helped him grow closer in his relationship to Christ. He could not have imagined a better situation.

“Honestly, it’s been the most incredible thing being here with these guys in our locker room,” Wentz said. “I think a lot of people miss out, I know I did early in college to some extent, in understanding the true value of community, the true value of what we talked about — iron sharpening iron or spurring each other on. God Himself is God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit — three in one. He Himself is living in a relationship in a community.

When Jesus sent out the disciples, He sent them out two by two because they need each other to spur each other on. And I think that we can all lose sight of that and say, ‘Well I’ve got my faith and you have yours, or I have this and you do your own thing.’ And that’s not what it’s all about, because life is hard. Life is messy. There are a lot of things that just aren’t good in life, and it’s easy to just get lost and wander. You always just need people to help keep you on the straight and narrow — keep you on that path and really encourage you. I just know how really beneficial it’s been in my life to have brothers in Christ and to really just help keep me on that path, and I really encourage [people] to kind of just check yourself to some extent and see who’s in your life. Are they building you up? Are they lifting you up? Are they spurring you on? Are they tearing you down? There’s value in iron sharpening iron.”

Accountability is an important part of the team’s brotherhood. Often those who walk closely with the Lord are going to be challenged by the enemy and pulled in the wrong direction, so having accountability partners is a vital part of the Christian journey. Being an accountability partner can be a tough job because sometimes it requires calling someone out — this should be done privately — and it could risk alienating a friend who doesn’t want to hear the truth. But several of the players on the Eagles had the courage to hold each other accountable, and equally important, they were willing to be held accountable. One player told me one of his teammates pulled him aside after he reacted angrily to questions from reporters and gently reminded him that it was important to represent Christ at all times. He thought twice about lashing out the next time he faced difficult questions.

“Even when we are not at Bible study, it is a fellowship,” Ertz said. “Those guys are holding me accountable. Off the field, I am holding them accountable as well. We truly care about each other, we truly care about the growth that each individual has in the Word, as believers, as well as friends and family. There are a lot of guys who are truly trying to boost me up along the way and keep me focused on the main thing, which is obviously the Word and Jesus.

“We probably have seven guys that we were really vulnerable with. When I go back to California sometimes in the offseason, the hardest part is being away from these guys because I don’t have someone walking the walk like I am so much as I do back in Philadelphia. If I am slipping up, Jordan [Hicks] is going to be there for me and say, ‘Zach, we need to talk about this,’ and the same thing with Jordan. We are able to be vulnerable because everything Jordan has gone through I’ve gone through at times; just that ability to hold each other accountable to something so much bigger than us.”

That strong desire to grow in their faith, to sharpen each other, to hold each other accountable helped this core group of players form an unbreakable bond.

“We wouldn’t be who we are, we wouldn’t be the men in Christ that we are without each other,” Hicks said. “I think community is such a powerful concept that Christ has given us and we are just so blessed to have. I look back on my past, and it is a miracle that I am with the Philadelphia Eagles. I’ve had so any different injuries, and there are so many different ways I could have fallen off, but the fact that we have such a community that we can bounce ideas off each other. We can dive deep; it is such a huge thing because being vulnerable with someone, you know they know everything, and it is a scary place to be. But when you go there, that is when the real change happens. You can hit those points that hurt. We’re lucky and blessed to be in the situation that we are and know that not everyone is in a locker room where they can have that type of access to each other every single day. We see each other every day all the time, and we are lucky to have that.

Community is such a strong concept that you know I think that every believer should have.”

 

A millennial perspective on smartphones…

I am a member of Generation X.  I did not grow up in the era of smart phones.  I listened to an interesting debate today among my Millennial about the impacts of smartphones and social media on their relationships.    I know we’ve talked about this before, but I thought I’d share some thoughts:

Stop Flirting 

In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 we are told: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope and always perseveres.” The Scripture reminds us that keeping secrets, even if you are doing it online is deceptive. How would you feel if your spouse did this to you? If you feel an uncomfortable knot in your stomach, you have the answer! When our spouse fails to meet our emotional needs, we look to find another source. Using social media to fill the void will only fill your emotional tank up so much. You need to communicate with your partner, not flirt with an old friend on Facebook. Talk to your mate and explain that you feel a disconnection. “When communicating with your partner, if you have any doubt about what has just been said or you’re still not sure what is making your partner upset, ask,” Effective Communication Advice advised. Being open and honest will help clear the air and help find solutions to differences.

It Keeps You Connected to the Past

You already know this, but let’s be reminded that keeping up with your ex’s life is a no-no. Most likely your spouse will not be happy with this. Being friends with an old lover will not bring you any satisfaction in your current relationship. Plus, it helps avoid drama! We are told in Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Avoid putting the relationship in harm’s way and unfriend your old boyfriends or girlfriends. Marriage requires trust and having a partner who is still connected to old relationships is not healthy. Put the past away for good and focus on your marriage.

It Becomes a Distraction

How annoying is it to talk with your spouse and they’re finger swiping through images, posting or reading articles on social media? Make it a point to take a break and unplug and talk with your spouse. Make sure your spouse knows that spending time with them is important. The Bible warned us about being selfish. Philippians 2:3-4 explained that to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” When everything around us appears to be falling apart, find time for stillness, solitude and rest with each other. Use introspection to help guide you through moments of hardship in your relationship. Social media should be used as a bridge to connect with people. If you are living in the same house, and you’re both on social media, you’re wasting valuable time with each other to connect.

It Temps Us to Overshare

There is nothing wrong with sharing photos or posting updates on what you’re doing. However, we like to overshare things in our private lives. When it comes to our marriage, it is and should remain a private affair. But when you post their screw-ups on social media, it can be hurtful and damaging because there’s no filter for who they get shared with online. “Regardless of how cute you thought it was, your spouse may not want your mother or your college ex to know about it,” Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist, said in an interview with the Huffington Post. Keep your spouse’s shortcomings behind the scenes and your fights offline because it can really backfire.

It Becomes a Substitute

Feelings are up and feelings are occasionally down. Don’t go by your feelings to determine your future. Look back and see how your emotions played a role in the inconsistencies in your marriage and pay attention to see if you go to social media for a jolt of happiness. If so, start to distance yourself from feelings that are negative and distracting you from making your marriage whole. If every thought you make toward your spouse is negative, replace it with a positive thought. You could cloud your think on how they leave their boxers on the floor or choose to acknowledge that they always pick you up something from the store. Social media can’t be your friend or your therapist when you’re feeling down.

 

Guard Your Attitude

Received this devotional from Max Lucado this morning.  It is a good follow-up to  post about negative thinking….or at least I think so!

“It’s easy to forget who is the servant and who is to be served. The tool of distortion is one of Satan’s slyest.  When the focus is on yourself, you worry that your co-workers won’t appreciate you or your leaders will overwork you.  With time, your agenda becomes more important than God’s. You’re more concerned with presenting self than pleasing Him.  You may even find yourself doubting God’s judgment.

Remember Martha criticizing her sister Mary, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work?  Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40). What had Mary chosen?  She’d chosen to sit at the feet of Christ. God is more pleased with the quiet attention of a sincere servant than the noisy service of a sour one!

Guard your attitude. If you concern yourself with your neighbor’s talents, you’ll neglect your own. But if you concern yourself with yours, you could inspire both!”

Abandon Your Negative Attitude

The way we think has a tremendous amount of influence on our lives. Our thoughts can motivate us, make us mad, or even deceive us. We’ve all been there – someone else is talking to us and we’re wondering if they’re thinking we’re cute or if we’re good enough to be their friend. All the while, perhaps they’re thinking the same thing or they’re thinking about what’s for dinner!

Not only does negative thinking affect our marriages, it can also affect our performance in every part of our lives. When we criticize ourselves with negative thinking, our bodies lose much needed energy. This wasted energy keeps us from performing at our highest potential, which unfortunately, tends to keep the negative thinking going.

How do we abandon negative thinking? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV) We need to fill our minds with whatever is true and right that God puts before us each day. Is it easy? No. Is it something we have to work at each day? Yes!

Who are your prodigals?

We studied the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11:32) in church this past Sunday.   I found myself focused on the final two verses:

“My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

I made me wonder….

Am I that able to forgive the past in exchange for the present and the future?  We’ve all had those experiences where we’ve been hurt or taken advantage of by someone else.  Maybe those hurts remain fresh in our thoughts and hearts.  The prodigal son said to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am not longer worthy to be called your son.”  The father accepted his son’s confession and choose to focus on the present rather than the past.

Aren’t we grateful that we have a Father that sees and has compassion for us?  Aren’t we grateful that our Father forgives our past and gives us the grace to become a new creation?

Who are the prodigals in your life?  Will your forgive them as God has forgiven you?

Searching for sea glass

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” James 1: 17

Each trip to Cape Cod includes waking up early and hitting the beach before 5:30am to search for sea glass.  Sea glass is made when regular glass gets into the ocean. While finding a whole bottle may be preferable, one generally works with shards of broken glass. They wash into the sea, bang around for a few decades, and gradually get the edges rounded off and acquire a frosted appearance.  I’ve found that white and brown are the most common creating even more pleasure when you find green or blue.

It was my seventh summer walking the beaches near Brewster with my wife searching for the sometimes elusive treasure.  It’s just the two of us walking along the beach with only the sound of the water and the seagulls.  It has become my most favorite part of the week.

As we walk along – we find plenty of pieces that are not done.  It can feel like the unfinished pieces are ten times more plentiful than the finished treasures.  It does lead to moments of doubt and questioning why we are still out here walking around.  Wait…there it is.  Rounded edges.  Frosted.  It is beautiful.  It motivates you to keep walking.  It validates the effort and confirms the journey.

I’ve been reflecting this past week on those morning hunting trips.  It is easy to wonder how or even if God is executing His plan around us.  We can walk through life simply dealing with the unfinished.  It can be discouraging.  I would ask you to see the beauty that God has already place around you…the water, the birds, the sunrise, the loved ones.  God has place wonderful things along your path.  Take some time this week to see and appreciate them.