Surrounded by beauty

In the past two weeks I have finally had time to do this thing I’ve really wanted to do– I’ve been getting to know the women in my missional community group from church. And I found out that I am surrounded by beautiful women.

I know in my head that living in community is important. I know that I need to have women in my life who share my beliefs and spiritual goals, women that will call me out on my sin and my selfishness, women that will point me back to God. But living that out is a very difficult thing.

Living that out means being honest, being vulnerable, showing how dark and disgusting you are on the inside. Living that out means loving others when their dark and disgusting bits are showing, and helping them to see those bits and ask God to change them. It’s tough. We are selfish, rebellious creatures.

During the school year, I didn’t have the time to see these women one on one, but that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s been incredible. There are women in my life who have been through serious suffering and sorrow, and they just smile. They share how God brought them through it and never left their sides. There are women in my life who have similar struggles to my own, they have the same worries or fears, women with the same questions– and now that we’ve shown each other these things, we can get through them together. We can pray together and we can pray for one another.

I just feel so overwhelmed by them; they are so beautiful! They have these hearts that just want to love and to serve, and I am so blessed to know them and get to walk alongside them.

Marriage is a War

Yesterday Lindsey posted about the marriage conference we attended last weekend. The idea I walked away with, and have been thinking about all week is this: Marriage is a war.

No really it is.

Paul Tripp stated this truth and I have not stopped thinking about it since. He said, “Marriage is always a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self.” Now, I know I may have lost some of you with that kingdom of God bit, but hang with me and I think you will see the value in it.

What he means is that everyday, in the small normal moments of life, there is a constant struggle within us between our selfishness and living our marriage as God intends. We are called to serve one another in love. Each. Both of us. This means that for Lindsey and I our primary calling is to serve the other and put them first.1

So, the skirmishes that Lindsey and I, or any married couple, have on a daily basis are simply a part of this war. When each of us choose ourselves over the other person, there will be conflict. But as Lindsey said yesterday, if she chooses to be selfish this does not give me an excuse to just be selfish back. In fact, if I have the proper view of things, it gives me even more reason to put her needs ahead of mine.

But this is not easy, in fact it is impossible to do on a daily basis. If you look at my daily choices anyone will see that I choose myself and my desires more than I choose Lindsey’s good. If I am honest I would admit that most of the time I pursue what is good for her the same thing happens to be good for me too. But I’d only admit that if I were honest.

If you are married, my guess is that you know what I am talking about. I bet you have seen this play out in your marriage whether you are a Christian or not. This is the inescapable fact of the human condition, we are selfish. Plain and simple.

So, where does this leave us? Well, if we do not have a marriage that is full of grace towards each other we are left in a very bad spot. If you live for yourself enough there will soon be no living for the other person, and eventually you will erect walls to protect yourself from one another. A very bad spot indeed.

This is why we need Jesus. Only through the grace that he provides can we possibly hope to love our spouse more than ourselves. Only through the overflow of His grace in light of my failures can I be equipped to then show someone else that same grace. That is the the kingdom of God in my marriage, and I desperately want it to defeat the kingdom of myself.

  1. I know that some of my friends and readers may not believe this given current conceptions regarding what the Bible says about marriage. Trust me, this is what the Bible says: that we are to love and serve each other ahead of ourselves.  If this is shocking or unbelievable to you, leave a comment. I’d love to share our perspective. 

The biggest problem in my marriage

Tonight and tomorrow morning Lindsey and I are attending the Austin Stone’s Marriage Seminar with Paul Tripp. It’s kind of an odd way to celebrate the start of her summer, but we had a great time of learning together tonight.

We’ll save a longer post for later, but Lindsey and I walked away from tonight’s session talking about one key point that Paul Tripp made. I am the biggest problem in my marriage. Me, it’s me.

No… it wasn’t a male bashing tonight. The idea we both really loved is this: in your marriage you are the biggest problem. Sure, there are all sorts of bad things that happen to us, without cause, and we can certainly be wronged. But, because we are imperfect, because none of us are without sin, we bring a self-centered nature to the relationship that, unchecked, will destroy the relationship. In a marriage, both husband and wife are at fault when there are issues, because we are all sinful.

Only when we can admit this, to ourselves, our spouse, and to God can we start to address this sin and the effect it has on our marriage.

It was a big insight, it had us talking. We are really looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

Radical Grace

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler from Crossway Books

Tonight Lindsey and I got to hear Matt Chandler preach at our church as part of the Explicit Gospel Tour. He has been traveling for the past few weeks promoting his new book and preaching in churches.

I have listened to Matt preach via podcast for the past several years and I was excited to shake his hand and hear him preach. The best part about Matt is how passionate he is about sharing the gospel, and how even on a tour to promote his book his only desire is to preach faithfully.

Tonight, he did just that.

Preaching out of Colossians 1:13-23, Matt laid out the full gospel and its implications for individuals, the local church, the universal church and the world. It was a great sermon, and Lindsey and I were both happy to be there.

Driving home, we talked a lot about the sermon and what we heard new, or fresh, tonight. In light of our tough day yesterday we seemed to both be drawn to the perspective Matt offered on Christ’s forgiveness.

The point he made that hit us both so strongly is that as Christians it is easy for us to see Christ’s forgiveness in our past sins, in the things that we feel regret over. It is harder for us to see his forgiveness in the sin that we are committing right now, or even all the sins we will commit in the future. We really spent some time thinking and talking about this.

In our marriage, if Christ is our model for how we show grace and forgive each other this is a very instructive point. We should always be forgiving, always be wiping the slate clean and saying, “it’s okay, I love you. I forgive you.” And, just like the love and forgiveness of Christ, we should not presume upon it and take advantage of it, but rather respond to that grace with even more love, service and forbearance.

If His grace is my standard, then my wife should know clearly, and I should be showing her, that nothing she could do would place her outside of my forgiveness. So it also follows that if she is using that same standard to motivate her grace, then I should know clearly how much she loves me, how much she will minister to me when I struggle. That kind of radical grace can shape a marriage into what it is supposed to be. And that’s exactly what we want.