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Wedding

June is a busy month for weddings.  As we enter the season known for wedding ceremonies, share your knowledge and experience with couples who want to tie the knot.  We all want them to have a strong and beneficial marriage that will last.

Some couples fall into the trap of spending more time planning the ceremony than discussing their married life together.  A wedding ceremony can last 20-45 minutes, but the marriage is intended to last for the rest of their lives.  In an age when 47% of marriages end in divorce, couples need to build a solid foundation for their marriage to succeed.

Here are some observations from my foxhole.

Get pre-marital counseling.  This is extremely valuable to couples before the wedding bells chime.  Counseling get help you to identify problems before they turn into issues down the road.  Counseling will also help in finding strong solutions that will not jeopardize your union.

Strengthen your communication skills.  You can learn how to listen to your spouse and speak effectively with each other.  This does not happen by accident.  It will take time, effort, and practice.  While better communication skills may seem like a catch phrase, couples who learn the skills can resolve issues more quickly and avoid serious fights.

Discuss roles and expectations.  What will married life look like after the ceremony?  Don’t expect this to take care of itself down the road.  Now is the best time to discuss expectations.  Topics should cover a wide range of issues to give transparency and depth.  Who will make the morning coffee?  Will you have a joint checking account?  Will you be a one or two income household?  Does your spouse plan to go back to school?  Where will you worship?  Marriage counseling is a great place to start or continue the conversation.

Learn how to fight fair.  Couples get into arguments.  That is a given fact of life. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.  Verbal fights, arguments, and conflict will happen.  I can’t prevent you from fighting, but you can learn to fight fair with each other.  Take the time to educate yourself on these skills. Learn what to avoid, how to cool down, and move toward solving the problem as a team. 

Strengthen your faith.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 shares, “a rope of three strands is not quickly broken.” There is incredible wisdom in having God as the third strand in your marriage.  Allow His love to surround you, teach you, and draw you closer to your mate.  Learn to follow God’s plan for yourself and your marriage.  Live within the covenant of marriage.  Make faith a priority in your marriage. Worship together and reach new highs through Christ.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  So it is important to discuss where you are going and where you want to be as husband and wife.  Make time to discuss your goals and plans.  This is an exciting time to chart out a direction for your future together.  Keep God at the center of your plans, and your marriage will continue to grow.

Memorial Day

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose.  Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 665,000 American service members have died in combat since 1775. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make.  They counted others greater than themselves.  They stood up to fight for a cause.  They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note.  It is humbling.  It is loving.  It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

2015AFDPoster

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.

The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.

These warriors demonstrate incredible sacrifice, selfless service, and devotion each day.  Take the opportunity to pray for a member of our Armed Forces and his or her family.

road

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Graduation ceremonies are just around the corner.  I can hear families and friends asking a litany of questions to the cap and gown crowd.  “What are you going to do now?”  “Do you have a job lined up yet?”  “Are you going to move to find a job?” As a culture and a society we place a great deal of emphasis on the jobs we perform.  While we need employment, it seems that jobs can quickly become an obsession.  Jobs can turn into an all-consuming entity that receives much more time than forty hours a week.  In fact, we place so much importance on jobs and employment that a person’s career can quickly become your identity. As Christians, we should note the distinction between one’s work and one’s job.  Paul was an apostle, a missionary, and a pastor.  What was his job?  He made a living as a tentmaker.  Which was more important, his work or his job?  The job was used so that his work could continue. J. R. R. Tolkien was a university professor. He made his living at the university. But when we talk about Tolkien today he is remembered as the author who gave us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  His life’s work surrounded the written word, sharing stories, and communication. Our work and our jobs are not the same thing.  As people of faith, our work is to be a Christian and to demonstrate that Christian witness here on earth.  We are to be like Jesus, no matter our employer.  Our work should surround us and what we do for a living.  There should be Christian attorneys, Christian journalists, Christian farmers, Christian factor workers, Christian school teachers, Christian politicians, and Christian social workers. Christianity is not a hobby, it is our life’s work.  You should not be a Christian on Sundays only.  That would mean being a Christian in name only.  Faith should be a devoted and integrated part of life.  We are to be consumed in the cause and work of Christ. No matter what your diploma says, your work is greater than what you do for a living.  Your work is greater than the job you hold.  Yes, your work and your job are totally different things.  May God help us as we pursue His plan for our life’s work.

Good Friday

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 26:2

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Luke 23:33-34

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 27:45-54

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

palms

Is Palm Sunday relevant today?

Many Christians view Palm Sunday as a quick time out before the clock expires on Lent.  Some see it as the start of Holy Week.  Others see it as a day that Sunday school children will dress up and lay green palm fronds on an altar prior to the worship service.  And some will see Jesus as a faithful and suffering servant, making his journey to the cross.

The answer will ultimately depend on how you view Jesus.

Palm Sunday is all about the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem.  He enters with the reception of a hero.  Palm branches are cut from the trees so that people can wave them and lay them at the feet of Jesus.  The crowds shout with joy and excitement as he arrives.  Some hope for a military solution to their suffering and see Jesus as the right leader for a rebellion.  Some want a new government established where better leadership can be found.  Some desire an economic solution where wealth and riches will fix the needs of their nation.  And a portion of the crowd just desires deliverance through the Promised One of God, the Messiah.  They desire redemption, restoration, and salvation.  A Savior who will wipe away their tears and forgive their sins.

By the end of the week, many in the crowd will be disappointed.  They did not find the expected fix.  The crowd did not find the general, politician, or ruler they had desired.  Only a small portion of the crowd will follow Jesus to the end of the week and they too will ultimately leave his side.  But later, they will see an empty tomb and realize the truth.  God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.

Palm Sunday is relevant because of the cross.  As Jesus moves closer and closer to His own crucifixion, it demonstrates the magnitude of His love for us.  That is the reason we sing on Palm Sunday.  We sing to celebrate Jesus, the Lamb of God.  We celebrate the One who journeys into Jerusalem, knowing that it will take Him to a cross, but that it will take away the sins of the world.

If we see Jesus for all that He has done, there is reason to worship, sing, and rejoice just like the first century crowds in Jerusalem.  May our voices ring out in acclamation just like theirs, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna, in the highest!”

Celtic Trinity Knot

trinity knot1

The Celtic Trinity Knot is a tradition Celtic symbol representing God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Celtic knots are perhaps the most recognizable artwork in Celtic history.  They are an iconic symbol of Ireland and a popular feature in Celtic art dating back to 450 A.D.  Trinity knots are frequently used in Insular art.  Insular art is believed to have originated from the Irish monasticism of Celtic Christianity in the early middle ages.

trinity knot2

Trinity knots can also have a circle incorporated into the symbol.  Depending on who you ask, the circle represents eternity, eternal life, or the love of God. Regardless, the knots are a beautiful way to communicate a spiritual truth.  In each knot, there is no beginning and no end.  So is the timeless nature of our Heavenly Father, who showers us with mercy, grace, and love.

God bless your Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

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