3 Things That Happen When You Find Your Future Wife

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, each of us spends a fair amount of time looking for our future wife. Maybe it’s because we think a man isn’t a man unless he’s gotten a woman to agree to marry him. Or maybe it’s because we don’t want to be alone for the rest of our life. Regardless, quite a bit of time and energy can be put into the search for the future Mrs. You.

For some of us, this is a self-assigned mission, steeped in heartache and error-filled trials; for others, it’s an itch in the back of our brains, a passing thought of fancy that flitters in and out of our brainwaves from time to time. And whether the search is a full-time obsession or a shrug of the shoulders, what few of us fail to consider is what will happen (or not happen) once we do find the one woman we want to spend the rest of our days with.

Therein lies the majesty of the unknown.

For the sake of complete transparency, you should know that I’ve already found the woman who will soon be my wife. And I’m not just saying that in faith. I presented her a ring and she was kind enough to say yes to a lifetime with me. So when I speak of what’s to follow, I speak from a place of experience and truth, not misguided hopes and unfulfilled dreams.

First, you should know that when you find your one true love, things will change. Your life and way of thinking will change. And more importantly, you will change, as a person, a soul, and a man. But you aren’t being forced to change by her. No, she will love you just as you are, unaltered and raw. Instead, it’s that complete love that will make you want to change. You’ll want to be more considerate and thoughtful. You’ll want to be more responsible and mindful of her wants and needs. You’ll even find yourself smiling more, with no rhyme or reason to explain it. That one woman is a changer and whether you realize it now or not, she will change you from top to bottom without offering a single suggestion or passive aggressive thought. You will want to change because you know she deserves the absolute best version of yourself. And that’s what you’ll strive to give her.

Second (and this is important), when you meet your future wife, you’ll look back on the time you spent as a single chap and you’ll be able to rightly see every single mistake you made in this vicious fight known as romance. You’ll see how foolish and/or desperate you were. You’ll see the missteps and the mistakes. You’ll see where you tried too hard and when you didn’t try hard enough. You’ll see why things didn’t work out with that one girl, even though you were sure they would. You’ll see why you failed in love before because this love you have now will be impossible to compare against. [quote]You’ll see why you failed in love before because this love you have now will be impossible to compare against. [/quote]You’ll see that those past relationships couldn’t have lasted because they didn’t have what you have now. You weren’t complete in those past partners the way you are now. Through everything you’ve experienced and fought against, this love—this completeness—allows you to see why you fell short so many times before. It’s because it wasn’t with her. She’s the reason it works now and she’s the reason you know this is now forever.

Lastly, when you meet the woman you’ll marry, you’ll begin to work. And I don’t mean in the way that earns a paycheck or promotion. No, you’ll begin to work at this relationship in ways you never knew love required. Because you realize that her saying yes to your proposal isn’t the end of your journey, but only the beginning.

You’ve found her, but now you have to keep her. And through this given wisdom, you’ll realize that to make this wonderful, mesmerizing, beautiful gift work, you’re going to have to work and sweat and bleed. Because while love feels easy and breezy, it’s not. It’s a beast that requires work and struggle. And yet, while you work to make this relationship as strong as you can, you’ll do it with a smile and joyful step. Because even though you’re working and working and working, it’s with your best friend and the work isn’t a job, but a privilege.

The Bible says that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing (Proverbs 18:22). And once you find this one woman who captures you heart, mind, and soul, you’ll know it to be true.

If you haven’t found your one true love yet, don’t be discouraged. Personally, I had to grow through a failed marriage and numerous failed loves and relationships to find the woman who made it all worth the fight. So don’t give up, do not surrender. Just be prepared for the day that you do find her, you will change, you will be made wise, and you will begin to work. This I promise you.

When Life Throws You A Curveball…

Things are going as expected.

In the ocean of life, it’s smooth sailing. All of the sudden, a rogue wave comes along and threatens to wreck your ride. What do you do? Do you let the wave dictate where you’re going, or do you forge, headlong into the thick of it?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

(Hebrews 11:1)

Our responses to the curveballs of life are signified by our faith and trust in the author of our universe.

When life throws you a curveball…

I’m not going on the Quarterlife #48States Road Trip. Despite months of planning and preparation, the trip is over before it begins. Why, though? To answer that question, let’s sprint back over to Hebrews 11, which I referenced above. It’s one of my favorite and most revered chapters of The Bible.

The author of Hebrews mightily tells stories of faith in Chapter 11. In fact, he says “It was by faith” sixteen times before going on to say: “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.”

What. Boundless. Faith.

33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 

(Hebrews 11:33-34)

Their faith harnessed the power of a God that can move mountains.

A History Lesson

I’m reminded of my own story. Which begins with my mother.

In 1978, my sister was born into this world. She was supposed to be the only Schmidt child, due to internal complications. Roughly eight years later, my mother prayed, harnessing the power of a God that can move mountains. She said, “If you are who you say you are, give me a son for my husband.”

In the fall of 1987, my brother was born into this world at one-million-to-one odds. 364 days later, she got double for her trouble. That’s me.

What. Boundless. Faith.

At 2,000,000-to-1 odds, I stand on this earth as a result of a laboring of prayer. To put that in perspective, if you repeated this outcome 1,999,999 more times, I wouldn’t be here. Only the finger of God could have made life when there was no possible outcome for life. Ask my mom, though. Seemingly insurmountable odds were nothing for an insurmountable God.

When life throws you a curveball…

…it’s the perfect time for a home run.

Verse 40 says, “For God had something better in mind for us.”

Often, we settle for mere fractions of our God-vision. Or, we seek to implement his will ahead of time. To this, I exhort you: God’s vision for your life is exclusively yours and the author of time is always on time. Never early, never late.

It is for that reason that I can’t take the #48States journey in 2013.  And that is tough to say because I desperately wanted to take this trip. Still do, in fact. But I am unwilling to sacrifice God’s good for God’s great. And the companies that have partnered with Quarterlife have been great throughout this entire process. I am truly floored when I think of their willingness to fund such an amazing opportunity.

In the end, though, it’s about doing what we’re called to do. In this season, I must press the pause button because God has something better in mind. It’s called We Drop Love.

wedroplove-large

We Drop Love is God’s home run. We Drop Love is all about loving people–––whoever they are, wherever they’re at. It’s about dropping bombs of love, no agenda attached. It’s about an giant, audacious goal: to find 500 different ways to love people on a national journey next summer.

And so we wait. But waiting is good. Waiting always gives us the opportunity to become further aligned with God’s will.

While we wait for next summer, I am asking you to join us on the journey. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation and keep updated. Ask us questions. Suggest things. But above all else, let’s get moving. Together, we’ll forget the hatred and forget the judgment. You’ve seen the news lately–––there’s enough of it already–––but we as a generation can change things.

If we do, We Drop Love might be the biggest curveball yet.

She Loves Me, She Loves Not-Me

“I want a girl who loves me for who I am.”

“I shouldn’t have to change to be with anyone.”

Have you thought, or said, things like this before?  A popular belief about relationships, is that you should find someone who accepts you for who you are, doesn’t try to change you, and the two of you will live happily ever after. However, this is a boring, static, and warped view of true relationship.

How many times have you heard (or said) statements like, “She wants me to ________, but that’s just not me.”. We cling to ideas of individuality, claiming we should be free to be ourselves, and then are surprised when things don’t work out in a relationship which involves two people.  The truth is, relationship requires that your individuality becomes deeply and profoundly interwoven with the other.

A true relationship is two individuals finding themselves as they grow, shape, and change each other.

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The question is not if you can find someone who will not change you, but if you can find someone who changes you into someone better than you are.

This is a truth which becomes drastically apparent in marriage.  When two people join together, if they hold to individualized identity, it is inevitable that they will move apart.

Change is inevitable.

You either change together, or change separately and move further apart.

I believe this is a truth evident in the very beginning of creation.

22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man. ” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:22-24 (NIV)

And affirmed again by Jesus in Mark 10:6-8.

But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. (NIV)

Two become one.

Individuality becomes communion.

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In true relationship, especially the sacred bond of marriage, identity is no longer defined by individuality, but emerges from continual, growing communion between two people.  Each constantly grows and changes to be what the other, and the relationship, needs.  Petty ideas of entitlement are traded for beautiful realizations of self-sacrificing love.  Neither is belittled, but both are uplifted, as two people strive to become a single, unified example of love.

What ideas of individuality are you clinging to, which drive a wedge between the relationship you are meant to have?

In what ways do you cling to the desires of self, and neglect the communion of two becoming one?

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If You Are Not Married

Focus on finding out what the other person needs in a relationship; talk about the things that matter most to each other.  Protect the one you are with, and do not cross the boundaries of physical relationship.

To have sex before the commitment of marriage, is to become one physically, before becoming one in identity.  It will inevitably bring confusion.

When you are not married, you protect the other by not joining into a communion that you are not ready for.  Do not take from your partner what they should only share in the communion and commitment of marriage.  This is not only about sex, but also about sharing parts of your life which you are not yet ready to share.

Be careful of the emotional dependency which can arise from becoming too close before you are committed to the other.

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If You Are Married

Your identity is deeply rooted in your spouse.  Every aspect of life is about the two of you.  Your thoughts are to be in light of what is best for the other.  Your choices are to be decisions which move you and your spouse closer together.  Even your body is to be cared for, as it is now shared with another.

Your identity is now the communion between you and your spouse.

Every decision (what you think, say, watch, or do) is now to be weighed against how it will impact the union between you and your spouse.

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For Us All

May we strive to let go of false notions of individual entitlement, and strive to discover the truth of relationship which embraces change.

[box_help]Thanks for reading. What can you do to better prepare for marriage, or to be a better husband? Let us know in the comments.[/box_help]

Coffee Shop Talk: Travel Spots, Testimonies, and How We Love

[box_light]Ed. note: This is B. She’s our weekly Q&A writer and will be answering questions from a female perspective (naturally). You can find her subsection under “Faith.” Do you have a question or comment? Send it to us on FacebookTwittervia email, or in the comments, and we’ll do our best to have her answer it in future weeks.[/box_light]

[box_light]Double ed. note: Thanks for your patience. We’re on the 2012 Quarterlife Ultimate #RoadTrip12 and we got a little carried away yesterday. Enjoy the Friday version of Coffee Shop Talk![/box_light]

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The Quarterlife Ultimate #RoadTrip12 is happening right now. Name one place in the United States you’d like to be TODAY.

If I could be anywhere today, I’d love to be on a beach in Florida or roaming the streets of Chicago. Both, I would have to say are like second homes to me. If I were to choose somewhere that I have never been, then my choice would probably be Nashville. My cousin goes to school there and says I would absolutely adore downtown Nashville–––my fear is that I would never leave!

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What’s the most powerful piece of your testimony?

I don’t know if I could pinpoint the most powerful piece of my testimony because honestly, my testimony really has nothing to do with me. If I had to say something, the most powerful piece of my testimony isn’t what… but who. God & His grace. The only reason I am here and not completely falling apart in this world is because of Him. Every detail of my story was woven and stitched together by God–––ultimate highs and the extreme lows–––all now used specifically by Him and for Him.

“By the blood of The Lamb and the words of our testimony, we will overcome.” [Desperation Band]

God knows the power that our stories hold. But only by the blood of Christ. Without the cross, our stories are just that–––stories. But when they are drenched in the grace and mercy of Jesus there is power. The most power.

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How do we love people better as a Christian community?

As a Christian community I think we all need to get on the same page.

So often you’ll hear, “I just don’t feel called to that.” And that’s often times referencing things like serving food to the homeless, volunteering at a fundraiser, donating money or items to those in need; the list goes on and on. Whatever the case may be, we are limiting how God wants us to love people. We put restrictions on who is worthy of our love and if we feel “called” to love them.

God tells us that the greatest commands are to love Him & love His people (personal paraphrase from Luke 10:27). Whether we would like to admit it our not–––reality check–––we are called to such things. Are they our big dreams & passions? Maybe, maybe not… and that’s okay, really.

We love and are the hands and feet of Jesus because He has commanded us to be His hands and feet. The Christian community is sorely lacking in this truth. We are so inwardly focused on having the best dramas, lights, music, or sermon series, that we forget about the sick and dying world–––and they’re right outside our doors. [I’m talking to myself as well in all of this.] The community as a whole needs a nice jolt to the heart. It’s time we allowed God to rub the paddles together and yell out “CLEAR!” and shock us back into what life is supposed to be: true living that is centered around Kingdom loving.

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until our next chat,

B.

[box_success]Send us your questions! You can do so via FacebookTwittervia email, or in the comments, and we’ll do our best to have her answer it in future weeks.[/box_success]

Coffee Shop Talk: When God is Missing, Video Games, and Chick-fil-A

[box_light]Ed. note: This is B. She’s our weekly Q&A writer and will be answering questions from a female perspective (naturally). You can find her subsection under “Faith.” Do you have a question or comment? Send it to us on FacebookTwittervia email, or in the comments, and we’ll do our best to have her answer it in future weeks.[/box_light]

[box_light]Double ed. note: Thanks for your patience. We’re on the 2012 Quarterlife Ultimate #RoadTrip12 and we got a little carried away yesterday. Enjoy the Friday version of Coffee Shop Talk![/box_light]

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What do you do when it seems like God is missing?

I wish I had a step by step answer for this question. Honestly, God’s grace saves me every time it seems like He is missing. A lot of times when I feel this way in my life, I tend to shut down. I am thankful I have a group of friends that won’t let me push back and completely give up. They fight for me and give me the kick in the butt I need to fight for myself.

Prayer definitely helps. Most times I can’t say much more than, “God–––I just need to feel you. I need more of You.” I praise Him that He is a God who draws near to us when we draw near to Him. I just need to take a step in His direction and He will come running.

A lot of times, I have to push myself. I force myself to show up at church, to pray, to worship, to read the Word. And those are all great things, but can we all get honest with ourselves for a hot second? We have all most likely gone through seasons when walking away seemed a lot easier and more appealing than fighting for someone who seemed to be missing. BUT God in His goodness and grace promises that NOTHING can take me from His hand. Not even my stubborn, selfish, lazy self. I have to press on and continue to be around people who will keep me accountable; people who genuinely love me and will listen without judgement but will also be the voice of reason I so often need.

Sitting in the silence and just getting desperate for God to move and break through helps. So often we run away. We search through life for a break or just break down. We need to seek the break through. God is waiting and constantly fighting for us. Jesus fights for me everyday. He fought for me all the way to the Cross and didn’t stop there. He fought death and won for me. Am I going to fight for Him?

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Do women really hate that men play video games?

I definitely cannot speak for all women on this because there are some hardcore “gamers” out there that represent for the female race, [Power on girls! *fist pump*] but if we were to generalize, I would have to say that it’s a love/hate relationship. It’s not that we hate that you play video games; we just don’t really want to hear about it.

It’s a lot like how men don’t like sitting around listening to our problems and our friends’ problems and the friends of our friends’ problems and so on. I can’t really say I know a lot of women (I don’t think I could even name three), who genuinely care what level you’re on in Halo or what guy in your Xbox chat time thing was talking trash (clearly, I don’t know the lingo).

It’s one of those things–––go ahead and play. Burn off steam. Have time with the guys. Go nuts. We ask for one simple thing: pause it when we talk to you. We will work on giving you your time and respecting the game, but when we are trying to talk just pause it and acknowledge our presence to indicate that you see us and hear us.

Also: every so often, ask us to play. We will most likely say ‘no’, but once in a blue moon, we will feel adventurous and say ‘yes’. And then ask you to show us how to move the head and body of the little blue guys at the same time while moving forward, while also pressing all the buttons to make the weapons appear and reappear. Seriously. That’s hard stuff right there.

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What’s your opinion on the Chick-fil-A controversy?

To be completely honest, if you were to ask me about 30 minutes ago what this was all about, I would have said “it’s something about chicken sandwiches and gay marriage.” I just finished reading a few articles to try and figure out what all the commotion is about and honestly–––it’s all completely heart breaking to me.

On one side, there is a man who is trying to be a light and a godly leader in this society, living his life based upon biblical truths and on the other side, there are gay men and women who are feeling broken down by both the company and the customers over comments made and implied (whether they happen to work for Chick-fil-A or not). In every article I read, it is clear to see that there are so many little battles that are being brought up in one major argument, even though they all need to be addressed separately.

I am proud of a fellow brother for standing behind the Word of God and living in a way that is honoring to the covenant of marriage and how God has intended it to be. In the process of how this issue has been addressed, though, so many people are being broken down and pushed further from the Truth. The world we live in today will never understand why we can’t just see and edify them in their “love” for each other and the choices they make.

We are living in a time when sin is thrown in the face of Christians and we are expected to accept it. No where does God tell us to accept the sin… but we are to LOVE His people. We need to love them as He loves them. See them as souls to be won for the Kingdom, not homosexuals to be converted. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion by both sides. I can’t really say I have a strong opinion on this alone. I have strong opinions on a lot of the smaller battles trying to be fought, but those are for another time.

All I can say is I have no problem eating an order of waffle fries no matter who serves them to me.

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until our next chat,

B.

[box_success]Send us your questions! You can do so via FacebookTwittervia email, or in the comments, and we’ll do our best to have her answer it in future weeks.[/box_success]

The Gospel Is… Offensive

When we think of the Gospel, the overwhelming message of love captivates our hearts, as it should. Something in our inner-most being adores sacrificial love. After years of being saved, it still gets to me and it always will. It is the hands down the greatest love story ever told. There’s another side to the Gospel however, it can be incredibly offensive.

Some people simply don’t like hearing that they cannot save themselves.

Let’s take a look at the Pharisees, who may have been the people who got on Jesus’s nerves the most. They went through such great lengths to achieve holiness and righteousness, doing their absolute best to earn their own salvation. They were slaves to a law that was impossible to follow. There was a rule for practically everything… How you ate. How you dressed. When you worked. Who you spoke to. Animals you touched.

That’s exhausting to even think about… being tied to an impossible goal (yet they clung to it). Then Jesus comes along and pretty much says (obviously paraphrasing here):

“Yeah, all that stuff you guys are doing… it doesn’t matter. It’s not good enough. Yeah. You follow more rules then anyone, know the law better then anyone and stay away from unclean things more then anybody… but that’s not good enough. Only my life is good enough”.

The Pharisees continued to scoff at Jesus throughout his entire ministry. Although salvation was there through him, they insisted on doing it their own way, trying to earn their own salvation, sticking to their own impossible goal.

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Even today, this type of thinking still exists. Although people who think this way don’t come off as self-righteous or have the same elitist attitude that the Pharisees made famous, their theology, at the roots, is comparable to that of the Pharisees.

When we get outside our ultra comfortable Christian circles and talk to the un-churched population, one of the most common views on heaven and salvation is “I’m a good person. I do my best to not do anything wrong. I love my family, I pay my taxes and for the most part I am honest. I think that heaven is for the good people, and if I do my best to be a good person, I’ll end up there”. Just like the Pharisees, they believed doing the right things and following a standard is the way to salvation.  The Gospel response to that type of moral living as a means to salvation is the same response Jesus had to the Pharisees.

Not. Good. Enough.

For the most part, societies have a standard of a “good” person. We see this person as a human who is doing their best to live a “good” life and obeying the law and plays by the rules. Here’s the offensive part of the Gospel, we are fallen. Our good deeds are worthless.  I completely understand why that’s tough to chew on for a lot of people.

To fully understand the good news of Jesus our savior, we have to fully accept the bad news also. We are helpless sinners. We like to give ourselves credit and pat ourselves on the back when we do good, but in reality, our good deeds don’t save us. Jesus saves us. In a world where you get what you pay for and that’s the bottom line, the Gospel is completely counter-cultural.

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His life, and only his life is good enough to please the father and good enough to save. That leads into the other offensive side of the Gospel: if we truly believe in the whole Gospel, we also believe that every other religion is false because no other religion preaches the saving power of Jesus. The Gospel looks at other people, entire countries who diligently follow other religions, hold their traditions close to their hearts, do good things, raise their families around these teachings and says, simply put, you guys are all wrong. Harsh.

So where does that put followers of the Gospel? People who follow a religion that others view as offensive and close minded? What are we to do?

Stand firm.

Love. Love and love some more.

The ones who hate us. Love them. The ones who oppose us, love them.

It’s completely possible to love other people, but stand firm in the truth of the Gospel. Is it hard? Yes. Does it lead to awkward conversations? Yes. Will people still hate you even though you respect them and love them, absolutely.

If you’re preaching a Gospel that doesn’t offend anyone, you may not be preaching it in it’s entirety. I’m not saying go out there and make it your goal to offend everyone. That’s pretty stupid, and those “Christians” give us all a bad name. When you do preach the Gospel though, preach it in it’s fullness, and know that offensiveness comes with the territory.

[box_help]Sound Off: Have you ever witnessed the Gospel offend anyone? Do you believe preachers often “soften” the gospel to draw in bigger crowds? How do you live in that tension that includes a beautiful truth that offends many?[/box_help]

Seeing Dating For What It Is

Dating is something that I have never really thought was an issue that mattered to God because of how minuscule it can seem when compared to deeper issues. Even the word itself has a specific stigma to it. It’s as if this word holds some sort of power that causes conversations to get awkward and people to get either extremely happy or ridiculously sad. Some people even get angry at the very thought of the word.

Most people that write about dating come across as if they are the ultimate authority on the issue. They all have written a dozen books about it and although each author differs in opinion and logic they somehow all remain correct. It’s ridiculous, as if a self help book is going to launch you into a Godly relationship with the opposite sex. I’m not even going to pretend to be like that because the truth is I don’t have it figured out.

I’m just adding to the conversation… taking the things I’ve noticed and mixing them with a few things that I have learned. As a single Christian guy I am trying to find where I belong in all of this. I love the idea of marriage and I realize that dating is a prerequisite to that endeavor. My problem with dating is that it has been completely abused and in some situations it has become extremely unhealthy.

I wish I could say that I haven’t been a part of the impurity of dating but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the role I played. It starts with the feeling of loneliness and from there we begin to loan our hearts out to anyone who will listen and show us affection.

 

Dating gets distorted because we act in the flesh and we look for joy and fulfillment in cheap interactions with sinful people. It seems as if we don’t understand how dangerous this really is and I believe that we would be compelled to change if we knew the magnitude of our actions. When it comes to something like dating, it’s vital for us to realize that we aren’t just dealing with ourselves. There is another heart involved and when we abuse dating we are just proving that we aren’t mature enough to be responsible for that person’s heart.

 

Guys:

Stop treating dating like it’s some sort of sick sport that you pride yourself in being good at. We’ve all done it and it and it just ends in a feeling of emptiness and guilt. Start looking at the girls you are in community with as daughters of the King of Kings and not some new project that you’re working on. Spend your time praying for the girls you spend time with and make sure that your actions and intentions glorify God and not yourself.

 

Ladies:

Remember that you were purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ and not by some guy who wants you for your body. Stop dressing in a way that encourages guys to treat you like less than who you are. NEVER pursue a relationship with a guy. That’s his job and he should pride himself in winning over your heart through prayer and authenticity. The guy who truly loves you will pursue you even after he has you.

 

We were created to have love, be love and give love but it is impossible to do that outside of the love of Jesus Christ. We need to be training ourselves in Godliness and be able to get to the point in our relationship with God where we are ready to be responsible for somebody else’s heart.

I want to see a generation of followers of Jesus Christ rise up and become men and woman of character and integrity, and I want to see it extend to dating. I want to see dating become something important that we pray and fast over, something that we take completely serious.

Andy Stanley’s Controversial Decision

I’m a big fan of Andy Stanley. I listen to his podcast weekly, read his books and often view sermons on his church’s website. He is an excellent communicator and has an amazing ability of considering the people Jesus specifically spoke to while focusing in on the context of the situation, which leads to getting the most out Jesus’s words. I admire that skill greatly. Recently however, one of Andy’s illustrations has caused quite the stir in churches and fired off (what Albert Mohler calls) a “shot heard round the world”.

While teaching a lesson called When Gracie Met Truthie, Andy speaks about the tension between truth and grace.  As Christians we need to be able to fully accept, call and label sin for what it is (truth), but at the same time embrace the saving nature of Jesus Christ (grace). We are to completely accept both sides of that tension and we cannot forget either side of it. It’s an awesome message actually; check it out when you get a chance.

The main point behind the message isn’t the root of the controversy, it’s an illustration Andy used which lead many Christians (myself included) to whisper out loud or in their head a collective “huh?” Through a short anecdote, Andy revealed how he dealt with an openly gay couple serving at one of his churches (this situation was not the main point of the story, just a small detail in it). Andy informed the couple that they cannot serve as a “host team” because a man in the couple was still married, therefore committing what Andy called “good old fashioned adultery”. I’m sure most church-goers would agree with that decision.  Here’s where a lot of people get confused/offended however, from the way Andy tells the story, he seemingly had no problem with the couple engaging within a homosexual relationship and doesn’t cite that as his reason for telling them they can’t serve; his problem is with the adultery taking place. He never takes the time to label homosexuality as a sin.

I’m not here to bash Andy Stanley. I’ve read quite a few reactions to his sermon, and can see this issue from both sides. It would be unfair to make assumptions about Stanley’s stance on homosexuality based off of the story. The debate and controversy this story has created clearly highlights a greater issue within the body of Christ in 2012.

The church has yet to find an effective way to minister to the gay community. 

There are many situations in which the church has done a great job of meeting many people in the midst of  struggles the same way Jesus did. When an alcoholic or drug addict walks in, we find a recovery bible study for them. Many college ministries do a great job of welcoming young twenty somethings who are in the midst of enjoying everything the world has to offer, and getting them plugged into a small group. When a openly gay man or woman has an honest heart that desires to know more about God, and wants to become part of the church, how should the church respond? Is the church really creating a place for them? Can they become members? Can they serve on leadership teams? Where do we draw the line? Do we have the right to draw a line? It’s a tough situation. Ironically, this tension all comes back to Andy Stanley’s sermon; it’s a struggle between truth and grace.

I’m not saying I know the right answer, but I can be sure of the first step, and that’s to simply love them. Most of the gay community is completely aware of what the bible teaches about their lifestyle, but remain unaware of what it says about love, and a lot of that has to do with the way they have been treated by people who call themselves Christians.  Imagine how a gay couple would feel if they walked into a church and were greeted with love? How a lesbian at her job would feel about Christianity if a straight, bible believing Christian woman took the time to be her friend and listen to her?  The first step is to open their mind to Christianity, and that can be accomplished through love. Then the gospel can be shared. Then maybe they pick up the bible and read the good news. Who knows what God can do from there? When we love people we move them closer to the heart of Jesus then when we condemn them.

Did Andy Stanley take grace too far by allowing a gay couple to serve at his church? Have you ever had an experience ministering to a gay person? Positive or negative, share your experience in the comments section.

Cheating Love

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine who was recently married.  He told me that his wife had a relationship before they met which had become physical.  When the two of them began to see each other, they decided to wait until they were married, and had found great joy in having done the right thing.  He said, what is odd is that it doesn’t upset him that she has a past, he has forgiven her and loves her with all his heart, but the only thing that bothers him is that he will never be able to know her the way that the other guy did.  He is glad they waited, and wouldn’t do anything different, but it is a part of her he will never know.

There are profound implications when we try to cheat the love God intends for us.  When we love as God desires, every relationship becomes deeper, closer, and more meaningful.  When we cheat love, we give away a piece of ourselves, and take something from others, that we cannot replace.  Forgiveness is available, and God can restore, but we can never get back the part of our life which we have chosen to give up.  It is a truth that is powerfully made known in sexual relationships.  God can mend a person, they can find the love He has for them with another, but there will always be a part of themselves that they gave away to someone else.  When we seek love for ourselves through others, or believe that we are showing love to others by engaging in acts outside of the way God intended, there will always be a sacrifice involved.

A Christlike love never causes reason for one to feel that they have been cheated out of experiencing love with another.  It does nothing that takes away from what a person is meant to be, it does not seek fulfillment at the expense of anyone, and it always brings peace and harmony, never introducing any reason for disconnect.

We were created to be in perfect union with God, ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live, and our lives are lived in the search to reconnect the unions which have been broken by sin.

At the beginning of creation, all things were as they were meant to be.  Man was in loving harmony with God, humanity, and nature itself (Genesis 1&2).  Sin entered the story through twisting the love of self into pride, and mankind was introduced to the devastating idea that maybe we could be more than God intended for us (Genesis 3:4&5).  Harmony was broken, and things quickly spiraled out of control.  Man and woman became ashamed of themselves (Genesis 3:7), hid from God (Genesis 3:8), turned on each other (Genesis 3:12), and then turned on nature (Genesis 3:13).  Unity was broken (Genesis 3:14-19).

I believe that every problem we face with sin can be traced back to the desire for love, and every problem is overcome by discovering the love that God longs for us all to find through Him and the price He paid on the cross.

We were created in the image of God, bearers of a divine spark, and I believe this spark to be love.

When sin entered the world, it shattered the unions we were designed for.  Sin then continues to reign in our attempts to reconnect these unions apart from the will of God.

We were created to love, and be loved, and sin is ultimately a perversion of love.

The love of self is perverted into pride and greed.  The need for love is transformed into depression and, or, the need for power.  The desire to love others is twisted into the desire for control.  Our union with the world we live in becomes the exploitation of our planet, or the exhalation of the planet itself over the people who live on it.

The power of sin is rooted in our longing for the love we were created for, and every act of sin furthers the splintering of the unions God desires to reconcile.

I have heard it said that the difference between men and women is that women desire to feel love and connection, while men desire honor and respect.  I would argue that all of humanity desires the same thing.  A desire for honor and respect is a desire for love and connection.  It is a need to be seen as the wonderful creation we are, and should be rooted in showing others the same thing.  This is why our culture is drawn to music and movies which express our need to feel importance and acceptance.  Media may express it as the need for more stuff, the act of catching the guy or girl we want, the frustration of being treated improperly, or the anger against all the things that make us feel wronged, but all of it is a cry for the love and connection we want to feel with the world.  We watch reality TV so as to feel connected to the people whose lives are placed on display, performers are told to connect with the audience and to always leave them wanting more.

Consider the man who lives for his job.  He has an inner need for love and respect, and has decided to seek fulfilling this need through success and power.  His worth becomes rooted in achieving the next promotion, and he will step on anyone he must in order to climb the ladder of success.  If he could just make more, just drive that car, live in that house, or gain that title, then he will be somebody; then others will look at him differently.  Family, friends, and coworkers all become second to his job.  He sacrifices true love by seeking love through achievement, and in his search for worth and purpose, becomes willing to give up everything else.  His friends make statements like, “I don’t even know him anymore.”  His wife and family are pushed aside.  He becomes lost and empty; driven by the attempt to fill the void in his life with power, wealth, and making a name for himself.

Think of the people whose ministries become their lives, at the expense of their family and friends.  Their desire to love others pulls them from the ones they are closest too.  They become focused on the number of lives they can change, but lose sight of the importance of those nearest to them.  The big picture focus of loving others causes them to miss the small acts that express profound love.

Our good works can cheat us out of experiencing the love we were meant to share.

We can get so caught up in OUR idea of loving people, that we actually miss out on love entirely.

This is why ministry can bring burnout and even cause families to fall apart.  If we turn loving others into simply achieving a successful ministry, we will never experience a love that causes everything to become more united.  If we turn loving our neighbor into a religion of works, we create our own standard by which we judge the hearts of others.  We can begin with the good intention of growing closer to God and others and become lost in our own religion, which says that everyone should show love in the way that we have decided it is to be shown.

Jesus wants us to be known as belonging to our Father.  He wants us to find satisfaction from our longing for love by discovering the worth and purpose we were created for.  He wants us to make a name for ourselves by being associated with His name, and He says that all this will be known “by your love.” (John 13:34&35)

How we love determines how we live.

A Christlike love reaches out to everyone.  It never places importance on one aspect of our being over another.  It does not require us to lower our love of self for others, nor does it ever place ourselves over others.

We are worth love, and therefore all should love.

It seeks harmony in all things.  It rejects sins perversion of love and opens the possibility for all love to be more meaningful.  When we love as God intends, balance is achieved in life.  There is no room for pride or greed.  Any place of power is used to better love others.  The need for control is replaced with a loving guidance that allows freedom.  The planet we have been blessed with is cared for and order so that everyone and everything can benefit.

True love exalts all things and invites Heaven to Earth.

It brings importance and purpose to every aspect of reality.  No one is seen as better than anyone else, and no one is left wanting.

Through true God-ordained love, all things find balance, and all sin is overcome.

All you need is love (I had to fit the Beatles in).

As we strive for the love God intends, we bring light into darkness, hope into despair, peace into chaos, harmony into discord, and fellowship into loneliness.  No one and nothing is left outside of the love of God.  All of creation is invited back into the unity that it was created to enjoy.  We do nothing that would diminish the worth and purpose of all things.   We speak joy, hope, life, and harmony into the world.  We do not seek to elevate self, but elevate all things as God intended.

Love brings all things back to the Father.  He paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be free to experience the bountiful, glorious, joyous love we share in an existence grounded in Him.

Our world is searching for true love, but so often we cheat ourselves and settle for sin’s twisted perversion.

We accept empty imitations, while God desires for us to experience the richness and beauty of a profound love that satisfies the deep longings of our soul.  We accept sin’s lie that God is holding us back, and allow ourselves to miss the truth that He wants nothing more than to see us experience a life far beyond all that we could dream of.

One of sin’s most blatant perversions of love can be seen in our world’s decaying view of marriage.  Marriage is intended to be a spiritual and mysterious union in which two people become one.  A man and woman become whole through their joining into a covenant that is meant to be a source of encouragement, strength, harmony, and love.  A husband and wife are meant to be a picture of what the unions we were created for looks like.  Their relationship is to be one which lifts each other up, brings each of them closer to God, and better equips them to reach out to the world in harmony.

Yet our world has settled for sins deformed vision of marriage.  It has become a union in which each partner seeks what they want from the other.  Both hold on to their sense of entitlement and greed, and when the other is not fulfilling their needs, they separate.  The world then begins to view marriage as unnecessary.  Instead, when a man and woman decide that they are in love, they decide to live together and try out their compatibility (After all, it does make it much easier to walk away if things don’t work out.).  When two people decide to play house, they are cheating themselves out of the joy of the commitment.  The commitment of marriage is not meant to be a “ball and chain” which weighs two people down and holds them back from experiencing life, but a wondrous pronouncement that two people have become whole.  It is the joyous proclamation that they have chosen each other, and wherever life may lead, theirs is a unity that cannot be broken.  Marriage is not just a piece of paper, or a ring, but an amazing example of the reconciling of unity.  It is two people joining together, forging a new life, and becoming a shining beacon of the hope of reconciliation.  It is two people accepting each other as they are, and then always striving to become what the other needs.

Marriage is meant to be our world’s most beautiful picture of what a life of Christlike love looks like.

We have allowed one of the most amazing examples of unity to become commonplace and expendable.

We have become content with the hollow vision of love that our sin has shown us.

Our world has allowed sin to reign, and has let itself become blind to what true love looks like.  Wrath, pride, greed, lust, envy, slothfulness, and gluttony have become the norm, and true love announces that these have no place here.  Instead, love proclaims forgiveness, humility, charity, respect, the celebration of others wellbeing, an urgent desire to express joy and hope, and the need to see all things ordered in such a way that no one is left in need.  Love is the uncompromising announcement that all things are wondrous, all things deserve tranquility, all things should be treated as holy, for all things are God’s.

Where there is love, there is hope.

Where there is love, there is peace.

Where there is love, there is joy.

Where there is love, there is grace.

Where there is love, there is mercy.

Where there is love, there is restoration.

In a world filled with longing and despair, love conquers all.

[box_info]Excerpt from “Fix Me, Love Them: Christianity as it Should Be”, by Matt Wells.  Available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and iBooks[/box_info]

That Lovin’ Feelin’

We’ve all had our dream of falling in love. The world bombards us with the myth of love at first sight. Boy meets girl, each wins the other over with their perfect smile, charm, and wit, and they live happily ever after.  If problems arise, everything is tied up in a perfect bow through the course of a single show or movie.  All mistakes are worked through, and there is no sign of lasting consequences as the two embrace and all is forgotten.

Often, love is placed on the same plane as emotion.  We view love as equal to happiness or sadness.  In our efforts to find that perfect warm and fuzzy feeling, love becomes something which is easily fleeting.  When hardship arises, we accept that we must have fallen out of love and move on to find our next experience.

But love is not to be a mere feeling or emotion, but a choice and motive.

Love transcends emotion.

Love can be found amidst sorrow and frustration, just as it can be found intertwined with happiness.

True love is meant to be the driving force behind our every thought and action. It is not tied to our feelings, but instead bends our very will around seeking the betterment of another. Instead of “falling” into love, we are to charge into every situation with love guiding our every step.

Relationships are not easy, and lasting relationships are the ones which withstand the problems that life throws at them from every angle. From the simple arguments over what to watch, to the battles over staying fully committed, true love is found weaving it’s way through every discussion and binding two people together.

As I sit here thinking about love, I can’t help but think of the man whose very name is synonymous with romance; a man every guy from my generation hoped to grow up and become, Steve Urkel. Every Friday night, I couldn’t wait for TGIF so that I could study the every move of this veritable Don Juan. I took notes as Urkel effortlessly wooed the love of his life, Laura Winslow. Who wouldn’t want to be that suave and debonair?

Now, anyone familiar with “Family Matters” (and if you’re not, it just makes me feel old), knows that I may be slightly wrong on the facts.  Urkel may not have been exactly the pinnacle of cool, but his character is actually a decent example of love (and he had his moments, the line, “I worship the rain, that waters the grass, that grows on the ground you walk on”, is pure genius… …though it may get you some funny looks if you try it).

Steve Urkel lived every day seeking the next way he could show Laura just how special she was. He would risk making himself look like a fool, or even upsetting her, if it meant standing up for her and protecting her. His “feelings” we’re placed aside in light of each decision being completely based on her wellbeing, and he strove to take part in nothing that would diminish her worth or his character (Though he did struggle with the irresistible temptation of a good polka, but who doesn’t?).

It may not be the most profound example of love, but, as a man, I believe I could learn a thing or two from Steve Urkel (I may have the nerd part down, but at least, in a world where Apple is taking over, nerds are in… …let me live happily in my delusion).  If you are seeking a relationship, or seeking to make a relationship last, strive to make love the focus of everything.

Become the man that bases every decision on what will be beneficial for raising the character of yourself and your significant other, and always seek to further illuminate the worth of the other.

Long to show her that you know she is an amazing creation, and that you will do nothing to diminish her worth. Let go of a shallow view of love which only sees its worth in how it makes you feel, and discover the wonderful truth of a love which is purposeful in action and profound in effect. Cling to, while fully expressing, a love that provides hope and peace in the midst of turmoil and magnifies happiness and joy.