Tag Archives: divorce

Priorities Askew

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When I was a boy I had a hard time saving money for things. I would get a few dollars for some work I did, and it was like there was some strange, unseen force that compelled me to “need” everything I saw that cost less than the amount I had earned. Forget the magnificent toy I would need to save up for, my sights were on the quick, easy, immediate gratification prizes.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but that lack of ability to save for the future was a symptom of a greater cultural problem of my day that persists today as well.

What was the greater cultural problem? Skewed priorities.

I was putting my selfish need for immediate gratification above the needed experience of saving or even of giving to others. I was the most important person on the planet.

In many marriages today we see struggles and often divorce because of this skewed hierarchy of priorities. In many marriages today it seems that the kids come first, and everything else come somewhere behind the children. In many relationships, the husband/wife relationship is put somewhere far down on the list if there’s room.

No wonder there are so many struggling families today!

This doesn’t have to be the way of every marriage, however. You can have a happy, healthy marriage if you will, as a couple, decide to rearrange your priorities.

First priority needs to be your relationship with God. You claimed Jesus as “Lord” when you gave your life to Christ. Jesus said you need to seek his Kingdom first. When you focus on growing in your relationship with God and helping your spouse do the same many great things will happen. First, you will begin to change into the person God created you to be. Second, you will grow closer to your spouse as you pursue the Kingdom of God together. Third, you will lead our children by example in a way that will hopefully create a lasting legacy of faith in them.

The second priority in your marriage needs to be…wait for it…your marriage. No! The kids don’t come first!! As a husband or wife, your devotion is first to God and then to your spouse. When you focus on the kids before your mate you neglect the covenant you vowed to uphold at your wedding. You must find time for each other to rekindle the relationship that started your family. Do things you both love to do together. Show the children how to honor one another above yourself, and you will model for them the kind of relationship you hope they will have.

The third priority in your marriage is kids and everyone else. Yes, I lumped them all together. Your kids need to be raised by you, but they don’t need to be the sole focus of your life. They need to see you model interactions with others as you serve and communicate with other people. They need to see your devotion to God and your spouse. A society that focuses primarily on the children is a relatively new concept that really took flight once television was invented. When commercials started targeting children, the culture followed in its focus. You don’t have to make your children the center of your universe for them to be healthy, and doing so keeps you from being healthy in your relationship with God and your spouse.

When marriages rearrange their priorities in this way they see growth and change for the good. They become a stronger family. Thoughts of divorce fade away.

How are your priorities? Do you need to re-evaluate?

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Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Jesus Loves Heterosexuals…and Homosexuals Too!

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Society is obsessed with homosexuality. Christian churches are as obsessed or more so because of their aversion to this lifestyle and the need to eradicate it because of how it goes against the nature of humanity and the sacredness of creation. Christians are afraid that our world will go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah, and they may be correct.

The bible is very clear that homosexual acts are wrong. It calls these acts “Unnatural” and condemns them in several places throughout the scriptures. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think committing homosexual acts is correct, but I’m pretty sure we’re missing something significant.

In our battle against the homosexual society in the world today we have forgotten that practicing homosexual acts isn’t the only sin in the bible. Equally as abhorring to God are heterosexual acts committed outside the marriage of one man to one woman. Adultery is condemned. Divorce is condemned because it leads to adultery and breaks a sacred covenant symbolic of God’s relationship with his church. Lust is condemned as much as acting on that lust is condemned.

In fact, these sins all seem to hold greater weight in the scripture than other sins like lying and even murder. The apostle, Paul, put it this way:

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Homosexual acts, heterosexual acts outside of marriage, adultery, lust – all of these are grouped under one descriptive category: sexual immorality.

Why should we focus on one act like homosexuality and neglect the severity of the others? We shouldn’t! Yet Christians all over are talking about homosexuality, but when was the last time you saw as much zeal for condemning adultery or shacking up or lust or sleeping around or divorce?

Let’s be consistent. God doesn’t just condemn homosexual acts, He condemns heterosexual acts outside of the marriage covenant as well. If we give others participating in heterosexual acts grace, then we need to give grace to those in homosexual relationships as well. We are not called to approve of any of these acts, but we are called to love everyone – even those committing these sins.

“The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” Your sins are just as worthy of that death as those sins you condemn in others. I remember that Jesus seemed more concerned that we get the plank out of our own eye than our ability to point out the faults in others.

Maybe, instead of focusing on condemning those we do not approve of, we should focus on loving them and loving the Father who created them like Jesus tells us to do. Loving someone doesn’t mean you approve of their actions, it just means that you recognize that Jesus loves you in spite of your actions, and you can love likewise.

So let’s be consistent. If you’re not talking about heterosexual sins, then you shouldn’t be talking about homosexual sins. If you aren’t focused on fixing your own sins, then you shouldn’t be worried about those sins others are committing.

The consistency Jesus asks us for is that of loving everyone equally: Jew, gentile, slave, free, man, woman, heterosexual, homosexual. If you ever want someone to hear about the love of Jesus you have to be showing Jesus to them through love first. Condemnation breeds rejection. “Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”


A Tribute to My Daughter

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My daughter is about to become a teenager. I could probably end this article there, and you would be able to sense the deep need I have for your prayers. As a youth minister, I work with teens all the time, and I can tell you that they are some of the world’s most amazing people. One day they can be changing the world, and the next day they can be destroying it. Life is an adventure with a teenager.

I want to tell you a little bit about my daughter. Since birth she has been a relatively easy child to raise. She didn’t fuss all the time, and it was pretty easy to soothe her. She minded pretty well when she was little, and I rarely had to spank her.

I went through my divorce when she was turning three years old, and I can remember leading worship on Sunday mornings with her sitting in the pew next to the preacher’s wife behaving better than the teenagers in the same church.

For a while I lived in a hunting cabin on 40 acres. When she would come over we would go out in the boat on the lake or cook hot dogs and s’mores in the fireplace. I even remember getting up on lazy Saturday mornings and going for walks in the woods in our pajamas with her on my shoulders enjoying the wonder of another morning in God’s creation.

She was quick to accept her step-mom into her life, and they have grown in their relationship through the years. That relationship makes me a proud daddy. I cannot detail in this article all the fun stories and fond memories I have of my oldest daughter (like the time we went to see Shamu and she got unexpectedly soaked as Shamu swam by). There would be no room in the paper for all of them.

You must know something about me. Before I was ever married I wanted to be a dad. I have always longed for someone to call me “daddy”. So, the day she was born I cried the moment I heard her sweet cries of life – before I even saw her beautiful face. I knew at that moment that I would always love her unconditionally. It was that day that I understood more fully the love God has for me as His child.

She turns 13 at the end of this month, and there are a few things that I pray for her as she makes this step in her life.

First, I pray that above all other things, and in spite of everything that may or may not happen in her life, that she loves God with all her heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and that she dedicates her life in service to Jesus, the Christ. When this is her primary focus then the world can throw whatever it may, and she will not be broken for she will be strong in the power of His might.

Second, I pray that she has an understanding of her value as a daughter of the King of kings. She is my daughter, and I love her truly and value her immensely, but my love for her and value of her is shadowed by that of God. When she can see that, then she will have no need to settle for some guy that is going to seek his own needs first rather than hers. She will not give herself to anything less than a man of God who seeks to serve God first and serves her wholeheartedly. So many girls today settle and give themselves up to guys who only have self-interests in mind. In the end they realize they have made a mistake they can never change. I pray protection from these decisions in her.

Third, I pray that whatever she does is done to the glory of God. I pray that whatever she does is done to the best of her ability as a gift of worship to her Creator.

I pray these things (and others) continually for her, and I tell her these things as well. This is a big transition in her life – a rite of passage.

Maybe you have a daughter, or maybe you are a daughter. If you have a daughter, make sure she knows these things about her. Make sure you never miss an opportunity to tell her you love her unconditionally. Show her in your actions how you want her to be treated by others then she will settle for nothing less.

If you are a daughter, remember the promises of God. The world is making promises too, but they hold no weight compared to the incomparable promises of the King. You are a PRINCESS of the Kingdom of God. Live as such, and raise the standard so that the men in your life treat you as such. You are amazing – God Himself said so.

So this is my tribute to my daughter. May you be blessed as you contemplate your place in the kingdom of God as Princes or Princesses set to inherit that kingdom with your brother, Jesus. May you bless those around you with your words and life. And may you pray for me and my family as we start this journey of raising a teenager – should be fun!

If there is anything I can do for you or pray with you about, please let me know at jddobbs@verizon.net or at 245-1611. God bless you!


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