Archive - January, 2013

Choosing To Love- The only reason I’m still married.

Donovan and ShellyMy wife and I recently celebrated 18 years of marriage, and it’s for one reason only… choosing to love.

If someone were to graph our marriage, we would see mostly good moments, quite a few high points, and a few low spots. Truth be told, Shelly (my wife) is easy to be married to. I, on the other hand, am not.

During one of our more trying seasons, I remember Shelly saying to me, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” It took me a minute, but I understood exactly what she was trying to say.

When the New Testament was written, there were four major Greek words for what we now singularly call “love.”

Eros love is a romantic love. It exists between people who are physically attracted to one another. As you might imagine, eros is lost when romance or physical attraction is lost.

Storge, is a love that exists because of familiarity. We would associate it with fondness or affection. It naturally exists in relationships between parents and children or maybe between close friends. It’s strength is also it’s weakness, because when familiarity or fondness goes, storge goes with it.

Phileo love is when someone has a strong emotional connection to someone or something. We might characterize it primarily as a feeling. As we’ve seen with the previous loves, when feelings fade, phileo fades.

Agape, the fourth and final love, is altogether different and is essential to the health and long-term success of any marriage. It’s the love my wife gives to me and is the reason I’m still married.

Agape love is not emotional, it’s volitional. It’s a deliberate choice- an act of the will. Agape says “I’ve made a decision to love you.” It has nothing to do with whether someone deserves our love. It’s a unique love because of what it does, not because of how it feels.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…” C.S. Lewis

Jesus teaches us that there is a superior kind of love that is greater and stronger than all other loves. The “I’m choosing” love that is agape. This is why He can paradoxically tell us to love (agape) our enemies. He doesn’t command us to be fond of our enemies or to have good feelings for our enemies, He commands us to choose to act in a loving way towards them.

So, do we resign ourselves to being stuck in a marriage where there is no eros (romance), storge (fondness) or phileo (feeling) love? Not necessarily.

Tim Keller says it well, “Love is an action first and a feeling second. If you love people, eventually you’ll come to like them.” When we choose to love (agape), many times feelings will follow. This is what gets us through the low spots.

Any other lesser-love will fail both you and your marriage. They always will. But there is a greater love that is available should we embrace it. A love that makes marriages last… it’s called agape.

What kind of results have you seen from these different kinds of love in your own marriage?

Making Progess- Four Simple Steps to Getting Where You Want to Be

Most people have an area of their life, either personally or professionally, they would like to work on to make improvements. The challenge isn’t having the desire to make something better, it’s actually doing something about it.

Doc - Jan 24, 2013, 12-05 PM

Here is the simplest approach I’ve found to make changes in whatever area you want to work on.

1) Know where you are.

This is the easiest step and probably the reason you’re even thinking about making changes in the first place… there’s an element of dissatisfaction.

2) Identify where you want to be.

Be as specific as possible. The more you can “see” what it would look like and be like the better.

3) Decide what you have to do to get there.

This is your “to-do” list. Again, be as specific as possible without bogging yourself down to the point that you get overwhelmed.

4) Do it.

This is always the hardest step, but when we see how the “doing” actually moves us where we want to be, it serves as a powerful motivator.

What other advice or recommendations would you offer to help someone get where they want to be?

Lessons From Lance Armstrong We All Need To Remember

The story of Lance Armstrong’s fall should not surprise us. Fundamentally, it is a story about a struggle against sin. Though the details change from person to person, his story is an old one and is often repeated.

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve in the garden. To greatly simplify how the events of the “original sin” unfolded, it went something like this: they saw the fruit, they wanted the fruit, they took the fruit, and then they desperately tried to hide the fact that they had taken the fruit.

That’s how the story of sin goes… we see, we want, we take, we hide. None of us escapes it.

As we wrestle with sin in our own lives, we would do well to keep these five things in mind:

1. Sin is Alluring

We all know that when sin begins to draw us in, we’re not exactly thinking straight. We might know something’s wrong, but sin whispers in our ear until we find a way to rationalize and justify our actions (James 1:14-15).

2. Sin is Never Secret

We would like to think that we can keep things hidden, but sin has a remarkable way of being uncovered and discovered. It’s better to just assume that it will. Even ‘secret’ sins will not remain secret forever (Luke 12:2-3, 1 Cor. 4:5).

3. Sin Affects Self

Sin carries a heavy burden. It causes separation in our relationship with God. We miss out on God’s presence and power in our lives. It traps us in guilt and shame and immobilizes us from ministry. It numbs our hearts, steals our joy, and robs us of abundant life.

4. Sin Affects Others

My sin cannot be isolated from you and your sin cannot be isolated from me. There is always a direct and/or indirect effect of our sin on others. Alexander Maclaren says it well, “… no man’s sin terminates in himself.”

5. Sin Has a Solution

Jesus went to the cross to rescue us from our sin. His grace is amazing because he offers us the forgiveness none of us deserve. He lovingly fixes, redeems and restores everything we made a mess and “makes all things new.”

What other lessons have you seen or learned about our shared struggle with sin?

The Secret to Anxiety Free Decision Making

People make thousands of choices every day. While most are fairly trivial, all of us occasionally face decisions that carry greater weight. The pressure to make just the “right choice” often results in a deluge of negative emotions including anxiety, fear, and even paralysis in making the decision.

Decision Dice

Many times, the pressure is actually self-induced based upon an untrue assumption. What is the assumption? Perfect knowledge.

It’s stating the obvious, but the truth is, human beings are not omniscient (all-knowing.) That means we do not have perfect knowledge and we will never entirely understand the myriad of factors related to any situation. This is why Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… do not lean on your own understanding.”

So, take into consideration any wisdom that God has given that relates to your decision and make your choice. You may or may not make the perfect decision, or even the best decision, but that’s okay. Why? Because of the secret to anxiety free decision-making… grace.

God’s grace is not only sufficient to cover our sins, His grace is sufficient to make up for any and all of shortcomings that come as a result of our sinful condition of imperfect knowledge. (Even our most self-assured decisions are guarded by His grace.)

Don’t have all the facts? It’s okay, you have grace. Afraid you might make the wrong decision? Don’t fear, rest in God’s grace. Feeling anxious over what’s best? You shouldn’t. Remember the unfailing power of God’s grace that is completely and totally sufficient to make up for any imperfections in your decision.

What decision are you facing right now that you need to trust God’s grace for?

The Social Media Sham

Social media has a lot going for it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the others have a place and a purpose, but they also come with a warning.

A friend shared a story about his recent visit to the “happiest place on earth.” As they stood in line waiting for a ride, he noticed two brothers nearly killing each other, only to be interrupted by their mother who told them to stop and smile so she could post a picture to Facebook.

Thus the danger or social media… it’s not reality.

When it comes to social media, we capture the highlights, not the humdrum. We capture the meal, not the dishes. We capture the smiles, not the tears. We show the world our best moments and conveniently leave out the rest.

Sure, a trip to the beach includes smiles and sunshine, but it also includes packing, driving, trudging through sand, sunburns, malicious seagulls bent on destruction, individuals oblivious to their body-to-bathing-suit ratio, and sand stuck in various cracks and crevices. Those things rarely make it in.

Not Reality

Why does it matter? The things we see and read in the world of social media don’t accurately represent life. We only get the highlights.

If we use what we see on social media as a means for comparison, we run the danger of being discouraged and disappointed with the reality of our own lives. My marriage won’t measure up, my kids won’t measure up, my church won’t measure up, my friendships won’t measure up… nothing in my life will measure up.

Yes, we should capture the smiles and share them with the world. But, we should also find contentment in the ordinary and the mundane that makes up a great majority of our lives. Stop comparing. In the ‘unreal’ world of social media, you’ll always come up short.