Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

December 29, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Motivation for a New Year

As a new year rapidly approaches, we think and hear non-stop messages about cranking up our motivation to change. We have a resolution for this and that, for everything except what we need most, that is, to think biblically about being motivated. Why should we be motivated to change? Why should we shun laziness and the reputation of being a sluggard whom no one can depend upon? The Bible is rich with counsel so that we will think biblically, see how seriously God views laziness, and experience change in and through Christ. Here’s a sampling of that counsel from pastor and counselor Adam Embry.

TWO EXCUSES

In Proverbs, the lazy man makes two main excuses. In fact, since he never works, he has plenty of time to conjure up excuses and talk about them. Charles Spurgeon said, “the slothful man is represented as having something to say, and I think that there are no people that have so much to say as those that have little to do. While nothing is done, much is talked about.”  The lazy man’s first excuse is that he always needs to rest. In Proverbs 6:6–11 we hear how the lazy individual always needs a little nap; this person’s excuse for needing rest is really procrastination. You could imagine the individual saying today, “I’ll just hit the snooze button on my alarm clock a few more times.” Several more minutes’ sleep then turn into hours, which turn into a wasted day. In contrast to the lazy individual is the ant. Some Palestinian ants were known for storing up grain for the winter. Rather than conquering creation by working for God, we are lazy and must learn from one of the smallest creatures, the ant, who instinctively works hard without being told to do so.

The lazy man’s second excuse is that it’s just too risky heading off to work: The sluggard says, “there is a lion in the road!” (see Proverbs 26:13–16; compare 22:13). The unmotivated person thinks that the remote danger of a lion roaming the streets is a reason to avoid work. Now, lions typically didn’t roam the streets of Israel looking for an unmotivated person to devour. Here’s the logic in today’s world: “I can’t drive to work! People die in car accidents!” or, “I can’t go outside to work! I might get struck by lightning!” Work is too wearisome to engage in and so he or she makes more excuses.

FIVE CONSEQUENCES

The lazy person’s two excuses lead to five serious consequences.

  1. Violent Poverty: Financial and material loss won’t take place over time; they’ll take place suddenly, like a robber violently breaking into your house unannounced and holding you at gunpoint. In a split second the sluggard will lose everything because of his or her laziness (Proverbs 6:11).
  2. Loss of Friendship: Unmotivated people are annoying and unreliable for others. The doubly negative description of vinegar and smoke in Proverbs 10:26 makes an emphatic point: the lazy person is a sour and irritating individual, someone who is completely annoying. Rather than being trusted and reliable, he or she is no help at all to anyone.
  3. Unfinished Tasks: Remember how the lazy field-owner in Proverbs 24 owned property but didn’t cultivate the land? Now we see in Proverbs 12:27 that the lazy person never even cooks the animal he or she killed for dinner. This person shot the animal, and this certainly tells us that he or she has the ability to work. But the lazy man or woman lacks the ambition to complete the task by skinning and cooking the animal to feed him or herself, or worse, his or her family. What good is an uncooked carcass? It’s like going to the grocery store, buying food, driving home, yet leaving the food in the car only to spoil.
  4. Unfulfilled Desires: Connected to the previous consequence is this: that unmotivated people never fulfill their desires (Proverbs 13:4). This verse uses the metaphor of eating to convey how the wise are filled and the lazy go hungry. Likewise, in Proverbs 21:26, lazy people crave and crave, whereas the righteous are so filled with goodness that they can give freely to others. Lazy people want something—food, accomplishments, to live life to its fullest—but they won’t put their hands to work, and so they die. A similar consequence is described in Proverbs 15:19–24.
  5. Death: The lazy person’s laziness brings death (Proverbs 21:25). Lazy people want something—food, accomplishments, to live life to its fullest—but they won’t put their hands to work, and so they die. A similar consequence is described in Proverbs 15:19–24, which again contrasts how the lazy man and the wise man walk down separate paths. Can't Get Motivated-small email

These five consequences can be viewed from a different angle, as laziness negatively impacts our relationships with others (annoying/unhelpful), our well-being (poverty, unfinished tasks, unfulfilled desires), and our eternal destiny (death). The lazy individual’s excuses epitomize an obsessive, selfish care for him- or herself, a disregard for others, and disobedience toward God. “Idleness,” Spurgeon preached, “is selfishness, and this is not consistent with the love of neighbor, nor with any high degree of virtue.” Laziness, then, is a sin that dominates all of life and reflects disobedience to God’s law. It’s a curse we bring upon ourselves and our relationships that will ultimately kill us.

Slothfulness, like all other sins, is deceptive. We never think its consequences are catastrophic. It offers us ease and comfort, but it fails to deliver. Augustine noted this when he said, “Sloth poses as the love of peace: yet what certain peace is there besides the Lord?” As it is with every sin, the solution to fighting laziness is the good news of salvation the Lord brings.

(This brief summary of what the Bible teaches about laziness and its cure is from Adam Embry’s new mini-book HELP! I Can’t Get Motivated.]

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December 25, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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What Christmas Ought to Suggest

Virtually every December, I take off the shelf my favorite Christmas book; God with Us: The Miracle of Christmas by John MacArthur. I still remember where I was when I first saw and purchased the book. I was standing in the entryway to the college bookstore during fall semester 1989, gazing at the new arrivals (Sometimes I wonder if I spent as much time in the bookstore in those days as I did in class!). Since that day, the book has been part of my Christmas treasure chest. Here’s a quotation that reminds us of the central truth of Christmas.

Christmas should be a time of real joy and gladness, as opposed to the manufactured sentiment and wild revelry that characterizes the way the world observes Christmas. That true joy comes from a realization of what Christmas is really all about and from knowing the One whose birth we celebrate.

We can’t know Him if we don’t understand He is real. The story of His birth is no allegory. We dare not romanticize it or settle for a fanciful legend that renders the whole story meaningless. Mary and Joseph were real people. Their dilemma on finding no room at the inn surely was as frightening for them as it would be for you or me. The manger in which Mary laid Jesus must have reeked of animal smells. So did the shepherds, in all probability. That first Christmas was anything but the picturesque scene we often envision.

But that makes it all the more wondrous. That baby in the manger is God.

That’s the heart and soul of the Christmas message. There weren’t many worshipers around the original manger—only a handful of shepherds. But one day, every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who doubt Him, those who are His enemies, those who merely ignore Him—all will one day bow too, even if it be in judgment.

How much better to honor Him now with the worship He deserves! That’s what Christmas ought to suggest.

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December 23, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Another God-Centered Breast Cancer Testimony

[The following testimony was submitted by a woman in the state of Georgia whose pastor, Kevin Hurt, gave her biblical hope and counsel in her time of trial.]

As I think about my journey of being diagnosed with breast cancer, I go back to the very moment I was told that the biopsy was indeed positive. In that moment—with my husband—we were both shocked. Previously, over 11 years of mammograms, there were many times I had to go back to be further checked out, but it had always been okay. As you may imagine, sitting there receiving this news was a major blow to us both. I remember thinking: “What do I do with this? How do I figure out all the medical terms that are being used? What are my next steps?” And on and on it went.

As I began my visits to the and oncologist, and surgeon, and learned more about breast cancer and what my path would look like as I dealt with it, I began asking God lots of questions. Most of the questions were about me: “Why me? Why was I the one getting this? Have I done something wrong with the way I lived?” My mind became bombarded with questions. I sought after God and He sent ladies who had been through the valley of breast cancer to bring encouragement to me. They spoke truth from His Word, encouraging me to focus on Him, rather than my circumstances.

During this time, my pastor, who is a biblical counselor, told me about a lady named Brenda Frields who wrote a mini-book called Help! I Have Breast Cancer and gave me a copy to read. As I took that little book and read it, I was overwhelmed with the material and how she answered every question that had already gone through my mind. I discovered that the initial thoughts of anger, and wondering “Why?” were normal when given the news that I had received. The author reminded me of God’s Word, she dealt with my heart issues, and directed me to be focused on my Lord since He is my strength and help in times of trouble. Once I finished reading the mini-book, I went back to my pastor and shared with him how the book answered my questions and really helped me deal with the reality of having breast cancer. I believe this book is a must-read for anyone dealing with breast cancer, herself, or with a friend or family member.Breast Cancer - large email size

This book started me on a journey of understanding that our Lord allows things—both good and bad—into our lives. He does this so that we may be molded to become more like Him and to bring Him glory as we walk through life’s journeys. I have come to realize that I do not have all the answers, but I don’t have to. I know God does and He will supply for me all I need to walk in the midst of these difficult times. Brenda Frields quoted Psalm 63:1, 6-8 as being a passage that really spoke to her. It certainly spoke to me, as well, and I know that if you are out there dealing with difficult times then God’s word will speak to you too.

O God, You are my God; I will seek you earnestly;

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,

In a dry and weary land where there is no water

When I remember You on my bed,

I meditate on You in the night watches,

For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to You;

Your right hand upholds me.

It is through this mini-book and God’s Word that He has revealed to me that His righteous right hand does uphold me and that I can view breast cancer as a uniquely wrapped gift from God to me. Through this gift comes many unexpected blessings and many things the Lord is using for my good. These are things that I would not want to miss out on. God’s plan is perfect and, therefore, we can trust Him. What He has brought about through this has been amazing. I will pray for you, that if breast cancer is something you face then you will reach out to Him and let him bless you through it.

Prayerfully,

Tracy Dixon

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December 11, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Dear Suicidal Friend, There Is Hope

In his excellent mini-book, HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal, police chaplain and pastor Bruce Ray, writes, “There is ultimately only one reason why people commit suicide. Most of them have not lost their minds, but all of them have lost hope. They have developed tunnel vision and cannot see any other workable options. Suicide is the only choice left that makes sense – i.e., the only option that to them seems reasonable.suicidal - small email

Hope, true hope, biblical hope, hope that grows out of that which is eternal—not temporal—is the remedy for the suicidal mind. Hope delivers from death (Ps 33:19).

There are many definitions of hope that I could mention here, but instead let me offer you mine. Hope is confident expectation in God to be faithful to fulfill each and every one of His promises.

Hope is in God. It is found in no other place. But what exactly does that mean? What mental ‘hooks of hope’ can we hang our thoughts upon? What truths must we continually feed to our idea-voracious minds in order that we might “not lose heart,” but instead ensure that “our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16)?

  1. Hope is God-centered. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You” (Ps 39:7). Ultimately, hope is not found in anything, or anyone, outside of God.
  2. Hope is connected to Jesus Christ. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). “Hope in God” is not possible unless we have been reconciled to Him through His Son, the one and only Mediator between God and sinners (1 Tim 2:5). In Christ, we have “a better hope” (Heb 7:19).
  3. Hope is the work of the Holy Spirit. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).
  4. Hope is rooted in the resurrection. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:19-20). Through Christ we are “believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that [our] faith and hope are in God” (1 Pet 1:21).
  5. Hope is not dependent upon hopeful circumstances. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
  6. Hope is focused on God’s promises. As believers, we live “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2).
  7. Hope is dependent upon God’s goodness and mercy. “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine” (Ps 33:18-19). Biblical hope never grows well in the garden of entitlement.
  8. Hope grows in the mind that intentionally chooses to remember who God is. “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 321-23).
  9. Hope is found in the encouragement of the Scriptures. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word” (Ps 119:81).
  10. Hope is found in the saving gospel. “…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel” (Col 1:5).
  11. Hope is laid hold of by faith. “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Gal 5:5; C.f. Rom 5:2).
  12. Hope grows out of Christ-like character, which can only be produced in the fires of suffering; therefore, a believer should not seek escape from suffering. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4).

Finally, brethren, let us listen to and believe God’s benediction of hope that is obtained by grace. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16-17). Knowing this let us each determine to be dispensers of hope in a world filled with hopelessness.

[Note: This is a repost of a previous article due to the re-release of this mini-book by a different publisher.]

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November 22, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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14 Daggers that Help to Kill Worry

Faith battles are fought in the mind. In other words, what we say to ourselves controls much of what we do, whether right or wrong, true or false, which is the fruit of what we believe. Therefore, counseling ourselves with pithy statements rooted in biblical truth is an exceedingly important, but oft-neglected discipline of the Christian life. If you and I are going to walk by faith, not by sight, then we must consistently put to death the lies that our depraved hearts both produce and believe. One key area in which this discipline is so consistently needed—at least for me—is in the battle against worry.

Knowing this about myself, I chose to again mediate on the comforting, faith-building words of the Lord Jesus concerning God’s faithful care for His children, those whom He has redeemed by the blood of His Son. But, this time, I took a different tactic. I looked for key truths that I need to constantly speak back to myself. “Self counsel” is what we sometimes call it (Think Note to Self by Joe Thorn). It basically means that we learn the discipline of speaking biblical truths to ourselves in order to kill the lies that we so naturally believe about God and about ourselves. So, here are 14 truths that jumped off the pages of Scripture this morning, from Matthew 6:25-34. These truths, in turn, become reasons not to worry. Read Jesus’ words and then think about these simple truths.

  1. God commands me not to worry; worry is sin (vv. 25; 34).
  2. The essence of life is something more significant than material provision (v. 25).
  3. The birds don’t worry, fret, or hoard; yet their needs are met (v. 26).
  4. God feeds the birds that are not made in His image (v. 26).
  5. I am more valuable to God than all the birds combined, because I am made in His image (v. 26).
  6. Worry does not lengthen life (v. 27).
  7. The flowers are clothed by God (vv. 28-29).
  8. God will clothe us (v. 30).
  9. Worry is rooted in unbelief (v. 30).
  10. Worldly people worry; it’s characteristic of unbelieving pagans (vv. 31-32).
  11. Our heavenly Father knows our needs (v. 32).
  12. All our material cares will be taken care of by God when we pursue Christ and His agenda, first, above all (v. 33).
  13. Tomorrow will take care of itself (v. 34).
  14. Today has enough trouble; I don’t need to create more by borrowing from tomorrow (v. 34).

So much of our battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil is fought in the realm of ideas–thought patterns (2 Cor 10:3-4; Eph 6:17). To defeat the lies that we so easily believe we must take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. What truths do you find in this passage that would help you kill worry?

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November 19, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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To the Man with an Unbelieving Wife

“There are plenty of stories about the Christian woman who has an unconverted husband, one who hasn’t put his trust in Christ as Savior. But what about the marriages in which it’s the other way around? Too often we neglect the topic of how a believing man is to live with his unbelieving wife.” So writes Larry McCall in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church and I must concur. This is a reality for some men, but the counsel—at least published counsel—is scarce. So, let me summarize for you the counsel given by Pastor Larry in one of the appendices of his book.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ but your wife isn’t, you are not alone. There are couples who both were unconverted at the time of their wedding, and later the husband was saved but not the wife. A number of men have married someone who claimed to know Christ, only to find out later that her profession of faith was merely insincere words uttered to get the man to marry her. Some Christian men—maybe hoping that the spiritual situation would improve after the wedding—knowingly chose to marry their sweethearts who were still without Christ.

Here are biblical principles to guide in these three situations:

  • If you knowingly married a non-Christian then you need to deal with your disobedience to the clear command of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with an unbeliever…” You need to confess your rebellion against God and receive His gracious forgiveness.
  • You need to realize that your situation does have its peculiar difficulties. A Christian and a non-Christian have very different value systems by which they live and make decisions; they have different priorities in life.

How does a Christian man live peaceably with his non-Christian wife? McCall writes, “Commit yourself to loving her in the following ways.”

Pray persistently. Sometimes a Christian husband tries to coerce his wife into becoming a believer. Understand that God alone saves. “As a backwoods Christian man once exclaimed in this simple but profound way, ‘If God don’t turn the lights on, they don’t get turned on!’” Pray the Lord turns the lights on.

Live consistently. “We’re all hypocrites in some ways, but as much as you can, by God’s grace, consistently reflect the character of Christ in your daily life….Seek to honor the Lord in your home by providing a godly influence.”

Love unconditionally. “Loving a person with radically different priorities and passions has its challenges, but seek to love your wife without conditions. Assure her of your unswerving commitment and devotion to her even though she doesn’t share your commitment to the Savior.”

Lead gently. “Being a Christian husband means leading your home in the ways of Christ, even if your wife doesn’t wholeheartedly support you in it. You still have the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership to your wife and children.

McCall then provides the following encouragement: “Following the biblical principles we’ve looked at in this book, we might apply Peter’s counsel for converted wives with unconverted husbands (1 Peter 3:1-12) to the opposite situation, paraphrasing it like this: ‘Husbands, in the same way love your wives as Christ loves the church so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their husbands, when they see the sacrificial love and humble service of your lives.’”

[My fuller review/summary of Larry McCall’s book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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November 17, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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RESOURCES: Adoption

Here’s another resource page for your one-another discipleship counseling ministry…

BOOKS/BOOKLETS

JOURNAL ARTICLES/BLOG POSTS

AUDIO/VIDEO TEACHING

If you are aware of more helpful biblical resources on the subject of adoption, please drop me an email. These resource lists are works in progress.

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November 14, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Replacing Fear with Awe

stormWhile spending time in Psalm 104, this morning, the study notes in the ESV Study Bible directed me to the Gospel of Mark. In verse 7 of the psalm, the songwriter says, “At your rebuke they fled [the waters after the Great Flood]; at the sound of your thunder they took flight.” In reference to this, the editors of the study Bible note the following: “Mark may have had this text in mind when he wrote that Jesus ‘rebuked the wind’ and commanded the sea (Mark 4:39).” So, I turned to Mark 4:35-41 and read through it a few times (Mark 4:35-41). Here are just a few quick thoughts that jotted in my journal.

Jesus is sovereign over the storm. When Jesus—and only when Jesus—commanded the storm to cease, did peace take over and reign. Jesus had all things totally under control. Evidence of this is the fact that He was fast asleep on a cushioned bench at the boat’s stern!

The disciples were controlled by fear, not faith. In fact, Jesus told them that they had no faith. Now, He was not saying they had lost their faith in Him, but that their fearful response overshadowed the evidence of their faith in the compassionate care of God. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Their response to the storm gave the appearance that they had no effectual trust in the Lord. How often we do the same! When we allow fear to control our mind and heart then it is as if our faith has been set aside.

Beholding the mighty works of God shifts the mind from fear to faith. When the disciples saw the power of the Word of Christ, their fear of the storm (which was very real) changed to fear of God. Their awe of the Savior overshadowed the awfulness of the storm. In other words, the fear that controlled and crippled them was replaced by a greater fear—fear of the One whose sovereign power reigns over all. In turn, this brought stability to their faith.

What are you fearful of today? Turn your eyes upon Jesus and His mighty works and let your fear be replaced by awe.

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November 11, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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4 Reasons a Husband Should Pray with His Wife Consistently

In a previous post, I passed on biblical encouragement and counsel from Larry McCall’s book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. Today, I pass on another portion in which he gives to us four reasons we should persevere to pray regularly with our wives.

Prayer with our wives teaches us humility and opens our hearts to God’s grace. We desperately need God’s grace in our own lives as men and in our marriages, don’t we? Our attempts to make life work, to make our marriages work—on our own—are futile and foolish. So, what gets the attention of our grace-dispensing God? Humility. Both Peter (in 1 Peter 5:5) and James (in 4:6) echo Proverbs 3:34, when they write, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The very act of praying does humble us. And humility draws the grace of God that we so greatly need.

Prayer with our wives can help us develop an increased intimacy with God. To be honest, I have often treated prayer as a means of presenting God with a grocery list of my needs and desires. But prayer should be—and can be—so much more. When I pray with my wife, I can pursue a deeper intimacy with the Lord myself while encouraging my wife to develop her own closeness with the Lord at the same time.

  • As we devote time and attention to the Lord, our bond of affection with Him grows.
  • As we reflect back to Him in prayer what we adore about Him—His attributes of greatness and grace—our hearts grow warmer.
  • As we recall in His presence what we appreciate about him—the many acts of kindness and forgiveness He has shown us—our grateful affections increase.

Praying with my wife promotes an increased intimacy with the Lord who bought us. Let’s experience with our wives the benefit promised in James: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (4:8).  Prayer with our wives strengthens our marriage bond. As we pray with our wives, we hear their hearts, gaining insights into their desires, concerns, and fears in a way that might not be revealed as freely in any other venue. A husband can connect with his wife in a “soulish” way as he listens to her pour out her heart before the heavenly Father. The husband, in turn then, praying for her concerns, confirms his unity with her. He reminds her of his own confidence in God’s commitment to her welfare. Husband and wife develop an intimacy in prayer that cannot be matched in any other way. Praying together is not merely the uniting of two bodies; it is the uniting of two souls—true spiritual intimacy.

Prayer with our wives gives us the opportunity to seek the Lord’s help in our marriages, our families, and our daily lives. How often have we failed to find solutions to our problems and resorted to prayer only in desperation? Our Lord wants us to come to Him with the concerns of our hearts and the problems with our lives. He paid an inestimably high price—the precious blood of His much-loved Son—to give us this access to His throne room. Let’s faithfully commit to heed the call of Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

[My fuller review/summary of this book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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October 31, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Husbands Are Imperfect Mirrors

mirrorThe following biblical encouragement and exhortation is from a fellow husband striving to grow in Christ, Larry McCall, in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. As I read through it a second time, I am reflecting deeper on the portions that I highlighted the first time. I will share a few in the next week, or so. Larry writes:

Two little words in Ephesians 5:25 intimidate me: the words just as. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” How can you and I ever match that kind of love?

Before we give up, deciding the mission we’ve been given is impossible to carry out, it might be wise to listen to pastor and writer Alistair Begg, who writes, “While human men cannot match the degree of love Jesus displays (since His love is divine and infinite), they are to love in the same manner.” In other words, although we husbands are imperfect reflections of The Perfect Husband, He has commissioned us to love our wives in the same manner as He loves His bride.

  • Love unconditionally. Since His love is unconditional, ours must be also…consider Christ’s example that we love our wives without conditions—not held in reserve until we feel loved or respected by our wives, not based on our perception of our wives’ lovability, not withholding love until they fix themselves up physically, emotionally, or attitudinally. If, by God’s grace, we choose to love our wives irrespective of our perception of their worthiness or responsiveness, we mirror Christ’s unconditional love.
  • Loving sacrificially. Similarly, our Christlike love for our wives should be profoundly sacrificial. While we may hear the occasional story of a husband who literally sacrifices his own life to save his wife’s, few of us will be called upon in God’s providence to pay that price. However, we make other sacrifices. It is worth our time to consider these heart-searching words from Christian radio host and author Bob Lepine: “It is often harder to live for your wife than it would be to die for her. It involves dying daily to your own desires and dreams. In the end, sacrificial love involves a willingness on the part of a husband not only to prefer his wife as more important than himself (see Philippians 2:3), but a readiness on the part of a husband that nothing will supersede his marriage covenant. It’s the kind of love that never gives up.” What evidences of selfishness do I see in my life as a husband? Am I withholding my time, my affection, my words of affirmation and appreciation because I’m not willing to set aside my own priorities? In what ways is the Lord calling me to “die to myself” so that I can better reflect Christ in my sacrificial love for my wife?
  • Loving voluntarily. Our love must also mirror Christ’s voluntary love for His bride. Paltry tokens of love pulled out of us by our desperate wives or pushed out of us by a marriage counselor are less than sufficient. We must continually run back to Christ, soaking in His gracious love for us so that we will be moved to love others—especially our precious wives. Let me paraphrase the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 4:19-21: “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his wife, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his wife, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom He has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his wife.”

So, brothers, though we’re imperfect, God commissions us to love our wives just as Christ loves His bride, the church. Let’s devote ourselves to studying Christ together.

[As stated earlier, the above counsel is from Larry McCall, in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. A fuller review/summary of this book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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