Thursday, September 20, 2012

For the Love

“I don’t love you anymore. I hate you. I want out. This is not working. I think I have fallen out of love with you. We just do not have anything in common anymore. I want to see someone else. This is too hard. We are always arguing. You make me sick. I want to pursue my career and you are in the way. You don’t want to do what I want anymore. You don’t make enough money and I want a better life.”
On and on it goes. Our society, including the church, has lost the commitment and resolve to make marriage work. The “till death do us part,” has become null and void. It is a trite line in the marriage ceremony that no one takes seriously. The pledge to faithfulness is lost and ignored. 
I am realizing that no one expects marriage to last. When we say I have been married 48 years, most people stand there in dumbstruck awe. The idea that once the romance is gone the marriage is over is a lie of this generation. The society has overdosed on Hollywood romanticism and sexual exploits. They feature the courtship, but they ignore the hard work and the day to day grind. “And they lived happily ever after,” is a pipe dream. They may have lived ever after, but there were certainly bumps along the road.
I hear the hurt and the pain in so many voices. Men and women abandoning their marriages; some just walking away with no warning or seemingly no serious issues. Spouses are left in confusion and children, whether grown or still at home, are dazed by the abandonment.
I fully understand there are legitimate reasons for separation and divorce. God made provision in the word for these cases. We walk through some of these from time to time.
There are some contributing factors to the trends. First, the laws make it much easier for divorce. Secondly, the society has little or no stigma attached to divorce any longer. Thirdly, the independence of women and their growing self sufficiency has led to women not staying in abusive relationships. Fourthly, the self sufficiency of women has made them less likely to work harder at keeping a marriage together. Fifthly, the shrinking size of family and low birth rate has created less responsibility on both spouses for providing. Sixthly, the constant barrage of enticements for freedom and license have made marriage to appear restrictive and fun killing. Seventhly, men remaining little boys and not wanting the responsibility of family.
Marriage takes a lot of work. But the work cannot be done solely by one partner. Both spouses need to work at the marriage. The machismo of “me Tarzan, you Jane,” does not work at all when you consider the woman a helpmate as scripture says. That will work when the woman is considered chattel as they are in many societies and religions, but that is not really a marriage; it is enslavement.
Men, today, are challenged to be communicative, open, and nurturing. Women are challenged to be supporters of their husbands and work together to make the marriage work. The male-female roles are being redefined by the world which has caused troubles in marriages. Even Christian homes are challenged by the contemporary views. Finding a Biblical basis for life is a firm foundation but still has its challenges. 
The test the church faces is ministering to all the broken lives caused by the fracturing of marriages. The ones most devastated are the ones who cannot grasp what has happened. Adultery is a clear breaking of covenant. Death is a finality that releases the spouse from the marriage. But we are faced with all kinds of breakage defined with the least of excuses all under the general category of “incompatibility.”
I believe this cultural lack of commitment and the damage from divorces has contributed to the increasing number of people living together and having children, often multiple children, before ever thinking of marriage. They share the same bed, they support one another, they live like they are married, but they have the back door open all the time without the legal damage. Yet, marriage is a totally different animal than cohabitation. People who have cohabited with consensual sexual relationship will testify that marriage is very different.
God has intended that we marry. Marriage is honorable. Marriage is intended to reflect the love of Jesus for the church. Marriage is the place of the greatest pleasure and the harshest pain. It is just like Jesus and the church. A marriage is worth working on. There are days when it is bliss and it has days where it is hellish. But underlying all is that commitment to one another. It is finding a way to work it out, learn from one another, adjust to one another, respect one another, want the best for one another.
It is a journey with romance, but hard days too, but it is God’s design.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Value Voting

We are now experiencing the conventions of both political parties. We have heard speeches, promises, vision, and political half truths and twisted facts. Sorting things out is an indomitable task. Yet, we have this constitutional responsibility to be informed and exercise our duty by voting. It is the cornerstone of the democratic republic.
However, many have lost confidence in the system and have failed to vote. Some have expressed their dismay with all candidates and have dropped out to the electoral process leaving things to fate and those who are adamant about their agenda.
I attended a meeting recently regarding “value voting.” They quoted a statistic that concerned me. There are 350,000 pastors in the USA and Ohio has 17,000. They determined that of those 17,000; 10,500 were Bible believing and values based based on the Scriptures. It is an alarming fact that one third of pastors who are influencing congregations no longer hold Biblical values.
To demonstrate the fact: in 2004 there were 300,000 more votes cast in rural counties in Ohio than 2008. In 2008, 300,000 voters did not vote in Ohio’s rural counties. Obama won Ohio by 195,000 votes. Could those 300,000 votes made a difference to the other side? Very possibly. It is not the major cities that determine which way Ohio goes; it is the rural counties that swing the elections.
As Christians, we are not called to be Republican or Democrat. We are not called to support one party or the other. We are called to be salt and light. We are to influence our culture with the values of the Bible, the values God has established in his word. We are to uphold the absolutes in a culture awash in relativism. 
The reason people can support such a wide variety of positions and believe they are all right is that there is no absolute truth. Positions can shift as the tide of popular opinion sways. Thus, gay marriage results from popular opinion rather than truth. Agendas that express anti-biblical truth are easily supported from pop culture since there is no under pinning of truth. Even the Constitution is under attack since it provides a rock solid reference point.
To be a “Value Voter,” a person looks at solid values. For Christians this means looking at the values of scripture and voting accordingly. We look to issues that reflect the values of God. In so doing, we probably never completely endorse everything of one candidate. However, our obligation is to vote for those who best represent the values of scripture. Someone commented that they did not like any of the candidates; so they were not voting. Sorry, Jesus is not on the ballot. As one friend said, “I hold my nose and vote for the lesser of the two evils.” 
The pastoral team felt that we must be involved in the process. So, we have set aside the month of September for voter registration in the foyer of the church. We are committed to informing our members of the issues and the values we hold as Christians. We will also hand out voter guides with the records of all congressmen as to their voting record. 
When 20 million evangelicals and 22 million Catholics did not vote in the last election, we have a job to do. The only thing that can be said of Christians is that they have been derelict of duty. When our forefathers established the Constitution, they were building a country for freedoms. When we refuse to vote and educate ourselves as to values, we are allowing militant agendas to come to power regardless of the values they hold. Indifference is the opiate of the people, apathy is the precursor to dictatorship, and complaining and whining is an exercise in futility if you will not act.
Through all the negative campaigning, the mud slinging, the horrible TV ads of accusation, half truth, twisted facts, mean spirited comments, allusions to Nazism, socialism, etc., etc., ad nauseum, we are to sort through the garbage and find truth. The best way to find truth is to know it before you start. The truth is found in the word and His values are well stated. Go from there and you do not have to listen to all the diatribe that is thrown at us incessantly. I have gotten to the place, I mute the TV for the ads that repeat and repeat and repeat, pounding home a position that is not the truth according to the Bible.
There are less than 60 days to the election. Just don’t sit there, do something. There have been elections that have been decided by one vote. Your vote does count. Exercise it. Be a Value Voter and be proud of it!