Archives For January 2014

Divorced and Christian.

Divorce hurts. Almost everyone reading this has been affected by divorce.  You know the pain, it fades but can leave a raw nerve that heals slowly. Although God hates divorce He loves people and He is in the healing business.

The church is not immune from divorce. About 50% of 1st marriages in the US end in divorce but Focus on the Family reports that couples who “…generally take their faith seriously…”, (that means work at it) have about a 38% divorce rate.  I have seen figures that say the divorce rate is the same or higher inside the church as outside but there is a difference between people who call themselves Christians and people who take their faith seriously. (Read the article)

My parents divorced after 18 years and I went through divorce myself after 9 years of marriage. I have since remarried, am working on my 19th year of marriage and incredibly blessed with a great wife who I have 4 children with. However, the years I lost with my first two sons are gone. While our relationship today is very good we went through some difficult times as I struggled with my responsibilities to my sons vs my responsibilities to my new, growing family.

I know the pain of seeing my sons under another man’s care. Seeing my sons living in a situation that I didn’t approve of broke my heart. Hearing about them being spanked by their mother’s boyfriend enraged me. Listening to them call me out on my own poor decisions was humbling, convicting and heart breaking.

Many of you know what it is like to have your young children living under a roof besides your own. You know the difficulty trying to parent children who live under two sets of rules. You live with the split time on holidays and the animosity as you or her explore new relationships. The lingering hurt feelings often make it difficult to sort out issues that seem like they should be more easily managed. Divorce sucks and, like other scenarios, we seldom see the end results in the beginning of the process.

We all make mistakes in our lives but it is the mistakes that hurt other people, especially our kids, which hurt the worst. The good news is that God’s mercies are new every day and every moment of our lives is a new chance to start over. I love the saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”  The moment we turn to God asking for help, the process of healing and restoration starts. The visible results of that process, especially in other people, often take longer than we think they should.

I have a friend who continuously wishes his ex-wife would act more reasonably. His sentiments are no doubt shared by most men and women in similar situations. My feedback to him is always the same, “Stop worrying about her, focus on what you need to do.” Taking care of what we need to do, pressing into God, deepening that relationship, leading by example and “taking care of the plank in our own eye before worrying about the speck” in someone else’s is the only way we can move forward.

Regardless of our current circumstances, as we commit to developing our relationship with God, we can live out a model for our children to emulate. If, by our actions, we can show them a life worth living maybe they don’t have to make some of the same mistakes we made. I don’t want my children to be spared the challenges that result in growth but I pray that each of them avoids the pain of divorce.  I am committed to living for Him and showing my children the beauty of a life and a marriage that is Christ centered. Please God, help me walk that out.

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Brothers

When I first got saved I had a lot of deep questions like, “Who am I going to hang out with?” It was quickly apparent that most of my friends weren’t immediately interested in the same commitment I had just made and I was sure the church was not filled with men I’d be able to relate to.

Turns out the church is filled with men who are also working on developing a closer relationship with God. Men working through their own issues but heading in one direction.  Like any group there are naturally people we are more inclined to gravitate toward on a personal level. Regardless of how I might feel about the personalities of other men in church, I do share something with most of them; we are committed to developing a closer, biblical, relationship with God. This is like the trump card that covers everything else.

My faith is in Christ, not my friends but I need my close friends to help me walk out my faith.  I appreciate their encouragement. I appreciate that they check in with me through the week and see how I am. I am grateful that there is someone out there taking my name to the God in prayer. I am grateful that some ask me the hard questions and I am committed to being honest with them. I am not friends with every man in my church. However, I could develop a close relationship with any man in my church that has a sincere desire to follow Christ. Not only that, but I need those kind of friendships and so does he.

When we find ourselves, alone, isolated and answering to no one, we are in danger. This is another example of God’s way being different than man’s way. The world often portrays the self-made, pull yourself up the bootstraps man as the ultimate man; going it alone and ultimately alone and victorious on a mountaintop. The heroes of the Bible are humble, rely on God’s strength, God’s wisdom and they have strong relationships with other godly men.

In Mark 6 Jesus sends out the 12 in pairs of two. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 72 men in pairs. The apostles often traveled in pairs and we see them relying on one another throughout the New Testament. Moses had Aaron. When David was home alone, not surrounded by other men, he didn’t do so well.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” James tells us, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Proverbs is full of advice about Godly friendships including, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” 27:17, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship” 12:26, and “A friend loves at all times…”17:17.

There are also many cautions about who we are friends with and who we spend our time around. While Jesus is commonly known as a “friend of sinners” it is because he knew they needed salvation. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”

One of my pastors was recently explaining how our church is a welcoming, diverse place. To look around our congregation you would see the homeless, the affluent and everyone in between. The intent is that the church is open to those seeking and welcomes people who are looking for answers. We welcome the hurt and broken who are looking for something and they don’t even know what it is except relief from their pain and confusion. The answer is the peace, love and warm embrace of a loving Father. Jesus meets seeking people with love in their time of need and then calls them into relationship and discipleship. Our relationships should reflect the same thing.

Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. He invested Himself in relationships with people that were trying to grow. He had little time for the religious, self-righteous, condescending “haters” of the day. He was open to all but loved them too much to leave them as He found them.  He was the influencer, not the influenced. He was the salt, He seasoned His surroundings and encourages us in the same endeavor.

Christ is our model in all things and His relationships are no exception.  Men, to grow in our faith, lead our families and finish this race strong we must have close relationships with a few Godly men. The place to find those men is in church. To instigate and develop those relationships may require leaving our comfort zone and it will require time and effort. The cost of not developing these relationships is stagnancy or failure. The benefits are strong relationships with true brothers.

 

That Guy Over There Paid For It

“If you are driving down the street and notice a sexy woman, that is not sin. If you circle the block to get another look at her it is.” A mature Christian man shared this with me 20 years ago and helped me to understand what sin is.

There is a lot of temptation out there, being exposed to it does not constitute sin.  When we ponder it, mull it over, fantasize about it and engage in it we have crossed the line. This can apply to sexual temptation or the desire to lob hand grenades at drivers on the freeway.

We have many chances to consider such things. The battlefield is in the mind first. I have often had imaginary arguments in my mind as I consider how I will tell someone off. I actually create a problem that may not even be there or I might feed a tiny thing and make it giant. This could be the enemy offering me a spirit of offence, or lust or fear. I can choose not to accept or I can snatch it up and run with it, feed it, obsess over it, run through it in my mind. It becomes like Gollum’s “precious” thing.

In Matthew 5:28 Jesus said, “…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Now that’s harsh. It also then stands to reason that if I’ve given my boss a mighty Chuck Norris blow to the solar plexus (in my mind) then I’ve crossed the line. Seriously? How can anyone live up to those standards?

None of us can live up to those standards, this is where Jesus comes in. To be perfectly holy is not within us. If we are saved, we are a new man but we still live in the flesh. The apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”(Romans 7:15) He further explains, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. That a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Spend a few minutes with Romans 7:7-25)

This is not your average knucklehead struggling with this, Paul wrote most of the New Testament. He is a rock star of the Bible. Elsewhere Paul asked God to remove a problem he was struggling with; God said no, “My grace is sufficient.”

Brothers, if you are already a Christian, there is no better news than this. He knows we are not perfect and our sin has been paid for. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1,2) That would not reflect being a man after God’s own heart. God knows our motivation, our heart. He may be the only one who this matters to, but there is no one more important.

The cross was God’s grace to us and it is sufficient. When Jesus died on the cross all our sin was in the future, yet it was all covered. Our sin, all of it, is covered by the blood. If we have accepted Christ we are in right standing with God, justified, righteous, He and we are good. Thank you Jesus. As we move forward our part is to confess our sin and keep our eyes on Him, keep our focus in the right place, “abide in the vine”.  As we falter, and we do, confess, repent, move forward. Repeat as necessary.  Don’t carry the weight. Don’t beat yourself up. Confess, repent, move forward. Provision has been made for our infinite shortcomings. That’s good news.

A Man Among Men

A month ago my close friend, my father in law, passed away as I knelt next to him telling him I loved him and praying for him. His wife of 45 years, Paula, was right there confessing her love for her husband, praying and proclaiming her trust in Jesus. Amidst the chaos, her repeated confession of , “We trust you Jesus” was one of the greatest acts of faith I have ever seen.  As heart wrenching as that was, and is still, I will be forever grateful that I could be there at that moment.

Jack Himschoot was a man among men. When I asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage he told me that if I ever laid a hand on her he might not be able to whip me but he was coming with a gun. He meant it. He was the very definition of a “Florida Cracker”, he often wore an 18 inch sheathed knife to church, ran an airboat, could build a swamp buggy and handle a bullwhip a gun and a backhoe. He taught me how to operate an airboat, catch, clean and gig fish and showed me how to catch gators. He showed about any kid that he ever came in contact with how to make a bullwhip, make a bow and arrow out of palm leaves and shoot a potato gun.

Most of all Jack was a Christian. I was honored to be able to speak at his memorial service and as a tribute to him, wanted to share those sentiments here:

Today I have three great passions in my life and Jack was instrumental in the development of each of them. 

The # 3 thing on that list, is Fishing. I didn’t grow up fishing and didn’t care anything about it. About 15 years ago Jack came to visit us in Tennessee where we lived on a small, river. When he got there he went straight to WalMart and bought a fishing pole. He and I roamed the banks of the Harpeth River, him fishing, me watching with absolutely no interest in actually fishing myself. When he went back to Florida he left that pole in my garage and that fishing pole sat there for several months.  One day I blew the dust off that thing and took it down to the river. I cast it out and immediately got into some Small Mouth Bass and the hook was firmly set in me. I was radically addicted. He later taught me to catch Redfish, drive an airboat and was the motivating factor in pursuing my Captain’s License and starting a charter business.  

As a result of Jack’s influence my Dad and my brother are both now radically addicted to fishing although, of course, I catch more and bigger fish than they do. We continue Jack’s fishing evangelism and are working on passing that passion on to my children. Every minute I have spent enjoying time on the water, the fellowship of Ben (his son). my own father, brother and children, is because of Jack and I am grateful.  

The #2 great passion in my life is my family. Obviously if it wasn’t for Jack & Paula, there would be no me & Jacquelyn, no Kaitlyn, no Logan Jack Britt, no Cyan and no Jack Vaughn Britt. Yes, we named half of our children after Jack.  

Also, he set a high bar as a husband to Paula that Jacquelyn grew up watching. It isn’t easy living up to that expectation and mostly I fail. I am grateful for Jack and Paula and the family they have enabled me to have and for receiving me into their family. 

The # 1 passion in my life is my relationship with God. As a brand new Christian I watched Jack and his walk with Christ. Jack was a man’s man who loved the Lord and devoted time to nurturing his relationship with God.  

That model, an imperfect, humble man living for Christ, has had a significant impact on my life. The very fact that he was imperfect yet continued to press in and work on his relationship with God is the very thing that speaks the loudest to me. It reassured me that I didn’t have to be perfect to be a Christian. Anyone that knows me well, well knows, how flawed I am.  Jack helped me realize that accepting God’s love and asking Jesus to come into my life wasn’t about me being some holier than thou Christian…….it was just about receiving God love, spending time developing my own relationship with God. A natural byproduct of developing my relationship with God is that I am more committed to my family, and those people around me, and less interested, or becoming less interested in chasing after the things that I want, or think I want.

Jack lived his life that way. He walked that example out in front us. He was imperfect but he loved God with his whole heart and he loved those around him as he loved himself. He gave of himself, probably to everyone here and certainly, to many more who are not here.    

Moving forward, I feel challenged. Pastor Tommy was sharing yesterday, he said its not about trying harder, its about drawing a line in the sand, about going all in and being committed to what’s important. Jack Himschoot, imperfect and flawed, was committed to what’s important. Today, in front of my family, my Pastor and men in here that are important to me, I commit to follow Jack as he followed Christ and commit myself to what’s important. I challenge these people to hold me accountable.  

I ask all of you here today to consider Jacks’ example. Consider what is truly important. Reflect on what these men said here today and consider what it means to you personally. This isn’t about religion…or the church…or churchy things. Its about us, its about our relationship with who created us and our relationship with each other. I pray… that moving forward from …right now …we would all consider those things.

My father in law had a great impact on my life and continues to do so. Men, we will impact other people’s lives, it is up to us how. Will our lives be a benefit to those around us or will our example lead others to loss and destruction. It is up to us and the time to get a hold of that is right now. If we will pattern our lives after Christ’s life and develop a relationship with Him we will impact our families and those around us for generations. If we stumble through life relying on our own plan we are rolling the dice and the cost of losing is astronomical.

Jesus referred to himself  as “The Son of Man” dozens of times. He is the very definition of “Man”. Do you believe Him or do you believe some other model of manhood that Hollywood has shown you?

 

How I Fixed My Wife

There are some things that God reveals in His word that don’t make sense to me at first. Turning the other cheek is an example. Another example is reaping and sowing. We can commonly relate this to farming and I understand the principle there. However, it is a principle that applies to other areas. Giving is an example. Another example is our wives.

Ephesians 5:25-28 tells us to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  After we do that we will receive her back to us as Christ will receive his perfect bride.

  1. Give yourselves up for her. Sacrifice.
  2. Receive her back to you, perfected.

When I first heard this it was like a light bulb came on. “Sounds great!” Turns out,  actually sacrificing for my wife was harder than I thought. As a matter of fact, it was about 10 years from the day the light bulb came on until I finally got serious about it. It was easier for me to justify my own behavior than sacrifice or, “give myself up” for my wife.

Staying in the comfortable rut of our relationships can seem like the path of least resistance. We gradually put up with more and more until one day we look at where we are and wonder how we got here. It seems like there’s no way we can fix the mess we are in and divorce is the only answer. I’ve been through divorce and it sucks. No mas.

Sacrifice hurts. If it doesn’t cost you then it’s not sacrifice. Happily doing things for my wife that I don’t want to do is part of my sacrifice. Not holding it over her head is another part. Forgiving her is a sacrifice. I try to be the one who apologizes first. I have also made it a point to understand exactly what she wants and I try to provide that. (For this, I strongly recommend the book The 5 Love Languages). I am committed to sexual purity. Praying for my wife is another sacrifice. I gave up alcohol. I make few decisions without asking her opinion. For me, these are sacrifices and I willingly make them for her.

I fail in my commitments often. I indulge in selfishness and avoid the sacrifices I know I should be making. When I get off track like that I repent and try to get headed back in the right direction.

Really, it’s not about fixing her, it is about fixing me. I’ve got a giant plank in my eye and that thing deserves all of my attention before I worry about the speck in her eye. Fixing her was never the answer, working on me is the answer. God told me what to do, I am working on it and our marriage is better because of it. Big surprise.

You want to fix your wife? Give yourself up, sacrifice. Listen to what God recommends and commit. If you start to do it and it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t seem fair then you are on the right track!