Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marriage Success Strategies: 4. Reboot

This post is the fourth in a series.
Can you remember how happy you were when you first married? You began a thrilling new adventure, filled with excitement, eagerness, and anticipation. You were madly in love. Every day – every moment – was special. There were no angry words, violent deeds, or episodes of selfish pouting. There were no arguments about money, material possessions, annoying personal habits, or anything else. It was, after all, the honeymoon.
However, the word “honeymoon” originally referred to the initial sweetness of wedded bliss (“honey”), that was typically expected to last only a month (“moon”)! Well, whether a week, a month, or even a couple of years, that first sense of euphoria can give way over time to complacency, laziness, and indifference. It can even turn into resentment, hostility, and divorce.
For some fun and truth mixed together, see the “Seven Stages of the Married Cold.”
When a computer or network becomes sluggish or is infected with a virus, the “System Restore” function makes it lean, clean, and new once more. The same kind of step may work to revitalize and rejuvenate your marriage. Don’t give it the boot; give it the reboot!
Today is the first day of the rest – and potentially the best – of your married life. Decide to start over – right now. Whatever the past, there is hope for the future, depending on the choices you make in the present. The Bible is all about rebooting. When Noah and his family left the ark, they restarted their lives in a clean, fresh world. When the Israelites were oppressed in Egypt, God gave them an “extreme makeover,” a new beginning in the Promised Land. After the seventy-year exile in Babylon, God brought the people of Judah home – again.
After Simon Peter’s denials the resurrected Lord met him near where the disciples were fishing. He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter could answer afresh, leaving the past behind and starting over. And so he did.
Researches agree that marriages tend to go through seven stages. They are:
Excitement: enjoying the honeymoon.
Realization: becoming aware of imperfection.
Rebellion: fighting to get some independence back.
Cooperation: working together to raise the kids and pay the bills.
Reunion: drawing closer after the nest becomes empty.
Explosion: dealing with crises, such as loss of job or health.
Completion: reaching the end of this life, with peace and accomplishment.
How do you reboot your marriage?
Seek first the kingdom. Matt 6:33
The strongest glue between any two people is the unity of spirit they can share in the Lord. It will sustain them through the toughest times and strongest storms. Over time, though, struggling couples stop praying, worshiping, and studying the Bible together. Solution? Get in the Word, on your knees, and in the church. The closer you are to Jesus, the closer your spouse will want to be to you. As you follow Him, your wife or husband will naturally receive a better mate as a result.
Revisit your happy, early days. Gen 29:20
The seven years that Jacob worked to get Rachel seemed to him but a few days, because of the love he had for her. You likely remember that feeling as well. What happened to it? How, when, and why? What would it take to get it back?
Open your heart. 2 Cor 6:11-13
Paul recognized that the Corinthians had become strained in their affections toward him. They withheld their love, their warmth, and their attention. The same thing happens in marriages. Couples allow misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and past words and deeds to shut down the openness they once shared. They drift apart because they no longer talk and listen. If they would clear the debris and remove the blockage, their spirits could be one again.
Build and strengthen trust every day. 1 Cor 4:2
          As a steward Paul sought first to be faithful or trustworthy. Trust can take only a moment to be destroyed but a lifetime to try to rebuild. For a marriage to reboot each spouse must determine, “Starting today, and every day, I will earn and maintain your trust regarding where I am, what I am doing, and who I am with. I will never give you reason to doubt my inetgrity and fidelity.”
Ask. Don’t assume. Eph 4:29
When a marriage is in a rut, spouses take each other for granted. Each assumes that the other knows his or her thoughts, feelings, and needs. Pride keeps them from seeking each other’s help and counsel. To reboot your marriage, learn what your spouse feels and needs. Listen more than you talk. Admit what you don’t know. Follow Eph 4:29, speaking only words that encourage, offer grace, and build up.
Honor her or him above yourself. 1 Pet 3:7-8
Prov 31:10 notes that an excellent wife is worth than rubies. A marriage can start fresh when spouses recognize each other’s value. Starting today, they express both publicly and privately, “You mean more to me than any other person on earth.” Do you want to reboot your marriage? Make your mate feel appreciated, affirmed, and esteemed.
Do not expect perfection. Ps 103:8-9, 14
Since the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, should we not be the same? Since he does not keep his anger forever, how can we? Since he knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust, shall we not treat our spouses likewise?
Give more than you take. Give whatever it takes. Matt 5:41
Unhappy marriages involve spouses who are scorekeepers; they are out to be sure they get the most points. Renewed marriages focus on giving instead. Unhappy marriages fail due to lack of commitment. People decide in advance what they are willing to give, and then they quit. Rebooted marriages thrive on sacrifice, patience, and kindness. They flourish with thoughtfulness, tenderness, and unselfishness.
Model Christ and the church. Eph 5:22-33
Marriages disintegrate because men will not take the spiritual lead and  / or women will not follow their lead. When the husband parallels Christ as the loving head, and the wife reflects the church as the submitted bride, their marriage can start fresh and stay that way.
Make the most of every day. Heb 3:13
Live so that, at the end of every day, your spouse will say, “I’m so glad God gave you to me. I’d say, ‘I do,’ all over again!” As Clint Back wrote: “When I said I do, I meant that I will 'til the end of all time, Be faithful and true, devoted to you. That's what I had in mind when I said I do.” I also love these words from the Forester Sisters: “I'd choose you again. I'd choose you again. If God gave me the chance to do it all again, oh, I'd carefully consider every choice and then, out of all the boys in the world, I'd choose you again.”
Cory Collins

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is the Pope Our “Holy Father?”

This article is not intended to question anyone’s sincerity or religious zeal. Rather it is designed to address people’s questions in a fair, objective, and biblical manner. Please read it in the spirit in which it is written, as an attempt to “speak the truth in love.”
“… you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.” Matt 23:8-9
Many are talking about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the choice of his successor, Pope Francis. Should the church, as Christ established it, have a pope (meaning “papa”)? We must ask first, “Is the Bible the only source of religious authority? If so, what does the Bible teach – or not teach – about the papacy?”
When we lived in New York in September, 1978, the New York Post headline surprised me with a headline regarding Pope John Paul I that read, “Holy Father Dies.” The use of that phrase to describe a man caught me off guard. In Roman Catholic teaching the phrase “Holy Father” refers not only to God in heaven, but also to the pope on earth. Is that right? Is the papacy a New Testament office? Is one man to be regarded as the “papa” of the entire “Catholic” (meaning “universal”) church? Does God reveal doctrine through the pope that is not in the Bible? Was Simon Peter the head of the early church, or even the rock on which Christ built it?
Various claims have been made regarding the pope throughout the years. The Catholic catechism, which contains summaries of their teachings and principles, may be accessed here: Among its statements we find the following:
882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
936 The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is "head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth" (CIC, can. 331).
937 The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, "supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls" (CD 2).
By contrast, however, Simon Peter described himself as simply a man, a servant, an apostle, a fellow elder, and a witness of Christ’s sufferings (Acts 10; 1-2 Peter). The papacy emerged centuries later, as the evolving Roman church wanted a single leader to parallel the Roman Emperor. The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 decreed that the bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome had superior authority over others. In AD 590 Gregory the Great, the bishop of Rome, in a conflict with the bishop of Constantinople, claimed universal jurisdiction over Christendom. Great efforts have been made to trace a direct succession of popes from later times backwards to Simon Peter. The list has been revised several times, with disputed results. In AD 1409 there were actually three popes at the same time in different locations, each excommunicating the other two and their supporters.
Other questions also arise. Since Peter was first an apostle, how can a non-apostle be eligible to fill his shoes? Why was Peter himself never called “papa” or “pope?” If Peter was the apostle Paul’s father and head, how could Paul approach him as an equal and rebuke him (Gal 2)? Why does each pope choose a new name for himself? Is this thought to follow Jesus’ designation of Simon as “Peter?” If Peter’s role as “head of the church” continues through successive generations, why would his replacement not also be called “Peter” or “rock” (as the term means), instead of “pope” or “papa?”
Why don’t the other apostles’ roles also continue today? Since Peter was a married man (Mark 1:30-31; 1 Cor 9:5), why is the pope today required to be celibate? If the pope can speak ex cathedra (from the chair of authority), why does the current pope not appoint his own successor with the Holy Spirit’s guidance? If he were to do this before he died or resigned, would that not seem simple, reasonable, and consistent? Why is the new pope chosen instead through a democratic election process? Why does each pope choose a new name for himself? Is this thought to follow Jesus’ designation of Simon as “Peter?”
The Lord’s church has but one head, Christ Himself (Eph 1:22-23). It has but one “Holy Father,” in heaven (Matt 23:9). It is founded, not on Peter, but on the bedrock truth about Jesus that Peter confessed (Matt 16:16).” Peter used the keys of the kingdom, not at the pearly gates of heaven, but here on earth to open the door to Jews (Jerusalem, Acts 2) and Gentiles (Cornelius, Acts 10).
Put another way, the office of “Holy Father” is already filled – by the God of heaven. He was not chosen by human voting or election. He will never grow old, become weak, resign, or need to be replaced.
Cory Collins