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Spare Change - March 2022

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How many of you had buyer's remorse after you got married?  Be honest.  When you go from engaged to married you find out who your partner really is.  Maybe he clips his toenails in bed or she leaves hair all over the bathroom.  Sometimes it's little things and sometimes it's big things.  One person in the relationship may struggle with depression or maybe it is a sinful attitude or action.  Whatever the problem, big or little, we have all had that moment where we want to take our spouse back to the store like we would a faulty toaster.

How should we cope with the fact that our partner is a seemingly different person as our marital relationship persists?  First off, as Christians, we must remind ourselves of the covenantal nature of marriage.  When we said our vows before God and all our friends and family, we became bound to our spouse.  That commitment must be cherished and upheld no matter what.  If you are bound to your spouse you must keep them and, of course, murder is frowned upon so we must find a way to move forward.

One of the things that a Christian must realize is that God uses marriage to sanctify us.  Through our relationship with our spouse our faith is challenged.  If God has brought this person into our lives and has brought us into a covenant relationship with them, then we must trust His plan.  We must realize that the other person is there to encourage and help us, but they are also there to challenge us.  I would encourage all married couples to view their marriage in this light.  To do that you must focus on your personal relationship with Jesus.  Only then will you have a better perspective on these challenges. Make sure your relationship with the Lord is preeminent, even before your relationship with your spouse.  

Another important thing to realize is people are not static.  In other words, people change and can’t be expected to stay the same.  As we age, experience life, and raise kids we change.  We need to embrace the changes of our spouse.  We must constantly be learning what their hopes and dreams are, but also what frustrates them and where they need encouragement.   Don’t get down about their changes, rather embrace them.

There will also be things that will never change.  Things that frustrate and annoy you.  You might lament the fact that your spouse won’t change in a certain area of their life.  We need to stop trying to change our spouse.  You have probably already figured out that it doesn’t work.  If you do manage to change them then they are probably doing it begrudgingly.  Most people will resent being forced to change.  In reality, our spouse might not need to change, rather our expectations of them need to change. Many times, people expect their spouse to live up to an impossible standard of perfection.  Are they not allowed to be imperfect, are they not allowed to make a mistake?  People rarely hold themselves to that standard of perfection.  Why then hold your spouse to that standard?

Instead of trying to change your spouse there are two things you can do.  First, we need to pray for our spouse.  You need to spend time everyday praying for your spouse. If they really do need to change then only the Lord can help them realize it.  He needs to be the one to help them change.  Once they have realized they need to change then you can be an encouragement in that, but it is going to be tough for them to change unless they really want to.

The second thing we need to do is find ways to serve our spouse.  Have you ever heard the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”?  This applies to marriage.  Instead of getting onto your spouse or nagging them, try serving them.  Find ways to show them you love them by helping them.  Do more with the kids, do chores around the house, bring them a gift, take them out on a special date, check off that project or honey do list.  There are thousands of ways you can serve your spouse and make them feel special.  Rather than be frustrated all the time, try being positive, encouraging, loving, and service oriented.  Trust me, you will see a better attitude in your spouse, and you will have a more enjoyable marriage.

Isn’t that what we all want – an enjoyable marriage?  As Pastor Alan said in a recent sermon, marriage is meant to be enjoyed not endured.  If you are simply enduring marriage, then take it to the Lord in prayer. He will help you discover what it means to enjoy your spouse and have a long fulfilling marriage. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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Spare Change - February 2022

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Why is it so difficult to get free from certain sins?  When I was younger, I would hear preachers and teachers talk about besetting sins. These are sins that ensnare a person, and they find it almost impossible to get victory over them.  I agree that certain sins, for certain people, can be very difficult to break free from.  Even if we do find victory, we can find ourselves right back in them at some point in our lives.  Why is that?  It is almost as if Satan knows exactly what triggers us.  It reminds me of the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis where every person was assigned a demon to tempt them and keep them from following Christ.  While scripture does not confirm this to be true it certainly does feel like we have a personal demon attached to us; however, the Bible does confirm that we are tempted by Satan (James 4:7).  What are we to do?  If he knows what triggers us and keeps hammering us, are we without hope? 

The answer is repentance!  Repentance is most simply explained as turning away from sin and turning toward Jesus.  A fuller definition might be the means by which we participate in gospel transformation by seeking forgiveness in Jesus, exercising faith to overcome sin and growing in gospel maturity.  There is a point in our Christian walk where we come to faith in Jesus and repent of sin.  We find forgiveness of sin and we are saved by the power of the gospel found in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection; however, repentance isn’t just a one time experience.  Coming to Christ begins the lifelong experience of continual repentance.  Stuart Scott in the book Killing Sin Habits calls this mortification (killing sin) and vivification (living by the Spirit).  These two processes are what is meant by ongoing repentance.  A Christian, regardless of how long they have been a believer, should be constantly submitting to Jesus and living out the cycle of repentance and faith.  This is what matures us in our faith and gives us victory over sin.  

True repentance is only found in Jesus Christ.  I cannot overstate how important this is, we cannot do this in our own power.  In fact, trying to handle sin in our own power is what keeps us from truly finding victory.  This struggle is expressed by Stuart Scott as the Temptation Cycle. It looks like this: temptation, feeble struggle, rationalization, unholy surrender, sin is accomplished, momentary guilt, sorrow and shame, confession to God delayed, confession, Christ not put on, isolation (no outside help sought), time passes and the cycle repeats.  Have you seen this cycle played out in your own life?  I know I have.  Often, we fall to temptation in our lives and feel bad, but we don’t really do anything about it.  Repentance is not just feeling bad and asking forgiveness for sin.  

We need to feel sorrow and we need to come to the Lord and seek forgiveness, but we also need to seek change.  Remember, Jesus did not just forgive people and then tell them to keep living the same way.  He called them to leave their sin and follow Him.  That call is still active today.  Don’t shortchange yourself with cheap repentance. 
Jesus died for life transformation, not to just make you feel better.  Also, don't just excuse your sin.  Deal with your sin by bringing it before the Lord; desperately pray for deliverance from it.  Pray also for wisdom to know how to kill it and the courage to get help.  The biggest failure on the part of Christians is the refusal to get help.  We need accountability when it comes to sin.  We need someone that will help us to change our behavior so we will not end up falling into temptation repeatedly.  Satan wants nothing more than for you to keep your sin a secret.  Jesus wants us to expose that sin, so we experience true repentance and life transformation.  This is the only way we will truly find victory over besetting sins in our life.  As you pray about this subject in your life, meditate on this verse: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:11-13 

For more on this topic I would suggest reading Killing Sin Habits by Stuart Scott.  

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