Marriage

We do not enter into a marriage as an obligation, as something that has to be done.  We do not enter into a marriage for the sake of the ritual or ceremony.  We do not enter into a marriage as a law given by the state.

But rather… we marry as a celebration, as a signpost, of how God takes two beautiful and unique individuals and brings them gloriously together as one.

No longer are there two individuals… but rather one flesh- united together as one.

No longer are there two separate or competing interests, but rather one cooperative interest.

No longer are there two sets of priorities, but rather one shared set of priorities.

No longer is there a mindset of mine and yours, but rather ours.

No longer are there “your responsibilities and my responsibilities, your role and my role, your duty and my duty,” but rather our responsibility, our role, our duty… together.

It is this new creation, this two becoming one, this beautiful union, that we celebrate in marriage.

You may have heard the saying, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”

But I would go even further:  Let each one of us- every friend, every family member, and every person do our very best to, not just avoid separating or dividing marriages, but let us work together cooperatively to encourage, build up, strengthen marriages and families through our words, our actions, and our prayers.

Marriage is a communal responsibility-  we all take part and have a responsibility in the life of this new creation.

But may the bride and groom always work to encourage, build up, and strengthen their marriage and family as well.

With words of life, grace, peace, and love to one another.  With the disposition of Christ, always serving each other in selfless and humble love.  With prayers never ceasing for your marriage and your family, as you are showered and covered with God’s blessing and love.

And may the love of God received… be the very love given to one another.

A love that is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude.

A love that is not selfish or quick-tempered.

A love that does not keep a record of wrongs that others do.

A love that rejoices in the truth, and not in evil.

A love that is always supportive.
A love that is loyal.
A love that is hopeful.
And a love that is trusting.

It is this kind of love that will never fail.

It is this kind of love that will never fail a marriage.

It is this kind of love that will never fail a family.

Thank God for that kind of love.  For demonstrating that kind of love.  And for letting each of us take part in that kind of love.

I am performing a wedding today.  This is a small edited portion of my message.

peace…

brandon

GUEST POST: Learning to Embrace the Mundacity of Everyday Life: A Revival within the Ordinary by Jeff K. Clarke

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been reading and blogging my way through Leonard Sweet’s latest book, Viral. Though the book was a complimentary copy from Len, my reflections have been honest and intentional. If you’re interested in reading any of my commentary, simply drop by my blog and you’ll find them there, for a fee…just kidding!

The final chapter in the book was short, but powerful. Entitled Infectious Faith, Len laid out how the TGIF generation (Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook) is posed to start a viral revival. Why? Read the book. However, the basis of his claim appealed to me, and more than that, made sense. It was based on the foundational premise inherent to TGIFers – namely its embrace of the ordinary.

Think about it for a moment. What baseline feature would best describe the TGIF generation? While a variety of responses would prove valid, I think the best word to describe the ethos of this movement would be social. Making connections through social media, made possible by smart phones and tablets, extends the picture of the traditional backyard, over-the-fence chat with neighbors, into a super-social, instantaneous and constant conversation. And, while flashes of brilliance and other profound thoughts are shared with friends in any given moment, more often than not, the vast majority of conversations, like those in the backyard, center on the everyday. In essence, we have a fascination with the ordinary.

As Sweet points out, “follow a friend’s tweets or read status updates on Facebook. We describe a good meal, an inspiring movie, the break-up of a relationship, our pet’s bathroom habits. And notice the imaginative ways people express the ordinary. There is passion, avid glee, and clever aphorisms” (187-188).

What does this mean? “Our everydayness is sacred to us” (188). We value the commonplace. We create a contemporary village commons where life is shared with our friends and other connections. We plant “gardens of ordinary words” that have the capacity to germinate and grow into a viral-like, global phenomenon. All because of our fascination and proclivity for the ordinary.

Does this mean, then, that we have no room left for the spectacular? Not at all. Room is made for all kinds of experiences. However, most of the space is designated ‘ordinary’ because that is where we all live – in the ordinariness of the everyday.

Sweet believes, and I concur, that any contemporary experience of spiritual renewal/revival will happen within and flow out of this commonplace, mundane garden.

It will happen in the midst of conversations with friends, family and other social connections. The large, stadium-sized, superstar style of communicating the gospel will be replaced with the low key, everyday, one-on-one, back garden, over the fence chats with those we have befriended along the way. We will learn to appreciate and embrace the beauty and grandeur of the daily, while cultivating a sacred awe for God’s ability to move in the spaces of ordinary living.

The gravitational pull will move us away from the spectacular and shift us towards the normal. We will move away from the burning bush, and embrace the glory of the forest. We will see life, not as a sprint, but a walk. We will learn to stop, sit and share life with friends.

The center of connection between us will be the place where the glory of God will rest. Broken pots will display the Shekinah of God. Status updates will be the breeding ground for a natural move of God. Story will be the vehicle for renewal. Social media will become the backyard where God dwells and speaks between friends. The line between the natural and supernatural will be blurred. Heaven and earth will kiss each other.

So, learn to live in the sacred space of the everyday and you’ll find that God was waiting there all along. Live in the viral world of the normal and share the infectious message of Christ with the world at your back door.

In other words, let’s go viral.

Jeff K. Clarke currently serves as the Christian Life Coordinator for Fairview United Church in Ontario, Canada.  An accomplished writer, Jeff has also served in a number of Pentecostal churches over the years, and has spent three years as the Associate Director of Admissions at a Canadian seminary.  For more information about Jeff and his writings please visit his website at www.jeffkclarke.com.

Spiritual Transformation

Words on pages are not enough to transform you.

Inspirational and motivational words are energizing, but they are not enough to sustain your fleeting emotions and not powerful enough to completely change you at the core of your being. Sure they may lift you up and get you excited for a bit, but those feelings will soon fade and you will remain untransformed in your life.

We, as Christians, too many times have this belief that our lives will necessarily begin changing when “we say the right words” or “take on a new label” or “hang with a different group” or “read the Bible more.”

Transformation is not that simple. It is not a flipping of the light switch or “getting dunked” and then becoming magically new.

In fact, there are those who have verbally professed to give Christ their lives…but yet remain untransformed, and likely even painfully empty, in their lives- day by day, week by week, or year by year.

Spiritual transformation… being made new… is a process. It is a daily walk of letting go and receiving, of dying and coming to life, of the edges being knocked off and refined into something new… something glorious. It is not for those seeking quick fixes, instant gratification, or a new life without sacrifice.

It is only in a life centered on Jesus Christ and the moment by moment sacrifice of your will and your way to the Spirit of God that you begin to change inwardly. When this happens, the Kingdom begins to break out through your life in power. It is only through your continual and perpetual worship that the Kingdom begins to reign inwardly then outwardly in your life.

The Kingdom seed is planted. It takes root. It grows wildly. It bears fruit.

We must understand from the beginning that it is not about what you can do in your own power, but rather what the power of God can do to transform you. It is not about what you can do outwardly to be a better Christian; rather it is coming face to face with Jesus Christ and His in-breaking Kingdom that begins to change you inwardly. It is allowing Christ to come so close that your heart, your mind, your desires, and your feelings begin to change. It is the easiest (and hardest thing) you will ever do, but it is essential to understand that you do not have the capacity to live a righteous and holy life in your own power, rather it is only when you are reborn from the inside that God’s ways become your own.

You must pray for the Spirit to come into your heart and your life, for that is the only place where transformation can begin and the only place where the Kingdom can take root and reign. It is a spiritual problem that needs a spiritual solution and it can only be cured by the Spirit of God. When the Spirit comes close and begins to work intimately in your life, you begin changing. You are able to see the world as God sees the world. You hunger for those things which God hungers. You pursue those things which God pursues. You desire those things which God desires. You cannot get enough of Jesus and His way and His Kingdom. You change so radically from the inside that the power of the Spirit cannot help but work its way out into your life in everything you do. But sacrifice and surrender to God the Holy Spirit is essential.

The way of Jesus always means sacrifice. It is a sacrifice in which you become so hidden in the fullness of Christ that it is no longer you, only Him. It is never what you can do; it is only what can be done through you when you get out of the way. It is essential for each of us to pray and plead to God for a transformation from the inside and for a deep hunger for His Kingdom to come into our lives and work through each of us.

Seven years ago I did not know much about the Bible. I did not have any passion or excitement to read it. My guess is that I was a lot like many Christians today; the thought of reading my Bible seemed more like a chore than anything life-giving. One day I began to pray that God would change my heart and that I would have a passion and a hunger for Him and His Word. In ways that I can only explain as miraculous, my heart and my life began to change. I began to have a hunger for anything and everything of God.

I wanted to pray without ceasing. I wanted to give up my own pursuits and desires. I wanted to read and understand more about God. I wanted to know what God was doing in and through my life for others. The changes in my life didn’t come from guilting myself to death. It didn’t come from arm-twisting or beating myself into submission. My inner passion, desire, and hunger came from God emptying me of me and filling me with His Spirit. That is when I began to find Life and began to understand the words of Jesus, “I came that [you] might have Life and have it abundantly.” I wholly believe that for any one of us to change, it has to begin in humility, selflessness, repentance, and sacrifice of our own ways coupled with an insatiable hunger and desire for God to come close and change our hearts and minds. It is then that the Spirit is invited to begin the transformative work of raising you to new Life.

But how deeply inside our lives do we allow the Spirit to work? How much of ourselves do we really fully sacrifice? Are there certain places within you that are off limits? Are there certain areas that have been purposefully blocked off? Are there areas of darkness that you keep hidden because it is just too difficult or too embarrassing to go there? You have to admit, we rarely ask questions like these in our churches. It is as if we are all completely cool with a superficial scrub of the house, but we are reluctant to open up all of the windows and doors to the house and even more reluctant to open the closets inside. The truth is that the entire house needs cleaning, but we have to be willing to open all the windows and doors and every single closet for the work to begin.

For me, words like humility, selflessness, repentance, and sacrifice had always been these abstract words that really didn’t mean anything for my life. I knew that a Christian ought to exhibit those qualities, but it was just a mental thing, not a real way of living. In essence, I was comfortable opening a couple of windows and doors for the Spirit to come into, but I kept the shades drawn and other doors securely locked deep inside. Not only was there no possibility of cleaning the restricted areas, I would not even allow the Light to break in.

One evening I gathered with a handful of my Christian brothers from my church. I told them how important it is that we come together as sinners at the foot of the cross to confess our sins to God and to each other in repentance. The truth is that it was my way of finally opening up every window, door, and closet that had remained closed and off limits. It was my way of finally exposing every bit of darkness within me to the Light of Christ.

In the presence of God and my Christian brothers, I began to verbally confess every sin I could remember in my life. All of the windows were opening and every door to the house invited in my dear Friend. Humility, selflessness, repentance, and sacrifice became a real part of my life as I began carrying the cross of Christ. I went through every room, kicked down every closet door, and asked my Friend to do the work I was completely incapable of doing. The pockets of darkness that had been hidden deep in my life and that kept the Light of Christ from penetrating my heart had now been opened up. The cleaning of the entire house could now begin. There was no longer a place for the darkness to hide. The Light of Christ broke into my heart and began to transform me into a new man.

The man who had been the cheater, the liar, the adulterer, the perverse, the foul-mouthed, the self-centered, and the verbal abuser had been exposed, put to death, and forgiven by Christ and my brothers. It was evident that there was absolutely nothing spectacular about me, only Christ in me. I had never felt so much appreciation and gratitude for Christ and His love for me. I also had never felt so much appreciation and gratitude for the Spirit that began to do the work in my life that I could never do and to teach me new and higher ways. Life completely changed for me that night.

Are you willing to open not just the windows and doors, but also the closets that you have kept hidden deep within your life? Are you willing to let the Light break into those hidden places so that the Light of Christ will begin to shine through you? Are you willing to let the “old man” be exposed so that the new man might come to life? Are you willing to lead by example the way of humility, selflessness, repentance, and sacrifice by being confessional with your other brothers and sisters in Christ so that they may see you not as someone who is perfect, but as a sinner who is forgiven and who is being made new? For the Spirit to begin the deepest cleaning, you must be willing to walk the sacrificial pathway of Christ for transformation to begin. It is only on this pathway where Christ and His Kingdom together are glorified in and through your entire life.

peace…

brandon