Marriage Pillars

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28

Neither Lois nor Lance would look at each other, or their lawyers. Fifteen years of marriage was ending in a cold courtroom with even colder hearts. Nothing was left of the passion, trust, and hopefulness they once shared. There had been no infidelity, no bankruptcy, and no abuse. However, intimacy had been sucked out of their marriage by an enormous vacuum cleaner called gossip. Lois wouldn’t stop confiding intimate secrets to her family and her girlfriends. To retaliate, Lance had divulged her secrets to the guys in the shop. It had been small indiscretions at first. But even after each had pleaded for privacy, set boundaries, and threatened divorce, neither seemed willing to control their tongues. Little by little, gossip created a crevice in their marriage that, over time, had become the Grand Canyon.

Healthy relationships are built upon the twin pillars of trust and respect. Without those in place, neither a friendship nor a marriage can thrive. Intimate friendship is a treasured gift, rare in its occurrence and priceless in its value. When we have been handed such a gift, we should hold it in reverent hands. Proverbs warns us that the very act of confiding someone’s secrets to outsiders is the path toward separation from that person. Gossip is not the seeking of wise counsel with someone who can be part of a solution. Gossip is the selfishly-motivated divulging of something that is not ours to share. The hearts—and the secrets—of the ones who trust us should be safe in our hands and far from the gossip fire.

 Have you damaged a relationship because you violated the trust of someone close to you?

Gossip vs. Slander


So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 1 Peter 2:1

Slander is gossip on steroids. To slander is to make a false and damaging statement about someone. Both slander and gossip have their roots in selfishness, and both can destroy people and relationships. Here’s how it works:

Beth heard that her colleague Jane was up for the next promotion. Jealous, she shared that news with others in the office over lunch, and they took turns picking apart Jane and her inferior qualities. That is gossip. And it’s wrong. But when Beth shared her opinions about Jane’s unworthiness with the hiring manager—including casting suspicion on Jane’s financial situation and parenting struggles--gossip became slander. Jane’s personal life had nothing to do with whether or not she should be considered for the job, but Beth’s motive was to make Jane appear less qualified, whether her assertions were true or not. Either way, her suggestions were enough to cast a negative shadow over Jane’s character. That is slander. God makes it clear that our motivation for everything must be love. While gossip and slander harm the reputations of others, love guards them. While gossip and slander find the faults, love finds the good. When love rules our conversations, we stay clear of slander

 How much of your “sharing of information” may actually be slanderous?


Looking for Jesus

He said, "You are looking for Jesus…who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”  Mark 16:6

These people were looking for Jesus in the wrong place. Millions still are. Some carve His image onto wooden crosses, and then pray to the wood. Some claim to see His face in the clouds or on a waffle, and then sell photos to the hopeful. Some make pilgrimages, some make idols, and some make excuses, but they, like the disciples, are looking in the wrong places.

We tend to look for Jesus where we expect Him to be and He is rarely there. We think the right music, the right atmosphere, or the right shiver down our spines might bring us closer. We don’t find what we expect because we’re not looking for the real Jesus. The disciples went to the tomb looking for a man; Jesus would reveal to them God. We go in search of the longhaired Jesus in the Sunday School Picture, because He looks harmless and comfortably outdated. But the Jesus who rose from the dead, commands obedience, and talks about coming judgment is a little scary. And that’s why we can’t find Him. Often He is not who or where we expect Him to be. We cannot seek Him only as Savior; He is Lord. Undisputed boss. Creator. King of Kings. Judge of all the Earth. And unless we are willing to bow to Him as such, we won’t find Him either.
 Are you looking for Jesus in all the wrong places? Fall to your knees and make Him Lord, and He will be there. 


Fear and Great Joy

They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell…  Matthew 28:8
Me and the Big Guy Upstairs have an understanding.” Ray leaned back in his chair with a confident smile. “I know the Bible says it’s wrong, but I think—” Jess nodded. “Yeah, I agree. Jesus understands that the times have changed. You know, if religion doesn’t accommodate the culture, then who needs it? I pray every day. He’s cool with whatever I want to do.”

Have you heard similar conversations? They sound wise, except for one thing: these guys are not talking like people who actually know Jesus. They sound more like guys who have defined a Jesus for themselves. Even in His day, people were already trying to define for themselves what the Son of God would be like. They’re still doing that. But the phrase “fear and great joy” describes the experience of everyone who has truly encountered the risen Lord. To know Him is to fear his power, majesty, and perfection. The “fear of the Lord” means reverential awe. But it also acknowledges God’s power and right to direct our lives. In fact, Jesus told us we should fear God if we refuse to obey Him (Matt. 10:28). But to know Him is to also overflow with joy at the way He pours out His love on those who love Him (Ps. 147:11). 

Without fear, we become irreverent and abuse His grace (Rom. 6:1). Without joy, we veer toward legalism and drudgery. When either is missing, it is a sign that we do not really know Him as he deserves to be known. Those missing pieces also give those observing us a faulty representation of His character. The right combination of “fear and great joy” produces in us a passion for telling other people about Him too. 


Stopping Short


Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. John 20:11

She had almost made it. But less than a dozen steps from a life-changing revelation, Mary stopped. Her eyes told her that the tomb was empty; her fear decided what that meant. The Lord, her best friend, her future was gone. All she saw was emptiness, so all she could do was cry. We now know that if she’d pressed on in faith, she would have had no reason to cry. But because she chose to view the empty tomb through the lens of defeat, she missed the miracle. We do that too.

Faith means that we don’t stand outside the answer and cry in defeat. It’s true that God’s ways and workings are sometimes impossible to understand. When we can’t see Him or hear Him, all we see emptiness, and our fears decide what that means. Like Mary, we think we see the whole picture and we react to that understanding—often in defeat. But the empty tomb did not mean what Mary thought it meant. And many times, our emptiness does not mean what we think it means either. God specializes in the impossible. What appears to be ultimate defeat is often merely the prelude to a life-changing revelation.

Maybe your emptiness does not mean what you think it means. Trust God, or you might miss the miracle.


Pilate's Fears

Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” Matthew 27:65

Those orders did not end that day. The enemies of the Lord have been working ever since to convince the world that Jesus is irrelevant. “If we can just neutralize Jesus and the whole resurrection thing,” the thinking goes, “Christianity will die of natural causes.” And they’re right. If Jesus is nothing but a sweet-talking guru, then let’s board up the churches and build casinos.

Pilate’s orders continue to echo through the centuries, taking cues from popular culture. God is Dead! shouted the headlines in the 60’s. It’s the Me Generation, we were told in the 70’s. Cultural Christianity is the New Cool, the 80’s informed us. It was Anything Goes for the 90’s, and for every generation since. Attacks against the validity of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, and the reality of God continue to escalate. When Pilate can’t deny the existence of Jesus, he repackages Him as a shy, lamb-carrying hippie who had some great ideas but is hopelessly out of touch. However, every attempt to discredit Jesus hits the same obstacle—an empty tomb. Pilate’s fear that a resurrected Christ would transform his empire was well founded; but trying to stop Jesus with a rock He Himself had created was not. So go ahead, Pilate, make that tomb as secure as you know how. It won’t matter, because the One who walked out of that tomb is still transforming your empire.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” –C. S. Lewis 

A Little Birdie Told Me


A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13

Zach had the pedigree, the education, the looks, and the personality. He should have been next in line for a giant promotion. But in spite of his dazzling interview and stellar resume, the company went with an outsider. The hiring manager sighed as he closed the file and turned to his assistant, “I would love to have been able to promote Zach, but I just couldn’t trust him. This position requires high confidentiality and Zach has loose lips. He loves to brag and sometimes that bragging includes information he has no right to share. It’s a shame. He has so much potential.”

Have you ever considered the way others perceive your sharing of someone else’s news? What seemed to you like a golden moment in the limelight may in fact have been a signal to the hearers that you are not trustworthy. That slight shading of the truth to make the story more thrilling, the "accidental" name-dropping designed to make you seem important, the spontaneous burst of honesty when you should have used more restraint—they seem like such minor incidents; yet they may have closed a file you did not know about. Those juicy tidbits of gossip may have placed you in Zach’s category, and earned you the unofficial title of “loose lips.” Now is the time to begin earning back the reputation you want. It starts with being painfully honest with  yourself and with God. Every morning, commit your words to the Lord and ask Him to guard your conversations (Ps. 19:14).

If ten of your acquaintances were asked about your trustworthiness, what would they say?


King of the HIll


For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. James 3:16

Remember playing King of the Hill? For many of us, that game set the stage for the rest of our lives. Have you ever thought about what was at the top of that hill? Nothing. It was usually just a pile of dirt, but we fought over it because we all wanted to be Number One. Even as kids, we were learning to play by Satan’s rules. We learned to push others down so we could be first, to grab the best for ourselves, and that only the “king of the hill” matters. That is the definition of selfish ambition. It sounds like a positive goal, but this verse warns us that when we indulge in it, we are welcoming an entire fleet of other sins.
Think for a moment about how many of your lifestyle choices or purchases were motivated by envy. Your (neighbor, brother, boss, friend) got one, so you had to have it too. You didn’t know you needed it until you saw theirs. Our culture is constantly reminding us that unless we have the newest gadget, the biggest TV, or the best body, we are inferior. It points to our physical differences and clears its throat: “You really need this product so you won’t be so (fat, ugly, weak, low-class).” 

Would there be a market for triple-digit designer handbags if there was no envy? Would tanning salons, elective cosmetic surgery, or massive debt be as prevalent if envy was not the motivator? The Bible warns us that with envy comes jealousy, over-spending, greed, pride, and a host of other sins that weighs us down and keep us from enjoying all God has give us.
Take a personal inventory of your life choices. Does envy or selfish ambition play a part in those choices?


Culture of Envy


Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the LORD always. Proverbs 23:17

 Tabloids wink at us from every checkout stand. They urge us to keep up with the Kardashians, be as immoral as the latest starlet, and spend money to get abs like the pros. Isn’t it strange that the most godless people among us are elevated to god-like status? And we fall for it. We may not admit it, but we do. We peer into the mirror and frown, not because our eyes don’t work or our mouth won’t move. We frown because the wrinkled, speckled, lopsided face peering back does not look like the one on the cover of People magazine. The body that will get us through the day, hug a crying child, perform an honest day’s work, or help a neighbor in trouble is not as toned as the millionaire body frolicking on the beach.

Tabloids were not around in Bible times, but envy was. The rich became richer through dishonesty and abuse. The powerful gained more power through deception and bribery. And God’s people tended to envy them. So Proverbs contains an encouragement for everyone who knows the Lord. The Bible reminds us that there will always be Kardashians, but we don’t need to keep up with them. Our eyes are to be fixed upon Someone who is more fascinating, powerful and beautiful than anyone the tabloids can boast. Your body may not be movie star quality, but it can be a living sacrifice to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2). Your face may not attract the paparazzi, but it can reflect the glory of God (Ps. 34:5). Top that, tabloids!  

Who do you envy and why? If Jesus looked at your heroes list, would He agree with it?