Posted by: pastortomvabeach | February 16, 2017

Thought for the Week February 19, 2017

Valentine’s Day was this week and my devotional reading on February 16, included a brief commentary written by Rev. Nicky Gumbel, an Anglican priest who helped to revise and expand The Alpha Course into worldwide success. The Alpha Course is an evangelistic course which introduces the basics of Christianity through a series of talks and discussions. As of 2015, over 27 million people have taken The Alpha Course.

My devotional reading this year is offered by YouVersion™ which is an online Bible website that is also available as an App for phones and tablets. The plan I am following is called “Bible In One Year 2017”. Each day Rev. Gumbel shares a brief devotional overview of the passages for that day before the passages are read.

On Thursday, which seemed to fit well with Valentine’s Day being this week, this excerpt caught my eye: “Shortly after we were married, Pippa (Gumbel’s wife) and I went on a weekend about marriage. During the weekend there was a session about priorities. We were given five cards – each with a word on it: ‘work’, ‘God’, ‘ministry’, ‘husband/wife’ and ‘children’. We were asked to rank these in order of priority. With hindsight, I can see I got them in completely the wrong order.”

“I put ‘God’ first (at least I got that one right – but it was fairly obvious!), followed by ministry, wife, work, and, finally, children (we didn’t have any children at that stage so they didn’t seem very important!).”

“As the leaders of the weekend took us through these priorities, it became clear to me that my order should be: first of all God, then my wife (my primary calling), our children, my job (my primary ministry), and finally my ministry – which, though obviously very important, should not be allowed to displace the primary responsibilities of my life. As the philosopher Goethe put it, ‘Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’ Put first things first. The things which matter most to God should take first place in our lives.”

As I read this I began to wonder whether much of the difficulty we face today in marriages and families doesn’t stem from misplaced priorities. After all the first two commandments are: love God and love others. That tells us that the most important thing to God is relationships; first with Him and then with others. And the most important relationships are those within the first institution of society that God created, the family.

So often today we get caught up in excessive focus on our jobs since it is our jobs that enable us to have all the pleasures associated with accumulating wealth. Husbands and wives work long hours leaving precious little time to “work” at building and sustaining a growing marital relationship. When children come along, the added burden of their welfare often upends the correct familial priority and the kids become more important to us than our marriage. This may be hard to hear, but we don’t make vows to live with and love our kids forever but we do make those vows to our spouses.

When the stress of making enough to keep ahead of the bills, the “need” to have more and fancier things, and the obvious responsibility of raising good kids is then added to serving in a ministry at church, the marriage takes a rarely noticed back seat. We seem to think that it will just take care of itself. But I’m telling you, it won’t.

Next to God, a Christian’s first and highest priority must be fashioning a God honoring, put the other first, truly loving and growing marriage relationship. If we don’t model this who will? The best thing you can do for your children is to doggedly pursue the best possible relationship you can with your spouse.

Like Jesus told the church at Ephesus, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. (Revelation 2:4-5). Every marriage starts out with romance, intimacy, real friendship, quality time together. That’s where love comes from and we forget that we have to work at that to keep it fresh.

I encourage you to examine your priorities and make sure that you have things in the right order. This doesn’t say that we sluff off on our jobs or refuse to do ministry so we can focus on the family. It does say we should keep things in their right place. When we do that, all of the priorities will fit and we’ll be the best we can be for the Lord.

My wife and I celebrated 47 years of marriage last weekend and we want it to last another 47, if we get to live long. If that’s going to happen, we have to make our marriage a priority, just like everyone else. I’m in for the long haul. What about you?

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