A Spirit-Led Marriage
What do young people look forward to when they get married? A union of bodies, minds and hearts. What happens when they actually begin to live together as husband and wife and get to know the other person as he or she really is? Such a union of man person and woman person is more than sexual acrobatics, experience, practice of counselling or astuteness in understanding. Does heart speak to heart? There is a certain amount of disillusionment and frustration in the gap between the romance and reality, between expectation and the actual situation. Some of you decided to make the marriage a success by adjusting to each other and giving in, giving up or modifying some of your expectations, so that each of you could give to and receive from your spouse what was necessary for equilibrium and peace in your home? There was a partial peace, insofar as there was no constant quarrelling or disturbance of each other.
The years went by and you became parents or focused on your careers or got involved in some pastimes that brought you satisfaction and fulfilment as an individual. Maybe you got used to each other and used each other, losing sight of why you got married in the first place? Maybe you were never unfaithful to each other and were practising Catholics with a nice home, children and friends. Your spirituality was perhaps an individual one made up of prayers, sacrifices and obligations that made you feel self-righteous. But was there a union of hearts? Were you of one heart and led by the same Spirit to witness to Jesus like the early Christians we read about in Acts 4 verse 32? Was Jesus' prayer in John 17:21 true of you? Before God who are you? God who knows your innermost being loves you as you are. Do you love yourself in this transparency before God? Does your spouse know you in this transparency? Will he/she love you as you are? That is what is meant by a spirit-filled marriage. A communion of his spirit and her spirit made possible by the Holy Spirit. We can share our thoughts with each other. We can share our feelings with each other. We can share vulnerably and listen with love, understanding and a desire to know, love and accept the other as other. A deeper level is sharing our spirits with each other. How can this be possible?
Union with God is called contemplation when our spirit enters into the Divine presence. The Holy Spirit within us prays: Abba Abba Father. "I want to do your will". I want to be one with you. The Holy Spirit also enables a husband and wife who die to selfishness, self-centredness and self-focus to be one, in a union that goes beyond a union of bodies, minds or emotions. They become "one in the Spirit and one in the Lord."
Each one of us faces brokenness in our lives as we are led by self-interest to control, manipulate, dominate or use others to enhance our own egos. Call it pride, laziness, greed, lies, jealousy, lust, hatred, anger or indifference that imprisons us and prevents us from being life-giving and loving to our spouse and children, in word and deed. Do we recognise how we have been seduced, led captive or ensnared by the evil one so that we no longer are free to love, to serve and to lose ourselves in love? Repentance means recognition of our sinfulness and allowing the precious blood of Jesus to wash away our sins. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and unite us with God and with each other.
Jesus tells us in Jn 12:24 " Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears fruit." In a marriage that is "Spirit-filled" or "led by the Spirit", both partners have to be open to the prompting of the Spirit of God, as to how they answer the call and fulfil the mission God gives them as spouse and parent. One cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit as long as one's heart is proud, self-sufficient, thinks one has arrived, stops listening, acts superior or becomes complacent. When the shell of the wheat grain is split open, through the temperature and humidity in the soil, new life sprouts.
All of us are broken at times by situations and circumstances in our life through which the Father prunes us. Sometimes He allows us to fall flat on our face and experience our own frailty.
When the alabaster jar was broken by the repentant woman, the perfumed ointment was released to anoint the feet of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is like that fragrant ointment that is released in our lives when with a contrite and humbled heart we can recognise and rejoice in our brokenness. The earthen vessel holds a treasure that cannot be given to others unless it is broken. Brokenness is a way of sharing fragrance, being led by the Spirit to be life-giving and fruitful. But brokenness means shedding our blood on the cross of life.
A man and woman who live together in holy matrimony attract each other by their differences that complement each other. But their differences can also at times cause misunderstandings, hurts and pain. So it is with parents and children at times when there is a strong contest of wills. Has one to win and the other to lose? God works through human situations and one needs faith to recognise his hand. In humble prayer one has to open one's mind, heart and life to the Divine Teacher. Our pride, self-love, complacency, false superiority, hypocrisy, control or manipulation of others, use and abuse of others will be smashed again and again to release the fragrant love of the Holy Spirit in gentle, kind, loving understanding and service. In God's plan, a marriage is for a life-time. A couple grows old together in mutual love and understanding. When their children have left the nest and their energies spent in parenthood seek new outlets to be life-giving, they still have to bring each other into God's presence through their love and life-giving words and actions.
The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead gives life to us in our brokenness and enables us to be life-giving to each other in turn. Husbands and wives can then love each other as Jesus loves his Church and bear witness to that death-resurrection love in the power of the Spirit.
We are struck by the words of Paul. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." [Galatians 5:22-23] It seems to us that these nine fruits of the Spirit are precisely what every marriage needs to move out of ordinariness into divine excellence. A woman who was offered a man full of those nine beautiful fruits could hardly ask for more. Love is not a craft, or a technique that can be learned, or like painting by numbers. God is love, and loving the way God loves is the greatest art of all. Painting, composing symphonies, and creative writing can be forced, dull, unappealing. And all great artists know that receiving inspiration from outside themselves is what can suddenly move them into the unexpectedly beautiful. How then do we look to the Holy Spirit to work this miracle in our marriage?
Paul calls it a mind set. "Those who live according to the flesh keep setting their mind on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit keep setting their mind on the things of the Spirit." [Romans 8:5] We are using a literal translation to emphasize the Greek present continuous tense. Instead of clarifying how this mind set is achieved, preachers often read this contrast in a legalistic way. They tell us to avoid what they call fleshly behavior, and try a bit harder to do what they define as spiritual things. They fail to grasp the radical nature of the model change from one way of living to the other. Obviously nobody is totally devoid of good qualities. Some people are by nature kinder, more optimistic, and self-controlled in some areas than others. Paul's point is that if we find a lack of fruit in our lives we cannot conjure it up by the flesh. For genuine long term love in marriage we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Instead of these futile, frustrating, and even deadly efforts, the apostle invites us into the model shift which has changed his life. He suggests we set our minds on supernatural inspiration. Paul's secret seems to be first bringing the unacceptable behavior or character trait as is in all its starkness to the Holy Spirit. Then listening to hear the Spirit's response, especially as he clarifies what is good and bad and indifferent in what we are doing. Thirdly asking the Spirit to deal specifically with what needs changing. Fourthly leaving the changing to occur in his own time and in his own way. And most important of all watching what happens and giving thanks as changes in attitude begin to occur.
The Holy Spirit gives us a new life in Christ
The Holy Spirit opens up one’s heart in a sublime way to have a personal relationship with God the Father and the Son. In other words, a believer experiences God's Trinitarian life within himself.
o As a result one will find reasons galore for thanking God and praising the Father and the Son always for every event in one’s life.
o With the inflow of the Spirit one will begin to appreciate more and more the power of the sacraments and will live in them with personal experience.
o The Spirit will enable one to enter into fellowship with other Christians, displaying great regard and respect for the Church and its authorities.
o The Spirit will instil in one a great desire for the Word of God, the Holy Scripture. Reading the Bible becomes quite meaningful and lively, opening one’s vision to God’s plan.
o By the infilling of the Spirit one will be more aware of satan’s activity and how to withstand it. The power of the Spirit will guard one in resisting the attacks of evil powers.
o With the Spirit one becomes more prayerful. The Holy Spirit in him will arouse his heart towards God and enable him to get rid of his weakness in prayer.
o The Spirit gives Wisdom to know more about God, ourselves and others. Various mysteries will be revealed.
o The Spirit lifts one up to a spiritual realm where he experiences his Christian life more powerfully, more effectively without compromises.
o The Spirit of love enables one to recognise Jesus in others, and encourages him to dedicate his life to care for others.
o The power of the Spirit strengthens one to speak about Jesus to others in such a way as to cause them to become believers. There will be a genuine enthusiasm for evangelisation.
o The Spirit empowers and equips one with various gifts and charisms. The Spirit helps one to form prayer-groups, to attend prayer-groups, to visit the sick at home or in hospitals and to pray for them for their healings.
o From the experience of the fruits of the Spirit through baptism in the Spirit one will become more joyful, peaceful and powerful. Even in times of sufferings and rejections he will be strengthened to follow Jesus in a closer way.
o With the power of the Spirit, Jesus becomes central to one’s life with the consequence that he lives a life in, with, through Christ and for Christ. A Christo-centric life will enable him to grow in Christ and to become like Christ with a real transformation by the action of the Spirit that one will be able to say it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.
o The Holy Spirit urges one to live a holy life. It is the real Christian vocation. The indwelling Spirit enables one to overcome flesh, the world and satan so that having experienced holiness deep within, he will radiate it to others through his words and actions. The Spirit of holiness in a believer will give power and light to others.
What Is the Purpose of the Family Bible?
To honor God's Word, develop respect for it, and to live by it. James says, "But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Home is a good place to practice the exhortation, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). In these days when we have put the Bible out of our schools, we need to put it back in our homes and teach our children from it.
There are as many reasons for not reading and studying the Bible as there are people. To some, the Bible is a big, intimidating, dry and boring book. Others believe you must be a great “scholar” or “theologian” before they can undertake a Bible study. The list of excuses goes on. However, the Bible is anything but boring! It is filled with stories of heroes, villains, adventure, romance, of courage and cowardice, powerful leaders and ordinary people. More importantly, the Bible has the answers to life’s most important questions. There is simply no book like it! A book that remains alive and fresh each time you read it!
The whole purpose of reading the Bible is to communicate with God and to show our dedication and love for Him. Christ came to the earth and was tempted in all points as we were, yet without sin. The way He was able to avoid falling to temptation was by quoting scripture. To quote it you have to know it, to know it you would have had to study it. The Bible study is a weapon to defend not only our faith, but our very soul. After consistent Bible Study, prayer, and dependence on Christ, we are better prepared and equipped to fight the devil and his what ever he may throw our way. This is specially true in the Family where there are numerous instances or openings for temptations both for the husband and wife and for the children. Reading the Bible should be a major part of our daily family life. It helps us to die daily to self, it helps us remember what Christ did for us and why, it tells us of the Love of God, and it tells us how to treat our family members and community. Knowing the word of God will lead our heart to follow the will of God and reach out to our family members. God created mankind out of love. He brought Israel into existence to be the folk through whom his redemption would be brought to all nations. He sent his son to earth to show us the way to heaven. The goal of history is the restoration of fellowship between all people and their creator. God has shown us these truths in his word. His will is that we discover these truths and share them.
Planning a Family Bible Time
Reserve a specific time for Family Bible Time. The reality of today is that families are very busy. A variety of activities pull families in many directions. Unless you reserve a specific, agreed upon time for Family Bible Time you will find your family having a very difficult time finding any time in common. Reserve the time, ask your family to protect the time as well as is possible. You will have to adjust at times, but you will be adjusting from a set priority rather than having to search for a time to get together.
Gather at a designated place. Family traditions are wonderful and memorable. Find a specific place you will gather every time you have Family Bible Time. At times due to the activities of your Family Bible Time you may move from that place to another place, but reach a designated place to gather.
Don't begin at the beginning or end. Begin with the familiar. The New Testament is a better place to start than the Old Testament. Perhaps begin with Mark, the shortest Gospel, or the letters of Paul. Do not start with the Book of Revelation, a complex and symbolic book.
Read sections rather than sentences. The Bible will make more sense if you pay attention to sections that are grouped together.
Read aloud. Everyone used to do it, especially when the books of the Bible were written. The Bible was meant to be heard—it originated as an oral tradition. Reading aloud involves you more completely than reading silently.
Read the introductions. Most Bibles have introductions added by the editors, and they will prepare you for what comes next. Read the introduction first!
Read the footnotes. The Bible often contains material that is very foreign to our world. Customs, terms, symbolic names, etc., often require explanation. The footnotes are there for everyone, not just for scholars.
Use the cross-references. Most Bibles place these references to other biblical passages in the footnotes or on the side of the page. Often New Testament passages contain quotations or allusions to Old Testament passages. These cross-references will help you further understand what you are studying. This takes some time, but your reward will be a richer understanding of the text.
Be flexible in your interpretations. You don't need to be afraid of misinterpreting the Bible if you remember that your interpretation is not necessarily the interpretation. This is especially good in a family setting: Sharing ideas about Bible passages is a wonderful way of studying the Bible, especially when you remain open to further guidance about your views.
Read Bible stories from the Bible. They supply answers to different family needs and give a challenge to spiritual living.
Go through the miracles of Christ. You could do one a night and learn something about Christ from each miracle and especially let each one learn something for himself. Study the miracle as to where it was, the occasion, what happened, who was involved, and then personal lessons.
Study Bible characters. This can be good for a different kind of study for the sake of variety. Read about the character in the Bible and study his weak and strong points and discuss how you may learn something from him or her. Every family member can see himself/herself in a Bible character and learn many precious lessons.
Study Bible doctrine. Everyone should know the basic doctrines of the Bible. All the family should be grounded in the truth. The book of Sirach is a good place to start for the family.
Bible games. This can be very interesting and add challenge to the family and can be very appealing to the young folks and keep the family bible time from being boring. Use Bible games that teach a lesson and from which you may learn something helpful for Christian living.
Have a map study. After all, salvation is also geographical and children might learn where certain countries, rivers, and mountains are and what happened there such as the law on Mt. Sinai, crossing the Red Sea, and Christ walking on the water. Show them where it took place and draw some lessons from it.
Use pictures. This is a wonderful way to interest children. Many Bible story books have many pictures in them that tell a story for the child.
Object lessons. Visual aids of all kinds can be used. Be creative and use whatever object you may have handy to teach a Bible truth. Christ readily used object lessons such as the sheep and goats, the rock, water in the well of Samaria, etc. There is no end to object lessons.
Children and young people need convictions to stand up against their peers. They must understand their faith and know something of good Bible doctrine so they know what they believe and why. The home makes a good Bible school where the children can be grounded as they face the humanistic, evolutionary philosophy of our modern society.
What makes the difference in some homes is the depth of commitment to living out God's principles and teachings. The home should be the university in which biblical instruction and guidance take place. As a Christian parent, you are responsible for the biblical teaching, understanding and guidance within the home. Let the home become the Christian Home University. Let it be the place in which relationships grow and develop and then build character. Let the home be the place where family members learn and model. Moses wanted to make sure the Israelites did not forget this either. He did not want them to forget that God had delivered them from bondage and provided for them during the 40 years in the wilderness. It was, and still is, important to share about the miracles and provision God gives. Moses didn't want the people to forget but to tell and retell it to their children. Let the memories and experiences serve as teachable moments while teaching biblical truths. It is always easier to learn and understand a principle when accompanied with a story.
Families that do not teach and help children understand God's laws will in turn face consequences. We all do, no exceptions.Just think if we all made biblical instruction a part of all aspects of our daily life--play, school, work, leisure and family time. Imagine if your family actually displayed a different Bible verse in your home each month to learn, understand and apply. Imagine the practice of telling Bible stories to each other and how to apply the bible truths in today's time. What kind of family is that?
A God-honoring family