WisdomBuilt® Marriages

And God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helpmate.” (Genesis 2:18)

Years ago, that perplexed me because, since God is all-knowing, He knew that man would need a helper, a friend, a companion. So, why the comment? I think it was because God wanted Adam to realize that he (Adam) needed a companion. God allowed Adam to explore the world, look at and name the animals, prepare his own meals, etc. – all the while with no human to talk to.” Being alone is no fun.

Making another man for Adam, or giving him animals for companionship, would still leave Adam incomplete, and could never fulfill God’s plan on earth. So, God made a woman for Adam, and harmony reigned throughout the Garden. God and Adam communed every evening, Adam and Eve communed every day, and relationships were complete in all directions.

I know the jokes and stories about Adam’s problems starting when Eve arrived on the scene, but ignore them. Romans 5:14 explicitly informs us that Adam caused the problem. A major consequence was broken and disjointed relationships have plagued mankind – therefore, marriage – ever since. But how can we restore marriage to God’s design?

My wife, Carol, says, “Marriage is made in heaven, but it comes in a kit that must be put together on earth.” She is correct.

Louis and Leah Houston of Siloam Springs, Arkansas told me before Louis passed away, “Our 58-year marriage is based on several factors. We started out as friends, and it developed into love. We share the same basic faith. We highly respect each other, and are always ready to help each other. And we discuss major decisions because a dual-perspective gives greater depth-perception.”

These are excellent pointers on how to develop wholesome, proper communications; and, therefore, how to develop a wholesome, fulfilling marriage.

Watching portions of the Olympics some time ago, I was amazed at the skill exhibited by the figure-skaters. Their performance was a beautiful expression of the art of skating. Several fell, but they got up and finished the presentation. How could they execute their art with such masterful technique and style? They studied and practiced. Falling didn’t deter them – they kept at it. That’s the method we use in mastering any art form, including the art of marriage.

Marriage is fundamentally based on observation and communication, and is an art that must be learned. One concept found in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1989) is Key #5 which says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That’s a Biblical principle that instructs us to put others first.

Another concept from Ken Boges & Ron Braund (Understanding How Others Misunderstand, Moody Publishers, 1995) is that people think and see differently. Therefore, in order to respond to others in a loving way, they said, “We need some basic facts about [their] perception, motivation, needs, and values.” Observation and communication are the keys.

My Brother, Dr. Paul Linzey, and his wife, Dr. Linda Linzey, have been hosting marriage seminars for years. Paul wrote the book WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage (EA Books Publishing, 2019) that goes along with the seminars. These seminars are based on Building People – Building Relationships. Paul joyfully says, “Stay Together – Stay Happy!”

Several of the chapter titles are: On the Same Team, Heaven on Earth, Sex & Sensuality, and Now You’re Talkin’.

On page 85, Paul says, “Do you feel safe with each other? Do you feel safe confiding in each other? … Some couples live with the fear that their words will be used against them, so they’re always walking on egg shells. Friends, that’s no way to live as a couple.”

We need to learn to implement God’s design for marriage, and on page 161, Paul says, “…WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage will foster a climate and a context for creating unity, emotional safety, and peace. You can establish an atmosphere of love that is noticeable to everyone who enters your home.”

So whether we are engaged and considering marriage, or are celebrating our 70th anniversary, we all need to work at improving our communication skills; therefore, improving our marriage or prospective marriage. As we redefine our roles, marriage will take on a renewed, satisfying, and completed meaning. Remember: our spouse is God’s gift to us.

With God’s help, be the best partner that you can be; that will enhance the prospect of your spouse being the best he/she can be.

(WisdomBuilt® is the Mentoring Ministry of Dr. Paul Linzey. Look up www.paullinzey.com. You can order WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage on Amazon.com.) I highly recommend the book.

Hear From God, and Obey Him

IMG_1791The Apostle Paul had an attitude. Whether you call him a Christian, Jew, or Roman, he was at times hard to get along with.

Naw! Wasn’t Paul gentle, compassionate, the teacher of the early church? Didn’t Paul write 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament? Didn’t Paul say in First Thessalonians 2:7, “We were gentle among you, as a nurse cherishes her children”? Paul had an attitude?

Yes he did. Let’s take a closer look at Brother Paul.

In Acts 7, Paul (then Saul) encouraged the killing of Stephen – the first Christian martyr. Paul might have called it an execution, but I call it murder. Then in Acts 9:1, “Saul was still threatening the followers of the Lord by saying he would kill them. So he went to the high priest and asked him to write letters to the synagogues [authorizing the arrest of Christians] in the city of Damascus.”

Saul was the scourge of the infant Church!

But Saul was a Pharisee and a staunch advocate of truth. Really? Yes. Although Jesus criticized some Pharisees for being hypocrites, others were unswervingly dedicated to truth. This described Saul. He was “a Pharisee of the Pharisees” – that is, he was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Pharisees were teachers of the Jewish law, and Saul pursued truth with his entire being; at times even becoming angry at those he considered to be in error.

When Saul became a Christian, his name eventually changed but his character didn’t change. He remained consistent: adamant for the faith, but now unwavering for Jesus Christ.

We also notice something else. At first Paul didn’t fully understand that God has different plans for different folk. It took him some time to comprehend what he eventually wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 about each person having a place in God’s plan. This takes us to Acts 15:36.

Paul and Barnabas were ready to start their second mission trip. Disdaining Mark for previously deserting them, Paul resolutely refused to allow Mark to go again. But Barnabas wanted Mark (his nephew or cousin) to go. The disagreement turned into a major blow-up, so Paul and Barnabas – neither one understanding God’s larger plan – petulantly parted company.

This kind of thing also happens in the Church today. Someone gets a direction from the Lord and thinks he sees the full picture. Then when someone else hears form the Lord a little differently, the first person thinks the second person is totally wrong. They discuss it and/or argue over it, and often part company. Ministry teams are split, the church or even denominations are split. That is a human (sinful) reaction, and has caused problems throughout the history of the church.

But what we should do is stop and pray about it; think about our options. We need to realize that no one human sees the entire picture. This is why Paul eventually wrote 1 Corinthians 12: the eye needs the ear; the ear needs the nose; the eye, ear, and nose (and the rest) need the baby toe. (By the way, the baby toe provides stability while walking and tip-toeing.)

If Paul had remained calm and asked the Lord about it, he could have realized that God had a different plan for the three of them. What happened next? We find TWO ministry teams going out: Barnabas and Mark, and Paul and Silas.

The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement or consolation” although some say it means “son of a prophet.” It fits either way. And Mark? He is John Mark who later wrote the Gospel of Mark. The separate ministry teams were God’s plan! Ministry multiplication – not church torn apart!

We all have a role to fill, and we must find our place in God’s plan. The Holy Spirit will lead us if we pay attention. We all need each other. Each Christian needs the others. Each minister needs the church members and needs fellowship with ministers in his own and in other denominations.

When someone challenges your plan or appears to be challenging your pet project, don’t panic, freak out, or get upset. Pray about it. Maybe God is trying to show you a larger view of the picture, or give you another piece of the puzzle. You will need that larger view or puzzle piece to fulfill your mission in life. God empowers His children to fulfill their part of the plan. So, settle down. Pray about it. Do your part. Hear from God, and obey Him.

I Took a Short Break

What do you do when you’re tired? You are correct: you take a break; and that’s why you didn’t see my blogs for a week or so.

Carol and I returned from a 10-month trip around the good-ole USA, and enjoyed about 99% of the trip. We had been thinking about a trip like this for over 30 years, and it was time to fulfill the dream.

What about the 1%? Oh, just minor glitches in the plan, but no major disruptions. One of the glitches was when we reached Memphis, Tennessee on the way back home. We showed up at the RV park and they were filled up. When I told them about my reservation, they had deleted it. I couldn’t blame them; because with all the rain, the over-flowing Mississippi, Arkansas, and other rivers, and people fleeing the flooded RV parks, the non-flooded parks needed to make room for them.

Only a minor inconvenience. We found the empty side of a Wal-Mart parking lot right next to an IHOP restaurant and spent most the night.

I said it was a 10-month trip, and that’s correct. But before we started it, we had taken a 5-week trip up to the northeast part of the country. So in the past 14 months, 11 of those months was on the road in a 20-foot pull-behind trailer.

Before we left, one of my friends asked, “You’re going to spend 10 months in a small trailer?”

I responded, “We think of it as spending only 1 day at a time. It’s easier that way.”

We drove 26,267 miles, and traveled through 27 states which included the four corners of the country. When we returned home, another friend asked what it was like being cooped up in a small trailer with my wife for almost a year.

“I wasn’t cooped up with her,” I responded. “It was a joy to be with her every mile of the way. We’ve been married for almost 53 years now and we still enjoy traveling together.”

That’s why I took a break from blogging. But you’ll just have to put up with me again, because I’m home.

Have a great weekend.

A Labor of Love

gene's info 120For over three years we were pastors of a church in Springer, New Mexico that was 200 miles from our home. Some routes went through winding mountainous roads and took longer. Living in the hills in northern New Mexico and driving the 6-8 hour trip to church and back every weekend – while working 50-60 hours a week at a national laboratory – we were late for church only twice. You may ask “Why did you accept that challenge?” That, and the results of our efforts, is another story for another time. Today’s story is about the trips; and of the eight possible routes to church, we found six that we took quite often.

In all our travels in over 52 years of marriage, we have had fun. Even when we made a wrong turn or were detoured due to highway work, we made a mini-vacation out of it. Last December, traveling from Missouri to home, we decided to take some roads we had never been on. We discovered only one problem: highway 221 turned into a gravel road. We laughed, turned around, and went another direction which took us through Eureka Springs; so we stopped and had dinner before resuming our trek. We make enjoyable memories out of potential irritations in life. But back to the story.

One Sunday morning, one of our deacons asked, “Pastor, what’s on your hands?” I told him I was bleeding. He said, “Blood isn’t that color. What’d you do?” Carol quickly said, “We went through Mora, and picked raspberries yesterday.”

mora, nmOne of our routes to Springer was through Espanola and up the canyon through which flowed the Rio Grande. At La Cienaga we turned east toward Sipapu then over the mountains and down into Mora. And that is where my hands turned red – or maybe, purple. Mora is well-known for its raspberry farm, and Carol had often asked me to stop and pick raspberries. Each time I said something like: “I’m going to be preaching and teaching, and berry-picking isn’t on my mind.” Although that was true, it was also a smoke-screen: I didn’t want to pick berries.

Now, for all you who have never picked blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc., let me tell you: I don’t enjoy that activity. We reach inside the foliage to find the berries, and these bushes have thorns containing toxin. Picking berries was both painful and made my arms itch for over a week. Now you might understand why I don’t like picking berries.

But one weekend my Precious wife was so desirous for those delicious, reddish-purple clumps ofraspberries juice, and she was so gentle in her running commentary about how delicious those berries would be in ice cream or made into a berry jam, that my mouth drooled and I just had to stop. When Carol excitedly asked, “Are we going to pick berries?” I said, “Yes. I don’t want to, so this will be a labor of love.”

“Yeah, right! You just want berries and ice cream!”

She was at least partly correct.

That time of year the berries were ripe, and many of them leaked their contents because they split or crushed easily as we picked them. But we left with five quarts, and Carol kept her word: they were GOOD over ice cream, over angel-food cake, in fruit salads, and made into jam. In the long run, I was glad I stopped. (But my hands did get stained with the juice, and I itched for a week.)

But do you know that someone else performed a labor of love that far surpassed anything I could dscn0464do ever for Carol? Where I merely paused on my trip and received a few scratches on my arms, Jesus deliberately left His home in heaven and came to earth to rescue mankind from an eternal separation from God the Father. Jesus didn’t have mere scratches on His arms; the soldiers made a wreath containing inch-long needle-sharp thorns and jammed it onto His head. Jesus purposely allowed Himself to be killed in a gruesome manner in order to reveal the depth of the pain we would suffer eternally without God.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, and because of Jesus’ labor of love, we can have a home with Him forever. (Romans 8:35-39)

The results of my labor lasted only several months; but the results of Jesus’ labor will never end. I hope you accept God’s Love through Jesus Christ, our Savior. (Luke 19:10, John 3:16)

Ten Ways to Love

Years ago, I read Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s list titled, “10 ways to love.” It reminded me of the sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) titled, “How Do I love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.” That poem speaks of the loyalty and attention that is required to fully love others. But I like Chuck’s list because it helps us to know HOWDSCN6609 we can manifest our love. Here is Chuck’s list with my brief commentary on each item.

     Listen without interrupting (Proverbs 18:13; “Anyone who answers without listening is foolish and confused.”) Interrupting others is our most common fault. Many people are insecure and need the approval of others, so they interrupt to share their own opinions. Others interrupt because they feel that the person speaking doesn’t have much to say. Yet others interrupt because they’ve been taught that kind of interaction at home. But interrupting is rude and unloving.

     Speak without accusing (James 1:19a; “Be willing to listen but slow to speak.”) Stephen Covey said in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Therefore, before we accost someone over an issue, we should first find out his rationale. Even if his action was improper, his motivation may have been right. Let’s encourage others, not be judgmental.

     Give without sparing (Proverbs 21:26b; “…Good people give without holding back.”) If you’re thinking of giving money, that is okay often needed; but this verse is concerned with giving of yourself. One of our greatest needs is to know that someone cares for us; and a caring listener can be a divine manifestation of God’s love.

     Pray without ceasing (Colossians 1:9; “…we have continued praying for you….”) This isn’t praying without stopping; it is praying every day – sometimes several times a day. Prayer is the greatest help we can do for others because the answer comes from God. Freda Bowers in her book “Give Me 40 Days” [of prayer] reminds us that God will take care of our needs as we pray and trust Him.

     Answer without arguing (Proverbs 17:1; “A dry crust eaten in peace is better IMG_3275than a great feast with strife.”) Unless you are trying to make enemies, let your verbal interactions reduce friction. Let your words be oil on troubled waters, not gasoline poured on a fire. Don’t let anyone goad you into an argument, either. Instead, allow him room to express himself in a non-threatening atmosphere.

     Share without pretending (Ephesians 4:15; “…we will hold the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ….”) In the ancient world, unethical potters filled the cracks in their pottery with wax, colored the wax, then sold the pottery as good-quality ware. Honest potters, selling only high-quality merchandise, printed on the base of their pottery “Sin Cere” – which means “without wax.” Always be sincere (truthful) with others, loving them with the love of Christ.

     Enjoy without complaint (Philippians 2:14; “In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing.”) “Knock it off! I can’t take it anymore!” That was the response from a friend of mine to the visitor’s unending complaining about the 105 F. heat. I silently agreed with him about the complaining, but his attitude was not appropriate. Let’s be kind to others, while making sure that we are not the complainers.

     Trust without wavering (1 Corinthians 13:7; “…love never gives up…and endures through every circumstance.”) This is a hard one: how can we continue to trust someone who has a history of letting us down? Romans 8:28 will help us here. It says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Seeing people and painful situations from God’s perspective will reduce the pain and disappointment.

     Forgive without punishing (Colossians 3:13; “…forgiving each other…as the Lord forgave you….”) Chuck Swindoll did not say, “forgive and forget.” Forgetting is not the issue; not holding the sin against the person is the issue. Forgiving reestablishes our love for the person, enhances our maturity, and builds our relationship with God.ATT02260

     Promise without forgetting (Proverbs 13:12; “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.) Breaking promises to a child teaches the child to be a skeptic; breaking them to others destroys our reputation. Let’s be living examples of Godly character by keeping our word.

Practice these 10 ways to love, and I am sure you will find other ways. 

Mel & Mary (M & M – a Sweet Couple)

We had the privilege of having lunch yesterday with Mel & Mary Hinz. They are 88 yearsDSCN6647B old, and are friends going back to 1968. Mel, a bi-vocational pastor, and I worked at Boeing in Everett, Washington together in the tooling shop; also called the jig shop. Tools, in this sense, are not hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers. Tooling is a specialized field, and those tools are what the production workers used to actually build the Boeing 747s.

Often on a Saturday, Carol and I would take our kids and visit Mel & Mary. They had 6 or 7 kids and lived south of Seattle in Federal Way. Their children are grown but Mel & Mary still live there.

DSCN0024BWe would have dinner with them, then spend the evening discussing theology, Bible doctrine, church beliefs, personal understandings of Scripture, and a lot more. When we discovered it was two in the morning, they told us to spend the night and ask Carol & me to sing for them in the church service.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m glad you asked.

Those weekends with Mel & Mary made a strong impact in our lives. Where I had beenPICT0184 quite firm in some of my beliefs – church beliefs outranked Bible doctrine at the time – Mel helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible, and in understanding of Who Jesus really was – and is. Mel always talked about Jesus because Jesus was – and is – the most important Person in his life. Mary comes next.

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – Carol & I love Mel & Mary Hinz (M & M – a Sweet DSCN8640BCouple) more than words can say. We are grateful that, in our formative years as a family, they invested valuable time into our lives to help us become who we are today. That is a primary reason that we, in turn, invest time into other’s lives.

Thank you, Mel and Mary, for your friendship andIMG_5089B love for us. But mostly we thank you for your love and devotion to each other and to our heavenly Father; for that is what made you who you are today.

We love you dearly.

I Am A What?

It was a warm summer morning in 1985. My wife (Carol) and I were on I-40 heading west. We were on vacation and had been visiting our friends, Jim and Frieda Denton in Tulsa, OK, when we got into another disagreement. It wasn’t a bad one – no hollering, yelling, or throwing things. But it was frustrating for both of us … and amusing for the Dentons.

We were long-time personal friends with the Dentons, attended church together, and had the freedom to say anything we wanted to without worrying about feelings. Therefore, as we were getting ready to leave that morning Frieda gave us a bag of audio tapes and said in her fun-loving, playful drawl, “Here. Take these and listen to ‘em. It might do ya some good.”

New MarriedCarol and I were married on my 20th birthday: August 22, 1966. Carol says, “Marriage is made in Heaven; but it comes in a kit, and you have to put it together here on earth.”  She is correct, and with God’s help we did a lot of “putting together” in our marriage.

Oh, you want to know about the bag that Frieda gave us? It contained some of the building blocks for our happy marriage.

When Oklahoma City was about twenty-five miles behind us, Carol pulled out “Tape #1.” Believe it or not, we finished all five tapes before stopping that night (and heard them several times again during the next five years). There were periods of laughing, periods of discussion, but a LOT of: “So THAT’S why you are that way!” After nineteen years of marriage, we were finally learning to really understand each other. The topic?  Florence Littauer’s teaching on Temperaments. This was a fun-loving study about why we act the way we do.

I asked, “I am a what?!” Carol said, “You are a sanguine-choleric.” Where I was impetuous, fun-loving, and slow to finish a project, at a moment’s notice I could be stern, authoritative, and hard to get along with. Where Carol was easy-going, a good listener, and full of ideas, she could quickly become an unbending critic. These were our major points of contention, and are why Frieda gave us the tapes.

There are several systems of explaining the four temperaments. The (over-simplified) traditional Greek concept is: choleric-leader; melancholy-analytical; sanguine-sociable; phlegmatic-quiet; but there are many variations and combinations. Other researchers (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and others) have developed their own systems and use different names; but they all help us to understand why we act the way we do.

Some folk claim that this approach to understanding human nature is pseudo-psychology or part of the occult. Taken to an extreme or studied without an understanding of fallen human nature, I suppose I could agree. But we view life through the lens of Holy Scripture. Here is a brief overview:

Man is born in sin. Jesus came to redeem us. Having accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are to study the Bible and grow in the Character of Jesus Christ. Understanding that we have been forgiven, we now need to break our bad interactional habits and form new ones. This does not happen magically or by accident. It takes time and effort. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit, but about 28 days to break an old habit. But if we mess up in the process, we might just have to start the count over again.

Where was I? Oh yes, learning about temperaments. We have now been married for over 52 years, and we have most the bugs worked out in our marriage. I said MOST bugs; but if you look close enough, I’m sure you can find a few still crawling around. Carol learned that I was not lying when I gave incorrect information at times: I merely forgot some minor details and subconsciously filled in with similar details. (I still doAfter 50 Years that sometimes.) And I learned that Carol was not being a demeaning tyrant who held me over the fires of hell every time I made a mistake. She was merely interested in truth: TOTAL truth.

That summer our understanding and love for each other grew tremendously. We learned to love each other for who we were – not for who we wanted each other to become. And as we both learned to stop pressuring each other, we DID begin to please each more fully. But it’s not over yet: maturing is a life-long process and God will help us if we let Him.

Don’t give up: as you learn about your temperament – not the same as personality – there’s hope for you, too.