ASHLEY MADISON: What’s Really Being Exposed?

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By Martin Schlomer

I have been keeping up on the Ashley Madison revelations, and I am very sad.[1] These revelations expose not only our own adulterous desires but also marriages whose dark closets are filled with unresolved issues and disconnected, lonely individuals. An outsider may not see this relational cancer by simply looking, but too often these issues are there nonetheless.

Like people, every marriage has a story, and it’s not the one that’s being told (Donald Miller). Too many spouses starve for affection, nurturing, acknowledgement, and encouragement (and a host of other essential ingredients) while they choke on hidden anger, self-pity, and personal sense of failure. Too often the spouse doesn’t even realize it. As a result, husbands and wives are frequently sent out into an oversexed and overexposed culture, in a perpetual state of weakness and vulnerability, to try to compete and succeed as human beings created for intimate relationship. How is this working for us? Obviously, not well.

I’m not relieving of responsibility those who have fallen, nor am I willing to throw rocks and declare that no one can be trusted (not even Christian leaders). I understand all too well the power of temptation and my own vulnerabilities in an oversexed and overexposed world. I want to passionately advocate something very different. In my dream world, every spouse would lay aside his or her own disappointments and choose daily to send his/her spouse into the world from a position of strength, not weakness. Every day, look for ways to fill your spouse with intimate touch, words of encouragement, and relational nurturing. Make him/her anticipate with eagerness coming home that evening. Stop focusing on how he/she can be a better spouse, and celebrate what you have. (While I have always been an advocate for talking about how one can improve, an overemphasis on this catalyzes a sense of failure.) As we celebrate what we have, we can cultivate spouses who want to grow and become the men or women we need and long for them to be.

I understand that some who read this may be thinking: “You don’t understand my husband/wife.” You’re right, I don’t. However, I do have a pretty good understanding of human nature. You cannot take responsibility for your spouse. You can only be responsible for the kind of spouse/person you choose to bring to the table of your marriage. Too many have tried demanding change and blaming him/her for the failure when he/she fell short. This has only weakened and crippled our marriages and us as human beings. How about if we try something different? If you have a well-intentioned spouse, I believe you have every reason to give this a shot. Let’s toast to giving strength!

[1] If you’re unaware of what I’m referring to, you can learn more here: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2015/07/20/hackers-target-online-affair-site-ashley-madison-threaten-to-leak-millions/

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Supreme Court?

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By Jeff Foerster

The Supreme Court is the highest court in all the United Sates. Composed of nine justices, its rulings supersede those of any county, state, or federal court. Its decisions stand as final and serve as guidance for actualizing theory and implementing written law. Recognizing America’s status as the most powerful nation on the world’s stage, greater authority is exercised nowhere else. It has the last word, right?

A few days ago the Supreme Court of these United States declared biological gender irrelevant in regard to establishing marriage. This stands in stark contrast to the declared Word of God. “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)

So, what to think? I could take you on a ride through the land of reason and logic, down paths of historical textual reliability and walk with you beside streams of archeological evidence to make a case for Marriage as the Bible describes, but that is not our journey today. I will instead trust that you have come to a like-minded conclusion that God has authority to speak timeless truth and has done so in a way which we can plainly understand.

Through grace, we have been given the window of Marriage through which to peer at a mystery too great to contain with mere words of man. Our lives are intertwined in relationship, not simply by necessity, not only for practical purposes, but because God Himself is a Being existing in relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we, we are like Him. When God richly dwells in us, we reflect to others the love that He has so generously and sacrificially poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. At the pinnacle of all human relationships is Marriage.

When a man and a woman come together as one, independence is laid aside for a commitment to pursue sacrificial service for the good of their mate and the glory of God. When a man and woman come together they declare the goodness and provision of their Maker. When a man and a woman are joined together by God (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6) they begin to picture the relationship between Christ and His Church. This is a profound mystery indeed, but one that we are commanded to live out before a watching world.

So, what to do? The Bible and Supreme Court are at odds with one another. Are we to obey man rather than God (Acts 4:19)? May it never be! This may prompt you to take a stand for righteousness, and I urge you to do just that. Here’s what I suggest: Repent, Love One Another, Rejoice, Rinse, and Repeat. It requires no letter writing or stamps, no boycotts or fundraising. It is very simple and extremely difficult. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus declares (John 13:35). By these actions you will be known and Christ will be exalted (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15).

To everyone I say:

Repent. Turn away from sins sexual and otherwise, not being stained by culture and its priorities. Live lives of purity and seek reconciliation and restoration of relationship where it has been damaged. Don’t be quick to attack, using Scripture or sharp tongues. Speak truth from a foundation of love, the same love that led Jesus to the cross, saving helpless, deluded sinners like us.

To the married:

Recognize God as of first priority in your life and the life of your husband or wife. Elevate your spouse to second place, beneath God and above yourself. Men, your wife is a rare jewel, one of beauty and wisdom. Listen to her. Women, your husband is a man of honor and courage. Tell him you value his leadership. Be purposeful as you pray for God to conform you both into the image of Christ. Reach out to other couples and singles that they may see the work God is performing in and through you. Rejoice that God is in the midst of your Marriage.

To those raising children:

Teach your children what is good, what is holy. Teach them about God, about His awesome, His unchanging character, His extravagant love and sacrifice. Then, show them. Be purposeful as you discipline, gently correcting as the Lord does for you. Use wisdom as you provide, as you counsel, as you are generous, as you teach them truth, as you love your husband or your wife sacrificially, as you take joy in one another, and as you pray in times of plenty and in your distress.

To those who are single:

Lead a life of purity. If Marriage is in your future, await your spouse. If you are not looking toward Marriage, take joy and comfort in the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. Demonstrate to all that your sexuality does not define your identity, but the foundation of belonging to Jesus Christ directs your will and desires.

Rejoice! Give thanks to God that you live at such a time as this (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Know that God is working all things to the good of those who love Him. And you have been invited as His fellow worker to bring many in to celebrate at the family gathering of the Lord. No announcement, no declaration from any earthly authority can change the need that the hurting and the hungry have for Jesus. Each person in our community, our nation, our world is seeking relationship, identity, and significance. And these are all found in Jesus. Invite them to come and see where they can find rivers of water for their thirsty souls. Then, show them. Pour out the love that you have received and tell others why you are able to do this without draining yourself dry. Live such good lives that no one find fault, and God be glorified (1 Peter 2:12).

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32 Years and Counting

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Martin & Kim Wed Pic (2)By Martin Schlomer

Today, Kim and I celebrate 32 years of marriage! How could this happen? After all, over the years many of our friends (who say they love Jesus, too) have opted out, choosing to divorce rather than honor their marriage vows.

I need to admit something. Saying “I love Jesus” is not enough to stay in a marriage until death do you part. Staying in a marriage takes more than this. I know this isn’t something a pastor is supposed to say, but I’m being honest. Over the years, our marriage hasn’t been bad; it just hasn’t been bliss. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had bad moments and we’ve had blissful moments. But there is more to this journey than these moments.

Thirty-two years ago, when we said to God and to each other “I do,” we were very broken, sinful individuals. Sure, we thought we had it all together (at least I did). However, 32 years has taught me some hard lessons on what it means to grow up and be a man.

I’ve learned that Jesus is not just my Savior, He is my example and I must follow Him even when I don’t want to.

I’ve learned that God wants me to grow up, and He will use Kim to accomplish this goal. I need to put on my man pants and stop whining and feeling sorry for myself, because I don’t always get what I want when I want it and how I want it.

I’ve learned that if I want something done and I want her to do it, perhaps I’m the one that needs to do it. Kim is not my servant; she is my partner, my lover, and my best friend.

I’ve learned to enjoy the activities she wants to do (like hiking, bicycle riding, walking). While I may never enjoy these activities as much as she does, my world expands beyond my own desires and the bonds between us are strengthened. In doing so, she has learned to participate in the activities I enjoy (like motorcycle riding, road trips, and motorcycle riding).

I’ve learned to discuss the mundane topics of life (“How was your day?”, “What do you think about?”, etc.). By doing so, connections are formed and strengthened so that we can handle the hard discussions of life.

I’ve learned to be kind. After all, she is the daughter of Almighty God and He assures me that He has her back!

I’ve learned to love her for who she is, not for who I want her to become. Early in our marriage, I had idolatrous fantasies of who I wanted her to be. These were toxic! I’ve learned that the “real deal” (who she is) is the “best deal.” Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I’ve learned to repent frequently because my sinful desires continue to war against my soul. While I’m not who I was, I’m not who I will one day be. God uses Kim continually to work on me, exposing fault lines in my character that need to be transformed. Repentance is what keeps this process moving forward. Without repentance, I sabotage this process and poison our joy.

While the past 32 years have been an adventure with many peaks and valleys, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier and more content in my marriage. Kim has allowed me to flourish as a man.

Kim, by God’s incredible grace, here’s to another 32 years! I love you!

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Good Dirt in My Marriage

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By Dan Amos

“Small differences in initial conditions … yield widely diverging outcomes” is part of the definition of chaos theory on Wikipedia. I can look back on my life and see where choices I made have completely changed my course. Obviously, one of those is whom I chose to partner with through life. And when Martin led a discussion on the parable of the sower from Mark 4, I realized that my wife has been a great contributor to my soil. Affectionately, she is my good dirt.

In the parable, the sower spreads seed on various types of ground—on the path, in rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil. The life of the seed was short and troubled on all but the good soil. Jesus said the seed in good soil grew and produced a crop, but He didn’t really define what was good about the soil.

Jesus implies it by saying what bad soil is; good soil must be able to protect the seed from predators, nurture the seed with depth, and give the seed space to grow free from thorns that would choke it out. What isn’t said is the ground has been plowed and fertilized. It is prepared to receive the seed.

I grew up in the church and was at a crossroads when I was pursuing Fran in my last year of college. I could have chosen a life of spiritual complacency, but Fran and I made finding a vibrant faith community a priority from the very beginning. Our first years together were very busy between getting to know each other, frequently moving, traveling for work, and starting a family. Our church community fed and nurtured us, but serving came later.

Elim, through Martin, challenged us to lead, first over a community group. I was asked to be an elder when I first held the prestigious position of elder of plugged toilets. Later, Martin asked me to preach one Sunday. All of these — my wife’s partnership, the fellowship of believers, and the pruning of service — all fertilized the soil in which I have grown. But if my wife hadn’t been my partner in the way she has always been, I would be in a different place. She has been my good dirt. I thank God for her and for those who have nurtured me.

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Faith-Sustaining Words

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By Beau Leaman

Hebrews 3:12-14
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Before Ashley and I joined Elim, we definitely had a strong desire to be involved in a church body. We had moved from Southern California to Washington trusting that God would move and open the doors we needed Him to open right away. Yet through the refining process we ended up not making Elim our home until about one year into our marriage. Our plans never worked out the way we wanted them to, but praise God that His plans are greater than ours.

I wanted to talk a little about the benefits of community and what it’s done in my life and my marriage. There are a couple of questions I’m going to run through, and hopefully it helps.

1) How has joining a community benefited your marriage?

Our marriage has been directly impacted by our joining Elim and being involved with the Body of Christ. It has impacted our marriage because we come freely to worship our God and have fellowship with His sons and daughters. It has benefited our marriage because we realize our depravity at an even greater level, thus urging a more powerful push to love our God with everything.

2) How has joining a community strengthened your relationship with your God?

Paul wanted so desperately to be with his Savior, but one thing that always caused him joy here on earth was the fellowship of the saints. I have found this to be true in my life as well as in the lives of so many of the brethren at Elim. Life is not meant to be alone. There have been countless times where truth has been spoken into my life, and it was not easy truth. This truth, humble and meek, has pointed me and the giver toward Christ. Your best friend speaks the most truth in your life, and for me those best friends have been several people within the Body of Christ.

Being in community is a powerful thing. Whether you’re single, soon to be wed, or married, there is a Spirit-driven calling that burns within our hearts to be with others. As Hebrews 3:12-14 points out, whether it involves encouragement, accountability, truth, confession, or prayer, the Body of Christ is here to edify, exhort, and promote endurance until the day of Jesus Christ.

What does community with a body of believers look like to you? Is it inconvenient? Would you rather be nowhere else? Does it ease conscience on a Sunday morning? Does it bring you joy? Does it edify? Does it harden your heart? Do you see a Trinitarian community played out? Does it build and encourage you? Does it involve selfish gain?

I have shared a piece of what the Body of Christ has accomplished in my life and the direct impact it has had with my God. What does the Body mean for you?

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