"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Act Like Men: Day 1

Last evening I attended the first of a seven week study on Act Like Men: 40 Days to Biblical Manhood by James MacDonald. The book (and study) is based on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 
The study is divided into five sections, each one focusing on one of the five assertions in those verses.

I'm happy to be back in a men's study group that tackles issues that are integral to becoming a better husband, father, brother, friend, man.

So, here are my thoughts and notes from the first day.

The first chapter is divided into sections:
1. Don't Act Like a Woman
2. Don't Act Like an Animal
3. Don't Act Like a Boy
3. Don't Act Like a Superhero

The chapter opens in a diner, where the author is asking a group of men who were eating together what "acting like a man" means to them.

Their answers were of course the usual ... doing what you say you're going to do ... not being underhanded when making a deal ... keeping your word ... taking responsibility for your actions, etc.

What struck me was the lack of tough talk in the answers. For a bunch of normal "men," these guys gave answers that reassured me about my own thinking and where I stand in the man-iverse.

DON'T ACT LIKE A WOMAN

The fact that God created a help-meet for Adam right out of the gate gives me the peace of mind that it's okay to depend on my wife as much as I do. She does all the things I am unable (mostly emotionally) to do, and vice versa. We balance one another, though admittedly I don't always pull my weight in the housework department.

However, I also found that I stand squarely in the negative when it comes to leadership in the home. When left to my own devices I tend to sit on the porch and veg-out with the kids when there is a list of things that need my attention. Maybe part of it is the sheer size of the list and the fact that it compounds exponentially each day, or maybe it's just laziness. Hmm ... thoughts? (Never mind. I think we all know the answer).

DON'T ACT LIKE AN ANIMAL

Animals don't act like people. (duh)  I know a few men who act like they are owed the world on a platter for no other reason than because they're men and their machismo demands it. <*insert barbaric yawp*>  I sincerely pray that I never become one of those men. I've lived these fifty-two years so far without being King Macho and I'm thinking I can do without it for the next fifty-two or so.

DON'T ACT LIKE A BOY

Children react in the moment. They laugh with hysteria and weep agonizingly the next. They are needy and immature. I feel like a child some days. But in my opinion what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 13:11 was more about the inner man and the lack of impulsiveness than about outer behavior. Please understand that I believe men should behave themselves, but there is a significant difference between playing like a child and behaving like a child. In my line of work, it is vital for me to play like a child. When I arrive at home, I don't mind playing and hanging out with my children and getting into their world. That doesn't mean I act impulsively or throw a tantrum when my son catches the ball first. It means that I am now able to reason like a man.

DON'T ACT LIKE A SUPERHERO

Many times superheroes go it alone. I confess that this is going to be a hard one for me to conquer. In recent months I have found out things about a mentor figure that were shocking and destructive to my ability to trust many of the men in my life. Right now my default position is (1) don't ask for help (2) don't confide in anyone (3) you might think you can trust them, but you can't.

I'm working through it, but it's going to take a long, long, l-o-n-g time. With God's help I will eventually work through it. Hey I have another fifty-two year, right?

Questions:
1. What can you do today and this week to be a better servant-leader to your family?

I am lazy by nature. As a teacher I have summers off, so my natural tendency is to sleep until I'm good and ready to get up, then spend the entire morning in my pajamas, nursing a few cups of coffee.

I can get my royal rumpus out of bed and start checking stuff off the ol' "to-do list." I can pay closer attention to things and people who need my attention instead of worrying about myself and my agenda.

2. In what ways might recent actions have appeared selfish, and what can you do today to correct that?

I have been going to the gym (my wife bought me a membership for my birthday). I don't do very much there, but I do enjoy the treadmill and elliptical machines, mostly because I can simultaneously exercise and watch TV (remember my default laziness?). Anyway, I don't always go at convenient times. Sometime I go to the gym when I could be doing something around the house.

Long story short, I can put off my exercise until everything is done for the day. Or I can get up extra early and do it first thing, though that is highly unlikely. :)

3. Do you agree that a man keeping his word and refusing to make excuses is a good summary of manhood? Why?

I agree. The whole idea of putting off childish ways and taking responsibility for my actions is a good start to the idea of manhood. However, I think it goes a little farther.

The Christian community paints a picture of manhood that is quite different from what I was taught as a child. Granted, this idea is never spoken aloud, but it is an ever-present "this is a man and this isn't idea within the Christian community. I have always felt in the latter category where the manly testosterone driven idea of the Biblical man. I do not fit in. I fit out.

But I'm realizing more that it's okay to "fit out." God fitted each of us with different abilities. All men cannot and should not be alike and that's okay. So I guess I'm saying that I won't make excuses for the man that I am. That is not to say that I won't take responsibility for the things I have or haven't done. I most certainly will. I'm saying that I am not to fit the mold.

End of Day 1.  
  


 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Top Ten!! The First in a VERY Long Time

It has been a very, very long time since I posted a list of the top ten (in my opinion) marriage posts from the week. You see, I stopped publishing the list quite a while ago because it became a bit cumbersome to crank out a list every week.

Then, through a series of devastating events, our young daughter passed from this world into the arms of Jesus. She was our joy in her very short life, and now she is breathing easy and running in the cool heavenly breeze for eternity.

So I stopped.

And you know what? I also stopped reading, learning, growing as a Christian husband.

So, publishing the "top ten" list has in fact been a means by which I have grown as a Christian.
I am not by any means guaranteeing that I will publish this list each and every week (as you know by your own reading, there are weeks when nothing strikes your fancy.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the (unranked) top ten marriage blog posts from this week, in no particular order.

1. One Flesh Marriage
There are NO Guarantees in Marriage - The fact is that you can be a good spouse and still have trouble in your marriage.

2. The Generous Wife
3 Cheers for Date Night - A slight twist on the traditional date night.

3. Journey To Surrender
Who Are You Married To? - Do you really know who your spouse is?

4. To Love, Honor, and Vacuum
Because You're A Wife First - Who comes first, your children or your spouse?

5. The X Y Code
Unnecessary Hard Talk - Does your husband speak harshly? This might be why.

6. Jolene Engle
The Ministry of Wifehood: Are You Putting It First? - It's easy to get sidetracked.

7. Be Strong Act Like Men
Making Good Investments - Return to your first love!

8. Build Your Marriage
Accentuate the Positive - Two important questions to ask yourself.

9. True Agape
7 Ways To Pray With Your Husband - Tips for making your prayer time more authentic.

10. theUMB (Undefiled Marriage Bed)
Repurposed Beaters - What type of undershirt would your wife like you to wear? Have you asked her?

Happy reading!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Fact Is, I Need Help!

Graphic Credit: www.foundationsforfreedom.net
Yesterday I received a comment on my last post that, regrettably, I accidentally deleted when I intended to post it. L Anyway, it consisted of a list of news articles and YouTube videos in which husbands followed the advice of their wives.
I inferred from the reader’s list that she assumes I do not listen to my wife or take advice when needed.
I assure you that it is not God’s will that husbands do not listen to their wives. Quite the contrary. Every leader needs trusted advisors to help him make decisions. A husband is no different. (I am no different.)


If I plodded through life making all my decisions based solely on my own gut, I would be in very deep trouble in deed. In fact, it’s very likely I would not have been married for 20 years, or even 2 years for that matter.

The fact is, I need help. That's why God gave my wife to me.

Husbands should consult their wives on decisions. For example, I would never buy a house or a car, or drastically change my hairstyle without first seeking the counsel of my bride. Further, if my wife advised me to see the doctor about the disgusting growth on my neck, I would certainly take her advice to heart.

That said, none of these facts negate the truth of the Word of God. And the Bible is quite clear that wives must obey their husbands.

Does this mean the husband should be a narcissistic donkey who steamrolls over his wife and family and does whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases?

NO.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

As a husband I am commanded to live with my wife in a way that honors her. I am commanded to understand her and love her like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Sometimes that means sacrificing for her, and sometimes it means requiring her to do things that stretch her boundaries (sometimes stuff she doesn’t want to do).

Of course she, like all of mankind, has free will and the ability to say “no,” and often does, as do our children. As do I when I don’t like where God is sending me (familiar with Jonah?). We are imperfect people living serving a perfect God in an imperfect world.

However, when we rebel against authority we remove ourselves from the protection of that authority. 

  • When I rebel against God I will be forgiven when I confess and repent, but I do not escape the consequences of my rebellion. I will pay for my poor choice. It may be as small as restarting a project or as major as restructuring my marriage and family. 
  • When my children disobey their mom and me they likewise will be forgiven but also will be punished by us. It could be minor, such as doing extra chores or losing a privilege, or major, such as losing driving rights or being on “house arrest.”
  • When my wife rebels against my (and God’s) authority she will be forgiven (yes, even I have a heart sometimes), but she will pay consequences, though they may not always be apparent to her or intended by me. The penalties could range from small to large; she might have to wait longer before making a certain purchase, or she may lose the confidence of her husband and thus lose the “one flesh” intimacy God intended for her marriage.

The point is that husbands (and all leaders) would be foolish to go it alone without seeking the advice of their wives. After all, no one else (supposedly – more on that later) knows what makes him tick quite like the help-meet given to him by God the Father.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mutual Submission? A Sign of the Times

I’m going to state, right at the beginning, that some of you (nay, most of you) won’t like this post. Most of you will be offended, and not just a smidgen. It’s that kind of a subject.

I’ve been reading blog after blog about “mutual submission” and I have to say it’s a dangerous idea. It is destroying God’s design for the Biblical design of marriage. We have largely reversed the roles and placed Christian wives in charge of leading our families. When we misinterpret Ephesians 5:21 to this extent (that is, to include any hint of mutual submission) we are guilty of playing a role in the destruction of the Christian family.

Strong words, yes.

The Bible has a bunch of things to say about husbands and wives, and the behavior our Heavenly Father expects of us. I have outlined many times the nuances of these verses. It wasn’t until recently, however that I had a major “a-ha” moment regarding the realities of Biblical marriage and the benefits / consequences of playing loose and free with those concepts.

Here’s a newsflash:
  • Husbands don't have to obey their wives.
  • Wives do have to obey their husbands.

Yes. You read that correctly.

I know, I know. I will get emails from angry readers who say I’m wrong, and I obviously hate women, and I’m a terrible husband, and I have used the wrong Bible translation, and grow up and join the 21st century, and that was written for a very limited population, and things are different now, and how dare I have such an opinion.

Here are the facts.

Ephesians 5:21 is a tiny verse in a larger chapter, AND it’s the connecting phrase of an idea and the clarification of that idea.

Confused? Stay with me.

Paul gives us instructions, beginning with verse 18, on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He instructs us to (a) speak to each other, (b) sing to the Lord, (c) giving thanks, and (d) submitting to one another. Paul goes on in the next verses to clarify his fourth point (submitting to one another). In verse 22 he addresses wives, in verse 23 children, and in verse 24 slaves.
If these verses were in outline form they would look like this:

I.                    How to be filled with the Holy Spirit
a.       Speak to one another (v.18)
b.      Sing to the Lord (v.19)
c.       Give thanks (v.20)
d.      Submit to one another (v.21)
                                                               i.      Wives: submit to your husbands
                                                             ii.      Children: obey your parents
                                                            iii.      Slaves: obey your masters

So the “mutual submission” that so many people are fond of isn’t commanded of us in a vacuum. It isn’t commanded of us at all.

You might say, “well, that’s all fine, but the meaning of the word “submit” is subject to interpretation.

Um … No, it isn’t.

The Greek word for submit or subject (hupotasso) was a term used by a military leaders to tell their soldiers to follow commands.  Since Paul did not use a different word in these marriage passages, we have to assume the word carries the same meaning with regard to marriage. Consequently, the wife is charge with the responsibility of subjecting herself to her husband’s wishes as if she were a soldier under the direction of a military leader.

With that in mind, a good husband is not going to do anything that would harm his wife.  He will always keep her best interests in the forefront of his actions. He will submit (hupotasso) himself to Christ, and likewise lead wherever he feels the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
But what if his wife and family won’t follow?

There are many times when a husband attempts to lead and a wife says, “umm … nope. I don’t think so.”  That leads us to some unfortunate consequences. I’ve seen some cases in which a husband is ridiculed for not leading his family when it is his wife and family who rebel against his authority. Often the result is a husband who, after attempting time after time to lead his marriage in a certain direction to no avail, stops attempting to lead in that area.

For example, before leading His disciples to a town or into an area of ministry, Jesus never once asked for their approval. The only approval He sought was that of God the Father. He took that approval and he led as he felt necessary. Yes, he was compassionate, kind, loving, and sacrificial because His role was not to force us to obey Him so He could satisfy some twisted, selfish desire. Rather, He led His followers in accordance with God’s will for them.

At the same time, however, He was brutally honest and factual about what he expected from His church (bride). He guided and taught the things they would need to be acceptable to God. When she disobeyed he forgave and took her back. He continues to do so today. We rebel and He forgives over and over.  To a point. There will come a time in a sinner’s life when God will walk away and leave us in our sin.

Just like Jesus leaves some people to their sin, a husband who faces a rebellious wife eventually relinquishes control of the marriage and family to his wife. She is now the leader and slowly becomes angry because her husband “won’t lead.”

Some would argue that a wife would be more apt to submit to her husband if she understood and agreed with his leadership. Some would say that she would most likely submit to him if he consulted her before making decisions.

Excellent point. 

In fact the Bible tells husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 to live with our wives in an understanding way. Also, it says in Colossians 3:19 that we should love our wives and not be harsh with them.

I can’t find a verse that commands wives to understand their husbands; only to submit to them as to the Lord.

So, a husband who lives with his wife in an understanding way, is not harsh with her, sacrifices his life (desires, wants, energy, resources) for her and leads the way he feels God leading him, should have a wife who submits to him, who says “yes” instead of “no,” and who is at peace.

More on this topic later.  I have a feeling I have only scratched the surface. 

Hold on to your hats!




Friday, July 3, 2015

In An Understanding Way


A short time ago my wife and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary (*insert applause*). By “celebrated,” I mean we cooked a special meal and ate it with our children. Then we watched Netflix and fell asleep. 

Staying married to the same person for twenty years in today’s world of easy divorces and multiple marriages is a quite an accomplishment by the world’s standards (kudos to my wife for putting up with me). Thankfully we are blessed by a God who tells us it’s okay to turn our backs on the world’s standards and live a different way.

As I reflect on the past two decades I realize that there have been moments of ecstasy, humor, pain, sorrow, and countless emotions in between. I have seen my wife at some of her happiest moments. On the flip-side, I’ve seen what it’s like when she’s desperately unhappy. Most importantly, I have had opportunities to show the kind of love that reflects the Biblical role of a husband; a sacrificial love that lets her have her way even when I desperately want something else. 

While the Bible doesn’t give us many specific rules in this area, the basic principles are outlined in one verse to which I am repeatedly drawn.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

The application of these verses is not the same for each married couple. You as a husband have to become a student of your own wife and tailor yourself and your actions according to her individual needs.

My wife, for example, places an extraordinarily high emphasis on her house. Nothing has a higher priority. She passes most of her decisions through two filters:

  1. the tidiness of her house, and
  2. her level of energy.
As her husband, I must work hard to appreciate her need to maintain control over her environment and love her in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7) by placing her wants and needs ahead of mine, and by continuously asking myself (a) is the house clean and organized? and (b) how fatigued is she? If she is struggling in these two areas, then I must step in to allow her to focus on her highest priorities, even if it means going without things (not just physical things) I want and need. It's my job.

Have I sacrificed my desires and needs for her in the past twenty years? Well, yes, because as her husband I'm commanded to understand what she needs/wants and fill in the gaps to make that happen. Has it made me happy? Not always, but it's not about my happiness - it's about serving God and serving my bride. Has it made her happy? Sometimes, but believe it or not, she can not depend on me for her happiness; that must come from God.

I hope my ramblings make at least a little sense. I will go into more specifics later, but for now I welcome your feedback.

T Bittner
Genuine Husband 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Narrowing The Margin


Recently I’ve been thinking about a book I read a while back.  The book is “Margin” by Dr. Richard A Swenson. The premise of the book is that progress has made life worse rather than better, and that we need to find ways to create “margins” of breathing room so we can relax a little.

My life has a wide margin, admittedly too wide at times.

  • I add extra padding whenever possible. I try to provide extra time when we go to visit family, so the kids can play with their cousins a little longer, my wife can visit her sister and parents.
  • I find ways to save money so we can have extra “mad money” for our annual trip to the beach.
  • I don’t always set the alarm clock on Saturdays, so everyone has a chance to sleep a little bit longer.
  • I pack extra clothing in the suitcase in case we stay one more night. 
  • I spend an extra half hour on the front porch before getting back to work in the garden.
  • I try to make side trips to see special things on the way to our destination.
  • I buy interesting items for the house – items that “speak” to me.

There are other things, but I think you get the idea.

Trouble is, my wife doesn’t have a wide margin. My “extra” often gets in her way and disrupts her plans.  My plan and her plan do not mesh, and that can problematic, to say the least.

What is the solution?

Consider the following verse:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)

Our wives need us to understand them. My wife in particular, needs me to understand the importance of her house, and that everything must be in place before anything else can occur.  An orderly house trumps all in her mind.  It trumps me and my plans, the kids and their activities, the supper table, the family vacation, everything.  It really is THAT important to her.

Admittedly sometimes I fail miserably at understanding her needs in this area. It’s quite easy for me to overlook the dishes in the sink or the socks on the floor so we all can go for a walk.  What I don’t pay attention to is the fact that my wife cannot do the walk until she is precisely satisfied with the house. She simply isn’t able to relax until it’s all done and put away. Otherwise she fixates (obsesses??) on the unfinished business (mess) that awaits her when she returns.

This is not all on her.  She has certainly given some on this issue of margin.

  • She has tried on many occasions to accommodate me when I wanted to take the family on a side trip away from the scheduled itinerary, or when I wanted to stay a couple extra days so I could see my siblings.
  • She has tried many ways to incorporate things like the dreaded  “ginger jar” into the decor.  She placed that jar in many places before giving it a permanent home in the attic.
  • She doesn’t nag about my extra long breaks or my messy environment.
  • She has amazing patience with my disruptive ideas.

Likewise, I have narrowed my margin to accommodate her need for order.

  • I have cooked dinner and washed dishes so she could organize the house. 
  • I have canceled plans so we could take care of things that are important to her.
  • I have put out of my mind many things that I knew would not work within her plan. I have promised her I would never ask for those things again.

Why do I bring this up?  I want to make sure that I abide by the limits of 1 Peter 3:7, and live with my wife in an understanding way.  I want to make sure that I don’t make her feel unloved or unsure of her value as an heir to God’s Kingdom. It’s up to me to make sure she feels understood by her husband (me).

So, when the rubber meets the road, I have to gauge how important the schedule/house/laundry/etc. is to her and narrow my own margin accordingly.  Will there be times when I have to disregard her wishes and plow through with my agenda. Sure. Of course there will. But those times will be few and far between. If I truly want to live with her in an understanding way, I will make what is important to her equally important to me.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Holly Needs Your Prayers

I haven't blogged much in the past few months. You see, our family has been going through a crisis. Early last fall my wife and I learned that we were going to be parents for the sixth time.  Considering the fact that we thought we not only were finished having children, but that my wife was in the beginning stages of menopause, this was remarkable news.

Naturally, we felt nervous, thrilled, upset, ecstatic, and every other emotionally charged sensation known to mankind. Eventually we settled in and were happy knowing that we would be adding another member to our overcrowded, loud, loving clan.

But our happiness would soon be cut short with a devastating diagnosis. Our unborn baby girl had a chromosomal condition known as Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18). Most children with this condition do not survive long enough to be born, and most of those born with it die before their first birthday.

Still, we reminded ourselves that God is good, and He works all things together for good. We gathered our prayer warriors and got busy. From that moment forward we had incredible peace, no matter the outcome.

Some of my coworkers organized fundraisers for us and convinced me to begin a GoFundMe page for those who wanted to contribute directly to us.  I established a modest campaign to raise funds to pay at least a small portion of our expenses.

Soon it became clear that our sweet baby girl would need a level 3 NICU to give her a better chance of survival.

FAST FORWARD:

She was born a couple days ago in a large hospital in an even larger city, and she is getting the best possible care from the best medical team available at the best hospital available.  She is experiencing issues with her heart and lungs, but she's holding her own so far.

All this care comes at a great cost. Soon we will have to reconcile the bills and come to terms with the monetary cost of all the doctors and nurses who are at our disposal day and night.

I ask you to pray with us
  • that our little girl will enjoy a good quality of life, no matter how long she may be on this earth, 
  • that she might be able to come home with us so we can live with her in a somewhat normal place, if only for a short while. and
  • that God will provide the means for us to pay the bill.
Below is a link to our GoFundMe page. Please consider making a donation and/or posting our fundraiser on your page.  God is good!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

http://www.gofundme.com/HollyBittnerFund