I’m Just Not Motivated!

motivationI know I should get off my rear end and get some work done…but I’m just not motivated.  I often find myself in this position.  That is, sitting on a lazy boy watching TV or being in front of the computer.  Sometimes I just prefer to do nothing than to do something.  Why?  Good question.  Perhaps it is just that I’m exhausted from working and feel the need for a break.  Perhaps it is because I’m feeling a little down or depressed.  Maybe it is that I just don’t want to work or I just don’t feel like it.  Some people would call this laziness.  I call it being “Motivationally Challenged.”

Truth be told, we are motivated by what we want to do…what we feel like doing.  I remember one parent complaining that their child was so lazy that they refused to do chores or their homework.  Instead, they just  played video games, texted, or spoke on the phone to friends.  Is this child unmotivated and lazy?  Absolutely not.  Irresponsible perhaps, but not unmotivated.  They are motivated to do the things that he or she wanted to do…yet unmotivated to do the things that might take them away from doing what was wanted.  What motivates (most) children to do what they do not want to do?  Mostly fear and punishment.  “Do your homework or else…(no TV, phone, video games, etc.)” or “If you don’t do your chores, then…(you will not get dinner until it is done, you won’t go out to the movies with us, etc.).”

Rewards are used similarly with adults.  One wife told her husband, “Unless you finish your projects, you cannot buy that TV you want.”  So, of course, he finished the projects to receive his wife’s blessing.  And the TV looks great in the basement.   OK – I confess.  I am that husband.

What if we can be motivated by something other than rewards and punishment?  What if, instead, we were motivated by love?  Now I don’t pretend to have this perfected as I give this challenge.  This is a reminder for me, too.  The two most powerful motivators in life are fear and love.  Fear (for the most part) is more self-focused, yet love (as mentioned in Scripture) is to be directed towards others and God.  If a child obeys a parent out of fear, they are obeying so it will go better for themselves and their reward is here.  If someone chooses to do something because they “feel like it,” it is out of love for oneself.  But if someone does an act out of love for their parent, for God, or for another, their hearts are right before God and their reward will also be in heaven.

My challenge to you (and myself, of course) is when you (we) need to do something and are just not motivated, choose to do these actions out of love for God, for spouse, or for others.  In doing so we will be victorious over our motivationally challenged and self-centered selves and bring honor to God.  This is what Christ did for us.  This is what we are to do for God & others.

For Part 2 on removing obstacles for the Motivationally Challenged, Click Here!

A Grace-Based Marriage

Two gold rings - reflected candlesIs your marriage based on works or on grace? Let’s be real, shall we? You are married to a sinful person. Your partner is not only imperfect, but they can be self-centered, lazy, forgetful, vindictive, make poor decisions, and well, fill in the blank. Now let’s get more real. You’re not the picture of perfection either, are you? For some reason, that seems far less of a concern because your spouse is worse, or at least, “causes” these…imperfections to come out in you.

Throughout the Scriptures, there are several common and related themes mentioned in the Old Testament and New Testament alike. First, we (believers in Christ) are the Bride of Christ and He is the Bridegroom. Second, our marriages are a reflection of the greater marriage between Christ and the Church. Third, our relationship with God is characterized or built upon grace and not upon works. Therefore, if our marriages are to reflect the greater marriage, than our marriages must also be built upon grace, and not upon works.
How do we have a marriage that reflects God’s grace and not upon works? Let me offer one question to ask yourself:

Do you have expectations for your spouse?  Are you focusing on what your spouse is doing or not doing?  If so, you are focusing on their works.  You set up standards for them (law of works) and your attention is drawn to whether they met them or not.  If they fail, they will be punished (by you) based on their failure (being yelled at, dirty look, no sex, etc.).

Then, is it wrong to have expectations for your spouse?  No, not necessarily.  Obviously, it is appropriate to have certain expectations for your spouse.  For example, you should expect them to be faithful, to treat you with kindness and respect, to love you, etc.  However, there are standards and expectations that may be placed so high that they become idols in your heart.  In these situations, you become high king or queen of the home and your spouse becomes your subject that must meet your expectations.  Your focus then is placed from yourself and then onto them and their actions.

Instead of focusing on what they are doing or not doing (and whether they meet your standards/law), focus on 1) how gracious God is to you by forgiving your sins (or you not measuring up to His standards); 2) ask His help to love your spouse as He loves you (not based on your actions); and 3) give your spouse the grace (the unmerited favor) He has given you.  Unmerited favor is just that – favor, mercy, or love that is not based on what they have done, but on who they are (at minimum, being created in His image or being a child of God).  Though you may find this difficult to do, seek the Help of His Wonderful Counselor.

May the God of grace empower you to do as He wills through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Meeting the Standard

Standard:  An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value;  A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment; A requirement of moral conduct (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Setting a standard.  A standard of measurement.  Standardized tests.  Certain standards have been around, it seems, forever.  In the Old Testament, God had given Moses the Ten Commandments to express to the Israelites His standards that they were to meet.  The Ten Commandments were God’s law that was to be obeyed in love and fear of Him.  As none could follow the law, the law pointed to something greater:  Grace given through Christ.

Because of our sinful nature, we have a tendency to want to live according to certain standards as well as to set standards for others.  Where did these standards come from?  These standards may be originally mentioned through Scripture, they can be the standards of others for us, like parents or other authority figures or loved ones; or they can be standards that we set up for ourselves.   When we fail to meet these standards, we will be punished by those who made those standards (whether ourselves or others).  If, as a child, my parents set the standard of me not painting the cat, blue, and I painted the cat, blue, then I would be punished (I should have painted the cat red, instead!  Just kidding, we never had a cat) for not meeting that standard.  If I failed to meet the standard of my own making, I would punish myself by sulking and getting down on myself (followed by comfort food).

We regularly make standards for ourselves and for others to meet.  We call them expectations.  These expectations vary depending on our mood, the time of day, the person, and the location.  For example, when some wives are upset, they may expect their husbands to talk to them, to cuddle, or to leave them alone to figure things out.  These are the expectations that vary according to moods and situations.  These are the standards.  These are the law.  When they are not met successfully by their husbands, there is disappointment, hurt, and possibly expressed anger for not meeting the expectations.

All of us have standards for others and ourselves.  The problem is, they are like God’s law (10 Commandments) in that they cannot be met all the time.  Sometimes, yes…but all the time, impossible.  Instead of them being God’s law, however, it is our law.  We have raised ourselves to like God (as king) who has the right to punish others and ourselves for not meeting the standards we have set.

In striving to become like Christ, we must recognize how God responds to us when we fail to meet His standards. What does He do but give us grace.  He does this through Christ who willingly took the punishment for our sins upon himself.  Now, when we fail to meet God’s standards, we seek His forgiveness and receive his forgiveness through Christ.

But when others fail to meet our standards and expectations, how do we respond?  Is it in recognizing Christ’s sacrifice for them, too, in the forgiveness of their sins against us?  Can we recognize the grace that we have received in failing to meet His laws and give that grace to others who have not met our standards and laws?

Think about your own standards and expectations of others.  What will you do when they fail to meet them? Ask yourself, what did Christ do for me that he hasn’t done for them?  Will you look to give punishment that you have not received from God or will you look to extend the grace that you have received through Christ?  Think about it.

Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us together…today…

These past two Sundays I had the pleasure of speaking at Cornerstone Church on marriage.  As I was planning it, I was so tempted to open with “Mawage.  Mawage is what bwings us together today,” the line made famous by the Princess Bride.  Unfortunately, there are some who might not have appreciated my impersonation of the priest in a classic movie.

Among the many issues facing marriage today, there is an issue that is greater than all the other issues combined.  It is the issue that brings all of the other issues to the surface.  Unless it is addressed, marriages will struggle significantly.  No, it is not stinky feet or bad morning breath, it is simply this: the love of self.  I want what I want and you need to give it to me.  If you don’t, I will let you know by complaining, nagging, making side comments, sarcasm, yelling, or various forms of punishment.  Sounds kinda childish, yes, but it is how we are, thanks to our sinful natures.

We would not see it as childish, because our wants are much more….well, adult.  Our wants have now matured to the adult things, like love, acceptance, value/worth, and respect.  So, it’s OK to complain, nag, be sarcastic, yell or punish when we don’t get our way…..because these things really matter whereas childish wants (like toys, gumballs and candy) are insignificant.  Right?

Well, these adult things are important (love, respect, value/worth, etc.), but like in children, they have been moved from the important category to the must have category, or the must have NOW! category and you must give it to me.   Too often we hope to find our worth, security, and value in our spouses and when they do or say something that threatens our expectation of them, then there’s punishment.  We are, like the song says, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”

Well, it’s really not a bad thing to look for love from our spouses, after all, shouldn’t spouses love each other?  The problems come when that love (or respect) defines who I am.  My worth.  My identity.  When it gets to that level, it becomes an idol that addresses our insecurity.  Other people’s emotions or thoughts of us should never give us worth as individuals.  Only God can do that.

Well, instead of love, maybe the demands are for other things…like peace, rest, sex, respect, etc.  None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when they become idols in our hearts (a desire turns into a demand), then the focus is on me getting what I want, and others needing to give it to us.  Basically, other people become our servants who are supposed to do our bidding.  Not a good idea for marriage.  For husbands being obedient to Scripture, God (through Paul) calls us (Eph 5) to be servants, not to look for servants in our spouses (and children).  For wives being obedient to Scripture, He calls them (also Eph 5) to be respectful in submission as unto the Lord.  Notice that in both of these statements, Paul does not tell the wives to be sure to get your husbands to love you…make sure they do or else you are free to disrespect, complain, nag, criticize, or divorce them.   Notice that Paul does not tell husbands to withhold love from their wives if they are not respecting them or to try to get them to respect you by working more, being the strong silent type or by flexing your vocal cords in unloving ways.

No, Paul is addressing each spouse as to where their focus must be.  Not on the “me” – regarding the things that would make you happy and full, but on the “me” (as to what I must do & not on what I must get) and about the other’s relational needs.  This often leads to the other person responding in excellent ways.

Though mawage is what bwings us together, love of self is what can tear us apart.  So, let us be secure through Christ, so that we may be free to give love and respect without demanding anything in return…Though we must consider our own interest, let us not focus on what we don’t have, but what we are called to do.  Love God.  Love others.