Who is the Chief Sinner in Your Marriage?

chief sinner

“I am the chief sinner.”

Who would say something like that? We might be ready to nominate someone else for “chief sinner” at times, but we don’t often suggest ourselves.

But in a letter to a young pastor, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT). This is the same man who wrote much of the New Testament and who was beaten, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and finally beheaded for his devotion to Christ. Paul also said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, NIV). It is true that Paul persecuted Christians before he became one himself; but even so, we wouldn’t call him the worst sinner of all. Is this some kind of unusual humility, unique to Paul?

Or could it be that he is modeling something for us? Maybe Paul was demonstrating something important for all of us as Christ-followers.

Click HERE to continue to read this article at StartMarriageRight.com.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Coming Up:

Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us  ON THURSDAY (April 20) for our prayer call with Mark and Jill Savage. They have an incredible story of a restored marriage. (Read more about this couple HERE.) You will be encouraged by their insights, and you will be strengthened by the time of prayer.

You can join us by phone or online at 12:30 (EDT), or listen later to the recording posted online. Simply visit the Prayer Call page on MannaForMarriage.com for info on the call or to view the recordings.

Congratulations to Angie for winning a copy of Mark and Jill’s book, compliments of Moody Publishers. 🙂

A Weekend Getaway

As you plan your summer, be sure to schedule some time for your marriage. A great way to do that is to sign-up for a “A Weekend to Remember.” There are many of these marriage events scheduled for this summer and fall.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a fantastic getaway for you and your spouse. You will spend two nights at a lovely hotel, listen to great speakers share practical insight and encouragement concerning marriage, and enjoy some much-needed quality time together.

When you register, be sure to use the group code, MannaForMarriage, to receive a
$100 discount on your registration. Click HERE to learn more, to find a location, and to register.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a FamilyLife event. You may contact FamilyLife directly by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Remember to ask for the $100 discount by using  the group name: MannaForMarriage.

See you Thursday!
Tami

No More Perfect Marriages: A Story of Restoration

God Specializes in Restoration

Mark and Jill had been married for 25 years and had five children. He was a pastor, and she led a well-known women’s ministry. Together, they spoke on marriage and parenting.

But then he had an affair, left the home, and asked for a divorce.

restoration

However, God intervened and fully restored Mark and Jill’s marriage. In the process, they learned what had sabotaged their relationship and how they could more effectively strengthen their marriage. They share their new insights in a very practical book, No More Perfect Marriages: Experience the Freedom of Being Real Together.¹

restoration

Being Real

“Being real” is something Mark and Jill Savage do well in this book. They are real not only with one another, but also with their readers. I appreciate the authors’ openness and honesty.

Not only do they say, “Here are some things that happened in our marriage,” but they go beyond that: Mark says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart,” and Jill says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart.” Those insights are critical because until we look at our own hearts as husbands and wives, we are dealing with only surface issues in our marriages.

The truths in this book are important for all of us—whether our marriage is great, struggling, or broken—because being diligent in guarding the thoughts and motives of our heart is always the most important thing we do. One of the best things we can do for our marriages is to recognize and take responsibility for our self-talk and inner motivations.

Accepting One Another

And here is something that I love about this book: there is a consistent theme of accepting one another. That is what God does for us; He accepts us with warm welcome.

Jill explains the value of acceptance:

Acceptance has helped me honor my husband. It’s helped me celebrate who he is. … I’m not his mom. … I’m not his teacher. … I’m his wife, and acceptance has helped me to link arms with the man I love in order to walk through life together. (72)

Mark also recognized the need for acceptance:

I realized I wasn’t accepting Jill for who she is. Instead, I was working against her, trying to change her into what was easier and more comfortable for me. I was working to make her into who I wanted her to be. (72)

Fighting the Fades

The thesis of the book is that there are seven “fades” which gradually erode marriages, but there are also eight God-given tools which overcome those fades. Do you recognize any of these fades?

  1. failing to deal with unrealistic expectations
  2. minimizing your feelings or those of your spouse
  3. not accepting your spouse
  4. reacting to disagreement in damaging ways
  5. defensiveness
  6. being naïve and failing to protect your marriage
  7. avoiding emotion

Using God’s Tools

To counter the fades, God gives us eight powerful tools: courage, forgiveness, grace, love, humility, wisdom, compassion, and acceptance.

Doing things God’s way isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is determining [that] something is more important than the fear. (48)

We act courageously in marriage when we persevere rather than quit. When we act with integrity rather than letting our feelings control us. … When we talk rather than shut down. When we apologize even if we aren’t the only one wrong. … Get your courage on and push through those fears for the sake of your marriage. (51-52)

When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:

1) Does this hurt me or just irritate me?

2) Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person? (56-57)

Let’s be aware of the fades, and let’s keep using our tools! The Spirit of God will help us to recognize and repent of the junk in our own hearts, and He will give us new attitudes, new thoughts, and new motivations. God works miracles and masterpieces in every heart and home lifted up to Him.

You Will Not Want to Miss This:  A Prayer Call with Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us on April 20.

I am excited that Mark and Jill will be joining us on our weekly call. They will share some insights and encouragement for several minutes before leading us in prayer for our marriages.

Join the prayer call online or by phone. Click HERE to learn how. (It’s easy, and you will be in listen-only mode.)

A Book Give-Away

Interested in receiving a copy of No More Perfect Marriages? If so, just let me know with a comment on this post by APRIL 5.  Moody Publishers will mail a complimentary copy to one person, randomly chosen.

Blessings to you!

——————————–
¹Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.

Spring Celebrations: Passover and Resurrection Sunday

Happy Spring!

spring

Soon, we will be celebrating the most important events in human history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first event rescues us from unending death, unrelieved aloneness, and the utter loss of every good thing.  The second event gives us friendship-filled, bursting-with-beauty Life forever.

And the brilliant spotlight in both events is on Jesus Christ, the One who rescues with power and who loves lavishly. He is the One True Living God, full of glory and goodness. We have much to celebrate!

spring

It has been a rich blessing in my family to celebrate Passover and Resurrection Sunday.  If you have not enjoyed Passover at your home or with your church before, here are some simple ways to do that with preschoolers, children, or adults. (This material comes from Simple Celebrations.)

Celebrating Passover

What it is:

Passover is a rich, multilayered celebration. On the first Passover,  the blood from a flawless lamb protected God’s people from death.

Fifteen hundred years later, the symbols of the Passover supper became reality as  the flawless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shed His blood on a cross to rescue us from spiritual death . And today,  every follower of Christ can experience a personal Passover, as we are rescued from spiritual slavery to enjoy friendship with God.

Passover celebrates the fact that spiritual death passes over us, not touching us, as we commit to following Christ as Lord.

How to prepare: 

  1. Set a festive, colorful table. You may want to include two long taper candles.
  1. Set a glass of grape juice at each place.3. Place the following on each plate:
    • a parsley stalk
    • a piece of onion, or a bite of horseradish
    • a small serving of haroset (Combine applesauce, walnuts, and cinnamon—or use chunky applesauce, if your group has a nut allergy. The idea is create something that resembles mortar and which reminds us of the Hebrew slaves’ brickmaking.)
    • a small bowl of salt water (It is not necessary for each person to have a bowl if people can share.)
    • a sheet (or piece) of matzoh (or plain cracker)
    • a bite of cooked lamb (I fry lamb chops.)
  1. If you are using a Haggadah (a program) with your group, make a copy for each person, and put a copy at each place. Click here for a PDF of a Christian Passover program.

You will need someone to be the leader, who will read most of the program. You may assign the shorter sections to others in your group–however you like. There are 23 reading sections. (Blank lines are provided so that you can write in the reader’s name at each numbered section.) The leader reads each section that is not otherwise assigned.

How to celebrate with preschoolers:

I like to begin by saying this: “I know that you have eaten a meal before. And I know that you have listened to a story before. But today, we are going to EAT A STORY!” 

In a way appropriate for your children, tell the story of the Exodus. When you talk about making bricks, eat the haroset, which reminds us of the mortar used in building.

As you tell about the suffering of the slaves, dip the parsley into the salt water, and then have the children taste or eat it. Explain that this reminds us of tears because the Hebrew people were very sad.

spring

Have the children eat (or simply smell) the green onion, explaining that this, too, reminds us that the Hebrew slaves were sad because of the cruel things that Pharaoh did to them. Explain that we also are sad if we don’t know God and if we don’t know that He loves us.

Explain that God sent Moses to rescue the Hebrew slaves. Moses told the people what to do, and God helped them to escape from Pharaoh.

Let the children taste the lamb. Explain that everyone who belonged to God had a Passover lamb, and God took good care of everyone with a Passover lamb because they were His people.  We belong to God, and we have a Passover Lamb, too, because Jesus is like a Passover Lamb for us. God takes good care of us because we belong to Him.

Show the children the “flat bread,” the matzoh. Explain that when God rescued the Hebrew slaves, they had to leave Egypt so quickly that they could not wait for their bread to rise; they had to eat flat bread. As the children eat the matzoh, express gratitude to God for helping us because He loves us.

Explain that grape juice reminds us that God loves us so much that He would die for us! Say, “This juice is red (or purple), just like a valentine. This juice is like a valentine from God because it reminds us that God loves us very much.”

Conclude with a short prayer, thanking God that He loves us very much, that we can belong to Him, and that He helps us because He loves us.

Celebrating Easter

In Marriage

As we reflect on the Scriptures concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, we can learn valuable truths for our marriages:

With Children

With my children were younger, we enjoyed making Resurrection Cookies. This is a creative and fun way to talk about the Easter events as you make cookies together. Click HERE for a Family Life PDF of the recipe and instructions.

May God bless you with much joy as you celebrate His lavish love!

Cutting (self-injury)

You may not realize that 20% of high-school and college students engage in the self-injuring practice of cutting. As this becomes more common, it also affects more marriages.

Most of us have not purposely cut ourselves, but we have all experienced inner pain, and we have all searched for ways to relieve that pain. Although this is not my usual topic, I am sharing this today with the prayer that it will be helpful—perhaps to you or someone you know. 

The Cutting that Cures

God understands this pain
of cutting.

He knows this pain
that cries
with the voice of a knife.

He feels this pain too heavy
for words or tears
alone
to carry;
the flesh must join.

If only burdens
would flow
with blood.
If only blades
could strip sorrow
as well as skin.¹

This draining of the body
leeches life from the soul.

“Imago Dei”²
is written upon us,
yet we mar,
not knowing
the handwriting of God.

*

“Without the shedding of blood,
there is no remission of sin.”³
Without having heard,
we seem to know.
But we hope only
for the remission of pain.

Only God really knows
how great is the loss and
how deep is the pain.

Through the tearing of His own flesh,
He felt the torment of the whole world.
With the gushing of His own blood,
He marked the loss of love.

He carried the weight of our suffering
in His own body
that we would not
in ours.

cutting

Our pain became His pain,
and His wounds became our healing.
His brokenness
bought our wholeness.

There is, therefore, now
no cutting
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
for there is now
no condemnation and
no separation.

There is no loss
that He will not accept as His.
There is no emptiness
that He cannot turn
inside out
into fullness.

The only cutting
that will ever put things back together
was the crushing of Christ on the Cross–
the tearing of a veil,
and a new covenant cut.4

“It is finished.”

cutting

With lavish love,
He engraved our names
forever
on His palms.

The scars of Christ,
sealed on our souls,
mark us now
as His.

cutting

© 2016. Tami Myer.

————————————————————-

1 In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp writes that she cut herself as if “you could drain yourself out of pain” (Zondervan, 2016, page 11).
2 This is the Latin phrase for “image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says that God created people in His own image.
*By User:BardFuse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
3 From Hebrews 9:22. The Bible teaches that the consequence of our rejection of God (who is Life) is death.
4 In English, we say that we make a covenant. But in the Hebrew language of Scripture, a covenant is “cut.”

———————————————————

FOR HELP in overcoming cutting, please visit Focus on the Family’s website. Search “cutting,” and you will find a series of helpful articles.

Marriage is Like Gardening

Trade Your Saw for a Spade

When you build something out of wood, you measure, cut, sand, nail, and – viola!- results. You have visible signs of progress and defined outcomes. Best of all, you have much of the control. Relationships, on the other hand, are not easy to measure, and they are certainly not easy to control.

gardening

Both gardening and carpentry are creative ventures, but they are very different in their approaches and processes. Of the two activities, gardening seems a better metaphor for dealing with relationships.

For starters, gardening puts you on your knees. Although gardeners have a lot to do, they understand that much of the critical activity will be unseen. Gardeners do the hard work of planting, but they must rely on God to activate the seed and to grow the fruit.

gardening

Growing things requires great patience. Good gardening, like good relationships, involves both the work of effort and the work of waiting. You work to create healthy conditions, but then you wait to let good things grow. As a carpenter, you can use your hammer to control the nail. But as a gardener, you cannot pound out an apple. Instead, your job is to nurture. The gardener must tend. Tend and trust.

gardening

Like carpenters, we would sometimes like to cut our relationships to proper size and shape, sand off our spouses’ imperfections, nail some strength into someone, paint things the way we like, and then position everything right into place—viola! But people are not carpentry projects, and marriage doesn’t work that way. Our spouses belong in God’s hands, not ours.

(To continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com, please click HERE.)

 

 

 

Dealing with Brokenness

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


We all have to deal with broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts.  All of us are broken by our own sin and by the sin of others.

But God says to us:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

God meets us in those broken places, and He is the Restorer. He repairs and renews and redeems. That is what Resurrection is all about.

brokenness
Enter a Garden

We do not come just to the Cross, which is the place of forgiveness. We come also to the empty tomb, which opens into a springtime garden. We receive forgiveness at the cross, but we receive new life in the garden.

brokenness

When we open up to Christ our tombs of suffering, He speaks life into every place which is yielded to Him. Every deep wound becomes a place for deep healing. Every cruel piercing becomes a place for tender filling. Our pain can break the hardness of our hearts so that our spirits finally open up to His love and goodness. God longs to pour His power into our weakness,  and His peace into our distress. He knows how to fill our emptiness with His fullness.

Roll Away Some Stones

Do you remember the New Testament story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? These three siblings were close friends of Jesus. Several days after Lazarus died, Martha was hesitant to open the tomb of her brother to Jesus. We, too, can be reluctant to expose places of our heart. But we are safe with this God who has written love for us on His own arms.¹ He will not shame us, and He certainly will not violate us.

Jesus did not do what Martha expected. What He did was far greater than what she expected. It will be the same for you.

Trust God with the Seeds

Ann Voskamp reminds us that we are like seeds that are broken apart and completely undone, and then something mighty and beautiful grows out of that very brokenness.² Jesus said that unless a seed dies, it remains alone. But buried in the ground, it dies, producing “a plentiful harvest.”³

I am easily distressed by brokenness—the neediness, the failures, the suffering, the struggles, the lack. It is around us and within us. But I am learning not to be disheartened. I am learning—just a bit—to allow the Spirit to bring His peace to the core of my being. It’s something like “a feast in the presence of mine enemies.”¹¹

Hold and Behold the Hurting

We can feel great compassion for those who are hurting, and we can also feel utterly helpless to heal their wounds. But we can do something very powerful. While we cannot fix those who are broken, we can carry them to the One who can. We can “hold and behold.”

Sometimes we can actually hold others in our arms, but always we can hold them in
our hearts and in our prayers. And we can behold them. We can behold them as treasures, and we can behold their stories and their unique hearts. Holding and beholding, we can lift up those who are broken to the One who repairs and who makes new.

As we encounter brokenness, we need not sink down in despair. Instead, we can walk knowing that God meets us in these broken places. This is where He works His miracles. Jesus Christ is the God who stoops to make us great,²² who washes dirty feet, and who touches unclean lepers. Christ enters our brokenness with us, walks through it with us, and turns ashes into beauty.³³

Hold and Behold Your Healer

We are all walking through pieces of brokenness right now, but when the Perfect comes, then we will walk in glorious wholeness and beauty. Until then, we walk with the One who is Himself Glory and Beauty.

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________
¹   In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands”                (NLT).
     To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization dedicated to helping people who are                      struggling with self-destructive habits: twloha.com.
²   The Broken Way. Zondervan. 2016.
³   John 12:24, NLT
¹¹ Psalm 23:5, KJV
²² Psalm 18:35, NIV
³³ Isaiah 61:3

“The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage”

What is a Biblical response to same-sex marriage? How does the good news of Christ shape our thinking on this topic?

If you are asking these questions, then you will want to read The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage. Edited by Russell Moore and Andrew Walker, it is the most recent book in “The Gospel for Life Series.”

same-sex marriage

The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage is a short book (102 pages) with five chapters, each one written by a different author: Andrew Walker, John Piper, Jason Duesing, J. D. Greear, and Albert Mohler—all of whom are respected Christian thinkers.

Why is this topic important?

Although Russell Moore does not author one of the chapters, he does write the preface. In those few pages, Moore makes several excellent points, arguing “that the gospel isn’t just the start of the Christian life but rather the vehicle that carries it along” (xi). Salvation is far more than a moment of confession to God; it is a moment-by-moment conforming to Christ.

Theology doesn’t just think; it walks, weeps, and bleeds. … Our gospel is indeed miraculous, but … it’s also a gospel of the ordinary. (xii)

What is marriage?

In the first chapter, Andrew Walker clarifies key truths for the entire discussion by defining marriage and establishing its importance. He begins the book by explaining that marriage is “a gendered and complementary union” (9). Many of our churches have failed to understand how critical this is:

Once marriage is redefined as no longer complementary, the whole matrix of marriage’s function collapses. (11)

Not only is marriage designed to be complementary in nature, but it is also to be monogamous, exclusive, and permanent.

Why does the definition matter?

Walker also makes the important point that God-designed marriage brings blessings to both Christians and non-Christians.

It’s true [that] anyone can benefit from the good of marriage—whether they are a Christian or not. Society flourishes when marriage policies align with God’s design for marriage. … (20)

I have greatly appreciated the writings of John Piper on the subject of marriage, and his chapter in this book is no exception. Here are a couple excerpts from his essay:

God made man male and female with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church. Marriage is designed to reflect the deepest truths of the gospel. (30-31)

The recognition of so-called same-sex marriage would be a clear social statement that motherhood or fatherhood or both are negligible in the public good of raising children. (38)

I agree with Piper that losing a mother or father is a tragedy. Do we want “to make that tragedy normal” through our laws? Is it right to willingly deprive a child of a mother or father?

How did we get here?

Dr. Mohler does a great job of evaluating the factors in the cultural landscape that activated this moral seismic shift. He identifies these four “massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation” (89). I agree with Mohler’s assessment that the Church’s compromise on Biblical marriage created a profound weakness for both the Church and the surrounding culture:

[When] the culture lost its mind on marriage, far too many churches decided to join the irrationality. Thus, evangelical churches began to treat divorce as a non-issue, even as the Bible includes the strongest statements imaginable about the permanence of marriage and the sinfulness of divorce. … Ultimately the evangelical abdication of responsibility for divorce set the stage for a loss of evangelical credibility to speak to the larger issue of sexuality and marriage. (92)

Dr. Mohler also examines some of the pro-homosexual strategy that proved to be immensely effective in triggering the moral tsunami.

What should we do?

My favorite chapter, however, was written by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. He urges believers to engage in the marriage discussion with grace and truth, as Jesus did.

And when we are full of grace and truth like Jesus, we can expect to see the response he did—to repel the proud and attract the broken. (64)

We must speak the truth if we are to love well. Greear reminds us that we are commanded in the Scriptures “to rebuke the works of darkness” (65). Isn’t that being judgmental?

Even though Jesus told many people that their works were evil, he still did not condemn that world. How could that be? Because after telling us the truth, Jesus brought us close. … You judge someone not when you assess their position, but when you dismiss them as a person. (66)

Greear emphasizes “our failure to grapple with our own inherent sinfulness.” He does a great job of retelling the parable of the man who was forgiven a huge debt but who then refused to forgive someone else’s very small debt. Greear says:

If you are characterized by disgust over someone else’s sin rather than being  overwhelmed at the forgiveness that God has given you, you are desperately out of touch with the gospel. (70)

After explaining God’s design for sex, Greear addresses the struggle that many people have to conform to God’s plan and “to change their sexual passions.” He points out that this is part of “the already-not-yet dimension of the Kingdom.” In others words, the atoning work of salvation is finished, but the transforming work of salvation is a process. Sometimes God heals immediately, “but sometimes we have to wait for the resurrection for ultimate healing” (73-74).

[Sometimes] God allows people to struggle so that they can be a testimony to God’s sustaining grace in struggle. It seems that the latter is actually God’s normal way. … [God allows this] to convince us—until our dying breath—of our desperate need for grace. (75)

In fact, I think that ongoing victories that spring from a continuing struggle can be just as great a miracle as a one-time removal of the struggle. This is what God did for Paul. God did not remove “the thorn” from Paul’s life. Instead, He gave him grace upon grace, day after day. God may not give complete deliverance from a struggle, but He always gives victory over temptation. Rather than giving us one dramatic victory, God may be giving us thousands of daily victories.

God’s people are most loving when we respond to others with authentic mercy, which looks beneath surface issues to discover true core needs. Greear notes that when “Jesus dealt with someone in sexual sin, He never started with the sin. He always started with the root issues behind the sin.”

For example, when Christ speaks with the woman at the well, “He shows her that her addictive behavior is driven by a soul thirst.” And with the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus expressed acceptance of her in a profound way. It was this acceptance of her as a person which then gave her the power to turn from her sin.

As we dialogue with others about sexual choices and marriage, we want to be motivated always by grace, which says that people are valued and loved, regardless of their behavior. The Bible explains that sin is a problem, not because it violates an arbitrary rule, but because it robs us,  it deforms us, and it destroys us. God longs to make our spirits healthy and thriving—fully alive, full of joy, and fully satisfied. God is the generous, trustworthy Lover of our souls.

I certainly recommend this well-written, thought-provoking book. It is critical that Christians understand Biblical truth concerning “same-sex marriage” and then share God’s unfailing love and compassion as we live as salt and light in our communities.

__________________________________________________

Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, public domain.

How to Avoid “Divorce Month” (by Mike McManus)

(The following article was written by Mike McManus, syndicated columnist and president of Marriage Savers.  I appreciate Mike’s fantastic work on behalf of marriages , and I am grateful for his permission to share this column, which first appeared on December 14, 2016, on EthicsAndReligion.com.)

divorce

January is the worst “Divorce Month” of the year.  No one wants to file over Christmas.  They want the kids to have a happy time.

Will the children feel better about the divorce in January?  Of course not.

Divorce is the worst event in any child’s life – or that of most adults, for that matter.  Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, experienced their divorce as a boy and wrote about it in his book, Twice Adopted:

“Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child – the child’s house, family, security and a sense of being loved and protected – and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess.”

Yet half of all marriages in America end in divorce. Children of divorce are three times more likely to be expelled from school or to have a baby as a teenager as are children from intact homes; are five times more apt to live in poverty, six times more likely to commit suicide, and 12 times more apt to be incarcerated, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Those who marry a second time have a 70% chance of a second divorce.

Therefore, couples with troubled marriages ought to consider five different strategies to restore their marriage for themselves and their children.

1.      Marriage Encounter is a weekend retreat that is so powerful, that if every married couple attended it, America’s divorce rate would plunge.  My wife and I attended in 1976 and fell back in love that weekend. It was life-changing.  Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, reported: “Marriage Encounter gave Shirley and me the opportunity to occasion the deepest, most intimate exchange of feelings we had known in 20 yearsof marriage.” About half of couples attending Marriage Encounter had marriages they described as “average” or “unhappy.”  Yet one study reported that nine in ten couples gave the weekend high marks.  It is not designed for a marriage in deep crisis. (See the Retrouvaille weekend described below.) But it will give virtually all ho-hum to mildly troubled marriages a big booster shot. About 4 million couples have attended over the past five decades.  For more information about one near you go to www.wwme.org.

2.      Couple mentoring.  If there’s been adultery which seems like an unforgiveable sin, ask a pastor if he knows a church couple who survived infidelity.  Odds are, he does.  The survivors can say, “This is what we did to restore trust.”  That’s exactly what Couple B needs to hear – not expensive counseling.

3.      Retrouvaille is a weekend retreat led by three couples whose marriages nearly failed.  They tell their stories of recovery and are walking parables of hope.  After a talk, they put the men in one room, women in another, and ask them to write for ten minutes on an assigned topic, such as: “What do I have difficulty talking to you about?”  Couples then meet privately, read what each other wrote, and talk.  They return to hear another Lead Couple tell their story, and write to each other on another topic. By Sunday afternoon, couples’ arms are typically around each other.  Over 150,000 couples have attended Retrouvaille, and four of five couples save their marriage! Go to www.retrouvaille.org, look for your state and see when one is scheduled.

4.      Stepfamilies normally divorce at a 70% rate.  A child says, “I don’t want a new Mom,” and can make her life so miserable, she leaves.  The answer is to create a Stepfamily Support Group, where couples learn from each other how to make these marriages work.  It works so well 80% are successful.  For a kit to create one, call me:  301 978-7105.

5.      Reconciliation is possible even if one spouse insists on a divorce.  Four out of five spouses want to save their marriage, and Marriage 911 is a 12-week workbook course that committed spouses take to win back their mate.  It is taken with a friend of the same gender.  There is a Support Partner Handbook for the friend to know what questions to ask. It is designed to help the committed spouse grow so much, the unhappy partner is won back.  Of 50,000 couples who have taken Marriage 911, about half are able to reconcile. The materials cost only $28.  Call me to order: 301 978-7105.

These are all much better options than a divorce in January.

_______
Copyright © 2016 by Michael J. McManus

Christmas Prayers

Thank You, LORD, for the awesome message of Christmas:

You stoop down to make us great. (Psalm 18:35, NIV)

How incredible! This is precisely what You did through the stunning miracle of the Incarnation.

You stooped down beneath the stars, beneath a low stable door, entering our world to enter our lives.

You stooped to wash our feet.

You stooped to lay Yourself down upon a cross so that we could rise up into the greatness of knowing You face to face.

Lord, would You help us to flesh out that same Love in our marriages? Please birth in us the willingness to stoop to make our spouses great. Show us how to humble ourselves, laying aside our “garment” of prideful self-centeredness and picking up the “towel” of joyful service.

To do that, we need insight into one another’s true needs; we need discernment to know how to minister well. We relinquish our foolishness and weakness so that we can be filled with Your wisdom and power.

Thank You for the examples of Mary and Joseph in the first Christmas story.

Christmas

A Prayer for Wives

… God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. … For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (from Luke 1:26-38, NIV)

Christmas

LORD, we pray that You would enable us to follow the example of Mary. Help us not to be afraid but to know that, if we belong to You, we are highly favored by You, and You are with us. Help us to say each day, “LORD, I am Your servant. In this marriage, I am Your servant.”

When Your plan seems confusing, even impossible, help us to trust Your goodness. As You have promised, LORD, bless us with deep happiness as we believe that You are a faithful Promise-Keeper (Luke 1:45). LORD, give us rejoicing spirits, overflowing with praise (Luke 1:46-47).

A Prayer for Husbands

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to break the engagement quietly.

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus. (from Matthew 1:18-25, HCSB and NLT)

 

LORD, we pray that we would follow the lead of Joseph. Chosen by You, may we be “the body armor of God’s righteousness” for our marriages (Ephesians 6:14, NLT). When we feel betrayed or offended, help us not to react out of our own understanding, but to listen to Your voice just as Joseph listened to Gabriel. Enable us to trust You as You speak to us through the Scriptures.

We pray that we would excel in caring for our wives, even when we feel that our own desires are not being met. Like Joseph, may we protect our families, both spiritually and physically. May we be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and quick to respond when we hear Your instructions.

A Prayer for Both

Help us, like both Joseph and Mary, to be listening for Your voice. Help us to yield up our own ambitions quickly and to press fully into Your will, confident that You are a trustworthy God. Your love for us is unfailing and fervent. Your wisdom is complete, and Your power is unlimited.

LORD, we pray that You would protect our marriages from all evil, just as You miraculously protected Mary and Joseph. Direct our paths, and help us to trust You, even in unfamiliar and uncomfortable circumstances.

So [the shepherds] hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. … The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (from Luke 1:16-20, NIV)

Shepherds came to see what You were doing in the lives of Mary and Joseph, and they left amazed, unable to contain their wonder at Your marvelous work. LORD, would you do that in our marriages? Would You help us to hold You in our marriages so that others behold You? Would You please work in our homes so that others see something so fantastic that they are awestruck in Your Presence and full of praise for You?

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19, NIV)

LORD, make us aware of the things that You are doing in our marriages. And make us aware of all the things within our spouses that we should be treasuring. By Your Spirit, cause us to marvel and give thanks.

Thank You, God-with-us, for stooping to make us great. Thank You for helping us this Christmas to do the same for our spouses.

As we kneel in service to our spouses, we bow in worship and adoration before You.

Amen.
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Be sure to join us every Thursday for our weekly prayer call as we “fight on our knees” for marriages and family.

 

 

 

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All photos are from the movie The Nativity Story.

This article, slightly modified, first appeared on StartMarriageRight.com.

If You are Discouraged in Your Marriage

Are you discouraged with your marriage?

Has it become overwhelming? Are there too many broken parts or missing pieces?

Maybe it is time to forget your marriage.

discouraged

No, I am not suggesting that you walk away from your marriage. What I mean is this: maybe it’s time to let go of your “ideal marriage” checklist. Maybe you can forget trying to make your marriage look a certain way. Set all that aside for a while.

God is not asking you to achieve the perfect marriage. He is asking you to love someone.

[Click HERE to continue reading this article the StartMarriageRight website.]

Fighting on Our Knees for Marriages

We invite you to join us as we pray for marriages and families each Thursday for fifteen minutes. You can find all the info for joining either by phone or online HERE. Also, if you’d like to listen to last week’s prayer call, you can find that HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

Reformation Day: A Day to Celebrate!

A Holy-Day to Celebrate

You probably know that today is Halloween. But did you realize that it is also Reformation Day?

reformation day

And did you know that Reformation Day is a fantastic thing to celebrate?

Reformation Day
from the movie “Luther”

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the wooden door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the spark which fueled the Protestant Reformation and some remarkable changes for the world.

Posthumous Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustine Monk
Posthumous Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustine Monk

God used Martin Luther in a dramatic way to restore freedom and truth to His people. Luther had some significant flaws in both his doctrine and character. However, God gifted Luther with many profound spiritual insights, as well as the courage and conviction to defend those Biblical truths.

As he studied the Scriptures, Luther re-discovered this glorious truth:

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned, bought, or sold.

This wonderful news, like a precious jewel, had been buried under thick layers of distortion and corruption within the Church. Luther retrieved this valuable gem, dusted off the deception, and held it up so that others could experience its beauty again.

Luther also re-discovered the key doctrines of the priesthood of all believers and the authority of the Scriptures. He taught that Church leadership was not infallible. For his refusal to recant some of his convictions, Luther suffered excommunication from the Church and threats to his life.

Luther Before the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)
Luther Before the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)

Reformation Day reminds us to thank God for the free gift of salvation, for the Scriptures that we hold in our hands, and for the direct access that we have into the Presence of God Almighty.

Ways to Celebrate

Here are several ways you may want to celebrate Reformation Day at your house:

  1. Watch the movie Luther. (The entire movie, in two parts, is posted on youtube. The movie is rated PG-13 and is not appropriate for children. )
  2.  If you have young children, they will enjoy coloring pictures of Luther’s shield and learning about its interesting symbols. You can find fun activities for children at these sites:
    *http://www.blessedbeyondadoubt.com/reformation-day-activities/
    *http://theroadto31.com/2013/10/celebrating-reformation-day-like-christian.html
    *http://www.sojournkids.com/blog/2010/10/reformation-day-party-plan
  3. Sing or read the lyrics to A Mighty Fortress is Our God, written by Luther in 1529.
  4. Prepare a German supper. (I think German-chocolate cake qualifies, don’t you?)
  5. You can read more about Luther through many resources, but this website is unique in giving an easy-to-understand translation of the Ninety-Five Theses: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-reformation/the-95-theses-a-modern-translation/
  6. Enjoy some great Luther quotes (below).

Quotes by Luther

Prayer

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Pray, and let God worry.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.

All teachers of Scripture conclude that the essence of prayer is simply the lifting up of the heart to God. But if this is so, it follows that everything else that doesn’t lift up the heart to God is not prayer. Therefore, singing, talking, and whistling without this lifting up of your heart to God are as much like prayer as scarecrows in the garden are like people.

I have often learned much more in one prayer than I have been able to glean from much reading and reflection.

Scripture

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.

Faith

This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God.

The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God.

Faith is the “yes” of the heart, a conviction on which one stakes one’s life.

We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.

Therefore, when some say good works are forbidden when we preach faith alone, it is as if I said to a sick man: “If you had health, you would have the use of your limbs; but without health the works of your limbs are nothing” and he wanted to infer that I had forbidden the works of all his limbs.

The two chief things are faith and love. Faith receives the good; love gives the good. Faith offers us God as our own; love gives us to our neighbor as his own.

Marriage

Katharina von Bora, Luther's wife, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526
Katharina von Bora, Luther’s wife, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

One learns more of Christ in being married and rearing children than in several lifetimes spent in study in a monastery.

Other

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.

Happy Reformation Day!

The Purpose of Your Body

We can spend a lifetime living in our bodies without once asking ourselves this simple question:

“What is the purpose of my body?”

Amazing, isn’t it?

We can invest a ton of time, money, and emotional turmoil in dealing with our bodies. Maybe it would be good to stop for a moment to think more deeply about where we are going with all this body busyness.

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Misunderstood Purpose

Many believe that the purpose of the body is to attract attention, hoping that attracting attention is the same thing as gaining value.  Sometimes we want to attract attention (in general) in order to attract love (in particular). Massive quantities of marketing assure us that if we can just manipulate our bodies correctly, we will receive the affection and cherishing that we crave.

Wow. No wonder we are obsessed with our bodies! We believe that they are the tickets to our self-worth and our emotional well-being.

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No Purpose

Some people believe that there is no inherent purpose for our bodies. Our bodies are flukes of natural selection. They may be amazing and interesting flukes, but they are meaningless, all the same. The best we can do is devise purpose and meaning for ourselves, and then cross our evolved fingers.

body

Divine Purpose

According to the Bible, God created our bodies with fantastic purpose and meaning. The triune God made human beings in His image as body, soul, and spirit. We are not just spirits: we are embodied spirits, able to relate physically, socially, and spiritually.

Society says that                                                      God says that
the purpose of the body is to:                             the purpose of the body is to:

  • attract attention to self                                ♦ create attraction to Christ
  • make me look good                                       ♦ make God look good
  • worship self                                                       ♦ worship God
  • attract love                                                        ♦ give love
  • please myself                                                    ♦  serve others
  • earn value                                                          ♦ celebrate God-given worth and dignity
  • pursue pleasure for self                                ♦ enjoy God’s gifts as a way of enjoying Him

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We tend to think that our bodies belong to us. But God says that our bodies belong to Him. Not only did He create them, but then He bought them with His own lifeblood:

You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT)

This means that our bodies are significant! What we do with our bodies is important to the Lord. Through our bodies, we either honor God or dishonor Him.

children-1636620_640

We are stewards of these bodies, which belong to God. They are not ours to mistreat, neglect, or demean. We have the privilege and responsibility to use our bodies to serve Christ and to promote Him.

Sacred Honor

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NIV)

What an amazing honor to be the sanctuary of God! Knowing that we are temples of the Living God prompts us to be reverent of our own bodies. This multiples again the sacredness of our bodies and lives.

A beautiful friend and I were discussing these concepts over tea one morning recently. She made these great comments: “I love 1 Peter 3, which teaches that I shouldn’t focus on outward beauty but on adorning myself with a gentle and quiet spirit. And for me, exercise and food can become enslaving, creating a vicious cycle. But in Christ, I am set free! Praise the Lord!”¹

tape-403592_640

Awesome Design

I  sometimes thought that I would be happier with different body parts. But then I realized that if something would truly make me happier—would truly bless me—then God would be the first to give it to me! God is eager to pour out good gifts to His children. His generosity is lavish, and His wisdom is perfect. I can trust His engineering.

I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. (Psalm 139:14, HCSB)

body

We are His masterpieces, both physically and spiritually (Ephesians 2:10, NLT). As we yield our spirits to God’s Spirit, we then obey Him in our bodies. As a result, our bodies and spirits can harmonize in rich, full worship.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1, NLT)

Ann Swindell sums it up beautifully:

Your body’s main purpose is not to attract others to it. … Your body’s  main purpose is to worship the God who created it. …Your body is primarily a means of worshiping God—through service, through love, through acts of praise and mercy.²

youth-570881_640

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¹Romans 6:17-18
²Ann Swindell. August 16, 2016. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/what-i-wish-i-knew-about-my-body-my-twenties

 

When Nonbelievers Act Like Nonbelievers

It is a trending comment among Christians:

Nonbelievers are going to act like nonbelievers.

As a caution against judgmental attitudes, this is helpful. It is also a good reminder that our goal is not to force superficial behavior but to influence spiritual transformation. As one theologian put it, we should not be concerned about a hole in the wall when the entire building is going up in flames!

I am wondering, though, if we are using this statement more and more as an excuse for passivity. Could we be defending our reluctance to be “salt” in our communities? We might hear comments such as these:

Laws can’t change the human heart, so don’t get involved.
You can’t legislate morality, so don’t speak up.
If you aren’t teaching the plan of salvation, then your priorities are messed up.

Physical Laws and Spiritual Laws

Perhaps we have forgotten that Scriptural directives are not rules that God made up so that Christians could demonstrate their loyalty to Him and develop character. Jesus noted that the rain falls on both the just and the unjust.¹ Because we are physical beings, the laws of matter and energy affect each one of us, whether we are believers or not. And because we are spiritual beings, each of us is also subject to spiritual and moral laws, whether we are believers or not.

nonbelievers

After all, as Warren Smith and John Stonestreet point out, “God does not inhabit our world. We inhabit His world.”²

Speaking Truth in Love

When others can benefit, we want to share relevant spiritual principles, just as we naturally would share physical ones. It is not pointless. It is kindness.

In Chuck Colson’s words, we are not imposing our beliefs; we are proposing a better way.³

If it is loving to warn our friends that the hot stove will burn them, then it is also loving to warn them that pornography will do the same. If we should tell teenagers that smoking cigarettes increases the risk of lung cancer, then shouldn’t we also tell them that cohabiting before marriage increases the risk of divorce?

nonbelievers

If we want to understand the physical laws of gravity so that we can gain from its force without being injured, then we will want to understand the moral laws of sexual behavior for the same reason. If we can recognize that severing an arm or a leg is a loss, then we can also acknowledge that severing a father or a mother from a child is a loss.

divorce-156444_640

Creating Platforms for the Gospel

We show compassion when we share these “common graces.” And even more importantly, we create effective bridges for sharing “saving grace.”

Jesus took the time to wash the feet of Judas, although that did not cleanse his soul.

nonbelievers

Jesus healed people of physical disease, although that did not give them eternal life. Many of His acts of mercy were temporal blessings. However, each kindness was motivated by love, designed to point to God and to create desire for Him.

By actively engaging in our culture, we can share God’s common grace with gentleness and generosity, seeking always to pave the way for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.


¹Matthew 5:45
²Restoring all Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People. Baker. 2015. page 21.
³http://www.breakpoint.org/component/blog/entry/12/27228
*last photo by FreeBibleImages.org

Does Marriage Make You Happy or Holy?

You may have heard the question before:

Did God design marriage to make us happy or to make us holy?

holy

My answer would be, “Yes, He did!”

Let me explain.

We tend to think of holiness as something that has to do with being good, staying in line, and doing the right things. But when we understand principles of covenant, we realize that “keeping all the rules” is an inadequate description of holiness.

Holiness is the essence of a fully honored relationship. Holiness is a covenant term which describes both the complete, undefiled union of marriage, as well as the complete, undefiled union of the Godhead.

AS GOD DESIGNED IT, MARRIAGE IS HOLINESS.

In Hebrew, the word traditionally used for marriage derives from the word for holiness.

Many Christians understand that holiness means being “set apart,” and they think about being set apart from sinful behaviors. But that is like saying that marriage is about giving up old romantic friendships. “No more girlfriends or boyfriends” is a starting point, but it is not the main point.

Holiness is being “set apart from” in order to be “set apart FOR.”

God took the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, yes; but the goal was to get them into the Promised Land. Holiness is about far more than what we don’t have in our lives; it is also about what we do have in our lives. In marriage, we set ourselves apart from old boyfriends or girlfriends so that we can be set apart for our spouses.

Holiness means cutting out what does not belong in a relationship so that we can be devoted to what does belong.

Holiness is the “belonging” that is created within a covenant relationship. In the covenant of marriage, holiness is a man committing himself to belong to a woman as her husband, and it is a woman committing herself to belong to a man as his wife. The marital relationship belongs to them.

When everything that belongs within the marriage is present in the marriage, and when nothing that does not belong is not present, then there is holiness in that marriage. And sheltered within that holiness is a core of pleasure, as covenant partners delight in one another.

(Click HERE to continue reading.)

Join the prayer call today!

Be sure to join us TODAY (Thursday, August 25) as I will be interviewing Jennifer Strickland on our weekly prayer call. Jennifer is the author of several books, including More Beautiful Than You Know, Beautiful Lies, Girl Perfect, and most recently, 21 Myths …. About Sex. (You can read more about that book HERE.)


During the 15-minute call, I will be asking Jennifer these questions:

  • How does body image affect marriage? What are the truths that we need in order to shape our thoughts in this area correctly?
  • What suggestions do you have for someone dealing with a spouse’s porn addiction?

Then Jennifer will lead us in praying for our marriages. Join us! We “fight on our knees” for marriages and families every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern time).  You can join by phone or online. Here’s how:

Simply click HERE to join us online,
or call 1-323-920-0091 to join us by phone.
When prompted, enter the access code 022 5211#.

Callers are in “listen-only” mode, so don’t worry about the background noise around you. All the information can also be found HERE.

If you aren’t able to join the call live, you can always view any of the recordings HERE.

Praying with you and for you,
Tami

5 Great Quotes & 1 Interview

5 Great Quotes:

quotes

Elizabeth Elliot put it this way:  we married our spouses because we loved them, so now we must love our spouses because we married them.

quotes

Be for your spouse! Don’t just commit to your marriage: commit to the good of your spouse.

quotes

Love is a decision to seek the good of another. If we are not choosing to love our spouses each day, then we are also rejecting God’s perfect will for us. As we turn from our self-will, we can yield to the goodness of God.

quotes

quotes

And 1 Interview:

On Thursday, August 25, I will be interviewing Jennifer Strickland on our weekly prayer call. Jennifer is the author of 21 Myths … About Sex. (You can read more about her book HERE.)

Jen and ShaneDuring the 15-minute call, I will be asking Jennifer these questions:

  • How does body image affect marriage? What are the truths that we need in order to shape our thoughts in this area correctly?
  • What suggestions do you have for someone dealing with a spouse’s porn addiction?

Then Jennifer will lead us in praying for our marriages.

Jen and family

Join us! We “fight on our knees” for marriages and families every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern time).  You can join by phone or online. All the info is right HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Conquering the Struggle to Forgive

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone—even when you wanted to forgive? I know I have.forgive

I have come to realize that part of my struggle came from not understanding true forgiveness. Sometimes, we have a hard time forgiving because we are trying to do things that are not part of the forgiveness that God models for us.

For example, we tend to think that forgiveness is between us and the person who hurt us.

But the truth is this:

Forgiveness is between us and God.

We are wrestling with the One who allowed this hurt to happen. Will we trust Him to redeem all that we give to Him, to turn ashes to beauty, and to keep His promises to us?

Another misunderstanding is that forgiving someone will make us vulnerable.

But here is the truth:

Forgiveness rescues us from the inadequacy of our own resources and brings us under the covenant care of God.

Bill Eliff put it this way:

God only allows two people at a time in the boxing ring.  If you want to get into the ring and try to fight your own battles, God will let you.  But He’ll get out.  If you want God to fight your battles for you, then you must get out of the ring … and stay out.

forgive

Today on StartMarriageRight.com, I share
“7 Things that Forgiveness is NOT.”
Click HERE to read the full article.

 

 

Loneliness and its Surprising Cure

We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.
—Albert Schweitzer

We have all experienced the ache of loneliness.

It can cut to the deepest core of our being. It can be intensely painful.

Relieving our loneliness is much harder than we expect. Just being surrounded by people does not cure loneliness. Having crowds around us can sometimes make our loneliness feel even more intense.

loneliness

And being married does not necessarily cure loneliness. In fact, the loneliness that can occur within marriage can be especially painful.

When we can’t cure our loneliness, we try to distract ourselves from the pain. Many people hope to gain relief through alcohol, drugs, immorality, or other unhealthy choices. But these are only temporary escapes, and they often cause even greater loneliness.

World-renown apologist Ravi Zacharias¹ points out that there is only one lasting cure to loneliness:

worship.

What an incredible truth!

Loneliness is separation. We can experience separation physically, socially, and spiritually. This loss of connection can be devastating and crippling.

This explains why resentment is toxic to us. When we are bitter, we experience separation from another man or woman, as well as from God. Failing to forgive brings the pain of loneliness and isolation.

Image a relationship spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, there is complete isolation, total separation, and all-consuming loneliness.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is ultimate relationship. This is the place of true worship.

Presentation1True worship is not a one-way activity. Pursuing false gods, such as pleasure or status, is one-way, false worship. Words of praise spoken without interaction are empty.

True Worship

This is relationship at the fullest. As an expression of knowing God in spirit and in truth, we worship Him, and we yield to His knowing us fully.

There is no loneliness in that.

girl-204327_640


¹Ravi Zacharias on “Just Thinking”

21 Myths about Sex

I really didn’t expect this.

I recently read an advance copy of 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe about Sex: Pursuing Love with Passion and Truth.

sex

I thought I might find some good nuggets of truth to share. I expected to find things that were

  • helpful,
  • factual,
  • Biblical, and
  • much-needed.

I found that.

But I also found much that was

  • beautiful.

Yes, there were warnings, cautions, and facts. But all of it was laid on a canvas of understanding that was beautiful.

The author, Jennifer Strickland, understands that sex is much more than chemical reactions. God designed physical intimacy both to express and to strengthen a covenant relationship. Jennifer also understands that even with the brokenness that we bring to our marriages, there is something lovely and valuable at the core of who we are and at the core of what our marriages represent.

Here is some of the “beautiful”:

Love lifts another higher.

[Jesus] came as a servant, … loving in a manner that left the other person higher. Our need for a Savior mattered more to Him than how He felt. Our need came first to Jesus. (249)

We women are prone to complain about the men we love, that what they provide is not enough; we want more—as if [husbands] are God.  But surely, to love is to know the difference between a man and his Maker; to turn the palm up and let go; to trust that all that falls into our hands is a gift. Love says thank you for the manna, resides in today, and believes His faithfulness will be there tomorrow. (243)

To love is to thank, to bow low, to lift another higher. To believe in your beloved. Wait. Put trust in God. Surrender. … And to be kind. (243)

Love is patient.

In marriage we must be patient. … There will be things the prince does not do well and things you do not know he needs. There will be messes and confusion and fights, … the “not enough” of who you are, the lack—and the more you fill the lack with lack, the darker your heart will become. … The lack has to be filled with Christ, always. (244-245)

Love is kind.

Words can blast the kindness right off the walls…. (246)

Pride … is the biggest destroyer of love. … Humility says, “I respect your needs and desires. I want to hear your heart so that I can bless you. I want to know you and respect you deeply. What you think and experience is more important to me than how I feel right now. How can I help you?” (249)

Love never fails.

No [spouse] is perfect, but love can be. (250)

The worst times have been the times when I have expected [my husband] to be God and trusted in man instead of Christ. (250)

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The best times have been when I have raised my hands upward and let God be the artist painting the canvas of our future and rested in the Creator’s hands. (251)

We have a true Prince who is coming back for us one day, who loves us perfectly, without fail. The best thing we can do is lean in and listen for His still, small voice. Listen well. Love much. Fear nothing. Believe for more. (251)

Some of the Myths about Sex

The real battle in life is always to know and believe truth. As we recognize the lies that we are believing, we replace them with truth.

Here are several of the lies that are exposed in 21 Myths and the truth that replaces them:

Myth (or lie): If I’ve already been sexually active, it’s too late for me to be pure.
Truth: Forgiveness purifies you.

Myth: Abortion is the removal of unwanted tissue.
Truth: Abortion may cause trauma to the soul.

Myth: The body and soul are separate.
Truth: The body and soul are connected.

Myth: Being sexually active won’t hurt me.
Truth: Anything outside of God’s best for you hurts.

Myth: Casual sex is possible.
Truth: Sex is not casual; sex is binding.

Myth: Singleness is waiting for marriage.
Truth: Both singleness and marriage can be awesome.

These are important truths to know! I am thankful that our God shares with us the truth that sets us free, that heals us, and that enables us to enjoy Him and the lavish love that He has for us.

Book Giveaway

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Barbour Publishing is providing a complimentary copy of 21 Myths. If you would like a chance to receive the book, simply leave a comment on this post by July 2. If your name is chosen in the random drawing, a copy will be mailed directly to you.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Hope for a Hurting Husband

An Open Letter to a Hurting Husband

husband

I know that you are hurting in your marriage. And I realize that it might seem easier to just walk away.

But you haven’t.

I commend you for that because God doesn’t walk away from His covenant partner, either.

Take hope!

Although there has been pain in your marriage, you can have immense hope in the unfailing goodness of God. As you seek to honor God in your marriage, you can be confident that God will enable you to do that. The Scriptures give this encouragement to you:

Do not be discouraged, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God fights for you.

God’s heart is for you. He is for healing. God has obligated Himself to act on behalf of those who are in covenant with Him.

Author and pastor Dave Harvey says,

God is completely, totally, enthusiastically supportive of your every effort to build a strong, God-glorifying marriage.

You can succeed.

You are able to succeed powerfully as a husband. God has created your spirit for strength and for greatness. Regardless of your wife’s actions, you can excel as a husband through your commitment and devotion to her.

This success as a husband is rooted in your commitment to God. It is not based on your wife’s reaction or behavior.

Marriage is not something you wrestle out with your wife; marriage is something you wrestle out with God, just as Jacob did at the Jabbok River. Wrestle until you are able to submit to the blessing.

You succeed as a husband as you remember your pledge before God in the presence of witnesses to love this woman and to be faithful to her “till death do you part.” You remember that you made a sacred vow; and by the enabling of the Spirit of God Himself, you stand with strength to fulfill that pledge.

You commit to fulfill your solemn oath with honor and with integrity, regardless of the cost, because mighty men of God choose to act as God Himself acts. As bearers of His image, godly men uphold covenant promises as God does: with steadfast faithfulness, unintimidated by the threat of loss and undeterred by the pain of sacrifice.

You succeed as a man of strength and greatness when you say to your wife:

I am completely committed to you.

I am devoted to you and to you alone. I have no “back-up” plans.

Even if you reject me, ….

(Click HERE to continue reading.)

Singles, Soulmates, & Marriage

What Singles Need to Know about Marriage

singles

Last week, I was privileged to guest blog on Kristen Hogrefe’s fantastic website, ThinkTrueThoughts, where I shared several “true thoughts” about marriage:

  1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truth.
  2. You can have a great impact on others in the area of marriage.
  3. Purity is a valuable gift to yourself.

Three More Marriage Truths for Singles

This week, I am honored to continue the discussion on ThinkTrueThoughts. This second part answers three questions:

Will marriage make me feel complete?
Will marriage cure my loneliness?
Will marriage provide a soulmate who will make me happy?

Click HERE to continue reading.

 

 

Some True Thoughts for Singles

On her excellent website ThinkTrueThoughts, Kristen Hogrefe encourages her readers to do just that! Is there anything more important than thinking true thoughts? Believing truth is what brings joy, inner health, and successful living.
 
This week and next, I am honored to be a guest blogger on Kristen’s site as I share some true thoughts for singles about marriage:

Why should singles care about the topic of marriage?

singles

If marriage is not on your radar or even on your wish list, you may think that the subject is not relevant for you right now. But regardless of your marital status, you will benefit from understanding the divine design for marriage.

Here are six important things to know about marriage.

#1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truths.

When we look at the universe, we know that there is a God. And when we look at marriage, we learn who this God is. The created world reveals the existence of God, but marriage reveals the nature and character of God. We learn that He is a God of relationship and that He is loyal and loving.

In the Scriptures, God makes a stunning claim:

For your Creator will be your husband.
(Isaiah 54:5, NLT)

God will be our husband? What does that mean?

 

Mountain-Moving Faith

Need to move any mountains?

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt,
not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”
(Matthew 21:21, NIV)

mountain-moving faithWhat is this faith that shrivels fig trees and tosses mountains into the sea?

It must be more than believing that “God can.” There have been times when I have believed that, and the mountain did not budge. And it must be more than believing that “God will.” There have been times when I have believed that, and the mountain just laughed.

Achieving or receiving?

I don’t claim to have the final answer on faith. But here is an aspect of faith that I am learning:

Faith is often an act of receiving.

Faith is always active, but it is not always an act of accomplishing or achieving. Primarily, it an act of receiving.

Faith is not grabbing something as much as it is holding out empty hands. Perhaps a quick willingness to receive is part of the childlike quality that Christ commended to us:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child
will never enter it.”
(Mark 10:15, NLT)mountain-moving faith

Mountain-moving faith must have a spiritual emptiness which God can then fill. This kind of belief is not a gathered-up power; it is more of a posture. It is the mode of receiving. It is the very opposite of what we usually do when we want something: we try to grab!

Rather than commanding God, faith is the act of submitting to God. It is submitting to receive. It is the act of opening, the act of rolling out a red carpet of expectancy. It is submitting to the will and goodness of God.

Causing or allowing?

This kind of faith is not about causing something to happen as much as it is about allowing something to happen. It is about creating spiritual space that God can infuse with His power.

This helps us understand why God cannot forgive us if we do not forgive others. Bitterness causes us to close our spirits. Resentment is actually a lack of faith in God. We don’t trust His justice and goodness enough to relinquish the matter to His care. When we close our spirits to others, we are closing our hands to God. We no longer have an inner openness that can receive from Him.

Adam and Eve were the first to close their spirits to God. Instead of living with “open hands” before the LORD, Adam and Eve decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of remaining in a posture of receiving from God, they grabbed for themselves. And then, in a futile attempt to cover their shame, they picked leaves from a fig tree—leaves which soon shriveled.

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Was that first fig tree related to the tree that Jesus cursed in Jerusalem? Of course, I don’t know that, but I think we can link them a bit in symbolism.[i] The fig leaves that Adam and Eve wore represent their closed spirits and their lack of faith in the goodness of God. When we resist God, it is as if we are wearing spiritual fig leaves. We will experience shriveled spirits unless we open ourselves again to the Spirit of God. Like sap flowing through a tree, the Spirit will revive us, and He will produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

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Prepare to see some mountains move!

 

 

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[i] I think that the primary symbolism of the cursed fig tree is a denunciation of the “false advertising” of empty religion, which is full of “leafy” deeds to show off but which bears no fruit to feed hungry souls.

 

Overcoming the Overwhelming

We make complicated messes.
God gives simple instructions.
The enemy tries to confuse and bewilder and overwhelm.
We try to figure out the tangled, jumbled-up complexities;
but with each broken piece we pick up,
we become more perplexed.
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

 

God gives simple instructions.
“Humble yourselves.”
We may not like God’s instructions, but they are simple.
“Forgive.”
They may not be easy, but they are simple.
“Serve.”
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

God says, “What’s in your hand?”
With what we have, we can love.
Wash feet.
Show kindness.
Move toward.
Be for.
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

We have complicated messes of “he said; she said; but he didn’t; and then she did….”
God says,
“Be still.
Know that I am God.
Trust Me,
and love.”

What Are You Celebrating?

Interested in a FUN way to strengthen your relationships, including your marriage?

Through an extensive review of studies on productivity and relationships, blogger Eric Barker discovered a common factor. He realized that this one thing strengthened friendships, boosted success in the work place, increased happiness, and strengthened motivation:

celebration!¹

celebrating

In summarizing his findings, Eric made this unexpected suggestion:

Want a better relationship? Spend more time celebrating the good things.

He explained further: “Studies show divorce isn’t usually caused by an increase in problems. It’s often caused by a decrease in positive feelings.”

Here is how Eric summed it up:

Stop trying to fix the bad and focus on relishing the good. That’s what makes marriages last.

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Of course, there may be things in your marriage that must be addressed and boundaries that must be maintained. However, we can easily become consumed with problems and fixated on the negative.

We forget the core of marriage: delighting in one another.

God delights in us, and He longs for us to delight in Him. When we forget to center our lives on enjoying Christ and savoring Him, we become spiritually dry. The Christian life becomes one of effort and plodding duty. But when we relish the generous goodness and lavish love of Christ, we thrive. We gain spiritual radiance.

Our marriages are similar. When our relationships are all effort and duty, we become unbalanced, and we snuff out the sparks of joy.

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I love seeing how much God values celebration! The words “celebrate” and “celebration” appear in the NLT version of the Bible 131 times. God created many amazing feasts for His people to celebrate every year, and He is preparing for us the most incredible celebration of all, “the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7, NLT).

You weren’t about to say that you have nothing to celebrate, were you? That’s good because

you can always celebrate!

celebrating

All you need is a grateful heart. Add a balloon, or a bit of confetti, a handmade sign, a plate of cookies, or even a single candle in a muffin, and—viola!—you have a celebration.

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Celebrate the good things you have received from God. Celebrate daily victories, little joys, small steps, warm smiles.

celebrating

Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day … (Ecclesiastes 9:9, MSG).

celebrating

Celebrate the big stuff, and celebrate the little things, too. Celebrate with gratitude to God, who is the Giver of every good thing.

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Here’s something to celebrate: Pentecost is coming up soon! This festive holy-day will be on May 15 this year.  Be sure to take a minute–or a meal–to celebrate the awesome gift of God’s Spirit to His people.

BookCoverImageMy family and I have enjoyed celebrating God’s good gifts to us through simple adaptations of the Biblical feasts. To share these activities with others, I recently wrote a book entitled, Simple Celebrations: Practical Ways to Enjoy the Biblical Feasts.

This book provides step-by- step instructions for celebrating God’s goodness through the symbolism and festivity of the Biblical feasts. Simple Celebrations explains how to enjoy Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and Purim in meaningful ways. The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

 

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So … what you are celebrating?

Blessings to you,
Tami

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¹http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2016/05/way-to-improve/

 

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

Have you heard that trials increase our faith? “Trials and troubles … are treadmills for the soul.”[i]

faith

That certainly may be true. But if trials increase faith, then we should be muscle-bulging spiritual giants and we should be surrounded by people of massive faith. We have no lack of trials, but we often have a lack of faith.

Clearly, it is not trials themselves which develop our faith.

In fact, our problems present as much opportunity to weaken faith as they do to strengthen it. Satan wants to use our trials for his destructive purposes, just as God wants to use our trials for His life-giving purposes. What makes the difference, then?

How can we go through tough times so that we are strengthened instead of shredded?

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

  • Who has our ear?
  • Who has caught our eye?

We always have the choice to listen either to our circumstances or to our God. We always have the choice to focus our gaze either on our circumstances or on our God. One will be a misty fog to us, and the other will be a solid rock.

faith

If we listen to the enemy speaking to us through our circumstances, we will hear faith-crumbling lies about God. We will hear that He doesn’t care, doesn’t know, or doesn’t have enough power. If we put our eyes on our circumstances, God will seem to be an unreliable vapor to us.

If, however, we listen to God’s voice as we go through trials, we will hear faith-building truth. Not only will we hear about God’s love, wisdom, and power, but we will witness them firsthand.

What does increase our faith?

If faith does not come from trials, from where does it come? The Scriptures explain that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we experience problems in life, we must open the Scriptures and listen to the promises of God. We can then take those promises, throw them down like planks over a ditch, and walk on them.

faith

Robert Morgan says that we will “never encounter any situation for which God has not provided a precious promise to bear us through it.”[ii]

How is faith like a fish?

Thomas Watson, a Puritan from the seventeenth century, had another great word-picture for this same concept. He said, “Faith lives in a promise, as the fish lives in the water.”[iii]

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If you are going through a trial without living in a promise, then your faith will struggle like a fish out of water!

Ask God for His specific promise for you in the trial you are facing now. Plant your feet in it. Cling to it. Swim in it!

Who has your ear? Your problems, or your God?
Who has caught your eye? Your troubles, or the beauty of Christ?
Let your circumstances be the temporary mist. Let God be your immovable, eternal Rock.

When you focus on God, your trials will serve you. They will strengthen your faith, expand your capacity for joy, and maximize your delight in the glories of Jesus Christ.

 

 

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[i] Robert Morgan. The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times. Nelson. 2001. 96.
[ii] ibid. 102-103.
[iii] ibid. 103.

The Seven Rings of Marriage

The Seven Rings of Marriage is a new book by a new author. Jackie Bledsoe has a sincere passion to share what he’s learning in his marriage to encourage others in their marriages. His fervency is the strength of this book.

Seven Rings

The High Value of Marriage

I greatly appreciate the high value that Jackie puts on marriage. This treasuring of marriage reflects the heart of God, and it is something we jettison to our own loss.

Jackie excels in speaking directly to other husbands. His style is that of a friend who is urging his buddies on and sharing advice from his own life. With an earnest voice, he maintains an unwavering focus on strengthening marriages.

Champion Husbands

Jackie does a great job of calling husbands to be heroes in their marriages. He says that he learned from Kevin Bullard that “[o]ne of the root meanings of the Hebrew word husband actually means ‘champion.’” Speaking to husbands, Jackie explains that God wants men to be champions in the way they love their wives:

“As the champion in our marriages, we have a twofold role: (1) defeat our rivals, and (2) fight on the behalf of our wives. We do this by caring and feeding her spiritually while we advance together against the enemies of our union.”

He concedes that this “won’t always be easy or even always enjoyable. But the person we are fighting for and with is worth anything we have to go through on the way.” (page 31)

Jackie is a list-maker. He includes lists of how to be a happy husband, how marriage counseling can help your marriage, 25 fun date-night ideas, why you must attend marriage retreats, habits that create unbreakable marriages, and many more. Here are two of his lists:

How to Restore Friendship in Your Marriage:

  • Go back to basics. (Show kindness and respect.)
  • Stop saying yes to everybody else.
  • Get desperate about date nights.
  • Talk, talk, and talk some more.
  • Prioritize your friendship. (121-122)

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Enrich Your Prayer Time with Your Spouse:

  • Choose a time but be flexible.
  • Pray alone before praying together.
  • Thank God and praise Him for your spouse.
  • Use Scripture for your prayers.
  • Write a prayer and read it.
  • Start short.
  • Show some affection. (46-47)

The Model Husband

Here is some further advice from Jackie:

“Do you really want to love your wife and prosper in your marriage? The solution is simple. Do what Jesus did.

“Jesus loved His bride. … He gave up what was most important for Him when it conflicted with what was best for her, the church. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice, His life. His life was important, probably more important than anything we are holding on to. The Bible shows us the conflicting emotions He had while praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He didn’t want to suffer, but He knew doing so would be the greatest blessing for His bride.

“He constantly built her up, and His relationship with her made her look even better. … Ephesians 5:27 says He makes the church look radiant (NIV). Husbands, we should constantly encourage our wives, and the result will be beautiful.” (148-149)

While the writing in The Seven Rings of Marriage could be improved, Jackie Bledsoe’s passion to strengthen marriages is faultless. Kudos to Jackie Bledsoe for being a great champion of marriages!

And may God bless YOU for being a champion in your marriage!

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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (2nd image)

The Blessing: 5 Elements of a Life-Changing Gift

Earlier this month, Gary Smalley crossed the finish line and entered heaven. I was one of the many who were blessed by his writing and speaking.  As he ran the race that God had marked out for him, Gary shared some wonderful truths that he was learning along the way.

Be a Blessing!

Gary Smalley wrote sixteen award-winning books, selling over five million copies. One of those best-sellers was The Blessing, co-authored with John Trent. The Blessing explains how we can give a powerful blessing to our children, our spouses, our parents, and our friends.

Bless Your Children

Parents can give their children a life-changing blessing. In Biblical times, this blessing was a important, well-understood part of  family life.

Do you remember the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau as they battled for their father’s blessing? The Genesis account is dramatic and heart-wrenching.

007-jacob-deceives                          008-jacob-deceives

In our culture today, we are not familiar with the concept of blessing, but it is just as important as ever. If we do not receive a blessing from our parents, that sense of loss can plague us our entire lives.

Our desire for the approval and affirmation of our parents is a strong, innate longing. It is critically important to learn how to give this great treasure to our children.

blessing

There are five elements of the blessing:

  1. meaningful touch

  2. a spoken message of love and acceptance

  3. attaching “high value” to the person being blessed

  4. picturing a special future for that person

  5. an active commitment to fulfill the blessing[i]

Bless Your Spouse

Giving a blessing to our spouses will also make a profound difference in our marriages.couple

  1. We can touch in ways that convey concern, affection, and encouragement.
  2. Every day, we can speak words of admiration, gratitude, and appreciation.
  3. We can choose to attach high value to our spouses, and we can be deliberate in expressing that high value to them.

In Hebrew, to “bow the knee” is the root meaning of blessing. … Bowing before someone is a graphic picture of valuing that person. … Anytime we bless someone, we are attaching high value to him or her. [ii]

  1. We can picture a future for our spouses that is full of hope, growth, success, and joy.
  2. We can express active commitment to our spouses. This is the “glue” that holds the blessing together.

In fact, this final element of the blessing is at the heart of “cleaving” in a marriage. When the Scriptures tell us to “cleave to our spouse” (Gen. 2:24), the root word in Hebrew means “to cling, to be firmly attached.”[iii]

touch

Bless Your Friends

You can bless your friends with these same five elements. The fantastic friendship of David and Jonathan provides a great model. If you review their story, you will see how they gave each element of blessing to one another. (See 1 Samuel 18 and 20.)

And Be Blessed!

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.”[iv]

If you are God’s child and His friend, He will give you His blessing, which is the richest of all blessings.

  1. You can feel His touch through His Spirit within you. God says that He holds your hand. (Isaiah 41:13)
  2. You can hear His words of love through the Scripture. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  3. You can be amazed by the high value which He attaches to you. (Genesis 1:27, Deuteronomy 7:6, Psalm 147:11, Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:4, Isaiah 49:15-16, Zechariah 2:8, Romans 8:32, Ephesians 1:3-5)
  4. You can look forward to the glorious future that He has planned for you. (Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 1:6, Revelation 21:4)
  5. You can rest in His active, loyal commitment to you. (Deuteronomy 41:8, Psalm 136, Psalm 94:14)

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We are going through The Red Sea Rules on our weekly prayer call, held every Thursday. You are invited to pray with us!  You can join us HERE. You can also listen to past recordings HERE.

May God bless you and your home with His life-giving power as you celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend!

Blessings to you,
Tami

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[i] p. 25. Thomas Nelson, 1986.

[ii] p. 67

[iii] p. 177

[iv] Proverbs 11:25, MSG

Who You Are, and What You’re Worth

If you are trying to build up your value, or if you are working to create a satisfying identity, you can lay those heavy burdens down.

identity

I listened to my friend recently as she lamented that her sense of identity had seemed to unravel like yarn being pulled from a sweater:

“I  thought I was doing great. I was getting stuff done and feeling rather talented. But lately, I have been feeling completely incompetent. Maybe even worthless.  I’m overwhelmed with demands that I can’t meet. I can’t even keep my closets organized!”

We all need reminders of our true identity and worth. If you feel that a messy closet—or a messy life—is messing with your value, here’s some great truth for you:

Your value is built in.

You are a masterpiece, bearing the fingerprints and signature of God. You are created in His image to reflect His beauty and strength to others. You are created in His image in order to enjoy Him with true delight and pleasure. 

Your identity is not found in your good looks or your talents or your personality or your accomplishments.  If you are in covenant with Christ, then you have the most fantastic identity possible:

“I am His.”

You belong to Christ as His beloved. You are His.

identity

“I am His.”

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
(Isaiah 43:1, HCSB)

You are deeply desired, passionately pursued, forever cherished.

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17, NIV, NLT)

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You belong to One who knows you—the real you. He knows everything about you; and in the midst of all the knowing, He loves you. He is unfailing in His commitment to you, and He is unwavering in His devotion. He is your intimate friend, your Gentle Shepherd, and your awesomely perfect God.

“My beloved is mine and I am his.”
(Song of Songs 2:16, NIV)

“I am His.”

All the circumstances of your life are just props for this great Love story. Messy closets, difficult relationships, fussy babies, demanding work assignments, physical challenges, financial pressures—all of these are backdrops for living out the truth that you are His beloved.

Made in His image, you can reflect Him in your circumstances. Your goal is no longer to control circumstances or to impress people. God has established your value, and He is the One who controls the details of your life for you. You can focus on being impressed with Him. He is the One who will make your name great (Genesis 12:2), and He is the One who will share His glory with you (2 Thessalonians 2:14, Romans 8:17).

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Deeply and perfectly loved by Him, you can walk through this day with the goal of loving Him back, following His guidance. That might mean cleaning a closet. Or it might mean shoving another stray shoe into that closet and just trying to get the door to close, for now.

But your value is unchanging: you are priceless.

And your identity is solid: you are His.


If you are interested in learning more about who you are and what you’re worth, you will enjoy reading “Beautiful and Beloved,” the first chapter in Devoted: Pressing in to Know Christ More.

Handling Hurt: 5 Steps for Healing

We live in a world of hurt, don’t we?

We are not quite the walking dead, but we are the walking wounded. We know how to feel hurt and how to cause hurt, but who knows how to heal?

Mercifully, “the God of all comfort” specializes in healing. As our tender-hearted Physician, God provides a five-step prescription for handling hurt. These principles are effective in treating our injured hearts, whether the wounds are minor or severe.

The first step is easy:

1. Say, “Ouch!”

Acknowledging pain is a great place to start because saying, “ouch!”  focuses attention on an area that may need treatment.

Just remember to say, “I’m hurting” without throwing any emotional punches yourself!

2. Put your wound in the Light.

As you bring the situation to the Lord, let your heart be fully exposed.

“Everything exposed by the light [of Christ] is made clear,
for what makes everything clear is light.”
Ephesians 5:13-14, HCSB

Talk to God with honesty and openness. He will talk to you with love and wisdom.

“Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him in prayer….”
Lamentations 2:19, NLT

“But for you who fear [the LORD’s] name,
the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”
Malachi 4:2, NLT

Just as the rays of sunshine penetrate your body with warmth when you lie in the sun, so the soothing rays of Christ will penetrate your spirit with healing as you lay your heart open before Him.

3. Allow the antiseptic of His Presence to cover the situation.

Put your eyes on your Lord, knowing that He has put His eyes on your pain. Ask Christ to put His Hands all over the situation, as you take your controlling or punishing hands off.

Take Him up on His incredible offer to “take your hits” and to be your Shield. (See Psalm 18:2, 84:11, and 91:4.) Accept His unbelievable offer to carry the weight of this situation. (See Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 11:28.)

“But You, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.”
Psalm 3:3, HCSB

When God belongs to you as your God, then your pain belongs to Him as His pain. Every hurt given to Christ is redeemed, for He knows how to use every drop of pain to gain a far-exceeding glory. He knows how to turn the ashes of your pain inside out into the beauty of joy (Isaiah 61:3).

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT

4. Guard against spiritual infection.

Be vigilant in preventing contamination from your own unhealthy responses, such as fear or anger. The Scriptures urge great caution against the spiritual virus of bitterness, which contaminates and spreads quickly (Hebrews 12:15).

Maintain zero-tolerance for toxic bitterness, vengeance (including the silent treatment), and poisonous self-pity (which is resentment in disguise). 

“See to it … that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Hebrews 12:15, NIV

 5. Apply the potent, soothing promises of Scripture.

God promises to heal our inner wounds through His Word: “He sent His word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20, HCSB). 

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3, NLT

Soak in the healing waters of God’s truth until they seep into the very pores of your spirit.

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hurt

hurt

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal” (Isaiah 58:8, NLT).

hurt

A Different Kind of Valentine

I just spent an hour reading Valentine’s Day cards in a couple stores today. I am quite sure that I will be seeing red hearts when I close my eyes tonight.

Valentine

Spending an hour looking at greeting cards might sound painful to you. But that’s not the pitiful part. The sad thing is that I did not find a card for my husband, after all that.

But I have an idea:
[Click HERE to continue reading the article at StartMarriageRight.com.]

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
Tami

 

 

The ABC’s of Worship (Part 2)

Have you ever used the alphabet to spur your responses of worship to the Lord?

Last fall, I shared with you several graphics that used the letters of the alphabet to structure a prayer of praise to the Lord. (Click here for “The ABC’s of Praise.”)

Today, I would like to share something similar. However, instead of an alphabetical listing of the attributes of God, this is an alphabetical listing of our responses to the Lord. (Of course, as you worship through the alphabet, you will think of other responses to add to this collection.)

Before each of the phrases listed below, insert the word “I.”

Lord, I …

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Honor You

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Savor You (1)

Worship You

May each day of this New Year be filled with sincere worship from our hearts.

 

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Photo credit: “Daffodil Blooming Through The Snow” by Serge Bertasius

Is God’s Will for You a Mystery?

Sometimes, God’s Will can be a real mystery to us.

At other times,  it can seem rather mundane. But we can learn from several fascinating stories how to push through the mysterious and mundane into the marvelous!

Kings have dreams.

In ancient Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. When he awoke, he called all of his wise men and advisers. He said to them, “Tell me my dream. Tell me what it was, and then tell me what it means.”

Of course, no one could tell the king what his dream had been. Even when threatened with execution, the counselors could not tell the king what he had dreamed.

This impossible request reminds me of the game that my youngest child invented when she was a preschooler. When we were at the pool one day, Grace announced, “I am going to go under the water and think about a song. When I come back up, you tell me what I was thinking!”

God's Will

The rest of the family thought this was hilarious, which only encouraged Grace in her unusual game. However, we soon discovered that it was not as difficult as it could have been because Grace’s mental collection of songs was apparently limited to “Happy Birthday” (her most popular choice), “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and an occasional “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Grace’s game was not very hard, but King Nebuchadnezzar’s challenge was truly impossible! His astrologers and sorcerers had no clues. This was no game at the pool; it was a life-or-death matter.

One of the king’s wise men was Daniel, who actually was a wise man and who knew what to do. He prayed to God, for he understood that “God is a revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:29, NIV).

Sometimes, we are in a similar situation. The King of Kings has a “dream” for us, so to speak. We understand that God has a plan for us, and we say, “God, if You will just tell me what the plan is, I will do it.” But we can’t figure out what this great mystery is!

We may be struggling with a career decision or a relationship challenge. Certainly in marriage, we face some mysteries! The hearts of our spouses—and even our own hearts—are deep mysteries, indeed. We may be saying, “God, I want to do what You want to me to do in my marriage; but God, for the life of me, I cannot figure out what that is!”

God reveals mysteries to those who seek Him.

But our King is not like King Nebuchadnezzar because our King loves to make known His dream to His people. God does has a dream for your life. He does have a plan for your marriage today, and He is not going to keep it hidden from you! Instead, God promises to be the Revealer of mysteries, and He will show you what you need to know for today.

I notice that Daniel did not learn what the king’s dream was until the very night before his scheduled execution. He had only a few hours to get this right! That is relevant to us, too. God does not usually show us the five-year-plan that we would love to see, but He always gives us the wisdom and the knowledge that we need for today. Always.

Notice Daniel’s prayer:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his. …
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king. (Daniel 2:20-23, NIV)

God delights in answering our prayers for wisdom. (See Proverbs 2:6 and James 1:5.) If we ask God to reveal the mysteries of His will for us, we will be able to pray this same prayer that Daniel prayed. We can say, “Wow, God! You are going to show me deep and hidden things that I would never be able to know on my own. You will give me wisdom to know how to love my spouse well, and You will give me the power to carry out what You ask me to do.”

That is awesome! We have great confidence that our King not only has a dream, but that He reveals it to us at the perfect time.

We can lose that confidence, however, when God’s instructions to us are not what we expect. Sometimes we ask God to reveal His will, He tells us what to do, and then we respond like Simon Peter did one time.

Keep doing what God tells you to do.

Crowds of people had gathered beside a lake to listen to Jesus.

Then [Jesus] sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” (Luke 5:4-5, NIV)

I can identify with that response! Sometimes we ask God for wisdom, He tells us what to do, and then we say, “Lord, I have done that! I did that all night long and caught nothing!”

Maybe you are saying, “God, I did that all year long!” or “I did that for the past decade! I worked very hard, and I am exhausted. I tried doing what You said to do, but I caught nothing. Nothing has changed; nothing is working.”

As we listen carefully to God, we may hear Him say, “Go back out there. In fact, go out even deeper.” That instruction seems to indicate a level of commitment. Perhaps God is asking us to throw ourselves back into working on our marriages, to keep “putting down the nets.” Perhaps we are to go even deeper—that is, we are to commit ourselves to a greater extent than ever before.

And then do it some more.

We sometimes say, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” That is certainly true in many situations, but spiritually, that statement does not always apply because we often do not see what is happening in the spiritual realm.

Jesus once told a story about a widow who persisted in her legal appeals to an unjust judge. (See Luke 18:1-8.) This hard-hearted man refused to help, but the widow kept going back to him. The Bible doesn’t say that she finally came up with a new approach, wore a different dress, or thought of a new thing to say. She just kept “putting down the nets.”

God's Will

And then … the breakthrough came. It came not because the widow did something different; it came because she kept doing the same thing!

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Do you remember Naaman, who had leprosy? (You can read his story in 2 Kings 5.)  He dipped down into the waters of the Jordan River six times–and six times, nothing happened. Naaman did not see a little bit of improvement after the first dip into the river, and then a bit more improvement after the second dip. There was no visible progress at all! Naaman kept doing the same thing because God told him to do it. And then … God performed the miraculous. Naaman dipped down for the seventh time, and this time, he stood up as a completely healed man.

naaman

This is exactly what God does in our marriages sometimes! God says, “Get back out there, and see what I am going do.” And we obey for the same reason that Simon Peter obeyed:  “Because You say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Peter was saying, in other words, “I am not doing this because it seems smart to me, or because I figured it out. I am doing it simply and entirely because You tell me to do it.”

throw net

That is a good attitude for us, too, in our marriages. When we know that God has told us to keep on doing what we have been doing, we say, “Lord, I have done this already, but because You say so, I am going to keep doing it.”

When Simon and the other fishermen obeyed Christ, they caught so many fish that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink! Simon was awestruck. Everyone was amazed.

net full

If we are faithful to do what God tells us to do, we are going to be astonished. We can trust God’s instruction to us even though it seems that we are just doing the same thing  … and then doing the same thing again!

You are going to be amazed!

But if we will persevere, God will overwhelm us with spiritual fruit. We are going to be amazed at what God is achieving through our persistent, ordinary obedience. If we trust and obey, we are going to be astonished. We are going to overflow with joy because of what God accomplishes through our obedience.

Let’s ask God to reveal the mysteries of His will. 
Let’s do whatever He asks.
Let’s be amazed.

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“Is God’s Will for You a Mystery?”  is a transcript of last week’s prayer call. Every Thursday, we gather by phone or online to “fight on our knees” for our marriages and families.

You are invited to join us!

The call lasts only 15 minutes. For more information, click HERE for the prayer page at MannaForMarriage.com.

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Photo credit:  “Smiling Little Girl Swimming” by David Castillo Dominici

Christmas Prayer

In Psalm 18:35, God says that He stoops down to make us great. Isn’t that incredible?

I think that also sums up the wonderful message of Christmas: God came down to lift us up. How amazing!

I wrote about Psalm 18:35, Christmas, and marriage in “A Christmas Prayer for Our Marriages.” Click on the image to read the prayer.

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Merry Christmas!

Blessings to you,
Tami

Merry Christmas!

Christmas

God saw
that His creation,
though beloved still,
was beautiful no more.

Broken,
it was
riddled with rebellion
and fractured with hatred;
and the great heart of God was
broken.

Like a tear,
the immense love of God for the people of Earth welled up
and spilled out,
descending
like a brilliant star
through the universe
before appearing
as a baby in a bed of straw.

And this was
Christmas.

Christmas

This God who loves us
loves us enough
to enter our sorrow and make it His own
that we would be His own
and that our comfort would be
this God-with-us.

As we behold Him
unceasingly
may we adore Him,
this Christ of Christmas,
this very Glory of God.

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Book Sale

Through the end of December,  the code  RF2D3P97 is valid for a 15% discount on any book purchased through the Books page on the Manna for Marriage website.

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Merry Christmas, everyone! 

I pray that the God of all comfort, Jesus Christ, will be more precious to us than ever before during this Christmas, and I pray that we will treasure Him as never before in the coming year.

 

Battling Bitterness

A Strategy to Target Bitterness

If I were your enemy, I’d use every opportunity to bring old wounds to mind. … I’d try to ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.” (page 151)

With this insight, Priscilla Shirer begins her discussion of a prayer strategy to combat bitterness. Battling bitterness is not only a very common struggle, but it is also an especially fierce one, don’t you think?

Here are some more excerpts from the chapter entitled, “Your Hurts,” from the book Fervent:

  • Your spiritual enemy, Satan, “wants you long-term angry. And he can use even the lightest offense to do it. … He wants your heart coated with the calluses of resentment, crippled by offenses from your past. Unforgiveness is his design to ‘outwit’ you—to keep you not only bruised and bleeding but unable to experience any power in your prayers or intimacy with your Father.” (157)
  • The enemy of your soul “wants you baking in unforgiveness until your spiritual life is hard and crisp around the edges. Lifeless. Comatose. But Jesus … He wants you free. That’s what He created you for.” (159)
    bitterness
  • “Unforgiveness puts us in prime position for demonic influence and activity to take advantage of us.” (169)
  • The “forgiveness you don’t have any desire to give right now can be amazingly enabled through prayer. … The real facts and details don’t change as you get real with God in prayer. But get ready for some other pieces of information to bubble up to the surface as well, as the Spirit and the Scripture come together in agreement on how you need to handle things.” (161)
  • “The enemy, of course, will want you to balk at this part. He’s been banking on keeping these solutions hidden from you and convincing you that anger and bitterness are the most productive, protective ways of managing the situation.” (161-162)
  • “Forgiveness is God’s command. And it comes with a promise that He will provide us the companion power to pull it off. Don’t expect any other solution to work or to change anything, except for the worse.” (162)

3 Steps to Victory

We can demolish enemy lies with God’s truth. We can follow the three steps of spiritual warfare to destroy the enemy attack of bitterness:

  1. When we are bitter, we are believing a lie—always. So the first step is to ask God, “What specific lie am I believing?” Perhaps we think, “Someone else is ruining God’s good plans for me,” or “I am missing out on something good.” Maybe we believe the lie that we must be in control in order to be happy, or the lie that our worth is based on how others treat us.
  2. The second step is to identify Scripture that replaces the lie with truth. I can’t believe that someone else is messing up God’s plan for me if I believe Job 42:2:bitterness
    I can’t believe that I am missing out on something good if I believe Psalm 84:11:bitterness
  1. The third step is to flood your thinking and your spirit with the water of the Word so that the lie is washed away.

A Surprising Truth about Bitterness

God is helping me to understand this startling truth:

My struggle to forgive is actually a struggle with God.

I think I am wrestling in my spirit with someone who has wronged me. But that is another lie! Here is the truth:

I am wrestling with God,
saying that He should not have allowed this to happen,
and saying that He is not taking good care of me.

When I recognize this lie, I can target the real problem in my spirit. I can reorient my thinking. God wants to transform me through the renewal of my mind (Romans 12:2).  I can choose to trust the goodness of God. I can rest in knowing that my Good Shepherd really is taking good care of me.

When I trust the goodness of God, I experience His peace.

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The light of His Presence utterly dispels the darkness of bitterness.

bitterness

May the Spirit of God enable us to keep our eyes on Jesus, to cast ourselves upon His goodness, and to rest in His immense love.

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Last call for a giveaway copy of Fervent:

prayer strategies

Just let me know by Friday, December 11, if you would like a chance to win a complimentary copy of Fervent, and I will enter your name into the drawing.

 

Turn Your “Hit-or-Miss” Prayers into Targeted Prayer Strategies

What are your prayer strategies? Could you use some?

prayer strategies

We understand that we are in a spiritual battle. We “wrestle not with flesh and blood,” but against spiritual forces. We wage this battle through prayer, fighting on our knees.

But do we understand the need for clear battle strategies? Do we fling our prayers out in a hit-or-miss fashion, or do we have a defined plan and target?

We need focused prayer strategies which will effectively devastate the works of our spiritual enemy. But what are these strategies? And how do we get them?

To develop a successful strategy, we must
1) evaluate the methods of the enemy,
and then
2) devise a plan to counter those schemes.
The strategy is both offensive and defensive.

3 Steps to a Powerful Strategy

The enemy’s primary strategy is to deceive.  Here, then,  is how you can develop the prayer strategies that you need to be victorious:

1. What lies does the enemy tempt you to believe? What lies does he tempt your spouse or family member to believe? Identify those specific lies. Those are the specific weapons that you must oppose through prayer.

2. What truth defeats those lies? Stockpile Scriptures which specifically express the truth which will demolish the deception that the enemy is using.

3. Pray those Scriptures, and believe that truth. As you do that, you are using a definite prayer strategy to gain spiritual victory. You are fighting effectively, with precision and with power.

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An Example

For example, if I am struggling with discouragement, I can develop a targeted prayer strategy by using those three steps:

  1. What lie am I believing? Perhaps God’s Spirit shows me that I am believing this lie: “my success comes from visible accomplishments.”
  2. What truth defeats that lie? The Scripture says that my success lies in my obedience to Christ. My goal is to please Christ—not impress others or myself.
  3. My prayer strategy is to pray these Scriptures:

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” (Joshua 1:8, NLT)

“Walk in obedience” to the LORD, “so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you do.” (1 Kings 2:3, NIV and NLT)

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

A Helpful Resource

prayer strategies

I recently read Priscilla Shirer’s new book Fervent, which is a resource designed to accompany the movie War Room. The book’s subtitle is A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. (These strategies form a powerful battle plan for men, too!)

Priscilla does a fantastic job of examining nine definite prayer strategies, each discussed in a separate chapter. I like the way she begins each chapter with a short analysis of the enemy perspective. It is very helpful for us to grasp that! It is precisely what C.S. Lewis creatively expressed in his Screwtape Letters. When we understand the enemy’s viewpoint and objectives, we can develop powerful counter-strategies.

Next week, I will share a couple of the prayer strategies from Fervent.

A Giveaway for YouImage courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanks to B&H Publishing, I have a copy of Fervent to give away. Simply leave a comment on this post if you would like to be entered into the drawing for a chance to win a copy of Fervent. This book will encourage and strengthen your prayer life.

 

10 Commandments … for Marriage

When God made a covenant with His people at Mount Sinai, He clarified the guidelines which would best nurture a healthy relationship. The Ten Commandments were given as principles which would guard the covenant.

10 commandments

Just as there are principles which protect our relationship with God, our Covenant Partner, so there are principles which protect our relationship with our earthly covenant partner. The guidelines are very similar since the two covenants are parallel relationships.

May I suggest, then, the Ten Commandments for Marriage?

Click HERE to continue reading.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And the winner is …

We have a winner for the 25 Questions book giveaway! Moody Publishers will be mailing a copy of Juli Slattery’s new book to MELISSA soon. 🙂

To all of you who entered the drawing, thank you for participating.

___________________________________

Mailbox image is courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Questions about Sex and Marriage (Part 3)

Today, I would like to share one last peek into Juli Slattery’s new book, 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask about Love, Sex, and Intimacy. Last week, I discussed a couple of those questions about sex and marriage, and today I would like to look at the last two:

questions about sex and marriage

Chapter 24: How do we fight without hurting each other?

After hearing many marriage experts say that fighting is an unavoidable part of marriage, I am cheering to hear Dr. Slattery say that fighting is actually optional. Yes! It is inevitable that two different people will have two different perspectives, but fighting is optional.

That is some good news to share! There are healthy ways to work through differences without resorting to fighting.

Here are several quotes from this chapter:

Most important issues in a marriage don’t have to be resolved today. … Although it may feel like you need resolution, find your own peace in bringing the issue before the Lord before seeking peace with your spouse. (page 203)

God is teaching me that I could win every argument and still lose my marriage. That perspective helps me practice the self-control and humility required to do conflict well. (205)

Switching from a pattern of fighting … means refusing to make your spouse the enemy and being patient to wait until the right time and setting to talk the issues through in a loving manner.  (206)

You’ll get no fight from me on those points.

Chapter 25: Why wouldn’t God want me to be happy?

This kind of thinking can really trip us up, can’t it?

Here are some of Juli’s thoughts on this topic:

My friend, it requires great faith living within our fallen world to believe that honoring God with every relationship and sexual choice is worthwhile. You may be teased, mocked, and have some lonely seasons. Even then, your loving Father is for your deepest joy. (215)

The question is not about how much God loves you, but how much you love Him. … It is in loving Him and seeking Him that you will find your greatest happiness. (215)

Yes, that’s right! God longs to love us better than we could ever love ourselves. We can trust Him.

questions about sex and marriage

Again, I recommend this very practical book by Juli Slattery.

How you live out your sexuality may seem like a personal decision, but it also tells the world what you believe about God. (214)

I have one copy of 25 Questions to give away, courtesy of Moody Publishers. If you are interested in a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post or reply by email. You may enter the drawing more than once, but no later than November 10.

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

 

 

25 Questions (Part 2)

Last week, I recommended to you Juli Slattery’s new book, 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask about Love, Sex, and Intimacy.

Today and again next week, I want to share several of Juli’s gracious answers to those awkward questions.

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Chapter 1: What’s the big deal about sex?

I was interested to read Juli’s basic “theology” of sex. If someone does not have this foundational piece well-grounded in Biblical truth, then the other pieces may not be solid, either. However, I think Juli is right-on-track with statements such as these:

“[Y]our sexuality is inseparable from your spirituality. In fact, every sexual choice is also a spiritual choice. Sex isn’t just about sex.” (p. 16)

The “walls we build between the sexual and spiritual are only imagery.Confusion and hidden pain related to sex is intricately intertwined with our present relationship with God.” (16)

“God created sex and the covenant of marriage to be a brilliant metaphor of how deeply He knows us and longs for us to know Him.” (16)

“Sexual intimacy is a powerful picture of the gospel—of the degree of intimacy and ecstasy we are capable of having with God.” (17)

What an important understanding! Sex has physical components, obviously, but it is an immensely powerful force—for good or for evil—because of its spiritual dimension. We cannot determine whether particular sexual practices and attitudes are healthy or destructive without knowing that physical marriage parallels spiritual covenant. Unfortunately, in our culture and even in many churches, this is a completely foreign concept.

Chapter 16: How can I compete with porn?

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Click on the graphic for a great list of resources for combating porn.

I want to highlight this question because October 25-31 is WRAP week, designed to focus on the fight against pornography. Porn is a vicious destroyer of marriages, families, and everyone it touches.

Longing for intimacy and affection, many wives feel they must compete with porn. However, this is a phony set-up. Porn does not provide true intimacy and has nothing to do with affection. (By the way, the ministry that Juli Slattery now leads is called Authentic Intimacy.)

In this chapter on porn, Juli writes:

“Ironically, porn can’t even compete with itself. A man using porn doesn’t go back to the same picture or video, but always wants something new …. However, we must remember that porn is NOT intimacy; it is a cheap counterfeit. Your husbands needs more than sex; he was designed for intimacy.” (134)

Juli also provides this encouraging reminder:

“As rampant as pornography and sexual addictions have become, God is still in the business of healing.” (135)

So, how do you compete with porn? You don’t! When you discover mold in your walls, do you try to compete? Of course not. Porn is not something to compete with; it is something to fight against. It is something to resist and defeat.

Interested in a copy of 25 Questions?Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Compliments of Moody Publishers, I am able to give away one copy of 25 Questions.  If you would like a chance to receive this book, simply leave a reply to this post (or email me), and your name will be entered into the drawing. You may enter more than once.

Blessings to you!
Tami

 

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Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

25 Questions about Sex (and 25 Great Answers!)

Hot-off-the-presses of Moody Publishers is this new book by Dr. Juli Slattery:

25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask about Love, Sex, and Intimacy.

25 Questions

If Juli’s name is familiar to you, you may recall that Dr. Slattery was Dr. Dobson’s cohost on Focus on the Family from 2010-2012. A clinical psychologist, Juli has been married for almost 20 years, and she is the mother of three boys.

25 Questions

25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask is easy to read and well organized. Each chapter in this paperback book is fairly short. (The longest is only nine pages.) Written in a stand-alone style, the chapters may be read in any order. The material is very practical and certainly relevant to many. Although the book addresses women, much of the discussion would be just as applicable to men.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely.

I recommend 25 Questions because Juli’s counsel is solidly grounded in Scripture. We may ask the 25 questions with fear, but Juli answers them with grace and insight.

Juli treads a couple “gray areas” more tentatively than I would. Once or twice, she uses a broader brush than I would have chosen, but I agree with her conclusions. Her advice is godly, springing not only from personal experience and extensive counseling, but especially from the wisdom of Scripture.

Here are some of the questions that we’re afraid to ask:

  1. What’s the big deal about sex?
  2. Who are you to judge my sexual choices?
  3. Can I be single and sexual?
  4. Is it wrong to like sex?
  5. And I waited for this?
  6. Why do guys care so much about sex?
  7. Is ____ okay in the bedroom? (You fill in the blank!)
  8. What do my temptations say about me?
  9. How do I get past my shame?
  10. How do I know he is the one?
  11. How far is too far?
  12. Is living together a good test run for marriage?
  13. What if I’m attracted to someone else?
  14. How can I compete with porn?
  15. Can I be godly and gay?
  16. How do I rebuild trust after a betrayal?
  17. Does forgiveness mean I’ll be hurt again?
  18. What if I don’t like sex?
  19. How do I make time to make love?
  20. How do we fight without hurting each other?
  21. Why wouldn’t God want me to be happy?

Over the next couple weeks, I will be sharing a few “choice nuggets” from 25 Questions and summarizing several of Juli’s responses.

Interested in a copy?Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Compliments of Moody Publishers, I am able to give away one copy of 25 Questions.  If you would like a chance to receive this book, simply leave a reply to this post, and your name will be entered into the drawing.

There will be another chance to enter the drawing again next week.  You may enter more than once.

Blessings to you!
Tami

 

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Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

The ABC’s of Praise

the ABC's of praise

On the Thursday prayer call recently, we “entered His courts” by thinking through the letters of the alphabet in order to list praiseworthy things about God. I like to use this simple method because it quickly brings to mind many words that I can use to express my gratitude and adoration. You might like to try this, too!

the ABC's of praise

ABC's of praise

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5 Smooth Pebbles for You (printable Scriptures)

For you today:

I would like to share  five Scriptures that I pray will be an encouragement, refreshment, and strength to you.

When David prepared to meet the fierce giant Goliath,  he put five smooth pebbles in his pouch for his slingshot.  We need to do the same thing!  As we encounter spiritual opposition, our best weapon is the powerful truth of Scripture.

If you would like to print a PDF of these Scriptures, click HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Scriptures Psalm 84:11
Scriptures Psalm 113:3 (photo credit: Mary McKee)


Scriptures Job 42:2

 

Scriptures Zephaniah 3:17

 

Scriptures Psalm 138:8

“War Room”

I saw War Room last night.

war room

This new movie has a fantastic message:

PRAY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE!

The right way to fight in marriage is by fighting on our knees through prayer. We want to fight for our spouses, not against them. We must ask God to fight the real enemy, the spiritual forces of darkness.

Elizabeth, the praying wife in War Room, reads these amazing words in James 4:7:

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (NIV).

As she ponders that incredible promise, Elisabeth sets a beautiful example of submitting herself to God in prayer. She then proceeds to resist Satan by shouting at him, which I am not ready to endorse as the best means of resisting Satan. Although she says that now she is going to let God do the fighting for her, Elisabeth actually tries to do a little direct fighting herself. The Warrior Wife tells Satan, “Go back to hell, where you belong!” It seems to me that that directive should come from Christ. I prefer to follow the example of Michael, the powerful archangel. In a dispute with Satan, Michael “did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'” (Jude 1:9, HCSB).

I am not wanting to be critical. I just want to add this surprising and encouraging truth:

Our submission to God IS resistance to the devil.

Pushing into God is pushing back against the enemy. We sometimes spend a lot of time and energy trying to hold the door closed against Satan. We might forget that our victory comes from something else: it comes from yielding entirely to the Spirit, allowing His Presence and Power to fill us so completely that nothing else can intrude. In other words, instead of trying to hold the door shut against the enemy, I can lay myself down in openness to the Spirit.

I encourage you to see War Room.

I am delighted to see a movie playing in the theatres that honors God, that seeks to strengthen marriages, and that promotes Scripture-based, persistent prayer.

war room

Most of all, I encourage you to pray!

Let’s pray for our own hearts. Let’s pray for our marriages and families. Let’s pray for the people that God has placed in our lives.

And let’s pray the Scriptures. In doing so, our will becomes one with God’s will, and through that unity, power is unleashed, miracles are birthed, and ashes are turned into beauty.

I also invite you to join our ongoing “war room” every Thursday (at 12:30, Eastern time). For 15 minutes, we “fight on our knees” for our marriages and families. Join online or by phone.

Battle on!

Ready for a Challenge?

Here’s one that will strengthen your marriage:  a 30-day prayer challenge.

prayer challenge

During the month of September, FamilyLife is offering a “Oneness Prayer Challenge.” For 30 days, FamilyLife will text or email to you a short devotional and prayer that you and your spouse can share together.

One of the most powerful things you can do for your marriage is to pray with your spouse. One study found that praying together reduces the rate of divorce to less than 1 in 1,000. Wow!

Praying together seems like a simple thing to do, doesn’t it? Well, it may be simple in concept, but it can be difficult to implement!

If you have not yet established a praying-together habit with your spouse, the Oneness Challenge will be a great help in getting started with that. After 30 days, you will have created a habit that will bless your marriage for a lifetime!

Praying together does not have to take a lot of time. Start with just 2 or 3 minutes.

And praying together does not have to be intimidating. You might begin by simply holding hands and praying together silently. When you are comfortable with that, try reading a short prayer aloud. Progress from there.

If you and your spouse already pray together,  the daily devotionals in the Oneness Challenge will encourage you, and the prayers will add a fresh richness to your own.

If your spouse is not willing to pray with you, you can still benefit from using the Oneness Challenge as you pray for your marriage.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
James 5:16, NLT

You can sign-up here to receive the 30-day Oneness Challenge by email or text:  Prayer Challenge.

Praying with you!

 

Top 10 Tips for Marriage [with graphic]

What are your best marriage tips?

I recently listed my top 10 tips for marriage here: 10 Simple-but-Powerful Ways to Build Your Marriage.

The article explains each tip, but this chart gives a summary of the ten points:

top 10 tips for marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you add to that list? I would be interested to hear your suggestions.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Forgiveness as Resurrection

Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead.

forgivenessHis disciples had seen Lazarus walk out of a tomb after being dead for four days. They had seen Jesus lift a dead boy out of his coffin and back into life.

But as amazing as those things were, they did not affect the disciples the way the resurrection of Jesus did. Seeing the resurrected Christ changed His followers dramatically. They became obsessed with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection  became the basis for their faith and the driving force for their lives.

The resurrection of Christ is absolutely unique in all of history:

Others were raised from the dead, but Jesus Christ raised Himself.[i]

He defeated death from within.

Before He died, Jesus made this startling prediction: “Destroy this temple [that is, my body], and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22, NIV). Jesus told His disciples, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18, NIV).

forgiveness

Christ chose to walk into death and then to walk back out, demonstrating a power greater than the power of death. Lazarus and others were given a temporary reprieve from death: they were retrieved from death for a while, but then they died again.

But Christ won more than a postponement; He actually conquered death. He faced it head-on and completely dominated it.

The core of our faith, just like that of the early believers, is the Resurrection of Christ. Death is the fierce power of our sin, but there is a power that is even greater: the purity, the deity, and the love of Christ constitute an absolutely unsurpassed power.

We sometimes fear that forgiving means surrender or passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth:

Forgiveness is looking evil in the eye, calling it what it is, and then proclaiming victory.

Forgiveness rises taller and stronger than the evil that came against it. It removes the “sting” of evil by removing the harm from the hurt[ii]. It removes the poison of bitterness and the curse of resentment.
forgivenessWhen we are hurt by others, we experience something like a death: there is a kind of grieving, perhaps the ending of a relationship as it had been, and there may even be—as Lazarus’ sister pointed out—a “bad smell” to the whole affair. But forgiveness says, “This is not the end of the story.”

After His crucifixion, the body of Christ was placed in a borrowed tomb, not His own. Similarly, forgiving involves walking into someone else’s evil, not our own. We stand for a moment in the dark “tomb” of someone else’s sin, but then, like Christ, we choose to walk out into the garden, where the Spirit makes all things new.AAM8X0DRXY

This is why Christ-followers must forgive:

Forgiveness is the Resurrection again.

A49952BF7AForgiveness is first the Cross raised as an identifying banner over us. Forgiveness is then the Resurrection, demonstrating the power of the Spirit of God within us. He brings the power to obliterate evil and to transform ashes into beauty.

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When given the opportunity to forgive, we can respond to our debtors with these truths in our hearts:

You hurt me, but I will not hurt you back.

My willingness to forgive you is my willingness for God to forgive me.

When God poured out the riches of His grace to me, He included all the grace that I would need to pass on to you.

I do not seek your punishment. I seek your redemption and your healing.

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How has forgiveness brought Resurrection power into your life?

{Read Part One of this series here: A Spiritual WMD.
Read Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help?
And read Part Three here: Forgiveness: A Power Way to Hold Out the Cross.}

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[i] The Resurrection was an awesome performance of the Trinity, the Son acting in concert with the Father (Galatians 1:1) and the Spirit (Romans 8:11).
[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:55