What Does “God is Good” Really Mean?

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
A. W. Tozer

As Christ-followers, we believe is that God is good.

That statement is far more than a simple cliché: it is a critical dividing line!

This belief distinguishes angels from demons. The confidence that God is good separates joy-filled believers from joy-less believers, and victorious Christians from defeated ones.

From the beginning of human history, we have been tempted to doubt the goodness of God.

Even when we recognize God’s goodness as a fact in our theology, we often struggle to trust that goodness as a reality in our daily lives.

We know that “God is good” does not mean that He grants our every whim like a genie in a magic lamp. But what does it mean?

Here are several realities created by the abundant goodness of God.

1.  “God is good” means that every drop of suffering that we yield to Him will gain a far greater weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Ultimately, God redeems all suffering that is given to Him. Our redeemed suffering will bring a joy and inner thriving to us that will overflow our pain.

“God is good” means that God knows how to turn our suffering inside-out into well-being and delight.

The LORD your God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you.
Deuteronomy 23:5

“God is good” means that God will take the ashes of our lives and replace them with the beauty of Abundant Life. In exchange for the despair and heaviness of our hearts, He gives us the oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3).

2. “God is good” means that if we could see now what God sees, we would not change one thing in what God is doing, how He is doing it, or when He is doing it. We would not resist Him. Instead of grumbling, protesting, or dragging our feet, we would join Him wholeheartedly!

If we could see now what God sees, we would rejoice that He is working perfectly in our lives. And someday, when we do see all that God has done, we are not doing to be disappointed! We are going to be overwhelmed at the splendor and excellence of it all. 

3. The goodness of God means that we always have reason for joy. We can always go forward with hope. The goodness of God is greater than our greatest sorrow, and His goodness is deeper than our deepest disappointment.

4. “God is good” means that God is fully attentive to us, His children. He is always motivated by absolute love; He is never limited in His strength or ability; and He is always guided by perfect wisdom. Without fail, God loves us well.

5. “God is good” means that God does not lie. He keeps His promises. Whether we are single or married–whatever our circumstances are–God is not late. He is never negligent or forgetful.

6. “God is good” means that God does not react to us out of fatigue, exasperation, impatience, wounded ego, defensiveness, spite, or misunderstanding. God responds to us in wisdom and love.

7. “God is good” means that we can cast ourselves on His goodness, trusting His commands, and trusting our well-being to Him. We can trust Him in the frustrations, disappointments, and sorrows of life. As we focus on treasuring Christ, we allow His goodness to be comfort, sweetness, and strength to us.

The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.
Psalm 35:27, NIV

8. “God is good” means that if something will  truly bless us, then we will have it! It is the heart of God to maximize our forever joy and to nurture our well-being. God does not withhold blessing (Psalm 84:11).

God is always way ahead of us when it comes to blessing us! God’s desire to bless us is greater than our desire to be blessed. When we are yielded to God, any temporary lack in our lives is always making way for something greater.

9. The goodness of God shields us (Psalm 31:19). In our marriages and families, we are surrounded by things that are not good. We feel knocked down at times by the things that people say or do that are not good. But God’s goodness stabilizes us. His goodness protects us so that our hearts stay clean and our spirits stay healthy. The goodness of God keeps us from sinking into bitterness or discouragement.

10. “God is good” means that when we suffer according to God’s will, God makes it His suffering, and He carries the weight of it (Matthew 11:28-30).

11. “God is good” means that even though we do not know exactly why God allows certain things, we do know that there is an answer! There is a good answer that will not only make sense to us but which will fully satisfy us and cause us to rejoice. Sometimes it is enough just to know that there is such an answer.

12. “God is good” means that God will maintain His excellencies and glories as a perfect God. We are utterly dependent on Him, so it is wonderful to know that He is committed to maintaining His strength, His wisdom, and His holiness.

LORD, we are in awe of You! You are far greater than we can know, not just in wisdom and knowledge, but in utter goodness.

We delight in your goodness, Lord!  We celebrate your abundant goodness (Psalm 145:7). Your goodness is the song that dispels the dissonance of evil.

Lord, today we trust Your goodness. We rest in Your goodness. Like Your people in Nehemiah 9:25, we revel in Your great goodness.

In the Name of Christ we pray. Amen.

**This material first appeared on the Manna For Marriage prayer call on June 13, 2019. The recording may be viewed HERE.

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(Video) Interview: Brain Science, Joy, & Marriage

What is the greatest motivator in life?
What does brain science tell us about joy?
How can we trigger the circuitry in our brains so that our marriages are strengthened?

These are some of the questions that Chris Coursey answers during a fascinating conversation about his new book, co-authored with Marcus Warner: The 4 Habits of Joy-filled Marriages. Chris shares many helpful insights and practical suggestions for increasing the joy in our marriages.

You will enjoy watching this interview!

You can learn more about this encouraging book HERE.

Book Giveaway

If you would like to enter the drawing for a free copy of this book, be sure to comment below (or HERE) by June 23.

God bless you as you build joy in your relationships!
Tami

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How to Increase the Joy in Your Marriage

Do you know the 4 habits that will fill your marriage with joy?

Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey have written an intriguing new book entitled, The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages.

joy

I love the underlying premise of this book: You can build joy into your marriage. Without trying to fix everything in the past, and without trying to control your spouse, you can take definite, positive action to increase the joy in your relationship. How encouraging! Many couples need that kind of hope.

Brain science, joy, and marriage

In this book, the authors explain that recent discoveries in brain science demonstrate how these four habits stimulate joy and build stronger bonds in marriage. The explanations are neither technical nor detailed, but they are interesting and motivating.

Although this book is short and easy-to-read, it includes a separate chapter on each of the four habits, as well as many practical activities for couples to do together. These exercises show “how 15 minutes a day will help you stay in love,” as the subtitle of the book claims. These activities are designed to build connection and boost joy in any marriage—including yours!

The four habits that enhance joy

1. Play together. It is easy to get caught-up in the busyness of married life and to neglect the core of healthy marriage, which is friendship. But if you are willing to be intentional and to invest the time and effort, you can strengthen your friendship … and amplify your joy.

joy

2. Listen for emotion. Truly listening to one another is a great gift in any marriage, but learning to listen for emotions is even more powerful. You can learn to hear your spouse’s emotion, validate it, and then provide comfort (in that order). This is the type of listening that will create the biggest joy-boost in your marriage.

3. Appreciate daily. Even more than saying “thank you,” taking the time to experience genuine appreciation will expand your joy dramatically.

4. Nurture rhythms. Schedule regular times in your calendar to connect and relax with your spouse. “As you learn to start your day relationally, end your day relationally, and schedule regular times for relational connection, your capacity for joy will dramatically increase and your margin for rest will follow suit” (106).

joy

A helpful guideline

The authors repeated a phrase several times in this book which I think is a great principle:

Keep your relationship bigger than the problem.

When a problem is overwhelming your friendship, take time to prioritize your marriage. Tell your spouse that you value your relationship more than anything else. It is usually best to put a problem aside until you stabilize the relationship.

If you would like to fill your marriage with joy, you will love this little book! You will learn that you can change your relational posture and that you can recalibrate your brain to experience greater joy.

A book giveaway

Which of the four habits grabs your attention the most?  If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of this book, leave a comment below by June 23. One winner will be selected at random and will receive a paperback copy of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, compliments of Northfield Publishing.

Coming soon…

Next week, I will be posting a video interview with Chris Coursey, co-author of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, so be sure to watch for that HERE!

Joy to you,
Tami

(If you missed the interview with Ron and Jody Zappia as they discussed The Marriage Knot, you can view that HERE.)



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The Power of a Torn Veil: Tetelestai

“Tetelestai.

The last word that Jesus spoke before dying on the cross means, “It is finished.” The atoning work of Christ is complete. Our immense debt to God is paid in full.

In Jerusalem

While Jesus was hanging on a cross outside Jerusalem, a thick curtain was hanging inside the Jewish temple. This ornate veil marked a solemn boundary: the curtain was a physical barrier representing the spiritual separation between God and people. Some claimed that this curtain was so thick—maybe four inches thick—that horses could not have torn it apart.

But when Christ died, God tore that veil apart from top to bottom. Through His own torn body, Jesus opened the way to God. He made Himself the door into the heart of God.

In Relationship with God

When God tore the curtain, He was throwing open the entrance into His presence, inviting us all to rich relationship with Him: “Come in, come in!”

Tetelestai. The old covenant is finished.

The old covenant is the system in which we must earn our acceptance. We must prove ourselves. In the old system, there are rewards and relationship for those who keep the rules, and there are punishments and separation for those fail.

But Christ said, “Tetelestai.” The old covenant is finished. We have a new way now, a way of receiving instead of earning.

God gives us relationship. He gives us acceptance. God gives us warm welcome and honor. He gives us unfailing love.

welcome sign; tetelestai

God says to us, “Tetelestai. No more earning. Come in, come in!” What a fantastic thing to hear!

Tetelestai transforms our lives, entirely.

In Marriage

And tetelestai can transform our marriagesentirely.

Very often, we put our spouse in the defendant’s seat while we climb to the judge’s bench. We stay busy and vigilant as both judge and prosecutor. Has my spouse earned my kindness? Has she earned my attention? Has he earned my respect? Has he earned my acceptance?

We feel compelled to oversee justice before providing relationship, so we continually monitor our spouse’s behavior, measure our approval or displeasure, and mete out the consequences. All of these relational transactions drain our energy and dampen our enjoyment. Our marriages begin to carry more duty than delight.

But there is a better way! We can say to our spouse, “Tetelestai! No more earning my love. I give you acceptance. I give you my commitment.”

"open" sign on door; tetelestai

We are no longer in the courtroom with God. Let’s not live in the courtroom with our spouse.

….. [Continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com HERE.]

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An Interview with Ron and Jody Zappia (video): The Marriage Knot

Marriage Knot

It was a pleasure for me to interview Ron and Jody Zappia today as they explained “the seven choices that keep couples together.” As you watch this video, you will hear what those marriage-changing choices are, and you will also learn more about the Zappias’ own personal story of a marriage-in-crisis that God transformed as a marriage-in-Christ.

Marriage Knot; Zappia

You can read more about all of this in Ron and Jody’s new book, published by Moody, called The Marriage Knot. There is much wisdom in this easy-to-read, practical book, which I reviewed recently on MannaForMarriage (HERE).

I pray that this interview will be an encouragement to you!

An Interview with Ron and Jody Zappia: The Marriage Knot

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A Marriage Q & A (Part Two)

Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. I was happy to share with Kristen some of the things that I have learned during thirty years of marriage.

marriage

Last week, Kristen posted Part One of our marriage question-and-answer on her website; and today, she is posting Part Two. Here are today’s questions from the bride:

Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?

Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?

To read the article, please continue reading at Kristen’s website HERE.

Have you entered the book giveaway for The Marriage Knot? Learn about this new marriage book and enter your name for the giveaway HERE.

Marriage Knot

Blessings to you,
Tami

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The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices that Keep Couples Together

Ron and Jody Zappia were still newlyweds when their marriage began to unravel. Stunned by the crisis, they committed themselves to learning how to tie the knot of marriage so that it would hold them together for a lifetime. Almost thirty years of marriage later, Ron and Jody are sharing what they have learned in their new book by Moody Publishers, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.

The Zappias learned that the marriage knot is not simply tied at the wedding altar and then forgotten. The knot must be strengthened through “everyday choices,” practices which we can learn from the Scriptures (21). “Choices” is the optimal word here because marital success is based not on the whims of our emotions but rather on the decisions of our will. Love is not something that happens to us; it is something we choose to practice.

Marriage Knot

The Zappias list seven choices that we can make to strengthen our marriage bond:

  1. The choice to grow spiritually
  2. The choice to love unconditionally
  3. The choice to serve sacrificially
  4. The choice to please (physically) regularly
  5. The choice to persevere persistently
  6. The choice to communicate respectfully
  7. The choice to bless abundantly

That does seem to cover everything! 😊

Ron discusses each choice in a separate chapter. At the end of each chapter, Jody shares a few comments from her perspective. Although Jody’s sections are very short, they are significant contributions to the book.

Whenever I blog about new marriage books, my goal is not so much to critique the writing or even to evaluate the book as it is to glean items that may be encouraging or helpful to you. There is much in this book to do just that, beginning with the title itself and the core premise of the book. It is important for husbands and wives to remember that marital unity must be strengthened every day. We either reinforce or weaken our marriage ties day by day and choice by choice.

Marriage Knot

Like a three-stranded braid, your marriage is woven together as you move toward God and toward your spouse.  You move toward God by trusting Him and obeying Him, and you move toward your spouse by forgiving and connecting.

Here are some “gleanings” from The Marriage Knot:

Introduction

Your “marriage is your greatest tool to be a witness for Christ in this world. It is your greatest testimony to bring other people to a knowledge of God, to introduce His power, grace, strength, and love.” (21)

Choose to Grow Spiritually

Regular “church attendance decreases your chances of divorce anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.” (34)

Choose to Love Unconditionally

We need to “learn to accept the other and live with glaring shortcomings. That’s called loving acceptance. Sometimes marriage is about learning to manage the tension rather than completely alleviating it.” (51)

“If you’re having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.” (58)

“Being unforgiving can be like a hot coal in the palm of your hand. The tighter you squeeze, the more it burns.” (58-59)

Even when you can’t trust your spouse, you can still focus on loving him or her. (63)

Choose to Serve Sacrificially

When Satan tempted the first couple in the Garden of Eden, “Adam took a step back when he should have stepped forward.” And Eve “took a step forward when she should’ve taken a step back.” (69)

Men, stop “guilt-tripping yourself for not being the spiritual giant you think you ought to be. Be done with that. Simply commit to do your part in the spiritual growth process and watch God work!” (73)

Choose to Please Regularly

“Satan likes a marriage without sex as much as sex without a marriage.” (96)

“Hopelessness is never from God, only from the enemy, and the withholding of sexual intimacy is what invites the enemy into your struggling marriage. It’s not a good plan.” (98)

Premarital sex tells your partner that it is “okay to have sex outside of marriage.” (106)

Choose to Persevere Persistently

Sometimes God “wants us to remain under life’s weight to produce something in us that we can’t produce in ourselves.” (115)

Choose to Communicate Respectfully

“When it comes to your marriage: your speck is always a log, and your spouse’s log is always the speck.” (136)

“’Be careful with your words: once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten’.” (137)

Choose to Bless Abundantly

“Prayer is the greenhouse of hope!” (153)

Praying with your spouse “creates an intimacy that precious few will ever experience.” (153)

Moody Publishers is graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Marriage Knot to one reader of MannaForMarriage. If you would like to receive a paperback copy of The Marriage Knot, leave a comment below by March 28, 2019, to be entered into the drawing. (Be sure that I am able to contact you for your mailing address if you win.)

May God bless you as you make the choices each day which will strengthen your marriage knot.
Tami

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A Marriage Q & A (Part One)

Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. She recognizes that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a wedding event, as exciting as that is! Having been on this journey myself for over thirty years, I am happy to share some of the things I have learned (and still am learning) along the way.

Here are the first three questions:

Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?

Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?

I am honored that Kristen is sharing her questions and my responses in two guest posts on her personal blog, where Kristen encourages her readers “to think truthfully and live daringly.” The first article appeared on her website today, and Part Two will be published next week.

To read our Q and A exchange, continue reading HERE.

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Recommended Resources

Life-Changing

Important Basics

Don’t try to do marriage without understanding the concepts in these two highly practical, easy-to-read books.

Other Favorites

Sacred Marriage

Grace Filled Marriage
The Meaning of Marriage
This Momentary Marriage

Books for Wives

Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe

Free Online Videos

Michael and Cindy Easley have created 11 short videos in which they discuss Biblical marriage, becoming one in marriage, and fighting fair.

Weekend Getaway

You don’t want to miss a Weekend to Remember! Three million people have experienced this marriage getaway, which begins on a Friday evening and concludes at noon on Sunday. These FamilyLife events are held at resort hotels throughout the year (around 100 events each year). 

When you attend a Weekend to Remember, you will hear excellent speakers sharing their own stories and teaching on Biblical marriage. You will also enjoy some high-quality time with your spouse. 

When you register, be sure to use the MannaForMarriage group code for a $100 discount!

Find your getaway HERE.

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Peace for the Storm-Tossed Family

Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”

But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.

You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed Family. Published by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.

Family as Problem, and Family as Solution

Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.

storm-tossed family

“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.

God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”

Family as Spiritual Warfare

Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.

How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.

Living Crucified Lives

A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.

How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.

1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.

2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed.  As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.

3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.

God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.

The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.

Core Issues

I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.

This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)

The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.

Let me share some great statements from several chapters.

From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:

“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)

“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)

“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)

“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)

storm-tossed family

“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)

From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:

Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)

A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)

“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)

“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)

We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)

From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:

“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)

“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)

“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)

From “The Road To and From Divorce”:

“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)

“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)

“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)

Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175).  These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.

Cherish the Blessings

Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.

The book concludes with strong encouragement:

Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)

Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.

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The Gospel of Marriage and the Glory of Gender

How significant are individual marriages to the Body of Christ?  How important is a Biblical understanding of gender?

Many Christians believe that marriage and sexuality are private issues which often distract us from the more important matter of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But could it be that when we bypass doctrines of sexuality, we throw out critical evangelistic tools? And could it be that when we embrace God’s gifts of gender and marriage, we create compelling revelations of God?

Revealing God

In the beginning, God sculpted the cosmos as a stunning revelation of Himself. And then, God designed men, women, and marriage to tell us even more about Himself.

God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NLT)

marriage and gender

We know that God is neither male nor female. Yet there is something unique about our being male or female that is unlike that of the animals, for only people are created in the image of God. Imago dei is stamped into God’s design of men, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of masculinity in glorious ways. And imago dei is stamped into God’s design of women, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of femininity in glorious ways.

While being male or female is a component of physical biology, masculinity and femininity are components of personal relationship. They are profound reflections of the triune God, whose very nature is rich, full relationship.

Our gender is a divine commission to reveal the greatness, the beauty, and the strength of God in compelling ways. The DNA of our assignment is written into every cell of our body; it is printed across the fibers of our being several trillion times.

“… maleness and femaleness are objectively rooted in biology, and should be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered.”1

Although we often struggle to flesh out the glory of God in our daily lives, we can embrace this sacred calling to live fully and faithfully as imago dei. This high calling is one which extends to every part of our lives, including our sexuality. Ravi Zacharias points out that when we deny the sacredness of our sexuality, we deny the sacredness of human life itself.2  Although our bodies are physical and temporal, they have spiritual and eternal purpose.  Our material bodies are knit with our nonmaterial spirits so that together they share in the dignity and worth of human life.³

Telling the Truth About God

It is the goal of evangelism to tell the truth about God. The psalmist marveled at the power of the natural universe to tell the truth about God:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

gospel of marriage and gender

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 91:1-4, NIV)

Are the voices of God-created gender and God-designed marriage any less persuasive or wide-reaching? First, creation tells the truth about God’s existence and power, and then marriage tells the truth about God’s loving nature and faithful character. When we “preach” this good news through our relationships, we are laying the groundwork for sharing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Masculinity

God initiates the relationship with His beloved, the people of God. At immense cost to Himself, He pursues her; and having won her heart, He commits Himself to her. With self-sacrificing love, He cares for her. He ministers to her needs with gentleness and humility. He desires her, cherishes her, and delights in her.

the gospel of marriage and gender

A man reflects his Creator well when he demonstrates this same faithfulness and nurturing with his own bride. But when men fail to reveal these truths about God, then masculinity fumbles its “good news.”

Because masculinity reflects God, a demeaning of masculinity becomes a suppression of the truth about God. If masculinity does not represent success or trustworthiness to us, then it is difficult for us to see God as Someone we want to imitate or to follow. If masculinity is not great, then God, who encompasses masculinity, is not great, nor can He show us how to be great. When we denounce masculinity, we are left with a God who does not pursue our hearts, does not protect us or provide for us, and does not cherish us.

It is a man’s greatness and significance to tell the gospel through his masculinity. He tells the truth about who God is as he takes action, repels passivity, and carries responsibility for the well-being of another.

This is effective evangelism because we long to know the God of a man who is masculine in these ways. God-reflecting masculinity gives us hope that there is a God who will shelter us with His own life, care for us, and love us well.

We must teach our sons the glory of being men who specialize in revealing God through masculinity. When men do not know the glory of being masculine, they may become violent abusers or passive consumers instead of responsible, self-giving lovers.

The Gospel of Femininity

Femininity is the relational expression of warm welcome and genuine acceptance. A feminine woman shares her strength to build her husband up. As a life-giver, she energizes others. Her honoring, serene spirit is a fragrant invitation to know her God.

gospel of marriage and gender

Femininity gives us hope that there is a God who will receive us with open arms, who will accept us, and who will support and strengthen us.

We must teach our daughters the glory of being women who specialize in revealing God through femininity. When women do not know the glory of being feminine, they may demean themselves; they stoop to merely flaunting their femaleness. Instead of contributing strength to their relationships, they may compete for control.

The Gospel of Marriage

Through the amazing creation of marriage, God reveals the essence of His nature, which is love. Far more than a feeling, love is the decision to give to another. Love cannot exist within a relational vacuum. Marriage reflects the vibrant fellowship within the Trinity, a union which has eternally accommodated love.

Marriage reflects not only the relational nature of God, but also the diversity and the unity within the Godhead. Only the marriage of one man and one woman can do this. The rich distinctions between the man and the woman are not obliterated in their union; instead, they are celebrated as delights of communion.

Marriage also illustrates the very holiness of God, for marriage is an exclusive relationship. Holiness requires perfect belonging—complete and undefiled. A marriage is holy when 1) the man and woman belong fully to one another as husband and wife, and when 2) nothing is present to defile that woven-together relationship. This reflects the holiness of God, in whom all that belongs is present, and all that does not belong is absent.

the gospel of marriage and gender

Marriage tells the gospel like this:

  • To know God, we must renounce spiritual singleness. In order to accept God’s proposal of spiritual union, we must forsake all other spiritual lovers (such as possessions, pleasure, prominence, or power).
  • To be in relationship with God, we agree to belong fully to Him as His people, and He promises to belong fully to us as our God.

Christian marriages are designed to be pictures of the gospel. When we keep our vows to love, honor, and cherish, we are telling the truth about who God is.

Marriage reveals that God is a trustworthy, promise-keeping Lover. Our marriages are not merely private affairs, incidental to the great work of evangelism. Instead, our marriages create a platform upon which evangelism advances … or falters.

Strengthening Evangelism

In the disorienting chaos of our culture, we have forgotten our glory as men and women. Many have exchanged the great honor of revealing the Almighty for a self-destroying drive to replace Him.

When we tell the truth about God through our masculinity or femininity and through our marriages, then the world will see this good news:

God loves us.
He sacrifices Himself in order to benefit us.
He welcomes us.
He accepts us.
He protects and provides for us.
He cherishes us.
He keeps His promises.

That is a glorious gospel to preach!

———————————————-

1 Ryan T. Anderson. http://dailysignal.com/2015/10/30/houston-ballot-measure-on-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-threatens-privacy-religious-freedom-and-businesses

2 “When you de-sacralize sexuality and the body, you will de-sacralize life itself.”  http://rzim.org/just-thinking-broadcasts/india-vision-qa-part-2-of-4-3

³Nancy Pearcy explains this integration of body and spirit in her latest book, Love Thy Body.

 

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What is Your Marriage Legacy?

Forty-seven years of marriage can provide a wealth of knowledge and insight, especially when that marriage has been built on biblical principles. Drawing from that rich experience, Crawford and Karen Loritts have written a new book entitled, Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. The book emphasizes creating marriages that are so strong today that they give endurance to marriages tomorrow, in the next generation and beyond.

legacy

Seeing the Big Picture

Your Marriage Today focuses on the underlying principles of a successful marriage. Crawford acknowledges that he is the “big picture” person in his marriage while his wife is better at the details. Although the book is co-authored by both Crawford and Karen, it is written in Crawford’s conversational voice, and the material reflects his “big picture” perspective.legacy

The instruction and insights which the Loritts share are excellent. Their advice is solidly biblical, full of wisdom, and honoring to both husbands and wives. I think readers will be encouraged to see how God has beautifully “knit together” a man and woman from very different backgrounds.

Creating Your Legacy

Crawford and Karen are aware that each marriage leaves a legacy, one that can be painfully destructive or wonderfully life-giving.  The Loritts challenge us to think beyond our present moment of busyness. They caution us to be mindful of the long-term consequences of our marital behavior. Through the choices we make in our marriages, we create a profound impact in the lives of those around us and those who follow us.

How we need this counsel!

In our culture, marriages are trashed and replaced as if they were temporary jobs, subject to our personal whims, instead of high callings that God has placed on our lives. Marriage is God-ordained, designed to be God-reflecting and gospel-illustrating. Before we start working out the details of our marriages, we all need to consider the important legacy we are creating.

Whether our marriages last or not, our legacies will.

When Your Spouse Isn’t Working with You

In this book, the Loritts address the husband and wife who are working together to strengthen their relationship and legacy. But what if your spouse is not working with you? What if your spouse is not helping to create a legacy of blessing?

Don’t be discouraged! You can still give your children (and a watching world) a fantastic legacy.

Even when your marriage isn’t healthy, you can be healthy as a spouse, leaning on God to meet your every need. You can give your children the legacy of a promise-keeping parent. When you honor your vows, you give others hope and even confidence that there is a promise-keeping, trustworthy God.

You give your family a wonderful legacy when you model trusting God despite difficult circumstances. What is more valuable than that?  You can be living proof that God Himself is the Giver of life and joy.

You can teach your children how to handle disappointments by handing those hurts to God and allowing Him to turn ashes into beauty. What a rich legacy that is! Perhaps most importantly, you can demonstrate how to forgive. That priceless gift will bless your children and their children for the rest of their lives.

Feeding Your Marriage

The Loritts paint a broad picture of the forest, but they do not ignore the trees. They do include some practical advice for the day-by-day work of strengthening marriages. For example, they encourage us to “feed” our marriages by “making consistent, heart-nourishing deposits” in the lives of our spouses (58).  They list six specific ways to do that:

  1. Regularly read the Bible as a couple.
  2. Pray together every day.
  3. Lighten each other’s load.
  4. Identify what refreshes your spouse.
  5. Serve together.
  6. Spend regular, uninterrupted time together. … Carve out some time each evening to touch base with each other. Schedule two or three weekends a year to get away as a couple to talk and connect on a deeper level. (59)

That is an excellent list! How many of these habits do you have?

I encourage you to choose one and start practicing it this evening. It will bless you “today … and tomorrow.”

Book Giveaway

Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. If you would like to enter the drawing to receive this book, simply leave a comment below by July 23, 2018. I will notify the winner on July 24, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.

Blessings to you!
Tami

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Rebuilding Your Marriage When Recovering from Addiction

Today's guest blog was written by Adam Cook, who started AddictionHub.org after losing a friend to substance abuse and suicide. He is passionate about helping people find the necessary resources to save their lives from addiction.

Addiction is a disease that affects millions of people around the world. When someone’s drug or alcohol abuse spins out of control and becomes habitual — even compulsive — that addiction consumes their life. It often costs a person a great deal financially, socially, and physically. Personal relationships, especially between spouses, are often shredded. If you made it through addiction recovery with your marriage intact, your work is not done.

Post-recovery requires time to heal the wounds and rebuild trust. Your typical aftercare treatment provides tools to help with communication between spouses, including family counseling, 12-step programs (Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous), and maintenance medication. However, these are just tools you can use to your benefit.

In the end, the real work is up to you.

Step One: Talk to Your Spouse

The beginning of recovery is about addressing your needs and figuring out how you can meet them without turning to drugs or alcohol. If you want to rebuild your relationship, you have to communicate with your partner about what they need. Plan an evening or even a whole day where you can spend time together and talk about what they expect from you going forward.

Together, you can make compatible goals and establish timelines regarding milestones. Remember to be flexible and patient. Figuring out how to strengthen your relationship takes time and more than a few adjustments. Establishing open communication from the get-go helps create a procedure of operations you can use going forward.

Step Two: Establish a Routine

One of the hardest things for a spouse of an addict is wondering where their loved one is, if they are safe, and if they are even going to come home at all. Establishing a routine provides a sense of security for your partner so they can learn to let go of their anxieties.

Not only does a routine help when it comes to your relationship, it also helps overall recovery. Daily structure keeps your mind and hands busy, which can help alleviate the boredom and inactivity that leads to recreational substance use. Stability also makes transitioning back into the working world easier. Try adding exercise to your daily routine to help kick cravings, balance neurochemicals, and build self-esteem in your recovery process.

Step Three: Engage in Sober Activities Together

addiction

When it comes to recovery, your spouse doesn’t just want you to talk the talk — they want you to walk the walk. You have to show your spouse that you are willing and ready to make amends by living a sober life and including them in it. Make sure to give them plenty of advance notice, and work with their schedule to show them that you value their time.

addiction

Chances are, you have gone through difficult times as a couple. This is your opportunity to give each other a brief respite from arguing and crying. Pick activities that are fun or relaxing, rather than intense and possibly triggering. Furthermore, don’t just fall back on the old dinner-and-a-movie trope. Put some effort into your date, and show your spouse that life isn’t going to be more of the same.

  • Go to a local food festival and try a new cuisine.
  • Get tickets to a carnival or amusement park.
  • Attend a social event held through your house of worship.
  • Try a fun new workout class together.
  • Have a picnic in the park.
  • Attend a cooking class for couples.
  • Get out of the city and go for a hike in the great outdoors.
  • Attend a sporting event to root for the home team.

Addiction has the power to ruin relationships. If you get out of recovery with your marriage intact, it is important to put in the work to repair any damage. Talk with your partner about their expectations, ease their mind with a steady schedule, and show them you’ve changed with healthy and sober activities you can do together.

Thank you, Adam!
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6 Reasons to Love Your Unrepentant Spouse

When an unfaithful spouse shows sincere repentance, the other spouse may decide to forgive and continue to love. But who would choose to love an unrepentant spouse?

Kim Pullen made that choice. And she's glad she did!

I am pleased to introduce Kim Pullen to you today as a guest blogger on MannaForMarriage. Kim Pullen is an author, speaker, and teacher who advocates for healthy marriages. She helps spouses overcome the devastation of affairs and pornography by focusing on a dynamic, intimate relationship with God. Thriving in a 26-year marriage that was once traumatized by adultery and a four-year separation, Kim shares hope and healing with spouses who feel isolated due to their partner’s sexual sin but don't know how or where to begin their recovery journey.

6 Reasons to Love Your Unrepentant Spouse

If we look to movies or romance novels for a definition of love on which to model our marriage, we’ll quickly find ourselves confused, disappointed, and embittered.

To Hollywood, love is a feeling. But that’s not real love. Real love keeps a couple together when feelings wane and passion ebbs. It keeps them committed when the world crashes in and when their bodies age and fail. Real love satisfies a couple for decades.

That’s because real love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.

Getting Re-educated on Love

In 2011, I discovered my husband had multiple affairs during our 19-year marriage. I was shell-shocked. “I don’t love you anymore,” he said.

unrepentant

We separated—me to find answers, and my husband to pursue the world. That’s also when God, the author of love, began my re-education. The qualities of real love—truth, humility, patience, perseverance, boundaries, and repentance—became more than religious terms, and God challenged me to back up my commitment with faith and obedience.

After four years of prayer and practical application, my husband and I were reconciled. Our emotional intimacy grows daily and exponentially. It’s a marriage I never could have imagined.

Here are the six reasons why I want to encourage you to choose to love your unrepentant spouse even in the face of addiction and infidelity.

  1. We All Have Core Wounds

Every one of us had some kind of dysfunction in our childhood. Even if your parents were saints, they were still sinners like their parents before them. Where you have dysfunction, you have sin and pain. Where you have pain, you have a need to medicate.

My grandfather taught my father it was weak to show affection, so I grew up starved of the love and approval a daughter so desperately craves from her daddy. For my husband, emotional abandonment in his childhood came in the form of his parents’ ineffectual boundaries. Our parents weren’t “bad people”; they simply had core wounds from their childhood they passed on to us (Exodus 20:5-6).

Whether your spouse is a professing Christian or not, they have core wounds. In all likelihood, they are unconsciously using their sexual sin to medicate themselves from pain just like you may use food, entertainment, shopping, or control to medicate yours.

  1. We’re All Sinners

It’s hard not to think the way the world does about sin, that one crime or violation is worse than another. Our whole court system is based on it. Murder is more criminal than slander. Rape gets more shock and awe than a porn site, and embezzlement stirs up infinitely more rage than shoplifting. It’s all perspective.

But not to God. Romans 8:23 says we’ve all missed the mark or fallen short of God’s standard. Revelations 21:8 puts murder on the same level as unbelief, cowardice, and lying. Yes, there are different consequences and repercussions on this side of heaven, but it only took one of our sins for Jesus to have to go to the cross.

That doesn’t minimize our spouse’s betrayal. That particular pain is excruciating. You may fantasize about pouring coffee on his laptop, flushing his iPhone down the toilet, or even snipping off his man parts—

Uh, but there you go. You sinned according to Matthew 5:22 (anyone who is angry with another is subject to judgment). You have become just as guilty and deserving of punishment for putting Christ on the cross as your unfaithful spouse.

Sure, there’s righteous anger, but most of us aren’t angry with our spouse because they’ve disrespected God (John 2:14-16).

I know it doesn’t seem fair, but how fair was it for Jesus, an innocent man, to die for our sin? I worshiped people’s approval more than God’s, and I tried playing God in my husband’s life because I was terrified of rejection and abandonment. Bottom line: even though I professed undying devotion to God, who is the Lover of my soul, I betrayed Him as much as my husband betrayed me.

unrepentant

  1. We Made a Covenant with God

On my wedding day when I stood at the altar before my family and friends, God was there, too.  I vowed to my husband, my loved ones, and God, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish” for the rest of my earthly life.

Our spouse’s infidelity? That’s the “worse.” Our spouse’s sexual addiction? That’s the “sickness.” My agreement to love and to cherish him didn’t include “as long as he loves and cherishes me back.”

Let’s be clear. We did not make a commitment to let our spouse treat us like a maid, a sex toy, or wall. Setting boundaries is also an act of love. God sets boundaries for us throughout Scripture so that we can stay in relationship with Him (1 John 1:5-10). Calling your spouse to repent and return to their commitment to God and to you is the most loving thing you can do for them.

  1. Love Moves Them Toward Repentance

If your spouse has secret sin, you don’t have to be the one to expose it.

Let me say that again because this thought is hard to wrap our head around: if you’ve furtively tracked your spouse’s whereabouts via GPS, secretly scoured their phones for illicit messages, or privately poured over credit card statements looking for evidence of their betrayal, STOP!

God sees all of our sin and our spouse’s sin as if we’re doing it right in front of Him (Psalm 90:8). He can’t be fooled or mocked (Galatians 6:7-8).

Instead of getting angry or hiding, what would happen if you reacted to your spouse’s sin with God’s love and healthy boundaries? Paul told the Romans they could overcome others’ sin with kindness (Romans 12:17-21). Peter agreed, saying love overcomes sin (1 Peter 4:8).

How in the world can loving my spouse like Jesus lead them toward repentance (Romans 2:4)? Think about your response to Jesus’ love for you. You didn’t deserve his love and kindness, but he gave it anyway (Romans 5:6). And because he did, you repented.

  1. Jesus Set Us an Example

From the cross, Jesus expressed love and compassion for the people who were murdering him (Luke 23:34). It may seem impossible to love like this, but if Jesus did it, so can we. It ain’t easy, but it is possible because love is a choice, not a feeling.

When my husband chose adultery over me, I chose to believe that Jesus could move the mountain of sin off his heart (Matthew 17:20-21).

When it looked like my marriage was dead, I chose to follow Jesus’ example and claim God’s resurrection power to restore it just like Jesus believed his Father could raise him from the dead (Acts 2:24).

That’s because Jesus said if I have faith, nothing is impossible for me (Matthew 17:20). He also said if I stay connected to him through his Word, he’ll do anything I ask (John 15:7). Through the Apostle Paul, he said I could can do anything when I rely on him for my strength (Philippians 4:13).

  1. God Commands It

The last and most important reason I need to love my unrepentant spouse is quite simply because God commands it.

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he turned Jewish tongues wagging when he flipped the Law on its head and told them they needed to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:44).

Why? Because it’s his hallmark and evidence to a sin-sick world that he’s real, and alive, and loves us desperately (John 13:34-35, 7:23). When we love like this, we are the most like Him (1 John 4:17).

For a girl that grew up desperately craving her daddy’s love and approval, how could I not respond to Him?

What Stops Us

What keeps us from loving our spouses when they aren’t repentant? Pride, fear, and unbelief.

Pride because we’ve forgotten we signed up to be a servant like Jesus (John 13:14-17).

Fear because we’re afraid of being rejected and abandoned (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20).

And unbelief because we’ve forgotten how powerful our Creator is (Psalm 18).

Oh, and there’s one more: because it’s hard (Hebrews 12:7, 11).

It’s hard to love with firm boundaries and respect. It takes supernatural fortitude to maintain a love that protects the truth and integrity of the commitment we made. It’s a love that sees not who we or who our spouses are, but who we can be.

Such a love is unstoppable (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

If you identify with Kim's story, please visit her website at HopeForSpouses.com, or her Facebook page (HopeForSpouses). You can also contact Kim at kim@hopeforspouses.com. 

Thank you, Kim!

Disclaimer from Kim: Please note that we are speaking to a difficult marriage here, not a dangerous one. If you are in an environment that is not safe, we encourage you to seek help.

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Does Your Spouse Delight You?

Does your spouse delight you? If not, what can you do about it?

We tend to think that our delight is our spouses’ responsibility. We sit around and wait for them to delight us. Perhaps we feel sorry for ourselves as we criticize them for not delighting us. But we have a far better option:

We can CHOOSE to delight in our spouses. 

If we will determine to enjoy our spouses, we will be giving the best gift ever!

delight

Delight is an essential part of a healthy marriage, but we often fail to express it. When the gift of delight is missing, husbands and wives can sometimes feel like Mark or Karen:

Mark knows that his wife is committed to him, but he doesn’t feel that she really enjoys being with him. Most of the time, he suspects that she is merely tolerating him. He is thankful for his marriage, but he often feels lonely. He is troubled by the thought that he is inadequate to make his wife happy.

Karen appreciates her husband’s commitment, but she fears that she can’t keep his interest. She often feels unknown and unvalued. At one time, she had hoped that her husband would see her as fascinating, but now she worries that he doesn’t see her at all.

What would happen if Mark’s wife began to show him that she enjoys his company? And if Karen could see that her husband delighted in her, wouldn’t that change everything? …

[Click HERE to read more of this article at StartMarriageRight.]

 

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3 Tips to Transform Any Marriage (A Webinar and a Winner)

Most successful couples practice this one skill. In fact, this skill is so important to a healthy relationship that the direction of a marriage can be predicted based on this skill alone. Do you know what that is?

Another practice is so powerful in marriage that couples who make this a habit have a divorce rate of less than one percent. Wow! Do you know what that habit is?

Webinar

Anyone can develop these skills and begin to use them immediately. In a webinar last week, Dr. Jessica McCleese and I discussed three tips that will transform any marriage. We used the acronym MAP to discuss those three practices.

You can watch the webinar replay HERE.

jessica Jessica is a licensed psychologist who uses biblical principles to help couples improve their marriages. I very much enjoyed working with Jessica on the webinar, which she hosted through her website BeFullyWell.com. You can view the webinar on YouTube HERE.

Winner

Thank you to all who entered the drawing for the book giveaway this week. Congratulations, Ken!  Ken will be receiving a copy of Gary Chapman’s latest release.

chapman

As always, you are invited to join our weekly prayer time on Thursdays, or listen to the recordings HERE. If you would like us to pray for you by name, just let me know. We consider it a privilege to pray for marriages and families.

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

 

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Hope for Difficult Marriages from Gary Chapman

What can you do if your spouse is abusive … or depressed … or addicted? How do you live with someone who won’t communicate?

In his latest book, Dr. Gary Chapman tackles all of these difficult situations, and more. As he addresses each challenge, he offers strong encouragement and practical instruction.

This new release comes with a long title, Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away, as well as a long subtitle: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages. That’s okay, though, because the book is also long on encouragement. Its delivery is as good as its promise.

chapman

The core of this encouragement is the confidence “that there is hope for the hardest of marriages.” For spouses in struggling marriages, hope must be the starting place, as well as the refrain: “in every troubled marriage, one or both partners can take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in a marriage” (17).

Reasons for Hope

Hope in a desperate marriage comes from four bedrock truths. When people accept these truths as reality, they become people of hope, and their marriages gain a platform for change, even transformation. Here are the four truths:

  1. You are not a victim of your circumstances. “Your environment may influence you, but it need not dictate or destroy your marriage and your life” (19).
  2. “People can and do change” (20).
  3. Misery or divorce are not the only options in difficult marriages (20).
  4. No marriage is completely “beyond hope” (21).

Dr. Chapman’s goal in Loving Your Spouse is to encourage husbands and wives to embrace “the positive actions that one individual can take to stimulate constructive change in a relationship” (24). Years ago, a friend shared this illustration with me:

Suppose that a husband and wife are back-to-back in conflict. We know that if both of them will turn around, then they can be face-to-face again. But what if only one is willing to move? Well, what if that one will walk around the other so that the two are again face-to-face?
One person can make the difference!

Dr. Chapman does not use that illustration, but he argues for that principle: “One person must always take the initiative. Perhaps that person will be you.” (38)

Realities to Live By

Dr. Chapman is careful to point out that we cannot change or control our spouses. However, we can choose our own attitudes, and each of us can influence others.  Loving Your Spouse outlines six realities which form the basis of a plan-of-action for every marriage. The final principle of “reality living” is this:

Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. Meeting your spouse’s emotional need for love has the greatest potential for stimulating positive change in his or her behavior. Since love is our deepest emotional need, the person who meets that need will have the greatest influence on our lives. (231)

In the first part of Loving Your Spouse, Dr. Chapman discusses the reasons for hope, the basis for change, and the motivations that underlie misbehavior. He then identifies ten difficult situations and addresses each one specifically in a separate chapter:

  1. the irresponsible spouse
  2. the workaholic spouse
  3. the depressed spouse
  4. the controlling spouse
  5. the verbally abusive spouse
  6. the physically abusive spouse
  7. the sexually abused or sexually abusive spouse
  8. the uncommunicative spouse
  9. the unfaithful spouse
  10. the alcoholic or drug-abusing spouse

chapmanIn each of these focused chapters, Dr. Chapman shares real-life situations, gives specific counsel, and lists resources for further help. Loving Your Spouse is full of both encouragement and practical advice. Not only will this book be helpful to you as you apply the principles of “reality living” to your own situation, but it will also be helpful as you encourage others who are struggling with some of these specific marital challenges.

For You

A giveaway:  Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away. If you would like to enter the drawing to win this book, simply leave a comment below no later than April 17. I will notify the winner on April 18, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.

A webinar: You are invited to attend a webinar this Thursday evening, April 12, as Dr. Jessica McCleese and I discuss three terrific tools for building marriage. (You can view the replay HERE.)

A prayer:  You have a standing invitation to join us each week as we pray for marriages and families. You can join us by phone or online every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern), or you can always listen to the archives online. Let me know if you would like us to pray for you by name.

Blessings to you!
Tami

 

 

 

 

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What Singles Need to Know about Marriage (Part 2)

Whether you are single or married, there are six important things to know about marriage.

We looked at the first three things last week, and today we will look at the remaining three:

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team.

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single. [Click HERE to continue reading this article at Kristen Hogrefe’s website. ]

———————————————————-

Kristen is an excellent writer, specializing in young adult fiction; and I am privileged to guest-blog for her again today. She is also a great friend, and I enjoyed seeing her last week at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

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6 Things that Singles Need to Know about Marriage (Part 1)

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? [Continue reading this article HERE at KristenHogrefe.com. I appreciate Kristen’s heart for young adults and her strong commitment to biblical truth. Through her writing and speaking, “she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.” I recommend both her blog and her young-adult novels.]

 

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7 Prayers for Your Marriage

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to pray.

And one of the best ways to pray is to use the Scriptures as a guide.

That is because the secret to prayer—just like the secret to marriage—is unity. When two wills line up together, there is great power!

As we study the Bible, we learn the longings of God’s heart. As we allow God’s desires to become ours, we move into harmony with Him. Through this union, the Spirit of God works in awesome ways, restoring what has been damaged and creating new beauty.

Below are seven Scriptural prayers for your marriage, one for each day of the week. Perhaps you and your spouse would like to pray these verses together as you ask God to protect and strengthen your marriage. If your spouse isn’t interested in praying with you, don’t be discouraged—just keep praying!

Click HERE to read the 7 prayers at StartMarriageRight.com.

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Praying Psalm 1 for Your Husband

LORD, I thank You for my husband. Thank You for creating him in Your image, designing him for greatness and strength.

husband

I pray that my husband will be like a great tree planted by streams of water, its branches reaching up to the sky. May my husband be a mighty man of God, strong in character. In his spirit, may his arms be lifted in praise to You all day long. May he raise his requests and burdens to You.

husband

I pray that my husband will be like a tree whose leaf does not wither. Keep him from compromising when things are difficult or when temptation is fierce. Protect him from the “withering” of discouragement or fear. Keep him leaning on You, drawing his strength from you.

[Click HERE to read more of this prayer at StartMarriageRight.]

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How to Upgrade Your Marriage

Women, do you have to earn your husband’s attention and affection?

Men, do you have to earn your wife’s acceptance?

THE OLD, WEARY WAY

If your marriage is based on EARNING, then you have an old-covenant (OC) relationship. OC marriages are common because this type of relationship comes naturally to us. It works like this:

You do something, and then I will give you the wages which your behavior earned.

If you please me, I will give you good things because you earned them.

If you displease me, I will withhold the good stuff because you didn’t earn it. 

And if you really displease me, I will give you the punishment that you earned!

This system makes sense to us, for the most part. But it is maddening when we don’t know what our spouse wants, or when our spouse makes demands that we didn’t agree to, or when our spouse doesn’t evaluate our actions the way we do.

Furthermore, it is not a very pleasant or energizing way to live. It reduces marriage to an ordinary bartering system instead of a special, cherishing union.

In OC marriages, husbands have to earn respect. They might have to earn sex. Wives have to earn affection and focused attention. Both men and women have to earn appreciation and approval.

This kind of relationship can be exhausting! We must keep evaluating our spouses, and then we must keep paying or punishing according to what they have earned. In addition to that, and most urgently, we must keep earning our own wages.

The whole earning thing can be depressing, actually.

A NEW, LIFE-GIVING WAY

But we don’t have to live this way!  (Click HERE to continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com.)

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A Life Hack for a Great Marriage

You probably know some helpful life hacks for cooking, cleaning, or organizing your garage.

life hack

Here’s one for your marriage:

Remember the letters H-A-C-K.

The word “hack” is not very appealing, but as an acronym, it represents some fantastic tools for building your marriage.

HACK is an acronym for 4 super-important elements in a great marriage:

Honor
Attentiveness
Commitment
Kindness

If you will focus on just these four things, you will strengthen your marriage. If you will keep pouring these four essentials into your relationship, you and your spouse will be able to deal successfully with almost anything that comes your way. Like sturdy planks, these items create a platform that can sustain a ton of stress and strain.

[Click HERE to continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com.]

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How Can You Trust God After He Allows Evil?

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God–and I know that she does–but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

trust God

How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

trust God

God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

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How to Be a Burning Bush: Suffering Well

A Burning Bush

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied. (Exodus 3:1-4, NLT)

suffering

What an incredible sight! Out in the wilderness, Moses discovered a blazing bush that didn’t burn up.

It got Moses’ attention. He stopped. Intrigued, he moved closer. And then God spoke to him.

A Spectacle of Grace

Over 200 years ago, John Newton realized that this burning-but-not-burnt bush was a vivid metaphor for Christians as they go through fiery trials. Newton wrote:

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses, ‘Why is this bush not burned?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace.¹

Newton called these suffering-but-victorious Christians “spectacles of grace.” Joni Tada uses the phrase “spectacles of glory.” Joni, by the way, is the perfect example of this! Not only is she a quadriplegic, but Joni has also battled cancer, and she lives with chronic pain. Despite immense suffering, she faithfully maintains a joyful, thankful spirit.

Perhaps you are a spectacle of glory.

At some point, God calls all of us to be spectacles of glory. When we walk through difficult circumstances without being destroyed, it grabs people’s attention. They say, “How can this be? What is going on here?” They turn their eyes from their usual focus. They stop to look. And as they gaze, still and attentive, God speaks to them.

Smoke or Spectacle: Your Choice

When you experience fiery trials, you can be badly burned, and your life can turn into ashes. You might become bitter, resentful, and stuck in grief. You may feel abandoned by God, and you might feel sorry for yourself. Discouragement and despair may overtake you. Your strength, your success, your usefulness—it all seems to go up in smoke.

suffering

OR … you can be a bush that is not consumed! 

You can be a spectacle of glory as the fires of suffering burn without burning you. Do you remember the young Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace? They were not consumed—not a single hair was singed. And when they came out of from the flames, they did not even have the smell of fire on them.

A Captive Audience

You can be a miracle that gets the attention of others. (It will probably get your attention, too!) Like a burning-but-not-consumed bush, you will create opportunities for people to hear the voice of God.

suffering

People will say, “What’s this? How are you going through these circumstances with a calm spirit? How are you going through all this without being bitter or belligerent? Why are you not anxious or angry or addicted?” Because  your response to suffering is unusual, they will stop for a moment and look away from their usual activity—like Moses turning away from his flocks—and they may hear God speaking to them.

We can yield to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. He will be our radiance—the blazing fire that fills us but does not consume us. We can let God turn us into spectacles of grace and glory.

Whose Suffering is This?

The Scriptures tell us:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are going through, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice—be very glad— as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT)

Notice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Usually, we participate in our own sufferings, don’t we? We participate in our life, our pain, our worry, our frustration, and our feelings of being rejected. But when we live that way, we are like bushes burned and consumed.

Instead, we must give our lives to Christ. We must walk through hard times knowing that these are His sufferings. We can say, “This is God’s life. He can do with it whatever He pleases. I gave it to Him, and I trust Him.” All the pain, the weight, and the rejection is His suffering. It all becomes redemptive suffering, in which nothing is wasted. All of the pain is being molded into a container for glory, a vessel that will overflow with glory.

Redemptive suffering increases our capacity for joy.

Keep On Doing What is Right

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

What are some of the good things that we should continue to do? Here are several things that are always right to “keep on doing”:

  • Keep trusting that God is fully attentive to you, absolutely loving, and perfectly wise. Keep trusting that He is trustworthy!
  • Keep forgiving.
  • Keep praying fervently and without ceasing.
  • Keep your heart open and soft toward your spouse. (God often uses the hot coals of kindness to melt icy-hard hearts.)
  • Keep honoring the spirit of your spouse.
  • Keep your covenant vows.

God has given us this wonderful promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

If you are walking through fiery trials, I pray that God will sustain you as an amazing “spectacle of grace.” As you are filled with His Spirit, you will be like a burning bush, radiating with His spectacular glory!

_______________________________________
¹Quoted in A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me. Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan. 2016. Page 7.

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Pentecost: Celebrating Two of God’s Gifts

This Sunday, June 4, is Pentecost.

We have just had a big holiday weekend here in the United States, so you may not feel eager for another “event.” But Pentecost does not require a lot of preparation, and it is too wonderful to miss!

Very simply, Pentecost is a day to thank God for the Scriptures and for the Spirit. God gave these marvelous gifts to guide,  strengthen, and comfort us.  Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church because, according to Acts 2, it was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind, appeared like flames of fire, and filled the believers.  (Read more about Pentecost HERE.)

Be sure to celebrate!

Your celebration can be as simple as sticking a birthday candle in a muffin and then taking time to thank God for His gifts. Or you can celebrate with a meal and use some of these ideas, below. (The following is an excerpt from Simple Celebrations.)

Here is a simple menu for a Pentecost meal:

  • barley soup
    You can easily add barley to vegetable soup or to beef-and-vegetable soup.Pentecost
  • bread
    Two loaves of braided bread are great because the ten strands can represent the Ten Commandments.
    Pentecost
  • honey
  • something prepared with oil
    You might try latkes, but anything that your group likes is fine.
  • birthday cake

How to Celebrate

Explain that Pentecost is a special celebration of two of God’s fantastic gifts to us: the Scriptures and the Spirit.

As you serve the barley soup, explain that Pentecost occurs seven weeks, or fifty days, after Passover. In Biblical history, this was the time of the spring harvest. Barley was a spring crop.

Explain that fifty days after the first Passover, when God brought the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, God gave a wonderful gift to His people at Mount Sinai: the written Word of God. This was a covenant gift of the first—or “old”—covenant.

Serve the bread, and talk about how the Scriptures nourish us. Have someone read Matthew 4:4. Serve honey—or jam for children under 2—and talk about how the Scriptures are sweet to us. Read Psalm 119:103.

Pentecost

Light the candle as you discuss how the Scriptures are like light for us. Read Psalm 119:105. You may also want to read Psalm 19:7-11.

Serve the food that represents oil. Say that we are celebrating the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit, who was given to God’s people as a covenant gift of the new covenant. The old covenant was the covenant of earning God’s acceptance, but the new covenant is the covenant of receiving God’s acceptance and friendship.

Tell your group that just as the gift of the old covenant came fifty days after Passover and with loud noises and fire, so the gift of the new covenant came with loud noises and fire fifty days after Jesus became our Passover Lamb. On that day of Pentecost, the believers in Jerusalem received the Spirit of God. Scriptures you may want to read highlighting the Spirit are Romans 8:5-16 or John 14:16-17, 26.

Pentecost

At the end of your meal, celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church! Read about it in Acts 2:1-4. With cake and candles, thank God for His Church, which is made up of all believers in Christ.

Have a joy-filled Pentecost!

Celebrating with you,
Tami

 

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.)

 

 

 

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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

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“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.

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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

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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.
————————————————————-

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

 

 

 

———————————————————–

All photos are from the movie The Nativity Story.

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

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We are the Body of Christ

body of Christ

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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

 

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

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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.

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¹Ravi Zacharias on “Just Thinking”

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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)

sex

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

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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.)
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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.

 

 

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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?

 

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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.

figs-504499_640

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.

 

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