Category Archives: Bible

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.]

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

 

“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.

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!

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

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.

fig-316141_640

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!

 

 

——————————————————

[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.

 

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

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

faith

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

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

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

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

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

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

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

faith

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

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

What does increase our faith?

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

faith

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

How is faith like a fish?

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

blue-tang-1288727_640

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

The Seven Rings of Marriage

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

Seven Rings

The High Value of Marriage

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

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

Champion Husbands

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

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

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

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

How to Restore Friendship in Your Marriage:

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

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Enrich Your Prayer Time with Your Spouse:

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

The Model Husband

Here is some further advice from Jackie:

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————–

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

Who You Are, and What You’re Worth

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

identity

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

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

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

Your value is built in.

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

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

“I am His.”

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

identity

“I am His.”

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

You are deeply desired, passionately pursued, forever cherished.

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

CQCSWILE04

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

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

“I am His.”

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

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

ZU65CTAVWV

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

But your value is unchanging: you are priceless.

And your identity is solid: you are His.


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

Handling Hurt: 5 Steps for Healing

We live in a world of hurt, don’t we?

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

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

The first step is easy:

1. Say, “Ouch!”

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

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

2. Put your wound in the Light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Guard against spiritual infection.

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

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

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

 5. Apply the potent, soothing promises of Scripture.

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

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

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

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hurt

hurt

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

hurt

Is God’s Will for You a Mystery?

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

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

Kings have dreams.

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

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

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

God's Will

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

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

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

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

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

God reveals mysteries to those who seek Him.

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

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

Notice Daniel’s prayer:

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

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

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

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

Keep doing what God tells you to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then do it some more.

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

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

God's Will

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

015-persistent-widow

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

naaman

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

throw net

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

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

net full

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

You are going to be amazed!

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

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

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

You are invited to join us!

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

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

Christmas Prayer

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

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

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

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Merry Christmas!

Blessings to you,
Tami

Merry Christmas!

Christmas

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

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

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

And this was
Christmas.

Christmas

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

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

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Book Sale

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

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Merry Christmas, everyone! 

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

 

Battling Bitterness

A Strategy to Target Bitterness

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

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

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

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

3 Steps to Victory

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

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

A Surprising Truth about Bitterness

God is helping me to understand this startling truth:

My struggle to forgive is actually a struggle with God.

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

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

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

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

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

bitterness

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

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Last call for a giveaway copy of Fervent:

prayer strategies

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

 

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

What are your prayer strategies? Could you use some?

prayer strategies

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

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

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

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

3 Steps to a Powerful Strategy

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

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

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

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

prayer strategies

An Example

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

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

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

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

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

A Helpful Resource

prayer strategies

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

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

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

A Giveaway for YouImage courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

 

10 Commandments … for Marriage

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

10 commandments

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

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

Click HERE to continue reading.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And the winner is …

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

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

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Mailbox image is courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

“War Room”

I saw War Room last night.

war room

This new movie has a fantastic message:

PRAY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE!

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

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

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

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

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

Our submission to God IS resistance to the devil.

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

I encourage you to see War Room.

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

war room

Most of all, I encourage you to pray!

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

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

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

Battle on!

Forgiveness: A Powerful Way to Hold Out the Cross

Bitterness can destroy us.

We understand that.

But do we understand why? Why does our refusal to forgive cause such serious harm to us?

Unforgiveness deforms us because it is rooted in a lie.

As with all sin, it binds us in spiritual enslavement because bitterness denies the truth that sets us free.

Resentment denies the truth of Deuteronomy 23:5, which says that God turns curses into blessings for us because He loves us.

forgiveness

It denies the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 and Job 42:2, which assure us that God’s plans for us are good and that they cannot be thwarted.

forgiveness

Bitterness also denies this startling truth: as forgiven Christ-followers, we do not have the right not to forgive. The liberating truth is that the spiritual work of atonement is finished. Physical consequences may still apply, but spiritual justice has been satisfied.

Bitterness cries out for justice. Forgiveness recognizes that spiritual justice has been served.

Forgiveness is not a matter of deciding not to press charges; it is a matter of recognizing that charges have already been settled. As I recognize that a penalty has already been paid, I can say to the one who has wronged me, “You do not owe me.” Spirit to spirit, there is no debt. Insisting on payment would actually be further injustice.

At the foot of the Cross, I stand next to those who have wronged me, for we are all sinners alike. If the blood flowing down from the pierced body of Christ is insufficient to reach my debtors beside me, then it does not reach me, either, for my sins against God far exceed the sins committed against me.

forgivenessForgiveness is full of power because it is full of truth: it is agreeing with God that the debt has been paid.

Justice has been written with whips and nails across the flesh of Christ. The full wrath of God poured out at Calvary even as red blood poured out.

Forgiveness is not something we choose to do as much as it is something we acknowledge: we recognize that the punishment for every wrong and every evil has been lashed and deeply striped across the back of Jesus.

The choice we must make is not whether or not we will forgive:

The choice we must make is whether or not we will be people of the Cross. If we choose to stand in the shadow of the Cross, then every facet of our lives also comes under that shadow of atonement.

Forgiveness, then, is not an isolated event or an extraordinary choice that we make. It is the air we breathe as believers; it is the rule of the Kingdom. It is the seamless way we live, for the Forgiving God lives within us. To deny forgiveness to someone else is to quench the Spirit within us.

It is not being wronged that disrupts the well-being of our spirits; the festering infection within us is our refusal to forgive. When I struggle to forgive someone, I am not wrestling with the one who wronged me as much as I am wrestling with the God who forgave me. My bitterness is my own rebellion against God.

God forgives us not because He denies our wrong or excuses it. He forgives our evil because He has paid the price for it. In fact, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Every time we forgive, we are holding out the Cross and saying again, “It is finished.” The paying is finished.

It is the power of the Cross of Christ to move us from a place of punishment to a place of redemption. The work of transformation and restoration remains, but the work of atonement is finished.

forgivenessAs we forgive, we move from seeking punishment to seeking redemption.

Forgiving is the stamp of the Spirit upon our spirit, and it a powerful new proclaiming of the gospel. This “good news” declares that, although evil has been committed, justice has been satisfied. What remains is an invitation to healing and restoration.

Forgiveness says, “Although I have been hurt, I will not hurt you back.”

Forgiveness also says, “I will not feel sorry for myself.” This is possible because we know that God redeems our pain fully. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HSCB).

I do not have to deny my pain or someone else’s evil in order to forgive. I do not have to wrestle with my emotions. Instead, I simply lay down the stone that I had wanted to throw in punishment, I walk away from my pity party, and I stand in the shadow of the Cross. And suddenly, I realize that I have forgiven.

The apostle Paul asked his friend Philemon to forgive Onesimus, the slave who had stolen from Philemon. Paul made this remarkable promise to Philemon:

If [Onesimus] has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL![i]

Paul was saying, “You can forgive this debt, Philemon, because I will pay it.” Paul said this because he knew that God had said the same thing to him.

When we are wronged, we can hear God say these very words to us, too. We can forgive our debtors because God has promised to repay us. He will repay what has been taken from us—and even more.

(This is the third in a series on forgiveness.  You can read Part One here: A Spiritual WMD, Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help?
and Part Four here: Forgiveness as Resurrection.)

 

[i] Philemon 18-19, NLT

 

#LoveWins ?

The President got a bit emotional this morning over the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize homosexual unions.

I did, too.

In fact, I cried. I am absolutely brokenhearted that this nation would willingly deprive children of a mother or a father—not only deprive the children, but tell them that it is no loss.#LoveWins

Many are celebrating today that #LoveWins. But who wins when a child is willfully deprived of a mother or a father? This is only loss, and it is loss for everyone. This is something to be grieved.

#LoveWins

“What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, NLT).

With respect and compassion, I say that so-called “gay marriage” is neither gay nor marriage. It has no threads of dignity or health; it has no fabric of life; it has no cloth to cover shame. It is no garment of glory.

There are cheering crowds, yes. There is much applause, yes.

But the emperor has no clothes on.

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Image courtesy of num_skyman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have no FoMO!

Have you heard about FoMO?

The “Fear of Missing Out” is the latest trend. This phobia can cause endless checking of social media, as well as feelings of anxiety and depression. But Christ-followers have no need to take part in the FoMO fad because we have this fantastic promise from God:

no FoMO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 84:11 assures us that we will not miss out on even one good thing if we are following Christ.

But we are often tempted to feel that God is holding out on us, aren’t we?  We think, if only God would give me the good thing of better health; if only He would give me the good thing of that relationship I want; if only He would give me the good thing of more money or a different job. We wonder how we can get God to just let us have that good thing that He is holding back from us.

But when we believe that God is withholding a blessing from us, our thoughts are rooted in deception. God withholds no good thing from those who follow hard after Him.

There is no generosity like the generosity of God toward His people. He is absolutely lavish in His love.

We can trust Him.

We can trust Him with our marriages. We can trust His instructions to us. We can trust His plans. We can trust Him with our needs, with our disappointments, and with our longings. We can trust Him with our lives.

Joining you in living FoMO-free,
Tami

Love: Just the Basics, Please

I often need to recall the basics. Here are the basics of love, as spoken to us by Love Himself, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson. My favorite line is near the end:

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

From “the love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13):

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, …
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, …
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. …

love

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

love

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Here’s one more reminder:   No prayer call this week. But be sure to join us for next week’s call on Thursday, April 30.

Until then, I want to keep focusing on the basics:  “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”

Blessings to you,
Tami

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Scripture taken from The Message (MSG).Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

By Your Wounds, Who is Healed?

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21, NIV)

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. (1 Peter 2:21-25, MSG)

What is Peter’s point here?  Peter is encouraging us that our suffering may be (and always should be) God-ordained. In fact, we are called to this very thing: we are called to suffer as Christ suffered.

Christ did not suffer as a hapless victim; He suffered as a willing Victor. His suffering was a very deliberate act: it was an offensive, calculated act of war. It was the very crushing of the head of evil.

When our suffering is God-ordained and God-sustained, we are not weak victims. We do not panic; we are not discouraged. We do not abandon or reject what God is doing. God-ordained suffering is the powerful defeating of evil!

Here in the book of Peter, in the middle of a discussion on persecution and suffering, God says that by His wounds, we are healed. We are spiritually, profoundly, healed by the wounds of Another.for-you-1354974-m

So what’s the point? Here it is:
when we follow the example of Christ,
suffering in God-ordained ways,
then others are healed by our wounds.
By the wounds of Christ, we are healed;
and
then by our wounds,
others are healed.
That is AMAZING.

Paul said, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
(Colossians 1:24, NIV)

In our marriages, if we suffer as God directs, yielding to Him, then our suffering is bringing healing. Just being wounded is not the point! If our spouses are wounded, and then we are wounded—if that is all that is going on—then we just have more woundedness and a bigger mess than ever! If your suffering is making you bitter and full of self-pity, then the problem is only getting worse in your home.

What God is calling us to do is to identity with our spouses—that is what Christ did for us. He did not add wounds to the situation; He actually took on our wounds as His. God is calling us to recognize that our spouses’ spiritual enemy is our enemy; we are in this together. We are fighting right beside our spouses for our spouses.

Because we are in a blood-covenant with Christ, we have the blood of Christ flowing through our spiritual veins. We have His DNA—Divine Nature Activated—within us. So when we bleed in suffering, it is the blood of Christ that flows.

This is critical!

If the blood of my sin-nature flows, then what is coming from me is resentment and revenge and rejection and hatred. There is no healing in that.

But when you suffer in your marriage as God directs, then the blood of Christ flows out. The blood of Christ is LIFE—abundant life. There is healing in that! The blood of Christ is love—the willingness to give of one’s self to another. There is healing in that!

(This is a transcript of today’s prayer call. Join us online or by phone as we pray together every Thursday.  Click HERE for more details.)

Something New Today …

I am trying something new today.

I would like to share with you a presentation called “Battle Strategies in Prayer: How to Fight on Your Knees.” In this slide-show, I discuss  several aspects of effective prayer. These are spiritual principles that we can learn from Old Testament battle accounts.

May God bless you as you join Him in fighting for your marriages and families.

 

Marriage according to the Master

summer-fun-on-the-lake-1-834491-mLooking for God’s direction concerning
your marriage? Here is some clear instruction from 1 Corinthians 7—along with some encouragement and challenge, too:

Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other….

[I]f you are married, stay married. This is the Master’s command…. If a wife should leave her husband, she must either remain single or else come back and make things right with him. And a husband has no right to get rid of his wife.

… If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. …

bike-friends-1008533-m[I]f the unbelieving spouse walks out, [God calls us to handle this] as peacefully as we can. You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.

“Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”

“His” Prayer

Do you have “his” and “her” towels at your house?his and hers
How about “his” and “her” prayers?

Today I want to share with you a husband’s prayer, based on Scripture.  Next week, I will share a wife’s prayer. And as always, I am glad to hear your thoughts, too!

I thank You, LORD, for my wife and for Your captivating design in creating her; thank You for her beautiful gifts and strengths. Thank You for using my wife to bless me, and thank You for giving me the privilege of serving You by serving her. Help me to serve her well.

By Your Spirit, I submit today to my wife’s needs. Give me insight into those needs; give me the desire and the ability to minister well to those needs.

man-praying-788582-mLORD, in yielding to Your plan for marriage, I acknowledge that You have given me the responsibility of being the “head” in this marriage: I am accountable to You  for the well-being of my wife. As You protect and provide for me, enable me to protect and provide for her.

Help me to lay down my life for her today in every way that You direct. Help me to lay down selfish ambition and self-focus. Help me to lay down my independence so that she can be dependent upon me and so that I can be dependent upon You. I choose to die to belonging to myself so that I can belong to her.

Show me how to “wash her feet,” ministering to her in ways that will make her radiant. Teach me how to care for her as for myself, nurturing her spirit so that she thrives. Show me how to love her well–with gentleness and with affection. Give me eyes to see through her eyes so that we will experience the oneness that You have given us; knit us together as You desire.

Help me to cover her as a roof covers walls, fabric-1-502205-mwilling to endure life’s harsh elements in order to shelter her; help me to cover her with tenderness and comfort as a blanket brings warmth on a cold night. Help me never to cover her with violence or even harshness–in action, word, or attitude. Instead, help me to be considerate as I live with my wife, esteeming  her as a “equal partner in God’s gift of new life.” Keep me mindful that my disrespect to her hinders my prayers to You.

May I be a faithful priest in our home, willing to sacrifice for my wife’s sake and willing to stand before You on her behalf.

Show us how to “relish life” together.

Thank you, LORD.

(Ecclesiastes 9:9, MSG; Malachi 2:16; Ephesians 5:25-33; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 2:2, KJV; Colossians 3:19, NIV or NLT; 1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

 

Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 3)

How are you praying for your marriage? Here is a prayer, based on Scripture, that will enable you to fight for your marriage using “the sword of the Spirit”:

LORD, I lift this marriage to You. In the spiritual realm, I want to surround this marriage with prayer and praise, just as the Israelites surrounded Jericho. “Marching” around this marriage, I honor Your Name as holy. I acknowledge You as Sovereign Lord, and I declare that this marriage belongs to You and that I belong to You.

Lord, fight for us! By Your own right arm, intervene. Tear down every satanic stronghold in our spirits.¹ Bring it down to the dust—shattered, never to rise again.Tear down every stronghold built upon rebellion against You and built upon the lies of lust, greed, and pride.

In the Name of Jesus, I ask that  “the strong man,” the enemy of this marriage, be bound.² Bind up his lies; bind up his accusations and condemnations. In the Name of Jesus, I pray that the captives be set free.

I ask that every wicked scheme of the evil one be thwarted. I ask You to throw the forces of darkness into disarray; rout the enemy through division and confusion so that the enemy is utterly defeated. I pray that no weapon forged against us will prevail.³

Expose what the enemy is causing to fester in the dark, and reveal Yourself as the Healer and the Victor.  Make us aware of enemy tactics, and reveal to us the lies that we are believing.  By Your Spirit, flood our spirits with powerful truth, overwhelming and displacing every deception. Scatter the darkness with a mighty unleashing of liberating and healing Light.

Keep us from thinking that we are each other’s enemies; cause us to know that Satan is the enemy. Deliver us from the decaying disease of  self-centeredness, and free us to feast on Your glory. Deliver us from thinking that this covenant of marriage demands too much and takes too much from us; free us to know that giving to one another is what heals and enriches us. Break the chains that tell us we must protect ourselves and provide for ourselves; free us to know that You “withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalm 84:11, NLT). Set us free as we believe that You are trustworthy, that You are the unfailing Need-meeter, that You redeem our pain with glory, and that all our joy is found in You.

O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You and praise Your Name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done and will do marvelous things, things planned long ago. I trust in You, and You save us. (adapted from Isaiah 25:1, NIV)

———————————————————————–

¹ Specifically name any strongholds that God has revealed to you, such as anger, an addiction, a critical spirit, bitterness, or fear.
² Matthew 12:29
³ Isaiah 54:17
• Other Scriptures used are Isaiah 59:16, Isaiah 25:12, 1 John 2:16, Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 54:17, 2 Corinthians 2:11, and Ephesians 6:12.

See also:
Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 2)

Shared with Woman to Woman Ministries

Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 2)

1408237_trees_in_fields_with_wendelstein_mountains_in_backgroundHave you prayed for your spouse today? Psalm 1 provides a helpful guide as you pray for your husband or wife, or for someone else you know.

A prayer for your husband:
LORD, I pray that my husband will be blessed today–happy and spiritually healthy in You. I pray that he will not walk in the counsel  of the wicked, listening to the lies of the enemy, but that he will walk in wisdom and in the counsel of the Spirit .  I pray that he will not stand in the way of sinners, but that he will stand in the way of saints, as a soldier of Christ with his feet planted firmly in truth. I pray that he will not sit in the seat of mockers, doubting Your goodness or scorning Your instructions, but that he will sit in reverence at the feet of Christ all day long, listening to You.

I pray that my husband will delight in Your law today, rejoicing that Your ways are good and Your instructions are trustworthy. I pray that he will meditate on Your law day and night, continually pondering Scripture, continually yielding to the shaping of Scripture, and continually looking to the Scriptures for guidance and comfort.

Make my husband to be like a tree 1402403_pinetree_on_the_beach_3that is planted by streams of water: cause him to be firmly grounded in Your love, and help him continuously to drink in the Holy Spirit. I pray that he will yield fruit in season as the Spirit produces godly character and holy living. I pray that his leaf will not wither: keep him from compromising his obedience to You in any way, and do not let him “wilt” from discouragement or despair.

I pray that whatever he does will prosper; make him incredibly successful in Your callings upon his life.  Prosper him as a husband, as a father, and as a member of his church; prosper him in the work that You have for him. May Your excellent purposes for his life be fulfilled, and may he succeed mightily as a great man of God.

1404706_mountain_creekA prayer for your wife:
LORD, I pray that my wife will be blessed today–happy and spiritually healthy in You. I pray that she will not walk in the counsel  of the wicked, listening to the lies of the enemy, but that she will walk in wisdom and in the counsel of the Spirit. I  pray that she will not stand in the way of sinners, but that she will stand in the way of saints, as a soldier of Christ with her feet planted firmly in truth. I pray that she will not sit in the seat of mockers, doubting Your goodness or scorning Your instructions, but that she will sit in reverence at the feet of Christ all day long, listening to You.

I pray that my wife will delight in Your law today, rejoicing that Your ways are good and Your instructions are trustworthy. I pray that she will meditate on Your law day and night, continually pondering Scripture, continually yielding to the shaping of Scripture, and continually looking to the Scriptures for guidance and comfort.

Make my wife to be like a tree that is planted by streams of water: cause her to be firmly grounded in Your love, and help her continuously to drink in the Holy Spirit. I pray that she will yield fruit in season as the 1403577_fall_colorsSpirit produces godly character and holy living. I pray that her leaf will not wither: keep her from compromising her obedience to You in any way, and do not let her “wilt” from discouragement or despair.

I pray that whatever she does will prosper; make her incredibly successful in Your callings upon her life.  Prosper her as a wife, as a mother, as a member of her church; prosper her in the work that You have for her. May Your excellent purposes for her life be fulfilled, and may she succeed mightily as a great woman of God.

(Modeled on the NIV translation of Psalm 1.)

See also:
Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 1)
Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 3)

Why Eve Came from Adam’s Side

We can call bitter “sweet,” if we want. bitterThat’s nothing new. (See Isaiah 5:20.) But this semantic violence fails to produce anything more than confused thinking: changing labels does not change essence.

If we call homosexual union “a marriage,” then we need another word for this: God’s design for one man and one woman to reflect the harmonized diversity within God’s one essence and to suggest the creative power of that unity.

The Biblical definition of marriage is much more than a legally recognized relationship of emotional and sexual attachment. Marriage was designed to reveal the very nature of God.

1040039_shoesGod’s image is uniquely reflected in the union of male and female because the fullness of the Godhead encompases both masculinity and femininity. It is ironic that the homosexual community promotes the word “diversity” because a core problem with homosexual union is its lack of that very thing. The beauty of both musical and marital harmony lies in the rich complementing of differing notes or genders, not identical ones.

Why did God create Eve from the side of Adam? There was purpose in that: since Eve came from Adam, their union was able to represent oneness instead of “twoness.”

 

 

Who is getting your crumbs?

Are you giving your spouse your best “bread” or the leftover “crumbs”?

When Jesus spoke with the Greek woman about the children’s bread and the pet dogs under the table, He was not belittling her; He was explaining His priorities and being faithful to His calling.

Our spouses are our first priority and our highest calling. We want to give our best attention and energy to our spouses.

Who is getting your best “bread”?

 

 

Delight and the Power of Yada (Part 3 of 3)

That the Creator of the universe should desire to know us deeply and to love us in the knowing is amazing. That He should desire that we know Him deeply and love Him in the knowing is staggering. God comes to us with His desire to know when we bring to Him our desire to be known. God longs for us to respond to His desire to be known with our desire to know.

Convinced that His love toward us is absolutely unfailing and completely trustworthy, we can lay ourselves fully open before the Lord. Believing that His love is perfect casts out our fear so that we are able to lay ourselves bare before God, refusing to run, refusing to create inner noise, and insisting instead on being still in His Presence. In this safe place, we find that His correction to us, if needed, is not condemnation; it is liberation. When Lazarus emerges from the grave, he is not shamed; instead, he is welcomed, and the binding strips of cloth are removed from him.

But there is more–much more. Within this yada relationship, there is this:

I lay my entire self open before God to be known and to be loved by Him. From head to toe–from inside to out–every pore of my spirit is laid open before Him. As the sun can penetrate and warm everything that is laid in its rays of light, so God comes to all of me that is willingly laid before Him–laid before Him with my full trust of Him and with my eager desire for Him. Where I submit, He loves me well, and there is healing in that loving. Where I yield, He loves me well, and there is joy in that loving.

Every part of our lives that is willingly opened to God becomes spiritual thread that God uses to weave us together in connection with Him. God uses our willingness to be known and our desire to know Him to knit our spirits in union with Himself. Such union is both the power and the delight of yada.

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To Know: the Power of Yada (Part 2 of 3)

The Hebrew word yada can be used broadly to mean “to know.” However, it can also be used in a specific way to refer to knowing personally and directly. Yada often means involvement, revealing, or relational intimacy. It can even refer to physical intimacy, as in Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (KJV).[i]

We learn through the Scriptures that God desires a yada relationship with us.

He wants to know us through direct involvement and committed relationship, creating spiritual intimacy with us. In Amos 3:2, God tells Israel, “You only have I known.” Yada here must refer to a special type of knowing, for certainly God has knowledge of every nation. God’s knowledge of His people is an exclusive experience.

Not only can God know us in an intimate way, but He offers Molnár József: Ábrahám kiköltözéseto be known by us in a personal way. Unlike Adam and his descendants who have a propensity for hiding from covenant partners, God offers to reveal Himself to those who have committed themselves to Him. After establishing a friendship with Abraham, God asks Himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” God decides that He will not hide His plans from His friend; instead, He will reveal His intentions to Abraham. God explains, “For I have known [yada] him” (Genesis 18:17, 19, NKJV).

Several hundred years later, God announces that He is going to reveal Himself further to the Israelites: for the first time, He will let His covenant people know Him by His personal Name. He tells Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known [yada] to them” (Exodus 6:3, ESV). This is a profound offer of personal disclosure and relationship.

knowIsaiah writes that God’s people have been chosen to know (yada) Him (43:10). Another prophet, Jeremiah, tells us that God will give us “a heart to know [yada]” Him (24:7, NIV).

Psalm 139

Psalm 139 begins with repeated amazement that there is nothing that God does not know about the psalmist. Certainly, God knows every detail of our lives, even when we are heavily masked, cleverly camouflaged, and deeply hidden in our best burrows. Yet at the end of this beautiful song, the writer invites God to know (yada) his heart and to know (yada) his thoughts. Having first acknowledged God’s factual knowledge of him, the psalmist is now asking for God’s experiential knowledge of him. Before God, to whom all things are laid bare factually, we can bring ourselves to be known experientially through relationship.

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[i] Vine, W.E. Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Nelson. 2005.

 

Hiding and the Power of Yada (Part 1 of 3)

Rough bark scraped across the man’s bare chest as he rushed to crouch in the gathering darkness of the trees.  An unfamiliar sense of guilt threatened to suffocate the man. His frantic attempts to cover himself had failed to ease his shame, just as the thin veil of dusk did nothing now to stifle his panic. With every beat of his heart, the man felt the urge to hide hammering throughout him. Suddenly, he held his breath.

“Adam, where are you?”

And so began our long history of hiding.

Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden, and all of humankind since then has shared in this hiding. In shame and in fear, we hide from God in spirit and from one another in soul.

Yet we were not made for hiding; we were made to be known. We long desperately to be known–fully known–and to be loved in the knowing. Despairing, though, of finding someone who will both know us well and love us well, we cling to our places of hiding, hoping that these will be safe, even if solitary.

When we were enemies of God, hiding was consistent with our position as lovers of darkness. But then the unexpected happened: the Son of God entered the darkness with us. He took our reasons for hiding and made them His own. As Christ became hidden from God in death, our reasons for hiding were destroyed.

There is, therefore, now no need to hide (Romans 8:1).

hiding

Our shame and guilt have been swallowed up by Christ Himself, and our fear is dissipated in the light of His intense love.

But even now, as friends of God, we hide from Him. To our own immense loss and to God’s great sorrow, we hide. In busyness, niceness, denial, and noise, we hide.

When invited to open ourselves in honest self-disclosure before God, we cry out, “But, Lord, there will be a terrible stench!” Just as Martha was afraid to open the tomb of Lazarus, so we fear opening to God areas in our lives that we have preferred to conceal. But to keep them closed to God means that those areas will suffer increasing decay.

However, when we are willing to open these places to the Lord, then the infinite kindness and power of God work miraculous healing in our tombs of rebellion and tombs of grief.

As surely as Jesus called to Lazarus, so He calls to us to come out.

We are invited to come out into the light of freedom, where we may be released from our life-stifling wrappings of fear and shame.

The deep longing of our hearts to be known is not unique to us as men and women, nor is it random. It comes by deliberate design, for it reveals the very heart of the One in whose image we have been made: it is the deep longing of God Himself to be known and to be loved in the knowing. This is the stunning message of Scripture.

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The Dancing King … had a Demolishing Queen (continued)

You may have guessed that we would not be able to watch the dancing king without noticing the seething shadow up in the palace window. If the king had noticed, it may have been because he felt the scathing heat of that shadow reaching him even in the streets below.

When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he set a great example for his people by worshiping God with gratitude and with celebration. However, on the same day, his wife Michal set a very different kind of example: she modeled for wives what not to do.

With one caustic sentence, she tore down her marriage “with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). With bitterness, she belittled. With contempt, she criticized. With disdain, she despised. Michal accused David of not knowing how to be a king, but the truth was that Michal did not know how to treat a king! As a result, Michal suffered immense heartache and personal loss.

Just as husbands can learn from David in verses 12-19 of 2 Chronicles 16, so wives can learn from Michal in verse 20. A woman is wise who guards against sarcasm, scolding, and scorn–not only in words, but also in thought. Unlike Michal, a godly wife uses life-giving words and a respectful attitude to “build her house.” In that kind of house, the hearts of both the king and the queen can dance.

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Leadership Skills of a Dancing King

King David of Old Testament fame earned stellar marks as a musician, warrior, and king; but as a family man, he quite nearly flunked. However, on the day that he brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he dramatically demonstrated several characteristics of a godly husband and father:
1. David set aside his royal robes of position and put on the linen robes of a priest (1 Chronicles 15:27). Successful husbands and fathers do this when they lay aside their “I am the boss!” robes to wear the priestly ephod of service. As priests, these men bring the needs of their families to God, and they bring the holiness of God to their families.
2. David honored God by honoring the ark of the covenant; David clearly placed high value on the things of God (1 Chronicles 16:1). Successful leaders in the home evidence great reverence for God and spiritual matters.
3. David celebrated and worshiped God with all his heart (2 Samuel 6:14). Now that is excellent leadership right there! A leader in the home is powerful when his family watches him worship God with his whole heart and with great joy. (Dancing in the street, as David did, is optional.)
4. David offered sacrifices on behalf of his nation, just as godly leaders are willing to make sacrifices for the good of their families (1 Chronicles 16:2; Job 1:5).
5. David blessed the people and gave them gifts of food and of joy (1 Chronicles 16:3). Can anything compare with the blessing of a godly father?  A strong leader speaks blessing into the lives of his family, and he supplies for them both provision and celebration.
6. David took responsibility to ensure regular observation of prayer, thanksgiving, and praise (1 Chronicles 16:4). Successful men do the same for their families.
On this special occasion, David served as a commendable leader for Israel, and he would have done well to have shown the same type of leadership in his family. Men today who exercise godly leadership in the home are worthy of our applause and respect. They surpass King David in this area, whether they dance or not.

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Frozen to the Sword

Does anyone remember reading about Eleazar, the son of Dodai the Ahohite? Probably not–but he was an incredible warrior, one whom we would do well to consider. According to Old Testament accounts, Eleazar was one of David’s “mighty men.” In a battle against  the Philistines one day, “the men of Israel retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground.” Not only did he stand his ground in the middle of a barley field, bravely facing the enemy onslaught, but he “struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.” And here’s the rest of the story: “The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.”  (2 Samuel 23:9-10, NIV)

Perhaps you are an Eleazar, fighting spiritual opposition and feeling overwhelmed in the battle. Perhaps there are those who should be standing with you but who have retreated instead. As you stand there, keep your hand on your sword, which is the Word of God. Keep your hand frozen to the sword. Don’t let go of the Scriptures for even a moment; hold on to its promises and commands and prayers.

Eleazar must have known that dropping his sword or even loosening his grip on it would have meant defeat for his cause and certain death for himself. We, too, must know that our spiritual well-being and success depend on this sword of God’s Word: we conquer by clinging to its truth, or we suffer defeat by losing our grip on it.

Stand strong, “Eleazar.” Though your hand grow tired, keep it frozen to your sword. “And the LORD will bring about a great victory.

 

To the Husband who Seeks Reconciliation

I salute you!

reconciliationYour heart for reconciliation reveals the very heart of God, and your faithfulness to covenant reflects the faithfulness of God, which “reaches to the skies.” We will break our loyalty to our covenant partners the day God breaks His loyalty to us, His covenant partners.

I commend you for your commitment, even though it means battling upstream against the culture and against spiritual forces. Instead of harming you, this struggle will instead strengthen you into the greatness for which you were created.

When a man makes a covenant vow to a woman, he is bound before God to thatreconciliation commitment until death breaks the bond. Even if his covenant partner loses heart, he can remain committed to her, regardless of what she does, and remain committed to peace. Without pushing, pulling, or demanding, he can stand with his feet planted in unshakable, unmovable commitment to the partner. Her reactions do not change his commitment. The covenant-keeping husband, even when divorced, can be a rock of commitment to his covenant partner. He is willing to suffer for her good. His goal—his unchanging goal—is to love well.

God will fully satisfy and delight you. He may use your covenant partner to do that, or He may not. It does not matter how He does it; He will do it. He will do it so that you know that He is the great Treasure; anything else would be deception and disappointment. He knows how to love you, and He knows how to love you well.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Ps. 3:3, ESV

“For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Ps. 84:11, NIV

Cheering for you,
Tami

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Emotion that Devours, continued

When we are wronged, how can we handle our anger? We answer that best when we look at what God does when He is wronged.  John Piper considers this in his book This Momentary Marriage: “But even though God has never done anything that legitimately pro­vokes our anger at him, what has he done about the breakdown in our relationship with him? He has taken initiatives to heal it—initiatives that were infinitely costly to him” (p. 151).

When we are wronged, we can reflect God by thinking like this: “In my spirit, I will walk towards this person in love. I will join Christ in this situation. I am willing to suffer so that this person can be healed.” Just as Christ was willing to suffer in order to love me well, so I can be willing to suffer in order to love others well.

Although the work of atonement was completed at the Cross, the work of redemption (turning ashes into beauty) and sanctification (turning self-centered, diseased people into Christ-centered, healthy people) is ongoing. It is an awesome privilege to be invited to partner with God in His work. Not only does He promise to reward us well, but He promises that He Himself will be our great reward. There is nothing greater than that!

This means that when I am tempted to be angry about what is happening to me, I can instead yield to the Spirit so that the situation belongs to Him and not to me. Not only does this allow His power and wisdom to replace my weakness and foolishness, but this also changes the suffering of that situation into His suffering, instead of mine.  Double-yoked with Christ, I delight in being drawn nearer to Him; sharing in His sufferings, I delight in bringing pleasure to Him as the desires of His heart are being fulfilled.

   In summary, here are the three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead:

1. Recognize that my enemy is my anger, not what someone else has said or is doing. It is my bitterness that devours my soul.

2. Choose to be an active giver, truly believing that the best blessings come through giving.

3. Choose to join Christ in His sufferings in order to love others well and to gain intimacy with Christ.

When we do these things through the Spirit, every bit of our lives can be infused with the beauty and joy of God.  That, I think, is awesome.

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The Emotion that Devours

In reading “my new favorite book on marriage,” I was interested to discover an entire chapter devoted to the topic of anger. Author John Piper bases much of his discussion in This Momentary Marriage on the Biblical directives given in Ephesians 5:21 through 6:4. When the apostle Paul speaks to fathers in this passage, he gives one strong warning: “do not provoke your children to anger.” Of all the things that Paul could tell fathers, why does he choose this one thing? Piper recognizes that anger is being highlighted here as a critical issue in the home.

As Piper points out, anger “devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness.” When we work to conquer anger, not only are we freed of that misery, but we also “unlock” our hearts “to a dozen other precious emotions that make worship possible and make relationships sweet” (page 150).

There are three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead. Here are the first two:

1. Recognize that my anger is the enemy, not what someone else has said or done. It is my bitterness that devours my own soul, and it is my resentment that is bringing harm to me. Anger is  destructive when it is based on lies. We often choose to believe the lie that someone else is messing things up for us.  But the truth is that every single thing that comes  into my life, whether it is a trivial frustration or a horrible evil, can be used by God to advance His trustworthy purposes. Everything that God has allowed to enter my life has been charged by God to prosper me.

2. Choose to be an active giver, believing that choosing to give is a great gift to myself as well as to the other person. I can choose to give grace, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, and honor.  I can consciously choose to walk in love toward someone when my natural reaction would actually be to run away or to attack. When I choose to walk toward another in love, powerful things happen in the spiritual realm: the enemy is weakened, strongholds collapse, chains of bondage are broken, and captives are set free.

When we are mistreated or misunderstood or unappreciated, we gain an even greater opportunity to give and to create spiritual impact. That is why James says that we can “consider it pure joy” when we encounter problems or pain. Situations that tempt us to be angry are the very opportunities that allow us to give so that we are enriched. Our spirits are naturally ingrown—a condition which leads to decay and death. Giving is what heals the sickness of our spirits.

(We’ll look at a third way to combat anger next time.)

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My New Favorite Book on Marriage

“Yes! Yes! That’s right! That’s it!” That was my ongoing mental refrain as I read This Momentary Marriage by John Piper last week. It is an excellent primer on marriage, dealing with the most basic, most essential, and most profound aspects of marriage, such as the purpose of marriage, the key strengths of marriage, and the roles of headship and submission. I highly recommend this book! You can purchase the book, or you may download the free PDF of the entire book by going to the Desiring God website:   http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/this-momentary-marriage.

Piper does a great job of emphasizing the foundational truth of marriage, which is that marriage is a picture of the love relationship between Christ and His bride. On that topic, here are several excerpts from This Momentary Marriage:

Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.  (p. 25)

Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel. (p. 26)

 Marriage is more wonderful than anyone on earth knows. … The reason we need the Spirit’s help [to understand the glory of marriage] is that the wonder of marriage is woven into the wonder of the gospel of the cross of Christ, and the message of the cross is foolishness to the natu­ral man, and so the meaning of marriage is foolishness to the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14).  ( p. 29)

 

A “Word for Your Marriage”

“Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7, RSV).

The apostle Paul gave this instruction to all believers in Christ. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out that these words also create an excellent guideline for husbands and wives to apply specifically in their marriages.  While imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to his niece, who was engaged to be married. In “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,” Bonhoeffer gives this counsel:

Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your heart. … From the first day of your wedding till the last, the rule must be: ‘Welcome one another… for the glory of God’ ….That is God’s word for your marriage.

What a great application! The Greek word used in Romans 15:7 is proslambano, translated as “welcome” in the RSV, and as “accept” in the NIV. Proslambano means “to take to one’s self; to take as one’s companion; to take or receive into one’s home, with the collateral idea of kindness; to receive, i.e. grant one access to one’s heart.” (www.blueletterbible.org)

Certainly, proslambano is something to offer to our spouses–especially to them! Continually, we can be welcoming to our spouses as we receive their presence with warmth and with gladness. We can receive them with kindness and grant them access to our hearts. Instead of sensing rejection or mere tolerance, our spouses can live “welcomed” by our spirits.

As our spouses interact with us, what do they encounter?

Padlock.

 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 13: The Marriage Version (with my apologies to King James)

Though I speak to my spouse using diplomatic “I feel” messages and skillful conflict-resolution strategies, but do not love, I am become as sounding brass or as a car alarm that won’t shut off. And though I have an advanced degree in marriage counseling and understand the mysteries of why people do what they do and have all knowledge of psychology; and though I read a mountain of books on relationships, but do not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my good efforts to fulfill my duties, and though I burn up every drop of energy in being a great spouse, but do not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love is patient even when a spouse does not change; love is kind even when a spouse is thoughtless; love does not envy another marriage; love is not impressed with its own marriage skills.

Franciscan Fine ChinaLove does not save its “fine china” manners for company; love is courteous and polite. Love looks out of a spouse’s eyes to see from another’s perspective. Love is not easily provoked and thinketh no evil; instead, love assumes a spouse’s best intentions. Love does not delight in any threat to the relationship, but rejoices in healing and in strengthening. Love always protects the marriage, always believes that a spouse is priceless and made in the image of God, always trusts the promises of God, and is always confident that God’s grace is deeper than any need. Love never shuts its heart, never forsakes its covenant commitment, and never rejects a spouse.

Child rolled tongueLove never faileth: but whether there be prophecies that “you should move on with your life,” they shall fail; whether there be tongues that say that “your spouse is a jerk,” they shall cease; whether there be knowledge that “you deserve better than this,” it shall vanish away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became married, it was time to put away childish things, such as self-centeredness and quitting and valuing what feels easy.

For now we see through a glass, darkly, and there is much that we do not understand about our spouses, about ourselves, or about God’s ways; but then, face to face with God, we shall know fully what glorious things He has been doing through our marriages, just as He knows fully now how to love us well.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Playing Cards with God

What card are you holding in your hand? One day soon, you’ll play that very card before God.

Imagine this: As you stand before God one day, He says, “Lay down your card.” On the table before you, you lay down your ragged card, the card which you’ve been carrying around and using all your life. It says, “Judgment without mercy.” God then spreads out His large stack of cards, each one representing different moments from your life. As each one is laid down next to your “Judgment without mercy” card, you begin to realize that your card is now the evaluating standard for everything you have ever done, and the cost to you is going to be enormous.

Now imagine a different scenario: As you stand before God one day, you lay down your well-worn card. It says, “Mercy!” God smiles at you as He sets His stack of cards aside without even looking at them. Then He laughs, saying, “Mercy trumps everything!”

Which card is in your hand?

(My rendering of James 2:13 and Matthew 7:2.)

Head Signs

Old Testament Nazarites, such as Samson, wore long hair as a symbol of consecration to God. In the New Testament, married women wore long hair as a symbol of marital consecration. The Scriptures say that this sign of submission is important “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10, NIV). Could it be that godly submission to a husband provides a wife with a spiritual covering which is recognized by angels?

The writer of Hebrews tells us that angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:4). Do angels see a spiritual mark, as it were, on godly wives, indicating that these are the ones whom the angels are to serve?

A man who is not considerate and honoring toward his wife loses spiritual strength; his prayers become impotent. (See 1 Peter 3:7.) Perhaps in the same way, a woman who is not submitted in spirit to the needs and glories of her husband loses the personal ministering of angels to herself.

Although the sign on the head need not be literal, the spiritual principle is firmly established: the way we obey God in our marriages has profound implications for our spiritual status—and, therefore, our entire being.

Responses to Nakedness (last time!)

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, was He cognizant of the fact that He Himself would soon be in the same situation of being exposed before others? As He hung on the cross, Jesus experienced all of the varying “responses to nakedness.” There were accusers (like the serpent); there were those who mocked and sneered (like Ham); there were those who fled and “hid their faces” from another’s disfigurement (like the priest and the Levite); and there were a few who honored and ministered to the wounded one (like Shem, Japheth, and the Good Samaritan).

How do we, as God’s people, respond to revealed brokenness in our spouses? How do we respond to exposed neediness in their spirits and souls? We can reflect God Almighty, the One whose image we bear, when we do the following:

  • when we resolve always to move toward our spouses emotionally and spiritually,
  • when we graciously offer healing,
  • when we pour out from our own lives (although we are also broken and needy),
  • and when we resolve to bring honor to our covenant partners.

In hanging on the cross in nakedness and shame, Jesus did what the Good Samaritan could not do: He took the wounds onto Himself, took the nakedness onto Himself, and offered His own clothing and wholeness to the broken man. This is what God offers to do for each one of us: take the shame that we are trying in vain to hide with our flimsy fig leaves, and fully cover it instead with His own skin.

God’s response to our nakedness is to make it His.

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Responses to Nakedness (part 3 of 4)

Do you think of one more person in the Scriptures who lay naked and vulnerable before others? Jesus told the story of a man who was brutally attacked by robbers on the road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. In this parable, we again see contrasting responses to nakedness:

1. Both the priest and the Levite saw the wounded man, but they “passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31, NIV). This represents a common response to the exposed vulnerabilities of others: we turn away. Whether we walk away because of fear, indifference, or some other motivation, our turning away functions as rejection to the wounded person.

2. The Samaritan, however, did not turn away. When he saw the wounded man, “he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (verses 33-34, italics mine). From his own resources, the Samaritan provided the care that he could, and he enlisted others in appropriate ways to provide additional care.

The Samaritan models for us another godly “response to nakedness,” a response that is critical in our marriages and sometimes in other situations, too. When neediness is revealed to us, we may be tempted to turn away. We may be fearful or limited in ability and resources. However, we can respond with courage and with compassion, resolving to move toward the other person; we can pour out from our own lives to bring healing and to restore honor.

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