Category Archives: Christianity

Peace for the Storm-Tossed Family

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

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

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

Family as Problem, and Family as Solution

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

storm-tossed family

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

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

Family as Spiritual Warfare

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

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

Living Crucified Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Core Issues

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

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

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

Let me share some great statements from several chapters.

From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:

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

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

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

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

storm-tossed family

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

From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:

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

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

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

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

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

From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:

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

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

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

From “The Road To and From Divorce”:

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

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

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

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

Cherish the Blessings

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

The book concludes with strong encouragement:

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

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

The Gospel of Marriage and the Glory of Gender

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

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

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

Revealing God

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

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

marriage and gender

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

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

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

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

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

Telling the Truth About God

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

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

gospel of marriage and gender

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

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

The Gospel of Masculinity

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

the gospel of marriage and gender

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel of Femininity

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

gospel of marriage and gender

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

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

The Gospel of Marriage

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

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

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

the gospel of marriage and gender

Marriage tells the gospel like this:

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

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

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

Strengthening Evangelism

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

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

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

That is a glorious gospel to preach!

———————————————-

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

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

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

 

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.]

A Life Hack for a Great Marriage

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

life hack

Here’s one for your marriage:

Remember the letters H-A-C-K.

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

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

Honor
Attentiveness
Commitment
Kindness

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

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

How Can You Trust God After He Allows Evil?

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

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

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

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

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

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

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

trust God

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

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

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

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

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

trust God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

How to Be a Burning Bush: Suffering Well

A Burning Bush

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

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

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

suffering

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

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

A Spectacle of Grace

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

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

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

Perhaps you are a spectacle of glory.

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

Smoke or Spectacle: Your Choice

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

suffering

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

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

A Captive Audience

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

suffering

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

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

Whose Suffering is This?

The Scriptures tell us:

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

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

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

Redemptive suffering increases our capacity for joy.

Keep On Doing What is Right

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

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

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

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

God has given us this wonderful promise:

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

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

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

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

 

Who is the Chief Sinner in Your Marriage?

chief sinner

“I am the chief sinner.”

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you,
Tami

Spring Celebrations: Passover and Resurrection Sunday

Happy Spring!

spring

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

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

spring

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

Celebrating Passover

What it is:

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

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

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

How to prepare: 

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

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

How to celebrate with preschoolers:

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

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

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

spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Easter

In Marriage

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

With Children

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

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

Dealing with Brokenness

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


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

But God says to us:

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

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

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

brokenness
Enter a Garden

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

brokenness

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

Roll Away Some Stones

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

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

Trust God with the Seeds

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

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

Hold and Behold the Hurting

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

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

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

Hold and Behold Your Healer

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

 

 

 

 

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

“The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage”

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

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

same-sex marriage

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

Why is this topic important?

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

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

What is marriage?

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

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

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

Why does the definition matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did we get here?

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

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

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

What should we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________________________________

Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, public domain.

Christmas Prayers

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

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

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

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

You stooped to wash our feet.

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

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

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

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

Christmas

A Prayer for Wives

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas

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

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

A Prayer for Husbands

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

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

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

 

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

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

A Prayer for Both

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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All photos are from the movie The Nativity Story.

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

Reformation Day: A Day to Celebrate!

A Holy-Day to Celebrate

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

reformation day

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

Reformation Day
from the movie “Luther”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Celebrate

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

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

Quotes by Luther

Prayer

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

Pray, and let God worry.

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

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

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

Scripture

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

Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage

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

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

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

Other

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

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

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

Happy Reformation Day!

The Purpose of Your Body

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

“What is the purpose of my body?”

Amazing, isn’t it?

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

shopping-mall-1316787_640

Misunderstood Purpose

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

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

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No Purpose

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

body

Divine Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Honor

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

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

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

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Awesome Design

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

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

body

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

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

Ann Swindell sums it up beautifully:

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

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

 

When Nonbelievers Act Like Nonbelievers

It is a trending comment among Christians:

Nonbelievers are going to act like nonbelievers.

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

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

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

Physical Laws and Spiritual Laws

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

nonbelievers

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

Speaking Truth in Love

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

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

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

nonbelievers

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

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Creating Platforms for the Gospel

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

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

nonbelievers

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

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


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

Conquering the Struggle to Forgive

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

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

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

But the truth is this:

Forgiveness is between us and God.

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

Another misunderstanding is that forgiving someone will make us vulnerable.

But here is the truth:

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

Bill Eliff put it this way:

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

forgive

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

 

 

Loneliness and its Surprising Cure

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

We have all experienced the ache of loneliness.

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

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

loneliness

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

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

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

worship.

What an incredible truth!

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

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

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

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

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

True Worship

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

There is no loneliness in that.

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¹Ravi Zacharias on “Just Thinking”

21 Myths about Sex

I really didn’t expect this.

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

sex

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

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

I found that.

But I also found much that was

  • beautiful.

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

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

Here is some of the “beautiful”:

Love lifts another higher.

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

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

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

Love is patient.

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

Love is kind.

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

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

Love never fails.

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

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

sex

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

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

Some of the Myths about Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Giveaway

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

Blessings to you,
Tami

Singles, Soulmates, & Marriage

What Singles Need to Know about Marriage

singles

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

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

Three More Marriage Truths for Singles

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

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

Click HERE to continue reading.

 

 

Mountain-Moving Faith

Need to move any mountains?

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

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

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

Achieving or receiving?

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

Faith is often an act of receiving.

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

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

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

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

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

Causing or allowing?

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

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

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

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

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Prepare to see some mountains move!

 

 

——————————————————

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

 

Overcoming the Overwhelming

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

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

faith

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

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

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

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

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

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

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

faith

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

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

What does increase our faith?

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

faith

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

How is faith like a fish?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

———————————————————————————————
[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 Blessing: 5 Elements of a Life-Changing Gift

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

Be a Blessing!

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

Bless Your Children

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

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

007-jacob-deceives                          008-jacob-deceives

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

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

blessing

There are five elements of the blessing:

  1. meaningful touch

  2. a spoken message of love and acceptance

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

  4. picturing a special future for that person

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

Bless Your Spouse

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

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

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

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

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

touch

Bless Your Friends

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

And Be Blessed!

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you,
Tami

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

[ii] p. 67

[iii] p. 177

[iv] Proverbs 11:25, MSG

Who You Are, and What You’re Worth

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

identity

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

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

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

Your value is built in.

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

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

“I am His.”

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

identity

“I am His.”

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

You are deeply desired, passionately pursued, forever cherished.

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

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

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

“I am His.”

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

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

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

But your value is unchanging: you are priceless.

And your identity is solid: you are His.


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

Handling Hurt: 5 Steps for Healing

We live in a world of hurt, don’t we?

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

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

The first step is easy:

1. Say, “Ouch!”

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

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

2. Put your wound in the Light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Guard against spiritual infection.

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

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

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

 5. Apply the potent, soothing promises of Scripture.

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

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

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

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hurt

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

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Is God’s Will for You a Mystery?

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

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

Kings have dreams.

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

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

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

God's Will

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

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

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

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

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

God reveals mysteries to those who seek Him.

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

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

Notice Daniel’s prayer:

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

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

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

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

Keep doing what God tells you to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then do it some more.

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

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

God's Will

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

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

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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.

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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

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)
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  • “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.

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

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Last call for a giveaway copy of Fervent:

prayer strategies

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

 

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

What are your prayer strategies? Could you use some?

prayer strategies

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

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

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

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

3 Steps to a Powerful Strategy

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

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

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

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

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An Example

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

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

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

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

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

A Helpful Resource

prayer strategies

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

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

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

A Giveaway for YouImage courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

 

10 Commandments … for Marriage

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

10 commandments

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

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

Click HERE to continue reading.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And the winner is …

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

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

___________________________________

Mailbox image is courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Forgiveness as Resurrection

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

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

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

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

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

He defeated death from within.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why Christ-followers must forgive:

Forgiveness is the Resurrection again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How has forgiveness brought Resurrection power into your life?

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

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

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.

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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.

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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

 

Forgiveness as Self-Help?

Last week, I discussed forgiveness as a “weapon of mass destruction,” recognizing its immense spiritual power.  Today, I would like to continue with this theme of forgiveness, evaluating its current popularity as  therapeutic self-help. (If you missed last week’s post, you can read it HERE.)

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Trendy Self-Help

Interestingly, forgiveness has received a lot of positive press lately in mainstream culture. “Forgiveness is good for you” is a trending theme promoted by all kinds of secular sources, including physicians, psychologists, news outlets, and entertainment media. We can appreciate and even applaud this surge of support for forgiveness.

However, if we forgive only for our own sakes, then the power of forgiveness is stunted. True forgiveness is not primarily a self-help strategy, although we do benefit when we forgive. The tremendous dynamo of forgiveness is activated most fully when our motivation is grounded in truth and in love.

Diluting and Defusing Forgiveness

forgivenessIf we dilute our forgiveness by forgiving others for our own gain, then we lessen the impact of love upon the wrongdoer. We defuse the spiritual combustion that could have wreaked greater havoc on enemy forces.

Leslie Leyland Fields has written about the “therapeutic forgiveness message,” quoting those who say, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” She recalls Jesus’s parable of the unmerciful servant who was forgiven a large debt but who then refused to forgive someone else’s small debt:

That man with massive debts who is called before the king is us. We’re hopeless before the holy King. We stand there shoulder to shoulder with every other debtor, even those who owe us money and honor and … love. … Our only hope is the King himself, and he does it. He clears our debts entirely. … [The man in the parable] misses this essential fact: Forgiveness is not for his personal freedom and happiness alone. It’s to bring freedom and restoration to all, especially to those who owe him. … We may begin the journey of forgiveness to ease our own burdens. But along the way we discover a chance to live out the fullness of the gospel: loving the unlovely, forgiving seventy times seven. In so doing, we reflect the kingdom of God among us.[i]

Self-Help for God?

forgivenessDoes God forgive us so that He can give Himself a gift? No, at great cost to Himself, He forgives us so that we can receive a gift. He forgives us so that we can be changed through the power of love.

When we are given opportunities to forgive, we are being privileged to reflect God in a dramatic way.

 

(Read more about forgiveness HERE: “Forgiveness is the Gospel.”)

[i] “What We Forgot About Forgiveness.” Christianity Today. May 2014. 30-35.

A Spiritual WMD

You’ve heard of a “weapon of mass destruction.”  Do you think there could be something like a spiritual WMD?

forgivenessI recently read the astonishing biography of Jacob DeShazer, one of the courageous Doolittle Raiders.[i] Led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, these American airmen were the first to bomb Japan after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. When DeShazer’s plane crashed after the raid, he was captured by the Japanese and tortured as a POW for 40 months. Through reading a Bible, Jacob became a follower of Christ and “a new creation.”[ii] After the war ended, Jacob was able to express love and sincere forgiveness to his former cruel guards and to the Japanese people.

Captain Fuchida was the Japanese airman who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, Captain Fuchida was convinced that everyone, regardless of nationality, was motivated by revenge toward one’s enemies. However, as he tried to gather evidence of this, he was astounded to learn that DeShazer and other Christians were showing kindness and extending forgiveness to those who had mistreated them. When DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary in 1948, Captain Fuchida was eager to speak with him.

What happened then is incredible: DeShazer, an American who had been part of the first bombing of Japan, was able to lead to Christ the Japanese man who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor! The spiritual explosion of forgiveness had transformed hatred into love. Together, Jacob DeShazer and Captain Fuchida shared the gospel with thousands of Japanese, many of whom also accepted Christ as their Lord.

When Christ died on the cross, the most profound fission in the universe occurred as the Father was separated from the Son.

This breaking-apart of the triune God was far more fantastic than the splitting of an atom. What a massive explosion occurred in the spiritual realm! It is no wonder that darkness fell across the land and the ground shook.forgiveness

The power generated by that fission destroyed the fierce stranglehold of Death upon men and women. As Wesley Hill puts it, the death of Christ “broke death’s power forever because it was the death of the Deathless One.”[iii]

The immense release of Divine Energy at Calvary was sufficient to fulfill the old covenant of earning and, at the same time, to establish the new covenant of receiving. Just as a split rock released thirst-quenching water for the ancient Israelites, so the broken body of God released life-saving atonement for a dying humanity.

The rending of the heart of God preceded the stunning cohesion of reconciliation. Just as extreme nuclear reactions often involve both fission and fusion, so the spiritual dynamics of forgiveness also involve both fission and fusion. When we forgive, we must forcefully separate from our natural desire for retaliation and revenge. We then yield to a fusion of our will with the will of God. This is not a passive, insignificant act: this creates a powerful reaction in the spiritual realm.

Each time we forgive through the work of the Spirit, there is a devastation of the works of the enemy.forgiveness

Not only are forces of darkness defeated, but there is also a mighty unleashing of spiritual energy for our own healing, for the redemption of others, and for the restoration of relationships.

If we want to strike a crippling blow against satanic forces–if we want to advance the kingdom of God–then let’s bring out the “big guns” and forgive. Let’s unleash the explosive light of forgiveness so that the forces of darkness are trounced.

How has forgiveness been powerful in your life?

Blessings to you,
Tami

(This is the first segment in a series on forgiveness. Click HERE to read Part Two: “Forgiveness as Self-Help?”)

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[i] Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies. 2009. YWAM.

[ii] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[iii]The Best Christian Paradox.” Christianity Today. May 2015. 28.

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Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Fight Back with Joy”

Last week, I mentioned a new book entitled, Fight Back with Joy. However, I did not get any farther than the title! 🙂 Today, I’d like to share a bit more with you about this book by Margaret Feinberg.

fight back with joyNot long ago, Margaret began focusing on joy as her “word of the year.” After several months of pondering and pursuing joy, Margaret learned that she had cancer. God had lovingly and wisely equipped Margaret with a new weapon before she entered the brutal battlefield of dealing with cancer.

Joy proved to be a formidable weapon, indeed. It was not always the emotional cheer that Margaret would have liked, but it was also deeper and more fierce than she had realized.

The book is easy to read, thought-provoking, and encouraging. Here are 12 quotes which I appreciated from Fight Back with Joy:

1. The Bible insists that joy is more than a feeling; it’s an action. We don’t just sense joy; we embody it by how we respond to the circumstances before us. (page 19)

2. What is the genesis of this joy? I believe that, at its core, joy emanates from the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us. (19)

3. The astonishing love of God found in the relational Dance of the Trinity is brimming with delight. (21)

4. You are founded in joy, created for joy, and destined for joy. Joy is where you come from. Joy is what you are created to experience. Joy is where you are headed. (23)

5. Joy is a far more dynamic, forceful weapon than most of us realize. The abiding sense that you are fiercely loved by God? That kind of joy empowers you to rise above any circumstance. (23)

6. [It is important] to mourn well. The process of mourning is like a long exhale. Expelling sorrow can feel like it’s emptying us of life, but it’s crucial to breathing joy more deeply. (72)

7. When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve well, something inside us dies. … We may not feel as much pain, but we also don’t feel as much joy. Our spiritual vitality depends on our ability to mourn the notable losses in life…. (79)

8. When done well, the tears of mourning become a river that washes away our pain, a holy stream carrying us toward healing, wholeness, and joy. (81)

9. [Celebration] is a discipline. Sometimes you have to will yourself to do it. (90)

10. Celebration is a discipline. But it’s also divine. (93)

11. Most days rejoicing didn’t make us feel better. Some moments buoyed our spirits, and laced us with smiles that attracted new friends. More often it opened the floodgates of tears. Joy is an action, something we can do, regardless of what our emotions may reveal. (107-108)

fight back with joy12. Like a fistful of red balloons, joy picks us up when life knocks us down. … Not only does joy enhance our stride in life, but it also shouts, “Look up!” (132)

God has overflowing joy for us. We can trust that. I agree with Margaret that our joy springs, first of all, from knowing that we are deeply, unfailingly loved by God. It then deepens as we know (experience) Christ more and more.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” In other words, God is committed to joy! For believers, earthly life is preparation for entrance into our Master’s joy (Matthew 25:21). All of history is being shaped and funneled for the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11): God and His people will delight in one another without end.

How do you practice the discipline of joy? How do you grieve in healthy ways? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Blessings of joy to you,
Tami

(Click HERE for last week’s post, “Is Joy a Weapon?”)

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Photo credits:
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519scN9F3eL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles 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

Move from Isolation to Intimacy in 6 Steps

Did you realize that the Old Testament tabernacle has amazing truth for marriages?

ID-10027742

I share six steps that move us from isolation into intimacy in this article for StartMarrriageRight.com:

“Stepping from Isolation into Intimacy.”

 

 

I would love to hear your thoughts.  And as always, you are invited to join us on Thursdays as we fight on our knees, praying for our marriages.

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

She Had Every Reason to Leave

Vicki Rose had every earthly reason to leave her broken marriage.

But she discovered that she had an even greater reason to stay.

Vicki explains this in her new book, entitled,EveryReasontoLeaveCover
Every Reason to Leave: And Why We Chose to Stay Together,
published by Moody. Vicki shares not only the reason to stay that trumped all else, but she also shares the important steps to take that enable husbands and wives to stay and that allow marriages to mend.

Although the book is easy to read, it is packed with powerful truth. Vicki simply tells the story of her life, but because she has allowed God to be the Author, it is an incredible story of reconciliation and transformation, the kind that only God can perform. The restoration of the Roses’ marriage showcases the healing power of God.  The changes that God sculpted in the lives of Vicki and her husband are so profound and dramatic that they offer strong hope to readers who are struggling with their own reasons to leave.

This book depicts for us, first, the emptiness and dark futility of lives and marriages existing apart from God. But then we witness the abundance and rich fulfillment that is found through a wholehearted pursuit of God.

Vicki’s central premise is that the key to joy in life and to success in marriage is to “seek first the kingdom of God.” This book is full of Scripture, which is the only unfailing source of the guidance, strength, and comfort that we need.

My heart resonates with Vicki’s when she says that she wants to encourage others to “seek God for restoration and victory,” whether they are married, separated, or even divorced. Vicki says to her readers, “I want to cheer you on to prevent the regret that comes from walking away from something God can heal.”  Count me in on that cheering, too!

Cheering for you in your marriage,
Tami

*Interested in a free copy of Every Reason to Leave? Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered into a drawing for one copy of the book, compliments of Moody Publishers. The winner will be announced next week.

If you win, you will need to email your mailing address to me—-so be sure to check back next week!

 

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.”

What Fills Your Marriage?

Here is a book that I would recommend even if it were nothing more than its title: Grace Filled Marriage. But now that I have finished reading Grace Filled Marriage, I am glad to say that I can recommend not only the title but also the entire book!

If “grace” refers to all the gifts springing from goodness and love—gifts such as acceptance and forgiveness and kindness—then grace is exactly what every marriage needs.  In this hope-filled, easy-to-read book, author Tim Kimmel explains what it means to fill a marriage with grace.

Here is a collection of quotes from the book:

GraceFilledMarriage[M]ost marriage don’t struggle from a lack of love; they struggle from a lack of grace. (3)

Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost. (65)

[We can be spouses who believe that] divine grace [is] bigger than human disgrace. (113)

The primary feature of a heart of grace is that it lives to trust God. (118)

When you and your spouse are talking your way through tough issues, the goal of the discussion should always be unity, never victory. … If you consistently win arguments with your mate, guess what you get to sleep with every night? A loser! (161)

… God is glorified when we fight for our marriage, pray like mad, and trust him to deal with our unrepentant spouse. (161)

He’s a bigger God than any mess you or your spouse could have made. (172)

[Problems are] opportunities to enjoy a front-row seat to [God’s] sustaining grace. (186)

Love that comes from God is unique: … it’s delivered in abundant quantities … and graciously (as though it’s an honor on the part of the giver). (217)

True greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others. (218)

Jesus passionately met our needs. He wants his love pouring through us to passionately meet our spouse’s needs. (221)

There’s a lot resting on your mariage. Big stuff. God’s kingdom stuff. Even though you record your marriage in years, there’s an eternal dimension to what your union represents to God’s grander redemptive story. There are a lot of people whose lives will be impacted by how you live out your love—even people in generations way on down the line from you. (234)

Your marriage is worth all the grace that you can pour into it.  May God fill your life today with His generous, lavish grace.

“Her” Prayer

Last week, I shared with you a husband’s prayer. Today I want to share with you a wife’s prayer, based on Scripture. May God honor your prayers as you honor Him.Differently His and Hers

I thank You, LORD, for my husband and for Your awesome design in creating him; thank You for shaping him for greatness, for strength, and for success. Thank You for using my husband to bless me, and thank You for giving me the privilege of serving You by serving him. Help me to serve him well.

By Your Spirit, I submit today to my husband’s needs. Give me insight into those needs; give me the desire and the ability to minister well to those needs. Help me to bring him good, not harm, every day of my life. I pray that he would be able to have full confidence in me and that he would lack nothing that I could provide for him.

Help me to respect my husband today in ways that are meaningful to him; show me how to encourage him, affirm him, and add strength to him. Help me to supply to him what he cannot supply to himself. Keep me in awe of who You made him to be.

Help me to support him in the responsibility that You have given him to be the “head” woman-praying-840879-min this marriage. I recognize that he has an accountability before You that I do not have. Help me to respect and appreciate the weight that You have placed on his shoulders; help me to cooperate with him in Your plan.

Help me to be a wise woman who builds her house of marriage; please don’t let me tear it down with my own foolish hands. Show me how to use the “tool” of relationship skills that You have given me to create, not to destroy. Give me the wisdom to know how to build my husband up; give me the understanding I need to establish a strong friendship with him. Give me knowledge of my husband and of Your ways so that the “rooms” of our marriage will be filled with the “rare and beautiful treasures” of laughter, kindness, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Help me to keep a quiet spirit before my husband–a calm, peaceful spirit that trusts You. Keep me from controlling or manipulating,  condemning or rejecting. Help me to specialize in reverence and purity. Make me beautiful by making me holy, no longer belonging to myself but delighting in belonging to You. Give me the wisdom and the strength to do what is right. Help me not to be afraid but to trust You.

Help me to keep a continual “welcome!” in my spirit, accepting my husband graciously for who he is. Help me to keep choosing to like him and to keep determining to enjoy him. Allow me to see through his eyes so that we will experience the oneness that You have given us; knit us together as You desire.

Thank You, LORD.

(Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 14:1; 24:3-4; 31:11-12; Ephesians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:4)

“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)

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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)

Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 1)

“LORD, I lift this marriage to You. I ask You to put Your hedge of protection around this marriage and to thwart every enemy scheme against it.

‘Catch for us the little foxes’ that would eat away at this relationship–the little foxes of busyness and the little foxes of unresolved hurt feelings (Song of Songs 2:15). Help us to see beyond the surface issues of the physical realm; help us to see the deeper realities of the spiritual realm all around us.

Please give us new insight into one another; give us new understanding of one another’s needs and struggles. Help us to have hearts that always move toward one another and that are always for one another. Give us the strength to do that even when our feelings are pushing us to turn away from one another or to turn against one another.”

Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you a series of prayers for marriages. You may want to use these prayers for your own marriage, or you may want to use them as you pray for others.

I invite you, too, to share some of the ways in which you are praying for marriages.

May God bless you as you fight on your knees!

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

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.”