Category Archives: Jesus

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

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.

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.)

The Emotion that Devours, continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My New Favorite Book on Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

 

Responses to Nakedness (last time!)

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

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

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

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

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

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