Monday, July 2, 2018



THE PERFECT MARRIAGE

What is the perfect marriage? There are no "perfect marriages." The only perfect marriage will be when Christ comes for His bride—the Church. Until then, marriage is the union of two very imperfect souls that have their own distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, opinions, and views. Those differences are challenging enough, so when expectations plummet, and the couple is not experiencing unbridled harmony, they begin to question the marriage. 

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. To base love on feelings is folly, because feelings are based on emotions, which are transitory like the weather. Conversely, real love is steady and constant. It is patient and kind. It does not envy; it does not brag and is not proud. It does not dishonor the other, and does not demand its own way. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trust, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Marriage must be a partnership and not a collision of wills. A couple that is united in the purposes of God can successfully navigate through challenges that will surely come. But to do that, they must work together as one, without having any expectations that their spouse will "complete them" as a person, for only God can make us whole in body, mind, and spirit. 

I have heard people say,  "We are just too different. We've drifted apart." Ironically, those opposite traits initially drew each to the other before marrying. If batteries didn't have opposite polarities, they wouldn't work. Contrasting polarities can enrich a marriage, when both appreciate and embrace those differences with biblical love.

During the first two years of our marriage, my husband and I struggled with respectfully communicating our opinions to each other. Fortunately, we have always been united in our desire to obey God's Word and be led by His Holy Spirit. We knew that unforgiveness, criticism, and keeping record of wrongs are major deathblows to a marriage. Therefore, we resolved to persevere in prayer with patience, forgiveness, and humility, to reach godly solutions (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Constructive arguing can be healthy when a couple presents their viewpoint respectfully, calmly, and without accusations and insults. For a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). 

Most importantly, a husband and wife must be dedicated in praying for each other and with each other. Prayer must be combined with reading God's Word to obtain knowledge, understanding, discernment, and insight into what is true, so that both may remain blameless before Christ. For love abounds when we have understanding of God's Word and His teaching to love one another as He has loved us (Philippians 1:9-10; John 13:34). Additionally, we must be devoted to one another by loving, honoring, and giving preference to the other (putting the other first) (Romans 12:10). Preferring the other can be challenging, because the carnal flesh wants its own way.


What does it mean to be devoted? It means to be committed, loyal, faithful, true, steadfast, dedicated, loving, affectionate, caring, and admiring. Therefore, couples should never compare their marriage to other marriages. If devotion to God is first and foremost, then devotion to one's spouse and to the marriage will follow. 

There will always be disagreements throughout a marriage, simply because two individuals have, at various times, opposing thoughts and views. However, those issues can be amicably resolved when the couple expresses respect, humility, gentleness, patience, and is committed to encouraging and praying with and for each other.  

An argument should never sever communication, nor should the sun go down on one's anger (Ephesians 4:26). When a couple reaches an impasse, they should respectfully say to each other, "I love you. Let's pray and ask God for His wisdom and guidance for..." That forces pride and ego to surrender, as both spouses join in unity to humble themselves before each other and the Lord. For "behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!(Psalm 133:1KJV)

Couples must be serious and vigilant in protecting their marriage, because "the adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8)His purpose is to divide, conquer, and destroy families. Just as he brought division between Adam and Eve in the Garden, his goal is to create disharmony between a man and his wife. Once discord happens, the enemy has a foothold. That is why God tells us that where two or three gather in His name, He is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). And where God is present, the enemy is not. A husband and wife's unity and commitment to prayer is the enemy's nemesis.

How do we truly love one another? We learn by reading and understanding God through His Word, for He is the essence and embodiment of agape love. We are called to follow His example in everything we do just as a much-loved child imitates their father. We are to be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved us and gave Himself to God as a sacrifice to take away our sins (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

Marriage is a lifelong commitment that should never be entered into lightly. Therefore, it is imperative that couples, planning to marry, seek God's will and His direction with all their heart. 

Most newlyweds have a "forever" attitude, but in the blush of wedded bliss, there is a tendency to overlook the fact that marriage is not immune to heartache, disagreements, disappointments, illness, tragedy, and pain. The fairytale, happily-ever-after scenario is just that­—a fairytale. Those who have been married for any length of time will agree that the success or failure of a marriage depends upon their dedication to God and their commitment to each other. A marriage certificate does not come with a lifetime warranty, guaranteeing perfect happiness and a conflict-free marriage. 

There is only one lifetime warranty that can be applied to a marriage, and that is the Word of God. That is truest and most perfect warranty against failure, destruction, and marital implosion, for it is His Word that teaches us how to love and overcome conflict. 

My husband and I have had our marriage under God's warranty for 38 years and counting. It is the best warranty of all. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice. We are called to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave [us] (Ephesians 4:31).

PRAYER:
FATHER, I thank you for our marriage. Teach us to communicate in love and to always listen and respect each other's thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Help us to have patience, gentleness, humility, forgiveness, and unconditional love for each other. Heal those broken areas and bring reconciliation where there has been division. For Your love covers a multitude of sins. In Jesus name, amen.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

THE FATHER OF LIES
 
Keep the door bolted against lying.

My formative years were shaped around the philosophy that lying had its place, especially if a little "white lie" was told to avoid hurting someone. However, lying is part of our old fallen nature that existed before we surrendered our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. 

We see that old sinful nature exposed in very young children with a similar scenario played out in many homes. A child stands covered in chocolate—the perfect billboard for Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. You ask them if they ate the chocolate bar that you had hidden in the pantry. Their guilty, chocolate-covered face betrays them as they answer, "No." If lying weren't so serious, it would be funny.

Children are told to tell the truth, but then, with all good and loving intentions, a parent might create elaborate, false stories or false explanations to answer their child's inquisitiveness. They might make false promises or ironically, as my parents did, tell an outright lie to insure compliance, "If you lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio's." Of course, my parents were not Christians at that time, so they did not know God's position on lying; therefore, they couldn't pass that truth to us.

Students lie to their teachers. Employees lie to their bosses. Patients conceal the truth from their doctors. Spouses lie to spouses. Friends lie to friends. Parents lie to children. Children lie to parents. People lie about their age and weight. People conceal and lie about their past. People lie to themselves. The list of lies is endless. 

The Lord tells us that there are seven things that are an abomination to Him—haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, and sowing discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). The harsh reality is that "all liars will have their part in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8 NKJV).

Why is hell punishment for lying to those who do not repent? Jesus said this about those who lie, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44 NIV). 

What is a lie? The dictionary defines a lie as an untruth, falsehood, white lie, perjury, fabrication, falsification, deception, betrayal, made-up story, tale, half-truth, pretense, crookedness, exaggeration, fiction, evasiveness, and concealment. The verb form is to misinform, mislead, stretch the truth; hedge, evade, trick, conceal, or cheat. Even a "white" lie is a deception that invalidates a person's integrity. According to those definitions, at one time or another, we have all lied; therefore, we must repent. 

The Word tells us, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10). We are created in the image of God, who does not lie. If we have a relationship with all Truth (Jesus Christ), how can we justify lying in any form?

When I became a Christian, God revealed the importance of truthfulness. Truthfulness was relevant to me, because I had experienced pain and disappointment from those who had called themselves Christians, yet they had lied, broken promises, betrayed confidences, stolen from me, and had harbored hidden sin. What they had really stolen was my ability to trust God. After all, if I couldn't trust God's representatives, how could I trust Him? As a fledgling Christian, those betrayals and lies by fellow Christians were heartbreaking and painful. Today, it is not any less painful to be at the receiving end of a betrayal or lie.

We know the spiritual aspect of why we lie, but why do humans give into the temptation to lie? Dr. Robert S. Feldman, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, examined lying and deception for over 25 years and said, "People lie because they can get away with it; because it works for them. It's a way to get along with other people. It's a way to control [their] world, and it's a way that [they] can use to make people do what [they] want them to do." He went on to say that men usually lie to make themselves look better and to build themselves up, and women tend to lie to make others and themselves, feel good.      

We are daily inundated with false statements made by various people, ads, politicians, and the news media, that manipulate and distort the truth to promote their deceptive agendas. The enemy is relentless in using people and anything of this world to entice and draw us to his deceptions. Even false christs and false prophets will arise (currently present in many churches) and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). 

Adam and Eve had every good gift from God, yet Satan was able to cleverly craft a lie, which they believed and then disobeyed God. We too are vulnerable to Satan's clever and enticing deceptions. Therefore, we must be prayerful and vigilant to discern and distinguish the truth from the lie. We must be sober-minded and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

The reality is that as human beings, we have all fallen for a lie. But we have also lied and embellished the truth. Romans 3:23-24 tell us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Praise God that He is quick to forgive us of our sins when we repent (Matthew 3:8).

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (meditate) about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

PRAYER:
Lord, I come to You with a repentant heart. I realize that any form of lying is sin. Please forgive me for any and all lies, exaggerations, evasiveness, concealments, deceptions, half-truths,  and betrayals, whether intentional or unintentional. Help me each day to be aware of all untruth that might be poised on my tongue or any behaviors or thoughts that are not in keeping with Your will. I want to live a truthful and authentic life before You and others. In Jesus name, amen.

God is not human, that He should lie, 
not a human being, that He should change
His mind. Does He speak and then not act? 
Does He promise and not fulfill?
(Numbers 23:19)


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LIFE'S CROCKPOT 

My husband and I love a thick and creamy homemade, chicken vegetable soup, so I decided to make some the other day. I pre-cooked the chicken, deboned it, and returned it to the pot. Then I added a variety of colorful vegetables and spices to the chicken and broth and allowed the ingredients to simmer. As the crockpot heated the ingredients, a wonderful aroma began to waft through our home, and it occurred to me that faith more often than not, develops like a potpourri of varying flavors, mingling in a simmering crockpot. 

A crockpot is a depository for cooking ingredients over a long period of time. This world is God's crockpot where He has been preparing mankind for heaven. His key ingredient is the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ is not at the center of our life, then we are nothing more than a lost conglomerate of carnality that is self-seeking, self-serving, self-absorbed, vain, thoughtless, and looking out for number one—self. 

God monitors our response to the "heat" of life's challenges. For our responses determine the strength of our faith. Often when a crockpot reaches a full boil, we turn it to "medium" or "low." And when the soup is done, we then turn it to the "warm" setting for serving. Depending on what God is trying to accomplish within us, will determine the temperature He sets at different intervals of our life. 

God's love for us is so great, that He will not hesitate to turn the heat up from "low" to "high" in order to get our attention. He may also make adjustments when there is an imbalance in the flavor and fragrance of our life, because He desires that we, as Christ followers, carry and diffuse the fragrance of Christ throughout the world.

With Christ as the very center of our life, we must then be open to God's correction. Those of us, who cook, know that when preparing a dish, we often taste repeatedly to make various corrections and changes to the flavor until it is just right. God tells us, "whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (dense, ignorant, irrational, foolish) (Proverbs 12:1 NKJV). 

Correction means to amend a version of something or to rectify an error. Before we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, all of us were on the wrong path, walking in error. While on that path, we made many mistakes and added things to our lives that misdirected and misguided us. Some of those things harmed us. As Christ followers, we require daily correction, because each day, the flesh wants to revert to what it once knew and enjoyed. 

A good soup cannot be made in minutes; the Christian life cannot be made overnight. God has been patiently working in me for 47 years, for which I am grateful. He knows the potential  within me and within each of us. Therefore, He painstakingly guides us in making gradual corrections, which eventually give birth to maturity as a Christ follower. Hence, a sweet aroma reaches others, because we then carry the pleasing aroma of Christ to those being saved and those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV). For that reason, we must always be submitted to God, embracing His wisdom, His correction, and His knowledge, so that we can grow in faith.

 

Often, when cooking, we might not get the flavor just right because of too much or too little of an ingredient or seasoning. However, we don't throw the entire pot out because of a mistake or even a few mistakes. We keep working with the dish until it reaches the right consistency and flavor for serving. Equally as we learn and grow in the things of God, He doesn't become frustrated with us when we are not "seasoned" perfectly. He sees too much value in the ingredients that have been invested, so He continues to work with us. It is never an option to throw out what He started and begin again with all new ingredients, for He says, "if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Romans 8:25 NKJV).


Perseverance means to be steadfast in doing something despite difficulty, delay, or obstacles in achieving success. With love and perseverance, God waits patiently for us to become that balanced blend of strength, courage, obedience, wisdom, humility, mercy, forgiveness, moral fiber, and faith. 

When life throws us a curveball, we must never give up, because so much has already been invested. If we become discouraged, we need to press in to God, knowing that He is bringing about a flavorful balance that will lend to a fragrant life that draws others to the cross.  

God's crockpot can be difficult and painful. We may encounter circumstances and challenges that we don't understand. However, that is not the time to resist God, because as ambassadors for Christ, God makes His appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). And very often those appeals are made through us in ways that we don't understand. Therefore, we must embrace the opportunity and trust and submit to His mighty hand. For in trusting Him, we achieve victorious faith that allows us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge to others, because we are the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

May we all submit to God, as His watchful eye monitors, and His steady hand stirs and tastes, until He is satisfied that we carry the fragrance of Christ. For God calls the world to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). And it is the aromatic fragrance emitting from us that will cause the lost and hungry to eagerly taste of His goodness. 

PRAYER:
LORD, help me to be teachable and submit to Your correction. Give me the gifts of perseverance and faith so that when life heats up with all of its challenges, I will draw closer to You and make the proper corrections, thereby, creating a sweet aroma in my life that reach others. In Jesus name, Amen.