Monday, August 31, 2015

The Perfect Marriage



What is the perfect marriage? There is no such thing as a "perfect marriage," except the Marriage of the Lamb. Until then, marriage is the union of two imperfect souls that have their own distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. Despite  that, newlyweds expect to live in complete harmony and are shocked when they discover that they don't agree on every issue.

The old saying, "opposites attract," is actually true.  If batteries didn't have opposite polarities, they wouldn't work. Two people can be different and still get along very well.  

Marriage has it own struggles, but it's how a couple handles those differences that can make or break the marriage. The question is..."How can spouses settle their differences without hurting, insulting, or demanding their own way?" 

My husband and I are perfect examples of being complete opposites in varying things, yet we have learned to enjoy and appreciate each other. Surprisingly, the first two years of our marriage, were not all sunshine and roses. We struggled with issues, one of which was not respectfully communicating our opinions without getting into an argument. However, we maintained a strong commonality in our desire to be obedient to God's Word. 

Thirty-six years ago, we made a commitment before God and man that we would love one another until death parted us. True love forgives, is kind, and does not easily anger. Refusing to forgive and keeping records of wrongs are major deathblows to a marriage. Therefore, we made a decision to be intentional in forgiving one another, even if it meant agreeing to disagree until we could reach an equable and prayerful solution (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

Marriage requires work, perseverance, patience, humility, respect, and compromise. We must choose to focus on the qualities and strengths that each has and not on the differences. Where one is weak in one area, the other is strong, which brings balance to the marriage. Most importantly, a husband and wife must consistently and purposefully read their Bible and pray for each other, so that their love and appreciation for one another may increase more and more, and their knowledge, depth, and understanding of God's Word give discernment and insight to what is true (Philippians 1:9-10). 

Our love abounds when we have knowledge of the Word and what our Lord teaches about loving one another (Philippians 1:9-10).  Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). And be devoted to one another in love and honor, while putting the other first (Romans 12:10).

What does it mean to be devoted? It means to be committed, loyal, faithful, true, steadfast, dedicated, devout, loving, affectionate, caring, and admiring. Can we check off that list as being all those things to our spouse, or do we need to pray more to become what Romans 12:10 calls us to be? I find that daily prayer is an absolute requirement to check off that list.

Arguing (exchanging or expressing opposite views) doesn't have to be a negative experience, if it is a calm and respectful discussion free of accusations and insults. For a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). There will be disagreements, but they can be resolved, provided that both conduct themselves in love with humility, gentleness, respect, and patience (Ephesians 4:2). 

An argument should never sever communication, nor at any time, should the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). Instead, if we are at an impasse, we should respectfully say to each other, "I love you and I'm sorry. Let's pray." That forces pride and ego to surrender, as both spouses humble themselves in prayer before each other and the Lord. It is impossible to argue when praying.

There is absolute truth in the saying, "The family that prays together, stays together." If one or both spouses are not praying, then the door is wide open for the enemy to dismantle that marriage. Although we have our personal prayer time, my husband and I made the decision early in our marriage to pray every morning and evening together. Even when one of us is out of town, we pray with each other over the phone. 

We must be sober and vigilant, because our 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, and the best way to accomplish that is to bring division between a man and his wife, just as he brought division between Adam and Eve in the Garden. Once that happens, the enemy has a foothold.

If couples will strive for unity and restoration by encouraging one another, being of one mind (the mind of Christ), and living in peace, then God's love and peace will be with them (2 Corinthians 13:11). By this everyone will know that they are His disciples, because they love one another (John 13:35).

God's Word is the essence and embodiment of His love for us. Therefore, we learn how to love and forgive by reading His Word, which gives us direction, just as a much-loved child looks to their father. We are to be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved us and gave Himself as a sacrifice to take away our sins (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Those of us who are married and those who plan to marry must seek God with all of our heart, so that we can become the merciful and loving spouse that God calls us to be.  Although most enter into marriage with a "forever" mentality, there is a tendency to overlook the fact that marriage is not immune to disappointments, heartache, arguments, and suffering. 

Marriage certificates don't come with a lifetime warranty, guaranteeing perfect happiness and a conflict-free marriage.  The only lifetime warranty that can protect a marriage against conflict, failure, destruction, and implosion is prayer and God's Word. 

My husband and I have had our marriage protected by God's Word and daily prayer for 36 years and counting. It's the best and most perfect 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).



Sunday, August 23, 2015

I thought that this is so beautiful, I am sharing it with others. It comes from the heart of God. 
It is a love letter to each and every person.

Father's Love Letter

My Child,

You may not know Me, but I know everything about you (Psalm 139:1). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2). I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3). Even the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:29-31)For you were made in My image (Genesis 1:27). In Me you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28). For you are My offspring (Acts 17:28). I knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5). I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12). You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in My book (Psalm 139:15-16). I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I knit you together in your mother's womb (Psalm 139:13) and brought you forth on the day you were born (Psalm 71:6).

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know Me (John 8:41-44). I am not distant and angry, but Am the complete expression of love (I John 4:16). And it is my desire to lavish My love on you (I John 3:1) ...simply because you are my child and I am your Father (I John 3:1). I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11)... for I am the perfect Father (Matthew 5:48). Every good gift that you receive comes from My hand (James 1:17)...for I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33). My plan for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11)...because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18)... and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). I will never stop doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40)...for you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5). I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul (Jeremiah 32:41)...and I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3).

If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find me (Deuteronomy 4:29). Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)...for it is I who gave you those desires (Philippians 2:13). I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20)...for I am your greatest encourager (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When you are broken hearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart (Isaiah 40:11). One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21: 3-4)...and I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth (Revelation 21:3-4).

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my Son, Jesus (John 17:23)...for in Jesus, My love for you is revealed (John 17:26). He is the exact representation of My being (Hebrews 1:3). He came to demonstrate that I am for you not against you (Romans 8:31)... and to tell you that I am not counting your sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Jesus died so you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you (I John 4:10). I gave you everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:31-32). If you receive the gift of my Son Jesus, you receive Me (I John 2:23). And nothing will ever separate you from My love again (Romans 8:38-39). Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7). I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15). My question is...Will you be My child? (John 1:12-13. I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32).

Love, your Dad
Almighty God

Father's Love Letter - Used permission © 1999 Father Heart Communications www.FathersLoveLetter.com




Monday, August 17, 2015

HIS OBEDIENT SERVANTS

 Do not be slothful in zeal; 
Be fervent in spirit and serve the Lord.
 (Romans 12:11)

The scriptures expound on God's obedient servants, with our Lord Jesus Christ being the most obedient. He willingly took the form of a man, coming to earth, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom to save many (Mark 10:45).

I was curious to know what "obedient" and "servant" mean in relationship to us and in context to God's Word. The search led me to an understanding of God's expectations of His followers.

"Obedience" is defined as compliant, respectful, well disciplined, submissive, yielding, malleable, and pliable.  ["Jesus] learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus yielded His will to the Father in submissive obedience.

According to the dictionary, a "servant" is devoted (loyal, faithful, true, steadfast, constant, committed, dedicated, loving) and a helpful "follower" and  "tireless" supporter and worker for God. Have we committed all that we are to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, or are we holding back a part of us that is not ready to surrender all? God calls each believer to do Kingdom work, but are we resisting?

"Tireless" means to have or to show great effort or energy as a tireless campaigner or person who actively promotes the goals of a cause.  And what is a "cause? " It is a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate that principle. Are we willing to tirelessly defend, promote, and advance the Kingdom of God, or are we content to go to church on Sunday and then return to our daily routine, giving little thought to what the Father may be calling us to do each day? Jesus said, "If anyone serves (faithfully works for; obeys) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:26).

God endowed each of us with special gifts and talents that are unique to our personalities. As a child, I loved to talk, write, and learn. My nickname at age two was "Chatty Cathy" years before the popular, talking, Chatty Cathy doll appeared in 1959. Ironically, I was very shy, but it never stopped me from talking to anyone who would listen. That gift for gab and love of education would one day be put to use in teaching and speaking before college students, church groups, business groups, and women's events. I must say that initially, I felt incompetent, unprepared and unworthy of the tasks ahead.

What is your gift that you can share with the world? The gifts and talents that God placed within us are for the purpose of furthering the gospel. The Apostle Paul said, “Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interests of others as well” (Philippians 1:4). If we received Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we have the greatest gift of all that must be shared and not hidden.

As Christians, we refer to ourselves as followers. A "follower" is defined as a disciple, supporter, defender, believer, and worshipper of Christ, so it stands to reason that if we are truly followers of Christ, then we will serve Him and promote His Kingdom. Jesus told his disciples (believers) to go and make disciples (believers) in all the nations (people and races) baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Jesus' disciples were the first followers to make disciples (followers) who would then share the gospel and make more followers. Our obedience in that commission accompanies our confession of the gospel. For that reason, we must do our best to present ourselves to God as His "worker" laboring for His Kingdom and being an example of His Living Word (2 Timothy 2:15). The Apostle Paul said that if we seek approval of man by pleasing man, then we cannot be servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10). We are to serve by the strength that God gives us so that in everything we do, God is glorified through Jesus Christ (Peter 4:11).

You may ask, "What is my gift?" My question is, "Who and what are your passions?" Who and what gives you the most joy and has the potential to benefit others?  If the "who" is Jesus, then you are required to be His obedient servant. If you don't know "what" your passion or gifting is, then spend time with the Lord, who is the Creator and giver of all things good. He knows what gifts He placed within you before you were born, because all the days ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13).

God has a plan and purpose for us while living on this temporary home called earth. That purpose, as Christ followers is to be His vessel of hope, love and truth, leading the lost to the foot of the cross. This is not work set aside for only pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. Through the power of His Spirit, believers have been imbued with abilities and talents to be used for His kingdom. All that we are and all that we have is because of His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness and generosity. We can do nothing in and of ourselves, but through Christ, are we able to do all things (Philippians 4:13).

We are called to do Kingdom work by sharing the love of Christ, whether it is in giving a kind word, taking a meal to someone, driving someone to an appointment, encouraging or praying for someone, visiting the sick in the hospital, volunteering, being a friend, etc. If we don't know what gifts and talents are within us, then we need to pursue God. He will reveal to us our unique abilities and lead us in fulfilling our mission as believers in Christ. He will always provide opportunities to serve, but it is we who must choose to become His obedient servants.

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them
and with everyone else (2 Corinthians 9:13).



Monday, August 10, 2015



FROM THE PIT TO THE PALACE


Life is a potpourri of positive and negative challenges, problems, and experiences that have the potential to turn our lives upside down. When they do, we often ask, "Why has this happened?" "What is the purpose?" "God, do You even care?"

I have asked those questions, and in the end, I have seen how God works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). If we hold on to faith, our Heavenly Father will skillfully retool what appears to be hopeless and create something beautiful. Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob, was catapulted into what seemed to be a hopeless situation.

Joseph's father, Jacob, loved him more then his brothers, causing the brothers’ jealously to burn. Their hatred intensified when Joseph revealed a dream in which they were binding sheaves of grain in the field and Joseph’s sheaf stood up and their sheaves gathered around his and bowed down. His brothers’ loathing was further fueled when he told them another dream in which the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. 

One day Joseph was asked by his father to go to the field and check on his brothers. When they saw him approaching, they plotted to kill him. Their brother, Rueben, who planned to rescue Joseph, suggested they throw him into the pit and be left to die. They agreed to Rueben's plan. Eventually, Midianite traders pulled Joseph from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt where he was then sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh.

Joseph became a slave in the house of Pharaoh, but Potiphar soon saw that the LORD was with Joseph and put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under Joseph's authority.

When we walk boldly in faith, there is nothing that the Lord cannot do for us. Joseph would not allow doubt to enter his thoughts, for doubt is a faith destroyer. Doubting and focusing on our circumstances can tempt us to distrust God, His Word and His promises. However, Joseph was not moved by what he saw or experienced.

When Joseph was falsely accused of attacking Potiphar's wife, he was sent to prison; however, the LORD's favor was with him, so the prison warden put all prisoners under Joseph’s authority.

Pharaoh became angry with his cupbearer and baker and had them thrown into jail with Joseph. Both had disturbing dreams, so Joseph told the cupbearer that he would be restored to his position in three days and asked that he remember him to Pharaoh. He told the baker that in three days, he would be beheaded. However, the cupbearer failed to fulfill his promise, and Joseph remained in jail.

Time passed until Pharaoh had a dream that greatly distressed him. When he learned that Joseph had correctly interpreted the dreams of the baker and cupbearer, he called for him. After Joseph revealed the meaning of the dream, Pharaoh recognized that the spirit of God was in Joseph and exalted him as ruler over all the land of Egypt.

A great famine came across the land and food was scarce. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to purchase corn. When they arrived they were brought before Joseph, whom they did not recognize and bowed before him (a fulfillment of Joseph's dream). Joseph recognized his brothers and accused them of being spies and jailed them.

Three days later, the brothers were brought before Joseph. Still not recognizing him and not realizing he understood their language, they spoke freely in front of him and confessed their sin and expressed remorse for what they had done to Joseph. In anguish, Joseph left the room. When he returned he ordered their brother Simeon to be bound and imprisoned until the others brought the youngest brother back with them.

Months had passed when they returned to Egypt with money, gifts, and their youngest brother, Benjamin. After a series of events took place, Joseph told them that they must leave Benjamin behind and return to their father. They pleaded with Joseph until he could bear no more and revealed his identity, “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt!  But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it! He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. These two years of famine will grow to seven, during which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive, so that you will become a great nation" (Genesis 45:4-7 LB).

During those thirteen years of enslavement, Joseph could have given up and asked God, “Why am I in a foreign country as a slave when I have followed Your commandments and served you faithfully?" Joseph’s faith and his refusal to become bitter, took him from the pit to the palace where he fulfilled a higher purpose...that of saving his family and the Jewish nation.

We may be in a situation where we are struggling to make sense of things and are asking, "Why God?"  We may even feel that God has abandoned us. The enemy uses circumstances as a weapon to divert our trust and faith away from God. He knows that if we focus on the problem, we will not focus on God.

God uses our circumstances to move us into the right place at just the right time. That's why when we feel overwhelmed and even hopeless, we need to say, "God, I don't understand, but I believe Your Word, and I trust You to bring good from this." In trusting, we surrender all to Him and know that God does not move and operate according to our time.

We live in a physical world; however, God is Spirit who dwells in the spirit realm, not limited by time, physical laws, and those things that govern this world (John 4:24). "My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). If Joseph had considered the limitations of the physical world that he had been thrust into, then he could not have remained in faith and believed the promises that God had made to him.

God has a unique plan for each of us. His plan is not to harm us. He says, "...I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity."


Whatever is holding us captive, there is freedom through the delivering power of God. If, like Joseph, we remain in faith in the most trying of circumstances, He will move us from a pit of despair to a place of triumph.