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Praying for Your Husband (Based on Psalm 1)

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.

Lord, show me, please, how to bring strength and refreshment to my husband, encouraging and supporting him. As I lift him up to You, I thank You that You are raising him up into greatness.

[Click HERE to read more of this prayer at StartMarriageRight.]

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

 

The Two Gifts of Pentecost

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

Same-sex Marriage and the Gospel

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.

Blessings to you,
Tami

5 Quotes and an Interview

5 Great Quotes:

quotes

Elizabeth Elliot put it this way:  we married our spouses because we loved them, so now we must love our spouses because we married them.

quotes

Be for your spouse! Don’t just commit to your marriage: commit to the good of your spouse.

quotes

Love is a decision to seek the good of another. If we are not choosing to love our spouses each day, then we are also rejecting God’s perfect will for us. As we turn from our self-will, we can yield to the goodness of God.

quotes

quotes

And 1 Interview:

On Thursday, August 25, I will be interviewing Jennifer Strickland on our weekly prayer call. Jennifer is the author of 21 Myths About Sex. (You can read more about her book HERE.)

Jen and ShaneDuring the 15-minute call, I will be asking Jennifer these questions:

  • How does body image affect marriage? What are the truths that we need in order to shape our thoughts in this area correctly?
  • What suggestions do you have for someone dealing with a spouse’s porn addiction?

Then Jennifer will lead us in praying for our marriages.

Jen and family

Join us! We “fight on our knees” for marriages and families every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern time).  You can join by phone or online. All the info is right HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

 

 

 

Got any Mountains to Move?

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

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

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

Achieving or receiving?

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

Faith is often an act of receiving.

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

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

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

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

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

Causing or allowing?

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

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

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

fig-316141_640

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

figs-504499_640

Prepare to see some mountains move!

Blessings to you,
Tami

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

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

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

faith

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

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

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

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

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

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

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

faith

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

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

What does increase our faith?

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

faith

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

How is faith like a fish?

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

blue-tang-1288727_640

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you,
Tami

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We have been going through The Red Sea Rules on our weekly prayer call. Join us tomorrow (Thursday) for Rule #10 and for an encouraging time of prayer for our marriages and families. Click HERE for more information.

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

This Husband Wants to Encourage Marriages

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

Seven Rings

The High Value of Marriage

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

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

Champion Husbands

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

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

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

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

How to Restore Friendship in Your Marriage:

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

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Enrich Your Prayer Time with Your Spouse:

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

The Model Husband

Here is some further advice from Jackie:

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

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

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

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

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

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