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“God is Good”

What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.
A. W. Tozer

As Christ-followers, we believe is that God is good.

That statement is far more than a simple cliché: it is a critical dividing line!

This belief distinguishes angels from demons. The confidence that God is good separates joy-filled believers from joy-less believers, and victorious Christians from defeated ones.

From the beginning of human history, we have been tempted to doubt the goodness of God.

Even when we recognize God’s goodness as a fact in our theology, we often struggle to trust that goodness as a reality in our daily lives.

We know that “God is good” does not mean that He grants our every whim like a genie in a magic lamp. But what does it mean?

Here are several realities created by the abundant goodness of God.

1.  “God is good” means that every drop of suffering that we yield to Him will gain a far greater weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Ultimately, God redeems all suffering that is given to Him. Our redeemed suffering will bring a joy and inner thriving to us that will overflow our pain.

“God is good” means that God knows how to turn our suffering inside-out into well-being and delight.

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

“God is good” means that God will take the ashes of our lives and replace them with the beauty of Abundant Life. In exchange for the despair and heaviness of our hearts, He gives us the oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3).

2. “God is good” means that if we could see now what God sees, we would not change one thing in what God is doing, how He is doing it, or when He is doing it. We would not resist Him. Instead of grumbling, protesting, or dragging our feet, we would join Him wholeheartedly!

If we could see now what God sees, we would rejoice that He is working perfectly in our lives. And someday, when we do see all that God has done, we are not doing to be disappointed! We are going to be overwhelmed at the splendor and excellence of it all. 

3. The goodness of God means that we always have reason for joy. We can always go forward with hope. The goodness of God is greater than our greatest sorrow, and His goodness is deeper than our deepest disappointment.

4. “God is good” means that God is fully attentive to us, His children. He is always motivated by absolute love; He is never limited in His strength or ability; and He is always guided by perfect wisdom. Without fail, God loves us well.

5. “God is good” means that God does not lie. He keeps His promises. Whether we are single or married–whatever our circumstances are–God is not late. He is never negligent or forgetful.

6. “God is good” means that God does not react to us out of fatigue, exasperation, impatience, wounded ego, defensiveness, spite, or misunderstanding. God responds to us in wisdom and love.

7. “God is good” means that we can cast ourselves on His goodness, trusting His commands, and trusting our well-being to Him. We can trust Him in the frustrations, disappointments, and sorrows of life. As we focus on treasuring Christ, we allow His goodness to be comfort, sweetness, and strength to us.

"God is good"

The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.
Psalm 35:27, NIV

8. “God is good” means that if something will  truly bless usthen we will have it! It is the heart of God to maximize our forever joy and to nurture our well-being. God does not withhold blessing (Psalm 84:11).

"God is good"

God is always way ahead of us when it comes to blessing us! God’s desire to bless us is greater than our desire to be blessed. When we are yielded to God, any temporary lack in our lives is always making way for something greater.

9. The goodness of God shields us (Psalm 31:19). In our marriages and families, we are surrounded by things that are not good. We feel knocked down at times by the things that people say or do that are not good. But God’s goodness stabilizes us. His goodness protects us so that our hearts stay clean and our spirits stay healthy. The goodness of God keeps us from sinking into bitterness or discouragement.

10. “God is good” means that when we suffer according to God’s will, God makes it His suffering, and He carries the weight of it (Matthew 11:28-30).

"God is good"

11. “God is good” means that even though we do not know exactly why God allows certain things, we do know that there is an answer! There is a good answer that will not only make sense to us but which will fully satisfy us and cause us to rejoice. Sometimes it is enough just to know that there is such an answer.

12. “God is good” means that God will maintain His excellencies and glories as a perfect God. We are utterly dependent on Him, so it is wonderful to know that He is committed to maintaining His strength, His wisdom, and His holiness.

"God is good"

LORD, we are in awe of You! You are far greater than we can know, not just in wisdom and knowledge, but in utter goodness.

We delight in your goodness, Lord!  We celebrate your abundant goodness (Psalm 145:7). Your goodness is the song that dispels the dissonance of evil.

Lord, today we trust Your goodness. We rest in Your goodness. Like Your people in Nehemiah 9:25, we revel in Your great goodness.

In the Name of Christ we pray. Amen.

**This material first appeared on the Manna For Marriage prayer call on June 13, 2019. The recording may be viewed HERE.

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

The Chief Sinner in Your Marriage

“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

Cutting (self-injury)

You may not realize that 20% of high-school and college students engage in the self-injuring practice of cutting. As this becomes more common, it also affects more marriages.

Most of us have not purposely cut ourselves, but we have all experienced inner pain, and we have all searched for ways to relieve that pain. Although this is not my usual topic, I am sharing this today with the prayer that it will be helpful—perhaps to you or someone you know. 

The Cutting that Cures

God understands this pain
of cutting.

He knows this pain
that cries
with the voice of a knife.

He feels this pain too heavy
for words or tears
alone
to carry;
the flesh must join.

If only burdens
would flow
with blood.
If only blades
could strip sorrow
as well as skin.¹

This draining of the body
leeches life from the soul.

“Imago Dei”²
is written upon us,
yet we mar,
not knowing
the handwriting of God.

*

“Without the shedding of blood,
there is no remission of sin.”³
Without having heard,
we seem to know.
But we hope only
for the remission of pain.

Only God really knows
how great is the loss and
how deep is the pain.

Through the tearing of His own flesh,
He felt the torment of the whole world.
With the gushing of His own blood,
He marked the loss of love.

He carried the weight of our suffering
in His own body
that we would not
in ours.

cutting

Our pain became His pain,
and His wounds became our healing.
His brokenness
bought our wholeness.

There is, therefore, now
no cutting
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
for there is now
no condemnation and
no separation.

There is no loss
that He will not accept as His.
There is no emptiness
that He cannot turn
inside out
into fullness.

The only cutting
that will ever put things back together
was the crushing of Christ on the Cross–
the tearing of a veil,
and a new covenant cut.4

“It is finished.”

cutting

With lavish love,
He engraved our names
forever
on His palms.

The scars of Christ,
sealed on our souls,
mark us now
as His.

cutting

 

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1 In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp writes that she cut herself as if “you could drain yourself out of pain” (Zondervan, 2016, page 11).
2 This is the Latin phrase for “image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says that God created people in His own image.
*  By User:BardFuse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
3 From Hebrews 9:22. The Bible teaches that the consequence of our rejection of God (who is Life) is death.
4 In English, we say that we make a covenant. But in the Hebrew language of Scripture, a covenant is “cut.”

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FOR HELP in overcoming cutting, please visit Focus on the Family’s website for a series of helpful articles.

 

 

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

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 tomorrow for our weekly prayer call as we “fight on our knees” for marriages and family.

Merry Christmas!

Many blessings of joy to you,
Tami

 

 

 

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All photos are from the movie The Nativity Story.

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