Forgiven

Scripture: Read Matthew 6:12 “ …and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…” and Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven whose sin is covered.”

Thought: Matthew West was inspired to write his song, Forgiveness after hearing a mother’s story about losing her daughter to a drunk driver. God used the mother’s faith to release healing into her life by forgiving and the guilty murderer found personal freedom in Christ through her forgiveness. God’s love was her motivation to forgive. Christ died for our sins so that we might live in His Love. This week as I reflect each day on Holy Week, I imagine what Jesus must have sacrificially gone through. At first, on Palm Sunday the crowd praised him, “Hosanna” and then as the week grew closer to his crucifixion, how hard it must have been for him to resist retaliation from the hurt and resentment of the people who shouted, “Crucify Him.” Yet, Christ willingly granted free and full forgiveness. How can Christ not be a part of my life, it’s not about me, it’s about His Love for me.

Action: Is Christ your Life? Can you forgive a wrong and put the matter to rest? Set yourself free today. Lewis B. Smedes wrote, “Forgiveness can clear the bitterness away; it can even set a prisoner free. There is no end to what its power can do. So, let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of Grace. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Ask God to help you follow Christ’s example of forgiveness towards someone who has wronged you. Listen to Matthew West song, Forgiveness…“Out of the darkness of bitterness and into the light of forgiveness…”

Prayer: Lord, show me how to love the unlovable. Teach me how to reach the unreachable, help me now to do the impossible. Lord, it’s not about me and I praise thee for the gift to be free. Amen, Alleluia, Hallelujah, Praise be to God.

Safety Zone

Scripture: Read James 1:19 “Dear friends, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight”.

Thought: This weekend the check engine light came on in our car. I assumed big bucks to get it repaired, my husband concluded that we only had one vehicle and couldn’t afford to release the car for repair until we found another vehicle to use. Almost immediately we both turned into monsters instead of realizing that we actually had the same goal; the car needed to be fixed! Our communication involved sending and receiving a message of resolution but we failed to evaluate (listen) and discuss (speak) the options. Our choice of communication was not effective and grew into an unsafe zone of fear and anger, creating us both to be defensive. After the storm calmed down, we were able to stand with each other and forgive whatever grievance we had against one another. Our desiring virtues to be humble, to be kind, to be patient, to put on love, connected our situation in perfect unity. We prayed and asked God for forgiveness while sinning in our fear and anger, then asked Him to help us find an affordable mechanic. In deed, we asked God for a great thing and He delivered.

Action: Is your marriage a safe haven? Can you and your spouse be yourselves? Are you free to share and express your dreams, concerns, jokes, disappointment or anything else that makes you who you are? Or do you hide and keep silent for fear of anger, judgment or criticism? Talk about your reactions when the two of you had a disagreement. How did it make you feel and how did it effect the situation? If the two of you connected in communication, how did the situation place you in a safe zone?

Prayer: Lord, I so often jump to a conclusion when I am afraid. My fear can turn to anger and my anger turns to defense. Lord, you tell me to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I ask you now Father, help me seek to be humble and not to pass judgment, to knock and search for your peace so my conversations with my spouse are right in your sight and together we are safe in perfect harmony when making decisions.

Impressive Love

Scripture: Read 1 Peter 3:7 “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life”.
Thought: When having dinner with my son and daughter-in-law this weekend, my husband and I were discussing our different love languages. Amber, my daughter-in-law, made a statement that brought a proud, loving tear to my heart; “I don’t need flowers or jewelry. My husband filled my gas tank for me and that makes me feel so loved.” It was my son’s act of service that told his wife, he loves her.

God calls husbands to oversee their homes and this includes protecting their wives from emotional and physical burnout. Women are wired to nurture and give of themselves, but a random act of kindness from the man she loves speaks volumes to her. Your wife is probably pretty good at juggling a million things at once, but when she gets overwhelmed, it’s nice to have a little help; even if she doesn’t admit or realize she needs the rest. It’s easy to get focused on work, parenting, and various forms of entertainment, and forget about your wife’s needs. Does she look frazzled or even frantic at times? Is she less patient or snapping at you for small things? Try serving your wife; this reflects God’s love when you shoulder burdens with her. It’s not demeaning or beneath you, it’s bringing God glory, and creating a closer bond with your spouse.
You know her better than anyone knows her, so stay on your toes and keep her on your radar. If she runs herself ragged nonstop, how will she have anything left to offer anyone else? If she seems cold and uninterested towards you, it could be exhaustion. Lend a helping hand, or start a hot bubble bath for just “her alone time”.
Action: Step back and ask yourself how you can serve your wife, given the unique talents and strengths God gave you. Are you happy to clean up after dinner? Can you help kids with math homework? Can you take over the bedtime routine? Then go brush some little teeth. Help her, help you. Shower her with the type of love that will spill over to you, your children, and others in your lives. Be intentional about protecting her well-being and you will reap great rewards.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the attitude I carried home tonight to my family. Help me to leave work at work. I am grateful for having a loving home, to come and rest. And for a wife that serves you out of love. Open my eyes to see You. Help me to see Your reflection in our home. Guide my heart to let go of the day and to serve you the way my wife serves me. Show me your way and strengthen me to treat her with understanding. Lord, in everything I give you thanks. Amen

Marriage Interview

Scripture: “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. This great mystery is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5: 31-33
Thought: A few years ago on a radio talk show, I heard a pastor ask a young engaged couple what the definition of marriage was to them. I wondered if they could give a clear and concise response? The couple replied with the traditional wedding pledge, “do you take ________ to be your wedded husband/wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love, comfort, honor and keep him/her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to each other, for as long as we both shall live?” It sounded to me, like they knew what they were committing to. I of course, thought of the wedding vows I took in the holy sacrament of matrimony. I made a promise to George; there would be no holding back of anything. My marriage was a pledge of mutual fidelity; it is a partnership of mutual submission with Jesus Christ in the center. Through the good times and bad I would stand beside George in support. Together with God in the center of our marriage, we would work things out.

Sure, all of us experience events which have the potential to reshape us as individuals or as couples. Some of these possible events are called disappointment, crises or tragedies. There are certain key words that are important to discuss as a couple. We must leave our parents authority and not cling to their views. We must cleave to our spouse, united as one and start our own lives together as just the two of us were created to be one in unity. As we experience together the events that hurt, we will learn to weave a life together as a family with Christ in the center.

Action: Consider what your definition would be. What does commitment mean to you? What is a pledge? What does mutual submission mean to you? How can marriage free you instead of restrict you? Has your marriage freed you to this point? What has happened in the life time of your marriage that God has used to reshape you? Enjoy your discussion today.
Prayer: Lord, apart from you I desire nothing else than to have my marriage Re-Centered in Your Love. I ask for you to provide time with George and I tonight to reflect and discuss our love, our pledge, our growth during marriage, and reflect on the mutual submission that we made through the bad times. May we gain greater direction concerning our marriage through Your process and grow with love and respect to one another. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pride Destroys

Scripture: Read 2 Timothy 3: 2-5 “(2) For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. (3)They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. (4)They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (5)They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.”
Thought: Pride can destroy relationships. It can make a person unloving and unforgiving. People can betray their friends, family and even spouses to enjoy their own pleasure. Yes, there is a positive, healthy side to pride; being proud of your children or your spouse, or taking pride in your work. But looking at the destructive side of pride can have such great power to damaging our relationship with others and with God. Pride is destructive when it involves wanting too much recognition, taking too much credit, wanting your own way, thinking your way is best. Thinking too highly of oneself causes us to face the world from a selfish point of view, blinding us to our faults, which leads us to finding fault, blame, jealousy, envy and a judgmental attitude towards others. Pride is like a cancer of the soul. Beginning with a few cells of self congratulations and pats on the back; boasting or vanity, soon it grows unchecked into arrogance and conceit. Then there is no room left for the healthy cells that worship God and pursue healthy purposes. As with cancer, the key to eliminating pride is to surrender it to the surgeon’s scalpel before it has a chance to grow out of control.
Action: How about you? BE BRUTALLY HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Has pride brought conflict in your marriage? Do you perceive that you’re safer, smarter, and richer than you really are? Has pride kept you from receiving help lately? Has pride kept you from receiving your spouse’s love and God’s love? Has pride kept you from forgiving someone in your life because of a judgmental attitude? Through repentance, invite God to cleanse your heart of pride. Ask Father God to help you not to take pride in yourself, but in what Our Father wants to do in you through Jesus. Focusing on God’s life in you is a good deterrent of arrogance.
Prayer: My Father God, right now I want to confess the self importance I have placed on myself. You know more why I do these things than I do, but I don’t want to be filled with false pride, I want You to be alive in me. Please CHANGE ME LORD, so that I may focus on living the kind of life you have called me to and to share the blessings you have bestowed upon me. I surrender my pride to you today and ask for you to teach me to be humble. In Jesus Name, I pray with THANKSGIVING, Amen.

Parenting Children’s Faith

After my first born son, I searched for a parenting manual on raising kids. I thought the hospital included one with all of the other samples and freebies for moms. I needed something with different categories like, “How to Understand the Different Cries”, “What’s Normal for a Child’s First Word, mama, daddy, no?” “How to Stop Whining” “How to Sleep Through the Night”, and How to Get Your Kids to Listen When Your Talking”.
Christian parents face just as many obstacles as non-Christians in raising kids. When you add all the distractions and the pressures in today’s world, Christian parenting becomes even more than a challenge.
A huge part of that challenge is passing on your faith to kids whose priorities are more focused on video games, sporting events, and the latest trends in clothes. And let’s not forget to mention peer pressure and media pressure that offers temptations to kids to do drugs, drink alcohol and get involved sexually. Today’s kids face an overall absence of godly examples and moral living in a society that is moving toward “freedom from religion” instead of “freedom of religion.”
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” Psalm 127:3

Parents are role models. Spiritual values and character are caught as well as taught. Parents bare the fundamental responsibility for spiritual education. Spiritual values are most effective when integrated into family living. A child watches their parent’s life to conclude the importance of a relationship with God.

“You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commandments I am giving you, Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home, and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down, and when you are getting up again.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Most of the parents I know have a strong desire to raise their children to be honest, respectful, thoughtful, and passionate about their hopes and dreams. With three boys, I know the difficulty in completing this task. When I was young, before I even had children, I imagined a plan for my parenting. After watching and listening to my parents teaching, I wanted to set the same example with some modifications. Although I wasn’t perfect, I did the best I could, following the manual God wrote. This is what I learned, lived and taught:

1. I gave my children to Our Lord. When they were just a couple months old, I had them christened. “Then He took the children into His arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mark 10:16
2. I raised my children with loving discipline. “…Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
3. I lived by faith in my own life. It is impossible to give away something you don’t have. I wanted my kids to know that we could ask God for all things in good times and bad and He would answer our prayers according to His Will and our desires. And He would never leave us or let us down. Matthew 7:7, Romans 8:28, Hebrews 13:5-6
4. I shared my faith early in my children’s lives. We went to church every Sunday and as they got older and balk, it was a nonnegotiable. They needed to know that spending time with God is important. My children heard me share my faith with others and heard me talk about the great things happening in the church. We prayed for friends and family and asked others for prayer. My children witnessed my quiet times every morning when I was doing devotions. We read and told bible stories at night. “You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commandments I am giving you, Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home, and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down, and when you are getting up again.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
5. I served as a role model and set spiritual examples. I remember one day we were grocery shopping and my son found $20 on the floor. We really could have used that money and easily walked away without drawing attention. BUT, my children observed. We took the money to customer service. Shortly after we got home, we received a call from the lady that dropped the money, thanking us for being honest people. That was her grocery money for the week from social security. “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
6. I taught basic spiritual principles to my children. I wanted them to learn that their actions revealed their value system. What they do shows what they really believe. “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Luke 6:45

As the boys got older, my role changed from their primary influence to one of a mentor or coach. We shared more about growing in the Fruits of the Spirit.
• How to hear from God. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts. Hebrews 8:10-12
• What it means to be a student of God’s Word. One must love the truth 2 Thessalonians 2:10 and be willing to obey it 1 Peter 1:22. I have hidden your word in my heart, Psalm 119:11
• The act of surrendering to God’s will. Deny yourself; Matthew 16:24-27, Trust in the Lord; Proverbs 3:5-6, Draw near to God; James 4:8
• Only God’s grace can really build godliness. God provides all that is necessary for life and Godliness; 2 Peter 1:2-7
• Pray and Trust in Christ who is Our Lord. Those that know Christ, put their trust in Him, Psalm 9:10; Pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; We are not alone in life, God is always with us so be strong with courage, Joshua 1:9

And now, young adult men my children follow after God’s heart in their own way.

What about You? Do you have a plan to leave a legacy of faith for your children?

God Created Two for One

 

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Scripture: Read Genesis 2:23-24 “At last!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of a man.” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Thought: When the unity candle is lit at a wedding, it symbolizes a unique relationship. Joining bride and groom in such a way that the two become one. God intended to bond married people together in a way different from any other relationship and it is good. God doesn’t create junk. He knew what he was doing when he joined your two hearts together, long before you ever knew. You are now one, go and live a ‘good’ life together, using God’s word as your handbook.

Action: Discuss the preparation before your wedding? How did you feel? Discuss your wedding day. Did you have an ordained pastor perform the ceremony; Did you have it in a church, outdoors or some other venue? Who attended your day of matrimonial celebration? Do you remember how in love you were? The honeymoon and the good life you were looking forward to?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for choosing _________ to be my beloved spouse. Help me to give and receive blessings each day that shows our unity of love. Protect us and give us peace all the days of our lives.

Invest in Your Marriage

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:28 “But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.

Thought: How blessed is a husband whose wife has so many abilities and such noble character, And how blessed is the wife whose husband affirms her and is supportive of her personal development. Think of the profit you make on interest in your savings. You don’t save? That stinks! What happens if you don’t invest? You’re left with credit card debt. That stinks! But what happens if you work at a savings? Sure it’s a sacrifice, setting boundaries, giving up something to get something (a savings) in the end what is the result? That’s right you’re now invested, you’ve earned a profit. Without the stinky pooh, there is no profit. Without investing in your marriage there is no relationship.
Action: What kind of an investment can you act on today that shows your spouse that you’re invested in him/her? What kind of investment can you make this year that shows God you’re invested in Him for the good of those who need him? Now boldly go forth with trust and putting Him first. Remember, it’s not about you.
Prayer: Dear God, Help me to enjoy life with my spouse and submit to each other in the same way you ask us to submit to you. Grant me courage each day to invest in my marriage, accept the things I can not change, and wisdom to hear the difference. Change me God, so I put you and others first before I put my wants ahead of anything or anyone else.

A Father’s Wise Advice

Scripture: “Pay attention, my child to what I say. Listen carefully. Don’t lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning. Above all else, guard your heart for it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:20-23
Thought: What is it that really makes a marriage alive and vital? Is it following the scriptures or a strict adherence to a plan for the marriage? Living according to God’s Word is important, but of equal importance is the couple’s attitude of heart as they submit with scripture. Sometimes defiance or hostility underlies the outward behavior of following God’s Word. This doesn’t develop a healthy marriage relationship. A proper attitude of heart is the basis for living out God’s plan for husbands and wives. Many couples are very adept at creating illusions. Some create the illusion of intimacy in their marriage; others portray an illusion of spiritual closeness. Others give lip service and appear to be living out God’s Word in their marriage, but their actions do not spring from a right attitude of heart. Some husbands and wives are deeply devoted to following God’s scriptural roles for them. Others respond grudgingly or discard or misinterpret the clear teaching of scripture.
Action: It is important for each of us to periodically take our own temperature concerning the attitude of our heart. Is your spirit open to God’s leading? Do you have a deep desire to allow God’s word to be reflected in your marriage? Do you perceive God’s guidelines for your marriage to be personally limiting or liberating? You know your heart. God knows your heart. You can’t change your heart. But God can change your heart.
Prayer: My Dear Wise Father in Heaven, I need you to work in the spirit of my heart, please do so and give me the strength to surrender. You know what you’re doing and I know you want the best for me and my marriage.

Praying Women

Scripture: “He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak.” Isaiah 40:29
Thought: “Lord, I can’t do it any more!” I have times during my marriage when I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m afraid my husband is detaching from God. His life is filled with stress as he works for a company who mentally and physically abuses him and he feels stuck, in addition to carrying the full financial burden for our family. I beg, argue, manipulate, cry, and flat out tell him, he should spend more time praying and asking God for direction, especially during his stress. I tried placing his Bible on top of the side table next to him. I would leave devotionals and inspirational books where he would sit as a hint to seek God’s word. I tried everything I could think of to get him to change his attitude. I played mother, counselor, spiritual advisor and even Holy Spirit, until I was worn out from trying to control his state of affair. I became desperate and fed up. One evening, I knelt down, with tears flowing down my face, “God, he is your child, I have no ownership over him. I surrender my manipulation and his life to you because I can’t do it any more. At that moment, I felt the burden of my husband’s relationship with God release from my controlling hold. This was the turning point in our marriage and I learned that if he comes home short tempered, disinterested, miserable, or lethargic, I could take the situation to the Lord in prayer. Wow, what a relief it is!
Action: Do you pray daily for your spouse? Are you frustrated with your marriage connection? Take it to the Lord in prayer or ask a close friend to pray with you when you can’t think straight and need clarity and a vision of unity. We need to be accountable for ourselves.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for complaining about my marriage and thinking my spouse needs to change. Change Me Lord, life is not about my comfort or getting my way, it’s about you and following your way.