May 8, 2014

5 Ways To Revive A So-So Marriage

Have you ever sat across from your spouse at a restaurant and didn’t have anything to say to one another? I have. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. It makes your mind wonder, “Is he/she bored of our relationship? Have we grown apart? What’s happened to us?”

It may be that we’ve stopped giving our marriage the attention it needs.

I’ve learned one of the greatest hindrances to marriage is not paying attention to our partner. I don’t think we do this consciously.  It’s the demands of everyday life that steal our attention away from our partners — and paying attention to the other is crucial for happy relationships.

I bet you could name those demands in your marriage… work, children, bills, activities, T.V. etc…

Even if your relationship is in some sort of emotional limbo, the good news is you can revive the passion you once felt for one another.

Here are 5 ways to revive your marriage:

1. Pay attention to your spouse.

You may think you’re doing this, but how long has it been since you’ve asked your mate what they need from you? People grow and change. What worked years ago might not be what works today.

As I’ve shared before, without communication there is no relationship. When it comes to communicating, it takes two to tango. Communication is more about listening then it is about talking. For example, when one person is speaking the other must not interrupt. He/she must listen completely before responding. And when responding, it’s good to repeat what you just heard to verify that you heard the other person correctly. When things get heated at my house, this technique is a real gem!

2. Share new experiences together.

My husband and like to take hikes on the weekends. We use to do this before the children came along. Now that they’re grown, we’re back to the trails.

We’ve also taken ballroom dancing together. It was hysterical because we both had two-left feet. We still talk and laugh about it today.

Finding something you can do together not only brings you closer, opens up the lines of communicate, but it puts the spark back into your _______________. I’ll let you fill in the blank!

3. Act as if you’re in a new relationship.

For years we’ve heard, “Have a date night with your spouse once a week.” That’s good advice! But where do you begin?

Ask questions about your spouse. (You just might find something you both would love to do together!) Ask your mate what brings them joy? Or, if they could go anywhere in the world, where would he/she go? Then decorate the dinning room according to the culture and have a romantic dinner for two.

Think about what you did when you first dated…. Hold hands. Hold open the door. Say “please” and “thank-you.” Dating your spouse definitely keeps the magic going.

4. Be kind

When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to take each other for granted. Being kind to one another changes the tone.  For example, whenever I try to give my husband driving tips, he responds kindly.

“Thank you, honey, for being helpful today.” Yes, he’s being sarcastic, but I get his point and it didn’t offend me. Usually, I laugh at his statement. That’s important, too. Learn to laugh at yourself and with each other. (You did this when you were dating.)

If I were asked to share what has held my marriage together, I’d say two things. One, we laugh at ourselves instead of taking everything so seriously. Two, we choose to forgive each other no matter what.

5. Be affectionate

Studies have shown that touch goes a long way in communicating your feelings.  Try squeezing the hand, or a gentle touch on the face. A pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder is nice, too.

Let’s not forgive the emotional side of things. Complement your spouse for cooking dinner, or tell your husband how talented he is for fixing the car. Use words of endearment as often as you can. You might even call each other during the day just to say, “I love you.”

Most importantly, pray for one another. It’s impossible to fight when you’re in prayer.

Each of these things can do a lot for a so-so marriage. It will draw you back to the same page, have you dating again, and rekindle the passion!

I challenge you to apply this to your marriage and see for yourself what a difference it can make.

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May 5, 2014

An Untroubled Heart Ebook

 I’m excited to let you know that Vyrso, an ebook platform that reaches a Christian living audience,  has selected An Untroubled Heart to be part of a special ebook promotional bundle May 5–6.
Today, I’m guest posting on the Vyrso blog! Check it out by clicking on this link (http://blog.vyrso.com)

Now, here’s an excerpt from my book, An Untroubled Heart: Finding A Faith Stronger Than All My Fear

My oldest son and his friend, Jamie, had spent the afternoon at our house watching movies up until it was time for Mitch to go to work. It wasn’t ten minutes after they left the house that the phone rang.

 “Mom, I just wrecked my car. I’m okay, but Jamie is hurt. We’re just down the road from our house. Can you come?”

Can I come? What kind of question is that? I was already sitting in my car after he said the word “wrecked.” I just needed to know what direction to go in.

It’s one thing to hear that your child has been in a car accident, but it’s another to witness the scene. The first thing I saw when I arrived was his car upside down and smashed between two trees like a pancake. An ambulance and fire truck were already at the site. Cars lined the road on each side and people came out of their homes to view the accident. Once my mind was able to take it all in, I realized that Mitch and his friend were nowhere in sight.

“WHERE ARE THEY?” I began to shout as I turned in a circle scoping the area for any sign of them. A paramedic took me by the arm and led me toward the ambulance. I felt my body go numb from fear of what I might find inside.

The first person I saw was Mitch. Our eyes met, and without exchanging words, I could tell he was scared, but okay. Jamie, on the other hand, was strapped to a straight board with her back, neck, and head secured. Tears of concern filled my eyes.

“Jamie’s hurt badly,” Mitch said as if I could fix it. At that moment, if I couldn’t fix it, I was sure going to find someone who could. I bent down close to Jamie and took her hand in mine. “I’m here, Sweetie. It’s going to be okay,” I said trying to reassure us both. However, my motherly authority took over when Jamie shared her needs with me. I tried to relay them to the paramedic as calmly as I could.

“I can’t breathe,” Jamie whispered.

“SHE CAN’T BREATH!” I shouted to the paramedic.

“I’m in pain,” she begged.

“SHE’S IN PAIN!” I demanded. Suddenly, I felt as if I needed to lie down on the other side of the ambulance from the adrenalin rush surging through my body due to fear. Fortunately, we all survived the incident and arrived safely at the hospital. Mitch only received a few bumps and burses. Jamie dislocated a few ribs, but after several weeks she, too, was as good as new.

My son may not have been thinking about me before the accident occurred, but immediately afterward, he was aware of the person he needed most. That’s because children are bonded to their parents by a love relationship that they don’t necessarily think about, nor are they conscience of its existence. Yet, in times of trouble, worry, or fear the child instantly realizes the union. That’s because the unique parent/child relationship has all the resources they need for life. The same is true of our relationship with God. We should be eager to “cast our cares on Him because He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). And because in Him are all the resources we need for life.

I often take for granted the awesome privilege of being God’s child. As His children, we have the privilege of casting our worries on the Lord with strong confidence that He cares for us. Worry is unnecessary when our God is able and willing to bear our burdens for us. When you and I worry, we are denying the wisdom, love, and provision of God. Like my son, I should be quick to call out to my heavenly Father for help. I need to run to God for comfort and reassurance instead of worrying myself to death. Often I do the opposite. I try to be the adult instead of the child, but I truly want to do better. I want to become so aware of God’s abiding presence in my life that I fall asleep in His arms at night and awake to His presence in the morning.

When everything had settled after the accident, Mitch could no longer hold in his emotions of worry and fear. Burying his head in my chest, he burst into tears. It was his way of releasing his anxieties and casting them on me. Because I love my son, I gladly supported him in the midst of his pain.  Wrapping my arms around Mitch, I reassured him that he was safe.

In the same way, our fears and worries should drive us into the safety of God’s arms. Those who trust in him have tremendous security. We find support in God’s presence when we cast our cares on Him. No worry is too big for our Father to shoulder. Because of His great love for us, He gladly takes away our fears and quiets our hearts with peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The Lord picks us up out of our wrecked lives while we are still scared and afraid and He comforts us. It’s in God’s loving care that our spirit is renewed and we know for certain there is no safer place on earth.

Don’t forget to check out how you can get my ebook on Vyrso! Tell your friends, too! 

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April 30, 2014

Your Purpose In God’s Time

Thank you for all your responses to Ginger’s post. I could say, “a-men” to all of them. In fact, I found comfort in knowing we all feel inadequate from time to time. This is a good reminder to be kind to oursleves and others.

THE WINNERS OF GUILTLESS LIVING ARE:

JUANITA @ ljhead93@yahoo.com

COURTNEY J @ courtney.d.jackson1@gmail.com

AMBER M @ txprincessamer@aol.com

Congratulations, ya’ll!!!

______________________________________________________________

Purpose. It’s a hot topic. Everybody is looking for his or her purpose in life. Some have found theirs, or they believe they have, others are still seeking. Wondering.  Praying.

I was the only child of my parents born without a talent. Or so it seemed. My brother was an all-star athlete, and my sister performed many musical plays in our living room. She also played the piano and sang in church as my parents looked on with pride. I burned with jealousy.

Although I was raised to believe God had a purpose for my life, and in His time would reveal it, I had the need to help God out. Anybody? Yet, anything you and I can do on our own is too small to be God’s purpose for our lives.

God makes us a promise such as, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord” (Jere 29:11). Our only job is to trust in that promise.  Instead, we seek ways to help God out—as if He needed our help. Basically, we’re impatient. We get annoyed when God doesn’t set His watch with ours. Eventually, we run ahead of Him. That’s exactly what I did.

Green with envy, I decided to follow in my brothers footsteps and try my hand at softball. At first, my career looked promising. When I signed up to play softball, the coaches fought over me. Well, they fought over my last name. They assumed I was as good of an athlete as my brother. Boy, were they wrong. When my coach realized I couldn’t catch, throw, or hit a ball, he tried to trade me to another team. Can you believe that? How RUDE!

When sports fell through, I begged my mom for piano lessons so I could play like my sister. I was on my second month of lessons when my piano teacher informed my mother that instead of improving I was regressing. I actually knew less about playing the piano than I did the week before. Now, that’s a gift!

By this time, I had decided that my older siblings had taken all the good genes leaving me deplete of any talent at all. When in fact, God was teaching me a lesson in trust.

When God makes me a promise, it’s not my responsibility to make it happen. It’s His. He only asks me to trust, wait, and believe. That’s so stinking hard! It’s tough because we fear He’ll forget about us, or something like that. But God never forgets. He’s always at work for our good.

I learned over time that God is working to provide all I need to fulfill His calling on my life. He uses good times, bad times, and everything in between.

I had just turned thirty when I felt God tugging at my heart. While I didn’t know where He was leading, I followed. I obeyed. I walked through open doors and took risks that scared the bee-gee-bees out of me. Before I knew it, people were saying things like, “You have a real gift when you speak.”

“I can feel the Presence of the Lord, when you’re teaching.”

“I was at the conference where you spoke last weekend, and my life was forever changed.”

Who Knew? God did. And he knows the plans He has for you as invisible as they seem now. That’s a promise! God has not forgotten you. He’s preparing you. And when it’s time, He’ll come get you. It’s worth the wait, my friend.

Today, ask yourself, “I’m I running ahead of God?” If so, why?

“Do I believe He has a purpose for me—a plan to give me a hope and a future?” If you do, then you can be certain God will make the invisible visible in His time.

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April 28, 2014

Guiltless Living GIVE A-WAY!

The winner of, Capture His/Her Heart,  is…. Amanda @ pcwoodworking@m33access.com Congratulations, Amanda!

If you didn’t win, don’t fret. Today, you could win a copy of Guiltess Living Read on…

I’m delighted to introduce you to my friend, Ginger Hubbard, today. I’ve known Ginger for 13 years. I love this girl! Our relationship started at Proverbs 31 Ministries where we both served on the Speaking Team. Although God’s call on her life took Ginger in a different direction, I still glean from her friendship and godly wisdom.

Ginger is serious about God’s Word and teaches it with humor, transparency, and conviction. If you want a real relationship with God, Ginger will take you there in her new book, Guiltless Living! That’s not all. She’s giving away 3 copies today!

Take it away, Ginger… 

For so long in my life, I struggled with trying to be a good Christian. Inevitably, I would blow it on a daily basis then proceed to beat myself up spiritually and emotionally.

In setting my standards high for being what I perceived the perfect wife and mom, I chose the woman described in Proverbs 31 as my role model. On one particular morning, I remember reading about her and making unfavorable comparisons. She got up before it was still dark. I had rolled out of bed around 8:30 am. She was well dressed in fine linen and purple. I was in a baggy, terrycloth robe with my hair pulled up in an orange chip clip. She held the distaff while grasping the spindle with her fingers (not sure what those things are, but I am certain they contributed to her noble character). I held the dust buster to the crumbs on my bed sheets while grasping the empty bag of Doritos. She provided good food for her family and was always on top of things. I offered a choice of Burger King or McDonalds and felt the weight of my unaccomplished to-do list crashing down on me.

In comparison, I did not measure up. I felt anxious, defeated and disappointed in myself.

I wanted to be the wife who was always cheerful, never irritable, and only said words that edified, encouraged and built up. I wanted to be the mom who never lost it and only spoke with kindness, wisdom and faithful instruction. But, as hard as I tried, I always wound up blowing it in some way.

I just could not achieve the “good Christian” status I desired.

Through prayer and studying God’s Word, I began to realize that no matter how hard I tried, I would never achieve being the perfect Christian. I learned that the battle of victorious Christian living could not be won by sheer willpower or by teeth-gritting determination, but by tucking myself underneath the full armor of God and trusting that God is not only fighting for me, but He has already won the battle.

In measuring our self-worth in accordance with our own performances, we not only become anxious, but we miss out on experiencing the peace and rest of who we truly are in Christ.

Our worth is not based on what we do or do not do. It is not based on our successes and failures. It is not even based on whether we sin a little or sin a lot.

Our worth is based solely on Christ and the atoning work He has done on our behalf. We are His children, purchased at a price, forgiven and fully redeemed.

Embracing this wonderful truth brings about freedom. It is the freedom to forget about ourselves and lay down our measuring rods of self-worth and ongoing scrutiny. It is the freedom to release the suffocating anxiety our weaknesses cause, and instead take hold of God’s grace given to us through the cross.

Join me today in letting go of performance-based worth and self-imposed expectations. May we purpose to rest in the victory Christ has already won and truly experience the rich and satisfying joy of Guiltless Living!

Give Away

Because I have struggled so much with the issue of performance-based self-worth, I have a great compassion for other struggling women. I can relate and understand the mental, spiritual and physical exhaustion that comes from this way of living. If you are one of these women, it is my deep desire that you lay down your measuring rod of self-worth and stop beating yourself up. I desire this so much that I’d like to give away three of my books in hopes that you might experience the freedom of Guiltless Living.

Thank you, Ginger!

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April 25, 2014

Learning To Communicate

“Are you listening to me?” I asked my husband who was driving the car.

“Sometimes I don’t believe you hear a word I say.” I added.  My husband’s response took me by surprise.

“I’m listening. I’m just not responding.” He explained. “I’m wondering why you want to talk about something that might cause an argument on the way to church.” He added.

He was right. My timing was bad and we probably would have ended up in a fight. I shut my mouth, but before doing so I made him promise we would talk later—no matter what!

Communication is hard in a marriage. Someone once said that communication is to a relationship as blood is to the human body. Communication is what nourishes and sustains a relationship. Without it you no longer have a relationship.

We don’t want to go there. So how do we build good communication skills?

We turn to God’s Word. The bible has much to say on the topic.

First, the Word teaches us: We Must Listen to Understand

“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (Jas 1:19b).

To honor this truth, I’m learning to focus on what is being said rather than how I feel about what’s being said. That’s not all.

I’m trying to focus on the tone of voice and posture of the speaker instead of just his words.

Listening well also means clarifying valid points rather than making accusations and become defensive.

In other words, I should listen to understand; not judge.

Second, We Must Speak to be Understood———————————————-

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Pro 10:19).

I’m learning it’s important to be deliberate with regard to what, how and when I choose to express myself to my spouse. These things really matter. Riding to church is not the best time to discuss a problem.

First, I must determine what I really want to express. Then, how do I want to say it?

  • With excitement?
  • With encouragement?
  • With conviction?
  • With disappointment? Expression helps clarify what we want to say.

It’s equally important to determine when to speak. It’s probably not best to discuss a problem after a long day at work, and definitely not in front of friends or family. Maybe it’s best to share your heart after a meal, recreation or before bedtime.

 WHAT KIND OF FIGHTER ARE YOU?————————————

Finally, Understand the Way You fight

(Taken from Denis Rainey’s “Preparing For Marriage Book.) 

Did you know that the way you fight is a communication style? It is. What style best describes you?

1.)  Are you a fight to win person? I am. I bring the knives, frying pan and the kitchen sink. I’m determined to win even if someone dies. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But a person who fights to win says, “I’m right. You’re wrong.” You seek to dominate the other person. Does this sound like you or your spouse?

2.)  Are you a withdrawer? Do you seek to avoid conflict at all costs? You feel uncomfortable in a fight and you just want to get out. You rarely see any hope for resolving the problem so you give your mate the silent treatment.

3.)  Or are you a yielder? You assume it’s better to go along with the other’s person demands than start an argument. To you a safe feeling is more important than being close.

My husband and I took time to determine which best fit our fighting style. Once we identified how each other fights we better understood one another. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s why he does that!” Plus, we were never again caught off guard by the others response. I highly recommend you discuss these with your mate.

What we want to achieve when fighting is a loving resolve. This takes a special attitude. In humility, both parties must commit to putting the relationship above the issue. Make your relationship a higher priority than the conflict at hand. Determine it’s not a win/lose situation. Both interest are equally valuable. Then discuss the problem as carefully and as sensitively as you can.

Resolving conflict requires forgiveness. This is the miracle of the Christian life—that we can heal our relationships as Christ healed our relationship with HIm through forgiveness.

ENTER TO WIN!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Because I care about you and your relationship, today I’m giving away Lysa Terkeurst’s books, Capture His Heart/Capture Her Heart!

 I love these pocket-sized books! My husband and I read our book separately. Then, we went out to eat one night each week to discuss all we learned. What Lysa taught strengthened our marriage and brought us closer together as a couple.

 To enter to win the bundle, leave a comment expressing one thing that spoke to you in this post.

Blessings!

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April 13, 2014

Even The Donkey Knew

Matthew 21:2, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” (NIV)

For thousands of years people have been asking the question, “Who is Jesus?” Skeptics first began inquiring about Jesus’ identity during His earthly ministry. As Jesus traveled from town to town, performing miracles and fulfilling prophecy, many would ask, “Is He a prophet or a teacher?” Even though Christ clearly stated He was the Son of God, some still questioned His identity and still do today.

The Passover is one among the many times our Lord’s authority was questioned.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the citizens cried out, “Who is this?” Everyone noticed His arrival. Some were moved with joy by His presence and laid palm branches on the ground in His honor, others watched in wonder. The Pharisees were most likely filled with envy and indignation. However, Scripture tells us that though He was the King of Glory, Jerusalem knew Him not. (Acts 13:27, KJV)

Earlier that Sunday morning, as Jesus and His disciples neared the city, He said to two of His disciples, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” (Matthew 21:2, NIV)

Most Bible teachers claim that Jesus rode the donkey through town in order to fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9, Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NIV)

Not only was prophecy fulfilled, but we also see an example of Christ’s all-encompassing knowledge when He revealed where the donkey could be found. More so, we also catch a glimpse of Christ’s ability to make Himself and His authority known to all living things as the untamed donkey yields to his destiny.

Donkeys, as well as their colts, were known as mean, stubborn creatures, and yet, having never been ridden before, amazingly this wild donkey submits to the authority of Christ. In doing so, the donkey testifies that Jesus is Lord. In this truth lies a very important insight. Within the heart of every living soul, whether man or beast, is the knowledge of God. He placed that knowledge there Himself.

The evidence of God is not only written on every heart and displayed in nature, but it’s found throughout Scripture as well. One recorded fact that proves Christ’s authenticity is found in the donkey’s humble obedience to submit to Jesus’ command. I believe that Jesus is sending us a message through an animal less intelligent than we, “Even the donkey knew Me.”

It’s true, if an untamed donkey can recognize the glory of the Lord, so can we even though we can’t visibly see Him. If we could see God, He’d just be another object like the sun and the moon. That would make Him a small God. He’s much bigger than that. The Bible tells us that God is a spirit. He is not anything you can see or touch. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t real! In fact, He is more “real” than the things you see around you that will eventually they will disappear—but God never will.

The greatest evidence that God longs to reveal Himself to us occurred over 2000 years ago when this invisible God became a visible person, Jesus Christ, who claimed, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God not only desired to reveal Himself then, but He wants to show Himself real to you everyday through a loving relationship with His Son.

Deep within you know, just as the donkey knew, that Jesus longs to enter your heart and take His rightful place as Lord of your life. Don’t let a donkey out smart you. Today is the perfect time to get to know God in a real way.

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March 27, 2014

A Palace Built For A King

As I sit on the white sand gazing out at the green waters of the ocean, the sun warms my body and my thoughts are carried by the wind. Then, one thought sticks in my mind. “Christ in me–making all things new.” It’s a difficult truth to grasp. C.S. Lewis brings light to the subject…

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

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March 19, 2014

A Heart Like Jesus

Who doesn’t want a heart like Jesus? I do! Better yet, God wants to give me and you a heart like Jesus.

I came across this devotion, A Heart Like Jesus, by Max Lucado, and had to share it with you!

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes His mother, your pains become His pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved. Only one change occurs.

What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with His heart?

Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.

What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family – would they see something new? Your coworkers – would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?

And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?

Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours?

Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?

Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart.

“You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like His.

I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:

God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.

If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. To quote my wife’s favorite author:

God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change.

Our evil cannot diminish His love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed.

When my daughter Jenna was a toddler, I used to take her to a park not far from our apartment. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased her a treat, and when I turned to give it to her, I saw her mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt.

Did I love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less my daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was I going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. I loved her right where she was, but I refused to leave her there. I carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why?Because I love her.

God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so He cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream. “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true – we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus.

Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.

Where did we get the idea we can’t change? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer?

The Heart of Christ

The heart of Jesus was pure. The Savior was adored by thousands, yet content to live a simple life. He was cared for by women (Luke 8:1-3) yet never accused of lustful thoughts, scorned by His own creation but willing to forgive them before they even requested His mercy. Peter, who traveled with Jesus for three and a half years, described Him as a “lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). After spending the same amount of time with Jesus, John concluded, “And in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).

Jesus’ heart was peaceful. The disciples fretted over the need to feed the thousands, but not Jesus. He thanked God for the problem. The disciples shouted for fear in the storm, but not Jesus. He slept through it. Peter drew his sword to fight the soldiers, but not Jesus. He lifted His hand to heal. His heart was at peace. When His disciples abandoned Him, did He pout and go home? When Peter denied Him, did Jesus lose His temper? When the soldiers spit in His face, did He breathe fire in theirs? Far from it. He was at peace. He forgave them. He refused to be guided by vengeance.

He also refused to be guided by anything other than His high call. His heart was purposeful. Most lives aim at nothing in particular and achieve it. Jesus aimed at one goal – to save humanity from its sin. He could summarize His life with one sentence: “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Jesus was so focused on His task that he knew when to say, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4) and when to say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But he was not so focused on his goal that he was unpleasant.

Quite the contrary. How pleasant were His thoughts! Children couldn’t resist Jesus. He could find beauty in lilies, joy in worship, and possibilities in problems. He would spend days with multitudes of sick people and still feel sorry for them. He spent more than three decades wading through the muck and mire of our sin yet still saw enough beauty in us to die for our mistakes.

But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: 

His heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected His intimate relationship with the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me,” he stated (John 14:11). His first recorded sermon begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4:18). He was “led by the Spirit” (Matthew 4:1) and “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

Jesus took his instructions from God. It was His habit to go to worship (Luke 4:16). It was His practice to memorize scripture (Luke 4:4). Luke says Jesus “often slipped away to be alone so He could pray” (Luke 5:16). His times of prayer guided Him. He once returned from prayer and announced it was time to move to another city (Mark 1:38). Another time of prayer resulted in the selection of the disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus was led by an unseen hand: “The Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5:19). In the same chapter He stated, “I can do nothing alone. I judge only the way I am told” (John 5:30).

The Heart of Humanity

Our hearts seem so far from His. He is pure; we are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. He is pleasant; we are cranky. He is spiritual; we are earthbound. The distance between our hearts and His seems so immense. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus?

Ready for a surprise? You already do. You already have the heart of Christ. Why are you looking at me that way? Would I kid you? If you are in Christ, you already have the heart of Christ.

One of the supreme yet unrealized promises of God is simply this: if you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given Himself to you. He has made your heart His home. It would be hard to say it more succinctly than Paul did: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

He has moved in and unpacked His bags and is ready to change you “into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul explained it with these words: “Strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me?

Part of the answer is illustrated in a story about a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. She was quite wealthy but also quite frugal.

The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.

Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?”

“Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”

She’s tapped in to the power but doesn’t use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? We, too – with our souls saved but our hearts unchanged – are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation. We occasionally flip the switch, but most of the time we settle for shadows.

What would happen if we left the light on? What would happen if we not only flipped the switch but lived in the light? What changes would occur if we set about the task of dwelling in the radiance of Christ?

No doubt about it: God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart. His plan is nothing short of a total transformation:

He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. - Romans 8:29

You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. - Colossians 3:10

God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior.

Shall we accept His offer? I’d love to read your thoughts on this statement:

“One of the supreme yet unrealized promises of God is simply this: if you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given Himself to you. He has made your heart His home. It would be hard to say it more succinctly than Paul did: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). When we grasp this, we experience like change!

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March 10, 2014

You Complete Me

I’ll be honest. There are some things about my husband that really annoys me. For example, my husband is so tight with money he squeaks when he walks. That’s why I call him, “Squeaky.” He’s also a talker. Once we were at the theater and I excused myself to go to the Ladies room. When I returned, he had invited the entire row to our house for dinner. That’s not all. We have different views on cleaning, driving, parenting, and well, just about everything.

Sometimes I want to scream because of our differences. Others times I’ve wondered, “Did I marry Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong?”

I wonder if you’re shaking your head in agreement because you’ve noticed the differences between you and your spouse as well.

Over the next few post, I’ll cover the four commitments of marriage found in scripture. Believe it or not but there is a blue print to marriage designed by God. Marriage is His idea. Therefore, by following God’s instructions we can’t miss.

Commitment One: Receive Your Spouse

They say, “opposites attract.” I believe that’s true, but does this combination make for a good marriage? According to the wisdom of God, it does.

In the second chapter of Genesis we pick up on the creation of man. “Then the LORD God said, “it is not good for man to be alone; I shall make him a helper suitable for him” (2:18).  The key word to focus on is “suitable.” No other living creature was suitable for Adam. Therefore, God fashioned a woman from the rib he took for Adam, and brought her to him. That was a good day for Adam! Can you imagine his response when he saw her? “That’s what I’m talkin’ about, God! You nailed it!”

This truth was eye opening for me. God made for Adam exactly what he needed. The same is true for me. God gave me a spouse who, by his divine design, is suitable for me. To think other wise is to disagree with God’s provision for me.

Let’s face it. I’ve got gaps. He’s got gaps. Together we fill the gaps. Those things that aggravate me now once attracted me to my spouse. For example, I was drawn to the outgoing personality of my spouse because I was painfully shy. I never could keep my finances in order, but my spouse is great at it. He may be “squeaky” but I now feel safe instead of stressed. You could go as far to say through our differences we complete one another. His strengths make me stronger and visa versa.

So, how do I deal with those differences when they annoy me? I remember that my spouse is gift from God. He is God’s perfect provision for me. I must receive him as a gift by not focusing on his faults (or what irritate me) but the fact that his differences are filling in what I lack. When I start to become irritated, it’s not because my husband is doing anything on purpose. He’s simply being who God made him to be—a suitable partner for me. His differences are to better me as a person and us as a couple.

To get to this point in my marriage, I had to remind myself each and every day to receive my husband as Adam received Eve–as a gift. I must unconditionally accept his good habits and his bad habits. I must look beyond him to the God who knows what He is doing–and trust He knows best.

Receiving your mate is more than reciting it on your wedding day. It requires an attitude of continual acceptance throughout your marriage.

Application: You complete each other through your unique differences and weakness. In what ways have your differences completed each other? Make a list.

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March 7, 2014

Accepting Friendship

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by today. You may be a regular or maybe you popped over after reading my devotion today from Proverbs 31 Ministries, Three Ways To Be The Best Friend Ever. Either way, I imagine you struggle when it comes to friendship. Can I be honest? Everyone does from time to time. Even me. I wish we could sit down and talk over coffee about how my self-image and shyness kept me from being and having the friends I desired.

I’ve since grown from that girl. Today, I’m very out going and relational. I have many friends and I’m thankful. This I know. If I can do it you can too! Sometimes, it’s our own perspective about ourselves that holds us back. Take the relationship between Shrek and Donkey for example. If you don’t know these animated pair, allow me to introduce you.

Shrek is a boorish ogre, who finds a friend in a talking donkey (Played by Eddie Murphy) and unexpectedly falls in love with a princess (Played by Cameron Diaz), whom he rescues from a castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. This fairytale spoof emphasizes how humans place too much importance on outward appearances, and a lesson about friendship.

After freeing the princess from the castle, Shrek and Donkey escort her back to the village in keeping with the prince’s orders. Because the journey is long, they decide to camp out. Around the campfire, Donkey talks to Shrek about what life will be like once they return to Shrek’s home, a humble swamp.

Looking up at the sky, Donkey asks, “Hey Shrek, what are we going to do when we get back to our swamp, anyway?”
“Our swamp?” Shrek challenges. “There’s no our. There’s just me and my swamp, and the first thing I’m going to do is build a ten-foot wall around my land.”

Donkey is surprised. He thought they had developed a friendship that would result in sharing their lives and possessions once the quest was over.
“You cut me deep, Shrek!” Donkey confesses. “You cut me real deep just now. You know what I think? This whole wall thing is just a way to keep somebody out.”

The two argue and exchange verbal jabs. At last Donkey asks, “Who are you trying to keep out? Just tell me that, okay?”
“Everyone! Okay?” Shrek exclaims.
“Hey, what’s your problem, Shrek? What you got against the whole world, anyway?”

The huge ogre seems almost childlike as he candidly explains, “I’m not the one with the problem. It’s the whole world that seems to have a problem with me. People take one look at me and go ’Ahhh! Help! Run! It’s a big, stupid, ugly ogre!’ They judge me before they even know me. That’s why I’m better off alone.”

Donkey joins Shrek and says, “You know what? When we first met, I didn’t think you were just a big, stupid, ugly ogre.”
“Yeah, I know,” Shrek acknowledges with gratitude.

For the first time Shrek realizes someone has looked beyond his outward appearance and accepted him. There are many people today with the attitude of Shrek. They’ve isolated themselves from the rest of the world out of fear. Maybe you’re one of them. There’s good news is it can be different. You can have the kind of intimate friendship that David and Jonathan shared. You don’t have to be alone any longer.

To be a good friend you must see the value you bring to the table. (See post: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes) Next, make a list of your qualities. I’m loyal and kind. I like to serve others. I can see when someone is hurting. I’m fun. I like to hike. I like movies. You get the idea. Once you have a list, you know what you bring to the table.

If you can identify a hurting person, comfort them.

If you like to cook, make someone a meal.

If you like movies, invite someone to go along. It’s really that easy. To have a friend is to be a friend.

Let me be your friend today. I’d love to pray with you or celebrate your joys with you! Just leave them in a comment.

Stop back by Monday. I’ll post about the Four Commitments of Marriage according to God’s plan.

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