Can God Really Restore You?

By Kathy Pollard

All my life I’ve heard that God is in the restoring business.  It’s easy to remind others of this when they are going through despair.  If a friend or loved one feels like their world has fallen apart, we tell them, “God can take the broken and make it whole again.”  But can He?  Is there truth to this assurance?

Can the brokenhearted ever piece their heart back together?  Can the betrayed really trust and love again?  Can one who has been rejected feel acceptance?  Can one who is riddled with guilt ever find peace or feel worthy?  Can the grieving ever experience delight and laughter again?

I planted some lovely flowers and then left for a week.  The neglected flowers really suffered.  They turned gray and scraggly.  I was pretty sure they were goners.  Then I needed to leave town again.  This time, some dear friends offered to take care of our yard.  I said, “Don’t worry about the flowers.  They’re already doomed.”  I think they took that as a challenge.  They carefully watered and babied those flowers for two solid weeks.  When I got back, the flowers didn’t look great but they were still hanging in there.  I really didn’t feel like trying to save them but since my friends had worked so hard at it I felt obligated.  So whenever I’d think about it, I’d take the garden hose to them.  The past several days have been rainy, which is unusual for sunny Colorado.  It hasn’t been a warm summer rain but more of a chilly, gray, depressing rain.  Yesterday morning when I walked outside I stopped dead in my tracks.  My flowers!  I knelt down and looked in wonder at all the new green growth, the sunny yellow blooms, and the buds promising more to come.  Not only are they healthy and whole, they are even fuller than before.  I smiled so big to see the remarkable change from withered and ugly to vibrant and beautiful.

God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psa. 147:3).  Can He really do that?  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psa. 51:10,12).  Oh how I long for that!  But will He really do that for me, with all of my weaknesses and failed attempts?  YES!  He can and He will! God cares way more for you and me than He does for my flowers (Matt. 6:30).

When we’re in the midst of needing that restoration, it becomes a matter of faith.  When Jesus used the grass as an example of how He would much more take care of us, He ended with, “You of little faith!”  It’s as if He’s saying, “Don’t you believe Me?  Don’t you know how much I love you?  Trust Me!”  I want to.  But how?  From the living demonstration of my flowers, I think we can learn a couple of things:

Be diligent.  My friends were.  I think they cared more about my flowers than I did.  That motivated me to continue on with the efforts to save the pathetic-looking things.  I didn’t really feel like it and certainly didn’t think it’d do much good, but I pressed on anyway.  I went through the motions and provided what I knew the flowers needed, even though my heart wasn’t in it.

When in need of restoration, hang on.  Don’t give up.  Keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, one day at a time.  You may not feel like it but press on anyway.  As the saying goes, “Faith it till you make it.”  Trust that God can bring something good out of your diligence and that your efforts won’t be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).  Don’t let your hurting or discouraged heart keep you from trying again.  Hold fast (Heb. 3:6; 4:14; 10:23).

Rely on God.  The days of steady rain provided just what my flowers needed.  I couldn’t have given them that.  I didn’t really enjoy the soggy weather but now I can see how it was the perfect environment to foster incredible growth.

We know God loves us and wants to be there for us, so why do we continue to rely on ourselves?  Why do we keep trying to lean on our own strength?  Why do we think we have to see the outcome before we put forth any effort?  Trusting in God means even when I don’t see how anything good can come from my circumstances, I will press on and trust Him to do His part.  I will remember His promise to provide for me and make me whole again.  I will put Him first in my life even when that feels like too much to ask or when it seems hard.  Jesus reminds us that our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need.  He knows it even before we do.  And He longs to give it to us (Matt. 6:32-33).

God really can restore.  So be diligent.  Take those steps toward healing one day at a time.  Rely on God’s strength and His promises to provide exactly what we need.  Even when we think we are beyond help, God can create something even stronger and more beautiful than before.

IMG_5607

From dried up to thriving!

 

 

 

 

What the Promised Land did for Me

The most frequently asked question since our return home from Israel has been, “What was your favorite part?”  That is nearly impossible to answer.  There were too many wonderful experiences and highlights, each of them meaningful for different reasons.

I can say for certain that it was my “trip of a lifetime” and that it impacted me in multiple ways.  I am most thankful for three of those ways:

It strengthened my faith in the Word.

No doubt about it, the places and people we read about in the Bible are REAL.  Archaeologists continue to uncover locations, discover documents, and learn about practices that prove the truth of God’s Word.

For example, the Bible mentions a place called “Sha’arayim,” which means “two gates” (Josh. 15:36; 1 Sam. 17:52; 1 Chron. 4:31).  Scoffers declared this unlikely as no Judaean city ever had more than one gate, according to archaeological discoveries.  But in 2007, an entire fortified city was unearthed having, not one, but two major gates.  It overlooks the Elah Valley, confirming the Bible’s mention of it in the account of David and Goliath.

I knew the Bible was accurate and reliable.  But it is so faith-building to have that truth confirmed by walking through the MANY “proofs” that populate the land of Israel!

It enhanced my understanding.

David took refuge in “the stronghold” (1 Sam. 22:3,4).  Masada (which means “stronghold”) was a city that sat atop a steep hill out in the middle of an arid wilderness, overlooking the Dead Sea.  It’s location made it easy to see approaching enemies.  It had a “snake path” up the side that could handle only two people wide at a time.  It was impressive!  Scholars believe that this was David’s stronghold.  Now when I read about it, I will be able to see it.

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge…Be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 31:1-3

19665296_10212951731206157_2681297224488838180_n

First view of Masada

 

And when I read about David hiding in caves in Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1-4), I will be able to see it.  I understand how easy it was to do that in a land dotted with large, hidden caves.  Adullam means “refuge.”

19989604_10213044050674086_1387303708444527981_n

One of the caves at Adullam

When I read about Jesus praying at Gethsemane (Matt. 26), I will be able to picture Him among the twisted trunks of the olive trees.  I can now see exactly where He pleaded with His Father.

20228575_10213068134116157_1737335139035246931_n

Olive trees in Gethsemane

There are so many accounts that have come alive in my mind!  I can add extra senses (sight, sounds, smells, touch….) to my understanding.

It engaged my heart.

You don’t have to go to Israel to be touched by the love stories in the Word.

(How can you read about God’s call to Abraham to take his son and offer him, and then God’s deliverance and provision when He rewarded Abraham’s obedient faith without being moved?)

But I had the opportunity to go to Beersheba.  It’s in the middle of the Negev desert.  It’s where Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech and planted a tamarisk tree (Gen. 21), where he sent Hagar into the wilderness, and where he went to live after God said, “Because you have not withheld your son, your only son, I will greatly bless you….” (Gen. 22).  I looked all around me and imagined the account playing out in front of my eyes.

19702035_10212926203647984_213622114031100044_n

Beersheba

I had the opportunity to visit the two proposed sites of the Garden Tomb.  While at the first one, I read John’s gospel account of the empty tomb.  I looked at the rock tomb in front of me and read of Mary standing there weeping, of Jesus approaching her and calling her by name, and of her declaration to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

20108454_10213068019393289_2626198310643227936_n

The Garden Tomb

There were so many emotional moments as we walked through the land of Israel.  I imagine part of that had to do with stepping away from the distractions of the world and immersing myself in the unfolding story of God’s redemption and love.  My heart was revived.

I pray that I will remember that I don’t have to go to Israel to do that.  I can still shut out the world’s distractions and immerse myself in the beautiful and powerful message of God’s love. 

There’s a Sea in Galilee

I wish I were better with words.  I’m going to try to convey what’s filling my heart but I know the words will fall short.

For the past six days I have been in Israel with my husband and our dear friends, John and Carla Moore.  The experience has far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve visited Beersheba where Abraham lived and probably received the call to offer up his son.  I’ve stood in the very valley in which David ran to meet Goliath (and even pulled five smooth stones from the same brook he did).  I’ve explored the impressive sites of Masada and Megiddo.  I’ve seen the wildernesses and the Shephelah.  And so much more.

I knew I’d love it all.  I can already tell that I will never read my Bible the same again.  I knew I’d learn more about geography, archaeology, and history.  What I wasn’t expecting was the soul-searching that would accompany it.

I’ve been impressed with the courage, bravery, faith, and trust of God’s people in harsh environments or overwhelming odds.  Would I be brave in the same situation?  Would I trust God when I couldn’t see my way through?  It’s been good, so good, to hold my heart up for examination.

But today was something special.  Today we went to the Sea.  We hiked up a path to the top of Mount Arbel.  There were sheer cliffs along the way.  When we crested the top and took in the view of the Sea of Galilee and its northern shore, it was as if all the noises around me faded away and I could only hear my own breathing.  My heartbeat slowed as it dawned on me what I was actually viewing.

Up to this point, we’ve visited places where great men and women of God have lived out their faith.  Today we came to the place where the Son of God lived out His faith so He could walk with us through ours.  I saw the towns where He taught in the synagogues.  I saw the shoreline where He called His disciples and where He would later have breakfast with them.   I stared at the waves on which He walked and imagined the storms that He calmed.  Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount here.  He healed here.

As the four of us took it all in, John led us in a verse of “How Great Thou Art.”  Then he prayed a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of praise.  I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Jesus prayed in the very same spot when He would go up on the mount by Himself.  Jesus.  My Jesus.  Today, and the next couple of days, I am walking where He walked.

So many things happened by the Sea on the Sea in the life of Christ.  The same sea is surrounded by bustling and thriving towns today.  The same sea is filled with boats.

I am walking where He walked and in awe of that fact.  But what would He want me to see here?  The Sea?  As impressive as it all is–the cliffs, mountains, villages, and the blue, blue water–there are people all around the Sea who still need to see Jesus in their midst.

Only one place on earth is where Jesus walked but every place on earth is where He wants us to go and tell others about Him.

19961213_10212977045999011_3255008291065720391_n

I Was Such a Taker Yesterday

I felt like I was on the receiving end all day long.  I went to bed last night with a full heart and an overwhelming love and gratitude for God and His family.  Here’s a sample of what I got:

  • A sermon that served as a reminder of God’s merciful grace and His presence in my life.  It seemed tailor-made for me.
  • Lots of warm hugs
  • Some sisters specifically asked how I was doing with my boys leaving home.  They hugged me and told me they were thinking about me.
  • A couple of friends know of a confidential situation that is weighing on me.  They took the time to listen and assured me of their prayers.
  • A new Christian led a public prayer for the first time.  It was heart-felt and beautiful.  I was reminded of God’s power to transform lives.  I was filled with joy and grinned all the way through the prayer.
  • A couple of men responded to the invitation yesterday morning.  Others went up to sit with them on the front row to offer support.  I love that.  It makes me feel good.
  • Last night a godly, faithful widow responded to the invitation.  She mentioned a specific sin she struggled with and asked for forgiveness and help to overcome it.  I was so touched by her humility and courage.  My love and respect for her grew even more.  She went forward to ask for help but I wonder if she knows how much she helped me?
  • The fellowship seemed to linger longer yesterday.  We stood in the parking lot “forever” chatting.  No one seemed in a hurry to head home.  We talked about nothing overly significant…just flowers, school, our kids.  On the way home I told Neal how dear it is to just share LIFE with so many fellow Christians.

The tone of this post is completely self-focused.  And really, I left some things out that I was able to take away from yesterday.  The focus of our coming together to worship shouldn’t be “what can I get out of this?”  “Does it meet my needs?”  We are to gather together to GIVE.  We’re to bring our hearts to God (Matt. 15:8,9).  We’re to bring our sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 9:7).   We’re to encourage and exhort one another (Heb. 10:24,25).  We’re to offer up praise (Acts 2:41-47).  And yet, I couldn’t help but notice all that I GOT.

Yesterday wasn’t an isolated case.  I always “get” when I gather with fellow Christians to worship and learn and grow.  Even though my purpose and focus should be on bringing, giving, and offering, it’s amazing how I can leave with a heart so full of everything I have taken in.  It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t out-give God” (Luke 6:38).

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

IMG_0782

 

They Love Me, Too

One thing I love about the Lord’s church is the fact that we are family.  We are brothers and sisters united by the precious blood of Christ.  That means no matter where we go, we can find family.

This past week Neal and I have been with the Hollywood Rd. church of Christ in Houma, LA.  We both feel like we have been among true family and gained true friends.  In the body of Christ, it doesn’t take long to form heart connections!  The Christians here are warm, friendly, and giving.  It is obvious they love being together.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

It was easy for Neal and I to identify that common love in the church here.  We are Christians coming in among fellow Christians.  But what does the world see?

Tuesday night one of the members brought a guest to the gospel meeting going on this week.  The guest showed up early enough to enjoy the meal we had together first.  What was his impression?  What did his first glimpse of  the Lord’s church reveal?  I am so thankful that we learned the answer to those questions.  Last night we found out that this visitor went to work the next day talking about his experience.  He said, “Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.”

A higher compliment to the church here in Houma could not be paid!  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?  Isn’t the goal of every church to be so loving that visitors walk away with the impression of being loved? This visitor knew that he was taken in and loved because the Christians here love Jesus.  What’s their secret here?  How did a one-time visit leave such an impression on this man?  I know the answer to that, too, because I saw it unfold.  He was greeted warmly, he was hugged, and he was served.  This visitor knew the Christians here love Jesus because they acted like Jesus.

I hope I remember this for a long time.  I am so convicted by this simple experience.  I am challenged to do my part in my home church to make visitors feel loved.

What impression are people left with when they visit your home congregation?  How do you make them feel?  May we all do our part to make sure others “know we are Christians by our love.”

Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.

11960026_10207496776727033_3472147600209190240_n

David & Kathy Jones, a couple who lives out the love of Christ here in Houma, LA!

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem, part 2

“My husband views pornography.”

“My husband loses his temper.”

“My husband has a drinking problem.”

“My husband lies.”

Perhaps you’ve not only heard Christian women make these statements but you could say one of them yourself.   What can you do when your husband has a sin problem?  What should you do?  If you missed part one of this study, you can check out the first five suggestions here.

6.  Seek Outside Help If Needed

If the sin problem is some kind of addiction (like pornography or alcohol), it would be wise to get help from those who have experience helping others overcome these types of struggles.  Sometimes bringing in a third party adds an accountability factor that makes it easier for your husband to put away the addiction.

Just remember to check your motives before involving others.  If you want to publicly shame your husband because you’re angry, you’ll surely make matters worse.  If you truly have your husband’s best interests at heart, you can prayerfully seek help or counsel from a godly source.

7.  Study the Word

This can’t be neglected.  The world has their own opinions about marriage and much of it is not biblical.  Some friends or co-workers may encourage you to get revenge or to look out for yourself first.  Some, because of their indignation on your behalf, may suggest actions that just aren’t right.  The world promotes pride and selfishness.  The Word commands humility, selflessness, and putting the needs of others first (Phil. 2).  The world says you can give up on your marriage whenever you want.  The Word teaches that marriage is for life, with the exception of adultery (Matt. 19:3-9).

Without Bible study, there is confusion and that can be dangerous.  For example, some have decided that pornography is grounds for scriptural divorce.  “You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:23,24).  This verse is the reason some believe that viewing pornography equals adultery.  In Matt. 19:9, Jesus gives one valid reason for divorce.  The word He uses is porneia, which means “sexual immorality.”  This is unfaithfulness in marriage by having sexual intercourse with someone who is not one’s spouse.  While the adultery of the heart mentioned in Matt. 5:24 may eventually lead to the physical act of adultery, it does not carry the same immediate consequences as the physical act.

Pornography is still a sin and anyone guilty of it will give an account on the Day of Judgment, but it is not a scriptural reason for divorce.  In Matt. 5, Jesus was teaching that adultery begins in the heart, just as murder begins in the heart (v. 21,22).  But that doesn’t mean we can cart someone off to jail for being very angry with someone (even though it could lead to the physical act of murder if left unchecked).  Furthermore, there is the practical matter of determining how much pornography a husband must view in order to be guilty of adultery.  Just once?  Once a month?  For years?  With physical adultery, there is no guessing game.  A husband who has sexual intercourse one time wth someone who is not his wife is guilty of adultery, and the wife has the scriptural right to put him away if she so chooses.

Bible study is essential in knowing how to handle a sin problem in a way that pleases God.  Feelings can be strong but unreliable.  It’s important to see what God has to say about it.

8.  Continue to Be a Good Wife

It can be hard to respect your husband if you don’t feel he deserves it.  It can be hard to submit to your husband if you don’t respect him.  When your husband disappoints you, you may recognize that you must still take care of him but feel you don’t have to cherish him or treat him special.  You may even go so far as to let the house go or let yourself go and feel justified.  These types of thoughts fall under the category of “wisdom of the world” (James 3:13-17).  They may be natural feelings but they’re not biblical.  The Bible teaches that one’s good behavior is not dependent on another’s worthiness (as we saw in last week’s post).

You’re accountable for your own actions so you must continue to be godly, pleasant, and sweet.  You can’t refuse to obey God just because your husband has.   Continue to love and respect your husband because you hope for his repentance, no matter how long it takes (Gal. 6:9).  If you disrespect your husband, you will make it easier for him to justify his sinful habit.  And you will one day look back and regret your attitude.  If you continue to be loving and committed to a gentle, Christ-like sweetness, you will have no reason to look back with regret.  You will know you did the right thing (1 Pet. 3:1,2).

The final part of this series next week will deal with rebuking, shaming, anger, and convictions.

471397_3635625167401_1139816267_o-2

Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

 

 

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem

WHEN MY HUSBAND HAS A SIN PROBLEM

Part One of a 3-part Series

A couple of years ago I was assigned this topic for a lecture.  I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned when preparing for the class.

There are some expectations from a Christian husband:

  • He’s to be the spiritual leader in the home (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24).
  • He’s to love his wife wholeheartedly (Eph. 5:25-33).
  • He’s to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8).
  • He’s to be Christlike in his attitude and behavior toward his wife (1 Pet. 3:7).

Some husbands try to live up to these expectations but fall short.  Some don’t care to try at all.  Some are really good in one area but weak in another.  Husbands are going to mess up and sin, as we all do (Rom. 3:23).  But what do you do when your husband is dealing with a sin problem?

  1.  Don’t Seek Revenge

Some sins are hard not to take personally.   When your husband’s sin hurts your heart, you may be tempted to hurt him back.  There’s more than one way to seek revenge.  You could say hurtful, cutting things.  You know where your husband’s insecurities are so you know where to strike verbally.  You could bring up sins from the past.  You could retaliate by engaging in your own sinful activity and then say, “Now you know how it feels!”  In your effort to make him pay, you become guilty of sin yourself.

For the Christian, revenge is not an option.  “Never take your own revenge.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Rom. 12:9,17).  “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Prov. 24:29).  The gratification of vengeance is short-lived.  If you give your husband a taste of his own medicine, you will soon taste the bitterness of guilt.  Spiteful words or behavior will not make your husband want to quit sinning.  God says the way to overcome evil is with goodness (Rom. 12:21; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9).

2.  Don’t Give Ultimatums

In desperation, you may hope to threaten your husband into behaving.  “If you don’t give up the sinful habit, I will never sleep with you again.”  “Get your act together or I’m leaving you.”  But what’s the saying about “two wrongs”?  When you give ultimatums, you are promising punishment.  That’s not your role.  You are not your husband’s parent or savior.  You are his helper and lover.

3.  Don’t Air His Dirty Laundry

We all want sympathy when we’ve been hurt or mistreated.  But if you desire your husband’s repentance, you will protect his reputation by keeping the matter private (Prov. 11:13; 17:9).  No one deserves to have their private struggles made public.  Instead, practice the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).  Do you want every sin struggle of yours shared with others?  Do you want your weaknesses to be the topic of conversation when your husband gets together with his pals or his parents?  Use wisdom in determining when/ if to disclose anything and with whom.

4.  Pray for Him

It’s true that you can’t make anyone do the right thing.  Praying fervently for someone doesn’t mean they will repent.  However, it’s important to remember that God loves your husband even more than you do.  You can pray for wisdom (James 1:2-4), patience (1 Cor. 13:4), compassion (Col. 3:12), and strength (Phil. 4:13).  Prayer brings peace (Phil. 4:6,7).

5.  Remember Your Own Shortcomings

Do you ever feel like your sin list is a lot shorter than your husband’s?  The Bible says that anyone who transgresses in one area has become guilty of all the law (James 2:10).  Make sure you’re not holding your husband up to a higher standard than you hold yourself.  Grace and compassion go a long way toward reaching the heart of a struggling husband.

(Part Two will cover when to seek help, how to continue being a good wife, and how to maintain your convictions.)

471397_3635625167401_1139816267_o-2

Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

Revive Me #52–Hold Fast

Revive Me, Week 52–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Hold Fast

As we close this year-long study of ways to strengthen our relationship with our Savior, it seems appropriate to share the Hebrews writer’s plea.

“But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (3:6).

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:23).

These were written to Christians who were facing persecution and giving in to discouragement.  “Hold fast” comes from one Greek word which means “holding one’s course toward; bearing down for.”  It’s the same word used in Acts 27 when Paul and all the sailors had been tossed around in a storm at sea for two weeks.  They finally caught sight of dry land and verse 40 reads “they made toward shore.”  How determined were they to make it?  They had set their course and they were going to hold fast.

Will you determine to hold fast?  Will you help me hold fast?

Life is uncertain.  I know of three individuals who lost their lives unexpectedly this past holiday weekend.  I pray their loved ones will hold fast through the grief.

Life can be cruel.  We all know dear ones who can’t seem to get a break.  They barely make it through one difficulty when another comes along to weigh them down.  I pray they will hold fast through the hardships.

Life can be dangerous.  There are thrills all around and sometimes we just want a taste.  It can be so easy to give in.  I pray we will all hold fast through the temptations.

The God we serve is greater than any uncertainty, cruelty, or danger.  The God who loves us has already made it possible for us to make it Home.

  • “In this world you have trouble, but take courage.  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
  • “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
  • “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

Determine now that, come what may, you will not give up or give in.  “Stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).  That is my fervent prayer for you.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Sit down with your family and discuss scenarios (potential hardships, persecutions, etc.).  Promise to God and to each other that you will “hold fast” no matter what so you will all be together in Heaven.
  2.  Meditate on passages about faithfulness through trials.
  3.  Pray for courage and trust.
  4.  Memorize 1 Cor. 15:1,2.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

15192767_10210677272226104_6121857738132169747_n

I thank God for you.

 

Revive Me #51–Spend Time on the Mountain

Revive Me, Week 51– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Spend Time on the Mountain

Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the testimony of God and then “went down to the people to tell them” (Ex. 19:20-25).  Jesus “went up on the mountain and…opened His mouth and began to teach” (Matt. 5:1,2).  He took what Moses had shared and elevated it.  He made it a matter of the heart (5:21,22, 31,32, etc.).  What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.

The “Sermon on the Mount” is a familiar text.  And yet there are moments when I realize I haven’t spent enough time on the mountain.  Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).  The scribes and Pharisees knew the law and they looked the part.  They were seen as religious leaders.  But they had a heart problem.  They liked to tell other people what to do while not practicing it themselves (Matt. 23).

I can talk about the command to forgive but what about when someone really hurts me?  I can say gossip is wrong but what about when my loose lips blurt out something that never should’ve been shared?  What if a sister wrongs me and I go to her one-on-one and she humbly apologizes, but I still feel angry and keep thinking of more things to say to put her in her place?  What then?  Well, I need to spend more time on the mountain.

  • Be gentle, merciful, a peacemaker (5:5-9).
  • Turn the other cheek (5:39).
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44).
  • Don’t just love those who love you (5:46).
  • Forgive others (6:14,15).
  • Do not worry about your life (6:25).
  • Don’t judge others harshly while overlooking your own faults (7:1-5).

What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.  Does my righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if I’m not practicing these in my own life?

Jesus said there would be those who stand before Him and say, “Look at all the religious things I did!”  But because they ignored the will of the Father, He will say to them, “I never knew you” (7:21-23).

“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed…[and He] came down from the mountain.”

(Matt. 7:28-8:1)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Read the Sermon on the Mount every day this week (Matthew 5-7).
  2.  Underline or highlight anything Jesus taught on the mountain that you personally struggle with.
  3. Pray for God to give you the humility to see your own “logs” and the strength to remove them (Matt. 7:1-5).

297846_2417238348492_1040068479_n

Revive Me #50– Elevate Your Marriage

Revive Me, Week 50– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Elevate Your Marriage

I’m tired of all the marriage bashing.  Marriage is honorable (Heb. 13:4).  No one will be happy in their marriage if they are caught up in the worldly mindset of pleasing self.  But those who put godly traits into practice, like serving, yielding, and giving, will find daily joy in their marriage.  In other words, when we lower ourselves our marriages are lifted up.

How can you elevate your marriage?

Accommodate Your Spouse’s Likes and Dislikes

  • Are you paying attention?  Are you listening?  Do you remember?
  • Look for various ways to prove it.  For example, if your spouse likes a cup of coffee after work, have a fresh pot ready.  Thoughtful gesture= love affirmation.
  • Keep your eyes open for new likes and dislikes.  We all change as we age.
  • Get in the habit of asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  This question should be asked in various areas of life (bedroom, work, ministry, etc.).
  • Do what you can to make your spouse feel like it’s a joy to serve them (using words, gestures, facial expressions, and touches).

Value Your Unique Marriage

  • There’s only one marriage exactly like yours.  You have your own history, memories, inside jokes, and traditions.  Relish it!  Protect it!
  • Don’t take it for granted.  Regularly point out specific things you love about your special relationship.
  • Don’t let anyone bad-mouth your spouse or your marriage.  Remember, it’s honorable.

Seize the Day

  • Don’t wait for your spouse to deserve to be served.
  • Keep putting your spouse first no matter how you feel and no matter what others say.
  • Replace excuses with acts of service.
  • Serve without hoping to be served.  Let genuine love and their happiness be your motivation.
  • Start now.   What can you do today to elevate your marriage through service?

It’s ironic that the world considers these types of things to be drudgery.  Those who practice selfishness are the ones with the dull marriages.  Christians know that serving is satisfying.  There is no regret.  We will not look back one day and think, “I wish I hadn’t been so thoughtful.”  Consistent service enhances marriage.  It feels good and it’s intoxicating.

“Serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).  Doing things God’s way brings out the best in everything.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Brainstorm ways to include unexpected acts of service into your schedule.
  2.  Spend time meditating on Scriptures concerning humility, putting others first, and agape love.  Here are some to start off with:  Phil. 2; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 12:9-13; John 13:14-17.
  3.  Pay attention to your heart when you serve.  Are you filled with joy and satisfaction?  Or is your service done resentfully and grudgingly?

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

471397_3635625167401_1139816267_o-2

Photo Credit: Traci Sproule