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.

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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).

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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.

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

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem, part 3

Many of the suggestions we’ve already looked at in this study have had to do with attitude.  Not your husband’s attitude, but yours.  You can’t make your husband repent.  You can’t make him start doing the right thing.  But you can control every bit of your attitude.  Compassion, humility, and goodness are powerful traits.  Your constancy in those areas will have a better chance of penetrating your husband’s heart than any rant or “punishment.”  As we conclude this series of what to do when your husband has a sin problem, remember that the goal is to make sure you’re doing your part to make it easier for him to go to Heaven.

9.  Rebuke gently.

If you’re like most people, you don’t enjoy confrontation, especially when it involves a friend.  When you do have to resolve an issue, you probably go out of your way to be careful and gentle.  You put a lot of thought into it.  You don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or hurt feelings and will treat it as tenderly as possible.  Make sure you’re no less gentle with your own husband.  Put as much forethought into it.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).  Gentleness goes far in reaching any heart.

10.  Keep Your Convictions

Perhaps your husband has quit attending worship.  Keep going anyway no matter how inconvenient and even if you have to go alone for years.  If your husband has engaged in a particular sin for any length of time, resist the temptation to accept it.  Never give in and engage in it with your husband.  You will demonstrate true faithfulness by putting God’s will first no matter what.  In She Hath Done What She Could, Jane McWhorter writes, “Your husband may test your convictions, but he will respect you for them if you are sincere and consistent.”

11.  Know the Difference Between Shaming and Humiliating

When God’s people no longer blushed at their sin it was because they were no longer ashamed of it (Jer. 6:15).  Shame is good because it can lead to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10,11).  It can turn a tender heart.  Humiliation is different.  A wife who humiliates her husband is trying to embarrass him and attack his dignity.  Look up the various definitions of what it means to humiliate someone.  It’s not pretty or Christlike.

12.  Dissolve Your Anger

A certain amount of anger is natural and righteous indignation is good.  But be careful about feeding your anger by brooding or repeating your husband’s offense(s) over and over in your mind.  You will only lead yourself to the boiling point.  In her book, Loving Your Husband, Patsy Loden writes, “Anger robs you of reason.  Without reasoning ability, you are not responsive to seeking a solution.  Anger enslaves.  You cannot act in a loving way when you are angry.  Anger dictates how you act, and it is always in a negative way.”

How can you dissolve your anger?

  • Don’t focus on your rights (“That’s not fair. This isn’t what I deserve.”).
  • Don’t start keeping score.
  • Stay away from angry people–it’s contagious.
  • Pray for release from the feelings of anger.

13.  Focus on His Good Qualities

If your husband picks up a sinful habit, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad man.  Paul said the evil he didn’t want to do was what he kept on doing because of the sin in him (Rom. 7:15-20).  His struggle with his flesh was ongoing.  A husband with a sin problem is battling the flesh and failing.

To help your husband strengthen his godly traits, focus on them.  Point them out.  Open your eyes to the good that your husband does or tried to do.  Acknowledge the good in a non-patronizing way.  I love what Ruth Hazel said in The Challenge of Being a Wife.  “You will find that the more you focus on the good qualities of others the farther their weaknesses will recede.  Anyone can do better when he believes he can do better, and this assurance may be based on the faith and confidence someone else has in us.”

14.  Turn Him Over to God

God is the One in the heart-changing business.  You know you can safely leave your husband in God’s hands.  You don’t have to carry the burden all alone.  You can turn your husband over to the One who died for him.

You can’t force your husband to repent but you can choose to still love him.  Love can motivate you to make sure your attitude and your example make it easier for your husband to be convicted to give up the sinful habit.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

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.

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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.)

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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.

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I thank God for you.