Monday, April 5, 2010

Life in Death

Resurrection Day and the preceding week gives us pause to reflect this Monday on how life comes from death.

Jesus' death at Calvary gave life to "all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 (NIV) No other religion can claim a deity that willingly gave up his life so that his followers can have hope of a brighter tomorrow.

The song writer wrote so powerfully that because "He (Jesus) lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone." But first Jesus had to die at Calvary because we did not have the power to save ourselves. His death paved the way for the Christ-followers to have power over death and victory in this life.

We believe a similar principle applies to those in relationships. In order to have a successful marriage, some things have to die so that our relationships can live. Our single life, single-mindedness and self-centered thinking are among those things that we have to bury in order to resurrect a marriage centered on God, unity and oneness.

There is no greater display of love than that of a person giving up his life for the good of another.
Imagine how your spouse would respond to you if you responded to them in a sacrificial manner. How would they react knowing that you had their best interest at heart?
As we wrote in a previous blog, oneness is a process that begins with dying to ourselves. Jesus is a married person's example of selflessness. Everything he did was about and for others. If only we could follow fully in His example! How wonderful our marriage and other relationships would be!
It's Marriage Mondays . . .

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Praying for your Mate

We birthed Marriage Mondays a several years ago when friends of ours confided that they were having marital troubles. With our busy schedules we found it difficult to pray regularly and decided that we would come together at least every Monday to intercede on behalf of the marriages of family members and friends as the Lord directed us.

I have to admit that one of the hardest things for us to do as a married couple is to find time to pray together and that is not altogether accidental. There is power in prayer and the enemy of our souls and our relationships knows it.

God hears the prayers of His righteous children. Just as a good mother hears and responds to the cry of her helpless child, God promises that when we cry out to Him, He will hear us. Not only does He hear us, He also will answer with what we need. Prayer gives us access to our Creator and Him access to us. No wonder the enemy fights to keep us out of His presence through prayer.

But something wonderful happens when God's couples pray. Prayer fosters and promotes intimacy between couple because there is power in agreement when a husband and wife pray earnestly together.

Prayer between couples also creates conversation. As we prepare for prayer, we talk about our hopes, dreams, even fears and then lay them at the altar in prayer.

Prayer between couples creates a connection. This connection is not just with the Master but with one another. When we finish praying together, we feel as if we've accomplished good.

Prayer between couples creates communication. This communication often takes place long after we've finished praying. Sometimes in prayer a concern will be made known to the other and we will talk about it at length together.

Don't let the enemy keep you from prayer. It is the source of power through Christ Jesus!

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Process of Becoming One

Are you and your mate one? Are you working on oneness in your relationship?

We realize that you both are two wonderful, powerful and fierce individuals in your own rights but God's goal for marriage is that the two put aside differences and personal interests in pursuit of becoming one.

Listen to God's account of the creation of man and particularly the creation of woman found in Genesis 2. The chapter begins with God marvelling at the completion of His work and "resting" from His labor. But later in the verse He marvels at His most wonderful creation - man - and realizes that every thing else in the garden had something to complete or complement it, except man. God then puts man to sleep and removes a rib from which He fashions woman.

Upon awakening, Adam realizes that something wonderful has happened to him. Genesis 2:23 tells us: The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man.

Then Genesis 2:24 tells us that they were to leave or cut ties to their primary relationship at this time - parents - and work at becoming "one flesh." There may be other ties you will have to sever or make secondary as you work at becoming ONE with your mate.

We certainly worked on oneness when we dated. We can remember spending almost every available moment with each other or planning dinner dates and outings to the mall. Jim went shopping with me even though it was a painful as having dental work and I remember watching football with him and praying for a power outage.

Now that we are married we realize that we must be consistent with date night or getaway time or time alone without the kids if we are going to foster oneness.

It can be difficult to become one when the other spouse isn't reciprocating. We may think it isn't worth it when the other isn't even trying. God doesn't want us to keep score; He already is and has promises greater rewards in the life to come. God also promises that we will reap on earth if we don't get weary in doing what is good and right.

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Do you have a vision for your marriage? Where do you see yourself and your spouse in a year, five years or even 10 years from now? Do you see your marriage thriving and standing through the tests of time? Do you see yourself growing more loving and more in love with your spouse as the years pass?

It amazes me how some couples can plan their vacation time and honeymoons, even painful dental procedures, weeks, months and years in advance but fail to have the foresight and insight necessary for a lasting relationship.

Proverbs 29:18 says that "where there is no vision, the people perish." Could that be why so many of our marriages are failing? We lack effectiveness in our families, communities and churches because we embarked on our marriage journeys with no real plan for what we want our marriage to accomplish.

The word "vision" is a noun, meaning that it is a tangible thing. It is defined as "the act or power of sensing with the eyes," or the "act or power of anticipating that which will or may come." Having a vision for your marriage is something you have to do on purpose. Good businesses may start out with an idea, but the best one's have a mission or vision statement.

Vision statements are called the future picture of a company and serves as the inspiration and framework of the company's strategic planning.

I think every marriage could follow that model and be blessed. But first we've got to talk about a couple of things that are detrimental to the vision of a good relationship. They are impaired vision and blindness.

I think when we first get married we all have impaired vision. We know we are going to be together forever and because are so "in love" that we can't imagine ourselves EVER having a bad day in our marriage. Impaired vision doesn't allow for us to anticipate us growing a part at times, getting sick, looking less attractive or becoming less spiritual. All of those things can happen in any relationship over time. But when we have a vision for our relationship, we anticipate those things and we can plan and pray for God to give us grace to go through.

Blindness on the other hand is having no clue and no understanding of what marriage really is about. You choose to go into a relationship without proper preparation and planning and the relationship derails because you hit obstacles you didn't see because you didn't look.

A few years back, we were walking about blindly in our relationship, hitting all kinds of obstacles because we weren't looking and we had failed to plan. We sat down and over a month's time drafted a mission and vision statement. We found purpose again and pressed on with new direction. What a difference it has made!

The mission statement had one sentence and it still drives us today: To make Jesus Christ the focus of all that we do, whether parenting, ministering or working. Our vision statement promised to never rewrite our mission but to always re-evaluate where we were in our relationship as we changed and grew.

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Monday, February 22, 2010

God's Power Couple

Are you and your spouse a Power Couple? Perhaps when you hear that term you think of Barack and Michelle, Jay-Z and Beyonce or even the Brad and Angelina kind of couples. And while they are certainly powerful couples, they've achieved that status because they possess great financial wealth, political finesse or social status.

Not too long ago, I expressed anniversary well wishes to a dear friend and her husband. She chuckled at the thought of being a "power couple" but my sentiments were most sincere. I had seen them weather many storms in their relationship and come through good and bad times because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives individually and and collectively.

I think God would define Power Couples differently. They would look more like Boaz and Ruth or Abraham and Sarah. God's power couples would be known for the ability to pray together and love unconditionally. They would exude power because of their obedience to God, their powerful personal prayer lives and enduring commitment to each other.

Being a power couple does not happen because you've acquired great wealth or fame but because you have the greatest treasure of all - Jesus Christ. A couple in Christ is extremely powerful and able together to do "exceedingly and abundantly" above all that they ask or think according to the power of God working in their lives.

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Monday, February 8, 2010

How's Your Love Life?

How's your love life? We're not trying to be fresh and get up in your personal affairs, but our desire today is to challenge you to think about how well you demonstrate love to your spouse not just during the Valentine season but every day of the year.

Some will think about intimacy between married persons when I talk about their love life and to some degree the success of your love life in Christ will depend on your intimacy with God. A successful LOVE LIFE depends on an active relationship with Jesus Christ.

I admit it is easy to be deceived to believe that love is solely about hearts, flowers, candy and good sex, but Christians must look to Jesus and His Holy Word for the real meaning of love.

God is love. He embodies it in His love and care for every living creature on this planet and He demonstrated it in selfless action by sacrificing His Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life. Our job then is to look like Him and demonstrate His love to this love-starved world.

Consider Ephesians 5:1,2:
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (NIV)

Ephesians 5:1 in the King James version says to "walk in love" and carries the ideal that love should be a lifestyle. Christian can do this with success because "God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us." (Romans 5:5, NIV)

A love life then is a challenge to "live a life of love." A life of love is one of sacrifice and sacrifice is often about giving up your rights for the good of others. Isn't that what Jesus did at Calvary? His sacrifice is compared to a fragrance that is sweet in the nose of the one experiencing the smell. When we sacrifice for our marriage it is a sweet-smelling fragrance in the nose of God.

Whew! Can I pause here for a minute? As I (Jo-Ann) examined my love life, I saw that I haven't always put Jim's needs before mine and that I haven't always acted lovingly toward him, even when we aren't disagreeing. I have taken Jim's love for granted more often than I should.

But I praise God for this opportunity to confess my wrongs to Him and be held accountable for godly Christians. God has promised to forgive me and give me another opportunity to get it right. And I will, starting now. How about you?

It's Marriage Mondays . . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Becoming One

When you got married, did you plan for a wedding or for a marriage? Did you plan for one day or for a lifetime? Did you place much of your focus on preparing your relationship for life's storms or picking out the perfect cake? Sadly, too many couples are marrying for the wrong reasons and focusing their energies and efforts on activities that don't build their marriage.

Reality shows like Whose Wedding Is It? and Say Yes to the Dress demonstrate the modern-day couples' obssession with selecting the right dress and reception location rather than choosing - with God's direction - a mature mate who will love them through life's ups and downs.

Marriage is the becoming of one flesh (Genesis 2:24) and it is a process the Bible says begins with each person forsaking their natural ties with their parents and "cleaving" or dedicating themselves to bonding with one another. Becoming one flesh involves a spouse giving up his (or her) selfish interests for the interest of the other. That process does not occur on the wedding day. Truthfully, even a "married" couple retains the "single" mindset for many years after the wedding date.

Reflecting back on the early years of my marriage, I remember it taking a few years for me to call the items I had purchased prior to the marriage "ours." Talk about having a single mindset!

When Jim and I counsel engaged couples or singles, we advise them to choose their mate wisely. We encourage them to ask the Lord to show them the person who will be willing to let go of their singleness and and work on becoming one and building a marriage that will last.

It literally takes a lifetime of both the husband and the wife giving selflessly of themselves to the other whether they are deserving or not.

God wants us to focus beyond the wedding day. He tells us to focus on the eternal rather than the temporary. Some things for newly-married, engaged and "lifers" to focus on comes in Ephesians 5:22-30:
  • Wives should submit lovingly to their husbands leadership and authority because Christ has given him the responsibility for leadership in the family and the husband is accountable to Christ; (vs. 22-24)
  • Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church to the point that he is willing to give up his life that his wife might live; (vs. 25)
  • Husbands should look for opportunities to see his wife grow in her faith and walk with God that God will be pleased; (vs. 26-27)
  • Husbands should love their wives as much as they love themselves - and football, their car, etc. (vs. 28)

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spiritual Makeover Part 3

One day, we are going to get a makeover like no other.

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 NKJV)

Just imagine: no more gray hairs, no more worries, no more fears and no more pain. God has promised in His Word that our glorified bodies will not age or suffer the effects of decay.

After reading that scripture it almost seems a waste to invest so much money in dressing and fixing something that is dying! These mortal bodies are decaying and will one day perish. It seems a better investment would be made in spiritual matters.

Jesus takes us to task about our investments by summing up the commandments in two: We should love Him with all our heart and then love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.

Trust me, you will invest in that which you love. The challenge to married couples is to invest in one another as much as Christ has invested in you. The challenge is focus on the spiritual and eternal and less on the earthly and temporary.

Surely, when we invest money in preserving or fixing up our bodies we are demonstrating love for ourselves. That's easy enough. But how much do we invest in others? Do we demonstrate love to our spouse by loving them as much as we love ourselves? That's not so easy sometimes. I'm learning that the things that are best for us aren't always the easiest to do.

But you can do it, because God promised He would never put more on you than you are able to bear. We are told that we can do "all things" because HE is able to give us the strength we need in the hour we need it most. Loving an unkind spouse can be done in the power of Christ. Caring for a mate who has Alzheimer and can't remember your name is possible in the power of Christ.

And I believe in doing those things, our spiritual transformation begins and we will looks our best when we look most like Christ.

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spiritual Makeover Part 2

If you are anything like me, a look in the mirror, no matter how brief, often becomes an attempt to fix a stray hair or two, pluck out a new gray or frown at the lines forming in my face. These days, we can do something about our physical imperfections. The multi-million dollar cosmetic surgery business suggests that people want change, even if it is only temporary.

Our Father, however, challenges His children to take a second, more closer look and see ourselves through His mirror. In 1 Samuel 16:7, He says that He does not see as man sees, "for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NKJV).

Why? Because our hearts are who we really are and truly no amount of makeup or cosmetic surgery can change the condition of our heart EXCEPT for Jesus. Through salvation, the sinner can exchange his or her sinful heart for a heart of God. We can be more loving, kinder, more patient and give selflessly to our mates and others when Jesus has given us the ultimate MAKEOVER!

If your spouse doesn't see God in you then it may be that you need a spiritual makeover. Remember that physical mirror I spoke of in the beginning? Well, God has a spiritual one - His Word. His Word is called the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) and when we look into His mirror daily and make adjustments to our character, personality and attitude as the Holy Spirit directs, it is promised to us that we will be blessed.

We are admonished to not just be hearers of God's Word, but to practice it diligently (James 1:22) so that we can be justified. (Romans 2:13)

Unlike cosmetic surgery, surgery on our hearts may take more time but my prayer is that the next time you look in the mirror you'll see an individual transformed by God's love.

Don't know if I'll look at myself in the mirror the same way again. Seems the frumpy hair and stray grays won't have as much significance as making certain that my heart is right before God. And a heart that is right before God is a heart that is free to love, forgive and bless.

It's Marriage Mondays ...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Spiritual Makeover: Part 1

In his book, "Have a New Husband By Friday," author Kevin Leman supposedly shows women how making a few changes in their attitude, behavior, and communication style can revolutionize their marriages and bring out the very best in their husbands. I love the catchy title and I'm sure many have purchased his book with good intentions but the skeptic in me doubts that's possible. My husbands has WAAAY too many problems to fix by Friday!

Seriously, though, the author couldn't be more right. If I want a better marriage or a better mate, I have to allow the Holy Spirit to fix me first. The only person I can truly change is myself and even that is a tough task without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

In need of a makeover? Consider this from 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV): "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" I am so comforted by the fact that Christ has made me anew through His death, burial and resurrection. Through the Holy Spirit, I am enabled to live a victorious life and have a God-honoring marriage.

The transformation begins by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) and then changing our behaviors. We must purpose in our hearts to love unselfishly and give wholly of ourselves whether our spouse has earned it or not.

It's Marriage Monday ...