Monday’s Blog: Paul Series “Romans 1”

I am starting a new series today. I invite you to join me in studying Paul’s letters in Romans to Philemon. This series will run every Monday. We will study one chapter a week. If you would like to follow along with this series, read the chapter listed for the week and then share whatever God taught you through that chapter in the comment section below. We can minister to one another, as God may teach each of us something different through the chapters.

This week, we start out by reading Romans chapter 1.

The first half of the chapter talks about the benefits of faith and how the gospel of Christ is exalted through faith.

In verses 1-17, I learned that:

  • Faith is obedience (v. 5).

 We often think we have to do everything right to be obedient. But the Bible says, “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

  • Faith is noticeable and spreads to others (v. 8).

When we believe God is who He says He is, and believe He will do what He says He will do, His power is unleashed in us: “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:19-21).

  • Faith builds and encourages us, and those around us (v. 12).

When I am in faith I am filled with God’s Holy Spirit and lifted up. “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). When I start to lose hope, and God leads me to someone in the faith who is filled with the Holy Spirit, they encourage me and build up my faith. “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24).

  • Faith leads to righteous living (v. 17).

James 2:18-19 says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Faith does not just believe God exists. Faith trusts God as Lord of our lives. When we submit our lives over to God He fills us with His righteousness and our actions begin to change.

 

The second half of Romans 1 talks about the consequences of unbelief, and how it hinders the gospel and leads to unrighteous living.

In verses 18-32, I learned that:

  • Unbelief suppresses the truth God has placed within us (v. 18).

God has clearly made Himself known to all of us. There is no excuse for us not to believe Him (v. 19-20).

  • Unbelief darkens our hearts (v. 21).

Even though we know God, we don’t acknowledge and worship Him as Lord and our Creator. Instead we acknowledge and worship the things that have been created. When we start to worship things of this world over God, our hearts begin to harden to the truth and we become blinded by Satan’s deception. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

  • Unbelief does not please God (v. 28).

When we deny God, He gives us over to our depraved mind (v. 28). The Bible says, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

  • Unbelief separates us from God and His righteous, and leaves us in our unrighteousness (v. 29-32). 

We need God’s righteousness to do what is right. When we reject Him we are “filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; [they are] gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29-32, NASB)

 

So to summarize Romans 1, when we put our faith in Christ, the power of God is released in us and displayed through us. When we persist in unbelief, we hinder His power to change us and impact the world for Christ.

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for this study of Paul’s letters. Thank you for teaching us in Romans 1 about faith and unbelief. Help us to continually put our faith in You and make You Lord of our lives. Fill us with Your righteousness so that we are empowered to do what is right. In Jesus’ faithful name we pray, Amen! 

 

How did God speak to you through Romans 1? Is there anything He revealed to you that you would like to share with others? 

 

*Come back next Monday as we talk about what we learned in Romans 2. Use the share tabs below to invite others to join us in this study of Romans to Philemon. You can also subscribe below to receive email reminders of new posts. Have a blessed week walking in faith!

 

 

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Monday’s Blog: Renewing Our Minds

I am starting a new series next week on Paul’s letters (from Romans – Philemon). In my Bible, I probably read Paul’s letters the most because they are filled with teachings on how to follow Christ’s example by living a godly life.  This week, I want to share a message I posted last September from a series I did on training ourselves to be godly, titled “Pursuing Godliness.” In this message, I shared how Paul exhorted the Corinthians to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). This message was one of the most helpful posts God has ever given me to share. It teaches the importance of renewing our minds so we can follow Christ’s example and live a godly life.

 Renewing Our Minds

The Apostle Paul exhorted, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

How do we follow Christ’s example? How do we train ourselves to be godly?

The answer is in Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Greek word for renewal in the above verse means “renovation.” When you renovate something, you restore it to a better state. The Bible says if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ephesians 4:22-24 instructs us:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The only way to put off our old self (ungodliness), and put on our new self (godliness), is to renew our minds. Last summer, I reorganized my entire house. While going through my house, I was amazed how many notes I found with teachings and Scriptures I wrote down through the years. I had stacks of notebooks, piles of Bible study workbooks, and a number of odd items such as napkin pieces with Scriptures written on them. When I first started walking with God I was desperate for change. I was hungry for His holiness. I pursued godliness by taking every opportunity I had to feed and meditate on His Word.

Through the years, God has done an amazing work in my life. At times I take it for granted. Looking through those piles reminded me that I can never stop pursuing godliness. If I don’t diligently stay connected to God and seek His Word, I will easily fall back into my old pattern of behavior.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

1 Corinthians 10:12

I did a study once on renovating my mind, using Nehemiah 1-6 and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. My intention was to strip off my old carnal mind and replace it with the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Just as Nehemiah inspected Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 2:11-13), I began the study with inspecting my thoughts. I identified and made a list of every carnal thought I had. I was astonished how many negative thoughts I had even though I had been following Christ for many years. In my journal for the study I wrote: “My mind is like that broken down wall (Nehemiah 2:13). It lies in ruins (Nehemiah 2:17).”

After identifying the carnal thoughts, I got to work tearing them down and rebuilding my mind with God’s Word (Nehemiah 2:18). Each day I focused on a different negative thought from my list. I wrote down every verse I found pertaining to that thought, and prayed and meditated on them.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.

Joshua 1:8

The tearing down and rebuilding wasn’t easy. I did the study for about fifty days, close to the amount it took them to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 6:15). It took me fourteen days to go through my list. Then on day fifteen, I had to re-examine my thoughts to see where I still needed help. After the first re-examination, the list was about a third of what it was when I started the renovation. The last few carnal thoughts were strongholds. Those took longer to tear down.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

Psalm 119:45

I gathered a few notes I wrote in my journal during those fifty days. They reveal some of the attacks and ups and downs we can experience as we seek to renew our minds with God’s Word.

Rebuilding the Walls of My Mind Journal

Day 2: I have been having a lot of bad dreams, revealing the strongholds I have in my mind. Last night, I dreamt an evil woman was chasing me while I was trying to protect a child. I got tired of running and turned around and commanded her to stop in the name of Jesus. She stopped instantly and changed as the demon left her. A great reminder to stop running from the devil. Make him flee.

Day 3: I’m being attacked big time. I’m sick. I’ve had bad dreams and I’m having negative thoughts like crazy.

Day 4: The enemy is angry and greatly incensed that I am renovating my mind (Nehemiah 4:1-7).

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews …‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?’” (Nehemiah4: 1-2)

Day 7: I acted so badly yesterday. I am ashamed. I was rude to the lady at our church. This isn’t me. I can’t believe all the junk in me. Help me Lord! Cleanse my mind and rebuild it with pure thoughts so my actions will follow.

“The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:19-20)

Day 9: Things are looking brighter today. I feel my joy returning and my outlook expanding.

Day 14: I feel my mind getting better. The power of the strongholds seems to be weakening and it’s not taking as much effort on my part. God is healing my mind.  

“When word came to …  our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it…. They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ [But I prayed,] ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:1-9)

Day 17: I don’t want to give up. God, renew my strength. Change my thinking. Renew my mind.

Day 24: I need to check and pay attention to every thought. I feel like I’m falling backward now.

“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” (2 John 1:8)

Day 25: The devil is fighting and attacking me greatly because he doesn’t want me to renew my mind and tear down the stronghold’s he’s worked so hard to build.

Day 27: I feel great today. God’s grace is tearing down my strongholds. God is showing me the lies I believed.

Day 30: Just as with a house renovation, once it is finished, I can’t leave it alone or it will return to its old state. I need to keep it up. Care for it. Catch the small repairs so they don’t turn into large projects.

Day 34: I’ve been fasting from junk food for over 30 days. Because I fasted so long from it, I don’t desire it anymore. If I fast from carnal thoughts, I will no longer desire them. I would be foolish to return to the junk I no longer desire.

“Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” (2 Peter 2:22)

Day 39: I have a fire in my spirit. My mind is being rebuilt with Jesus and the Word of God as my foundation!

 “Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16, AMP)

Day 40: Lord, use me as an instrument to bring revival to your church and to carry your name before the world (Acts 9:15).

 Day 47: God is doing an amazing work in me. I feel alive and energized and full of the Holy Spirit.

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” (Nehemiah 8:10, 12)

 

 

As you were reading the journal entries, did you notice a pattern? The first part (majority) was spent putting off my old self. Once those carnal thoughts were brought to light I was then able to put on my new self: God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, ready to do the good works God prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

As God helps us put off our old worldly thoughts, and tear down the strongholds in our minds, He can rebuild and fill our minds with spiritual things (the mind of Christ).

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:12-16

 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for washing away our sins by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are new creation! The old is gone! Help us to take off our old self and put on our new self. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Help us to diligently seek Your Word and continually renew our minds by the truths we learn from the Bible every day.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen!

 

 

*Come back next Monday as the series on Paul’s letters begins. You can subscribe below to receive email reminders of new posts. You can also use the share tabs below to help spread the word of this series to bless others. Have a blessed week seeking the Lord and renewing your mind in His Word!

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Marriage Series: Remain In God’s Love

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This is the next message in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” In my last post, I shared how we need each other. Today, I want to focus more importantly on how much we need God.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:5-11

Jesus instructs us to remain in Him and remain in His love because apart from Him we can do, not some things, but absolutely “nothing!”  The first five years of my marriage, my husband and I did not have a relationship with Christ. We were not connected to the vine, so we were not able to bear any fruit to help our marriage grow as God intended it to. We were like a branch that was thrown away and withered, picked up by the world and burned. We had no life to sustain our marriage.

Once we started seeking Christ, and God poured His love into our hearts, He began producing fruit and bringing life into our marriage. God worked many miracles in our marriage that first year of seeking Him. One miracle was He completely took away my jealously and insecurity. My husband and I used to have horrible fights. Walls would get punched out. Things would get broken. Sentimental items would get destroyed. My husband even ended up in the hospital once after hurting himself from one of our fights. My parents moved into our old apartment complex recently and my husband and I were just recounting all the walls we had to patch then. We praise God those intense fights ceased completely once He began to pour His love into our hearts.

Jesus said to remain in Him and His love so that His joy would be in us and our joy would be made complete. Several years ago, my husband was feeling guilty for not being the husband he felt he needed to be. He felt convicted when he thought about our daughter and how he would want her husband to be. At the time, I was experiencing a fresh revelation of God’s love and was overflowing with joy. As my husband was saddened by all the things he did and didn’t do, I encouraged him that I already had all I needed. I was content because God’s love was more than enough to fill me. I didn’t need anything else.

Even now, when I allow the busyness of life to get in the way of my relationship with Christ, I begin to lose my joy and see it affect my marriage. When I am on fire for Christ, and I feel His love, nothing my husband does wrong matters to me. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can battle anything in life when we are in God’s love and His joy is complete in us. All our faults and our spouses’ faults don’t matter when we are filled with a revelation of God’s love.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1:22-23

If you are not fulfilled and satisfied with your marriage, I encourage you to ask God for a fresh revelation of His love. Remain in Jesus and His joy will be made complete in you. 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for sending Jesus to fill us in every way. Help us to remain in Jesus so we can bear much fruit to strengthen and bring life to our marriages. Give us a fresh revelation of Your love so we can be content and not need our spouses to change in order to make us happy. Fill us in every way with Your love so that Your joy will be made complete in us.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

 

*My marriage series will end this Monday. You can read more about my marriage testimony and how to enjoy your marriage in my book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children” (available in paperback, ebook, & audio format).

 

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Marriage Series: “Wisdom Builds the House” by Warren Baldwin

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I invited Warren Baldwin to share the next message in my marriage series. Warren and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for 31 years. Together they have ministered with churches in Florida, Wyoming and Kansas. They enjoy Bible camps, mission trips and sports activities. They have three grown children.  Warren is the author of a book on Proverbs, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks, and other Gems from Proverbs. A second volume on Proverbs is nearing completion.

Warren was one of the first bloggers I met when I first started my blog in 2010. I was drawn to Warren’s blog “Family Fountain” because of the strong love he has for his wife and children. He lives by the wisdom God has given us in His Word, and his family is blessed because of it.  I pray Warren’s message today encourages us to seek God for His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in our marriages.

MR AND MRS BALDWIN

Wisdom Builds the House

By Warren Baldwin

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

The wisdom God calls for in building a home has already been at work in building the universe. “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew” (Proverbs 3:19-20).

God’s wisdom was and is active in two ways in the universe we inhabit. One, he established the earth and the heavens. He initiated, formed and made everything we see in the created order. Two, God sustains the creation he made. The clouds drop the dew to sustain life upon the earth. Initiating and sustaining are two important works of godly wisdom.

Solomon invokes this creation imagery when he speaks of marriage and family. The wisdom of God that created and sustains the universe is the same wisdom that can create and sustain a marriage through many years and changing conditions.

Bruce Waltke identifies some of the qualities of godly wisdom as “sobriety, sound judgment, discretion, careful planning, hard work, patience, and all the other virtues taught in Proverbs …” (Proverbs, 1:261). Some of these other virtues are love, truth, honesty, dedication and determination. Surely God has shown these qualities to us in abundance since our creation! When are in relationship with God, these positive virtues become active in our lives, and we function with god-like discretion, patience, honesty and love.

When these qualities of wisdom are present in the lives of a couple forming their family, they establish a firm basis and foundation for the family, just as they do for the universe. The sound judgment of God, his careful planning, hard work, love, dedication and determination not only produced the grandeur of the mountain ranges and oceans, but produced and continue to produce human beings, families, and social systems. Life, marriage and family are the product of God’s wisdom.

I don’t want the talk of careful planning and work to rob joy from the early days of marriage. Every couple should experience the ecstasy of their beginning walk together. The newness and excitement create memories and a bond to spice up the relationship for many years. But spice is not the substance of a meal, and neither is it the substance of life-long marital relationship. For a marriage to endure and provide stability and healthy emotions for everyone in the household, it must be created and sustained by wisdom.

A marriage built on wisdom is going to require discretion, both before and after the wedding. Discretion is used when we decide who to date and how far to go in expressing affection. Discretion is used after marriage in our choice of friendships (we want friends who honor our marriage and mate), money management, conversation with our spouse, and a host of other things.

Eventually, every married person is going to have to do the hard work of forgiving their spouse for an offense. We will also have to accept grace from our spouse, and humbling ourselves to receive forgiveness without excuses, justifications or rationalizations can be gut-wrenchingly tough.

When we marry we dedicate ourselves to an imperfect person. In time we will discover their personality quirks and character defects, requiring us to summon massive reserves of patience and understanding. Marriage will succeed not because the joy and ecstasy of the early stages of romance is a daily companion, but because of the determination to be a faithful companion no matter what the circumstances.

Every ingredient of godly wisdom described here are also ingredients of tough love, a love that continues to forgive, encourage and persevere when it would be easier to walk away. To practice this kind of love and wisdom is to live “within that broad scope of the Lord’s wisdom” (Waltke, 1:261). That kind of wisdom has sustained human life since the creation, and it will sustain our marriages and families.

People seeking and functioning within godly wisdom resist the shortcuts to happiness and fulfillment the world offers. An example of such a short cut occurs in Proverbs 1:10-19, in the story of the foolish young men who greedily seek to fill their houses with treasures stolen by violence from innocent people. Their community is built on the foundation of selfish pursuits, and will end in the destruction of their lives.

In contrast, the godly couple who exercises the ingredients of wisdom are allowing their family to be created and sustained by solid principles of wisdom that have proven their effectiveness over time. Instead of filling their rooms with stolen treasures obtained by violent means, wise couples fill the rooms of their homes with “rare and beautiful treasures.” These special treasures are the fruit of a lifetime of careful living: trust in each other, healthy romance, and enjoyment of each other’s company. Nothing is more meaningful to a couple who has journeyed through life together.

Every couple that walks the aisle is hoping to create a marriage that lasts. It is good for us to remember that the wisdom of God that created and sustains the universe is ready to do the same for our families.

Warren Baldwin

*You can follow Warren and read more messages on marriage on his blog Family Fountain.

 


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Marriage Series: “United Prayer” by Amanda Schreiber

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Today’s marriage post is by my friend, Amanda Schreiber. I met Amanda last year at our kids’ homeschool co-op class. We helped teach the preschool class. When I met Amanda, her and her husband were going through major financial difficulty. As we talked, we realized we had a lot of similarities.  God spoke some promises to Amanda and I individually prior to our meeting. When we met, we both had been discouraged and afraid to look back at those promises out of fear of disappointment. I strongly believe God connected us together to remind us that His promises still stand. In February, I wrote about our meeting in my post “God’s Promises Still Stand.” A few months  later, God blessed both our husband’s with job opportunities, which were an answer to both our prayers.

God is doing a wonderful work in Amanda’s family. I’m excited to have her contribute to this marriage series. I know you will be blessed by this message about the power of prayer in our marriages. This goes great with Kerry’s message on Monday about how Jesus must increase, and we must decrease (John 3:30), to see God work wonders in our marriages.

United Prayer

By Amanda Schreiber

 

amanda

 

I’d like to thank Amanda for asking me to be a guest on her blog.  When she approached me with this subject a while back and told me she was going to be starting a new marriage series, I knew exactly what I would write about, as it had recently become dear to my heart.  Today I’d love to share with you the importance of united prayer in the life of a healthy marriage.

Back in April, our family decided to embark upon a 40 Day Challenge.  To learn more about this, you can check out my previous blog post that lays out the details. The crux of our family challenge rested in the belief that God was able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)…and we were expecting BIG things from Him…in our circumstances, and within the heart of our family.  One of the most crucial components to this challenge involved my husband and I committing to pray together daily.

In all honesty, it was something we didn’t do nearly enough.  We often had the intention to do so, even talked about it, but as each day drew to a close we would find ourselves too tired and would end up putting it off till the next day.  And then the next…And then the next.  Too often we found ourselves only praying together when there was an urgent need.  This is something we both longed to change.  So as part of our family challenge, my husband and I made a commitment to get down on our knees together nightly to do this.

During our nightly “kneetime” we prayed bold and audacious prayers over our family and our circumstances.  This is where things really began to take root.  It by far has been the most effective and rewarding aspect of our entire family challenge.  I can’t begin to express the importance of this one, simple, yet so necessary, act.  I truly believe this is where the majority of God’s wonder-working was activated.

So, back to our 40-day challenge, when my husband and I began to pray together each night, we took this very seriously. Aloud we declared our mountain of debt to move…we spoke God’s Word and His promises over us, claiming them for ourselves, thanking Him in advance for these blessings and promises before they even came to be.  Our belief and resolve was strengthened and we often could feel the presence and power of God hovering over us during this prayer time.  We prayed that God would “wonder-work” in and around us, believing Him to do so.  We took Him at His Word, that:

You do not receive because you do not ask…” James 4:2 (so we asked!)

…believe and it will be given to you.” Matthew 21:22  (so we believed)

Abide in Me and let My word abide in you, ask, and it will be given to you.” John 15:7 (so we abided and continued to ask and believe)

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (so we sought Him first and foremost)

We hit our knees together nightly believing that God would come through and do the immeasurably more.  Common daily prayer requests included things such as asking God to either bless my husband’s current business or open up doors of new opportunity.  We thanked Him that He would open up the right ones and close the wrong ones.  We prayed that God would increase our faith and give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation.  That He would cause us to be fruitful and effective and influential to those around us.  That He would bless our relationships, and fill us with a passion for Him and His word above anything else. We thanked God, that although our needs were great, He was ABLE and He was GREATER than all of our needs.

Over the course of our 40 day challenge,  He did just that!  My husband is going on his third month in a new career.  At first we struggled with fear at this prospective career move.  But God has taught us a thing or two along the way.  We’ve learned that sometimes we just have to trust Him, even if we don’t have all the answers and all of our ducks are not yet in a row.  Sometimes we have to throw all logic out the window and just follow.  To walk by faith and not by sight.  Small steps of obedience, sometimes into the unknown.  Trusting Him with our day and our future, even when we don’t have all the answers before us.

We had asked God to open up the “right” door, and trusted that He would do so.  So, when this new opportunity was presented to us, it seemed ridiculous not to look into it.  We didn’t know exactly what the job description would be, or what the salary would be, but we had prayed for a door of opportunity. And when God opened a door, in trust, we walked through it.  God filled us with a great sense of peace, and we thanked Him for doing immeasurably more.  In my prayer journal, I wrote that my husband and I were on “cloud 9” because of this new career opportunity.  What we didn’t know, is that God had even more “immeasurably more” to show us.

A week and a half into working this new job, my husband and I still didn’t have a set salary offer.  We knew God would take care of us, because He had been faithful all along, even in our season of lacking.  We knew that in time, my husband would have opportunity for growth within this new company.  We were excited and content, and continued to thank God nightly for this new opportunity. We’ve learned that when you grow to be content with what God has given you, it places you in a position to receive even more.

After almost two weeks of work, my husband was given an official set salary.  We were completely blown away when he was offered 30% more than his previous pay, considerably more than we ever imagined.  We were speechless and dumbfounded, and simply could not believe that God had provided for us in this way.  We are still pinching ourselves over this!  This was a true example of Him answering prayer and providing immeasurably more than we could have ever asked or imagined.

Our long season of desert and leanness is drawing to a close.  God has come through!  God is moving mountains!  God has provided a way out!  God has done the immeasurably more!  He is worthy of all of our praise!

I believe that united prayer was the catalyst to these answered prayers.  My husband and I had been praying about his work and our finances for three years.  And for three long and arduous years, these prayers didn’t seem to be answered.  In fact, our circumstances seemed to be spiraling downward.  Although we individually prayed over these things during this season, we rarely prayed over these things together.  What we found is that there is great power in united prayer.  God’s Word says:

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19–20, NKJV)

It’s important to realize that the context of this verse is true for all who are obedient to Christ and are praying His will.  I don’t believe that God desires for us to be in lacking.  But I do believe that if we find ourselves in a season of lacking, there is purpose in it.  God doesn’t waste our pain or hardships.  He uses them.  He is able to work all things out for our good according to His mighty Romans 8:28 promise.

Jesus came so that we could have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).  Abundant life isn’t found in what we possess, but rather in having more of God and the things of Him in our life.  In living a life of holy purpose.   Things of Christ are to be sought out over things of this world.  He is far more concerned about our hearts than our circumstances.  He often works from the inside out.  Beginning with matters of the heart.  He is after a heart that truly seeks Him first.  This should always be our chief prayer.  To have more of Him. True joy and contentment can only be found when we are following hard after Him and fulfilling His purpose in our lives.  In the great truth of Matthew, when we seek God and His righteousness first, then all these other things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).

I was curious to see when all of the changes and answers to prayer began to take place in our family challenge, so I took a look back in the journal I’d kept over those 40+ days.  I found that it was on the evening of Day 10 that my husband was first presented with a new job opportunity.  That very morning, I had written this prayer in my journal, (looking back at it now astonishes me!)

“TODAY, I KNOW OUR GOD WILL COME THROUGH! Praise You LORD for future breakthroughs and victories in our family…More of You LORD, less of me.  Show me Your face, unleash Your supernatural, wonder-working power in and through and around me, my husband, and our family.  Guard our hearts from pride LORD as You begin to reveal Yourself and Your work and Your wonders in and around us.  LORD, we give You all the glory.  Keep us humble, always, before You.   Show us profound evidence of Your activity.  May we always come on bended knee before You, never stealing Your glory, but declaring with all of our lives that YOU ARE LORD!  Astonish us with Your wonderful works.  Interrupt our lives with Your power and presence.  Fulfill Your choice calling in our lives.  Thank You LORD, for Your harvest one hundredfold!”

It gives me goosebumps (glorybumps) to read this!  Little did I know that God was in the works already.  There is much power in prayer!  For three years we had been praying the same prayer.  But the answers to these prayers came only once we committed to praying these things together.  God is eager to bless us, but deeply longs to have our hearts and our marriages completely surrendered to Him first.

God has shown Himself to be so faithful.  It makes us cringe and wonder how we could have ever doubted Him along this journey.  While we were individually yearning and waiting for God to move on our behalf,  He was patiently waiting and longing for us to act by surrendering together in prayer.

This is our God story.  I share a portion of it with you because it is full-blown evidence of the power of prayer in one’s life.  I want to encourage you to stand united in prayer with your spouse.  That even when you think you are past the point of redemption, whether it be finances, the health of your marriage, or any other stronghold or hardship that is weighing you down…you are not.  When you are hopeless and feel that there doesn’t seem a way out…there is!  It can be found through persistent prayer.  He is our great Hope.  With God, there is always a chance, and anything is possible.  Let prayer be your mightiest tool.

Again, God is able to redeem anything!  Remember, when the Israelites were backed up between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, it was God who parted the sea and gave them a way out.  And He provided a way for us too.  He will provide a way for you.  He is faithful to His children.  I’ve caught myself murmuring, and uttering, joyful, tearful thanks to Him over and over again.  Often in disbelief.  He rescued.  He delivered.  He redeemed.  He moved that mountain.  He did it!

Sometimes His deliverance and redemption comes in ways we least expect.  Sometimes we have to walk through desert to get there.  But one thing is certain, He is able to lead us out! We must never underestimate the power of prayer in one’s life. Prayer changes things.  It changes hearts and circumstances and lifts us up even closer to God’s mighty, helping, and powerful hand.

I can’t begin to express the importance of a couple praying together.  There are so many benefits and treasures to be found in this discipline.  Not only did we see God move mountains and provide for us, it drew my husband and I closer together and strengthened our marriage in many ways.  Prayer is the spilling out of heart to our LORD.  Too often in a marriage, we neglect to build each other up, or just don’t do it often enough.  We may think encouraging and uplifting thoughts about our spouse, but these thoughts don’t always leave our hearts and find their way to our lips.  Or to our spouses ears.

Surprisingly, my husband and I often found ourselves thanking and praising God for each other in our prayers.  This became a time in which we could build each other up before our LORD.  It made us each feel validated and appreciated for the work and role we were individually playing in our family.  It created intimacy and united us as a team.  This nightly prayer habit also gave us a closer look into each other’s hearts.  It’s through prayer that we can express our pressing needs, fears, frustrations, and desires.  These things can change daily.  In the act of united prayer, we found ourselves sharing the deepest parts of our hearts with each other and with God.  We then knew how to better pray for one another.  It grew us into a better knowledge, compassion, and understanding of one another and of our God.  It gave us insight, challenged our faith, revealed our strengths and weaknesses, and provided a unity of heart that has rivaled no other.

As believers, we want nothing more than to experience the presence of God.  He is the supplier of all good things we could ever need or desire.  The act of prayer places us in a perfect position to bask in His presence to receive these things.  And who other would we rather share this holy gift with than our very own spouse?  On our wedding day, we entered a covenant with each other and with God.  He wants to be the center of our marriages.  He holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), including our marriages.  A sure way to draw closer to one another and to keep God at the center of our marriages is to commit ourselves to the act of united prayer.

As of July 1st, my husband and I are on day 86 of praying together nightly. The rewards of united prayer far exceeded our expectations.   It has become a habit and a privilege to come to Him together on bended knee.  And it has proven to be a key component in keeping our marriage thriving and our hearts turned toward God.  If this isn’t a discipline you and your spouse have been doing together regularly, I urge you to make united prayer a priority.  Try it out, and with expectant faith, wait to see how God will do the immeasurably more within your hearts and your lives.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

James 5:16

 Pray onward.  He is faithful, and He is able!

Thank you LORD, for the gift of marriage and the gift of prayer.  That through Your son, Jesus, we are able to approach You with confidence.  That You hear us and don’t waste any of our pain and suffering.  Thank You that there is always purpose behind Your plan.  Your ways are higher than our own.  Help us not to lean unto our own understanding, but to trust You with every area of our lives, including our marriages.  Help us to let go of any areas we are not fully surrendering to You.  Increase our faith.  We are thankful that You know what is best for us.  That You work all things together for our good.   That You hold all things together. Protect our marriages, unite us, and draw us closer to You and a deeper knowledge of You.  We long to bring You glory.  You are faithful and deserving of all of our praise.  In Jesus’ most precious and holy name.  Amen

*Thanks, Amanda, for this great prayer to pray with our spouses! You can read more inspiring posts by Amanda on her blog I’m Still CLAY.

 **Don’t forget to leave Amanda a comment below to be entered to win 1 of 2 $50 Brinker gift card (can be used at Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s) and a signed copy of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family – Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children.” Today is the last day to enter! I’ll be announcing the first winner on my wedding anniversary tomorrow (7/20), and the second winner on my husband’s and my dating anniversary on Sunday (7/21).


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Marriage Series: We Need Each Other

 

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This is the third message in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” Follow this link if you missed the last two messages. Last Monday, I shared how my husband and I first met, and how it took God over a year to draw my husband’s heart to mine. We were married on July 20, 1996, less than a year after my husband asked me to officially be his girlfriend (July 21, 1995). We originally planned on waiting another year to have a big wedding. But with some division between our families regarding the financing, we decided to get married that year with a small wedding and reception.

Looking back now, I believe God led us to get married that year, because I don’t think we would’ve made it another year. The night before our wedding we got into a big fight and didn’t talk to each other until we met at the altar the next day.  I never imagined “I’m Sorry!” would be the first words I’d say to my fiancé at the altar on our wedding day.

After our ceremony, we had a reception at my parent’s house. It was nice until a few family members showed up intoxicated and started brawling with each other. Annoyed, my husband and I left to escape to our small, newly rented one bedroom apartment.  When we got to our new home, we opened our cards and counted the cash we received to see if we had enough money to pay our bills and take a honeymoon. After putting aside money for our bills, we had only three hundred dollars left to go camping up north along Lake Michigan.

Though we didn’t have a perfect wedding and reception, and camImage0004ping wasn’t our dream honeymoon, we were excited to start our new life together. As I shared last week, my husband and I separately accepted Christ at Vacation Bible camps when we were kids. But because we didn’t seek Christ further, and have a relationship with Him, we unknowingly were an open target for the devil. After our honeymoon, it didn’t take long to reap the effects of living without Christ, as our insecurities, hurts and past relationships began to affect our marriage.

The devil knew our pain and weaknesses. He knew we followed the ways of the world and not God. He knew which situations to lead us into to bury us deeper into sin. He knew which bait we’d take that would lead us into his trap. And for the first five years of our marriage, he did everything he could to try and split us apart.

The devil wants to split up our marriages because he knows God’s ultimate plan is to transform us and glorify Christ in us. It’s a lot easier to knock us down and keep us down when we are separated and don’t have each other to lean on for support.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When a couple has Christ in their marriage, they have strength and knowledge to stand up against the devil’s attacks, because greater is He that is in them than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). My husband and I had no knowledge that we had an unseen enemy pursuing to take us down. We saw each other as the enemy. In our eyes, the only way to resolve our conflict was to get away from each other.

Thankfully my husband feared divorce. He didn’t want to be the first in his family to get a divorce. So he made up his mind that he would do whatever it took to stay together. My husband’s commitment to our marriage gave God time to pour His love into our hearts, and lead us out of the devil’s trap and into a relationship with Christ

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1-10

God has a specific plan for each of us in Christ. He’s given us our spouses to help fulfill His plan. We need each other more than we often realize. Even though God gives my husband and me different works to do, we need each other to accomplish those works. For example, since God called me to write, He has blessed my husband’s job and brought him increase to provide for me to publish and give away books to those He has prepared in advance to receive. My husband isn’t called to write. And I am not called to be our financial provider. But we need each other in order to accomplish God’s will for our lives. Without my husband, I wouldn’t be able to continue publishing books. Without me, my husband wouldn’t be reaping the blessings and increase in his work.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:19

God has a plan for you and your spouse. You need each other to fulfill that plan, even if you don’t see your spouse seeking God’s will. When my husband and I came to know Christ, I had a deeper passion for seeking God than my husband did. I’d often complain to God that my husband was a hindrance to my growth since he wasn’t as committed to following Christ as I thought I was. God eventually showed me how instrumental my husband is in my growth, and how instrumental I am in his growth. God uses my husband’s weaknesses to work things out of me, and He uses my weaknesses to work things out of him. God uses my husband’s strengths to strengthen me, and He uses my strengths to strengthen my husband.

God uses our weakness to draw us closer to our spouses. Satan uses our weaknesses to lure us away from our spouses. God uses our strengths to support our spouses. Satan uses our strengths to convince us we are better off without our spouses. Knowing that we need our spouses, and they need us, should encourage us to stand firm in our faith and not allow Satan to succeed in splitting us apart.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

1 Peter 5:8-9

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for giving us our spouses to accomplish Your will for our lives. Help us to stand against the devil’s attacks and  not let him split us apart. Help us to stop viewing our spouses as our enemies. Continue to use their weaknesses and strengths to work in and strengthen us. And continue to use our weaknesses and strengths to work in and strengthen them.

In Jesus’ faithful name, we pray. Amen!

 

*My husband and I are giving two couples a $50 dinner gift card for Brinker restaurants (Can be used at Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s) and a signed copy of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family – Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children” If you live in the U. S., enter to win in the comment section below. Just leave your name and how long you’ve been married.  The first winner will be announced on our wedding anniversary (July 20th). And the second winner will be announced on our dating anniversary (July 21st). Every marriage post that you comment on through July 19th you will receive an additional entry into the drawing.

 

 

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Marriage Series: “Scrambled Yoke” by Kerry Johnson

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This is the second post in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” Remember, if you live in the U. S., every marriage post that you comment on through July 19th, you will receive an entry into a drawing for a $50 Brinker Restaurant gift card (can be used at Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s) and my book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children). Two winners will be announced. One on July 20th and the other on July 21st.

Monday, I shared how God first drew my husband’s and my heart together. My dear friend, Kerry Johnson, and I have similar stories of when we first met our spouses. Today, she’s shares how God drew her heart away from an unequally yoked relationship, and drew her heart to the one God had chosen for her, Trevor Johnson.

 

 

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SCRAMBLED YOKE

by Kerry Johson

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“Can I break the egg?” Chase was already pulling the kitchen chair toward the counter’s edge as I ripped open the brownie box. Of our two children, Chase is more interested in trying different foods and participating in the baking and cooking process. I’m not a particularly fancy cook, but our seven-year old enjoys assisting as I mix flour, eggs, sugar, oil, and anything else on the recipe card.

He especially loves to break eggs.

The recipe called for one large egg, and it lolled around the counter, drawing my younger son’s eyes and hands in quick order.

“I want to see the yellow part. What’s it called again?”

“The yolk.”

He smiled and repeated the word, his pink lips puckering up around the ‘y’ and the hard consonant ending sound. Chase was born with an abundance of exuberance, and his hands shook as he cracked the shell and split it into the mixing bowl with the water and oil.

Later, I thought about that funny-sounding word Chase had inquired about. Not the yellow, laid-by-a-chicken version, but the other spelling – yoke. The farming word that evokes images of two oxen plowing a field, their combined, identical strength accomplishing what two mismatched animals could not. As a verb, it means to be united together or joined with something else, in order to accomplish something.

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In the Bible, the word ‘yoked’ is pointedly placed in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul received disheartening news about the church he had founded in the famously pagan city of Corinth. Believers were behaving irresponsibly and immaturely, and Paul’s letters were intended to pull them back to the gospel – Jesus Christ’s finished work on the Cross - and to God’s best for their lives. Paul instructed the Corinthian Christians that they were not to take God’s grace and run back to sin, reminding them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

A few verses later, Paul reminds them – and us - that Christians “are the temple of the living God…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord” (6:16 & 17).

The wisdom Paul shared with the sin-saturated Corinthian church – and us –  wasn’t meant to give Christ-followers a superiority complex or to make our lives miserable. Instead, it was given for our protection and out of love, because our Creator knows what is best for us.

That’s worth repeating over and over…God knows what is best for us.

In my early 20s, I learned firsthand why Paul warned of this very thing. Testing the truth of 2 Corinthians 6:14, I stepped into a relationship with a non-believer. Trevor and I had dated during the latter part of our teenage years, but we were weren’t ready to get married, and at 21 we broke up. Shortly after I began walking a rebellious path, yoking myself to a person who didn’t share my faith in Jesus Christ. He considered himself agnostic, and it took only a couple of months of dating before our foundational faith differences overflowed.

We were sharing a scrambled yoke.

The longer I dated him, the more stifling the burden became. He didn’t understand or appreciate the burden I carried for sharing my faith with him, which created a root of bitterness in me. There was a huge part of my heart that he would never identify with, and my soul struggled with his worldly leanings. Our earthly common ground was negated by the vast spiritual gulf between us. We were unbalanced – mismatched in the yoke God intended only for two believers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 is heavenly wisdom that sets boundaries intended to protect Christ-followers. A scrambled, unequal yoke will create cracks in the foundation of the family, which is His specific, loving design for His creation. Because the family – built upon a marriage between one man and one woman – is God’s best for His creation.

God knows what is best for us.

Eventually, the vast differences between this young man and I created enough dissension that the relationship dissolved. I pray for him and wish him well, and I learned that being unequally yoked with an unbeliever will lead me away from where I want to be in my relationship with Christ and bring only heartache and frustration. No amount of emotional love or sinful desire is worth that.

I praise God for His grace and mercy during my wayward years, and that I’m now equally yoked with my wonderful hubby.

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”

~ 1 Corinthians 9:14

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Kerry Johnson lives in sunny Tampa Bay with her loud and very ticklish family. Patient hubby Trevor and their two boys, Cole and Chase, give the best hugs ever. She’s been published in Sanctified Together, Granola Bar Devotionals, and Tampa Bay’s Overflow Magazine, and her first novel semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis Contest in spring 2013. She has her Bachelor of Science in English Education and enjoyed seven blessed years as a stay-at-home wife and mom. She’s passionate about her family, reading and writing, exercise and chocolate (not necessarily in that order), and especially sharing the love of Jesus through her writing at http://candidkerry.wordpress.com/.

 

 

*Remember to enter to win the gc and book by leaving a comment below. Share how God drew you and your spouse’s hearts together.

*To celebrate this marriage series, the ebook version of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family” is free at Amazon today through Sunday (7/5-7/7).

 

 

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New Marriage Series: Two Are Better Than One

 

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Photo source: Stock.Xchng

Today, I am starting a new series on marriage titled: “Two Are Better Than One.” The series will run every Monday and Friday through July. I invited several guest bloggers to share their marriage struggles and testimonies, and will post them throughout the series as well.

If you live in the U.S., every marriage post that you comment on in this series from now until Friday, July 19th, you will be automatically entered into a drawing for a $50 dinner gift card and a signed copy of my marriage book “You Can Have a Happy Family,which was just announced a finalist in the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International award contest!  

Since my husband’s and my first “real” date was at Chili’s (see our story below), the gift card will be for Brinker restaurants and can be used at either Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s. I will be drawing TWO winners  since “Two Are Better Than One!” I will announce the first winner and give away one gc and book on my husband’s and my 17th wedding anniversary, July 20th. And I will announce and give away another gc and book on our 18th dating anniversary, July 21st.

Today, I want to start the series with my husband’s and my story of how God drew our hearts together. I pray this testimony helps rekindle those feelings you had for your spouse when you first fell in love with them.

 

Joining Two Hearts Together

jason and amanda

My husband, Jason, and I first met when I was 17 and he was 22. I was working at my friend’s restaurant at the time. Jason walked into the restaurant. I took one look at him, turned to my friend and said,  “That’s the man I’m going to marry!” Even though I was half joking, there was something about him that strongly attracted me to him from the start. After our first meeting, my husband would frequently come into the restaurant with his friends. Every time he came in, my attraction for him continued to grow, and it became obvious to him and his friends. His friends would often joke about it because they knew my husband had no interest in dating a 17-year old. He was tired of dating and had recently made his mind up that the next girl he dated would be his wife. A flirtatious, immature high school girl wasn’t exactly marriage material.

About six months after we first met, I was waiting on him at the restaurant when out of the blue he asked for my phone number. Shaking, and about to pass out from shock, I wrote down my number and gave it to him. For several weeks, I waiting anxiously by the phone for him to call, but he never did. Then one day, one of his friends came into the restaurant. I asked him if he knew why Jason would ask for my number but not call me. His friend replied, “Because he has a girlfriend.” I can still remember that feeling as those words came out of his mouth and crushed me.

A few weeks later, Jason came into the restaurant. Heartbroken, I told him what his friend said. He laughed and explained that his friend lied. He said he didn’t call me because he had a hole in his pants and my number must have slipped out. I wasn’t buying it, though. Discouraged, I grudgingly gave him my number again, without expecting a call. The next day or so, I was caught by surprise when I received a call from him.

For the next six months, we talked frequently on the phone and saw each other at the restaurant, but nothing more than that. May of 1995, my senior year, I got up enough nerve to invite him to my prom. He declined without saying why. Crushed once again, I lost hope that he’d ever be interested in me. A few days after prom, on our senior skip day, I met a guy my age at the beach, and we started dating that evening. By that time, I had known Jason for about a year and he hadn’t asked me out once. I met this guy and he asked me out the first day we met. So I decided it was time to stop pursuing Jason and start moving on. In June 1995, I graduated High School. I came home from my ceremony and received a call from Jason. This time, he didn’t call just to talk. He called to ask me out on a date. I was blown away and in shock! After a year of waiting, I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I was dating someone else stop me from finally going on a date with Jason.

I met Jason at my friend’s house for our first date, and then he drove me to Taco Bell of all places. Not exactly my idea of a dream date with my dream guy. But it would do. I nervously stood in line waiting for him to go ahead of me and order, but he insisted I go first.  “What a gentlemen,” I thought. So I went up to the register, expecting him to order after me and then pay for us. But he continued to stand back and wait. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t expected to pay so I didn’t bring any money. I scrambled to find loose change in the bottom of my purse and found enough for one taco. Jason waited for me to finish paying before he stepped up, placed his order, and paid for his food. I was surprised, and a little confused, but I didn’t care. I was finally on a date with him!

After our first date, we continued to talk on the phone, and I continued to go on dates with the other guy while waiting to see if Jason would ask me out again. The other guy was moving a lot quicker, showing me attention, taking me to nice places and paying for everything, but my heart  was beating stronger for Jason each day. Finally one day, Jason asked me on a real date to Chili’s, and though I came prepared with enough money, he paid for me. We went on more dates after that, and each time he’d end the date by telling me he wasn’t sure what he wanted. Not sure our relationship would ever develop into anything, I continued dating the other man.

In the middle of July, I went away on vacation for a week. When I returned, I decided to let the other man go and let Jason go as well. It wasn’t right to hold onto the other man and lead him on if my heart wasn’t for him. And I was falling in love with Jason, but I couldn’t bare the pain of dragging our relationship out any longer only to lose him in the end. The only choice was to let him go too.

Image0003On the evening of what I thought would be our last date, July 21st 1995, I was getting ready to tell him that I couldn’t take this anymore, when he interrupted me and asked, “Will you go out with me?” I replied that we’ve already been going out on dates. He responded, “No, I want you to go out with me, exclusively. I want you to officially be my girlfriend.” I can remember the excitement and relief I felt when those words I so longed to hear finally came out of his mouth. He was mine!

Seven months later, on Valentine’s day, Jason proposed and we were married on July 20, 1996, the day before our 1 year anniversary. I didn’t know the Lord at the time, but I have no doubt that His hand lead us together. I found out years later that Jason and I had  separately accepted Christ at Vacation Bible camps when we were kids. I was too young to remember. But my husband remembers his experience. When he came home from camp he said he had no one to teach him how to grow in his relationship with Christ, so he just continued to follow the path of the world. Both of us were traveling down the same road when God so graciously crossed our paths so we would meet each other. He’d then draw our hearts together, and (five years into our marriage) ultimately draw our hearts back to Him (Read next Monday’s post for that story).

My husband eventually told me why he took so long to give in and allow God to draw his heart to me. I wasn’t what he was looking for. He prayed for a wife. He wanted someone older, more mature, and ready to settle down. I was young, wild, and not even thinking about marriage. He normally dated short women. I was tall, and with heels, taller than him. He liked a more natural looking woman. I caked on the makeup. He liked a more conservative dressed woman. I dressed like I was ready to go to the bar most of the time.  He told me despite my wild appearance, he was attracted to my heart. The more time we spent together, the stronger that feeling became, and the outward differences no longer mattered. I was the one God had chosen for him, and he was the one God had chosen for me. That’s why I had such a strong attraction for him from the moment I first met him. He was mine. And I was his. Our hearts were created to be one. It just took him a little longer than me to see that.

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.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

Once we marry our spouses and life goes one, it’s so easy to forget those feelings we had when we first fell in love with them. When our hearts were beating strong for them, we didn’t care about all our differences and take offense by all their faults. I didn’t care that my first date with Jason was at Taco Bell and he made me pay. My love for him was greater than the offense.

…love makes up for all offenses.

Proverbs 10:12, NLT

God wants us to keep our hearts beating strong for our spouses because most of our differences, and the things our spouses do that offend us, are often not offensive as they appear. After we got married, I asked my husband about some of the odd things he did when we first met. He actually did have a hole in his pants and lose my number. He turned down my invitation to prom  because he thought my classmates would think he was too old. He waited until my graduation day to ask me out on a date because he didn’t want people to think he was disrespectful for dating a girl still in High School. And as you are probably wondering, the Taco Bell incident was because he had recently dated a woman who wanted to pay for all her own meals. He thought that would be what I wanted.  He was doing it to impress me, not to offend me.

As I was writing this post, and recounting the journey God took my husband and me through to join our hearts together, I felt that beating in my heart for my husband powerfully revive in me. If you have lost that beating in your heart for your spouse, or it’s slowing down, I encourage you to prayerfully allow God to take you back to when you first met. Recount that journey with God and let Him rekindle those feelings for your spouse once again.

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for this marriage series. Your Word says that marriage should be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4). We pray this series would honor You as we allow Your will to be done in our marriages.  We praise You for joining our hearts together with our spouses. Keep our hearts beating strong for them.  When our hearts begin to drift away, remind us of when we first fell in love, and rekindle those feelings once again.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen!

 

*Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you want to receive an entry into the drawing. Come back Friday for another entry as Kerry Johnson shares how God drew her heart away from an unequally yoked relationship, and drew her heart to the one God had chosen for her. 

 

 

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Monday’s Blog: Enjoying the Journey Toward Maturity

Next Monday, I will be starting a new series on marriage. I don’t normally post messages on marriage on this site, but since my husband’s and my 17th anniversary is in July, I feel led to devote the entire month to honor marriage. I will be posting several guest posts and giveaways during the series. If you signed up for email subscription, I wanted to give you a heads up that I will be posting more than once a week, just for the series.

Today I want to share a message that we can all relate to, about enjoying our journey toward spiritual maturity. I’ve been following Christ for about thirteen years now. Some days I look back and think, “I really should be a lot farther along than this!” It can be discouraging knowing what God can do in you, but not having arrived there.

The Apostle Paul shared how he wouldn’t allow himself to be discouraged in his journey with Christ:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

In our lifetime, we will never reach perfection where we could sit back and say, “Ah! I’ve arrived! Now I can relax and enjoy life!” We often think “Well, I’d be happy if I didn’t struggle in this area.” But the truth is, once that area is worked out there’s plenty others waiting in line to be worked out.

Instead of being discouraged at how far he had to go, Paul set his mind above. He pressed on with joy eagerly waiting for his glorified body in Christ, as he explained in the next verses 15-21:

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

My pastor shared a message about holiness yesterday. He encouraged us, “Let us obey from our identity, not for our identity.” The journey God takes us through in life is to teach us our true identity in Christ. This journey is not to perfect us so that we can be prepared for our eternal life with God. This journey is to teach us what God has already prepared and waiting for us. This journey is to transform our hearts and minds so we can know Him and know the love He has for us, as Paul explained earlier in verses 7-11:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

We can enjoy our journey because it is not about us and what we do, it’s about Him and what He’s already done.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

God has taught me when I mess up and get discouraged I am to immediately remind myself that is my old sinful nature working.  Those weaknesses are not part of who I am now. I am a new creation in Christ. The old has gone and the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). As I set my mind on how much God loves me, and what He’s done for me, I can enjoy this journey growing in Christ.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:20-24

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for Your immeasurable love. Pour out Your spirit on us and fill us with the knowledge of the love You have for us. Give us revelation of our true identity in Christ. Help us to set our minds above and enjoy the journey You have marked out for us, as we eagerly wait on You to glorify Christ in us.

In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen!

… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

 

 

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Monday’s Blog: You Can’t Carry People Through Life

I just returned from a short blogging break. I’ve found that it’s necessary at times to stop what I am doing, take a step back, and make sure I am in the right direction doing what God wants me to do. During my time off with the Lord, God led me to read a powerful book titled “Life Resurrected: Extraordinary Miracles Through Ordinary People” by Jesse Birkey from Reflect Ministry.



Here’s  a brief description of the book:

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary miracles if they are willing to be transformed.

Being ordinary completely qualifies you for God’s mighty power. No titles, ministries or name recognition are required. But there is one catch—you must be willing to be transformed. Testimonies are a crucial element of transformation. Testimonies give us the hope we need to continue on. We need to know that God still moves in signs, wonders and miracles. But above all else, we need to understand that God specializes in taking ashes and resurrecting them into beautiful life!

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul …” – Acts 19:11

In Life Resurrected, Jesse Birkey will share some extraordinary miracles performed by ordinary people. He will also take you on his journey of transformation from a life of bondage and slavery to the enemy to a life bursting with miraculous testimonies. While recounting his and others’ encouraging and inspiring testimonies, he provides insight into the ways God wants to operate in and through all of His children.

Start the journey and you too can have your Life Resurrected!

 

God ministered to me in many ways through this book, but I wanted to share one section on Joshua 3:8 that really spoke to my heart.

“Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

Joshua 3:8

Jesse wrote:
“As I closed my Bible, I thought about the instructions God gave Joshua. I wondered why God wanted the twelve chosen men to actually stand in the river with the heavy Ark before He would move on their behalf. God began to softly speak to my heart. We often stand on the “bank” looking over at our problems and issues saying, “Alright God, I need you to take care of this mess. I need you to perform this miracle and heal me or deliver me, but I am not going to get my feet wet. I am going to stand here where it’s dry while you do the work. After all, there’s nothing wrong with me. There couldn’t possibly be anything I might need to do before you move on my behalf.”

 

One of the reasons I knew I needed to take a break was that I was starting to get overwhelmed and not feel well. As I spent time with God, asking Him to show me what was wrong, He revealed that I had been taking on people’s problems and trying to fix them myself. Through Jesse’s message, God showed me that I was so desperate to see people’s problems resolved that I was losing hope, and it was making my heart sick.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Instead of praying for and encouraging people to seek God with all their hearts, because He has all the answers, I was trying to find the answers for them. But as we see in Joshua 3:8 above, God will perform the miracle, but He requires us to take that step of faith, seek and follow Him, and allow Him to transform us. We can’t carry people through life. We can carry their burdens by helping them and directing them to Jesus, but ultimately they have to take responsibility and seek His will for themselves.

A couple years ago, God used me to help a young woman through a difficult time in her life. As God brought her through that time, and miraculously turned her life around, she no longer needed my help. Soon after, a man who had heard how I helped her, contacted me and requested that I daily feed him God’s Word.  I kindly directed him to the Bible and encouraged him to seek God with all his heart (Jeremiah 29:13). He wanted me to carry him. He didn’t see God as the source of that woman’s miracle. He saw me as the source.

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?…. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

Acts 3:12, 16

As Jesse’s book explains, God uses us ordinary people to do extraordinary miracles through. But we must remember that the people God uses us to help have to eventually get up, walk with Jesus,  get their feet wet, and allow Him to transform them.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

John 5:8

 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for giving us everything we need to walk in victory. Transform us and fill us with Your Holy Spirit. Empower us to do Your Will. Help us to know when we are stepping in front of You trying to fix people’s problems for them. Help us to step back and direct them to You.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen!

 

*My newest devotional “Armor of Light: A 7 – Week Devotional on Ephesians 6:10-18” will be FREE  (ebook version only) on Amazon from Tues. to Wed. (6/11-6/12).


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