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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