Monday’s Blog: Paul Series “1 Corinthians 12”

We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with 1 Corinthians 12.

Paul begins talking about the different Spiritual gifts God bestows upon His children.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

v. 1-11 (NASB)

God has given us different gifts by the same Spirit to accomplish His will. We have been entrusted with a special treasure that is not to be hidden, as Jesus explained in Matthew 25 with the parable of the talents:

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.

…“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.

I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

…Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.

Matthew 25:14-19; 24-25; 28-29 (NLT)

God is helping me use the gifts He’s given me, but I often question if the gifts are making a difference. Do you feel the same? Do you often feel like your gifts are not really needed? Paul encourages us with the answer in the following verses:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

v. 12-27 (NASB)

Every gift is needed, and every believer is valuable to the body as a whole. Those who are regarded as less honorable are given more honor to remind us that we need one another and we need to walk in unity.

Paul closes explaining the order of authority God’s set in place and encourages us to desire the greater gifts.

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

And I show you a still more excellent way.

v. 28-31 (NASB)

The Greek word translated “gifts” is “charisma” which means: “a gift of grace, a free gift.” We are to earnestly desire God’s grace to be greater in us as a testimony to lead others to salvation. God testifies of His salvation through His grace displayed in us.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV)

 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You that we are each precious and valuable to You. Every gift You’ve given us is important and needed to accomplish Your will. Help us to walk in unity by remembering that we are all part of the same body and we need one another. We pray that Your grace would be multiplied unto us through the knowledge of You and Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2).

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

 

 

*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 13.


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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

 

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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: “Love’s Blind Spot” by Kerry Johnson

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This is the fifth message in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” Follow this link if you missed any messages in this series. Today, I have another inspiring guest marriage post by Kerry Johnson about covering our spouse’s blind spots with love. Kerry recently published her first book titled “Grace for the Gaps: Rejoicing in Jesus on Life’s Journey.” In her book, Kerry shares how God’s grace covers our failings in our lives, in our marriages, and in our parenting. She shares how His word is truly a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. If you purchase Kerry’s book, and live in the U.S., let me know in the comment section below and you will receive 3 entries into my drawing of 1 of 2 $50 Brinker Restaurant gift cards and my marriage book “You Can Have a Happy Family.”

 

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Love’s Blind Spot

By Kerry Johnson

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, ESV).

We were a few miles over the Florida-Georgia border when I looked up from my book and noticed the tight formation of cars and semi-trucks around us.  I slammed my eyes shut, and my chest tightened as though a heavy boulder had begun pressing on my diaphragm.

Being in another car’s blind spot on I-75 is troubling for me because I’ve seen the results that a couple seconds of blindness can cause.  It can be deadly and can affect nearby drivers and cars.  So driving in a semi’s blind spot for a long period of time is nearly unbearable for me.  The weight on my chest seemed to increase as a small herd of 18-wheelers surrounded us.  One kept pace directly on our right—so close I could reach out and touch it.  Another truck was out ahead of us, and still a third semi took up the far right lane. Like puzzle pieces, cars fit the spaces in between.

I squinted, my gaze sliding to the right, hoping the gigantic truck next to us had magically disappeared.  Not so.  The reach-out-and-touch-me-truck was still right next door, a flag tattoo visible on the driver’s left arm as it rested on the steering wheel.

Inside our Expedition, I felt like a Terrier cornered by a Rottweiler, stuck against a fence with no chance of escape.  My hand crept to my husband’s forearm and gripped, spider-like tension radiating through me.  He didn’t need the reminder.  I knew he knew my fear.  I glanced at my husband’s profile, knowing well the map of his face and every nuance of expression.  I took in a deep breath after seeing the determination in his expression.

Even though Trevor didn’t feel the same (driving next to an 18-wheeler’s blind spot doesn’t faze him), he was aware of the panic blooming inside me.  A swell of appreciation washed over me—gratefulness for marriage, which God ordained for our wellbeing.

Marriage – the covenant between a man and a woman, husband and wife, between two very different people sharing a common bond of affection and faithfulness.  Marriage is intended for the creation and protection of the family and the generational passing of faith, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s faithful love for the Church.

Trevor knew my deep-seated fear, and though he didn’t share it, he cared enough to acknowledge what I was going through and work to alleviate the situation.  My sensitive husband watched traffic carefully until he found a way out.  He sped up just enough to get us ahead of the 18-wheeler so we would no longer be boxed in.  I let out a deep sigh of gratitude.

This is what You intended, Lord.  This is 1 Corinthians 13, a love that’s kind, puts another first, and isn’t resentful when doing so.  In marriage, God calls us to cover our spouse’s blind spots with love.  Criticizing is easy and selfish.  Even though loving through insecurities and mistakes is tough and selfless, it can be done through Jesus’ help.  John 3:30 (NKJV) is a verse I pray often because on my own, I fail miserably:

“[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I’m still learning to listen, respect, and defer, while Trevor has learned to understand, share, and protect.  Most importantly, we have both learned that Jesus must be the heart of our marriage.  There are times when vast differences in marriage frustrate and seem insurmountable, but it’s in those times that we have to stretch ourselves in love, trusting our Savior to be our all in all while learning to give our spouse the grace God gives us.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another” John 4:11 (NKJV).

kerry2Kerry 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/.

 

 

*Don’t forget to leave a comment below to receive an entry in my gift card and book drawing (U.S. residents only). Remember to let me know in your comment if you purchased Kerry’s book to receive 3 entries. Winners will be announced this weekend (July 20th & 21st).

 


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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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Monday’s Blog: Sin Series “Pride”

This is the fourth message in my series on the bondage of sin that is weighing down the body of Christ today. Last week, I talked about tolerating sin by allowing the world to be our teachers instead of Jesus.

James 4:4-10 warns:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

The world is full of pride. It cannot submit to God’s authority. When we fall into pride we also can’t submit to His authority. The verse above exhorts: “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” To be double-minded means we believe in God but then we doubt His wisdom and authority.

James 1:5-8 explains:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. 

The reason we fall into doubt is because we submit too often to our carnal mind. Our carnal mind is defiled with unbelief. When we submit to it, it leads us in opposition to God’s will.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 8:7, KJV

Our Spiritual mind is purified in Christ. When we submit to it, it leads us into God’s will.

For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:16, KJV

How many times do we seek God for His will on a matter, but then our minds start rolling through our own ideas of how to handle it?  If we don’t cast down those carnal thoughts, and submit our minds to trust God’s authority, we will walk in opposition to His will.

I had a situation come up recently. I went to God with the matter, and I felt Him speak to me in my Spirit that I was to leave it in His hands and do nothing. Whenever God tells me to do nothing about something, I know right away it’s going to be a challenge for me. After submitting the situation to God, while waiting on Him to move, my mind continued to think about what I could do to help. Instead of casting down those thoughts, and praising God for coming to my defense and handling it, I submitted to my carnal mind and took the matter into my own hands. By the evening, the situation had spiraled into a huge mess. God humbled me and showed me how much grief could’ve been avoided had I listened to Him in the first place.

To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.

Proverbs 8:13-14

God has all the understanding and power. We don’t. So why would we not want to seek and accept His wisdom and His authority over our own? When the church operates in its own wisdom, it operates in opposition to God. God opposes the proud. Pride is what led to Satan’s destruction. Satan knows if he can tempt us to submit to our carnal mind, he can lead us to follow him to his destruction. I read a message recently that said “Satan promotes pride; it makes you like him (misery loves company).”

God gives grace (power, strength and wisdom) to the humble. If we want to see change in the church we must humble ourselves before God. We as a body must be in unity of the spirit by each of us doing our part and operating in the mind of Christ. In everything we should seek and accept God’s wisdom over our own.

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Romans 12:16, KJV

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 1:10

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Philippians 1:27, NASB

Fulfill you my joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Philippians 2:2, KJV

I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

Philippians 4:2, KJV

Finally, be all of one mind, having compassion one with another, love as brethren, be tender hearted, be courteous:

1 Peter 3:8, KJV

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for giving us the mind of Christ that we may know You and understanding Your will. As these verses above clearly show us, it is Your will that we operate in the mind of the Spirit. Help us keep our thoughts on You and cast down everything that is in opposition to Your will. We humble ourselves before You, and lay down our wisdom in exchange for Your wisdom, Your power, and Your authority. In Jesus name, we submit to You. Amen!

 

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*Come back next Monday as the “Sin Series” continues.

*All Bible verses are taken from the NIV, unless otherwise noted.

*If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Savior, please click on the “SALVATION” tab at the top of the website. Don’t wait another day!

 

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Monday’s Blog: Sin Series “Slandering The Church”

Last week, I started this series on the bondage of sin that is weighing down the body of Christ today. I want to clarify that this series is not meant to criticize or condemn the body of Christ. The Lord is leading me to warn and inform of the dangers of sin, and open the door for His Holy Spirit to convict where necessary. Condemnation is from the devil to pull us deeper into sin. Conviction is from God to turn us to Him so He can lift us out of sin.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

Revelation 3:19

This week, I want to focus on slander. There is so much slander going on in the church today, particularly toward our own brothers and sisters in Christ.  Have you noticed whenever a well-known preacher messes us, we are the first ones in line to throw a stone at them?

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

God humbled me once when I joined in on an online discussion to criticize a famous preacher for saying something unbiblical on National television. God humbled me by directing me to King David when Saul was pursuing to kill him. Even though Saul was clearly not obedient to God, David wouldn’t lift his hand or mouth against him because he was God’s anointed.

He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul …

1 Samuel 24:6-7

God has the power to bring down the disobedient. Our criticism doesn’t humble them. God has to humble them.

But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

Psalm 75:7

I was once introduced to a woman who ran an online ministry. Shortly after following her ministry, it became apparent that her focus was to hatefully slander the body of Christ. During one of her hateful remarks toward the church, I felt led to humbly confront her. She responded harshly that she was called to rebuke the church and criticized me for not doing the same.

Criticism is not one of the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, 2 Timothy 2:16 warns us to “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (KJV).

My husband and I once left our church that we had belonged to since we started following Christ twelve years ago. We left because of the slander we heard from others toward several in leadership positions. After years of hearing about the ungodliness and worldliness in our church, it started to embitter our hearts.

We were gone for almost two years and then God called us to humbly return. During our time away, God worked in our hearts and helped us focus on the sin in our lives. As God was purifying my heart, I began to feel sympathy and love for my church. Once God removed the plank in my eyes, I was able to see how much the Lord was working in my church, and that many were obedient to God and filled with the Spirit, especially our Pastor. As I allowed God to work in me, I was able to sincerely love and help my brothers and sisters who were in bondage to sin, instead of feeling bitter toward them and abandoning them.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 1:22

As we continue to allow God to purify our hearts, and remove the sin in our lives, we can see clearly to help our brothers and sisters who are caught in sin. Criticizing and abandoning our brothers and sisters only causes more division in the body of Christ and pushes the world further away from Christ. Change in the body of Christ starts with you and me. We are responsible to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so that He can work through us to bring unity and restoration in the church.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

Heavenly Father,

We praise You that You do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10). Your compassions never fail. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Help us to have the same compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are deceived and caught in Satan’s trap of sin. Cleanse our hearts and mouths so that we can speak Your truth in love to help set Satan’s captives free (2 Timothy 2:25-26). In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman.

Proverbs 15:1-3

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Kerry Johnson is sharing on her blog today Chapter Seven: Love Is Not Self-Seeking from my book “The LOVE Walk.” Follow this link to read it.

*Come back next Monday as the “Sin Series” continues.

*All Bible verses are taken from the NIV, unless otherwise noted.

*If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Savior, please click on the “SALVATION” tab at the top of the website. Don’t wait another day!

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