Choose to Appreciate

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time.  (Proverbs 15:23, NLT)

In today’s woke, get real world, so many people seem to specialize in the communication style of criticism.  In a supposed attempt to be real and possibly truthful, people are choosing to make negative, hurtful observations and declarations. Making these types of choices can be destructive and offensive to relationships and interactions of all varieties and communications.  Truth should always be welcomed in any type of communication but cruel, insensitive criticism must be avoided especially within our marriages.

The word appreciate is defined as 1)to be fully aware of the value, importance, or magnitude of, 2) to esteem adequately or highly, 3) to show gratitude for, and 4) to increase the price or value of. The scripture quoted above says that everyone enjoys a fitting or proper reply. The expression of appreciation toward our spouses and family should be chosen as the appropriate form of communication to make our loved ones understand just how much they are valued and esteemed. It is so important to say the right thing at the right time.

I am a great believer in saying what sometimes may seem obvious to us but hidden from those around us. The vocalizing of the fact that we love our mates and family members and value their contribution to our life is a welcome exchange of information that brings joy and warmth to the hearer.  It also is great for us to hear it coming from our mouths, the true valuation of our loved ones. This helps us to remember that we don’t want to use our words to hurt or inflict wounds that may take years to heal.

There are times that unpleasant topics or experiences need to be discussed; but even when spoken, the truth must always be shared in love. There is always something that we can value, and we can make others aware of their importance from our perspective. Then if negative information is discussed, you will have established a foundation of true appreciation and love beforehand.

We can ask God to help us to express our appreciation and gratitude regularly, creating an environment of love, support, and understanding. This will allow us to experience the wonder and joy of saying the right thing at the right time.  Learn to speak many truthful good words to those in your sphere of influence, but especially to the person God has chosen to be your life partner.        

The Battle of the Sexes

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NLT)

Did you know that the first battle of the sexes began in the Garden of Eden?

Eve convinced Adam to partake of the fruit in the garden they were not supposed to touch. Why do you think the serpent saw Eve as an easy mark? Being a woman, myself, here’s my theory: Women tend to make decisions, many times, from an emotional standpoint first. Logic typically follows later. Of course, this is a generalization, so you may be the exception.  Satan was able to appeal to her emotional side by pointing out how nice the fruit looked and helping her to imagine how good it will taste and how it will make her feel. Because men tend to see things more logically first (again, a generalization), Satan would have had a harder time tempting Adam. I think he (Adam) would have reminded Satan of what God specifically said to him and more easily resisted.

Satan was very deliberate in choosing Eve to put his plan into motion because he knew that if he could persuade her to eat the fruit, she would be more influential to Adam. It was at that point, I believe, that it was established how powerful a woman’s influence was.

Eve won the battle of the sexes but ultimately lost. Her decision caused Adam to sin and thus caused mankind to lose close fellowship with God. The result of that costly sin was a curse that God placed on their lives: “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’ And to the man he said, ‘Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it (Gen. 3:16-17, NLT)’” At this point, God banishes them from the Garden.

Perhaps, this gives us some understanding of why men and women are always in a battle to see who will take the lead in a relationship. It’s because of the curse. But here’s the good news! If you are born again, you are no longer under the curse. We have been redeemed from the curse (Gal. 3:13), so we have the grace and ability to receive strength to resist the temptation to battle over dominion. As husband and wife, we can live in harmony with each other and experience the blessings of obedience to God’s word instead of the curse of disobedience.

God’s best is that we live a life of peace, free from strife, walking in Jesus’ promise of abundant life. However, though being redeemed from the curse and because we still live in this flesh, we will need to make a daily decision to walk in that freedom and continue to stand against the wiles of the Enemy. The dominion both husband and wife should want to seek is God’s Kingdom dominion. He is the true Ruler!

(A side note: It has never been determined what the actual fruit was on that tree, but most people choose the apple for some reason.)

Listen to Understand Part 2

Those who answer before they listen are foolish and disgraceful.(Proverbs 18:13, CEB)

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. (Galatians 6:2-3, NLT)

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31, NLT)

How many times have I assumed that I know what is going on inside my wife or another person based on my observations?  Too many to count. We must remember that the presenting problem, challenge, or issue is rarely the real difficulty.

We must make it a habit to never assume anything, but, instead, ask our mates to explain the concern before attempting to fix, resolve, or rescue.  Proverbs 18:13 indicates that it is foolish and disgraceful to answer before first listening for understanding. It’s always important to ask clarifying questions about statements heard to allow for the greatest opportunity for a true exchange of information. Rather than just exchange words that are partially received, it is far better to make understanding your goal and priority in having these discussions.

Galatians 6:2-3 instructs us to share each other’s burdens as a means of obeying the law of Christ. This law is defined in Mark 12:30-31 as allowing the love of God to be demonstrated in loving your neighbor as yourself.  I think it is very important that we make our spouses our closest neighbor and second priority for love only to God Himself.  These scriptures make it plain that if we feel that we are too important to help someone else, we are fooling ourselves.  The implication is that no one is too important not to provide help and assistance to those in need.  Providing assistance or help requires understanding the need.

I believe that when we make understanding a priority, we will make loving others a priority also.  When we take time to seek clarity in our daily communication, the people we talk to will begin to believe we care and possibly love them.  In many instances, our mates are not looking for fixes but listening ears and open hearts of empathy and acknowledgment of their importance to you.  Listening to your mate or others will allow you to understand and provide the best response representing your true feelings and desire to express love.  This will require that you also listen to your heart and work to communicate your true self to experience being loved in return.

How’s Your Love Life?

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-39, NKJV)

 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Corinthians 13:13)

As you can probably tell from the verses, I’m not talking about romantic love. With that established, let’s talk about the kind of love it is talking about. You’ve read in many other posts how we describe agape love. This is the kind of love that stands the test of time because it is love that seeks out the best for someone else. According to Alyssa Roat,  co-author of the book, Dear Hero, “it refers to a pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good.”

So, my question was, “How is your love life?” You may be scratching your head at this point, not sure what to say, or you may be declaring that it’s fine. Well, there is a way to determine how you measure up in that department.

Taking a look at 1 Corinthians 13, we can see that there are sixteen traits of love. After reading these, see how close you are to this standard. I believe I could confidently say that most of us will fall short. Here are the sixteen, according to the Christian Standard Bible verses 4-7)

Love:

  1. Is patient (it never gives up)
  2. Is kind (cares more for others than for self)
  3. Does not envy (doesn’t want what it doesn’t have)
  4. Is not boastful (doesn’t strut)
  5. Is not arrogant (doesn’t have a swelled head)
  6. Is not rude (doesn’t force itself on others)
  7. Is not self-seeking (isn’t always “Me first”)
  8. Is not irritable (doesn’t fly off the handle)
  9. Does not keep a record of wrongs (doesn’t keep score of the sin of others)
  10. Finds no joy in unrighteousness (doesn’t revel when others grovel)
  11. Rejoices in the truth (takes pleasure in the flowering of truth)
  12. Bears all things (puts up with anything)
  13. Believes all things (always looks for the best)
  14. Hopes all things (trusts God always)
  15. Endures all things
  16. Never ends (keeps going) [Parenthesis from the Message Bible]

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live the kind of life God requires of us by yourself? I am. Looking at all these characteristics of love could easily make me feel defeated if I thought I had to muster up the strength to accomplish them on my own. I’ve heard this statement a lot over my many years of walking with God, “Lord, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Indeed, we don’t know what we’d do without Him. The good news, though, is that we are not without Him and never will be.

When I assess my behavior towards others, especially my husband, I find that I fall short too many times of God’s ideal of love.  And when I recognize the shortcoming, I always go back to 1 Corinthians 13 to remind myself how I am supposed to be loving them. I always have to ask myself things like, “Did I share that truth in a kind manner? Was I being too sensitive and, therefore, expressing my irritation? Was I being too impatient to listen to their whole side of the story?” You get the picture. God expects us to be imitators of Him, but, again, He doesn’t expect us to do it all on our own. So, how’s your love life? If you find that you’ve fallen short, no condemnation here. Simply do the work that needs to be done to bring correction to yourself. First Corinthians 11:31 tells us that “if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged”. We all have work to do, so let’s

Never Alone

For He Himself (God) has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b NKJV)

You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:5-6 NKJV)

In the times in which we live today that seemingly confront us with challenges and opportunities of every possible category, the promise given by God in Hebrews 13:5 is both comforting and reassuring. To know that Jesus promised, in Matthew 28:20, to be with His disciples always even until the end of the age is confidence building for those who love God and believe He loves them.  Our strength in every situation is to focus on God’s commitment to us to be ever-present and available to us. The more we can concentrate on His promises and devotion to our success in following Christ, the more we can experience the peace, joy, grace, mercy, and love of God. To put this simply or to summarize this thought is to say that God has our backs in every situation of life.   

In Psalms 139:5-6 quoted above, the Psalmist was expressing his belief that God had hedged him in.  The hedge indicates being surrounded, protected, or limited.  Some might even say that he was boxed in.  That’s a place of security. The Psalmist was making this declaration with excitement knowing that the God of the universe was concerned enough about him that He had surrounded and was committed to protecting him.  He goes on to say that the Lord had laid His hand on him allowing for a personal relationship to be developed.  This whole concept and reality of God “having his back” was knowledge too wonderful to fully grasp or comprehend.

I think many today have the same feelings or inability to fully comprehend the level and extent of God’s love and protection for His people.  I believe that when we are able to experience the depth of God’s commitment to us, then we are empowered to share and exercise confidence and security with others.  When we understand what God has done for us through His love, we want to share it.  I want to encourage you to share this knowledge and exhilaration with your spouse and family each day. 

We sometimes are quick to say to one another that we have each other’s back, but can they really feel our hand on their back providing support?  The Psalmist had been through some experiences that made him know that God was present and He cared.  In our marriages, we must make every effort to convey our love and support for each other.  This becomes an assignment and opportunity to express the sense and reality of being committed to the success of our spouse. We can define that success as only being achieved when both of you are pleased and satisfied that your mate is surrounded by your love.  There is no greater feeling of love, security, and contentment than knowing God has your back, but the second best is being secure and assured enough to help your mate experience the commitment of knowing you also have their back, come what may.

Make a commitment to study and get to know God well enough that you have the assurance of Him having your back. In other words, you have the confidence that God is saying to you, “I will protect you. I am here for you. I will defend you. I will support you. I will look after you. I’ll watch over you. I will stand by you”. And then commit to the daily expression and exercise of that same love received from God to your mate and family.   

The Unknown Impact

The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20b, MSG)

Some time ago, we watched a movie, called “The Miracle of the Bells”. I still remember it because it affected me in a surprising way. The story centers around a young woman named Olga who felt destined to play the role of Joan of Arc in a film that was about to be produced. She became terminally ill in the process but refused to slow down until production was finished. As she succumbed to the disease, and finally lay on her death bed, she made this comment, “I did what I was supposed to do.” The result of her death, the release of the movie, and a publicity stunt by her agent/boyfriend all culminated in the people of her town rediscovering their faith in God. The local church that was barely attended by anyone was now filled to capacity Sunday after Sunday.

Olga did what she was supposed to do! She risked her life for the making of that movie, but the eternal impact was powerful. She risked her life but saved countless others. She knew what she was supposed to do, yet she had no idea what the result would be.

Sometimes we feel compelled to accomplish certain tasks for God, and we don’t know why. I’ve realized that we don’t have to know; we just have to be obedient. We have been placed on this earth to make a difference, and we may never know, in this life, what impact our lives have on the plan of God in the lives of others. It does not even have to be something we do out of compulsion but simply a desire to live by God’s Word.

It’s like understanding the concept of the ripple effect. The ripple effect is based on the understanding that we are all connected. The choices we make have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse. I like this quote by Mother Theresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”

Our lives are being monitored by those around us. Knowing that should instill a desire in us to be more mindful of how we live. What kind of example are we setting for others to follow? Will what we do draw others to Christ or repel them? What kind of eternal effect will our lives have? Even the smallest decisions can have a great influence on someone else’s life.

When we are in Christ and truly embrace that our lives are no longer our own, our desire to impact the world for Him will increase. Our desire to obey His Word in all things will be amplified, and we will make an eternal difference in our jobs, our communities, and our homes.

Whatever You Do 0r Say

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17, NLT)

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14,16, NLT)

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. (Colossians 1:10, NLT)

When I think about the goodness of God and the salvation and redemption provided through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, I am overwhelmed with love for Him.  This love motivates me to action and movement or to what some would call service, work, or living for God.  God has made believers as light to a world that is in darkness.  We have been purposed to light up the darkness of the world.  Our good works stream from us to conquer the surrounding world’s absence of light with its ignorance and sinfulness that separate it from God.  The main purpose of our existence is to experience the love of God, and reflect and share its light with mankind around us.

The most exciting aspect of being light-bearers is that we know it is God’s power working in and through us.  We receive true joy in knowing that God’s life flows into us, through us, and out from us to those around us. Each one of us is uniquely made by God and our lives reflect His glory in unique ways as we imitate the life of Christ.  It is so important, as believers, to spend time with God to determine our individual purposes and function as reflectors of His love and bearers of His image.  The fruit that we display should be identifiable as the fruit and character of Christ and, yet, we are allowed to have our unique God-given personality be expressed. 

 When Colossians 3:17 talks about representing the Lord in everything we say and do, we must realize that we are supported and enabled by the Spirit of God working within us.  The more fruit of good works we manifest, the more we learn and experience the goodness and devotion of God directed to us.  It becomes more evident, as we learn more about God’s love for us, that we are never alone if we depend on His indwelling presence.  Let’s decide to accept God’s assignment to be representing lights of good deeds and character that shine in a world of darkness.   

Remember always that it is God’s character working from within you that is observed by the world and not something generated by you.  Be a light bearer.       

At the Cost of My Sanity?

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires (Psalms 37:4, NLT)

Some friends of ours had a few projects they wanted to accomplish; and while discussing them, the wife had much bigger plans than her husband felt able to accommodate due to cost and scope. He gave it all much thought, fretting over it when he finally made this statement to her, “Sweetheart, you know that I want to please you and give you what you want, but should it be at the cost of my sanity?”

In any healthy marriage relationship, each spouse tries to meet the needs of the other. It’s important, however, to keep our needs reasonable and not allow them to become oppressive. Love helps keep us in check. I use to tell people, all the time, that, if I wanted the moon and he could afford it, my husband would try his best to get it for me. Of course, because I love him, I would never request such a ridiculous thing.

What kinds of things are we asking our mates to do? What “needs” do we impose on them that could be construed as unreasonable? Ladies, are we asking our husbands to keep us in a particular lifestyle that the family budget can’t afford? Gentlemen, are you asking your wives to “bring home the bacon” and also “fry it up in the pan”? In other words, are you asking her to work a full-time job and still keep the home clean and in order by herself?

It’s important to distinguish between wants and genuine needs. Everyone’s needs are different, so I can’t specifically define that distinction for you. You have to do that, together, as a couple. One of the special things that happens in a healthy relationship is – because you are both working toward meeting each other’s needs – you will both work towards also trying to provide for some of the wants. Our verse above tells us that as we delight ourselves in God, He gives us the desires of our hearts. I believe, also, that it works that way in a marriage. As we delight in meeting the needs of our mates, they will seek out the desires we have and try to fulfill them.

The best protection of each other’s sanity is by fulfilling the command in Matthew 7:12 from the Message version: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” A simple yet powerful truth to live by.

If we are not diligent about living out God’s Word, we can easily become conformed to our old nature and become very selfish. When one gets married, the whole idea of seeking out your own needs is supposed to vanish because you are now seeking out your partner’s needs. There are, of course, needs in our lives that only God can fulfill like happiness, contentment, and joy, but things like a comfortable, peaceful home, financial security, and the like are things we can give each other without too much stress and strain. However, having unrealistic expectations of each other can destroy a marriage. And we must always remember that what we are not getting from our mate, God is there to make up the difference if we’re willing to call on Him for support and comfort.

Think On These Things

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4: 4-8 NLT)

As we go through life these days, we find ourselves seemingly, constantly confronted with either news of evil conduct or personal experiences that provoke anger, fear, or just disbelief.  It has become harder and harder to find instances of kindness and thoughts that generate peace of mind or heart.  If you are like me, as I view the evening news or read today’s news article on the Internet, it becomes more challenging each day to maintain joy, and peace of heart and mind.  Sooner than later I am reminded of Psalms 119:165 which says, Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble(NLT).  That is when I turn to God’s Word and find instructions such as those quoted above in Philippians 4.

God has promised us peace of mind and heart but has also asked us to do something in response to His commitment to us.  I find myself wandering off into the weeds of life most often when I take my attention or focus from God’s instructions and promised presence.  It is only when I forget to rejoice or have joy in the salvation that was provided through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that joy is misplaced. The Scriptures encourage believers to not be anxious and to pray or communicate to God about everything.  The implication is that there is no need to worry if we run to God instead of away from Him.

Only through rejoicing in the relationship that is ours with God, can we move on to His next instruction to not worry.  When we realize that God has already solved our greatest problem of the forgiveness of our sins are we able to perceive that any and everything else pales in comparison to God’s restoration of mankind to fellowship and family.  This realization will allow you to experience God’s presence and peace.  The peace provided by our relationship of love, through Jesus, will guard our hearts and minds against the attack of Satan who desires to steal from, kill, and destroy mankind.

Finally, we are instructed to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  You may say that these things are many times very difficult to find in our environment.  I believe that rejoicing in the Lord and being ever aware of God’s promised presence makes this task possible and probable.  By focusing on what God has, is, and will do for us, in us, and through us, we can and will experience His peace. Isaiah 26: 3-4 says, You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Rejoice in the Lord; do not worry. Pray and trust God to be faithful to His Word.

Lessons From Children’s Letters to God

So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. (Genesis 6:12-14, NKJV)

In my last blog post, I shared a few excerpts from a book I’ve had for years and enjoy the laughter it provides. The book is called, Children’s Letters to God, compiled by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. Aside from the humor, these letters hold some interesting lessons if God were to answer some of the questions posed.

One child asked, “In Sunday School, they told us what you. Who does it when you’re on vacation?” The answer: “…the one who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever (Psalm 121:3b; 8)” So, if God doesn’t need sleep, He doesn’t get tired. Therefore, He has no need to take a vacation. Aren’t you glad! I remember the movie, Bruce Almighty, where God decides to take a vacation and leaves the main character, Bruce, in charge. He was overwhelmed by the responsibility and realized the only one who can do God’s job is God, Himself. He’s omnipresent, so He can be everywhere at once; He’s omniscient, so He knows everything, and He’s omnipotent, so He is all-powerful. That’s why we can trust Him with our everything. God is there to help us in our times of need, and He has the power to do something about it.

Little Eddie wrote, “God: the bad people laghed (the child’s spelling) at Noah – you make an ark on dry land you fool. But he was smart he stuck with you. That’s what I would do.” How often do we ignore God’s warnings and admonishments from His Word? The Bible tells us in St. John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (NLT).” In this day and age, we are told that being a Christian makes you weak, that it is outdated, and that there are many paths to God. That whole “many paths to God” thing is the one that gets me. It doesn’t make sense to me, logically. Why would God allow His Son to be tortured and nailed to a cross as one of the “many” options to be with Him? It’s like someone has imagined God saying, “I allowed my Son to be crucified so that you can have eternal life; but if that choice doesn’t work for you, I’ve other methods that you might feel better about. So, go ahead and choose something that’s a better fit for you. I just want you to be comfortable.” What nonsense! Jesus, Himself, said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father, but by Me (John 14:6, NKJV).” I’m with Eddie. I will stick with God’s word instead of doing my own thing.

When I reflect on how long Noah waited for God to fulfill His word regarding the flood, I wonder how long I would have stuck it out. It wasn’t like God gave Noah his instructions and in a couple of months, everything was ready to go. No! It was well over a hundred years later. If we’re honest, most of us would have lost faith and given up. But God remained faithful to what He had spoken. Would that we will be as faithful and trust our God. Nehemiah 23:19 clearly tells us that, God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent. Hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (NKJV) There was a popular saying among Believers several years that stated, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” That’s where I stand. How about you?