Grace Received

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. (Romans 5:1-2 NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT).

Through our faith in Christ, God saved us by His grace, even while we were lost in sin. And that only happened because of His rich mercy and great love for us.

Grace, defined as a place of undeserved privilege and unmerited favor that is not motivated by anything other than the devotion of a loving God, was made available to mankind through our acceptance and faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  Through receipt of God’s grace, we have peace with God and restoration of relationship with Him, thus making us beneficiaries of His operational power (another definition of grace).  

By faith we are brought into relationship with God, devoid of works on our part.  We have been spiritually born again into the family of God and Jesus Christ. Now that we are in the family, we have relationship or a bond with God. When we think of our human family, we are related by birth; but there may be no other basis of affiliation.  Some people are separated from their parents at birth and know little or nothing about the character or personality of their birth parents.  In these cases of family alienation, what’s missing is fellowship.  God, in His wisdom and love, desires and has made provision for us, to have fellowship with Him.  The only catch is that we must choose to have fellowship with God through Jesus. It is our choice to be made after becoming a part of the family by spiritual birth.

After receiving grace as a free gift from God, the desired response God is looking for from us is to return His love through pursuing fellowship, friendship, companionship, and solidarity.  Fellowship with God requires us to be followers of Jesus Christ and also to imitate Him in demonstrating love to mankind.  The better we know the character and personality of God, which was personified in the life of Christ, the more enhanced our fellowship with God will be.  For example, think about your natural father telling you that all you have to do is come by the house and he will give you a gift.  Some people may respond, “ I want nothing to do with my father.” Despite that declaration, you are still his child by relationship of birth.  The only thing preventing you from enjoying the full benefit of relationship is your lack of desire for fellowship.

God not only wants to rescue you from the destructive effects of sin through a new-birth experience, He wants to lavish and enhance your life by sharing every moment and activity of your existence through fellowship.  Don’t run from God as a fearful father, but run to Him and embrace the love, peace, joy, and fulfillment He desires to give.   Grace received requires the love that spawned it to be shared.  Scripture tells us that God so loved us that He gave Christ that we might have life.  Understand and receive the freedom of knowing our faith in Christ has saved us, not our good works.  Then return God’s love by asking Him to help you to confidently and joyfully follow and imitate Jesus daily. God is waiting on you to come home. (Adrian)

Givers Need Takers

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

The other day I was thinking about the whole concept of giving and taking. I thought it was interesting how we tend to criticize takers, but the truth is that without takers, givers wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. If we try to give but no one is taking what we give, our giving is fruitless.

We typically reflect on takers in a negative way. They take but never give. I guess we would see them in a better light if we describe them as receivers.

I considered how God was so willing to give His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. But what if no one ever actually received His gift? Obviously, the consequence would be that we’d all wind up in Hell, totally condemned for our sins. Perish the thought!

Have you noticed how much easier it is to love someone who loves you in return? Of course, you have; it’s what we expect. Unfortunately, there are times when our acts of love and kindness are not reciprocated. Now what?

The solution to this dilemma is really quite simple when we look at God’s Word. Romans 5:8 tells us: This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other (NLT). This is what loving unconditionally is all about. The definition of agape, the God-kind of love, is the act of deliberately giving oneself to meet the needs of another person. This is the kind of love this passage of scripture is speaking of. In other words, it doesn’t matter so much what your spouse, or anyone else, does or doesn’t do, you must still choose to love. There are definitely risks involved. And this is where we need those takers or receivers to feel validated.

Here’s the thing, though. The risk we take when we choose to love unconditionally is rejection. God took that risk when, while we were still in our sin, Jesus died for us. Being the omniscient One He is, He knew that many would reject His love. That, however, did not stop Him. He was still willing to take the risk.

Remember, God didn’t wait until we were perfect before He gave us His greatest sacrifice. He loved us as though we already were! As challenging as that sounds, He wants us to do the same. Trust me, this cannot be done in our own human power; it requires the power of God.

When we choose to do things God’s way and love unconditionally, He blesses our obedience. Scripture teaches us that to know God is to love Him, and to love God is to obey Him.

Let’s not shy away from giving that love. Even if we don’t receive a visible return immediately, let’s  still be willing to obey God. Who knows? Your demonstration of love may turn those receivers into givers, themselves.

So, to all those takers out there, this is an opportunity to take and not be criticized. Givers need takers.  And to all those givers out there, remember it is more blessed to give than to receive according to Acts 20:35.  (Pam)

Forgiveness Is a Choice

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

Through decades of life and experience, I have had many opportunities to be forgiven and to face the challenge of forgiving others. It still amazes me when talking to people about the need to forgive and move on, how difficult it seems for many to actually forgive even with knowing this is God’s desire for them. In today’s scripture, we are instructed to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another. I can hear some of you saying,  “I wish it were just that simple.” But it can be when we understand the context of the directive to be God’s representative in the earth.

When we can realize that anything God asks us to do is only possible with His help and empowerment, this should inspire us to move forward. God has promised to never leave us alone or forsake or abandon us. All God ever requires of us is to make a choice to obey and pursue His will for our lives.  To believe that forgiveness is accomplished as act of our will by choosing to forgive the offending party is to activate the power of God on our behalf.  We must realize that forgiveness, (or anything else God desires for us to do) is not emotion based, but choice centered. Many of us wait around until we feel like we can forgive, and the truth is that the only thing that may take time or be a process is for our feeling to be healed.

Forgiveness should be done immediately, by choice, because God asks to and because He made provision for us to be forgiven immediately through our accepting Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. Because we are forgiven, God can, and has, empowered us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving as we allow Him to heal the hurts.  

God does not ask us to forget what has happened, but does ask us to erase the debt owed from our life’s ledger. What I mean is that when you see the person who has hurt you, you must remember that you have made a choice to forgive them and no longer seek retribution or punitive damages from them.  We attach no strings, stigma, or conditions that will affect our behavior of kindness toward that individual. With God’s help, you must remember how God has forgiven you and can enable you to move forward without bitterness, strife or resentment.

Your ability to choose to forgive immediately – that  is to obey God – will release you to experience the promises of God’s peace and support. Even if the person is a repeat offender, forgiving and releasing the debt will allow you heal and move forward knowing God is at work in you and working through you as a follower of Christ. (Adrian)

Would You Marry You?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.(Genesis 2:24, NKJV)

We do a lot of marriage coaching as well as premarital coaching. What’s nice about premarital coaching is that we can, many times, catch some issues before the wedding that might crop up later in the relationship. Sometimes, we’re able to reveal any red flags that could potentially cause a great deal of harm if not dealt with in our sessions.

All too often, people decide they want to be married without considering what would make themselves good spouses. They, instead, only think of what they will personally get from the marriage. So, one of the questions we like to ask is, “Why should someone want to marry you?” and the follow-up question, “Would you marry you?” We get a variety of responses, but most of them boil down to, “Because I’m a nice person and I have a lot of love to give?” They don’t understand that it takes a great deal more than that.

The two questions I posed above are especially pertinent to single people who really want to get married, but do not have a partner yet. I mean, seriously, would you marry you? Why is that question important? It’s because most people don’t ever really take an honest assessment of themselves to see if they are, indeed, fit for marriage.

Here are a list of questions you might ask yourself if you want to determine how ready for marriage you really are:

  1. Am I willing to put my spouse ahead of myself? Are you willing to lay aside your desires to meet the need of your mate?
  2. Would I rather serve or be served? Do you like being catered to or can you see that catering to someone else can be quite gratifying?
  3. How well do I handle conflict? When you look back over relationships of the past, how did you handle disputes? How did you handle your break-up? Is it important for you to have the final word?
  4. Can I be counted on to follow through with promises? Are you a person of integrity. Are your words and actions congruent?
  5. What did I learn from watching my parents that I want or don’t want in my marriage? Did your parents expose you to a culture of squabbling over minute issues? Was there an atmosphere of peace or turbulence? Were your parents close or dismissive of one another?
  6. Am I willing to compromise in some areas? In our book, Marriage is Not for the Faint of Heart, we point out that in order to be successful in married life, you must be willing to adjust your ways in order to attain harmony in the relationship. If you are not, it’s better to remain unmarried, otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
  7. Is getting my way the most important thing? Do you relish the feeling of accomplishment when you get what you want? How willing are you to let go of some of your wants to create an “us” partnership?
  8. Is my independence the most important thing to me? Are you willing to be interdependent with your mate? Do you have an “I can do it by myself” kind of attitude?
  9. Is divorce an absolute “NO” for me?
  10. Have my friends or family members told me that my ideals, expectations and standards are too lofty for anyone to attain? Are they right?

These questions indicate what it takes to be marriage ready. Your honest answers to these questions can determine how equipped you really are. Understand that these are not meant to cause you any kind of condemnation. Instead, they’re intended to help you to think long and hard before making what should be a life-long decision.

Be willing to do what you need to do to prepare yourself for the blessing that God intended marriage to be. He is the author of marriage, and His word can help you get ready. Through your relationship with Him, you can be successful in many areas. Why not give Him the opportunity to assist you in this huge pursuit. It’s also a good idea to begin praying for you future spouse. Pray that he or she will be as prepared as you.

The question remains: Would you marry you? I hope you can say, “Of course!” If not, do the necessary work to be able to. (Pam)

The Price of Peace

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

In this declaration regarding our peace, the “You” referred to here, of course, is God Almighty. It’s saying that the God of the universe will keep all who trust in Him in perfect peace. The word keep here means to guard, maintain, protect, fulfill, and be faithful to the provision of peace in your life. Ephesians 2:14 tells us that Jesus is our peace and reminds us that peace is a person and not place or state of mind.

This scripture emphasizes that the price or condition of exchange for this peace is twofold. First, we are required to trust in God and His provision. God’s greatest gift to humanity is Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. The challenge is to trust and have faith that Jesus is indeed the personification of God’s loving provision for our need for redemption, peace, and reconciliation with Him. The second requirement stated is for us to focus or fix our thoughts on God.

Therefore by trusting in and keeping our thoughts directed toward God, He has pronounced that He will guard our peace. Keeping our mind on God requires us to remember Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) which says, No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For those who have received Jesus as Savior, there is nothing that can separate from God’s love.

God gives us further cause for confidence and focus for our thoughts in Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) that says, Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”  Here we have a promise of devotion and faithfulness from God to us that should promote assurance and peace.

So, if we can have faith in the promises and intentions of God and maintain our thoughts, focused on His commitment to us, we can have peace that is provided and protected by God. (Adrian)

Every Day Choices: Speaking Life to Your Mate

Death and life are in power of the tongue, and they who indulge it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life] (Proverbs 18:21 Amplified Bible).

One our favorite activities on Sunday morning, besides going to church, is to watch the episode of CBS Sunday Morning we record on our DVR. After arriving home from church, I will, typically, make a light breakfast of tea and toast or something similar. As we sit down to eat, we cue up our favorite news show.

Every episode includes a number of very interesting stories from serious to humorous to  celebratory. Last Sunday’s episode included a piece on the famous screenwriter and film director, Quentin Tarantino. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I am a fan of Mr. Tarantino, but the conversation with him was rather interesting. He talked about getting married in 2018. Nothing particularly curious about that except for the fact that he was in his late 50’s and this was his first marriage. Up until that time, he was seriously married to his work, and that was all he wanted to focus on. When the interviewer asked him what happened that caused him to finally marry. He responded, “I met Daniella!”

Those words really struck me because I could tell he was deeply in love and that this woman changed his life. He also swooned about their new son, Leo. I felt very happy for him but also a little sad. Love can truly change a person’s life forever; but without an everyday choice to cultivate that love, it can eventually turn dull and lifeless. I wondered how willing Mr. Tarantino and/or his wife were willing to do that. We have seen, too many times, love turn to hatred because the couples were not willing to saturate their relationship with everyday choices that breathe life into it.

When couples engage in disagreements, they can very easily allow themselves to get caught up in their emotions and let all manner of unkind words fly from their mouths.  These are words of death.  Death is speaking out of your flesh- your hurt, anger and pain.

It’s unfortunate, but many experts now say that they can determine how long a marriage will last simply by listening to how a couple speaks to each other during an argument.  If their words are cutting and deliberately hurtful, it is said that most likely that marriage won’t last long.  If, however, words are carefully chosen in order to soften a blow; or if they are attacking the problem instead of each other, that marriage has a better chance of success.  If you find yourselves practicing the former, the warning flags should be waving fiercely.  Take the warning seriously, but don’t allow it to seal your fate.  You can do something about it.  Instead of speaking death, speak life.

     Speaking life is: Listening (to your mate and the Holy Spirit) before you speak, sharing the truth in love, repenting quickly, forgiving even before your mate repents, and saying only what the Father tells you to say.1

One of best ways to get out of the bad habit of using death-filled words during a dispute is to make a new daily habit of blessing your spouse.  Do you know that you can lay hands on your spouse and speak a blessing over him or her?  Pray a blessing for prosperity, health, wholeness and intimacy with God.  Pray for God’s Spirit to anoint your spouse with power, wisdom and favor at home and work. Make an effort to affirm your mate’s strengths, character and actions on a daily basis.   

Blessing speaks God’s shalom over a person.  Shalom means more than peace; it connotes well-being, wholeness, health and prosperity. 2 You can begin this by laying hands on your spouse’s head and praying Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (NIV)

When you make it a daily habit to bless your mate and speak life to him/her, I promise you will be less likely to desire to speak another word of death to each other, and it will strengthen your relationship beyond your imagination. Let that blessing be the oil of gladness poured over your mate, daily. (Pam)

1 &2.  Dr. Larry and Judi Keefauver, Seventy-seven Irrefutable truths of Marriage (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)

Love’s Work

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18 NJKV)

This is one of my favorite scriptures that has inspired me to trust and stand, so many times, in faith toward God’s promised devotion to His family. The love that I’m are talking about here is God’s love for those who have dared to receive Christ as their personal Savior. It was His love that allowed Jesus to come and be our personal sacrifice for sins we could not atone for ourselves. 1 John 4:19 expresses that “We love Him because He first loved us”. The love that is perfect is God’s love for us and not our perfect performance because we all know none of us is perfect. Fortunately, God, in His love, has promised to help us do the things He desires us to do such as love Him and our fellow human beings.

When we begin to understand just how much God loves us with a perfect love, we find that it expels, cast out, and drives out fear. Fear involves torment and thoughts of punishment, which is the enemy of faith. If we have fear of God’s intentions, it is because we have not been made complete in His love. We must allow love to work for us by banishing fear and promoting faith in God. This is love’s work. Faith (that is, faith in God’s Word) is what releases God’s power and strength in our lives.

When we face situations that tend to promote fear, we must remember God’s committed love and declared devotion to His children. The very thought of the level and quality of His love should inspire confidence, not in ourselves but the God who loved us first and promised to stand with us and never forsake us. Fear, in the face of understood and received love, must retreat. In the absence of fear, faith will grow as we pursue a knowledge and loving understanding of God’s commitment to us through His Word.

Why is this one of my favorite scriptures? Because I make mistakes, missteps, errors, and outright sinful decisions; but when I remember I am loved and can ask God to first forgive me and then, through faith in Him, help me to live victoriously obedient to His will.

Love will keep fear away from us and allow faith to operate, making overcoming power and strength available to us. Ask Him to make you perfect, mature, and complete in His love. (Adrian)

The Sun is Always Shining

The day is Yours, the night is Yours; You have established and prepared the (heavenly) light and the sun. (Psalm 74:16. AMP)

On a particularly gloomy and rainy day, my son, (who was three at the time) and I hopped in the car off to an appointment. As I backed out of the garage into the driveway, my son looked up at the sky and asked, “Mommy, where’s the sun?” I quickly responded, “Oh, the sun’s behind the clouds, Baby.” His follow-up question was, “Why does the sun go behind the clouds?” While trying to develop an explanation I thought would be understandable for a three-year-old, my son came up with his own clever answer. “I know. The sun goes behind the clouds so it won’t get wet.” I thought to myself, “Brilliant!”

Although the sun may not actually go behind the clouds so it won’t get wet, it is back there, still shining as brightly as it ever has. Even on our gloomiest day, physically or emotionally, the sun is still shining; but not only is that  hot sphere of glowing gases we call the s-u-n  still shining radiantly, so is our Savior, God’s S-O-N.

Our lives are made up of so many ups and downs, and sometimes it so easy to allow ourselves to sink into depression during those down times because we feel hopeless. It takes a great amount of faith to recognize that Jesus, who is our very present help in times of need, is right there with us to lift up our hung-down heads, to raise us back to joy. The Son is always shining. We must remember not to forget Hebrews 4:16, So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (NLT). It’s also important to remember that we can come out of our gloominess with this Scripture in mind,  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

One of our dearest friends lost his battle with cancer, recently. One of the most remarkable things about his passing was his wife’s attitude before, during and after the funeral. All the possible sadness that could accompany such an event, was surpassed by the joy she felt, knowing where he was and the cessation of pain he was now experiencing. Of course, she misses him terribly but has been able to keep her eyes on the Son, whom she knows has her back.

There is coming a day when there will be no need for the sun: And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light (Rev. 12:23, NLT). Until that day comes, while here on earth, we can be comforted by the fact that the sun and the Son is always shining for us.

Embrace His Presence, Part 2

This is a repost from our Marriage Adventures Blog

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:1-4 NLT).

In Hebrews 13:5-6 God promises to never leave or forsake us.  What many of us fail to understand is that the presence of God is an expression of His love for us.  This verse goes on to say that the reason for His faithfulness is that he desires for us to be able to boldly declare, “God is my helper”.  Until we can truly comprehend the depth of God’s love for us as an individual, it is difficult to joyfully accept the longing God has for involvement in our lives. 

We have coached many people over the years and found some to believe that their marriage, home, and family were areas of their personal domain.  The thought was that these are areas free from the intervention of God or that they were on their own in a trial adventure.  Many of us are willing to allow God access when trouble, illness, or rescue is needed but still demand the control back once delivered.  It needs to be understood that God’s promised love takes the form of being ever present, involved, caringly attentive, and eternally desirous of a loving relationship with you.

God’s presence reaches, covers, manifest and dominates any and everywhere we are or are not.  The only condition for full enjoyment of this love gift is for us to accept and embrace God, the Giver.  Acknowledge and ask God through Christ to be involved in every aspect of your life.  Exclude Him from no activity, thought, or area of your existence.  Invite Him to be the true Lord of your life and then expand His lordship to your marriage, home, and family.  Understand that because of God’s love for you, you want Him involved and influencing every aspect of you and your marriage.

Realize that God knows everything there is to know about you, and He still loves and desires to have relationship with you.  Even if you thought you could, or still wanted to hide from God, it’s impossible.  Grasp hold of God’s loving presence and allow Him to work in you, on you, and through you to become personally blessed and be a blessing to your family.  Realize that there is nothing in this life that God has assigned you to handle without Him.  As promised, God is ever present; but when we focus our attention on Him we become conscious of His preexisting, loving attendance.  In order to please God, we must believe that He is, and that He desires to reward us for our faith in Him. (Adrian)

Embrace His Presence

This is a repost from our Marriage Adventures Blog

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here (Exodus 33:14-15 NKJV)

Moses had been given direction and purpose as the leader of the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land.  Moses, in a conversation with God, was promised that the presence of God would go with him.  Not only did God assure Moses of His presence but He reiterated that rest would be given to the Israelites in the process.  Moses’ response was to request from God that, “If you don’t accompany us, then don’t move us.”  Moses appreciated and acknowledged the importance of the involvement and presence of God in accomplishing the God-given assignment.

Marriage is an institution that was established and is still sanctioned by God.  A truly successful marital relationship must embrace the necessity for God’s presence and involvement.  Just as Moses asked God to go with them, we must do the same for our marriages.

To embrace the need for God’s intervention is to recognize that the designed purpose for marriage was to provide help in life, pursuing pleasing Him.  God wants to reveal His love and nurturing character within the marriage relationship.  This will require the assistance of God to enable us to successfully demonstrate and share the love we received from Him.  God is always giving us examples of love in action because He knows we cannot share or give what we have not received.  Therefore, in order to execute God’s plan of unconditional redemptive love, He must be at the center of our life experience.

The more you involve God, the more you begin to understand that He desires and loves to be invited into every aspect of your life.  Marriage is an experience that is no exception. You will find that marriage is not a take home test where you are on your own.  God has promised to always be there.  Trust Him to be faithful to you and His Word.

Reminder: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV) (Adrian)