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?

The Price of Oneness

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 ESV)

When God instituted marriage for mankind, He said that it would require the leaving of father and mother and the holding fast of the man and woman to each other.  The leaving here speaks of establishing a higher priority for the marriage over your parents or any other distraction. This leaving of parents and holding fast between husband and wife would result in them becoming one flesh. The Hebrew word translated as one means to become united or, in some instances, the same.  I believe that God created marriage to be a blessing to mankind that would allow humanity to serve Him better together through marriage than apart.

In following the instruction of holding fast, I do not believe that God wanted us to lose our identity to our spouses but to share in our common desire to glorify God through our lives of services.  Holding fast involves deep and sincere communication that requires open and honest heart sharing. In working together, spouses would come to understand that their identity is defined by dependence and relationship with God and not by dependence on their mates.  God is asking spouses to be interdependent on each other but not independent of or dependent on each other to the diminishing or exclusion of God.

In order to hold fast to one another, we cannot be independent but are called on to work together to accomplish directives with guidance provided by God for our lives.  Our dependence and success are based solely on God as the source of true peace, joy, salvation, and fulfillment.  God’s ideal of oneness involves our interdependence or mutual dependence on each other in our pursuit of a Christ-centered life of oneness. We need God to live, but we also need each other’s help to do our best to stand in faith and obedience to God.

The price of oneness is to spend time becoming intimate with God and discover your assignment for life.  Then to also spend time learning about your spouse’s life purpose and sharing both your assignments with each other.  Dare to believe that God has, and will, utilize your maturing oneness to help accomplish both your life’s goals. Intimacy with your spouse requires time and discipline to share your heart, triumphs, hurts, fears, dreams, and all that is you.  Set aside this time and define your path together through deep and growing communication to experience God’s gift of oneness in marriage.  

The Gift of Laughter

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength (Proverbs 17:22, NLT)

Laughter is truly a gift from our Heavenly Father. And it’s actually medicinal. According to Hara Estroff Marano, in his article in Psychology Today, “In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress.”

I have a book that I purchased decades ago called, Children’s Letters to God, compiled by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. Whenever I need a good laugh, I will pick up that little book as it describes some of the amusing letters children have written to God. Here’s an example: “God did you mean for giraffes to look like that, or was it an accident?” Another favorite is, “Dear God, thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.” One more, “Dear God, if you give me a lamp like Alladin (the child’s spelling), I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set.”

Laughter is such an important component in the lives of married folk. Some of the most intimate moments shared between couples, other than sexually, are when you can laugh at each other’s silly jokes or anecdotes. Have you ever begun an argument that ended in laughter? It dispelled all the anger and hurt feelings. It’s a remarkable thing.

The Good News Translation of the above verse says, “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.” A marriage that is full of gloom is dying a slow death. When the only thing you can focus on is problems, the strength of your earlier relationship is slowly fading away. It may be necessary to do a reboot, and that’s not an easy thing to do if you’ve developed bad habits throughout your relationship.

So, how do you reboot? Well, first of all, someone has to be the bigger person and decide to address it. Perhaps you, the reader of this post, should be the one. You will want to start by asking God to give you the wisdom for the right timing. Once that has been established, simply let your mate know that you would like to chat about how you both can help your love for each other blossom anew by finding some new joy in your relationship. Explain that you need to laugh more, then suggest that you both brainstorm ways you can do that. Then, of course, pray together for God’s guidance. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it if you can rediscover each other.

If you have had very serious issues in the marriage beyond just gloominess, counseling is probably needed. But for the relationship that has simply gone a bit stale, a reboot is all that’s needed. Establishing or re-establishing a date night is so important. It is during those set-aside times that you can see each other again and re-ignite the passion you once had for each other.

Nehemiah 8:10c reminds us that, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Keeping joy in the midst of your marriage helps make it strong.

Be Persistent

When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25 (NLT)

Many times, in life, we face resistance or opposition to our plans and pursuits.  We find this to be the way of life where we must learn to sail, not only with favorable winds but also against opposing winds to reach the desired destination.  Our marriage relationships are a part of life that sometimes seems to be overrun with opportunities for conflict and disagreement, but I want to encourage you to be persistent in your pursuit of harmony.

The scripture above speaks of townspeople who had brought their request to Jesus, desiring that He heal their blind friend.  Imagine the boldness and high expectation of the community to see a miracle performed, not to mention the blind man’s own anticipation.  Jesus, being the representative of His Father God’s love and desire to meet humanity’s needs, agreed to minister to the man.  Sometimes, in our lives, we find that everything does not come out exactly as we aspired after the first encounter.  Here Jesus ministers to the blind man and then asked him how he saw.  The man responded that his eyesight was better than before but still not all that was expected.  Have you ever had an experience like this in your life, and what did you do?

In the story, we find that Jesus laid His hands on the man again with the result that now the once blind man’s eyes were completely restored.  Many of us give up on the relational situations in our marriages after having confronted them once or maybe numerous times.  But when you believe that God hears and is willing to assist and minister healing to your personal situation, you will be willing to address the issue again, remembering always to wait on God’s best to ultimately be delivered.  In this instance, the persistence in prayer was rewarded with full restoration and affirmation of God’s true intention.

We must be committed and persistent in our belief in God’s determination to be a promise-keeping, faithful deliverer of those who stand or wait in faith.  Don’t be discouraged when your first or third approach to God’s plan for your life meets resistance.  Persist in the pursuit of God’s plan of marital harmony and satisfaction.  Understand that it is God’s plan that will produce the greatest blessing and life satisfaction. Remember what Psalms 37:5 says, “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you” (NLT).

Another Milestone

“In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you, for that is the essence of all the teachings of the Law and Prophets.” (Matthew 6:9, TPT)

Today, Adrian and I just hit another milestone marriage anniversary. When we tell people how long we’ve been married, we are almost always asked, “To what do you attribute your success and longevity?” In this day and age, any marriage that lasts over 20 years is considered remarkable, and indeed, it is.

So, how have we lasted this long? There are several reasons.

First, we decided long ago that we would live by the words of Jesus in the scripture above. We have chosen to treat each other the way we want to be treated. In other words, if I don’t want to be spoken to harshly, I won’t do that to my husband. If he doesn’t want to be insulted, he won’t insult me. We are kind to each other because we want kindness in return. It’s a simple yet profound way to live life together.

Am I saying we got it right all the time? Of course not! To say yes to that would infer that we are perfect, and we are not, by any means. But we’ve also learned the secret of asking for and giving forgiveness promptly. In other words, we don’t hold grudges.

Years ago, we created a “never” list. On it, we listed the things we would never do each other, and we have worked tirelessly not to violate that list. It went something like this:

  • We will never go to bed angry.
  • We will never criticize each other in public.
  • We will never make each other the brunt of a joke.
  • We will never stop doing “loving things” even when we’re mad.
  • We will never put each other down – ever!

We, of course, have added a few more items over the years.

Marriage is hard work! That’s why so many give up on it. There are personality clashes to deal with. Then there’s the whole pride and selfishness with which to contend. She wants her way and he wants his. Many people don’t see those things very much during the dating process. Everyone is on their best behavior because they want to impress their new boyfriend or girlfriend, and their eyes are filled with fairy dust that soon falls to the ground after the honeymoon. It’s sad but true.

I feel that many folks give up on marriage because they have so few examples of those who have chosen to fight to stay together. It takes a lot of discipline to stay true to one’s vows. Do you remember your vows? That vow was a promise to do what you said you would do. It’s not like a New Year’s resolution that can be easily broken with no real consequences. It’s much more serious than that, and God expects us to honor that promise whether we feel like it or not.

Over our many years of marriage, we have chosen to grow together. We try to stay connected by sharing our interests with each other – even little things. If I read an article that captures my attention, I will discuss it with Adrian. When he gets a particular revelation during his Bible reading, he will share it with me. We keep ourselves involved with each other, and we live face to face. In other words, we pay attention to what the other is doing by simply showing interest. When either one of us wants to pursue something that is of very little interest to the other, we do our best to be as supportive as possible and help each other reach the goal.

The main thing that keeps our marriage thriving is our personal relationship with God. He is the center of all we do. It’s important to us both that God is pleased with our lives. That’s why we try to live by His word, every day. He is the One who keeps us on track because we are accountable to Him even before we’re accountable to each other.

I look forward to many more years of marriage to the most amazing man I know. It’s been a fun ride.

Intentional Obedience

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:46-49, ESV)

The definition of intentional, in this case, is to be deliberate, involving thought about obedience or the act of obeying.  It has been said that the secret to running a successful race is to have a definite goal established from the very beginning.  In the scripture quoted above, I believe that Jesus is letting us know that obedience to the Word of God is the Christian’s foundation.  Christ came to be our Savior to correct the disobedience of humankind by, Himself, living a perfect life of obedience to Father God.  It is through our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and Lord that we are forgiven and reconciled back to God.  As followers of Christ, it must be our goal and purpose to imitate the example of Jesus’ obedience.

As we study the life of Christ in the Word of God, we find many things that God is asking us to do that we think are impossible.  The truth is that, in our own strength or ability, those activities may indeed be impossible, but God is not asking us to do them by ourselves.  Jesus came and gave us the example and then promised to send us a helper, Holy Spirit, to live in us and walk beside us.  Holy Spirit is assigned to those who ask for help to be what God desires for us to be: Christ-like.  Jesus promised in Hebrews 13:5-6 that He would never leave or forsake us. We are never alone in our pursuit of obedience to the commands and instructions of God’s Word.

How are we then to be intentional in our obedience to God?  God has given us free will and therefore a choice. We must choose to pursue obeying God in every act and deed of life.  We must have faith that obedience is possible with the help of Holy Spirit.  God has given us instructions and an example as to how we are to conduct our lives, but He has also made provision for our imperfections and failures. First John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (ESV). Then 1 John 2: 1 says, My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (NKJV). Intentional obedience commits to pursuing obeying with the faith that we have help to succeed and forgiveness for potential failings.

The important thought is that we follow Christ with committed intentionality through the expectation of success and the assurance of forgiveness if needed.  Don’t follow Christ with the anticipation or fear of failure but, rather, a belief and faith that with God all things are possible to those that believe. Mark 9:23 reminds us: Jesus said to him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.

The Risk of Unconditional Love

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. (Romans 5:8, NLT)

There is a song out that is popular in a lot of churches called “Reckless Love”. The first line in the chorus goes like this: “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…” When I first heard the song, I was a bit put off by that phrase “reckless love of God”. To me, reckless was being careless, irresponsible, thoughtless, and wild. Not exactly the description I would give God. I could not reconcile recklessness and God’s love. God is very intentional and doesn’t make mistakes, and He certainly isn’t thoughtless and irresponsible.

I have since had more clarity in the use of that word regarding God’s love and it comes with the synonym risk. Let me explain.

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 (I said simple, not easy). 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. If you will recall, the definition of agape, the God-kind of love, is doing what benefits the other. 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 friend or child does or doesn’t do, you must still choose to love. And there are risks involved.

The risk we take when we choose to love unconditionally is rejection. That is the risk God took 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 human power; it requires the power of God.

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

God’s love is reckless in that He took a risk by loving us through giving up His Son for us even though we might not love Him in return. That should encourage us to take the same risk. Let’s give the love regardless of the lack of reciprocation. It sounds hard, but It will reap great rewards. You may not see all of them immediately; but if you are faithful to obey, God’s promise is sure.