Godly Relationships

This One Thing Can Transform Your Marriage 

After almost 40 years of marriage I have learned a lot of things I should not to do, and several things I should do, if I want a God-glorifying, satisfying marriage. But there is one thing that I have learned that is most important if I am to have the marriage that I truly desire, and that God longs for me to have. My marriage, like most Christian marriages, started in front of a church altar. There we said our vows before God and the attendees. I know there was a brief sermon as well as prayers that emphasized the importance of God in our marriage; however, at the ripe old age of 23 we were so ‘star stuck’ and convinced that our love for each other was all we needed for a great marriage that I know we didn’t tune into the pastor’s words, or much of any other wise counsel given to us at the time. I think many marriages start off the same way ours did: a perfunctory acknowledgement of God’s role in the marriage, and then shortly after the wedding vows have been uttered, living as if the marriage is just between and dependent upon the two of you. 

 It is good to recognize the need for God to be at the center of your marriage at your wedding ceremony, but it’s far, far more important to realize your need for Him every minute, every hour and every day of your marriage. As we grow in our maturity in Christ, we recognize more and more the truth of God’s Word that, ‘apart from Him we can do nothing’ (John 15:5). That is as true in our marriage as it is in our individual lives; we desperately need to be aware of our need for God to be ‘front and center’ in our marriage if we desire it to be all that God intended it to be when He instituted this special union. Since He’s the one who came up with the idea of marriage, you can be confident that He’s the greatest authority and expert on marriage in the world. He’s also the greatest advocate you could ever have for your marriage. He’s for you, He’s for your spouse, and most of all-- He’s for your marriage! And, He’s available to you 24/7—and at no charge! God alone has the power to transform you, to transform your spouse, and to transform your marriage! He is able to redeem your marriage, to sustain it, and to enhance it!  All He asks is that you choose to entrust it to Him!

The best way for you to know that you are entrusting your marriage to
God is to do this one thing: invite Him to come into and take over your marriage. What do I mean by that? I mean that you pray and commit every aspect of your marriage into God’s expert, tender, loving care, and His almighty power! The marriage that is fully surrendered to God and to His will for it will enjoy the greatest intimacy, mutual love and respect, and the joy of ‘oneness’ that God intends for it to have.

I encourage you to pray the prayer below— or a similar one— with your spouse. If he/she is unwilling to pray with you, or you don’t feel comfortable even approaching them about praying it with you at this time, I encourage you to pray it on your own for your marriage. God is waiting to be asked to intervene on behalf of your marriage! We have a miracle-working God Who is not only able to fix ‘broken people’, but also to heal, restore, and redeem ‘broken or troubled relationships’! Trust Him: He is more than able!

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 Entrust your marriage to God, and see what He can and will do!

 Lord, I confess that my spouse and I have ignored the reality that we desperately need you to be at the center of our marriage. All too often we have tried to accomplish our will for our lives rather than to ask you to reveal to us Your will; often we have done things ‘our way’ rather than Your way and we have reaped the consequences of leaving you out of our lives. Lord, I/we invite you to come into our marriage and to completely take it over. Into your hands, I/we commit my/our marriage and ask you to do what only you can do: redeem where it needs to be redeemed; sustain us where we need to be sustained; enhance that which is good. Thank You Lord for Your love for me and for my spouse, and for your desire for our marriage to be a union that reflects your love. I/we desire for our marriage to be all that You created it to be, and I/we ask You to give me/us the faith to believe that You are able to transform our lives and our marriage into something beautiful for Your glory and kingdom purposes! Oh, Lord, how we need you! Please come into our marriage and take it over so that it is all that you created and desire it to be! Into Your hands I/we commit our marriage. Amen.

If you feel inadequate and need more wisdom, knowledge and understanding…ask God to give you the desire to read His Word (the bible), the Source of all truth, wisdom, knowledge and understanding…Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit my/our need for wisdom, knowledge and understanding and open up our minds to Your truth, guidance and instruction

If you are having communication issues…ask God to give you His ears to hear your spouse, to give you His words for you to speak to your spouse in a way that your spouse will hear you, and to give you His heart of love for your spouse…Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit what and how we communicate with one another

 If you are having issues with physical, emotional, or spiritual intimacy…ask God to give you His perspective on your spouse so that you can be a vessel through which His love flows through you and meets the physical and emotional needs of your spouse…Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit our physical, emotional, and spiritual issues

 If you are having financial issues…ask God to take over your situation and to show you what, if anything, you should be doing to address the issue, and to trust Him as Your Provider…Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit our financial situation/issues

 If you are having issues with your children…ask God to give you and your spouse His wisdom and His heart, mind and spirit regarding how to raise/respond to your children...Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit our children’s lives, and how we are to raise, counsel/coach them

 If you are having issues with in-laws/family members/friends…ask God to give you His heart of love for the people involved and to respond to them with His truth, wisdom and love…Lord, into Your loving and capable hands I/we commit our issue/s with our family and friends

 If you feel weary and overburdened...ask God to give you His strength, patience and perseverance...Lord, into Your loving and capable hands we commit our bodies, souls, and spirits

 If you feel fearful for the future…ask God to increase your faith in Him so that you will grow confident that He is over and above every circumstance that you are facing today and that will arise in the future...Lord, into Your loving and capable hands we commit our lives and our future

Once you have committed your marriage into the Lord’s hands, I encourage you to listen to His leading, ask Him to give you the ability and faith to do what He has called you to do, and then obey Him and rely upon His power to work in you. If you find that you try to ‘take back’ that which you have committed to God and to do things your way again rather than His, immediately confess it to Him, and recommit it into the Lord’s hands. Remember, God loves you with an unfailing love; He has a plan for your marriage; and He is available to help you at all times. He is more than able to make your marriage ALL that you desire it to be…and even better than you can possibly imagine!

 Written by Julie

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Could this Fear Be Affecting Your Witness?

It can be easy to identify the fear of flying, or of spiders, or of heights, or other fears that seem tangible. As prevalent as those fears may be, I think most people struggle with a fear that they’re often unaware of, and that can have a major impact upon their daily life. And it most definitely is a fear that can impact our Christian witness; especially in these days of ‘political correctness’ when being a Christian is highly unpopular. It is a fear that must be overcome if we are going to obey God and live for His glory. That fear is the ‘fear of man’.The ‘fear of man’ is rooted in our pride and desire for others—especially those we like, or those we fear due to what they could do to us-- to approve of us. It is a fear that often leads us to remain silent when we should speak; to skirt telling the truth or lie; to engage in behavior we might not otherwise so that others will accept us; and it can lead to sleepless nights or daytime anxiety due to our fear that we may have offended someone who will no longer like us and may in fact cause us harm. Can you identify with this fear? I certainly can! 


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 The Bible is replete with stories of those who also had this fear. Abraham, the ‘Father of Faith’, instructed Sarah, his half sister but also his wife, to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister rather than his wife due to his fear that Pharaoh might kill him (Genesis 12:12). Isaac followed his father Abraham’s example and lied to the men of Gerar by saying his wife Rebekah was his sister because of his fear that those men would kill him to gain her (Genesis 26:6-10). Saul disobeyed God’s instruction given to him through the prophet Samuel to kill Agag, as well as all of the Amalekites and their animals, because  (1 Samuel 15:24) he ‘feared the people and obeyed their voice’. 

 One of the saddest—and most convicting-- passages in the Bible to me is found in John 12:42-43:

 Nevertheless, even many of the leading men believed in Him [as Savior and Messiah], but because of the Pharisees they would not confess it, for fear that [if they acknowledged Him openly] they would be put out of the synagogue (excommunicated); for they loved the approval of men more than the approval of God. John 12:42-43 AMP (Boldness added)

 You may think, “But they believed that Jesus was the Savior and Messiah, so what was the problem? Isn’t salvation all about faith?” True, saving faith will be proven by our words and actions, for God’s Word also states: 

 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lordand believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.Romans 10:9-10 ESV (Boldness added)

 Regrettably, our fear of man can cause us to remain silent rather than confess to others our belief that Jesus is Lord. Our silence is an indication that we, like the leaders in Jesus’ day, love the approval of men and women more than we love the approval of God. God warns us not to fear those who may be able to kill our body, but who cannot kill our soul. (Luke 12:4) We are to fear—to honor, to hold in awe and reverence-- only God Who has the power to destroy both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). 

 The world was turned ‘upside down’, the gospel of Christ spread throughout the world, and you and I are believers today only because the disciples overcame their fear of man and were instead filled with a holy fear of God. Following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven and the outpouring of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus’ apostles Peter and John were willing to boldly confess that Jesus was the ‘Holy and Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14). Not only did they proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, they also courageously accused their audience of delivering Jesus over to Pilate, and that it was they who had ‘killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead’ (Acts 3:15). They went on to call the people to repentance in order that their sins might be blotted out and so that they would experience refreshing from the Lord (Acts: 3:18). Talk about being willing to be an offense to others for the sake of truth and the glory of God! Talk about being released from the snare of the fear of man! (Proverbs 29:5) 

 Even though they knew that they could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed for their faith, they did not allow that to stand in the way of their sharing the life-transforming news of the gospel. In fact, because they overcome their fear of man, “…many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” Think of how many people they will spend eternity in heaven with because they were willing to offend them for the sake of the gospel! How many people will be in heaven because of you boldly declaring the gospel?

 Shortly after this incident, Peter and John were jailed, and then released and commanded by the Jewish leaders—the very ones who were behind Jesus’ crucifixion—‘not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.’ What was their response? Did they cower in fear and defer to men-- men they knew had the power to destroy their bodies? No! Instead they declared: 

 Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20 ESV

 When we know God through His written Word, have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Living Word, and are willing to fully surrender our lives to His authority in every aspect of our life, we too will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and compelled to speak to others of Jesus, the One and Only Person Who can deliver us from all of our fears and keep us truly secure… for all eternity!

 The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high. Proverbs 29:5 AMP

 Have you ever found yourself telling a ‘white lie’ so that you don’t hurt others’ feelings rather than accurately representing Jesus by speaking the truth in love and trusting Him with the outcome? Do you remain silent in the face of those whom you suspect will be offended if you share your faith in Jesus? Do you care more about what others think of you than you do about pleasing God? Ask the Holy Spirit to release you from all ‘fear of man’, to empower you to be bold like Peter and John and the other disciples, and be willing to confess before everyone without regard to personal cost that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God! 

 Lord, forgive me for succumbing to my fear of man. I ask you to release me from all fear of men and to fill me with a holy fear of You! Empower me by the Holy Spirit at work in me to be bold like Peter, John, and the other disciples and willing to declare my belief in and love for Jesus, and call others to repent and turn to You so that they too can have the Truth that will set them free and bring about true and lasting refreshing to their souls, for now and all eternity! 

Written by Julie

 

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

3 Ways to Positively...Get Rid of Negativity

Have you ever found yourself in the presence of a person that regularly focuses on the problems in their life with negative statements like:

  • This is just my luck (don’t expect positive things)

  • Go figure, of course this would happen to me (expects bad things)

  • I have bad news, imagine that… (sarcasm)

  • _______ (fill in the blank) will never change (making negative assumptions)

  • I’m not as talented as ___________ (negative comparisons)

  • This ________(person, situation, event) makes me scream (the desire to blame others and be a victim)

negative person

I often tell my kids that their friends will be like elevators in their lives; they will either bring you up or take you down.  Negative people are like elevators that can take you down into the pits of life. Recently I was with a person like this and she was complaining about an upcoming medical procedure. She asked me for help to overcome her fear about the procedure.  Here’s a few bullet points on what I shared with her:

  • Change the phrase ‘I have to’ about the procedure to ‘I get to’, and thank God that you live in a country that has wonderful medical facilities and that you are able to get help there.

  • Praise God that there are tests that can be done for your condition, and that there is likely a cure for it.

  • Focus on being thankful in all circumstances throughout the process.  It was at this point that she said, “I try to be thankful all the time, but it doesn’t work. Like I’ve been very intentional that whenever I start thinking about my procedure I start to look around and be thankful for the sunshine, things in nature, and things like that.”

When God commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV, to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”, He does not mean for us to give thanks for other things that are worthy of praise, like His providing us with sunshine— if you’re facing a scary medical procedure.  Being thankful for nature is a good thing and it blesses God when we give Him thanks for sunshine or nature. However, God wants us to learn to be thankful for the very things that we may not realize to be thankful for in the midst of all of our circumstances, including the trials we face in life. He wants us to give thanks in ALL circumstances! So, for example, what could a person be thankful for in the midst of a scary medical procedure? God asks us to find the one thing if that’s all there is to be thankful for within the situation you are facing and focus on that with your thoughts, words and actions.  If you struggle to find even one thing to be thankful for in your situation, you can always begin by thanking God that you have Him and that He will never leave you or forsake you. I personally would like to lovingly challenge you if you are struggling to be thankful in any area of your life to write down 5 specific things that you can be thankful about regarding that very situation.  Need help?  Contact us and we will help you to create a list to focus on for your particular situation.

In His Love,

Jamie

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

Overcome the Fear of Rejection in Your Marriage & Relationships

“I’m married and haven’t had sex in two years,” a person recently shared with stress and disappointment in his/her voice (names and gender not mentioned for privacy).  “I don’t know how it got this bad and I’ve been sleeping in another room for quite some time now.  My spouse says that he/she needs ‘time’ to sort things out and while I’ve given her/him a lot of time out of respect, I’m still treated terribly and I want to address the situation about how I’m treated and our intimacy problem, but I’m afraid to.  I’m also feeling tempted sometimes by other people in my life who are around me at the gym and where I work, who are very nice and are giving me attention that I’m not getting at home and I’m afraid I might cave to the temptation and make a bigger mess.” 

What is this person and many others we have talked to really afraid of?  Rejection.

Some psychologists would tell you that fear of rejection is rooted in low self-esteem, and Julie and I would tell you that it is rooted in a low ‘God-esteem.’   To esteem God is “to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration” 

When we have a low view of God and/or are ignorant of His nature and promises, or do not believe His promises are for us personally we will fear rejection from people. 

We will avoid hard conversations because they are hard, and because it will require strength and courage to face the problem and the people or person that the problem is with.  In the situation above there are 2 fears that this person is struggling with:

  1. Fear of rejection…what if his/her spouse says ‘no’ to any intimacy and does not want to work on the marriage?  What will that mean?  As humans we get to choose what that means. Fearful vs. faith-filled people will define the meaning of rejection in very different terms.  How do you define rejection when it happens to you?  What meaning do you give when you feel rejected?

  2. Fear of succumbing to temptation…what if eventually I can no longer stay strong and I ‘cave’ to the temptation of other ‘offers’ for love, attention and intimacy?

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The first fear is based on this person’s belief that another human can determine his/her value instead of believing God that his/her worth is found in Him, not in the actions or opinions of others.

While the fact that being sexually deprived in a marriage does put you at risk for temptation to arise (see 1 Corinthians 7:5), the fear for this person is that he/she will eventually not be strong enough to continue to ward off sexual temptation which opposes the promise of God in 1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP that says: “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” 

As Julie and I have mentored people we have discovered that many believers are believing God will be true to His promises for others, but they struggle to believe that He will be true to His promises for them personally.  So if that is you today, perhaps this verse will be a great reminder that: 

“He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”  Romans 8:32 AMP

Do your words and ‘stories’ you have told yourself reflect the truth in God’s Word above?

We encourage you to ask God to help you with your unbelief.  He desires for us all to possess and exhibit great faith in Him. Ask the tough questions, start the hard conversation and believe God to overcome the fear that is keeping you from transforming your life and relationships.  What are you waiting for?

If this post resonated with you and if you would like a free 20-min. consult with Julie and I to receive personalized tips on how to ask tough questions, or start the hard conversation and overcome your own fear, worry or anxiety click here.

Fearless in Him,

Jamie

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

What to Do When You Have Suffered an Offense...Or Been the Offender

 Recently, I unintentionally offended someone by a post I shared on Facebook that I would not have thought would have incited another Christian. The person’s venomous response to me pierced my heart and caused me to ponder about how easily people are offended in today’s increasingly polarized and self-focused culture; how offenses are used to separate the Body of Christ; and what our response should be when offenses do arise. Have you ever caused an offense that was totally unintentional? Or has someone ever offended you-- whether they intended to offend you or not? If you’re alive on planet earth, I’m sure the answer to the above questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

 It’s important to keep in mind that even Jesus, who is perfect Love, offended many while He walked on the earth-- and He is still an offense to many today (Matthew 13:57). If we follow after Him, as we have been called and commanded to do, we can be assured that we too will be an offense (John 15:18-20), especially in a culture that has forsaken and turned its back upon Him. When we align ourselves with Jesus, we will either be a sweet fragrance or a stench to others (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). No matter how hard you may try, you cannot live a life in which you won’t offend someone else. You just have to make sure that your offense is not caused by your ‘walking in your flesh’-- in other words due to your own sinful nature-- but is because you are following Jesus and ‘walking by His Spirit’. At all costs we must make sure that we are not an offense to God, even if others we love are offended by our standing with Him.

 The great news is that God’s Word gives us the answers for what to do when we have offended others, and what to do when others have offended us. When offenses come, we often want to ‘pick up arms and go to war’, but we must remember that our fight is not against ‘flesh and blood’—the other person---but it is against the powers and principalities of darkness that always are at work to separate us from God and from one another ((Ephesians 6:10-18).  Satan delights in stirring up offenses because they are the cause of division among people. Once an initial offense has occurred, Satan seeks to create a chasm in the relationship by having the one offended respond in such a way as to inflame the situation and cause the offending party to then retaliate in anger, hostility, or separation from the relationship rather than by responding in a way that will bring about the reconciliation and harmony God longs to see.

 God has called us to respond in a way that is totally contrary to the way Satan, our flesh, and the world would lead us to respond when an offense occurs. He has given us His greatest weapon to defeat the enemy’s scheme to create division when offenses arise, and that is demonstrating Christ like love.

 This is My command to you: Love one another. John 15:17 NIV

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 The kind of love Jesus calls us to have is summed up in this well-known passage:

 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.  It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.  It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AMP

 So how do we put this kind of love into practice when we have been offended, or when we know that we have offended someone else?

1) First and foremost, go to God for His comfort and most of all His counsel. Only God knows your heart and the heart of the other person. And keep in mind that He created and loves you both. Feel free to ‘pour your heart out’ before the Lord as He desires to hear your innermost thoughts (Psalm 62:8; Psalm 142:2; Psalm 51:6). I assure you that He can handle whatever it is you are feeling! Due to our sin nature we are prone to justify and rationalize our actions; to deny any part we may have had in the situation; and to cast blame on others. Often after being offended we need to first ‘pour out our feelings’ before we are ready to be ‘filled up with truth’ that can only be obtained from God’s view. After receiving my friend’s response, I was hurt. In my pain I felt an offense against her welling up inside of me. I considered her response to me to be very divisive and unfair, and I wanted to defend myself. I knew I had to get before the Lord immediately to share with Him what I was feeling, or else I knew my feelings would take over and I would respond in a way I knew would not please the Lord nor help to heal the relationship with her. I shared my sorrow with Him and my disappointment that she would respond with such unkind words and in a way that presumed many things that were not true. I knew that I could not respond to her until I had first gone to God and bared my heart before Him, and received His heart of love for her. By His grace, I did not respond to her based upon my initial feelings, but I allowed God to hear and to heal my broken heart so that my response could represent His heart of love toward her. It is so important when we are offended that we not respond out of our pain but go to God so He can bind up our wounds and we respond with His Spirit of love.

2)  Ask God to give you a humble heart and to open your eyes to see the situation from God’s perspective, as well as from the other person’s. Consider and meditate upon the cross and how Jesus responded to offenses against Him. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s position so you can better understand where they might be coming from. Ask God to convict you of any pride, arrogance, or other sin on your part that might have led you—even unintentionally-- to be an offence to the other person. Be willing to humble yourself and go to the other person and apologize, even if your offense was due to ignorance.

3)  After stating your ‘case’ before the Lord, wait and listen to the Holy Spirit who will speak to your heart and lead you if you seek His wisdom and guidance. Then do as He directs you. (Proverbs 2:6; 3:6; James 1:5; John 14:17, 26; 16:13) The Lord initially led me to respond to my friend by asking her to forgive me for offending her, and I addressed some of her assumptions in what I felt was a spirit of love. She responded in a way that indicated she was more interested in ‘winning a fight and being right’ than in mending the relationship. I sensed the Lord lead me to say nothing more at that time. Sometimes the best response is no response, especially if you have done what you know God called you to do and the person still is offended. Consider that Jesus said nothing during his ‘trial’ before Herod. He was doing what His Heavenly Father led Him to do, and sometimes God will lead you to remain silent if He knows that by responding you may ‘add more fuel to the fire’ or for another reason He may lead you to say nothing. If, however, He leads you to speak, do not be afraid to speak the truth even if the truth offends the other person, but never speak the truth in an offensive way. For example, if someone is offended because of a stand you have taken based upon God’s clear commands in scripture —for example, being pro-life or pro- traditional marriage or against any form of racial prejudice —do not compromise the truth of God’s Word, but speak the truth in a way that is loving and winsome rather than defensive and accusatory.  

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1 AMP

4)  Forgive those who offend you as God has forgiven you for all of your offenses against Him (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:12). Do not allow the sun to go down on your anger if someone has offended you, and do not allow bitterness and resentment to take root in your heart (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Hebrews 12:15; Proverbs 4:23). When we are offended, our natural tendency is to want to get back at the other person, ‘to repay evil for evil’. That’s the problem…our natural tendency is our sin nature that must die if we desire God’s nature to be alive and at work in us. God’s perfect will and our sinful will cannot co-exist. You likely are thinking, “But you don’t know what they did to me! How could I possibly forgive what they’ve done?” On your own you can’t… you must be born again and have God’s nature at work in you to forgive as He has forgiven you. His Spirit in you will empower you to forgive the person, no matter the offense. I’m not saying it’s easy; it requires death to our own will that loves ‘nursing’ our offenses and taking vengeance, and it requires full surrender to God’s will. When we consider all of our offenses against a holy God, how can we not forgive someone else for his or her much smaller offense against us? Ask God to reveal to you the depth of the mercy He demonstrated when He died for you--and that He daily shows to you-- and ask Him to fill  you with His mercy for you to extend to the one who has offended you (Luke 7:41-47).

 5)  Bless and do good to those who have offended you, and seek to be reconciled with them and to live in harmony, if at all possible.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them….  Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14, 16-18 ESV

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28 ESV

 6)  Pray! A tremendous blessing that we can give to others is to pray for them. Pray that your heart will remain pure before God and before the other person so that Satan will not gain a foothold by your dwelling on the offense, which could hinder your relationship with God and cause you to withhold forgiveness from the other person. Pray for those who have offended you. Pray that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God and open the eyes of their hearts so that they will come to know Him if they do not already, and that they will walk worthy of the high calling He has set before them if they are a fellow believer (Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:10) Pray for the person whom you may have offended, and if you have sought their forgiveness and they have withheld it, pray that they will choose to obey God and love and forgive you as He has commanded them to do, so that they will not sin against God and miss out on blessings from God. Above all, pray that the love of God would be manifested and abound in and through you, and manifested and abound in and through the other person involved in the offense. For love covers a multitude of sins, and love never fails! (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 1213:8)

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

 

 

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What Not to Do--and to Do--If You Have Unsaved Loved Ones

Recently I went on a trip to see some family members who I love dearly although I rarely get to see them.  Regrettably, they do not have a relationship with the Lord. There are several things the Lord reinforced to me during this visit that I think may be valuable for all of us who have unsaved loved ones and want to know how to interact with them.

First, I believe we must recognize that all of mankind was created to worship. If your loved one is not worshipping the one true God, you can be assured that they do have a ‘god’—or ‘gods’ in their life.  It may be their work, entertainment, their spouse or ‘significant other’, their kids, their hobby, alcohol, drugs, or something else in which his or her identity and life is ‘wrapped up’.  And you can also be assured that their ‘god/s’ will never truly satisfy them or bring them the abundant life they were created to enjoy through fellowship with God. Their god will ultimately disappoint them, and lead to misery for them and pain for those who love them. The heart in rebellion against God is a self-centered, self-absorbed heart; everything is filtered through how it impacts ‘me’, what ‘I want’ and what ‘I value’. I confess that I know that not only from witnessing that in the lives of others, but also from personal experience when I lived apart from God. We need to be instruments of grace who share with our unsaved loved ones the truth that the only way to experience a joy-filled life of contentment and peace is to ‘die to ourselves’ and to follow God’s commands to love Him first, and others second. (Luke 9:23; Matthew 22:37-40)

 Secondly, we must remember that we are all in a spiritual battle. Satan—sometimes referred to as the devil-- is the Enemy of our Souls and the ‘Father of Lies’ who deceives us into thinking that living to please ourselves by investing our time, energy and resources on our other ‘god/s’ will satisfy the desires of our soul, which they cannot (Ephesians 6:11-12; John 8:44). Satan’s goal is always to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ what God loves, and what He loves most is mankind with whom He longs to have an intimate and loving relationship. Satan seeks to destroy us by keeping us from having that relationship with God, through Jesus, Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). We who know Jesus have been called to be His warriors...warriors who ‘fight’ for the souls of those who have been taken captive by Satan.  If we are not careful we can forget that our battle is not against ‘flesh and blood’—and sometimes we want to act out ‘in our flesh’ against our unsaved loved ones --but we must keep in mind that our fight isn’t with them, but against Satan and the forces of darkness. Just like prisoners of war, our unsaved loved ones have been taken captive by Satan to do his will (2nd Timothy 2:26). We can’t expect them to act in accordance with the truth of God’s Word, because they never knew it, or they have been indoctrinated in lies from Satan and blinded from walking in the truth.

Only the Truth—the written Word and Jesus, the Living Word--can set them free from the clutches of Satan and empower them to live the ‘abundant life’—a life of peace, joy, and contentment, and open up to them the gift of eternal life. Our words are important to testify to that truth, but far more important is the life that we live before them.

 So what is our role as it relates to family members and other loved ones who have been ‘taken captive’ by Satan to do his will, and therefore are not living in accordance with the will of God?

Things We Should NOT Do:

 1. Do not buy into their lies or fuel their sinful behavior. Filter what they say and do through the lens of scripture so that you do not contribute to their deception. For example, do not accept their rationalizing or blaming others for the consequences of sinful choices that they make. If you catch them in a lie, do not be afraid to lovingly confront them so that they do not think they can ‘sin and get away with it’ and so they will learn that their sin ‘will find them out’ (Numbers 32:23).

 2.Do not indulge their deception that their ‘god’or ‘gods’ will satisfy them by ‘building up’ their ‘god’, but in love expose it for what it is— a source of temporary pleasure, but nothing that will truly meet the deepest longings of their heart, which is unconditional love and eternal security that only God can provide to them. For example, if sports is their ‘god’, don’t focus all of your conversations on sports which could easily lead them to believe that is your ‘god’ too. If they are an alcoholic, don’t support their addiction by purchasing alcohol for them. Or, if they are a ‘shopaholic’ don’t continually talk about things with them or spend your time together going shopping.

3. Do not enable them or attempt to rescue them when their sin ‘blows up in their face’. It’s not your job to save them, only Jesus can; it’s your job to represent His heart of love for them and to point them to Him. Remember that Jesus asks us to ‘come to Him’, but due to our pride we most often will not come to Him until we are desperate and aware that we have nowhere else to go. The biggest obstacle for people coming to Jesus is admitting they have a need. That is why it is so important that you do not try to rescue them, but allow your unsaved loved one ‘to come to the end of themselves’ so that they will finally turn to Jesus. If you want to help them out of a situation that was caused by their sinful choice/s, always pray first and ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart motive and to lead you in His way. There are times when God may lead you to enforce ‘the law’, and there may be times when He leads you to show mercy, which is why you need to listen carefully to His voice. As painful as it may be to watch your loved one suffer for the consequences of their sin, remember that it is far better for them to endure suffering for a season in this world if it will lead them to turn to Jesus who alone can save them from suffering for all eternity! It is also important that you realize that you can fully entrust them to God’s care; He will be there to pick them up when they look to and cry out to Him!

4. Do not cram scripture ‘down their throat’ as they will likely vomit it out! Sometimes in our zeal for our loved ones to come to the Lord we ‘lecture’ them with scriptures, or in other ways communicate our disapproval of them. What they hear in their minds is that if my family who knows God doesn’t approve of me, then God sure will never accept me either! They often perceive that God is all about rules and regulations that are either impossible to keep, or only there to keep people from having a ‘fun life’. They don’t realize that God wants a relationship with them, not ‘perfect behavior’ from them. We need to demonstrate with our words and actions that we love them unconditionally, so that they will come to believe that if we who know them as ‘sinners’ can love them, then Jesus is more than able to love them too!

What We Should Do:

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1.  Assume your role as ‘an ambassador of Christ’ who has been given the job of representing Jesus and encouraging people to be reconciled to God (2nd Corinthians 5:20). You can’t represent Jesus if you don’t really know Him. So it is important that you make time to read and study the Bible where He reveals His heart, His character, and His ways; to be in fellowship with other believers who will encourage you in your faith; and to maintain communication with God through prayer. Jesus often asked penetrating questions to get people to consider the truth; a great way to represent Him is to learn to ask meaningful questions of our unsaved family members that will cause them to grabble with the big concerns of life, like: what is truth; what is the purpose of life; and where do they think they will go when they die and why? If they espouse to be an atheist or to believe in a religion other than Christianity, lovingly ask them why they believe what they claim to believe so you can earn the right to share with them your beliefs. Another way Jesus interacted with those he wished to reach was by telling them parables, or stories. Share stories of God’s faithfulness in your own life as well as testimonials of His life-changing impact in the lives of others you know; your unsaved loved ones are looking for the Hope you have and they want to have a reason to believe that God is real and all that He says He is in His Word!

2. Let the light of the love of Jesus shine forth from you, so that they will be drawn to the Source of your light and life! (Matthew 5:16) Ask God to give you the faith to daily walk by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you will accurately reflect the truth and love of Christ, and so that you will not satisfy the desires of your flesh that can be a stumbling block to your loved ones coming to know Jesus. Below is the way you should ‘dress yourself’ so you can reflect Jesus to your loved ones:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 ESV


3. Share the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ love for them if you have not already. As already mentioned, that opportunity often comes when your loved one is suffering from the sinful choices they have made. Help them to see their need for Jesus by lovingly helping them to see what their choices have cost them. Humble yourself before your loved one and let him or her know that you realize you’re not perfect or sinless either, that no one is except God. Let them know that Jesus has made the way for ALL who are willing to admit their imperfections and to turn from their sin to find forgiveness and new life through His death and Resurrection. Assure them that there is no sin that is too great that God’s grace, love, and mercy can’t cover it! Make them aware that when Jesus died on the cross, His blood was shed for every sin they would ever commit. You may wish to share with them this comforting verse from Romans 5:8: But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let them know that all God asks them to do is to ‘come to Him’, to believe in Him, and to receive Him as their Savior and Lord, and to repent—or change the direction of their life— through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:29; John 1:12) Share the truth with them that only living in obedience to Jesus will ever bring true joy and fulfillment to their lives. Let them know they have a choice. Ask them, “Do you want to continue striving by living in your own strength, or would you like to finally start living abundantly through the redeeming power of Jesus?” You may say, “But what if I share the truth of God’s love for them and their need for repentance, and they reject that truth?” Keep in mind, they are already rejecting that truth by the way they are living, so what do you have to lose?

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 ESV

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4. Focus your thoughts upon God and His desire for your loved one to come to know Him. Consider how different your unsaved loved one’s life would be if he received Jesus as his Savior. I just heard the story of a man who was saved in the military; he came home to his family and shared the truth of the gospel with them. At first, the family rejected turning their lives over to God, but as they saw the difference that Jesus made in the man’s life, they all chose to accept Jesus as their Savior. The man telling me the story said that was 43 years ago, and he was so grateful that his brother who’d been in the military loved him enough to share the truth with him, even though at first he was ‘fighting mad’ at him for doing so. The lives of each member of that family was radically changed because his brother loved them all enough to humble himself and overcome his fear of rejection to tell them the truth that alone could save them. Have you ever considered the blessing you would experience by being used by God to introduce them to Jesus? Be encouraged by these words from James 5:19-20: My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
5. Realize that if you speak the truth in humility and in love, as Jesus has called us to do, your loved one still may not receive the truth at the time you share it. However, be encouraged! The truth of God’s Word will never return void; it will accomplish what God purposes, and in His perfect timing. (Isaiah 55:11) And God will be well pleased with you for your obedience, regardless of the response of your loved one. Jesus has commanded us to ‘go and tell’; you can trust Him with the results if you are faithful to obey His command! (Matthew 28:19)

6.  There are circumstances under which you may need to set up firm boundaries, and even choose to entirely withdraw from a relationship with an unsaved loved one if they continue in their sin, especially if they are influencing you to abandon your faith in God. If you are sensing that you need to cut ties with a family member, make sure you are being led by the Spirit and not by your flesh. And welcome them back into your life with a forgiving heart and open arms if they ‘come to their senses’ and give their heart to the Lord.

You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life. Luke 14:26 CSB

 7. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do is to pray faithfully and fervently for your loved one! And, when possible, to pray with them. I have found that they are most open to having me pray with them when they know they have a need. I especially encourage you to pray scripture over them as then you can know that you are praying God’s will. Make sure to pray in faith (James 5:15). Satan wants you to look at the circumstances of your unsaved loved one’s life and to think that there is no hope. You must remember that is a lie—nothing is impossible for Our God! Trust Him to do exceedingly and abundantly above what you could hope or imagine! (Luke 1:37; Ephesians 3:20)

 Lord, I release my loved one to You, knowing that You love them even more than I do or ever could. Fill me with Your heart of love for them, and empower me by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful ‘ambassador’ of Yours who accurately represents You and faithfully walks by the Spirit and not in my flesh. I confess that when I see my unsaved loved one’s lifestyle and poor choices that I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. Holy Spirit, guide me so that I know when to speak, when to remain silent, and when to take action. When you lead me to speak, give me your Words of truth and life to speak to them.When you call me to act, may I do so with all humility and in the spirit of Your love. I ask that you would arrest their hearts and minds and bring them into alignment with Your will! Send forth the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin, of righteousness, and of the coming judgment! (John 16:8-9) May they come to know You, the Source of abundant and eternal life! Amen.

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

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Are You a Contagious Christian?

The other day I was racing to leave my neighborhood for an appointment when I encountered a long line of cars in front of me due to a repaving project. We were all ‘held hostage’ by a construction worker with a stop sign controlling the flow of cars driving in and out of the neighborhood. I was in a hurry, and my frustration level began to mount as the wait time increased. Finally, the STOP sign was switched to a SLOW sign and I was able to move, and as I drove past the sign, my irritation melted away as I saw the sign holder’s radiant smile as she took off her hat, graciously bowed, and gave me a ‘Miss America’ wave as she warmly signaled for me to drive on. She exuded joy that was contagious! I opened my window, and said to her, “You must know and love Jesus!” In response, she enthusiastically responded, “I sure do, and I have ever since I was a little girl!” I later learned that her name is Sharon--known by some as ‘Sharon the Fabulous Flagger’-and that I was not the only one who took notice of her exuberant demeanor.

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The following was posted in my town’s neighborhood Facebook page:

There was a wonderfully cheerful lady directing traffic around the road work on Hickory Drive earlier this afternoon. Are you in this group? I just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing your job with such flair. Your joy is absolutely contagious!!”

And another person wrote:

You want to get mad for having to sit there but then you get up to her and all you can do is smile and wave. Everyone should love their job like she does. She told me she has to deal with very impatient people and she soon realized that her friendly attitude could defuse aggression. She’s a gem!”

Sharon’s life shines forth like a light and is so God glorifying!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 ESV

Her joy in performing her menial job—especially in the extreme heat and humidity of ‘Hotlanta’—caused me to consider the following:

When others see me-- whether at work, at home, or out and about-- what is their impression? Do they see someone whose words, actions, and overall countenance testifies to the fact that I have chosen to follow Jesus and to serve as an ‘ambassador’ of His loving kindness? Does the way I do the ordinary things in life express joy in living, as well as concern for others, or do I communicate that I am merely in ‘survival mode’, self-focused, and unconcerned about those around me?

What about your life?  What kind of an ambassador are you for Christ? Are you a contagious Christian that attracts others to you and makes them wonder what is the source of your joy? Do the words and the tone you use with your family communicate irritation with or love for them? What about at work? Are you more of a ‘Suzy Sunshine’ who arrives with a smile that no amount of frustration can wipe away, or are you more of a ‘Debbie Downer’ who complains as if that’s your job? When you are grocery or mall shopping, do you smile at other customers? Let others in a hurry go ahead of you? Do you engage the cashier in conversation and thank her for doing her job? Do you stop to visit with neighbors while out walking or jogging? Do you make a point to welcome new neighbors and to invest time in getting to know 'old' neighbors? 

Do you think that you accurately represent Christ’s love to the people with whom you interact on a daily basis, whatever it is you are doing? Do you think Jesus would agree with your assessment?

Below are just a few ways in which you can represent the love of Christ on a daily basis as you go about your life:

1.  SMILE!  It’s amazing the difference a smile alone can make, especially when you look someone in the eye. By doing so you acknowledge that they are worthy of you taking notice of them. You may have heard of the testimonies of people who were contemplating suicide who decided against doing so because someone cared enough to just smile at them. Plus, wearing a smile will continue to fill your ‘joy cup’ because giving a smile almost always leads to receiving a smile! (To be clear: I am not talking about a sexy, flirtatious smile, but a warm and friendly smile that acknowledges that the other person is made in the image of God and therefore worthy to be noticed and their presence dignified by gracing them with a smile.)

2.  Say something kind and affirming to others. When I am out and about and see someone who is kind and outgoing, I will often tell her that her smile or joyful countenance blesses me. Many times I will follow that statement-- as I did with Sharon—with the comment, “You must know Jesus!” or something to that effect. Most times they say, ”I sure do!” and the faith of both of us is built up as we identify one another in the marketplace. But what if they don’t know Him?  Then it gives you a great opportunity to say, “Oh, I encourage you to get to know Him as He is the most wonderful person in the world and will change your life!”

3.  Do not be easily irritated, but instead look to alleviate the irritation of others. I remember going to a grocery store on my birthday when I was in college and the cashier was nasty to me. My initial thought was, “It’s my birthday and I sure don’t deserve to be treated that way!” and I took offense by her attitude.  Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know what that person was going through that might have led them to act so unkindly; perhaps they had just found out some bad news or it was the anniversary of the death of a loved one, or maybe someone in line had just treated them poorly. I resolved that I would always seek to treat others as if it were a special day in their life, for every day is indeed special! The Lord makes each and every day, so we are to rejoice and be glad! (Psalm 118:24)

4.  Show appreciation to others who serve you and look for ways to serve others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28) We have the opportunity to represent Jesus’ heart of love to those who provide services to us, like our mailman/woman and sanitation workers by verbally thanking them and performing acts of kindness toward them. I remember watching a wonderful video of a family whose young kids would give something cold to drink or give a snack to the sanitation workers when they came by; a beautiful friendship developed between that family and those workers. Notes of appreciation and other acts of kindness can let them know you value them. Look for ways in which you can serve those who serve you.

5.  Pray for others! When you encounter people who appear from their sullen face or unkind actions to be experiencing a rough day, speak words of kindness to them if possible, knowing that a kind word turns away wrath, and always pray for them! (Proverbs 15:1; Luke 6:28) Pray that they will come to know the love that Jesus has for them and that they will be filled with His loving kindness and joy!

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Lord, let my life so shine forth before others so that all who see me will see your life at work in me and Your life reflected through me! Amen!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

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