In this season of giving thanks, let us not forget to thank God for marital intimacy! If you just rolled your eyes to that comment, this blog is for you. When it comes to the sex conversation, I've rolled my eyes a few times myself, until I dug in and learned the real reason God said, "It is very good." As he created Eve and presented her to the palace prince, God saw the magnificent potential of his plan. Adam and Eve may have blown the obedience factor in the garden, but they encountered something in the flowerbed none of us ever have. They're the only human beings to ever experience pure, uninhibited sexual intimacy untainted by their flesh or sin prior to eating the fruit from the tree.
Let's consider the magnitude of their sinless, sexual experience for a moment. Before their disobedient mistake at the fruit tree, Adam and Eve lived in perfect communion with the Father and one another. They were both virgins with no outside influence or past relationships to stand in their way. They had no obstacles of abuse or betrayal between them. They had never argued or lusted for another. Instead, they lived in absolute oneness within the perfect sexual union of marriage! Sadly, once sin entered the world their thoughts and behaviors changed as man and woman and the marital bliss slipped away. Sin altered their state of existence. Here's the great news! God devised another plan to restore that bliss and blessing out of His perfect love for you and I. Even though the choices of the first married couple created a bump in the road for us all, God wants us to rediscover his original sexual design. All it takes is faith in the power of his death, burial, and resurrection, a personal relationship with him, and our willingness to do the math. One plus one equals one!
Why did God create sex in the first place?
Let's start at the foundation of intimacy. Why did God create it? He created sexual love in marriage so we could become one. Not just through the ceremony or covenant of marriage, but literally one in flesh with our spouse. His desire for you and I is we find find a level of intimacy, not just sexually but spiritually, in such a way that the thoughts of separating is unimaginable. Before we go father, let me encourage you, if you've been divorced before, lay it down and leave it behind. What matters now is finding a peaceful place in your present relationship or future marriage that moves you forward into pure, everlasting, restored love and intimacy for a lifetime. When we say "I DO", we are committing to letting our past die, choosing to let it go and never look back, stepping forward at the altar and committing to cleave to one another for life.
Jesus spoke these words on the matter one day while in public,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two of them shall be one flesh.” Matthew 19:5 (ABPE)
It was his reply to the Pharisees who had determined to question him about divorce in hopes of trapping him in a response contrary to the laws of Moses. Their motive was impure, but what we learn from his reply gives insight into His heart. At this time in history, divorce did exist but only under strict guidelines. Women had no rights and were almost always the ones put away in divorce, destined to live in shame. In his response, Jesus brought clarity about the heart of God towards the beauty of marriage instead of dwelling on the destruction of divorce. God longs for us all to find oneness never separated through divorce. In Jesus response to the provoking Pharisees, he patiently brought their attention back to creation of the first married couple and defeated their plan while teaching us a life lesson.
In the scripture, the word "cleave" in Greek is debaq, which means “to glue together, to be closely joined, never to be severed.” There has never been a married couple more glued together than Adam and Eve before the fall. When God created Adam from the dust of the earth and then acknowledged his aloneness, instead of using more dirt for Eve he literally formed her from the very flesh and bones of her husband. They were not only spiritually joined but profoundly and physically joined as Eve was formed from Adam’s being. The word debaq here is an expression of the purest and closest union between husband and wife that can exist. Amazingly in the original Scriptures before present translations, the word two did not even exist. Adam and Eve were never two. They were always one. God created them to be one forever and he longs for that same oneness for you and I today.
How does oneness create a masterpiece?
In order for us to experience this oneness, which is not scientifically possible, we must understand it is spiritually and sexually possible! When we embrace a relationship with our Heavenly Father, entering into a covenant with our husband, we create an exquisite piece of art. Our sexual differences are pieces of a beautiful puzzle meant to create a masterpiece as they interlock. Within marriage when we spiritually join together in sexuality, it makes us truly one flesh. As I pondered this Scripture and searched for clarification, I came across an amazing story that brought the concept to life. On television one night, I saw a reporter interview a set of Siamese twins. They were in their late teens and had been joined since birth. They were born at a time when doctors rarely separated conjoined twins. They had spent their entire lives joined at the hip but facing in opposite directions. Together, they had learned how to communicate with each other from their opposing perspectives. They helped each other accomplish goals despite their different views. They learned to carry on their daily responsibilities successfully while headed in two different directions as one. Their example provides a beautiful picture for our oneness in marriage.
As man and wife, we see things from two completely different perspectives yet God expects us to be joined sexually at the hip. I am convinced if these twins can learn to overcome so can we. We can learn to work together using our different angles to accomplish our goals even though we picture things from opposite view points. We may be facing in two different directions as man and woman, but we can victoriously walk out life together in one flesh through Christ daily as husband and wife. God is the third and only strand that wraps our hearts together and according to scripture, a strand of three is not easily broken. His love for us in that union provides everything we need to succeed at intimacy and lifelong marriage. When we choose to let our differences motivate us towards oneness instead of letting them tear us apart, it is very, very good!
What are the differences between the sexes?
Clearly, men and women are very different when it comes to physical oneness. We look at life from a completely different frame of reference just as the twins did. First, men are visually driven, and they often want what they see. Women, on the other hand, are more emotionally driven and they usually want what they can feel. Those differences motivate us to work together to create physical magic, producing an amazing sexual picture. If we were both emotional, then emotions would get in the way every time. If we were motivated by physical desire alone, there would be no emotional connection.
Our differences appear both in and outside the bed chamber and how we relate in each location shapes and affects the other. Just as the twins had to learn from birth, we have to learn from our re-birth into adoption by our Heavenly Father to communicate about our contrasting ideas. As we encounter intimacy and life from two completely different angles, we become one masterpiece through conversation and teamwork by putting the pieces together. Each of us holds a part of the other and together we can accomplish our goals despite our differences. As we cleave, we learn to verbalize our thoughts, ideas, and feelings in healthy ways in and outside the bed chamber. Through open communication about what we see from our point of view it stops us from heading in two different directions.
God gave us each the opposite piece of the puzzle and when united, all of the pieces form one beautiful piece of art. Our very different perspectives holds us accountable to the covenant of marriage. Real marital oneness requires selflessness if we want to stay grafted together. As we become one flesh through sexual intimacy, our oneness is the glue that holds our lives together when everything else in the kingdom is falling apart. As one flesh, we find the sweet communion God designed for us to experience emotionally and physically as we do life glued together. In the light of our new identity as sons and daughters of the King, living in a peaceful sexual palace is our inheritance and in the end, one plus one equals one, and from our Father's perspective, "That is very, very good!"
In this season of spooky, creepy, crawly things, it seems like a great time to set the record straight on a few details about the Boogeyman. Every year around this time, I find myself avoiding the stores with the scariest costumes and characters. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never liked the Boogeyman. As a child, he was the scary being I thought I could see in the wood grain of my closet door, and every night when the lights went out I covered my head and hoped to make it til morning. The fear was overwhelming at times. Now that I am an adult, I realize it was just my imagination getting the best of me. However, according to scripture, there's a real Boogeyman in the world, and we can’t pretend he doesn’t exist. If we understand who he is, where he came from, and what he came to do, we can say “Boo” with the power of the Holy Spirit and scare him away!
Who is the Boogeyman?
Clearly the presence of both good and evil exists in the world. We see it all around us from childhood to present day. It has so filled our creative human minds that it’s portrayed in almost every book, fairy tale, and movie. In Snow White, it’s the wicked queen. In Cinderella, it is the mean step mother. In Sleeping Beauty it’s the wicked old witch. In the Garden of Eden it was a creepy, crawly, serpent named Satan whom I like to call the “Boogeyman”.
How did he make his way into every fairy tale and marriage today?
It all started in Eden where all was well in the kingdom until the sneaky snake showed up on the scene. Let’s process the picture together. Adam and Eve lived in a luscious garden in perfect harmony with one another, without any problems or worries. There was no power struggle, no arguing, no apathy, no lack, and no conflict of any kind in their marriage. They simply lived in perfect peace and loved one another completely. There was no chaos in their Caladiums, only peace in their Posies. Can I get an AMEN to that?
Unfortunately, Satan believed if he could cause Adam and Eve to doubt their position as royal children and question their relationship with God, he could cause them to fall into an identity crisis. He succeeded, and as a result most of us have forgotten who we are. It’s like walking through the haunted house at the corn maze every fall and seeing ourself distorted in one of those crazy mirrors to the point we are unrecognizable. In fact, people everywhere are searching for identity in anything they can find instead of living out who they were created to be. That’s because the Boogeyman is still up to his old tricks. He continues to tell the same lie over and over and we continue to lose our distinctive originality and run and hide. Because Adam and Eve failed to trust God and crush the Boogeyman in the garden, the roles of every married couple have experienced its lasting effects. A power struggle was birthed, and today husbands and wives struggle with the desire to each dominate the other. The proof is in what God said to Eve in the moment,
“Your desire will be for your husband and (yet) he will rule over you.” Gen. 3:16b (NIV)
In the Scripture, the word desire in original Hebrew means “to control or to overtake.”
By putting that meaning into context, the scripture would read something like this,
"Eve, your desire will be to control, overtake, and overthrow your husband but your husband will rule over you instead."
Those words can scare the “boo” out of you unless you read the rest of the story. In fact, women everywhere struggle with their own will to be in charge and control the circumstances in their home. That’s where the start of the women’s liberation movement began. It’s roots and shoots took hold in the Garden of Eden. When Eve stepped out of her role, choosing to eat from the tree without first consulting Adam as the unemotional, wise leader and protector God had created him to be, it resulted in the fatal decision to dominate and devour the fruit they weren't to touch. This frolicking female wasn't alone in her mistake. Her hubby stepped out of his role too. He passively failed to protect his bride from the sly tongued serpent and cowered from the command to lay down his life like a warrior if required. Together they had been given everything they needed to live in perfect peace, and yet it wasn't enough. The results produced the tendencies we see in male and female relationships today, Women often try to be in control of it all while men frequently live life in passivity with their head in the proverbial sand letting the Boogeyman scare everyone into palace pandemonium. If we’re honest, we’ve probably all been there before.
Who let the draw bridge down?
Today, the idea of the husband leading his home is relatively obscure due to the influence of culture. For example, cultural humor is one tool that has shaped our relational thinking. Laughter is a way to get humans to let down their guard and receive information. Unfortunately it can be used in both positive or negative ways. In the first part of our marriage, Dan and I traveled for years doing music drama evangelism. One of the most important ministry tools we utilized was comedy sketches. Once the audience started laughing and their walls fell, we would share a serious spiritual truth they would easily receive. Think about it. Almost every sitcom or comedy show on television presents men as weak and unintelligent while women are portrayed as fierce, hormonal, dominating foes? It’s a message that’s delivered after they’ve killed us with laughter. Once we lower the draw bridge, we take in and accept the lie. Much of present cultural norms promote the power and equality for women’s rights while portraying men as weaklings rather than the mighty warriors they were created to be.
What's the good news?
God didn’t let our hope die when the curse was given to Adam and Eve. Instead, in his love and mercy, God sent his son Jesus to save us from the calamity in the castle of Eden. In fact, God has never short-changed the rights of women, yet many are fighting for their right to be equal while criticizing God for limiting them with his design. This is just a lie the Boogeyman has spooked us into believing. The proof is in the example Jesus set in his treatment of women in the scriptures. He always believed in equality and women’s rights despite what we’ve been told. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he battled on behalf of the women in his life. He showed up and spoke up for the prostitute, the quadruple divorcee’, the menopausal woman, the demon possessed woman, the widow, the adulteress, and the bride.!
What? You mean men and women are equal?
Even though our culture encourages males to be passive and females to rise up and take charge, the truth is, the roles for men and women have been established by God’s design from the beginning of time. That design makes us all powerful and successful in life and love. All we have to do is kick out the liar and walk in the truth.
“God created mankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Gen. 1:27 (NIV)
This means both men and women were equally created to reflect God in who we are. As husband and wife, we’re both made in the same image of the same God. When God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross, he was using his death to build a bridge for men and women to cross over and take back our original dominion and rule the earth as designed before sin occurred. The word dominion means “sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling.” God gave that gift of dominion to both Adam and Eve, but he also gave them strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Based on those strengths and weaknesses, they were called to walk in their divinely designed role. He is calling us to return to those roles today. Jesus came to restore us and release us from our identity crisis.
How do you overcome the curse of the Boogie Man?
Just as in medieval times, unless an enemy infiltrated the kingdom and successfully overtook the castle, kings and queens maintained their position on the throne until death. Satan may have infiltrated the kingdom gates and overtaken Adam and Eve, but our love story doesn’t have to be a horror story. We too can successfully rule our kingdoms well for a lifetime. As scripture shows, God created Adam first and He created Eve second. This means according to God’s blueprint for marriage, women are born with the innate desire to follow someone and men are born innately to lead and protect others. Our Creator designed women with incredible leadership skills for success in areas of their strengths while at the same time giving them the ability to follow in the areas that are not their's to rule. We don’t have to struggle with the desire to overthrow our husband’s authority in our home anymore. Neither do our husbands have to struggle any longer with being passive and not leading nor protecting us. Through our relationship with Christ, we can step up to our position as king and queen of our domain, crush the enemy with our faith, and take dominion side by side as husband and wife. Through our royal adoption, we can live as the kings and queens of our palace while kicking the Boogeyman out and into the mote where he belongs!
Fall is in the air and it's one of my favorite seasons of the year. As I've watched the leaves begin to fall, I'm reminded of how important it is that "everything's nice" in the kingdom. Marriage is full of seasons. With each one, challenges arise and storms blow in. When they do, let's make sure we're not allowing negative thoughts or poor behaviors to develop in the midst of the surge. Weathering the seasons of life requires us to monitor our relationship to make sure everything dead falls away. God wants us to cast it all aside like the leaves falling from the trees in preparation for Spring.
Identify and Address
In our twenty-seven years of marriage, there have been times Dan and I have taken our heart break out on each other. At times hard feelings and words have been spoken out of pain. Poor habits of relating have developed. At each turn, we had to determine to identify them all and address each one so they could die and fall away. Casting aside anything the enemy is using to bring down your marriage is a crucial part of the journey. God can use it all for the good of our marriage if we let him. In fact, conflict in marriage can be constructive if we allow our marriage to grow deeper roots like an oak tree planted by the water that shall not be moved. It's up to us to surrender it all to our Father's hands and commit ourselves to a lifetime of fall seasons.
Here are the things to look for if you want pumpkin spice and everything nice in the palace:
We can learn a lot about what to do and what not to do when confronting the issues of marriage by examining couples in scripture. One such couple is Queen Esther and her King named Xerxes. Theirs is a story of loving confrontation. Queen Esther had to confront her King because her future was on the line. She had to take a walk to the palace if their marriage was going to survive. As the story goes, King Xerses was keeping bad company with his right hand man, Haman, who was known for his naughty behavior. Haman had deceived the King into making a decree that all the Jews should die. He hated the Jews, and he thought if he influenced Xerxes to declare their deaths, he could solve his own personal problems. Sadly, the King was so out of touch he had no idea his beautiful Queen, who was also a Jew, would be facing an “Off with her head!” due to his decree. When Esther learned of the death sentence she had no choice but to gather herself and take a walk for the sake of a truthful confrontation with her King.
Why should we confront?
When you live in a one flesh relationship, if one spouse is doing something hurtful to the marriage covenant, both people are suffering in the situation. In Esther's case, it wasn't just her marriage on the line but her entire family. In our situation, it's not just our marriage that's at stake but the future of our children and grand children. Everyone needs an accountability partner and in marriage we are to hold one another accountable for the sake of the covenant. Ezekiel 33:6 says, "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand." Unfortunately, accountability is greatly lacking in our world today. Nobody wants to be responsible for their choices. Our willingness to choose integrity in our marriage requires us to take responsibility for what we do and hold our spouses accountable if their actions affect or harm our relationships in a negative way.
How does accountability look?
Step One: Identify Wrong Behaviors
This step is half the battle to protecting our happily ever after. Some of the behaviors easy to see in our own marriages often originated from the first famous couple six thousand plus years ago as Adam and Eve set the stage for our struggles. Once the garden vines began to unravel, their relationship took a turn for the worse. Do any of these behaviors sound or look familiar in your marriage?
First, Adam chose cowardice when the serpent arrived and slithered through their conservatory. He was passive and apathetic as Eve’s protector. He wasn't across the garden he actually stood nearby watching her converse with a serpent while letting her eat from the tree. He later blamed Eve for what had happened when God came looking for them. The first thing out of his mouth was, “It was this woman you gave me.” This symbolized Adam wanting to protect himself over the responsibility God had given him to lay down his life for his bride.
I can look back over our past and remember instances where Dan exhibited these Adam qualities. I have honestly exhibited all of Eve’s at some point or other myself. This chick had her own issues. She was disrespectful to Adam when she chose to speak with a serpent in the first place. Her loyalty should have belonged to her man but she was easily led astray. The conversation led to her greed for power she wasn’t meant to possess. Following her faulty decision, she persuaded and possibly pushed Adam to join in her mistake and eat from the tree. She then blamed the serpent when God started calling their name. During our love life I know I’ve gotten greedy for power. I can definitely relate to being pushy and then blaming Dan or the enemy for mistakes I’ve made.
As a married couple, we have a choice to make. We can either walk under the curse of Adam and Eve or walk under the covering of Christ as God’s blessed, adopted children. The wrong choice will cause the kingdom to fall into the enemy’s hands every time. Confronting in love is often the path to turning things around and casting them aside.
Step Two: Fast, Pray & Examine Your Motive
As we consider Queen Esther’s journey to confrontation, the scripture says she entered a season of prayer. Before carefully confronting our spouse, we have to first examine our own heart and pray for God to give us His perspective on the matter. God sees the heart of our spouse and He's more than able to address the situation if we willingly step out of his way and pray. We don't confront unless the Lord says "Go". Esther also fasted before her confrontation. Fasting is a method used in Bible times that Dan and I have used many times to empty ourselves of our “self” so we could hear the voice of God. Once that happens, God can soften any heart and move us to say whatever needs to be said.
If He does ask us to confront, our primary goal is to restore our spouse to a right relationship with God, not to ourselves. Don’t look for an apology from your spouse, instead seek to help them make an about face and reconcile in their relationship with the Heavenly Father. When this relationship is restored your marriage will be restored as well. Our motive must be pure and without selfishness. We may never hear the words “I’m so sorry” or “Please forgive me.” Those words are the words meant for the Heavenly Father. We can't approach our spouse and succeed if our heart is in the wrong place, and if our motive is pure and our priorities in order, we can move to the next step in the process.
Step Three: Gather Your Courage
Next, Esther, who was determined to do the right thing, had to grab hold of bravery and devise her plan. Confronting a spouse requires courage, especially if the subject is a sensitive one. Our courage comes from the Lord, and in our bravery, humility is required. We cannot approach our husband with a prideful, righteous arrogance. Esther approached the King humbly and he received her. Back in those days, it was illegal to approach the King unless you were summoned. The King actually had the option, if approached without being called, to order execution. Thank goodness those days are over, but knowing the Father has sent you is crucial to your success. We have no guarantees that our spouse will be willing to listen to what we have to say, but if we follow Esther’s example and approach them with humility and respect they will be more likely to listen.
Step Four: When the Timing is Right, Extend an Invitation and Share the Evidence
Queen Esther gathered her courage and approached the King extending an invitation to dinner. It’s always best to offer an invitation to our mate, trusting they’ll accept our request for conversation. Over dinner is a great idea. Sometimes confronting in public keeps the emotions of both spouses under check. Once you are face to face, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you share your evidence to support your frustration. Esther didn't end up confronting the first time. Instead, she listened to her gut and requested dinner a second time. Timing is everything when it comes to confrontation.
When the time comes, have the evidence ready. In the first few years of our marriage, when I would confront Dan, I rarely had the evidence prepared. As I was presenting my opening arguments before the court, I was like the young, legal assistant who had not prepared her case. I soon learned I had to have the evidence to back up my case or the conversation quickly turned into an argument. Remember presenting evidence doesn’t give us permission to bring up old crimes that have already been discussed and forgiven or throwing old issues into the ring. It does mean we provide a couple of recent examples to make our point in a respectful way when presenting the proof. Remember, you’re not keeping score; you’re just keeping good records. Esther clearly explained why she needed to address the crisis with her King and she gave the evidence that proved the guilt of Haman.
Step Five: Speak the Truth in Love
Speaking the truth in love is one of the most important aspects of confronting your spouse. The scripture says if we speak but have not love we are like a clanging gong. If we put ourselves in our spouse’s shoes, I think we’ll realize the truth is really hard to hear. It means coming face to face with our personal failures. Realize the truth is always easier to swallow if spoken with loving lips. Queen Esther spoke the truth in love, with respect to the King's authority, explaining her circumstances clearly.
As Esther journeyed toward the throne, she said, "If I perish, I perish." She accepted the fact the King still had the final say in the situation. Enter your conversation as she did, with no expectations. She went only with hope and faith in the Lord who had sent her. It’s up to your spouse how they receive the truth. If they don’t willingly accept the confrontation, remember it doesn’t mean it can’t change over time. With God all things are possible. Sometimes it requires a time of thinking, waiting, and more prayer. If you can't seem to find a solution, seek the council of a pastor or marriage counselor as an objective third party to resolve the issue. God commands us to seek Godly council when in need of wisdom beyond ourselves.
As you enjoy this season of Fall, if you are facing a challenging season, don't lose sight of the good when things are hard and allow your heart to grow faint. God wants us to stand strong, gather our courage, and do the work to bring new life to any dead situation. Confronting those we love isn’t easy, but it is sometimes necessary to maintain a relationship of integrity and nobility in the kingdom. Your palace can be full of pumpkin spice and everything nice if you're both willing to let the dead leaves fall away and the Father bring new growth and life in the Spring!
Here at living in nobility, I've never tried to paint the world as all royal roses and peaceful palaces, or at least that's never been my intent. My hearts desire has been to paint the world through the perspective of God's heart toward husbands and wives because when the world has gone mad, his view is the only real source of peace if we want to maintain our palace.
In the last year, Dan and I have faced a challenging season as parents. It's one we never imagined facing. But let's be real, it's not easy raising children in the world we're in. In all honesty, history shows it's been hard from the beginning of time. The first married couple recorded in scripture had challenging children. The first sibling rivalry began just outside the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve's two sons, Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve had already faced their major “bump in the road” moment when they disobeyed the one command given by God. Now their two sons were not getting along. Abel was more than able to please God with his offering, and Cain raised cane about it and took his brother's life. In the grief that must have followed, don't you wonder how the first couple survived?
The season we're facing is not about sibling rivalry but about the prodigal's journey home struggling on the razor's edge between living in the truth or believing a lie the world offers up on a silver platter. In the midst of the battle, there have been times that Dan and I have rolled up our sleeves and fought the enemy and other times when we've put on our gloves and clobbered each other. Why does that happen? Because it's easier to fight with what one can see and wound than the principalities of darkness we can't see with the naked eye. Too bad it's not as simple as ordering up “Solar Eclipse” glasses to peer through when the darkness comes.
Chaos comes in many forms. When it comes and the war torn castle ensues, what do we do as husband and wife? First we have to know who we are and what our identity really is in our Father or we lose our faith and cave to fear. Here are the things we've learned about keeping peace in the midst of pandemonium:
In the end, we can find peace in the palace when we stand on his promises wearing the full armor of our Father, the King. Remember when David defeated Goliath? He denied the armor the world had to offer and wore the only armor that fit his soul, the armor of his faith. The key to your winning in times of battle is to know who you are, know who your enemy is, and walk in complete faith in the one who has already won the war!
If you need inspiration to put on your armor, copy and paste this link in your browser and watch. It inspired us for battle:
As we celebrate our nation's independence this month, I felt led to write about the joy of finding peace in the midst of war. Over the last few weeks I've learned of many couples who are facing an extreme amount of warfare. Some have children who are wrestling to find their identities without loosing their hearts. Some have husbands whose jobs are in trouble. Some are facing marital challenges they never expected. Others are facing illness that's creating fear and doubt about their future. All of them are struggling to walk in peace because they fear what their future holds. I say, "Peace is ours!" Peace is a priceless commodity in the chaotic world that surrounds us. So how do we find peace in the midst of the storm? As Jesus and the disciples traveled across the Sea of Galilee on a small boat toward the other side, a sudden storm arose. It was unexpected and they were completely caught off guard. The disciples feared they would surely die. Where was Jesus in the midst of this crazy, chaotic catastrophic storm? He was resting in the knowledge that he had it all under control. When they woke him in fear they asked, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
His simple reply spoke volumes to them and it speaks to us today. He calmly reminded them not to doubt his authority. He didn't rush to the helm of the ship to assess the storm because he wasn't caught off guard. In fact, because of his omnipotent power, Jesus knew the storm was coming before he even got in the boat, and despite that knowledge he still chose to rest. Scripture says, "He whose mind is stayed upon me, I will give him perfect peace." Peace is ours when we focus on the one who stood in the midst of the storm and commanded the winds and seas to obey him with, "Peace be still".
Before Jesus departed back to Heaven, he told his disciples they would be able to do even greater things than he had done while he was here. Once the Holy Spirit arrived, Jesus declared his disciples, and that includes all believers, would be a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, many have forgotten that promise. In the midst of the chaos that surrounds us we often forget we have a power that is stronger than any mighty, rushing wind. Not only do we have power, we also have authority better known in the garden as "dominion" which God originally gave to Adam and Eve. Sadly, when the enemy arrived at their garden gate, they were deceived and lost that power. When Jesus arrived as the promised Messiah, he provided us the opportunity to take it back by laying down his life. Like the many American soldiers who have fought to give us freedom. Jesus went to battle with the Devil in the wilderness to fight for our freedom and authority over the enemy. He faced every temptation known to man and defeated the temptation so that we too could live free. He was the sacrificial lamb who died for our independence!
With the power of the Holy Spirit behind us and the authority to take charge as sons and daughters of the Kingdom before us, what weapon formed against us can stand? Not one. If everywhere you turn the chaos in your circumstances is threatening to enter your palace doors and turn them into castle walls, take your eyes off your circumstances and put your eyes on the one who commands the storm to cease. He is faithful. He is not caught off guard by what you're facing, and he will give you perfect peace if you think upon him and rest in His promises. Your part in this battle as king and queen of your palace is to wield the weapon of prayer like never before. To stand in faith and fight well, no matter what you see. Below is a list of things you and your spouse can pray for one another in the midst of the storm as you stand bravely and command peace!
Together as Husband and Wife pray these prayers over your household:
One of the leading, most subtle issues in marriage can be the challenge that comes in the season of raising children. There's an age-old debate in the circles of the psychology of parenting--Child centered parenting? Or Marriage/God centered parenting? Believe it or not, the answer to the question can set the course for your success or failure in marriage.
Parenting children is the first command God gave when he told Adam and Eve to procreate the earth. He was saying, “Reproduce yourselves.” He didn't just want the earth to be populated for population's sake, he wanted us to have children that could grow up to be God honoring, world changing adults. Having children is the greatest opportunity we have to partner with God in creating something that can impact the world. That's why children are called arrows in Psalms 123:5, “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them (arrows).” They are meant to be shot forward into the future as warriors hitting the bull's eye for God's kingdom and in turn we are blessed by the impact of their lives.
As amazing as that might sound, somehow we seem to have lost our way as culture and child psychologists, whose methods didn't necessarily line up with God's original plan, began to tell us how to raise our children. We've been told to focus on our children, build their “self” esteem, and feed them whenever they want, or they won't grow up healthy and happy, I'm not sure if you've noticed but we're not growing up generations of healthy and happy children despite our goal to build their “self” image. In fact, what we are seeing in upcoming generations is people who want what they want, when they want it. Sadly, “self” centered children can make your marriage fall into destruction faster than you can blink and it can do a number on our society.
What does God's word say about our focus and children? Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” So how should we raise them in a way that actually nurtures them toward that goal while at the same time strengthening and maintaining our marriage? After all, marriage is the foundational relationship to all other relationships that exists. If covenant marriage falls so does society. If our marriage falls apart, our children will have a hard time making it to the bull's eye, failing to hit the mark.
When our first child was born, we had no idea how to parent. I remember getting in the car at the hospital to come home when Dan looked at me and said, “Now what?”. We knew we were about to begin the most challenging journey of our lives, raising and sharpening arrows for the future, yet we really had no idea where to begin. Once we were home, I started the process of learning how to care for a newborn. This involved feeding him whenever he wanted to eat, as directed by the well-meaning lactation nurse. For four months I focused on our son every waking minute of the day. By the end of that four months I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted with nothing left over to give our marriage. We needed wisdom and quick, and God provided. He sent a well-meaning friend with a book on parenting that was Bible based. It was full of advice with scripture to back it up. It proposed focusing on your marriage and not your children. It was an idea I had never heard before. The point was, if you focus on your children and meet their every demand, they will grow up to be demanding adults instead of healthy, happy arrows hitting the bull's eye of life.
This book challenged us to make God the center of our marriage and make our children welcome members to our family. No more child centered parenting for us! I was desperate and we were quick to change our course of action. We decided our children would be an added blessing to our lives but not the center of our lives. The Bible says God is to be the center of it all. Otherwise, we can end up with selfish children and broken marriages. Children are not to be our focus to the point we have nothing left to give our spouse. In fact, studies show that children are much happier when their parent's marriage is stable and strong.
Here are a few basic scriptures on what God has to say about our focus:
Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “He whose mind is fixed on the Lord, God will give perfect peace.” Psalms 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Marriage is meant to be a triangular relationship, with the husband and wife each on the bottom two opposite ends of the triangle and God at the top point. As each spouse moves closer to God by making him the center focus of their lives, they automatically grow closer to each other and their lives intersect. God created marriage to be the touchable, tangible example of Jesus' marriage to the church. That's why Satan has come to destroy it. He hates the bride groom, Jesus, and he doesn't want your marriage to reflect His image to the lost world we live in. How does he attack us? By causing us to lose our focus.
If we become child centered in marriage, the shape changes from God's triangular design to some other odd shape. An octagon, the shape of a stop sign, is a great example to use here. In an octagon situation, everyone's focus on God STOPS as they move around in circles of busyness with no one's life ever intersecting another. So where do the children fit into a triangular, God-centered marriage? They sit patiently on the bottom line of the triangle where they can watch and learn. They're focus is on mom and dad with God at the very top of their lives so they too will choose to follow Christ in a personal relationship and one day grow up to recreate the covenant of marriage with their spouse and reflect his glory. If we've never taught them to focus on anything but themselves and what they want while everyone caters to their needs, how will they do marriage and succeed? How will our marriage succeed?
What style parenting are you using? Here's a little check up to determine if you and your spouse have the right focus. Be sure and answer the questions on separate pieces of paper, then share your answers to see if you and your spouse are on the same page:
If the questions help you realize you have been way too focused on your children, shift your position now and implement new methods to put the focus back on your relationship with the Lord and your spouse. Here are some good ideas to get started:
How can your marriage bloom in the season of childrearing? Focus on God and each other and the covenant of that relationship and invite children to come along and observe and live in love relationship with you both. They'll one day be grateful you did!
Spring is in full swing and its time to take down the dead trees and plant new growth. This reminds me of my first experience of bringing down a tree. I caught a firsthand glimpse of what it takes to be a lumberjack early in our marriage when Dan and I found ourselves with a dead oak tree about one-hundred feet tall, weighing in at around a thousand pounds. It was a true Goliath! Sadly, there was no money in the budget to hire a professional and we were too naive to know better.
Determined to conquer it ourselves, we gathered a chain saw and a three stranded rope. It wasn’t until I saw the rope that I got a little concerned. Dan brought out this small, thin, white rope about the size of my ring finger. He assured me it would work since the package stated the amount of weight it could bear before breaking was less than the weight of our tree. Basically all that stood between us and disaster was the strength of a three stranded rope and true grit. Dan did the cutting (I had no idea how to run a chain saw) and I did the tugging. Hours later, reality set in as Dan yelled timber and I saw that massive tree falling towards me. I'm not sure what I expected, after all I had been tugging and coaxing it in my direction all afternoon. Suddenly, I found myself sprinting for my life as it came crashing to the ground.
In the midst of all the chaos, I learned some valuable lessons that day, First, I learned to hire a professional tree service next time. Second, I learned that the strength of a three-stranded rope far exceeds human logic. Third, I realized that unwavering determination and the right rope can empower a married couple to conquer any giant. Conquering giants is exhilarating. .
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. (But) a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (NIV)
At the creation of marriage, God knew if Adam stood alone in the Garden of Eden, he could be overpowered. With woman by his side, they could defend themselves but still loose a battle. With the third strand of God's love intertwined in their covenant, their bond could never be broken by the giants they would face in their lives. Unfortunately, they failed to understand God's plan. God longed to be the tie to bind Adam and Eve’s hearts together, but when Satan slithered into the garden and wrapped himself around a tree in their midst, the presence of a fourth strand in the human relationship was added. That's when everything began to unravel. Instead of them walking away and clinging to the strand of God's perfect love, they allowed the enemy to intertwine himself into their story. Thanks to the fourth member in their marriage, we've faced chaos and war torn castles in our own love stories ever since.
Later in the Old Testament, there was another special couple and eventually Jesus came through their family bloodline. When God first appeared to them they were known as Abram and Sarai. He later changed their names to Abraham and Sarah when he entered into a covenant with them regarding their future. As they grew older in age, unable to have children, God had seen Abraham’s faithfulness and stepped into their story one starry night making them a promise to give them a son whose descendants would out number the stars. They clung to the promise for a while but grew weary of the waiting. They began to doubt God and the promise he made. Believing the situation to be hopeless, Sarah gave up. In her weakness, she pushed Abraham to sleep with her maidservant Hagar so she could bear him a son. Nine months later, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Their decision to put their own plan in place has had detrimental consequences throughout history. They wove the fourth strand into their covenant, creating chaos in their castle where the descendants of Abraham's two sons have been at war ever since.
Rope-making dates back to the Egyptians in 4000 BC? Even though technology and materials might have changed, the way ropes are made has changed very little. The three stranded rope is how the Egyptians provided means for the Israelite slaves to move 2.5 ton stones to build the great pyramids. Even on U.S. Navy ships, where rope is used from the smallest to largest of tasks to win at war, they still use three stranded ropes. The Navy Cadet Handbook states their massive ropes are made up of smaller three stranded ropes woven together in multiples of three to make larger ones. In human logic it would seem the more strands the stronger the rope, but the Navy handbook states the fourth strand actually weakens the rope. Studies have shown that a two stranded rope breaks too easily and a rope made of four strands is compromised over all. The scripture in Ecclesiastes has scientific proof!
Here's the great news. We can remove the extra strand in our lives by renewing our minds and asking the Lord to cut the cords that bind anything in our hearts other than Him. If you're up for some spring cleaning, it's a season to reassess our relationship with our spouse and bring down the giants in our midst by asking ourselves these questions:
1. Is there a fourth presence in our marriage relationship that shouldn't be there?
2. Is there a parent, friend, or extended family member involved in our relationship? If so, are they interjecting their opinion into our marriage?
3. Is there a job, activity, or even a ministry that is wrapping itself around my heart or mind distracting me from our marriage covenant?
4. Are our children at the top of the list of priorities in our home instead of our marriage?
If the answer is “yes” to any of those questions, the solutions are found in God's word. First, admit the truth to yourself and your spouse and ask for forgiveness making a commitment to removing the fourth strand and holding each other accountable. Then go back to creation and put things in the proper order based on God's design. He was very specific when he created the universe and in what order things should be placed. Initially, he created man to be in relationship with him. Start by putting your personal relationship with the Father first place every morning through prayer, worship, and his word. Next, God created marriage between husband and wife, so place your marriage in the second position on your list of priorities. Renew your mind daily on why you fell in love and what you love about each other. Find ways to stay connected by texting or emailing each other an encouraging note daily. Pray together at least one time a day. Go on a date night without your children at least once a week or once every other week. Get away for one night overnight or stay at home without your children overnight once a month.
Next, in line of priorities is your children. Believe it or not, children do much better in every area of their life, including obedience and school, when they see two parents who love one another and make their relationship a priority keeping their roles in order. They may try to divide and conquer out of their sinful nature, but they should never be allowed to win that battle. Show them what a strand of three between you and your knight in shining armor, with God wrapped around your relationship, looks like if you want them to thrive. Next, assess your career. Work hard during work hours but keep clear boundaries when the day is done. Don't bring your work or ministry home unless you have no other choice. When the sun goes down, have some family fun.
It's never too late to re-fortify your marriage by following this plan and tightening up the three strands in your home. God’s design and protection as the strand of three in a relationship of two has always been the planned fortress around the marriage covenant. If we’re going to succeed at marriage, we have to realize how important it is to make sure Christ is the tie that binds us together. He has to be woven into every area of our partnership, at the center of our hearts, and intertwined into our bond according to divine design. There's no greater strength to conquer and bring down the giants in your kingdom than a strand of three with you, your knight in shining armor, and the King of all Kings woven together as one mighty strand.
"If our heart is captivated by anything other than Christ, we aren't elevated to our purpose, we are frustrated with our circumstances."
The word "frustrated" is defined as feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, or being prevented from progressing to our rightful position.
If we are experiencing frustration or discontentment with life in general, maybe we need to step back and ask ourselves some tough questions. If we want to overcome our frustration and be elevated to the position as a woman, wife, and mother that God has for us, finding honest answers to those questions is the key. The first question to ask is, "What is captivating me and my time?"
As I pressed in to the Lord recently, I realized that my time was slipping through my hands like sand through my fingers. Lots of things were captivating valuable time that needed to be recaptured. As I continued to pray for wisdom, the Lord posed some even more challenging questions for me to ponder as a way to check my heart. The Bible says, "Where your heart is, there your treasure will be," If we are finding our treasure in distractions instead of the love of the Father and the love for people then we are missing the two most important commandments that Jesus taught. When we miss love, our heart can become distant and discontented.
Here are some questions we have to answer if we want to take back ground the enemy has stolen put our hearts back in the right location.
1. Do you love sleep more than you love meeting with the Father every morning? Jesus was only as powerful in public as he was intimate with the Father in private. The scripture says he stole away every morning to meet with the Father. If we want to captivate the world with the love of and light of Christ, we have to live in daily intimacy with him in order to walk in his power and reflect his glory to the world. Time with God in the morning is about renewing our minds and polishing our crown.
2. Do you love social media more than you love socializing in real relationships with people? Jesus socialized with people. He ate with people no one else would eat with. He healed people no one else would touch. He loved people everyone else hated. When social media came into our culture it changed how we relate to people, how we spend our free time, and how we even view ourselves. We can either use it or let it use us. Social media provides a captivated audience so use it for sewing seeds of good for God's kingdom. If we're not careful, it can rob us of the joy of relating and loving people. With the constant influx of information, we can find ourselves living in constant frustration because we are measuring our behind the stage lives based on the front stage performance people post on social media, despite the fact that most people only post the best parts of their lives or exaggeration of their lives. If we’re honest, if we're spending more time on social media than we are spending with real people, we are in an intimate relationship with a computer and there is nothing real, emotional, or loving about that.
3. Do you love being busy more than you love abiding in Him? Busyness is the enemy’s greatest weapon for distracting us from God’s business. Notice there’s only one letter difference between those two words. When Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan offered him three counterfeits to establish his kingdom. They were very similar to God's plan but they were substitutes for the real thing. If we're not careful we can find ourselves doing a lot of good things instead of the "God" thing our Father has for us to do. Notice again that these two things are very similar but they are just enough different to confuse us from the truth about our calling.
The next time you find yourself discontented, step back and do a self evaluation to see where your heart really is. If it belongs to anything but your first love, the Bridegroom of Heaven, then you could be falling for substitutes instead of the real love God has to offer you with himself and people.
Due to a month of Fasting and Prayer, there will be no blog posts during the month of January, 2017. Happy New Year!
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days." Luke 5:35 ESV
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
Do you want to live in a war-torn castle or a peaceful palace?
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