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.
Every February fourteenth, couples search the store shelves for the perfect gift or card for their special loved one. According to Hallmark, more than 163 million cards are exchanged around the world on Valentine's Day each year. Many complain it's a holiday created by card companies, while others believe it's historical. Although the date has some historical reference, it has nothing to do with the beautiful love God created to be celebrated and cherished between a husband and his bride. This is a one-of-a-kind matchless love. There is nothing more beautiful or more challenging than love and marriage. Let's be honest. Yes, it's amazing at times, but it is also incredibly hard at others. The truth is, marriage isn't meant to be easy, it's meant to mold us and shape us by challenging us to become less selfish and more loving. When we accept this idea and embrace the truth, our challenges can become a good thing, and our marriage can begin to flourish. We are two hearts with three parts and according to scripture, a strand of three is not easily broken.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. But a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Just as our Creator in Heaven is found in three parts as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he created the union of marriage to operate in the same way for the sake of strength. Together our three parts are perfected by his design. We each have our individual roles yet they operate as one captivating, beautiful masterpiece. When God created us in His image, there was no detail left undone. He not only wanted the relationship to create love in our lives, but he longed for it to thrive and operate in such a way that our love would last until death parted us.
Which part am I in the strand of three?
The answer lies in scripture. Within the marriage dynamic, there are three roles to be played. Someone has to be the head of the home which represents God the Father. Then there's the role of Jesus, who was a servant leader sent to do the work of the Father, and then last but certainly not least, there is the Holy Spirit. The mighty, rushing wind who moves throughout our lives shaking things up and challenging us to greatness.
What role does the king of our palace play?
According to Ephesians 5:23, man was created to be the head of the home. He was formed to be the noble leader who makes great decisions. The one at the top who oversees the benefits and blessings of life just like God the Father does. He is protector, using his unemotional wisdom to create strategic battle plans to defeat the enemy. He is provider. According to the story of the fish and the loaves, God provided and multiplied when there was lack. In the nature of every man is the desire to labor and bring home provision for the love of his life. This is the role God designed just for the king of our home.
Ephesians 5:25 says husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and laid down his life for it. Husbands are not only called to lead but to lead sacrificially. God challenged them to go to the ends of the earth and relinquish their lives, if required. Just as Jesus commanded the winds and waves to be still, husbands stand in the storm with arms outstretched holding back the cyclones, keeping everyone safe. A husband is gentle, yet truthful. He loves, yet he confronts as Jesus did when there was dishonor in the house. Jesus taught Biblical truth, speaking into the lives of those he led. Our husbands are to be spiritual teachers at home and at work. Jesus rose early to pray for direction. Husbands have a mandate to cover their families in prayer. Jesus did not waiver on any mission set before him. He bravely faced the enemy and used God's word as a weapon. A husband is called to be the knight in shining armor who wars for his family no matter what it costs him, even unto death.
If husband is Father and Servant Leader, who is the wife?
The wife represents the Holy Spirit! Through our identity, the strand of three is complete. Together as two hearts with three parts, the bond of marriage is strong enough to withstand any formidable foe. In scripture, the Holy Spirit represents the most powerful force sent by God to empower man. That means woman is a magnificent gift of power given from the heart of God placed in the arms of man. Genesis 2:8 says, "It is not good for man to be alone." We are beautiful and delicate like a breeze, yet powerful and strong like a mighty rushing wind and we can empower the king of our home to stand on the battlefield of life and conquer the world.
What are the characteristics of the Holy Spirit that empower us as wives?
This week as you prepare to celebrate love and romance, remember the unique role you've been given. When we understand who we are and who God created us to be, our marriage begins to look like a beautiful bouquet of flowers that will never wilt or fade away. Embracing your noble identity in marriage can actually make your life like a box of chocolates!
"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
This December, as the season of Christmas quickly approached, I started hearing these words in my head and it seemed they were popping up everywhere. They aren't just the words in the famous carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. They are also the words spoken by the angel Gabriel when God sent him to bring the prophetic good news of Jesus' birth to Mary and Joseph over two thousand years ago. God had chosen the obscure couple to be the parents of the Messiah who would bring peace and goodwill to the world. Gabriel then went on to share the miraculous good news of another son, John, coming to Zechariah and Elizabeth, who would fore-run the ministry of Christ. Finally, the mighty angel trumpeted the good news to the shepherds in the fields once Jesus had been delivered!
God has always held names in high regard as proven in the nine hundred forty-four plus times he named himself, named things, or changed the names of things or people in scripture, Surely it was no accident the angel chosen to sound the trumpet of the Messiah's entry would be “Gabriel” which means God is my strength. Gabriel had nothing more to offer than a message, and his name represented the news he came to bring. Gabriel proclaimed Jesus as the promised deliverer who would be our only strength against the enemy in our world. Gabriel wasn't sent to bring glory to himself, but to remind us we cannot fight and win the battles we face without the confidence of Christ. He had the honor of announcing our only hope for great tidings of comfort and joy!
How do we live in tidings of comfort and joy in the midst of chaos at Christmas? Clearly, in the hurried, holiday hustle and bustle, we can lose sight of the gift we were given on that first Christmas morn. Reality is, despite our pursuit for peace in our palace, chaos does, at some point in time, knock on our palace door to rob us of the presence of Christ, not just at Christmas but all year round. Just as Mary had pondered in her heart the message of Gabriel, I too was pondering the presence of peace this Christmas when I realized Chaos had come to steal it, and I didn't even see him walk in. When we're taken by surprise by the thief of our comfort and joy, we have one of two choices to make if we want to regain the gift the Messiah gave. Mary and Joseph faced the same choices. They could refuse to accept the gift they had been chosen to receive or they could make the journey to the stable where it could be birthed. God is our strength when chaos wraps at the palace door, and we can either stand and fight the frenzy in our own power or kneel and pray for the gift of strength found in the manger.
Lastly, Gabriel appeared in the fields where the shepherds watched their flocks, broadcasting the birth announcement the Savior had been delivered. Why was the news carried to the fields and announced to the lowly shepherds? Because, they represented the common person and the lowly nature of us all. The baby King had come to save everyone from the chaos in our field, no matter where we dwell.
Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!
The angel Gabriel said, "Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere."
With Christ's arrival, Gabriel's message was no longer about his coming but about the presentation of his gifts. The word tidings means news, information, notification, and intelligence. Gabriel had come to give notification of the good news that comfort and joy had arrived. The word comfort is defined as a promise of freedom from pain, grief, and distress that the Messiah had come to bring. Joy is defined as delight, triumph, rejoicing, and rapture. The babe in swaddling clothes birthed delight in the midst of distress, triumph in trials, rejoicing in the midst of rebellion, and our rapture in the midst of ruptured, shattered relationships.
As the queen of our home, positioned by the king we've married, we gaze over the field of our harvest every day just as the shepherds did. Our palace is the place where we produce our fruit. Our children are the fruit we bear. They are the sheep we nurture standing by our husband's side as he leads the way. Together we watch over them and care for their safety until they leave to begin their own lives in their own field. Just as with the shepherds on that dark starry night, we labor and work to make sure our home is in order so our sheep can find green pasture and living water. The only hope we have for order in our field of harvest is the promise of comfort and joy that Christ brought.
So consider the message of Gabriel this holiday season, as we head toward the beginning of a new year. Stop and check the level of comfort and joy in your heart. If chaos is in your midst, take a step back and ask yourself two important questions. First, do I believe in the hope of Christ? If you have not yet chosen to put your faith in the comfort and joy Jesus came to bring through a personal relationship with him, it's not too late. This Christmas could be the beginning of the real peace he came to bring. All it takes is a trip to the trough where he lay. There you can find living water to quench your thirst for comfort and joy. His message is timeless and the salvation he brought on that fateful night 2000 years ago is still your hope in the field where you labor today. Follow this link to find the hope the baby brought forth just for you.:
If chaos is scrooging up your Christmas, the second question to consider is, “Am I listening to the authentic voice of Gabriel?” If you have a voice proclaiming any news in your field other than comfort and joy, you are listening to a counterfeit who is not a true Gabriel at all. If you have chaos and not comfort, and your home is in jeopardy without joy, silence the angel of anarchy and run. Run from your field back to the stable where you'll find the truth Gabriel was sent to proclaim! Your hope is wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, and it's really not that far from the field to Bethlehem......
Today a Savior has been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace and good will to those all men, on whom his favor rests.”
"O, Star of Wonder
Star of Night,
Star of Royal Beauty Bright
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light."
Every year at Christmas, families gather around a Christmas tree often illuminated by a bright and beautiful star at the top. In the midst of all the packages and bows, have you ever stopped to consider, why a star?
It's not just a nice finish to a festive tree. Historical and Biblical documents tell us an illustrious star appeared in the night sky around 4 B.C. a little over two thousand years ago. It was a night like no other, as the celestial glow hung in the sky over a cold and musty stable in Bethlehem.
Matthew 2:1-2 tells us the star was so important it prompted three men of honor, wealth, and wisdom to pack up their caravan and travel for months on the backs of camels through the desert in search of a promised King.
"We saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."
Why did they take this journey and where did it lead them?
Does the star matter?
This star has been discussed for centuries by scientists and theologians alike. They've never solved the mystery but historical documents prove it did exist. Some say it was supernova but Novas explode, creating bright light, but quickly burn out quickly and the journey of the three kings took months. Some say it was a comet, but comets usually pass through the atmosphere on a known schedule and there's no historical reference of a comet scheduled during the time of Christ's birth..
Others say it was the alignment of the planet Jupiter with the star Regulus and the northern star. Many scientists believe these three massive bodies of light aligned marking this miraculous event, creating the star, leading the Magi to their destination. Think about that for a moment. Scripture shows God as a triune God, God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. On this starry night, they would have been in complete alignment for the purpose for which Jesus had come. As he burst forth from Heaven to earth, the hope of the world had been birthed.
Do the Heaven's really declare His glory?
Another common theory is the North star appeared over the stable that night. Maybe that's because the North Star is unlike any other star in the sky. It's the only star that can be seen from all hemispheres of the globe. It's the only star that aligns perfectly with the center of earth's axis. It's the only star in the universe that doesn't follow the natural order of rules for stars. The North star is considered to be more reliable than any compass. For someone lost, it's the way home.
Even if it wasn't the North Star appearing that starry night in Bethlehem, it definitely points us to a Savior declaring His glory. Jesus was and is unlike any King we'll ever encounter. He's the only God at the center of the earth's axis. He never followed the natural order of the rules that apply to all other Kings, and I can speak from experience that his guidance in my life has always been more reliable than any compass. When I've been lost, he's been my way home.
Another amazing fact about the North Star is most people find it in the night sky by first finding the two star groupings better known as the "Little Dipper" and the "Big Dipper". These constellations remain constant in their positions by the North Star, and over the course of the four seasons, as the earth rotates around the sun, the "Big & Little Dipper" rotate around the North Star completing their circular rotation in a years time..
What does this have to do with you and I?
Jesus is often referred to as the "living water" and a dipper is something in Bible times, people drank from. From the Old Testament to the New, Jesus is called the "living water flowing out of Jerusalem." In John 4, that identity comes to life as Jesus offers a historical drink of water to a woman at a well who was a prostitute, a divorcee, and a live-in girlfriend with a broken reputation and a shattered heart. He offered her a drink that would not only quench her thirst but wash away all her filth no matter how dirty she might have looked to the rest of the world.
Does the origin of the star matter?
Sometimes the unknown details are meant to be just that, unknown. Not knowing keeps us searching and open to the supernatural power of God and prompts us to keep listening to the voice of the Creator for answers. For the Magi, that searching led them to the King. They followed a path to the ruler of the universe who had come to bring hope, mercy, forgiveness, and love to the world.
That star wasn't just for them. It's for us. Supernaturally, the Creator of the Universe, chose to mark an unusual star with a cup in the nighttime sky. As every human being has the opportunity to look up, the message is crystal clear. Jesus came to offer everyone the opportunity to drink from a cup offered out of love, giving us all a chance to drink three hundred and sixty-five days a year! If we take the cup he offers, we will never long again for empty things like money, drugs, pornography, prostitution, lust, or divorce or any other area of our hearts where we thirst.
What's the takeaway?
So this year, take a stroll outside and consider the wonder that the Magi saw. Look up at the majestic North Star marked by the "Big Dipper" and drink in the love the God of the universe has to offer through the King who came in a manger for the sake of your hope and your peace. No matter what your past or present holds, your Father holds the promise of a future beyond your wildest dreams. This Christmas season, as you gaze upon the star on your tree, celebrate the King who marked his arrival with a light and a cup and take a drink!
"The Eagle has landed!" You may remember these famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 touched down on the moon for the first time. It was unlike any other day in history as two human beings stepped out of the Eagle into the unknown to do something they had never done before. They had no idea what might happen or if they would be able to launch back into space and reconnect with the base ship still in orbit, yet they took the leap of faith. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
As we gather ourselves together as a nation following a brutal political season, where do we go from here? Do we dig in and refuse to move forward, or do we embrace the risk while advancing onward, taking a giant leap for mankind? I have remained relatively silent in this tornado of television propaganda, however, following one of the most historical elections of our lifetime, I'm taking a leap myself to share with you something that happened months back before the election occurred. No matter which side you voted for, this story is relevant to our future. It's relevant to our healing.
It all started with an unusual dream. When I awakened from the dream, I quickly realized its significance to our future as a nation, no matter how the election would end.
What was my dream?.
I heard something very loud outside my home so I ran out of the garage to see what it was. At the side of our driveway was a huge bird. The bird was screaming and fighting for its life. It was facing away from me with its head hanging down so low I could not tell what kind of bird it was. It's wings were dark brown so I assumed it was the hawk that lives in our back yard. It was so badly injured it was gasping for air. I felt compelled to run into the house to get a glass of water in hopes it might help. I was afraid of the bird, so I stood back to back behind it, sticking the glass around to its beak as it gulped down the water. Each time it finished the water, I ran back in for more. Every time I returned, I could tell the bird was getting stronger. The last time I offered the bird a drink, it suddenly raised it’ head and screamed. To my surprise, its head was as white as snow. I realized it was the American bald eagle. Suddenly I heard a voice say, “America is gasping for air and living water is the only thing that can save it. If my people will generously pour out living water, America will be revived.”
What does the eagle mean?
After I awoke, hours later I thought of the scripture, Isaiah 40:31,"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." I had always been intrigued by God's choice to use the Eagle in this verse rather than another bird, so I decided to do some research. I wanted to understand why he might have made this choice. What I discovered was eye-opening. When an adult eagle is teaching its young to fly, it will take it to a place that is in direct reference to the sun and line it up before the flying begins. Then it starts to fly in small circles prompting its young to follow. With each small circle, as the eaglet begins to get stronger, the adult eagle begins to lead its young to make larger and larger circles while ascending higher and higher, getting closer and closer to the sun.
How does this apply to us?
We have to line up our lives in direct reference to the Son of God, focusing our eye on him at all times. Prayer is our greatest circle of influence, and it keeps us accountable to God's plans As we grow stronger and stronger in prayer, our circle of influence grows larger and larger and we begin to ascend closer and closer to Jesus in faith and relationship. He renews our strength and we mount up as eagles. We run without growing faint or weary as we follow his lead.
What about the water?
As I pondered the symbolism of water, I was reminded we are in one of the most significant droughts in American history. There are only a few other droughts that out-measure this one. Where's the water? Maybe deliverance and revival are on the horizon and the water is on its way? Deliverance throughout biblical history came through water many times. For example, Moses' mom sent her newborn son down the Nile river in a basket in hopes of saving his life from Pharaoh's order for all baby boys to be killed. Her faith and God's faithfulness delivered him from the water because God had need of him in the future. He grew up to lead God's people out of generations of slavery in Egypt as they followed him through the parted waters of the Red Sea and walked into their freedom and future. Then there's Jonah, called by God to dish out some living water to the people of Nineveh. Instead, he chose to run the other way. As the endangered ship's crew threw him overboard to save themselves, God had Jonah right where he wanted him, in the water where he could deliver him. God sent a great fish to save him and spit him out on the beach, where he went on to give the people of Nineveh the drink of salvation. And then there's Noah, who built a boat in a desert despite the fact it had never rained. When God brought the flood waters, Noah and his family were packed away safe inside the ark. His family was our only hope of a future. Mankind was delivered through their flood. The most significant person of all is Jesus, who came through a virgin. As her water broke, God brought forth the choice of salvation to us. In the Jordan River, at his baptism, a dove descended on him, signifying the beginning of the fulfillment of his call and our liberation from sin.
Is there significance of offering living water to the world around us?
As I think about the dream now that the election is over, I realize our future isn't about our government, it's about its people. I believe this is a season God is longing to restore our nation with the water of life and bring revival to us all. If you and I are going to be a part of the restoration process, we have to start pouring living water. The same living water Jesus offered at the well to a woman who was a loner, a prostitute, a divorcee, a live-in girlfriend, an outcast. We are living in a nation full of this kind of wounded, hurting people. The call to us all is to drink from the well ourselves, and then offer what we have found to everyone we know who is thirsty.
As we stare our future in the face, what gifts do you have to pour?
I only have a book, a blog, and the ability to teach, and I pray daily somehow those gifts give someone a drink of water. What do you have to pour? You have a circle of people who are thirsty and have been placed in your life for you to pour into. If we want to restore our nation and mount up with wings like an Eagle, we have to dig a well of water with our prayers. We can't do it on the backs of government officials. We have to offer our hands in service and do something different from what we've been doing. So I'm asking when and where will you pour out the living water you have to offer to the world around you who is longing for a drink?
I've spent the last year sharing my heart on how to conquer chaos and embrace peace especially in marriage and relationships. If we're honest, I think we would all prefer the peaceful palace over the chaotic, war-torn castle every time. But what happens when chaos comes knocking on the palace door without your permission? Chaos is a nation gone mad, an illness, the loss of a job, a death of a loved one, a spouse who doesn't want the marriage you want, or even a child who walks away from everything you've raised them to be. Reality is, one day chaos will come. How do I know? Because the Bible says so. There are many references to the fact we will face difficulties in our lives on this earth. 2 Timothy 3 states,
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure and not lovers of God, giving the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Here's the good news... Chaos is never an unannounced intruder to God. When chaotic turmoil bangs at the door, we can find peace in the promise that God knew he was coming. We can also rest in the promises God will give on the threshold of combat and cling to them until victory comes.
How do we do battle? There's a wise old saying, "To win a battle, you must first know who you are and who you are fighting. If you know who you are, but you don't know your enemy, you will lose. If you know your enemy, but don't know who you are, you will also lose. But if you know who you really are and who you are really fighting, you will win every time."
Let's tackle the first point of knowing who we are. Scripture tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made and God knew us before he formed us in our mother's womb. Most importantly, it says in II Corinthians 6:18, "And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me." If we are then children of the King of all Kings, we are already rulers over our enemy. Another aspect of our identity comes in putting on the full armor God offers us in Ephesians 6:11 to stand against our enemy's schemes.
Let's consider the armor pieces one at a time. Let's start with the helmet of our salvation. It's the helmet of our identity in knowing our Abba Father as Lord and Savior. Marching in that identity as child of a King keeps our thoughts clear during the fight. It gives us a sound mind as stated in 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind." It means we fight by faith not fear. A faithful battle plan will be counter to our flesh wanting to run and hide when Chaos knocks. Instead, we step forward and fight, verifying what looks like faith and what acts like fear. Our natural inclination is fear, pushing us to grab for control and hold on to what we're fighting for. Faith is counter to hanging on for dear life. It's letting go for the sake of finding victory. When we release our situation into our Father's hands, he is more than able to make us conquerors. Victory starts with a clear understanding of who we are. We must put our faith in the one who is greater, and walk into battle believing in what we know and not what we see.
The next four pieces of armor are defensive in nature. The breast-plate of righteousness protects the heart and the other major organs from injury. We can't win without it because battlefields are full of heartbreak, grief, and shattered dreams. Wearing it means we exit the war with our hearts intact, despite the pain we experience. It falls into place when we get on our knees and ask the Father to unveil the places in our heart that are unrighteous--the contributions we made that gave Chaos our home address. We ask, "What part did I play?" If the answer is truly "none", then we simply petition the Father to protect our heart and keep our thoughts and motives pure as we fight our enemy. If we played some part, either directly or indirectly or through manipulation or selfish prayers, then we confess our role in it and ask for forgiveness. Then we stand up, without guilt or shame, and forge ahead wearing our breast-plate.
The belt of truth is next. Truth must surround us like a belt during the battle, otherwise we'll trip over ourselves unable to run the race. Without it we will listen to the voices in our head instead of the Commander and Chief in our heart. Our enemy is the father of all lies. To defeat him, we must walk into war with eyes wide open, deciphering lies from truths as they blaze toward us in war. Putting on the belt means asking the Father to expose any lies that helped create the battle and surround us with truth in the midst of the war. We confess any deception we've told or believed about the crisis to receive forgiveness and march on.
The shoes of peace are what we will stand in on the battlefield. According to scripture, they're tailored to our feet as a direct result of the gospel of our salvation. Miraculously, we can find peace in the middle of a war zone, while fiery darts of the enemy zoom past our heads, if we stand firm on God's promises. The battlefield is declared "Holy Ground" if we keep our minds fixed on Him. Without peace, we lose hope and confidence in our victory, but when we stand on his promises we walk in peace even while the battle rages.
The last "defensive" piece of armor is the shield of our faith. Scripture says our faith is found in the things we hope for that God has promised and not in what we see. The shield we hold is not found in the past victories we've had or the things God has done. That's only half the hope, and no warrior enters war with half a shield. A complete shield is found in the fullness of the power of who our Father truly is. He is resurrected Savior, King of Kings, and Lord of all. Hold up who he is and worship him. God always sent the worshipers out first before each battle because worship holds the power to bring triumph. He is Jehovah Magen, the Lord our shield, and he is the defender of our faith.
Now that we've established our identity, as recommended by the Chinese saying, and grasped some of the pieces of our armor, the last step to victory is about knowing our enemy. This is key before we take hold of the last piece of armor. Ephesians 6:12 says,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly realms.
Despite what you might think, we're not fighting people. Our battle is not against the ones bringing chaos to our door. If we consider them our adversary, we'll lose every time. They're just casualties on a battlefield the enemy is using. If we determine to destroy them out of bitterness or unforgivness, the battle is lost. Instead, we pray for them out of compassion.
Our Father knows our archenemy and calls him by name. Scripture says he's a roaring lion, roaming around seeking whom he can devour. Daniel, an OT prophet of God, found himself thrown into a den full of ferocious lions. In that moment, Daniel chose to pray and not panic. God answered by sending angels to shut their mouths. The enemy's tactic is to roar loudly and drive us to fear, but if we listen to the battle cry of our Father's commands, our faith will silence the roar.
Lions in the wild, on the prowl, circle around their prey. They lie in wait for the one stray lamb, all alone and vulnerable. If he is ravaging a member of your family, surround them with love and prayer. If you feel compelled to isolate yourself in the battle, out of heartbreak or embarrassment, don't, or you too could become a victim of the lion, helpless, vulnerable, and disconnected from the flock. Instead, gather allies. You are going to need the help of other trusted followers of Christ. I'm not suggesting you tell everyone you know you're at war. Telling the wrong person can make you more vulnerable. However, if you pray for the Lord to send you the prayer warriors you need, he will answer faithfully. Keep your eyes open and ears alert to the voice of those he sends. They are sent to pray, act, or even impart valuable battle plan information from their own experiences. The key is embracing the wisdom in their hands God sends as a part of his winning strategy.
Now we're ready for the sword, the last important part of the armor. Every other piece defends, but the sword is offensive. The Bible says the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. I believe one side of the sword is God's power and the other edge is our courage. Together they behead the lion. Before beginning His ministry, Jesus entered the wilderness for forty days and nights where he faced the roaring, roaming lion who had come to devour him. Jesus conquered him by wielding the sword of God's word. As the enemy offered him three tempting substitutes to the real thing God had planned, Jesus swung the sword of God's word and defeated every lie.
Satan had waited for Jesus to enter the wilderness alone, not to mention hungry, then he pounced with three tempting choices. First, he offered bread to eat in exchange for the real bread of life. I think women struggle with this temptation the most. At times I've found myself on a battlefield, tempted to grab food for comfort. Satan offered food to Jesus in hopes of taking advantage of his vulnerability. Jesus reminded him that he did not live by bread alone but by God's word, the bread of life. If we're not careful, we can grab for food when what we need most for nourishment is God's word in the midst of the calamity. Winning doesn't involve sitting down at the table and using food to soothe our pain. We've got to reach for the only substance that can fill the emptiness in our gut. God's word will sustain us and destroy the enemy's substitutes in battle. We win by living on and digging into the bread of life to sharpen our sword and by speaking it out loud when the enemy comes.
Next, Satan offered Jesus the chance to rule a false kingdom instead of the whole world. We can't accept anything less than the victory God has to offer. Don't allow yourself to accept the substitute of a short-term win in place of a long-term, bigger defeat of your adversary. Lastly, Satan offered Jesus the opportunity to prove his strength by jumping from a tower versus hanging on a cross. Jesus chose the most painful option because winning a war requires sacrifice. Something has to die. We may have to sacrifice our pride, our goals, or even our dreams to win. Anything we're grasping to that God asks us to sacrifice must be laid on the cross, so we can pick up the sword and possess victory.
We all want a peaceful palace, but when chaos comes knocking at our door, we can put on the full armor and take hold of the sword. Know yourself, your enemy, and your weaponry and God will give you the triumph over Chaos every time!
Do you want to live in a war-torn castle or a peaceful palace?
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