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Pursuing Jesus Christ, His centrality, supremacy, and the Eternal Purpose of God

In our pursuit of Jesus Christ
My family and I spent years involved in traditional, institutional forms of church in the western world, pursuing things others told us were the good or right things of a Christian life. As time went on, we recognized that often times most of what we were being told to do had to do with building that particular church’s membership or budget, and very little to do with what we read about in the scriptures.  We began to recognize a deep longing for something more had grown within us.  We had a desire to truly know the person of Jesus Christ and to find out what His desires are.  At the end of March 2009, my family and I gave up the pursuit of things and what others had told us about being a good Christian and stopped attending traditional, institutional forms of church.Journey Image

We had a longing that there had to be more to being a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, than what modern Christianity has to offer.  I remember thinking to myself, “Is this all the Christian life is about? Isn’t there more to being a follower of Jesus?” Asking myself, “What was so life changing that persuaded the disciples and those of the early church to live and give their lives, even unto death?”

Then we heard about the Eternal Purpose of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the central being, the main character of God’s grand “story.” That He is the fulfillment, the completion, the embodiment of the Eternal Purpose of God, and His desire to have His life expressed upon the earth is like a consuming fire that is burning away all that is not Him.  Jesus Christ has become our passion and pursuit. The people we share our lives with in this pursuit have become our family.

This revelation of Jesus Christ and the Eternal Purpose of God is the answer to that longing.  We have found fulfillment of that longing in living in community, with deep relationships, and expressing and sharing the Life of Jesus Christ with others under the headship of Jesus Christ alone. This is the missing element, the missing part of life, that we had not found in any traditional, institutional church we had ever been a part of.  Jesus Christ becoming the central being and supreme passion in our lives is what I will give my life for. He is what I live my life for.

It is a pursuit because Jesus Christ is leading us on a journey.  It is a journey that has been years in the making, and from all evidence, we will be on this journey for years to come.  As with most journeys, along the way you unlearn what you thought you knew, you realize you don’t really know much at all, you grow through the process.  And at some point you find yourself.

We’ve found ourselves in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our true identity can be found in Him alone.  Understand, I write here not because I have all of the answers.  But because I’m following the One who has the answers, the words of Life and often times I need help working through it all.  So I invite you on this journey with us, to read, to think, to share, to challenge, but most importantly to pursue Jesus Christ with us, and grow in your love for Him and those around you, to see His Life expressed on the earth, right where you are.

Thanks for stopping by re:Think. I pray Jesus Christ becomes central and supreme in your lives and you will live to see the Eternal Purpose of God.


Prayer (Part 5)

If your marriage is in crisis the hardest thing for you to not do is worry. There are probably many people who will tell you, don’t worry about it, pray about it. While this sounds very spiritual, most of the people who will tell you this have probably never been through a marriage crisis big enough to understand what you are truly going through.

I will tell you prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we, as believers, have to do battle against the things that come against us. You must remember, we do not fight our battles the way the world would fight them. We as believers must choose to fight our battles differently if we are to see the Lord have His way in our lives and the live of our spouse and family.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message

I want to encourage you not to pray about your spouse. What? Yes, you read correctly, don’t pray about your spouse. Instead, pray for your spouse. There is a difference. When you pray about something its as though you are going to the Lord about something He is not aware of. You’re telling God all about the situation or what your spouse is doing as though you are the one informing Him. But the Lord already knows. He is already aware of the situation. He is already aware of what your spouse is doing. He is already aware of the things you are having to deal with. So don’t go to Him frantically as an informant or as if He needs to be brought up to date on things.
I’m sure you will struggle with worrying about your spouse or the way the situation looks. But worrying is what the enemy wants you to do. Worrying is how the world would respond to things. But worrying wont change things. Only the Lord will change things! Prayer affords you the opportunity to turn to the Lord, to fix your gaze upon Him. Prayer allows the Lord to place things in their proper perspective. With Christ at the center, your life in Him, these other things, though they seem tumultuous will come into their proper perspective.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” – Philippians 4:6-9, The Message

In turning to the Lord, ask Him what He would have you pray. This will require some adjustments on your part if you are one who normally prays about things. As the Lord leads you, and you start praying for your spouse you actually begin to experience His heart for your spouse. The Lord desires abundant life for you, your spouse and your family. This abundant life is only found in Jesus Christ, it it His life.
Remember God has given Jesus authority over everything (Matthew 28:18). Recognize the authority of Jesus is over the weapons of the enemy. Speak Life and blessings into your spouse’s life. You always have a choice to bless or to curse. Choose to bless, to speak words of Life over your spouse and family. As you pray for your spouse begin to take authority in Jesus’ over things that hinder them from returning to the Lord, bind them and cast them into utter darkness, never to return again. Then replace those things with the fruits of the Spirit. Take authority over your spouse’s bitterness, remove it and replace it with love. Take authority over their anger, remove it and replace it with joy. Take authority over their waywardness, remove it and replace it with faithfulness. Always replace those things with things of God.
Most people would also encourage you to pray a “hedge of protection” around your spouse and family. This is wise to do because it is obvious the enemy’s attack has come upon your family. But not everything that is happening is happening because of the attack of the enemy. No, somethings your spouse may be doing or saying is because of their own choices. If your spouse is doing things or going places that are out of character and unfitting there is another “hedge” you should begin praying around your spouse.

“Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.” – Hosea 2:6, NIV

Praying a “hedge of thorns” around your spouse is something you can do so the path that leads to sin is blocked should they try to go down it. It is not meant to harm your spouse, but it is meant to make the path of sin be very unpleasant, unsatisfying and more difficult to access.
There may be times when you won’t know what to pray, you just may not have the words, or in some moments all you may be able to do is weep and cry out for your spouse and your marriage, but take heart, the Lord knows and the Spirit is there to help.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right along-side helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” – Romans 8:26-28, The Message

Throughout the course of your struggle there may come times when your spouse will hurt you by something they say or do and you just won’t feel like you love your spouse anymore, or perhaps your spouse has told you they don’t love you anymore. I want to encourage you to pray for the love between you and your spouse to grow. This is something that may take time, and you may not be able to “see” progress in this area, but trust the Lord to work in ways beyond what your eyes can see.

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much, but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11, The Message

One thing I have noticed is that as the love of Christ grows in you, Christ through you becomes attractive to those around you. Your life will begin to overflow with the love of God and it can’t help but to spill over into the lives of those around you. And despite the circumstances you are in, you will begin to hope again, not in man, but you will hope in the Lord, just as the saints who have gone before us hoped in the Lord as they were persecuted for their faith. You will also find hope in what the Lord has spoken about your situation.

“God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it-no matter what.” – Hebrews 4:12 & 13, The Message

A marriage in crisis is no easy thing to walk through. I know I had to learn to let go of certain people and things and trust the Lord would watch over them and take care of them, which meant I was acknowledging they were out of my hands and I couldn’t take care of them myself. Some people or things are harder to let go of than others. At some point you are going to have to let go of certain people or things and trust the Lord to watch over them and take care of them. I will tell you from experience, it is better to let go of people and things willingly into the Father’s hands than to have them stolen from you by the enemy’s hands. Granted, the Lord is always in control, but there are people and things we try to hold on to and take care of on our own, and in doing so, we sin against the Lord by placing ourselves in His position over those people and things. In everything, he must have the preeminence. We must entrust everything and everyone to His care, this includes our spouse, our children, our finances, our time, everything.

“Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.” – Acts 20-32, The Message

I encourage you to turn your spouse over to the Lord, not in a spirit of revenge or vengeance, thinking they will get their just punishment for the things they have said or done to hurt you. But turn them over to the Lord in love, having forgiven any wrongs they have committed against you, and with no strings attached, simply wanting to see the Lord have His way in them and through them.
Let love be formed in you. Love for the Lord, love for your spouse, your family and for others. Love according to the standard of love we are given in the scriptures.

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, The Message

I encourage you to read all of 1 Corinthians 13.
Lastly, I would like to give you a few scriptures to pray over yourself, your spouse and your family during a time of crisis in your marriage. They were given to me by a guy named Rob, who was gracious enough to share his story with me.

Pray Over Your Spouse
“For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.” – Ezekiel 36:24-27, The Message

Pray Over Your Spouse & Family
“That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the Christians, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you-every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask-ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory-to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him-endless energy, boundless strength!

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” – Ephesians 1:15-23, The Message

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit-not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength-that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both fee planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know-far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” – Ephesians 3:14-21, The Message

Know Your Enemy/Enter The Battle (Part 4)

If your marriage is in crisis it probably feels like you are in a battle. Your spouse has probably said or done some things that hurt you, or perhaps you have said or done some things that hurt your spouse. Your spouse may be behaving completely out of character from the way he/she normally does. People do this because they believe the lies of the enemy and have been “taken captive, forced to run his errands.” You may feel like the person you are supposed to love and who is supposed to love you the rest of your life has become an enemy. But that is the farthest thing from the truth. Your spouse is not your enemy.

“Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace-joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.” – 2 Timothy 2:22-26, The Message

So let me repeat what I just said. Your spouse is not your enemy. But YOU ARE IN A BATTLE! You’re in a battle for your very life. A battle for the life of your spouse. A battle for the lives of your children. A battle for the lives of your grandchildren. What? That’s right! Your marriage being restored or being destroyed has the potential to impact not only you, your spouse, your children, and your grandchildren, but also the lives of your family, and those around you for generations to come. So, the sooner you realize you are in a battle and identify who the real enemy is, the sooner you can take a stand against the attacks that are coming your way. The Bible warns us who are enemy is and urges us to stand firm! The devil is the real enemy and he is here for one reason only, to destroy each of us.

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ-eternal and glorious plans they are!-will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word, yes, he does.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9, The Message

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” – John 10:10, The Message

The scriptures tell us our enemy, the devil, is here to steal, kill, and destroy. The devil is out to steal the joy and love from your marriage, he is out to kill you and ultimately he is out to destroy your family. You may say, I know the devil is my enemy, but my spouse is acting this way or that way. The enemy wants you to be preoccupied with what your spouse is doing. If the enemy can get you to worry about your spouse instead of praying for them, then your focus shifts from the Lord and His will, to the hurt and anger your spouse may be causing you. Jesus told us about the power of two or three agreeing together so we would stand together because, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12, The Message.

“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is a yes in heaven; a no on earth is a no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” – Matthew 18:18-20, The Message

The enemy knows there is power in the family, and if he can destroy the family he would destroy what should be an automatic partnership in the Kingdom. A husband and wife in agreement coming together in prayer is one of the most powerful forces on this earth. God designed it to be that way. The enemy knows it and has been trying to destroy it since the garden.

Most people I have talked to in a troubled marriage tell me about what their spouse is doing, how their spouse isn’t meeting their needs. Very seldom do they tell me about where they are failing as a spouse or what they have done wrong. They have shifted their eyes off of allowing the Lord’s life to be expressed to their spouse, serving their spouse, meeting the needs of their spouse, and lifting their spouse up in prayer to a selfish view of what their spouse isn’t doing for them. You may want to put the blame on your spouse for the way things are going in your marriage, but let me encourage you not to do that. Instead, look for the Lord.

“Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, ‘Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?’ Jesus said, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.’ ” – John 9:1-3, The Message

In this passage of scripture Jesus tells his disciples not to look to put the blame on someone, but instead look for what God can do. In the same way, I encourage you not to look to put blame on your spouse for the things they have failed to do in your marriage. Don’t look to blame your spouse for the trouble in your marriage. Instead, I’m encouraging you to accept responsibility for your actions. I say this because, unless you’re perfect (which I’m sure none of us are), you contributed your fair share to your marriage, both good and bad, and until you deal with the sin in your own life the enemy will try to use it over and over again to bring condemnation upon you and destroy you as a person. I am not saying your failures are the cause for your spouses behavior. Your spouse is responsible for his/her choices. I am saying to take your eyes off of your spouses negative impact and look at your own contributions to your marriage. Have you allowed the Lord to express His life in you, through you to your spouse?  Have you given your spouse the very best you have to give? Are you lifting them up daily in prayer? Are you thanking God for the good things your spouse brings to your marriage? Are you sharing the Life of Christ with them? You need to acknowledge where you have failed as a spouse, confess those things to the Lord, repent of them and then, look for what the Lord wants to do. This is an ongoing process, not something that will happen over night. As you begin to draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to you and begin revealing to you, in a corrective way, the things that need to be dealt with in order to restore your life and relationship with Him. Then you can grow from there and begin seeing what the Lord can do.

You may be thinking, “What about my spouse? My spouse is lying and saying hateful things to me, doing things to cause me pain. What do I do about them?”

Turn them over to God. Turn them over to God and stand in the gap! Begin to battle for your family!

“Now, I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.” – Acts 20:32, The Message

This is the most loving act you can do for your spouse. Remember you are not responsible for the way your spouse is behaving. You are responsible for your words and actions. The best thing you could possibly do for them is to lay them down. Turn them over to the Lord. Let Him be concerned about dealing with them. It is not your place to try to convict them of their sins, or bring them to repentance for their actions. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. And what better thing for them than to be dealt with by the One who loves them beyond measure and has the ability to bring conviction, correction, lead them to repentance, forgive them and bring restoration to their life in a right manner. Ultimately that should be our desire for our spouse because when they are in a right relationship with Him, they have the ability to be in right relationships with everyone else. Ultimately that should be the desire for our own lives because when we are in a right relationship with God we then have the ability to be in a right relationship with everyone else.

So you’re in a battle, now what? Your stand for your life, your marriage, and your family must begin with you.

“So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3, The Message

You’ve got to rid yourself of malice, pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You have to let go of the things your spouse has done to hurt you, give those things to the Lord and forgive them. If you harbor your hurt instead of releasing them to the Lord and forgiving those who have wronged you, it will fester and turn to bitterness, which will lead to anger and hate. Those things will destroy you as a person.

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry-but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.” – Ephesians 4:26 & 27, The Message

I know there are things going on that will make you angry. But as the scriptures tell us, don’t let your anger be a fuel for revenge. If you seek revenge you will be hurting the very person you are called to love. Instead go to the Lord with your anger and ask Him to give you a righteous anger and use that as a fuel to stand up and fight the enemy that much more. I’m not saying to disregard the things your spouse is doing. You must love your spouse enough to let them go in the physical realm, but you must go to war for them in the spiritual realm. In order to do this, you must prepare yourself for battle!

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for your, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” – Ephesians 6:10-18, The Message

Begin to use the weapons of warfare that have been afforded to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prayer and the scriptures are two of the most valuable weapons a believer has. Don’t think you have to do this alone. There are others who have fought this kind of battle before who are more than willing to walk with you during this time, to help train you up in the things of the Lord. That’s what the church is here for! Find one or two brothers/sisters in the Lord. It is extremely important that you surround yourself with people who will speak words of Life into your life, saints who will point you to Christ. Many people will have advice and opinions to offer. Its okay to hear what they say, but be sure you don’t just jump at everything they throw at you. Some people will tell you to do this or do that. You must test everything they say against the scriptures, and above all, you must seek the Lord about your situation. He is the only One who knows exactly what you need to do. He is the only One whose will is perfect. You must recognize that you are in Christ and allow Him to live His life through you. Allow His life to be expressed in and through you. The battle is not fought against your spouse. The battle is fought against the enemy who is out to destroy you and your family. In the power of the Holy Spirit you must fight for the freedom of your spouse from the things the enemy would use to enslave them. This is how the battle must be fought.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message

I would like to give you a prayer to use for this battle. It is a prayer of recognition that the Lord has placed you in Christ and He is your covering, He is the Armor of God. I’ve never heard of a soldier going into battle without knowing their position. It is no different when we’re battling for our families. In Christ Jesus, we have the full Armor of God!

The Scripture:
“A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” – Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT

The Prayer:
“Father, I submit my life to you today. Thank you for placing me in Christ. You have placed the Truth of Christ around my waist. Every aspect of my life is encompassed by Truth, and you have set me free. You’ve placed on me the Righteousness of Jesus Christ upon my chest, and with it, You guard my heart, for it is the wellspring of Life. You protect my feet with the Good News and Readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ. Guard my path, that I would know your ways and walk in them. You are the Shield of Faith to extinguish all of the fiery arrows that the enemy would try to bring against me. You are the Helmet of Salvation, and You guard my mind. You keep my thoughts pure and my dreams focused and centered on you. I take every high thing and every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. You are the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, sharper than any two edged sword. In Christ, no weapon formed against me will prosper. Amen.

A Letter To A Friend (Part 3)

This is a letter my wife wrote to a friend of ours who’s marriage was under attack shortly after a period of separation we went through early in our marriage. I’ve removed all names to protect our friends and I’ve edited a few things to make it more reader friendly. I felt like this would be a very good letter to post because my wife writes from a totally different perspective when it comes to marriage crisis/restoration. I would have been considered a “stander,” someone who is standing for the restoration of a life, marriage and family. During the time of our marriage crisis, my wife would have been considered a “prodigal” spouse, one who, in our case, has left the home and husband to go their own way. So her perspective on some of these things can be very helpful to both standers and prodigals.

Dear Friend,
There are some things I experienced or felt while Toby and I were separated and through the process of us reconciling our marriage that may be helpful to you. I am by no means saying I have the answers or this is exactly what you will go through, but I do believe God wants Toby and I to share what we have gone through to encourage and minister to other couples who are struggling in their marriages as well.

I was the “prodigal” and Toby was the “stander.” I was the one who wanted out and Toby was the one who, once I told him I was leaving, wanted to fight for our marriage and try to be different and change what needed to be changed.

There will be differences just because of the simple fact that I am a woman, and we women can be very emotional about stuff. So a husband who is a prodigal may fit into some of these things, but perhaps not all of them. But I really feel that if I share things that Toby did or did NOT do during our struggle then maybe it could lend some insight to you.

First things first. When I told Toby I was leaving, I had no intention of reconciling. I was mad and I wanted to be mad. So when he immediately wanted to change and be different and seek the Lord and get on his knees and beg God and me for a second chance, for a miracle to be performed…that made me livid! My first thought was why now? Why, after 7 years of asking him and begging him to change, why did he all of a sudden have a change of heart when I said I was leaving? It made me fume (at the time) to think that it took me saying I was done to have him realize how serious I had been. It felt as if he didn’t take me seriously all of those years and all of the conversations and fights we had. So seeing him seek the Lord desperately about us made me want to scream!

The devil used the anger I felt to fuel my fire! The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy and he was working over time on me. The kicker is, I let him. I believed his lies and sought advice and consolation from people who fed my fire. People who would agree with me and tell me what I wanted to hear. Praise the Lord my husband did not do the same! Praise the Lord that Toby did humble himself before the Lord and fight for us!! He fought the enemy for our family when I wanted to give up. He suited up with the armor of God and he went to battle for us! Day and night he prayed for us. When I screamed at him and told him how I did not love him and never wanted to be with him again, he just listened to me. Though I’m sure it hurt him deeply and he wept afterward, he never retaliated against me. He never raised his voice back at me, he never accused me, he never told me the things I had done or were doing were things to hurt him. He let me tell him I did not love him.

Then, when I was done using those sharp cutting words, he would go home and get on his knees and lay it at the Father’s feet! He knew that he did not have the strength to carry those words and deeds around. He gave them to the Father and asked the Lord to carry them. And our heavenly Father loves us so much that He does just that. He picks up our pain and our hurt and He carries them!

Toby struggled deeply and he would tell you today that he could not have made it without the prayers and support of Godly friends and family. He surrounded himself with people that spoke words of life into him. He sought advice and was not afraid to tell people what he was struggling with. He made himself vulnerable to others and to Jesus. He opened himself up and allowed Christ to do a drastic change in him. It was not easy! Let me repeat…it was not easy! He had to face a lot of things about himself that hurt. But God is so gentle and gracious. He not only cleans house but He sticks around to make necessary repairs.

That is what Toby was doing. He was busy fighting for our family! On his knees begging God for mercy! I, on the other hand, let the situation become an excuse to act and behave in ways that I regret. I went to Scooter’s (a bar/dance club) five times and even drank several times. I told myself it was okay because I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and besides, I deserved it because of all I was going through. After all, I was only having a laugh and getting away from my problems, right? That was the lie of the devil I believed. Because if he could keep me focused on myself and my own pity party then I would not be concerned with trying to save my marriage. Nor would I be concerned with my spiritual life and where I was letting myself go, the path of destruction I was heading down.

Now, here is what Toby did during all of that. He loved me! I told him every time that I was going out. I think partly to hurt him. He never argued with me. He never told me I was behaving horribly. He never tried to put a guilt trip on me. He just told me to be careful. He knew he was not big enough to convict me. He knew he did not have the power to change my thoughts or my actions. He knew his words would not cause me to feel conviction for what I was doing, but rather that I would perceive them as an attack. So in turn, he turned to the One who could convict me. He turned to the One who has the power to change my thoughts and behavior. He asked the Lord to go with me. Though it hurt him to see me behaving this way, he continued to love me and believe the Lord would get a hold of me and make a difference in my life.

He handed me over to the Lord. Not an easy thing to do, but he did it, and what a difference it made! It took 7 months before I moved back in. When I did, things were not perfect right away. It took time to heal. There are still things God is working on healing in both of us. A couple of years later we are still working on it, but we are working on it together with God. We are seeking God and placing Him first in our lives and because of Him we are drawing closer to Him and each other.

This is not an easy thing to walk through. But remember, you can NOT control the way your prodigal spouse is behaving. You can NOT change them. You can NOT make them realize what they are doing is wrong and they need to stand and be the man/woman the Lord has called them to be. You are responsible for you! You need to seek God for change in your heart and your life. You have to open up and let the Lord show you the ugly things about yourself you don’t want to face.

Toby did that right away. I did that once I stopped listening to the enemy and started letting the Lord have control of my life again. Its also important to stay in touch with family and friends that will speak life into you and speak life into your marriage!! Read the suggested books here and find a brother/sister in the Lord whom you can confide in, someone you can call on anytime who will point you to Christ. You need prayer partners to help pray you through this! That is extremely important!
There is HOPE!

Father, bless our friends who’s marriages are being attacked. Pour out your spirit upon their lives. Give them the strength to lay down their lives and allow Your life to live through them. Comfort their pain. Teach them Your ways through all of this. Do not let them waste the pain. We ask for wisdom and understanding for them. Break the spirit of offense from their lives.

Reach into the lives of the prodigal spouses. Bring brothers/sisters in You into their paths who will speak life into their lives. Guard their hearts, minds and ears from the enemy. Help them to quickly be able to distinguish between Your voice of Truth and the voice of the liar and to follow only Your voice.

Protect the children in these homes. Place Your angels around them and around their homes. Set up a watch around their homes and do not let the enemy enter.
Father, give courage to both spouses; courage to face themselves and to admit their faults to one another. Bring Your peace upon them. We ask for healing and restoration of their relationship with You and with each other. Do what only You can do, Lord! Bring life to this barren land, in Jesus’ name!

My Confession and the Lord’s Response (Part 2)

This is the 2nd post in a series I’ve titled as Marriage Restoration. You can read the first post of this series here. I strongly recommend reading post one of this series before continuing to read this post.

You may have noticed an underlying theme of this being an opportunity for YOU in the first post, and there is a very good reason for that. During this time it will be very difficult for you NOT to focus on your spouse, what they are doing, what they are not doing, what they are saying, where they are, who they are talking to, and things along those lines. But the Lord has afforded this opportunity for YOU. You cannot control the choices or actions of your spouse any more than you can control the weather. Let the Lord deal with your spouse concerning their choices and actions. You are responsible for your choices and actions. You must give an account to the Lord for the way you live.

At some point, you must realize and have a very honest confession with the Lord about where you are in your life. When my wife and I had our first discussion in which she mentioned she had thought about leaving, my world was turned upside down. When we separated, it took me a week to get my head clear enough to do this but once I did, the course of my life was redirected from the path it was on to the path I was meant to be on. I began to see the Lord writing straight with crooked lines in my own life.

My confession to God was something like this,

“Father, my family is in trouble and I need Your help. I want my family back together. I love my wife. I love my children. I don’t know what to do. Forgive me for my failures as a husband and as a father. Forgive me for not being the spiritual head of our home. I repent. This is where I’m at right now, but if you will show me how to walk this through, in Your grace, I will not stay here. I will follow You where You lead me. I submit my life to Your authority. I submit my family to Your will. Show me how to be the husband You want me to be. Show me how to be the father You want me to be. Teach me to be the spiritual head of our household. Show me Your ways and help me to walk in them in Jesus’ name and by His power. Amen.”

It was in that moment the Lord began to work in my life. The next day the Lord used two scripture passages to speak two promises to me. The first promise was based on Jeremiah 29:11-14, ” ‘I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.’ GOD’s Decree.” – The Message

For me, this was huge! It was the Lord telling me He had a plan, He hadn’t abandoned me, He knew my heart and wanted to give me the future I was hoping for. He was listening. He was findable. He was there.

The second promise was Isaiah 55:8-11,

” ‘ I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.’ GOD’s Decree. ‘For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.’ ” – The Message

Through this passage the Lord showed me I had tried doing things my way, the way I work, the way I think.  I had tried to live my own life, but my ways failed. If I wanted to truly live by His life, I had to let Him do it, He needed to transform my way of thinking to His way of thinking and my way of working to His way of working. The choice was mine to make. He also told me He had already spoken over my situation. He had already sent out His word for my life and for our family and I needed to put my whole life and my whole trust in Him and His work in my life. These two promises from the Lord became the foundation upon which I made my stand for my life and for the life of my family.

I encourage you, where you are today, in this moment, seek the Lord. Acknowledge for yourself where you are, make your confession and repentance to God, ask Him to help you and guide you. Ask him to speak to you. Ask Him what He wants, and be willing to listen for His response. He alone is the answer you seek. He alone is wisdom and the guidance you need for your life. Others, including myself, can offer helps, insights and lessons learned from our own experiences, but God alone knows your situation and needs. He alone can breath life where you only see death.

Isaiah 55:6-7

“Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.” – The Message

Your Opportunity (Part 1)

Those of you who read this blog may or may not be aware that my wife and I went through several months of separation in 2006 & 2007. We were separated for 7 months. Although we were only separated for 7 months, we continued to struggle in our marriage over the next several years. I don’t intend to go into details at all about our situation. But there are some things I would like to share about our situation and what we continue to learn as the Lord continues to have His way in our lives.

So often we hear of and see churches and other institutions offering services like divorce counseling or divorce recovery. I know some churches and counseling centers offer marriage counseling. But what about those people who fall somewhere in the gray areas of a troubled marriage? Perhaps the man of the house has left a mother alone with the children. Perhaps the woman has left and the only one willing to seek help from a counselor is the one who remains. I’ve heard people say you should not fight about it, but simply let the other spouse leave and move on with your life. And they would use the scriptures to try to justify letting them go and moving on.

1 Corinthians 7:15
On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you’ve got to let him or her go. You don’t have to hold on desperately. God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can.” – The Message

If read by itself it would seem as though Paul is telling the spouse who desires to keep a marriage together to just quietly let the other spouse walk out and not do anything to fight the way things are. But that is not where Paul stops and neither should we. Let’s read on.

1 Corinthians 7:16 & 17
“You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God. And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. – The Message

The key phrase here is “The way you handle this.” It only takes one person to stand for the restoration of your marriage. That one person is you! The one who hasn’t given up. The one who still believes your marriage is worth fighting for. You. If you stand for the restoration of your marriage, God can and will use you. Being a “stander” is not easy. In fact, it is probably the most difficult thing you will have to do concerning your marriage. There is no short cut, there is no easy road, there is no quick fix. Most likely you will hurt. But don’t waste the pain. Let me repeat that. Don’t waste the pain.

Matthew 16:24-26
“The Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’ ” – The Message

If you are in a situation like this, you are suffering and there is great pain. But Jesus tells us not to run from it. Instead he wants us to embrace it in very much the same way he embraced suffering on the cross for the restoration of creation’s relationship with its Creator. A comforting thought in embracing our suffering is that he doesn’t ask us to do something and then leave us hanging there trying to figure out how to do it. He then tells us to follow him and he will show us how to do it.

Just as Jesus became the sacrifice required for the atonement of sin, he calls us to a life of self-sacrifice, a laying down of ourselves (or a standing in the gap, if you will) for the sake of our marriage and family. When we do this we are laying our lives down, dying to our flesh, dying to our own desires. It is during this process, the death of self and resurrection life of Christ in us that we see the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had. The opportunity to draw near to the Lord. Its our opportunity to respond as Peter did in John 6:67 & 68…

“Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Peter replied, ‘Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life.’ ” – The Message

Its your opportunity to come to the end of yourself and confess, “Jesus, there’s nowhere else for me to go. You alone have the words of life. I lay my life down to die and take up Your resurrection life. Change me. Transform my life. You are my life. Live in and through me.  Let my life be for You, by You, through You, and to You alone.

This is your opportunity to know the Lord in ways greater than you ever have in your life. Christ is there and He is willing and able to transform your life.

The School of Christ by T. Austin-Sparks

T. Austin-Sparks, one of the most influential voices, in regards to The Eternal Purpose of God, and living by the indwelling life of Jesus Christ, has a series available called The School of Christ.  It is one of the deepest looks into pursuing Jesus Christ I’ve ever read.  I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: The Foundation of Spiritual Education

Chapter 2: Learning The Truth

Chapter 3: Learning by Revelation

Chapter 4: The House of God

Chapter 5: The Light of Life

Chapter 6: An Open Heaven

Chapter 7: Learning Under the Anointing

Chapter 8: The Governing Law of Divine Love

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