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Grace Changes the Storyline

 

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We cheapen grace when it’s only received, but the value of grace is exponentially maximized when we give it away.  Grace will always change the storyline because it changes everything it touches, especially in marriage.  The closer the relationship the deeper the risk for pain, but this is how we bring the greatest results, for everyone.

Joseph changed his storyline the day he forgave his brothers (Genesis 37-50) when it was within his power to retaliate.  David changed his storyline by showing respect and kindness to an enemy that was trying to destroy him (2 Samuel 9), instead of going to war.

Jesus didn’t change our storylines so that we could take His grace and only receive it for ourselves, but rather so that we could share it with each other.  He gave us a real life demonstration at the cross of how this grace changes outcomes:  He showed us how to capitalize on it.

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THE POWER TO CHOOSE

Unity is the common thread that is weaved over every story where grace touches.  Grace bridges us from separation because of offence to unity and in the process makes us spiritual heroes in God’s eyes.

God gave me the power to change my own storyline from retaliation to forgiveness through the power that was bestowed on me when I received Grace.  Grace has a power that the world just doesn’t get.  It isn’t until you exercise it through giving it away that you can increase its strength and feel its empowerment.

I hear over and over again how difficult it is to step out of the euphoria of the wedding day into the reality where marriage is lived out.  I agree completely:  With some marriages, it is impossible to do – in human strength.  But when you bring a supernatural being into the picture, the view changes.

God has good plans for our marriages (Jeremiah 29:11), plans that we cannot even begin to understand (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Plans that He ordained from the beginning (Ephesians 2:10 ).  He knew all this before we were born (Psalm 139:16).  He then spends the rest of our lives renewing our minds (Ephesians 4:23) and changing our hearts (Romans 2:12) to come onside with His plan of grace.

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SARAH PART 2 – 21st CENTURY WIFE

If you missed Sarah Part 1 you can find it here.

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Peter encourages wives to take a look at Sarah.  While there are many women mentioned in the Bible, it’s only Sarah who’s called out by name and elevated to the position of mentor.  There can be a temptation to focus on her faux pas with Hagar, choose to resist it, in truth we all have areas of weaknesses that trip us up.  Besides, I don’t see that Peter’s intent was for us to focus on her weakness; he is calling attention to her strength as a wife.

God introduces her to us as Sarai the barren, (Gen 11:30) then she’s reintroduced as Sarah the queen. (Gen 17:15)  Peter continues her legacy in the NT by calling her our mother of faith and designates her as someone to emulate. (1 Peter 3:6)

SHE IS A REAL PERSON

In the past, I would read about Sarah and gloss over her because I just didn’t think she had any relevant information to give me.  I mean seriously, we live in two completely different worlds.  This was a mistake on my part; I couldn’t see that Sarah had skin on her (so to speak).  She wasn’t just a character in a book, but a real woman with hopes and fears … just like me.  It was too easy to sit and read her story, from our epicurean world, and conclude that it all worked out for the best; easy-peasy.

How unfair.  This woman was a powerhouse.

Sarah didn’t have the luxury of a Bible to study or verses to memorize in times of doubt nor a mp3 player to scroll down to her favourite worship song to encourage herself.  It wasn’t until I realized that it was just her and God, that I began to appreciate the true strength of her faith.

HER SECRET EXPLODES FOR US

The most awesome knowledge I learned from her, the most startling realization, was that her relationship with Abraham was dual:  Abraham was her husband and also her brother.  Their marriage serves as a powerful analogy for us who are married in the faith!

We know, in heaven there will be no male or female (Gal 3:28) but, in the here and now, we exist in the tension that is found between temporal and Kingdom living.  If we are non-believers our marriage is framed by the temporal.  BUT if we are believers, the marriage has an added dimension:  it is eternal as well.

Abraham articulates this dual relationship as a defence for his shrewdness when he’s speaking to Abimelech,  But indeed she is truly my sister.  She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

I don’t like what Sarah had to walk through, but I do LOVE her courage and trust.  It makes sense that Peter shines a light on her.  She doesn’t panic and frantically look to jump off the crazy train.  Quite the opposite.  Like the stately queen she is, she sits down and buckles herself in.  Expectantly waiting to see what GOD does.

AND FOR US?

In a way, we also live in dual relationships.  Earthly, I am a wife.  Yet spiritually Darrell and I share the same Father, I am also a sister.

Pushing into this powerful analogy from Sarah  I am left with a choice as to which lens I will view my marriage through.

The temporal lens:  Is the short-sighted view that sees only in the present of approximately 100 years.  It sees  in terms of how good can I make it for me now.  How will this affect my life now?  It draws focus to painful circumstances in the marriage that human strength simply cannot bear.  The times of abasing.  It demands that I come to my own rescue, for my own self, with my own ideas and resources instead of waiting for God.

There is no hope for the future.

But with the spiritual lens:  The view sees long into the future.  It is broader.  Stronger.  Higher.  There is room to breathe in hope and trust in God’s complete power over everything instead of my own puny control.  The vision for abounding in marriage can only be made by stepping off the present, into the future, with that higher love.  Love of brother brings God into the picture and with Him comes power, strength and hope.

Love of brother is how Sarah handled Abraham with such gentleness in spite of his request. Instead of viewing him as an adversary because of his human weakness, she chose to be strong in spirit so that it would go well for him.  She knew God would make a way for her where there wasn’t one. (Matt 19:26 & Is 43:19)

CLARITY

  • My husband is my primary brother, all that God asks me to do applies to this brother.  Kingdom living doesn’t exclude a brother because is a husband, I don’t get to pick and choose whom I will or will not serve in the body.  You are a servant of all … or you are not, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all [in importance] and a servant of all.” (Mk 9:35)
  • Far from being a wimpy wife Sarah’s courage elevates the bar of marriage to its proper level, restoring it with honour.
  • Sarah’s action as a wife pushed her marriage far beyond the grasp of any demon.

 

Are You Timid & Afraid?

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What storm are you encountering … right now … at this very moment?  When your marriage boat set sail on it’s journey everything was on a nice even keel; but now it’s anything but ‘smooth sailin’ and you have no idea where all the rough waters came from.

Does this present storm have you wanting to turn and run away in fear?  How would you respond to Jesus as He asks you:

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The disciples were clambering in a panic from their emotions.  When crisis brings chop into our marriages I think we do the same thing, we end up paralyzed from our emotions and are faced with a huge temptation to focus on the circumstances and all the bad that could happen instead of all the power God has.

Isn’t this always our first wail to God?

make it stop  ~  make it go away  ~  make it be over

– always from our emotions.

I’m like one of the disciples, my default is to scramble to wake up Jesus before it gets too bad … before it gets too tough.  What I’m really asking God to do is to change my circumstances.  The disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform 3 miracles, yet when the storm hit, they still didn’t trust.  I think this is why Jesus was agitated with them and why He calls this “little” faith.  The answer isn’t in God changing the people around us or the circumstances we’re in (as we often ask Him to do), but in Christ alone.  Diligently trusting.  Diligently staying and standing, trusting that God will finish what He started.

~ Diligence is definitely the key  ~

In 2 Peter 1, Peter lays out the track that will lead to a bigger faith that is the close intimate relationship Jesus is looking to have with us.  For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue …

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Without diligence faith will stay “little”.  Changed circumstances won’t grow you closer to Jesus.  All this does is keep your faith muscles weak from lack of exercise, which puts you further away from intimate knowledge of Jesus and authentic fellowship with Him. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Then, when you find your marriage in the middle of a terrible storm, your faith isn’t big enough to allow you the peace needed to stay with it.  Don’t forget, Jesus was asleep during the storm.

Circumstances of the storm

  1. They were fisherman accustom to being on all kinds of water; they knew storms – this one was bad.
  2. They didn’t plan it, or plan for it.  Zero control over it.  And no help from anyone else.
  3. Their response revealed where their faith really was.  Nothing like a good surprise storm to reveal your true level of courage on the open water.

They wanted Jesus to change the circumstances they were in; for Him to stop the storm and for it to be all over.  But Jesus wanted to show them a different way to get on the other side of it.  He wanted them to ride-out the storm by conquering through faith in Him.

Circumstances of a storm in marriage

  1. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your spouse, people are not static.  We are all healing, growing and changing.  We are all capable of sin because we are sinners.
  2. Offences come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours.  We have no control over how Satan is going to try and divide a marriage.  You can guarantee he’s not going to be upfront … he hides and pushes from behind and it feels like you are capsizing.
  3. Nothing like a good spur of the moment crisis to reveal where you really are in your faith.  How I respond to offence will show me just how much of my heart has been molded into the image of Christ.

How do you pray for your spouse when your marriage is confronted with crisis?  This is when our true character of faith emerges.  No rote responses.  No practice runs or plans of eloquent words.

There’s really only 2 choices:

  • Fear:  Pray for the circumstances to change, asking God to remove our hardship and make it easy so that we don’t have to exercise faith.  We want God to take away free choice and change those around us and what they are doing.
  • Faith:  We boldly stand in the confidence that comes from a bigger faith, diligently trusting as God shapes us into conquerors.

Similar to worry, which literally divides your strength in half, fear will eat away at the faith that is needed to sustain you through a storm in your marriage.  It will lead you by the nose as a blind coward that is timid and afraid.  Diligence in faith will drive you to where the real power is:  closer to Christ.

The next time you and your spouse find your placid pond whipped into a frenzy of a storm, try asking yourself:  What am I going to focus on, the storm or Jesus.  It takes work and training to resist the temptation to rush to Jesus with that prayer of, “change everything else,” instead of, “with Your power, change me.”

My mouth … my marriage ~ July 10, 2013

PRAYER

Thank you God for loving my husband and choosing him to be healed and holy and for adopting us to Yourself, what an amazing gift!  Also, for Your patience in reminding us of how happy it made You to choose us and plan this – some days I still can’t believe You did this!

In the midst of one day stretching into the next, it can be easy to forget the higher purpose for us – for our marriages, that it‘s not about us; but You.  With the love that You gave to us Lord, help us to reciprocate through our spouse.  Remind us of Your generous risk in choosing to love us regardless of our actions and teach us that we will have to risk as well if we are going to trust You to love each other the way that You love us.

Lord, You know, there are plenty of times in marriage when Your love is easily extended to each other.  And then there are times when it’s just too hard.  Thank You that we can be honest with You in how we feel and for making it possible to extend Your strong love through us.  Humble me Lord by reminding me that sometimes I’m the one that is hard to love and that my husband must turn to You – just like I do.  Amen

 

 

sword July 10

 

Words set blazes (Part 2)

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Part 1 began with walking in faith instead of what you see happening in your marriage.  Ezekiel’s example of believing the impossible instead of trying to figure it out allowed him to co-operate with God as He raised dry bones to life.

(Continuing with Part 2)

DON’T give yourself an emotional lobotomy by pretending there are no problems in your marriage.  God didn’t ask Ezekiel to pretend that the bones weren’t dead.  In fact, He drew his attention to them:

God grabbed me.  God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones.  He led me around among them — a lot of bones all over the plain — dry bones, bleached by the sun. -Ezekiel 37:1-2 emphasis added

God allowed Ezekiel to see both of the options in front of him.  Would he trust what he saw in the natural?  Or would he choose faith and trust in Who God is?  It seems like God was asking Ezekiel to examine what his faith was rooted in – himself or God:

He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” -Ezekiel 37:3 emphasis added

Through Ezekiel’s response it’s easy to see that he didn’t trust himself:

I said, “Master God, only you know that.” -Ezekiel 37:3 emphasis added

The problems in our marriages aren’t supposed to be the focus, because we can’t change or fix them – God should be our focus because only he can fix the problems.  God gives us the power to choose what we will focus on so the problems (of others) don’t consume us.  If you believe your husband has a problem with abc – do you not think that God also has a problem with abc*? Telling people about abc doesn’t encourage God to heal or restore. Complaining about the same problem only gives it more power over us by concentrating our focus on one area and closing us to the rest of the person.

DO set your husband free to be the man God has called him to be.  This is the true gift we give each other.  The freedom we’ve received is the freedom we are to give.  The choice is found in our free will to grow and learn – in all our humanness – as we become shaped into the destiny God wants.

DO accept God’s invitation to co-operate as He heals your marriage.

Work Towards a Positive Blaze

1)  Watch your focus.  Resist the temptation to concentrate on your husband’s faults.  Pray for ‘the way of escape from temptation’. A clearer vision of my own faults and the problems I caused was more often than not that way of escape. It takes two to tango.  Even if my responsibility is only 2%, I have to focus one hundred percent on that 2% – not my husband’s 98%.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice or consider the beam [of timer] that is in your own eye? –Luke 6:41

2)  Watch your words.  The focus of the mind leads your thoughts, thoughts lead your words, and actions are the manifestation.  Where the mind goes, the body will follow.  (Proverbs 23:7)  God has given my words the enormous power to affect my life and those around me.  The choice is mine:  Construction (Ephesians 4:29) or destruction (Colossians 3:8).

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]. (Proverbs 18:21 emphasis added)

3)  Express your expectations to God.  Expectations are not demands.  Demands center around what I think is best.  Expectations center around what God knows is best.  Expecting God to act  will remove all limits!

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect?  My hope and expectation are in You. -Psalm 39:7

I called a healing marriage into reality through confidence in God. God didn’t begin healing in our marriage because of my words. Neither did He raise those people from the dead because of Ezekiel’s words. Only when I spoke what He told me to speak – as Ezekiel spoke what he was told to speak – did God work in our marriage.

Speak positive sparks about your husband

and watch God build the blaze.

 

* This presupposes that abc is actually a sin against God and not just something you don’t agree with, like, or have a different opinion about.

My mouth … my marriage ~ June 26, 2013

PRAYER

Father God Who is in heaven, we acknowledge Your holiness

Show Yourself here on earth and do Your will

Thank You Lord that we can depend on You for all that we need today

Teach us to forgive offences the same way that You forgive our offences against You.

We know that Satan is the devourer and tempts us to sin against You by offending Your family.  Thank You for sending Your Spirit to help us see clearly where these traps have been set.  Amen

My mouth … my marriage ~ June 19, 2013

PRAYER

I pray for growth in humility and ask that You teach me by putting my husbands wounds ahead of my own.  You know it all God, everyone one of us has baggage from the assaults of Satan, but You Lord, know exactly what they are and where they came from.  Help us to be strong where the enemy has thwarted our husbands.  I know Satan wants to make fodder out of marriage but with Your strength he can be conquered.

When our flesh baits us to complain about our husbands and expose weakness, Lord build in us resistance, reveal the heart – the healed and whole heart  that You see.  By Your Spirit we won’t hunt for our own advantage by pushing our husbands down.

Thank You for creating wives in such power, show us when that power is needed so that we can come to the rescue and fight Satan.  Train us to use that power for the benefit of our husbands and not seek it for ourselves, I know You will do the exalting if we humble ourselves before you.  Amen

 

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