Sunday, February 22, 2015

Unless the Lord Builds

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” – Psalms 127:1

In this passage from Psalms 127, the Psalmist used the Hebrew word “bayith” for house, which means both a dwelling, and those that dwell in it – a household, a family.  While people will question why the divorce rate is so high, the answer is very simple.  Marriages aren’t being built with God’s blessing.  You can try to hold onto what you’ve built for as long as you can stand it.  You can say “I’m going to make this marriage work”, and you can sometimes do that.  You can try to “guard” your marriage from the inevitable destruction, but without God guarding it, Satan will be quick to tear it down.  Without God’s blessing on marriage, it is a curse and not a blessing. 

How can you tell which you have?  Do you live with conflict, fear, anger, bitterness, and disrespect?  Or do you live with love, laughter, peace, and joy?  If you want a blessed marriage, your marriage must be built by God.  How do you let God build your marriage?  Let Him be your guide, and start with what He has said about marriage.

First, He has given marriage to a man and a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1-3).  Not two men, not two women, and not a boy and a girl because marriage is meant for adults.  Marriage is not always easy.  You have to concede your will to that of your spouse sometimes.  You have to be willing to both give, and take.  If you are not at a level of maturity whereby you are okay with not always getting your way – you’re not ready for marriage yet. 

Secondly, believers are to marry believers.  That only happens when believers date believers.  One of the wisest things my Dad ever told me was to be careful who you date because you will marry one of them.  If you are dating and your companion is not a believer, you’re headed down the wrong road.  God has clearly said in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 that those that are His “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”  The reason is a spiritual one.  God through the Holy Spirit lives inside a believer, and He brings His Divine personality with Him.  That’s an incredibly huge difference than a person without the Holy Spirit inside them.  He is the very Spirit of God!  The absence of His Spirit in the unbelieving mate leaves an emptiness that Satan can fill.  Read Matthew 12:22-45, and pay close attention to when Jesus says “a house divided against itself will not stand.”

I’m going to take this a step further and say that an “unequal yoke” can also be found between two believers.  Find a mate that is at your spiritual level!  No farmer would hook a bull to a yoke beside a yearling calf! 

Third, the husband is to be head of the household.  Sorry ladies, but we were created to be the helper, not the leader.  God’s word is very clear on this.  Ephesians 5:22-23 says to submit to your husband as to your Lord. He is your authority, and Christ is His.  And if you don’t break rule two, you won’t have a problem. God is not going to lead your husband in a direction that is not best for you. 

Fourth, a woman is to respect her husband and a husband is to love his wife.  This is how God’s word describes the relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Common logic will tell you that the best marriages are where each loves and respects the other.  But ladies, make no respect that your job is to respect your husband – not talk him down to your girlfriends and defame him.  And husbands, real love is expressed in actions.  If you want a happy marriage, not one that feels like a curse, love and respect each other every hour of every day, on good days and bad days.

Fifth, be certain it is God who has built your marriage.  There’s an old song with the lyric “Where did you come from, Baby?”  We should look each person we date into the eye and ask ourselves that question.  Satan loves to send that attractive and tempting, yet wrong person into your life to block path for the right one that could be sent by God.

Don’t fall into the temptation – it’s a trap! God will not resort to adultery, fornication, or any other sin to bring you a spouse of His choosing.  God has never had to resort to sin to deliver anything and He will not start with your mate.  When His word says “Unless the Lord builds the house” He follows that with “they LABOR in vain who build it”.  How many years of your life do you want to give in that labor? How many years do you want to patch up and rebuild that relationship? 

I don’t know a lot about construction, but I do know a firm foundation is a must, and the foundation must be laid first for the building to stand.  Many marriages have crumbled because the trap was set, and a believer fell in.  Sometimes we think we can make it all better if we just marry, as if a rewind and redo undoes a sin. Well, it doesn’t!  If you have sinned, don’t let that sin cause you to live in a cursed marriage.  Forgiveness undoes a sin, and nothing less.   

Lastly, marriage is meant to be forever (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).  It is a covenant made under God.  If you don’t think you have a forever relationship, don’t “settle”.  If God intended for you to marry, then He intended a specific person for that forever relationship.  

I’m not sure why I landed here this morning.  All I know is that I heard God say “Unless the Lord builds a house”, and here we are!  That’s how He leads me sometimes.   If this has touched you, I hope it’s been in a good way and maybe brought clarity into areas of your life that needed it.  God’s word is meant for instruction and guidance in every aspect of our life.  But I do know this can be hard stuff for a divorced believer, as I understand on a personal level.  Yet, God’s word is God’s WORD, the infallible truth.  We are the fallible ones.  For those who are divorced or have been divorced, I can tell you that God forgives the breaking of this covenant as He forgives all sins.  His mercy is as eternal as life with Him.  And once you do receive that forgiveness, He forgets that sin in the same way as all the others (Hebrews 8:12).    

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I wish you all LOVE.  A love that I am so grateful that God has built in my own life.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Promises for NOW

My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” – Psalms 89:34

Sometimes we don't recognize God’s promises because they're not always written as we know promises.  In our vernacular, a promise starts with the words "I promise" and usually ends with something we want.  That is, unless you're a mom, and then it could very well end with "I will whip your butt if you do that again!" 

What's a promise from God?  It's His word, written in a factual manner, regarding His children.  For example, if the Word were to say, "His children will never be ashamed" (Isaiah 45:17) then God's promise is "I promise you will never be ashamed of being mine."

When we receive a promise from someone we usually will trust that they will or have done it right then.  But with God’s promises we will often think that they are all future tense promises, like the promise of Heaven. But some are intended for today, for right now in this very minute!

Here’s a few that I hope will put wind in your sails today:

 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” – Psalms 32:8

Today, we can speak this verse as “God is instructing me, and has taught me which way to go in life.  He has His eye on me and continues to guide me.”

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” – Jeremiah 33:3

Today, we can say “When I pray to you God, you show me great things, mighty things, knowledge and wisdom over things that I didn’t have before.”

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.” – Psalms 103:2-5

Right now we can say, “God, you are my Lord and Master, my Healer, my Forgiver, my Redeemer, and I live in your love and kindness and mercy.  You continue to give me good things and to make me feel young again.” 

“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”- Isaiah 40:29

In this very moment we can say “I have power in Christ, I am not about to faint!  Even when my strength was weak, it was God that made me strong.” 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13

At this time, we can say, “God, I know that through Christ I can do anything and everything.”  And because of John 15:5 we can also say “God, I know without you, I can’t do anything!”.

“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” – Psalms 121:3

“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” – Psalms 27:5

Oh yes! When the adversary comes against you, we can say “At this very time, I stand in Christ!  God has put me on the Rock and I will not be moved.  He is protecting me as if He had hidden me away from the enemy.  He camps around me, and will protect me.  God is not asleep! He is watching over me at this very time.”

Seek out the promises of God, and know that they are yours at this very moment as you walk with Him in Christ. 






Sunday, February 1, 2015

When God Wants to Lead

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – Jonah 1:17

When I was a little girl, about 13 years old, one of my favorite gifts was a tiny little Dachshund named Penny.  She was a Christmas present from my parents.  When I first laid eyes on her I was sitting in my grandmother Ruby’s kitchen and my Dad came in and said he had something in his shirt pocket for me.  About that time she poked her head out and I fell in love!

Being a puppy she needed lots of training.  I started reading how to housebreak a puppy from a 4H booklet, and soon she was house broken.  I was also able to teach her not to beg for food from the table, how to roll over, sit, shake hands, and all the usual good doggie tricks.  But I will never forget trying to teach her to walk on a leash!

I strapped the little cord of a leash onto her collar and took her outside and put her down.  In now time at all she had hog-tied me into a mess and the cord of the leash was biting into my legs!  No sooner would I get unwound than she’s tangle me up again!  Finally I got at a distance from her and tried to call her to walk with me.  She began pulling in the opposite direction, which only made the collar she was wearing cause her to choke.  I tried calming her down, getting her to sit, and then moving away from her and calling her again.  What did she do? She laid down! She wouldn’t move!  Her expression was one of “why are you punishing me with this cord?” I wasn’t punishing her at all, but wanted to teach her how to be obedient, how to follow my commands.  By learning how to walk on a leash she could go more places with me. 

Reading through the story of Jonah, I would imagine God felt the same way when trying to teach Jonah to be obedient.  He told him in Jonah 1:2 to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.  Yet Jonah decides to go the other way, just the opposite of God’s leadership.  He was like a bad dog on a leash, trying his best to “flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”.  What God had asked was not complicated or physically difficult, but it was outside what Jonah wanted to do with his life.  So he rebelled.

But there came a time when Jonah was no longer given an option to rebel against God.  Out on the Sea God caused a mighty storm to come and all the mariners became fearful of what was going on and knew that God was angry at one of them.  When they found that it was Jonah, even Jonah knew that they would all die if he did not get thrown overboard.  At that moment Jonah stood to even lose his own life due to his disobedience, and to cost the lives of the sailors. 

Once thrown into the sea, there was only one place Jonah was going – into the mouth of the big fish that God had prepared for him.  His options for serving God were gone.  God wanted his service, and at that point demanded it.  Was it punishment for Jonah?  No! God saved him from drowning or being eaten by sharks.  If God had wanted to punish Jonah, He would have done nothing.  Nothing at all.  Make no mistake friends, when God removes His presence from your life - that is the greatest punishment of all!

We often talk about having “doors” opened for us in our lives, and knowing which ones to go through, and which ones to slam shut. Jonah was all out of doors when God showed up with the big fish.  The only door available was the fish’s mouth, and Jonah was going in!  In the same way that I was determined to teach Penny to walk on a leash, God was determined to get obedience from Jonah.

Don’t wait until God gives you a fish’s mouth kind of option to serve.  Take the easy route and just walk with Him where he leads.