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Prayparing for Ministry

prayerBefore beginning any work great or small, preparation is crucial. You don’t tear out a wall in your home without first giving consideration to many things. Is it a load-bearing wall? What is my end goal? Do I have the money and/or skill to finish the project after its started? Will it enhance or inhibit any future resale value? For me, I have to wonder if it will it surprise my wife? In a good way (this time)? All to say, as Jesus did in Luke 14, “Did you run the numbers?” (Rick’s paraphrase)

This calling which my wife and I are walking was put into my heart some 40 years ago with very little fruit to show until just recently. I’m ashamed to say that. I look at some seasons in my life and wonder why I doubted so much. Why was life harder than my faith? I can say with some certainty the answer was often a lack of prayer. It wasn’t that my heart wasn’t filled with good intentions, but without a solid prayer life I had a less focused direction — like an unchecked compass in my life. I knew the Lord, I was His. And I knew His calling, but I was still too full of self and not enough Him.

I still see so much weakness and failure in me, but even at those, I’m trusting God’s grace to do this work and make up for my lack. Maybe it took me realizing I couldn’t do this on my own. Ishmael’s. I talk of them often because I’ve had so many Ishmael moments in my life. Those are the regrets. Those are the shameful moments where I did what I thought was right rather than praying about it and seeking God’s mind about them.

Luke 14:28-29
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him

Counting the cost begins with talking with the Master Builder. The next step isn’t costly to Him, but to us. His resources are unlimited. Jesus is asking the multitudes in the passage from Luke if they are willing to forsake everything to follow Him. Will they lay down their lives and pick up His cross? In that same vein, have you realized the cost, personally, to live for Him? So many times, we haven’t.

People often try on Jesus like we would try on a new clothes from a department store. “How do I look in this? Does this color look ok on me? Does this make me look fat? I’m going for a new look.” What if that new look looked like Jesus? Have you counted the cost?

What if your family hates your decision to become a Christian or if they think your love of the Savior is a bit radical or fanatical? What if your friends drop you from their circle because, man, you got all ‘religiousy’? What if family members stop talking to you altogether because of your faith? In the United States I don’t think much of this happens. In other countries, people who get saved risk their very life for doing so.

Being prayed up means you’re in a better spiritual position to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Your heart is already bent towards Him from the time you’ve spent talking with the Lord. You’re allowing Him to change you piece-by-piece into His image for His glory. As your walk and prayer life grows you tend to care less about the things of earth and more of the things that are important to the Father. The whole “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” starts to make a bit more sense. But don’t expect others to see or understand it.

Being prayed up puts us in the precise posture for serving, loving, witnessing, and delighting in the Lord. I love how Pastor John Piper calls Christian Hedonism: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Today I find myself a bit melancholy at time wasted, yet am more determined than ever to let the Lord redeem my time as He did my soul. Maybe the correct word isn’t melancholy as much as sobering. I choose to be filled with the Spirit of God and get His mindset rather than intoxicated at the world’s follies. In that process I’m finding myself completely satisfied and delighted in Him. That makes the cost Jesus spoke about inconsequential to me. I’m ready, Lord. And where I’m not, get me ready. I’m Yours.

If each day of the week were the equivalent of a decade in my life — and I’m promised 70 years, then its Friday night for me. That thought alone is sobering. May my Saturday be filled with all the harvest I had hoped and more so when my week is up the Lord would say, “You did good, son. I’m well pleased with the end result.”

In order for the Lord to prepare me for this ministry, I must be praypared.

— Pastor Rick

Sometimes By Step

I love the song Sometimes By Step by Rich Mullins from his album The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 2. It’s a song about seeing the vastness of what’s around us and then the immense righteousness of God and how both always feel like they’re just out of reach. And His righteousness is out of our reach. If we were required to reach to the heavens to grasp God’s righteousness, we would fall so far short. Grace would be unattainable. Mercy would be just a sad dream of a hopeless man.

Decades ago, God touched my heart when I thought I was out of reach. I was a teenager having moved to a new area of the country, no friends, and hated the life I was being told to live. But God used a neighbor to touch my heart. And so it was, on one summer night, I bowed my heart to the Maker of the Universe and cried out for His help. He was out of my reach, beyond my grasp. But I was not out of His reach. Through my neighbor faithfully sharing the gospel, I came to Jesus. I was irredeemable on my own merits, but Jesus applied His merits to my life. He paid a debt I couldn’t from a love I never thought possible. Who loves things that are worthless?

I found out over the years (and truthfully, I’m still discovering) what I thought was worthless was an accurate statement when left to my own devices. A lump of clay is just a lump of clay. But in the hands of a master that lump of clay can become a masterpiece. An ugly mound of clay, in the right hands, can be turned into a beautiful work of art.

Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.

To me my life seemed a doomed shipwreck until He reached me. I’m still learning that it’s all about Him. My life is all about His glory. And in His infinite love for something the world found worthless, He had other designs and plans for me that would ultimately bring Him glory.

Life has had its share of trials and turns, roadblocks and frustrations, but here I am still serving Him 43 years later. Mistakes filled with brokenness and shame fill my past and yet God is faithful even when we are not. That spiritual lump of human clay claimed by God in the summer of 1979 is still being worked and changed, molded, and made. I look in the mirror and I still see so much of me and not enough of Him. The miracles He does in the lives of people isn’t always completed in an instant. Sometimes it’s ‘by step’. One after another and mostly in the right direction.

Romans 2:4 (NKJV)
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance

After a time of completely living for myself a couple of decades ago and then feeling unusable, the Lord spoke to me and drew me back to Himself in His mercy and love (Romans 2:4). He reminded me of the call placed on my life so many years before. I’m taking steps by faith, trusting Him to lead me. Are they all correct? Is each step in alignment with His divine direction? OH, how I wish. But they are all in the same direction. They are all made with the heart of wanting Jesus lifted up and glorified in my words and deeds. His grace makes up for the lack of perfection in the timing or administrations of my steps.

The recent undertakings my wife and I have made since starting this church in our home a year ago are things He spoke to me decades ago. It didn’t work then (timing is important – read the story of Abraham for example), but I’m seeing God’s hand moving beyond my abilities and talents. God is connecting hearts that seek revival in our community where we’re called to minister. Someone recently told me, “I’m not good at what you’re doing.” I laughed. Neither am I, but I’m stepping out by faith in the One who called me. I have this drive in me that is very much tempered by my own failures of the past and forged with Holy Spirit reminders of His love and direction.

If you read this, know that more details will be forthcoming over the next few weeks and months. God is working, moving, and connecting. The last ten years have been a time of waiting, maturing, preparing for such a time as this. The vision the Lord gave me is so much bigger than me. Thankfully, or I would try to do it in my own strength. I’ve had enough stench-filled failures in my past. But now I’m trusting Him with every aspect of this ministry including His timing. Each day is a new day to pray, listen, obey. And then follow as closely as I can … by step.

Pastor Rick

Five

Five smooth stones, carefully selected by a future King David, to take down Goliath? Well, that story could be told here. Five loaves (served with two fish) to five thousand+ ? That story could be told here, too. So what does it mean then if not those two or a myriad of other biblical examples? Five days.

For the last five years we have been praying about when and where to start the church God spoke to me about so very long ago. In five days we will be having our first church service. It won’t be like any regular church service, though truthfully, I have no idea what to expect. Like Peter, I’m being encouraged to step out of my proverbial boat. I’m not sure what all to expect, but I’m being faithful to the calling and am preparing as much as I know how.

We’ll have some people to the house, break bread (potluck fellowship) and then break open the Bread and see what God does. I’m excited. Do I have concerns? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But I’m trusting God in the small things and hope that I never get to a place where I’m less trusting in His leading or provision.

It’s not just in the how, but the who. I’ve been specific in who I’ve asked to be part of this work. Intentional. These are people that are special to me, not already active members in a church (save a couple of folks – myself included). I asked these prayerfully to consider being part of this start. Beginings are exciting, but they’re not for the faint of heart. After the initial ‘newness’ wears off, the real work begins. And yet it’s not my work or theirs. It’s His. All He’s calling us to do is be faithful to Him and usable by Him.

This coming Sunday evening will be our first service. It won’t be traditional nor are we going to be in a traditional setting. It’s in our home (though we are casually looking for a building – it’s just not a necessity yet). Will there be music? Who knows? There won’t be “preaching” because it’s not the atmosphere for it. Those days will come, but for now it’s about discipleship. Teaching, leading, caring, loving.

We’ll have an eclectic group of people and a wide age range. The kids will stay in the room with the ‘grups’ and absorbing the Word and environgment as a family would and should. I’ve been preparing the message(s) for quite awhile and the Lord has been gently nudging me in areas where I might want to go deeper than I could or shallower than I should. He knows in advance who all will be here and His heart is to meet their needs where they are. I just want to be a usable and effective conduit of His mercy and grace. Those are the same attributes of His nature He reminds me of daily.

In many ways I’m reminded of a time when I was 13. We had just moved to the area and I went with a friend to a local public pool. After watching those jumping from the high-dive, including my neighborhood friend, Mike, I made the climb up the ladder. It was probably only about 15 foot high, but it might as well have been 50. After trembling on the inside, I managed to make the jump. It wasn’t great to watch – arms and legs aren’t supposed to flail that much, but I survived and was determined to go again. It was exhilerating even if it wasn’t much to watch. In those awkward, clumsy moments, my friends were laughing and smiling – not at me, but with me. And when this work starts all I really want is my Father to be smiling. The rest of the ‘how’ won’t seem all that important.

— Pastor Rick

It Always Comes Back to Grace

graceFor me, the Lord always brings me back to grace.  His grace.  No matter where I’m at and no matter how “good” in my Christian walk I feel I’m doing, its by His grace.  I love this word because God’s grace is the manifestation of His love poured out — and Jesus is Grace personified.  We have nothing apart from His grace.  We are nothing apart from His grace.

As I wipe the slumber from my eyes several verses quickly come to mind of His grace and how they apply to my life.  None can be more special (to me) than this one:

Ephesians 2:8-9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)

We look at faith as the basis of our salvation, but we access faith through the catalyst of His grace.

2 Corinthians 12:9 — But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)

Sometimes we don’t feel we’ll make it.  Those problems or difficult seasons seem to overwhelm us. But His grace will sustain us in and through those times as we press into Him.

Romans 3:23-24 — for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (ESV)

Justified. MADE in right standing and without sin.  Made just.  I heard an old preacher teach it: Just if I’d (never sinned). I couldn’t earn it. I couldn’t buy it.  I’m not smart enough to merit it. It’s only because of God’s love and grace extended to me (and you).

1 John 1:14 — The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus. Full of grace and truth and love for you. YOU were the reason He went to the cross.  He loves YOU.

Acts 6:8 — Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

Like Stephen, we will see His grace effectual in our lives when we live surrendered to Him.

Ephesians 4:7 — But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

I got mine, you have yours, but all from the same Giver.  It reminds me of when my parents would by me and my siblings clothes.  They paid for them all, but they weren’t all identical.  My clothes fit me and my sisters clothes fit them.  In the same way God’s grace for me is still grace, but suited to me and my own personal struggles. If you don’t have an issue with an over-developed sweet tooth, then His grace given to me to help fight against that inclination wouldn’t benefit you much.

Hebrews 4:16 — Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This confidence in which we can approach Him is solely through His grace. We have nothing in ourselves worthy of approaching God except through the work of Christ Himself which He extends towards us. Need mercy? You can ask because of Jesus.  Need grace to help?  You can ask because of Jesus.

James 4:6 — But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

It’s not about looking the part. There are so many actors pretending to be Christians. God has x-ray eyes, so to speak, and can see when you’re putting on a front.  He’s looking for people who realize apart from Him they are useful to no one – especially the Lord. Seek Him from a humble heart and the grace you need in the good and bad is readily yours through Him.

Romans 6:14 — For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

The struggle can be real.  Do you have things, habits, weaknesses in your life that you’d like to see eradicated?  Strongholds that you seem to struggle with sometimes daily?  The redemptive work of the Cross is complete. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. Done.  Fin.  And yet you quickly can recall that last major failing.  The promises (if even only internal) that you wouldn’t be harsh or judge or react impatiently or [fill in the blank] … they haunt us. We go from praytime highs to sinful woes.  But it is His grace that can set us free from the vicious cycle of our old sin nature. Change is a process as is taking a shower.  Not everything becomes squeaky clean immediately and it’s God that is cleaning us from the inside out. Grace also gives us the courage/discipline to never give up seeking His change within knowing full well the outward is changing, too.

Romans 11:6 — And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Works are such a dangerous thing to practice or to thrust on someone else. Works will never change our heart. However His grace changes us inwardly and works become a by-product of the changed heart.  So don’t even try to good works?  Heavens no, but realize it’s not the work that saved you — it was His grace. And it’s that same grace that will continue to work His attributes and characteristics inwardly when we are in relationship with Him.

My prayer for you is that His grace will fill your eyes, heart and spirit with wonder. It is His grace that will carry you and sustain you when everything else fails.  In the best of times or the worst, it is His grace poured out over you that can and will lift your soul. Be mindful to take your eyes off your situation, problem, or heartache and place it on Jesus, the Lover of your soul, who by Grace offers you salvation, peace and hope.

Now the tough part — extend that grace, through Him, to someone in your life.  Gifts like these are too good to keep to ourselves.

— Pastor Rick

I Want My Life to Point to the ONE

It’s not about me …
I’m a Christian. Yes, a christian. For those who know me, I don’t shy away from my faith.  You see, true Christianity is not a religion and I have spent most of my life rebelling against religion. Seems weird to some for me to say that.  You see, Christianity is not just a set of guiding principals that dictate my life — it’s so much deeper and real than just a change of motives, ideals, and thoughts. Being a christian is having a relationship with Jesus Christ – a real, every day relationship. A walking and talking kind of relationship. Let me tell you about Him then I’ll tell you how I met Him.


Who is Jesus

Jesus is, was, and always shall be God. He is the only begotten Son of God. He was born to a virgin two thousand years ago. Yes, a virgin. Seems impossible, yet God is the God of the impossible. Allowing a virgin to conceive was the only way to bypass man’s sin nature which is passed through the seed of man. Since we all have human fathers, we are all sinners. And it’s our sin that separates us from God the Father.

Although Jesus is God, He was also a man. Given His mother’s humanity, He had to endure the same temptations that we all face. Yet He was found without sin. He never stumbled in His standing with God the Father.  Not even once.

During His earthly life, which spanned a little over 33 years, He marveled, ministered, and sometimes confounded the crowds. It was the zealous religious types, who believed in mandating rules and regulations over every part of people’s lives, that were bothered the most by His life and message. What was that message? Freedom.

The true paradox, Jesus was and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet He lived His life on earth as a servant to God the Father. By His own words He said, “I only do and say what I hear my Father in heaven tell me.” A servant to the point where He willingly obeyed His Father and was crucified on the cross.

It was on the cross that the sins of mankind were placed on Him. Only a perfect, spotless lamb could be used as a sacrifice for our sins. He became that Lamb. He bore my sins and yours as He made a way for us to come to the Father. So great a cost. So great a love. Both of the Father, to be willing to lay down His Son’s life for us, and of the Son, who would obey His Father and endure such suffering for us.

Three days after He yielded His life on the cross, He rose from the dead. Many saw Him and testified of His resurrection. Today He sits at the right hand of the Father and prays for you and I.

Years ago I learned the difference between religion and relationship is FREEDOM. Jesus brings a freedom to your life.


How can you know Him?

It’s really easy. God knew we’d never be good enough to “earn” heaven. He also knew that even the wealthiest person of all history couldn’t buy his way in. So there was only one way — through Jesus.

“But it cost God so much by allowing Jesus to pay for my sins … His own Son’s very life. Shouldn’t there be some kinda cost?” Trick question. The answer has a yes and a no. We’ll deal with the no first.

I’ve been around some religious folks that think you have to look and act a certain way. God doesn’t care about that. He really doesn’t. What He does care about is your heart. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is a free gift. He extends it to you freely. Right where you are. Just like you are. All you have to do is ask Jesus to come into your heart, forgive you of your sins, and be the Lord of your life.


Lord?

Yes, that’s the part that costs you. When you ask Jesus to come into your heart and be your Lord, He’ll do just that. Sounds kinda hokus-pokus, but it’s not. It’s just God filling you with His Holy Spirit (the third part of the holy Trinity) and helping you along in life. When you become a Christian (asking for forgiveness and for Jesus to be your Lord), you become a child of God. He adopts you into His family.

Unlike the bad images Hollywood tends to put out, God is loving, patient, gentle, full of grace, and merciful. There may be things in your life that He knows aren’t in your best interest. You might have to give up some habits or things that you like to do. But if He does want you to give up some stuff, He’ll let you know in a gentle and loving way and then give you the strength to give those things to Him.

This may seem like a bold statement, but I would even go as far as saying that if someone tells you that you have to give something up after becoming a Christian that you pray about it. Ask God. Don’t just accept what someone else says because they say something like “a Christian shouldn’t do this or shouldn’t do that”. God will be a loving Father and guide you.

Want to become a Christian? I can help. Read the following prayer. Then using your own words, pray this prayer to God. Trust me, He’ll answer you. And your life will never be the same.

“God, I come to you in the name of Your Son, Jesus. I ask you to forgive me for messing up. Please forgive me for my sins. I ask you to help me. Jesus, be my Lord. I want to follow you. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and guide my heart. Thank you for loving me. Amen.”

If you just prayed that for the very first time, I hope you will send me an email and let me know.


How did I become a Christian?

I was 14 years old and pretty new to the area. We had moved from New York to Texas and I was having a difficult time adjusting to the area. People made fun of me. Many reasons both real and imagined. Didn’t matter. I just wasn’t very happy.

Some people moved in across the street from us. One of the sons that lived there was in his early 20’s. Some neighborhood kids use to get together and play some football after school. Since he was in college classes in the morning, he often had a few minutes to play some football. Before I knew it, he was kinda like the youth worker of the neighborhood. Everyone seemed to like him. One day he asked if anyone would be interested in going to a bible study he was going to start.

I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought, but it sounded ok. A couple other kids were going also, so this was a way for me to try and fit in. He started explaining about how God loved and cared about us. As a teenager, I was surprised that anyone cared. I listened a little more. Over the next several weeks he taught about Jesus, heaven, hell, and angels and other things. One day after a bible lesson, I went home. I felt something or someone tugging at my heart. I thought about how much God loved me. I couldn’t help but think about it all evening, too. God was really talking to my heart. I knew what I had to do.

I went to bed. I couldn’t stop thinking about God. I stared at the ceiling for awhile then tossed and turned in bed. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew that I needed Jesus in my life. I just KNEW it. I climbed out of bed and knelt beside it. Right there I asked God to forgive me. I wanted Jesus to be my Lord. I needed Him to save me and help me. He did. It wasn’t a fancy prayer, but an honest one. I wanted Jesus in my life and in my heart.

I knew immediately that something was different. I felt a peace I had never had before. God moved in and I’ve never been the same since. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had more than my shares of ups and downs. I’ve made horrible mistakes in my life. But God has never left me. He loves me. I’m very grateful that He is patient. I would have given up on me by now, but God has never given up on me. He loves me. And He loves you, too. Right where you are and just like you are.

Well, thanks for spending this time. I hope I’ve encouraged you. But more than anything else, I hope you see how much God loves you. I’d love to hear from you.

Now? Really? Ok, You’re the Boss!

morning stretch

Morning stretch before taking on the day.

As is typical with God (if there is a ‘typical’), He is pulling long-ago dreams from my past and dusting them off in my mind and heart.  Things that I thought were just pleasurable ‘oh-that-would-be-cool’ daydreams suddenly resurface, like the Son shining through the curtains after a long nights sleep.  There is almost always a whispery reminder from the universe’s Creator that He’s the one that gave those dreams to me in the first place.  But like everything in life, the timing is His.  Like a seed tucked carefully during planting season, the sun and rain of life doing what they do, God is now allowing that seed to sprout from the ground.

Decades ago, the Lord called me to the ministry.  Over those decades I’ve hit walls and the walls hit back.  I’ve faced battles ill-prepared and often found myself in spiritual triage.  I’d love to say my walk with the Lord has always been as an overachieving overcomer, however, the truth is I’ve found myself (more times than I’d like to admit) looking up from the dirt and asking my Father, “what happened?”  The key, though, was I always looked up to my Father.  He’s the one that gave me spiritual life through Christ.  He’s the one who put these dreams in my heart.  He’s the one who spoke to my heart as a teenager when my life was a chaotic, disaster of a mess with the devil stirring violently trying to break me before God could make me.

Romans 11:29 − For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

There have been so many times in my life that the Lord has re-spoken that verse into my mind and heart.  Honestly, only half the time did I even believe Him or the verse.  The King James translation uses the phrase ‘without repentance’ in place of irrevocable.  In other words, when God is involved, when He places gifts or a calling on your life, He does it intentionally.  He knows our last day from our first and all those days − good and bad − in between.

So many times I would have given up on me, but in His mercy, He forgave and restored.  In His grace, He placed things into my hands and mind that only He could.  And over the years I’ve learned those are really His and I gave them along with myself back to Him.  These dreams and visions I’ve had over the last thirty (thirty!?) years are His.  He gave them to me.  It has never been about me and that may be the toughest lesson of all.  It’s always been about Him.  For too many years I couldn’t see Him in the midst of them.  Too much me and not enough Him.  Oh, I gave Him credit, but with the subconscious underpinnings that He needed me in order to complete them.  HA!  How foolish and arrogant we often are.  How foolish I often am.  And still that verse would come back with an added personal touch.  “Rick, My gifts and callings for your life are irrevocable.”  It always seemed to be haunting and taunting.

I still don’t have life figured out.  But I know Who is my life and Who owns it.  I gave it to Him nearly 40 years ago.  In a quiet, messy bedroom, during the night hours, I crawled from my bed.  Nearly pushed to my knees by the beckoning of God that I was in desperate need of Him in my life.  This enormous, all-powerful, God of all the universe, came to me in my tiny bedroom to change my life forever.  It still amazes me.

John 6:44 − No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him

I gave my life to Him that night.  I didn’t realize it then but know much more now that He wanted all of it.  Not just the portions I was willing to give, but also those portions I thought I could do on my own.  There is an old saying I’ve heard for years that if He isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all.  The saying is nice, but a bit inaccurate because no one walks in complete and total obedience at all times.  I understand the meaning is to try and convey what the word ‘Lordship’ really means; He reigns completely and totally in our lives. But the truth is asking Jesus to be my Lord was the beginning of a relationship.  He’s King. No doubt about that.  I’m to yield to Him in obedience; no doubt about that either.  But I don’t follow Him because He’s a domineering, ogre-ish, demanding God, but because He’s a loving Father.  I get to have a relationship with the One who paid my sin debt and redeemed me from my worthless life of self and sin.  The longer I walk with Him, the more He changes me.  The more I know Him, the more He shows me areas that I had previously held or hidden as my own.  So Lordship in a broader sense is a continually growing into His grace with which I was saved.  Learning more about Him and allowing His freedom to move in my life is truly for my best and will also, always, benefit those in my life.

Galatians 2:20 − I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Over the years He’s pruned, cultivated, and in spite of what some may believe, matured me.  Am I walking perfectly now?  Hardly.  But my growth is continual as is His faithfulness.  And today I stand at the precipice of the rest of my life and the ministry He’s called me to.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m not sure of all the steps along this path He’s placed before my wife and I.  But as the Lord has done my entire life, He’s calling me to trust Him and be willing to take that next step of faith. He’s looking for us to take that step in the same way He placed the gifts and callings − intentionally.

So we stand here, intentionally stepping out in faith at His leading and fully trusting He’s got this regardless of any steps or missteps that may lay ahead.  Jesus is Lord and I am His.

More news will follow in the coming weeks and months, but please keep us in your prayers as He awakens these long-ago dreams and is bringing them to pass.

− Pastor Rick

Born with Purpose

nativityChristmas time is always a battle between remembering the ‘Reason for the Season’ and the ‘ever growing commercialism’ of the holiday. And truth be told, in many lives, even my own more than I care to admit, the latter seems to win out.  We dread having to go to the store even if it’s not for gift shopping. Tempers are short, you have to be careful which holiday greeting you use (if you care to be politically correct), and then there are the myriad of parties that seem to book up the entire month.

As the day approaches we’re not thinking much of a young teenage girl nearly nine months pregnant having to walk or ride a donkey while carrying a story beyond belief.  The nearly 100 mile journey would have been arduous for any normal person let alone being a back-aching nine months pregnant.  Her incredible story was a culmination of stories and sacred writings she had heard all her life.

Isaiah 7:14 — Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Every young girl hoped to be ‘the one‘, but if their lives were any like ours, they may have treated the whole prophecy much like a far-fetched fable.  You know you’re supposed to believe it, but the longer it takes to come true, the bigger our doubts can sometimes grow.  It’s hard to see the miraculous in the every day life.

People of that time were as well aware as we are that virgin births aren’t the norm.  Quite the contrary.  They’re impossible.  So when she had the encounter with the angel who gave her the pregnancy test results early — that she would become pregnant after the Holy Spirit overshadowed her — she probably thought she had eaten some bad mutton nachos or maybe drank a glass of goats milk a day or two beyond the sell-by date.  This young girl, Mary, wasn’t from Bethlehem where the prophecy said the Messiah would come.  But the timing of the Roman decree was in God’s hand of providence to align the birth of Jesus to the prophecy given some 700 years before their trek to Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 — But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
    whose origins are in the distant past,
    will come from you on my behalf.

Many are aware Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus while His actual birth probably took place closer to September than December.  And while many will look at the Christmas story as Mary and soon-to-be-step-dad Joseph’s encounter at the Barnyard Bed & Breakfast, it really began in Genesis when God spoke prophetically of the redemption of mankind.

Genesis 3:15 — And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The future was clear: Satan would wound the Redeemer, but that very Redeemer would defeat His enemy once and for all.  All of the prophecies from the first in Genesis and all through the Old Testament wove a tapestry of the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This great Ruler would come to bring justice, hope, mercy to a nation who was always fighting for it’s very survival.  But His heart and gift of redemption would extend beyond just those of Israel.

Genesis 22:18 — And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

Being part of the Holy Trinity, Jesus was well aware of His purpose — the redemption of mankind from the grasp of sin.  He would bridge the gulf between man’s sinful nature and a holy God.  He was well aware of other prophecies that foretold of His life here on earth as the Son of God.

Psalm 22:14-18 — My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice for my clothing.

But His relationship to His Father was deep and He completely trusted Him.

Psalm 22:9-11 — Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
    and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
    You have been my God from the moment I was born.

11 Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.

All man is under the curse of sin.  Sin when it matures brings spiritual death.

James 1:14-15 — Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

And because we are all born under the curse of sin, enemies of God, unable to freely choose not to sin because of the very deceitfulness of our heart, there was no need for the following verse except for Jesus.

Deuteronomy 21:23 — the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.

Since Jesus was without sin, this is the only way He could have become accursed … when He became our sacrifice for our sin.

Isaiah 53:4-6 — Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

This Child of God birthed through Mary had purpose.  God’s hand was on Him to protect, love, nurture, and eventually lead Him to Calvary for that purpose.  This Child, Jesus, Savior of all mankind, was born in a manger without fanfare, paparazzi, or fame.  Smelly animals, a poor and embarrassed step-father, and the very tired, aching mother all witnessed this Baby, this King, enter our world.

Luke 2:10-14 — but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

We hang on to the receipts for those special gifts, just in case the receiver thinks they’re not really special and wants to returns them. The birth of Christ is God’s love gift to us and the receipt was His resurrection.  We have done nothing to earn His love and yet Jesus was born in a manger — with a purpose; to be our Redeemer and Savior.

Ephesians 1:4-6 — Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

The next time I think of Christmas, children opening presents, the impending debt that will hit the mailbox a week or two later, the hustle and bustle, and returning clothes two sizes too small, I hope I take time to remember that long journey that started back in Genesis and of the teenage girl and her husband who held God’s only begotten Son in their arms.  The gift of salvation through Jesus is much more important than the special gift, wrapped in special paper, and shoved under a freshly cut, light-covered, pine tree.  Christmas isn’t about piling presents for one another or seeing just how far you can stretch your credit rating.  It’s about God’s love for us and the gift of His only begotten Son.  It’s about Jesus.

Jesus is Christmas.

 — Pastor Rick

Celebrating Life In Death

eaglesI spent most of yesterday at a funeral with a very close family at our church as they said their goodbyes to a strong, faithful, caring woman.  Bobbie Austin was a straightforward, honest, loving mom, wife, and friend.

My wife was very close to Bobbie and took her passing pretty hard.  Quite possibly because Bobbie had such a compassionate heart when it came to our son, Richie, who passed away three years ago to Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.

While Richie was here, Bobbie was always loving him, talking to him, listening to him.  There was a bond.  And when Richie went to be with the Lord, Bobbie was there to comfort and help Dorothy’s hurting heart.

Bobbie’s own battle for health began eight years ago with a cancer diagnosis.  Then in August of 2012 she was told she had multiple tumors in her brain and the doctors gave her just 3-7 days to live.  But, as my pastor has said many times, they only practice medicine while we know the Great Physician.

Surgery was immediate, but so was the prayers of many people who loved Bobbie. Instead of the 3-7 days, she lived for another two years!  She continued to declare God’s faithfulness, even when it couldn’t be seen with the natural eyes.  She continued to declare His wonders to every doctor she met as her grim diagnosis dimmed in life’s rear view mirror by some 900 additional days of life.  She continued to talk of the love and grace and mercy of God to anyone who would listen even when the doctor’s reports weren’t always easy to hear.

While listening to our pastor do a great job preaching a celebration of her life and the joy of Christ that shined through her, I couldn’t help but remember the first funeral I preached almost a year earlier.

Billy Edwards was a man in our church who was pretty new in his Christian faith.  He was in his early 60’s and had lived a hard life.  But God preserved him throughout those years so that, as the apostle Paul would say in Galatians 1:15-16, at God’s timing He revealed His Son to him.  God’s grace kept Billy alive long enough to receive His grace and become a child again at 63.

I met Billy about a month after he was saved.  Still raw, still being changed, but a man who had fallen in love with Jesus.  About two weeks before he was tragically killed in a car wreck, he asked me if he could preach sometime.  I told him we’d work out the details, but definitely I would let him preach.

He never got the opportunity to preach himself, but he had already written out his entire message.  His wife gave it to me and asked me to see if I could work some of it into his funeral.  Instead, I preached Billy’s sermon for him.  I was honored to be his pastor and honored to be his proxy for his first sermon.  While celebrating with Bobbie’s family yesterday, my heart went back to that message from Billy and I decided to share it today.  This is his message in his own words …

Nothing You Have Been Through Will Be Wasted, by Billy “Blue” Edwards

Moses was a mighty man.  He was the man who was going to overthrow the Egyptian government.  He was the man who led a million and a half people out of Egypt.  And he’s out shoveling sheep dung?  Are you kidding me?

Nothing you have been through will be wasted.

We are like eaglets in a nest and environment that is comfortable for eaglets.  In that nest they are fed and nourished while they develop and when the time is right the mother eagle stirs up the nest.

So God stirs up the nest we are in and He takes us out of our comfort zone – makes us get up out of that lazy boy chair.

Moses became an illustration for us because God put him in that cushy position.  Moses was fanned, hand-fed grapes, someone bathed him, wash his clothes, press his undies, and life was great.  He grew up in the life of luxury.

Then God stirred up the nest Moses lived in.  You can tell when God stirs the nest because all hell breaks loose and like the little eaglet trying to find a soft spot to sit down, we can’t because it’s uncomfortable.  So we try another spot and jump up again.

But just because something ain’t working for you doesn’t mean you are under a satanic attack. It could be possible you’re trying to rest where God used to be.

Seeing yourself through the lens of who you were will stop you from seeing yourself through the lens where God is calling you to be.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to raise something up that God is trying to kill.  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to be somebody God is trying to crucify.  You have to have the liquidity of thought and the nimbleness of mind to transition yourself from where you once saw yourself – to go where God is calling you to be.

If we see ourselves as eaglets, in our nest, enjoying the comfort, it’s hard to soar like the eagle God wants us to be because it takes more effort, more energy, more work.

And to expand our wings is more effort.  It’s easy to sit back and say feed me, love me, acknowledge me, open doors for me.  Its me, me, me, me, and when the food stops, it’s time to move on ‘cause momma ain’t bringing the food like before.

Can you see the little eaglet praying, “I rebuke you, satan!  I rebuke you prince of darkness!  Momma should have been here by now.  I rebuke this and that.”

But what do you do when you have prayed and prayed and it doesn’t work?  And the rebuking doesn’t stop it and you find yourself hungry?  And when you’re hungry and you don’t have the nourishment and the rest you used to have – you lose grace.

Grace will cover your eyes so you can’t see what you’re going through.  When grace stops you notice the thorns and thistles coming up and now you have to move.

Moses’ thorn and thistle was the murdering of an Egyptian man and the people started talking about it and rising up against him.

People will always bring up what you did in life, so you have to be careful about what you do in your life.

Moses had to give up the palace with its marble floors, being fed grapes, somebody washing his clothes.  He had to get up out of the nest and escape.  Life of luxury was over.  So he ran to the desert – a dry barren place.  Hot.  So while he was running to escape, he ran smack dab into his purpose and what defined him and a new identity.

He had an epiphany, in other words; an awakening; a spiritual epiphany.

It changes the lens of the things you see going forward.  You don’t have one every day, or every week.  Moses’ epiphany changed him in a moment.  It changed his life for the next forty years.  It put him in a wilderness.

He didn’t know who he was, how he got there, or how to survive.  He was lost.  He already had an identity crisis going on.  He was born a Hebrew boy, but raised by the Egyptians.  He was too Egyptian to hang with the Hebrews and too Hebrew to hang with the Egyptians.  He smelled like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, but was a Hebrew.

I like talking to people who have a background that’s complicated.  I wanna talk to people whose resume has to be censored.  I wanna talk to people who only tell half their testimony because there are only certain parts of it that are fit for human consumption.

It’s like, “Daddy was a good man, but it’s complicated.”

“Mother was a good mother, but it’s complicated.”

“I had a happy childhood, but it’s complicated.”

When you have to put a ‘but’ in there it’s because there’s a need to extinguish some of the circumstances. I can tell you the good times, but it’s complicated.

Moses was an educated man.  A strong man.  An intellectual man.  But since he was a Hebrew, well, it was complicated.  When you hear people say that they’ve been happily married for fifty years and people clap – they’re lying and ain’t been happy-nothin’ for fifty years.

They only tell about the good stuff.  They don’t tell you about how she spent all the money he was saving.  He didn’t tell her about the young secretary he had.  She doesn’t tell you she married a momma’s boy and how she sends him to momma.

Now you married people in here ain’t saying nothing because you don’t want to blow your cover, but there are some divorced ones in here who have my back.  You know what I’m talking about.

Jethro took Moses under his wing and told him to lead his sheep to the backside of the desert.  Jethro said I have some work for you.  Moses said, “Work?  What’s that? I was raised in a palace. We had people to work for us.”

So there’s Moses – out shoveling sheep dung.

Sheep can look real pretty and white in a picture, but that’s photo enhancement.  They stink.  You can’t smell them in the picture and them sheep had an odor – that’s a French word for “stink”.

Have you ever had victory in one place and all hell break loose in another?  Moses had a victory when he got free from Pharaoh.  He was doing his little victory dance when the thought hit him, “What am I going to eat?  How will I survive in this wilderness?”

But then he remembered that Jethro, his father-in-law, had taken him under his wings and showed him which roots to get water from; what and what not to eat to survive.

After being alive eighty years, Moses came to the mountain and saw the burning bush and the angel appeared to him out of the flame of the fire.  God had not yet spoken to Moses, but when God saw Moses turn aside, that’s when God spoke to him in a language that Moses understood.

You see, if you’re exposed to something and you keep on walking, it’s not for you.  But if you’re exposed to something and you turn aside like Moses did, then it’s for you.

God said, “Moses!  Moses, take off your shoes for the ground you stand on is holy ground.”

And Moses said, “What are you talking about?  This wasn’t holy ground last week when I was here.  There’s sheep dung all over the place.”

And God said, “Take off your shoes.  You are on holy ground.  It’s holy because I am here.”

If you curse the way God leads you, you will not make it to where he is taking you.

When God told Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go, Moses asked, “Why did you wait until I was eighty years old?”

And God said, “I waited because you were not ready to lead anyone.  Every tear you shed, every time you have had to skimp, every time you suffered it was not a waste because now you can lead My people out to the wilderness because now you know how to survive and you have the credibility to lead.”

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My own Closing thoughts …

Billy said: Seeing yourself through the lens of who you were will stop you from seeing yourself through the lens where God is calling you to be.

While God does love you just like you are, when He calls you and you respond, He will not leave you where you are.  He will call you to walk with Him.  and while walking with Him, He will change you.

We’re not saved by works.  We’re saved by grace through faith.  We don’t have either one of those – grace or faith – but God gives us even the ability to believe in Him.

After we come to Him and we can truly call God our heavenly Father, He will lead us into His works that He prepared specifically for us.  You have your own works that God prepared for YOU to do – and Jesus will be right by your side every step of the way.

Richie, Billy and Bobbie, would want you to surrender your life to Christ.  They were different people, different lives, different troubles, but the same Heavenly Father.  In the midst of life, they found a faithful, loving God who welcomed them, in spite of their past, into His family.  They found love, mercy, grace, peace and hope.

The sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  If you’re really ready for a change, put your trust in Jesus.  These saints still faced hardships, but they had peace til the end and now they all have a secured place in heaven.

— Pastor Rick

Can Divorced People Remarry?

Continuing with the theme of marriage, here’s an excellent post by Paul Ellis on Divorce and Remarriage. As you read, let me encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Maybe you’ve been through divorce or maybe you’ve seen others go through it and stood in judgment against them. It’s time for healing in all areas of His body. May the church be true representatives of His mercy and grace.

https://escapetoreality.org/2015/01/14/can-divorced-people-remarry/

What God Has Joined Together …

praying-couple

Married couples are under assault from the enemy because it’s a God ordained union that is a catalyst in changing the world around them when they honor Him with their marriage.  It is forming and transforming lives around them as they raise godly children and demonstrate how a Godly couple should live in a fallen world.

In a world where divorce occurs in one of every two marriages, shouldn’t those who call on the name of Christ have a higher standard due to a higher calling?  Well, they should and we’re about to explore it a bit more in this last of three posts.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous two posts, this is not an all-inclusive look at marital problems couples face and I highly recommend several books for a more in-depth topic study for you and your better half.  My suggested list can be found at the bottom of this article.

The thought behind this series is to look at just three of the major problem areas faced in a marriage and help give some insight as well as a challenge.

In the first post I confronted wives and challenged them to be more open to meeting their husband’s needs.  In the second blog I addressed men who refuse to be genuine men in their homes to their wives and families.  In this final post I’m going to be speaking to both husbands and wives as a couple.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Most Christian couples are like anyone else.  Our society pushes an agenda where both husband and wife have full-time jobs.  While there are a lot that wish this wasn’t the case, tax and inflation rates have driven us to a point that if you want to tread water, both will spend 8-10 hours away from home five days a week just to pay the bills.  Add to that the stress of raising children in an environment that is hell-bent on defiance at every turn (socially, domestically, sexually) and the tension mounts.  There always seems to be too much month at the end of the money and too much mouth from kids who don’t need any extra push to defy and disrespect parents.  For many couples, Christian or not, it’s all they can do to hold it together.  If they can just make it one more week without a parent/teacher conference; one more month of squeezing the checkbook like a rung out sponge hoping to beat the disconnect notice; one more year to try and keep the car running; a few more years to pull in some odd and end jobs hoping to defray the college costs that are coming too quickly.

And somehow they must try desperately to stay connected to their spouse who is feeling every bit of the pressure themselves.  Instead of running to each other for strength, support, solace, they end up snipping, biting, scratching, and fighting with one another.  While he’s figuratively thumping his chest, demanding respect, and reminding everyone “he’s the man, the boss, the one in charge”, she’s sneaking, usurping, conniving, undermining OR just picking up all the responsibilities Mr. Boy ignores.  Ironically I don’t think either side does it intentionally, but it’s the attitudes brought out by a sinful heart and its a tragedy waiting for the right moment to explode.

By the way, while all this is going on, your kids, your family, your friends, and your co-workers are observing.  They’ll never tell you they’re watching, but they are.  We all look at other couples and wonder “how do they do it?” and when they fail, we tragically realize, “oh, they’re just like us.”

Before we get neck-deep into this issue I want to give a couple of cliché lines that I’ve heard over the years. The first isn’t as well known as the second.

There are five gospels that get read — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you.

The second is probably more well-known to you.

You’re the only Jesus some may ever see.

The reality of those two statements should shake your spirit to sobriety.  The same way you notice other people in both their failure and success, is the same way those others are watching you.  Why are you different?  Do you live what you say you believe?  Are you genuine or a hypocrite?  Now let’s take all of this and move it into a Christian marriage.

Let’s deal with the first aspect of being a Christian in marriage.  Your first responsibility as a Christian is to live a life of complete surrender to the Lord.  Fully, totally, completely bought and paid for, sold out, surrendered to Him.  The second responsibility is not to your job, your hobbies, your church, your community, or even to your children.  I’m not saying you should neglect any of those, but none of those are truly your second responsibility.  Your second responsibility is to your husband or wife.  Your spouse is the one you were united to before God and by God.

Genesis 2:24 — Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (ESV)

Some bible translations interpret ‘hold fast’ as cleave, cling, bond, or even united.  In all instances its used as a verb.  That means it’s not a noun or an adjective, but rather an action.  While we obviously see the wedding day as the ‘uniting’, we often don’t recognize this as an action that is ongoing throughout their lives together.  While the husband may take the macho “I’m the head of this house” approach he will quickly learn that if he wants peace in ‘his’ home, he’ll learn to listen more intently to his wife.

Likewise the wife will generally have an ongoing battle with ‘submitting’ to her husband because she may equate ‘submitting’ to slavery.  But neither of those approaches are biblical.  Let’s cut to the chase and just remind everyone that Jesus wasn’t asking His bride [the church] to be His slave — and that’s how husbands are to love their wives (as Christ loves the church).  And wives, like the bride of Christ, are to be as ‘in love’ with their husband as the church is to be to its Husband — so submitting shouldn’t be an issue either.  When both parties love the way we’re intended, almost any situation can be resolved quickly, but it will take a humble, loving, and forgiving heart for them both.

The one thing I’ve noticed most desperately missing in Christian couples is a lack of approaching their walk with the Lord together.  You see, I don’t think that the cleaving, clinging, holding fast portion applies to just their relationship to each other.  I firmly believe that is also how they are to walk as a couple before the Lord.

A Christian man may get up and pray for his wife and family.  He may spend time in the word and teaching in Sunday School and being a good father at home.  He may find homeless people to feed and share the gospel with those he meets in his daily life.  But is he doing any of that with his wife?

A Christian woman may love and care for her husband.  She may provide the stability he needs with his family.  She may be praying, studying her bible, teaching in Sunday School, being a mother to her children, and sharing the gospel with those the Lord brings into her life.  But is she doing any of that with her husband?

Both the husband and wife will equally say, and rightly so, “the Lord is the focal point” of their relationship, yet they both will approach their walks as individuals and not as a unified couple with God right in the middle ministering to both of them.  Have you ever noticed often one spouse is on fire for the Lord while the other is, well, less so?  They may not be cold as ice, but their fire definitely needs some stoking.

Maybe it’s just human nature or maybe it’s our American heritage, but we fight for independence.  We don’t like to be told what to do.  We fight God to live the way we want (without consequences) and we fight others because “we want to do it ourselves”.  We are a stubborn and independently driven people from childhood on.  We call it liberty or freedom.  But as we grow in Christ we find our liberty, real freedom, is living a life in complete surrender to the One who knows us best and loves us best.  And as a married Christian couple, we’re supposed to be lovingly submitted to one another with God as the centerpiece of our relationship.

Deuteronomy 32:30 — How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? (ESV)

I often wonder about that verse and how it relates to marriages.  Think of all the battles husbands and wives face; attacks against their marriage, against their children, against their family.  Approaching the Lord as an individual can put a 1,000 to flight.  But united, as God made them through marriage, they could put 10,000 to flight.  Tired of feeling defeated by the enemy?  Tired of letting Satan have the upper hand?  Then grab the hand of your husband or wife and start approaching everything about your walk unified.  Be united in your study.  Be united in your prayers.  Be united in seeking His will for your family — daily.

To me this seems such a simplistic response and idea yet very few marriages that I know have put this into practice.  And I can assure you none of the failed Christian marriages have taken and maintained this approach.  It’s nearly impossible for the enemy to get a foothold into a marriage if both husband and wife are praying, reading, caring, sharing, and seeking His will for them as a couple.  This isn’t to say disagreements won’t happen.  They will.  But with a heart of lovingly submitting themselves before the Lord together, problems will have a faster way of being worked out and it will be with gentle reminders to love and forgive.

Husbands and wives are a compliment to each other.  Husbands are incomplete without a good woman, a godly woman, their helpmate.  Wives are incomplete without someone to love who will love, cherish, and protect them.

Mark 10:7-9 — ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (ESV)

Let me challenge you to grab your spouse by the hand and agree together to seek God as a couple.  Put the Lord in the center of your growing relationship as a Christian couple.  Seek His will for your lives collectively.  Chase the enemy with a unified heart.  Study and pray together and see God’s hand of blessing in your marriage and on your family.

As I’ve stated several times throughout this series, this is not an all-inclusive look at marriage.  It’s a quick fly by hitting major points of contention and offering challenges I hope will help you and your God-given mate grow in His grace and peace.  May His love abound as you both, together, seek His will in your marriage and walk.

— Pastor Rick

 


I recommend the following books for further reading on Christian Marriages:

When Sinners Say “I Do” — by Dave Harvey
Married. Happily. —
by Greg Laurie
Real Marriage
by Mark and Grace Driscoll

His Needs: Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.