Showing items filed under “February 2017”

Paying Attention to Your Marriage

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We were five years into our marriage. I threw my bags in the trunk and buckled my babies in the back seat. The rain poured from the sky leaving me soaking wet. I’m leaving. I can’t stay with him anymore. I have completely fallen out of love with him. I hate him.

As I saw his shadow staring at me in the rearview mirror I started to think about our past. I was 16 and he was 18 the first time we met each other. He was charming, kind and had a smile that made my knees go weak. We couldn’t get enough of each other. But now all I wanted to do was get away from him.

How did this happened?

How had we gotten to this point?

How could our once strong, forever love have grown so cold?

Life had happened to us. Five years and two kids later we were struggling. It was hard, and painful. Disappointments, struggles, empty promises, and unmet expectations.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a fairy tale?

Wasn’t love all we needed?

Weren’t we supposed to live happily ever after?!

Well, yes. We can live happily ever after. But it doesn’t just happen. Marriage needs constant care. It deserves our time and attention.

Here are four tips to help you pay attention to your marriage.

Communicate - Communicating tells your spouse, "I care about you." Be real with each other about what you need, and what you see, even if it isn't what they (or you) want to hear.

Consecrate - Remember your marriage is holy. Grasp the fact that marriage was meant to draw us closer to Christ. Your spouse was never intended to fulfill and complete you, only Jesus can do that. Your marriage is meant to be an example of how Christ loves us.

Collaborate - Work together to improve your marriage: attend a conference, join a couples bible study, pray together. Growing together will keep you from easily growing apart.

Choose - Each day wake up and choose to be married. Decide your marriage is worth your time and energy. Decide that your spouse is worth your love.

After a lot of hard work and communication, we’ve been able to repair our marriage. It takes time and attention every day, but it is so worth it! Yes, we still have disagreements. Yes, we still struggle. But because we decide every day that our marriage is worth working for, our marriage is working.

Are you working on your marriage? Are you improving in it? There is always room to grow, to have the kind of life changing marriage that people around you notice something different.

Reach for the kind of marriage that God can use for His glory.


Interested in attending the Marathon Marriage Conference March 10-11? Register Here

Why Should Jesus-Followers Tithe?

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Money is one of the most talked about topics in the Bible. If you read through the book of Proverbs you will walk away with at least a Bachelors, if not a Masters in Finance. Jesus makes plenty of references to money as well. In one of the regularly quoted passages on tithing Jesus gives this rebuke to the religious leaders:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” -Matthew 23:23

Jesus affirms that tithing (along with seeking justice, mercy and faithfulness) is something that his followers should be doing. Let’s explore a few reasons why Jesus tells his followers they should tithe.

Can I share something that is shocking with you: God doesn’t need your money. God used his voice to speak and created the entire universe. He breathed into dirt and humanity came to life. He spoke and the raging storm stopped. Jesus called out and a dead man came back to life. If he can do this with his voice, he certainly doesn’t need our money. So why does he tell us that we need to tithe? I believe that he tells us to tithe because we need to develop into disciplined givers. I’m naturally a taker. I think I need more and in order to get more, I must give less. So when I freely and joyously give my tithe, God works in many ways, not the least of which is to change my heart. Through tithing I am transformed more and more into a person who is inclined to give. Personal transformation is one of the main reasons that God tells us to give.

Sometimes when I don’t feel like giving, I have to remember that God expects me to be obedient, even when I don’t feel like it. Being obedient is what creates the discipline of giving in my life and helps me submit to God’s authority. When I know that God has commanded me to do something and I choose to ignore or disobey, I am living in opposition to him. I’m telling him that what I want is more important than obeying him; that I know how to handle my money better than he does. Conversely, when I do obey and give, especially when I don’t want to, I’m learning to be disciplined in submitting to God’s authority over my life. Discipline in one area tends to lead to discipline in others as well.

While obedience in giving my tithe is important, it is certainly not the only reason God wants me to tithe. There is something powerful that happens when I faithfully take 10% of my income and hand it over to the church to be used by God. I think God asks us to give 10% because it is not enough of our income to break the bank but it is certainly enough to make us notice. I think God has designed it this way so that he begins to challenge out view of money. It makes me evaluate the position that money holds in my life and how much value I place on money.

I choose to tithe because I want to show God that I value him more than money. I want to show God that I put my trust in him, my security in him, my hope in him and so I tithe. I tithe to ensure that I don’t fall into the trap of worshiping at the altar of money. Paul gives us a powerful warning when he says:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

-1 Timothy 6:10

I don’t want to wander away from God in search of more money. There is a spiritual law at work that says when I trust God enough with my money to obey him and give my tithe, and perhaps more, he will ensure that my needs are provided for. He will also ensure that I will grow closer to him.

All too often I like to think of myself as the exception, like tithing is for everyone else. I will rationalized that “God knows how much debt I have and he wouldn’t want me to be in debt longer, so it’s not that big of a deal if I don’t tithe for a few months. I’ll be back on track soon.” No matter what my financial state is, I am not the exception! God asks everyone who claims to be a follower of his Son Jesus Christ, to give 10% of their finances to his church for his work. He gives us this command to change us. He gives us this command to test us. He gives us this command to free us from the love of money and the multitude of evils it can lead towards. Ultimately, God has given us the command to tithe because he loves us!

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your past. It doesn’t matter how bright or bleak your financial outlook feels. God wants you to be faithful with whatever he has given you. Everything we have is his. He has asked us to give 10% of what he has given us back to his church.

The time to be faithful is now.

Growing in Faith

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Faith is believing in what we cannot directly observe. Faith is trusting in God instead of our own nature. In Hebrews 11:1, Paul encourages the Hebrews by describing faith and later goes on to provide multiple examples of people who showed tremendous faith throughout the bible. A common theme in these examples is that each person was able to do great things by putting their faith in God instead of putting their faith in their own abilities and circumstances.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Get Uncomfortable

Our faith grows when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones in his name, into an area where we are not in control. That is where God can take over in our lives. 

God has called us to do great things, but these things require having faith in him as they did for those described in Hebrews 11. This means pushing ourselves to get to know other believers through Connect Groups or maybe to start our own Connect Group. This means sharing our faith with others around the world so that they too may come to know Jesus. This means finding our place to serve within the church even though it is easy to just be served by the church. 

Each time I have made myself uncomfortable by obeying what I understood to be God's will in my life, it has been an awesome experience that has grown my faith. I have been terrified to put myself out there, being an intovert by nature, but I consistently felt God speaking to me so I said yes to him even though my nature pushed back. 

God has always given me the strength and the voice when I take the first step, just as Proverbs 3:5-6 suggests, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.

Jesus tells Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, from this we should understand that it will be uncomfortable when we push our human nature out and have faith in God. This is necessary so that when others see us doing the “impossible,” there can be no doubt that the glory belongs to God and it belongs to him alone. We too will know that it is only through God that we are able to accomplish these things, and this is how we grow our faith.

 

Fighting to Let Go

This Week's Life Lifter:
 

For God loved the world so much
that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life
.

(John 3:16)



Think back to a time you fought for something. Was it important to you? We fight for things we care about or feel entitled to.

What about your life? It seems like an easy question, yet Mark 8:35 says “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News (gospel message), you will save it.”

There are few things that are more miserable than hanging onto your own life when you need to let go, but listen to the words of Jesus. He says that if you do what comes natural by hanging on to your life then the most unnatural thing will happen, you will face death.

We will fight to hold on to our view of the world, to get what we want, and we get mad when life does not work out exactly how we thought it should. We will fight with all we’ve got before we die. In the spiritual realm, when we are willing to fight to the death, we are fighting against life.

The way the world views religion, Jesus is here to serve us. This view thinks that God should give us what we want in exchange for us serving him. The world says that you can be religious, but yet still harbor hateful thoughts and feelings towards others. The world says that God can have a small part of your life, and you can keep the rest. 

But this is not how it works.

In the beginning or the end, your life is either kept for yourself or given completely to Jesus. You cannot be partially crucified. The given life is an “all in” kind of life. Or it isn't given at all.

This is the example that God set for us.

It says in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

His life was THE given life.

 


 

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Getting Back to Bible Reading

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There is an old saying that goes, “Stay prayed up!” This is one way to keep the devil at bay and to remain closer to God.

Who doesn’t want to be closer to God?

There are many ways to develop a close relationship with Christ. Over all the praises, songs, prayers, and devotions, it is clear that we need to know who Christ is. We need to know the experiences Christ had with the people he met along the way to becoming our one true savior. We need to know his true intentions for us all. We need to know how his will and our ways align in the grand scheme of this great life.

In order to understand our journey and the plans he has for us, we need to know him.

Considering the need every child of God has for a real, honest relationship with him, our first stop in pursuing a relationship with him should be the Bible, or the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

Picking up the Bible for leisurely reading may seem like a challenge. Reading the Bible outside of church or Bible study may seem like a chore. But, any relationship worth having is worth working for. Every day God works on us just a little bit more, so carve out some time to work on your end as well.

Psalms 119:133 says that God’s Word gives us guidance. In times of need, and in times of ease, it’s important to seek Christ’s guidance for your life.

Here are some quick tips for getting more Bible time in your life:

  • Use a small devotional in the mornings to get your day started
  • Commit yourself to 10 minutes of reading on a topic of your choice 4 days a week and highlight the important parts that stand out to you for later reflection.
  • Use a handy Bible reading App
  • Listen to an audio Bible during your commute
  • Search for verses that have a significant meaning to you to begin your reading (i.e. Birthday January 4th= read John 1:4, Philippians 1:4, Ecclesiastes 1:4, etc.)

After you have chosen what works best for you, find a way to tie it into your prayer time or whatever time you have set for your private dates with Jesus. If you chose to have several small ones a day or just one a day, use this time to build on your relationship with Jesus!

You’ll be glad you did.

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