Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

The Way She Looks at Us

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My daughter is five years old and she has this obvious draw to words of affection and affirmation. She is quick to remind us how much she loves us and delights in being showered with affectionate words. She also will often prompt us to give each other words of affirmation, smiling broadly as my husband and I tell each other that we love one another. I see this look in her eyes and it is like a window into her precious heart. It’s the way she looks at us when my husband and I communicate love and honor that shows us how important it is to her that we love each other.

Being affectionate with your spouse isn’t just about you or how you feel. There is so much that we communicate to our kiddos without even realizing it as we hold hands, cuddle on the couch, or embrace when he comes through the door after work. Words and acts of love blesses our children in several ways, whilst also building up the relationship and keeping affection alive. Here are a few of the ways our “public display of affection” and words of affirmation bless our children:

  • Children love to see their parents in love with one another. They are blessed knowing that Mommy and Daddy love one another and are happy together. Happy children are usually raised in happy homes, where love, honor and respect flow freely and openly.
  • There is security in a happy marriage for the children. Seeing their parents in love gives children a sense of safety and stability. In a world where half of their friends will come from families of divorce, children need this reassurance. Words and acts of affection reassure them that their family is safe from the pain of separation and divorce.
  • Children are always watching and learning. Displaying a happy marriage, with hugs and kisses and hand-holding and words of affirmation, will set a wonderful example of marriage for the kids. By the grace of God, may they go on to be happily married in a God-centered home one day too.
  • The affectionate and loving couple are much less likely to be that couple that says unkind words to one another, especially in front of the kids. Children are often quietly observing as couples share harsh words in angry tones during times of conflict. This is confusing and upsetting to little ones, who love both Mommy and Daddy. Those angry words hurt children, even when they aren’t directed at them. Let the loving and kind words flow while biting back those harmful words and looks.

When my husband I speak words of love and cuddle up together on the couch, my daughter looks at us with such joy, peace and contentment. She is secure in our love for one another. She delights in our happiness and her little cup runneth over. Being affectionate with your spouse shouldn’t only be for the kids, but blessing them is certainly a good reason to keep words of affirmation and acts of affection a part of everyday life.

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Choosing Peace Over Conflict in Marriage

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Every couple fights! It’s normal. It’s healthy. It’s just the way it is! Right?

There are probably very few couples out there who can honestly say that they never have a fight or argument. Hopefully there are many, many homes in which simple disagreements never escalate to the point of being classified as an argument and then further on to a fight. Yet for many homes, even Christian homes, escalations are indeed more common than one might think. In many homes they happen as frequently as taking out the trash (and sometimes triggered by a wife nagging her husband to take out the trash for that matter). Some couples are finding themselves in conflict monthly, weekly and even daily. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but there is nothing “normal” or acceptable about a Christian couple fighting this much.

Here are three common reasons that a Christian couple may find themselves in conflict so often:

  1. External Stresses. Couples may find that when they are going through times of intense stress or pressure, fights occur more regularly. Stress often causes people to lash out or to assign blame. We oftentimes inexplicably take out our stress on those who are closest to us because we somehow feel more free or safe to do so. We assume they will continue to love us, despite our snide comments and rude remarks. We feel the need to assign blame, which just leads us down a terrible path altogether (ie Adam and Eve). In these times we are often afraid, and that fears leads us to unleashing our emotional storms on those we love. Not good. So what to do we do?
  2. Unrepented Sin. When we sin, we place a wedge of separation when us and the Lord. We quench the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we live in unrepented sin, our marriages and homes suffer. Sin is destruction and that’s all it knows how to be. When we allow it in the door, pain and suffering will follow. Whatever the sin may be, couples will find that conviction, shame and downright rebellion will cause an atmosphere of rottenness to develop in a home. Have you ever thrown something rotten in the trash and not noticed the smell was getting bad until you leave the house and come back? You walk in the door and the smell hits you like a plank between the eyes. Gross! No one likes a smelly house, and a house where sin is allowed to settle in will fester and stink and cause all kinds of problems. Whether it be something that is an outward sin, such as stealing, pornography or adultery, or one that is more inward, like pride, covetousness and hateful thoughts, sin issues in the home can cause division, disintegration of the family and lots and lots of really bad fights. So what do we do?
  3. Deeper Issues of the Heart. Sometimes couples fight because there are much deeper issues and wounds than can be seen on the surface. Some couples simply do not have feelings of love for one another. Either the love has faded or it was never really there at all. Some have deep wounds that have altered them, such as the loss of a child or a traumatic experience. Other couples experience conflict because of going through life changes and challenges. Infertility. Loss of a job. A move to a new place. Chronic illness. There are deep issues that can cause a lot of pain, confusion and oftentimes marital conflict. When our hearts are hurting, the words of our mouths can be more based on an emotional outcry than on logic. We say things we don’t mean. We sometimes try to inflict pain so that we aren’t hurting alone. So sad. So what do we do?

There is one answer to these common problems. There is one thing we can do to restore calm and unity to the family unit. It seems simple, but it really is profound and perfectly reasonable. What we do is….CHOOSE PEACE. We choose peace over conflict. We always have a choice about whether or not to be a part of conflict. We ALWAYS have a choice. We can choose peace over conflict and bring serenity back into our homes, by letting go of our own needs to lash out, be right, make a point, assign blame and share our hurt. We can choose peace instead and quiet instead of letting our tongues go unbridled. We can choose peace instead of taking out my hurt on my husband or daughter.

“For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11

Peace isn’t something that just happens to lucky people. Peace is a choice. Unity is a choice. Even love is a choice. The thing is, it’s a choice that sometimes requires sacrifice and hard work. We have to learn to control our tongues and our hearts. We learn to be wise about when to be quiet. We learn that it’s okay not to get the final word and that we don’t have to be right all the time. We learn to weigh out what is most important…..proving my point or peace? Being right or peace? Getting my way or peace? Indulging in sin or peace? God says we should choose peace. It’s that simple.

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19

One last point I need to make here. If sin in your life is bringing you conflict, know that you cannot possibly choose peace if you don’t repent and get rid of that sin. Sin and peace cannot live in harmony. There is no such union in Christianity. Sin is the enemy of peace. If you are living in sin, repent of your sin and get rid of it. Then you can choose peace, and what a blessing that will be to your home, marriage and kiddos.

“And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:18

“Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” Proverbs 12:20

CHOOSE PEACE!

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Three Ways to Combat Division in Marriage

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“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

When God said that nothing should separate a husband and wife, He did it for a reason. He knew that the world would present ample devices for creating a wedge between a man and his wife and that it was important to be aware. These devices come in many forms. Sometimes it is people from the outside, the girl making eyes at your husband at the workplace or your best friend who tries to encourage you to talk bad about your husband behind his back. Maybe it’s a family member who is always stirring up trouble and planting seeds of contention in your marriage. The devices could be idols in your life such as an over-indulgence or an unhealthy focus on television, sports, hobbies (especially those hobbies that require money), or even ministry. Division can come from our own selfishness or self-focus. There are many tools that the world, and the enemy of our souls, uses to try and divide a husband and wife. The following are just three of the ways you can combat division in marriage and keep your home in peace and unity:

1. Communicate Freely

Whether it’s Christian-based counseling or secular counsel, most people agree that communication is key in marriage. The fact is, when it comes to combating division, the most successful weapon is communication. Now, this tends to come easier to us than to the men. We ladies are usually talkers. We are more than happy to discuss our day, our feelings, our dreams and our concerns. We could discuss them all day! Men, on the other hand, usually don’t need that kind of sharing on a daily basis. Still, it is so important that husband and wife communicate freely in order to stay united. What does that look like practically speaking? I don’t keep secrets from my husband and he doesn’t keep them from me. We do not withhold information from each other. If you want to share something with me, know that I won’t tell anyone else about what you share, except for my husband. We communicate freely about our concerns, our feelings, our challenges, our sin, our goals, our fears, etc. We communicate about those things that could bring division into our home so that we can deal with them. Most importantly, we communicate about the Word of God and what the Lord is doing in our hearts. We talk about His plans for us as a family. We pray together. We encourage each other as we talk about the ways of God. This communication shines a bright light that expels darkness and division from the home.

2. Make Tough Choices

Keeping a family united sometimes means making hard choices. Making those choices could cause hurt in other relationships, but it’s important to remember that the marriage and family relationships are top priority. If someone or something is coming between you and your husband, it must be dealt with. Sometimes it must be removed from the home. For example, if you and your husband argue often about a certain television show, then perhaps the best choice is to stop watching it altogether. That’s an easy one, of course. What if there is a certain friend who always seems to try to stir you up to anger against your husband? Once you have searched out your own behavior for issues where you may have encouraged the intrusion, and confessed, then it may be necessary to share with this friend, in love and gentleness, that this is becoming a problem and must stop. If the friend does not stop, it may be necessary at that point to stop that relationship. Sound extreme? What if it’s an extended family member? Same plan? You know, many marriages have crumbled and burned because of people from the outside bringing division. Sometimes it’s an obvious agenda and other times it is more subtle. Just remember that God said nothing should come between a man and wife. Nothing. No one. Nada. You may need to make some tough choices to purge your home and marriage of division and division-makers.

3. Be a Team.

Sounds easy enough, right? Just like with anything else, it’s easy until it’s not so easy anymore. Why is being a team important? When you are a team, you forfeit personal preferences and desires for the victory of the team as a whole. It’s no longer about what I want, but what we want. We are willing to compromise, to work together, to communicate freely and to give in for the good of the family. A team is united. Strong. Dedicated. A team member does not betray another member or defame his character, but rather lifts him up in encouragement and edification. Cheer for one another! Fight for one another! Stand with one another! That’s a team that will not be divided.

Your marriage is important. It is the most important ministry of your life. It is absolutely vital that you beware devices of division. Get rid of division. Make those hard choices. Be your husband’s best friend and teammate. Communicate freely and do not let the sun go down upon your anger. God will bless the home that stands united on the Rock, that is Jesus Christ. He will keep your home standing while others around you are blown away by the storms of life and the attacks of the devil. May the Lord who created marriage keep you united as one for as long as you both shall live.

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When I Hurt a Friend with my Words

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I’d like to tell you that I never say or do anything that would harm another person. I’d like to say that I was never insensitive or inconsiderate. I’d love to tell you that every word I utter or type is grounded in wisdom, kindness and love. I wish I could tell you that I’ve never hurt a friend, but that would be a lie. I’m here to say that I did hurt a friend, and I so wish it wasn’t true.

As a blogger, some of my blogs are written more off the cuff than others. Most are the result of study and prayer. I try to make sure I word things in a way that is truthful but also gentle and compassionate. I also try to be very clear about the tone, direction and meaning of what I’m writing. Sometimes I get it wrong. In a recent blog, I made a comment that brought hurt to the heart of a dear friend and sweet sister in the Lord. I was so glad that she made her feelings known to me in such a gentle and loving way. I’m glad we had the openness to talk about it and that she caused me to take another look at what I wrote. In doing so, I recognize so clearly where my words were both hurtful and also misleading.

You see, in an effort to encourage deeper relationships within the church (particularly within the sisterhood of the church family), I made a comment that would seem to readers to completely dismiss the close friendships and relationships that I have been so blessed with over the past seven or so years. As I re-read the blog, I got a clear picture of how hurtful those words could be. I immediately regretted ever penning them. As my eyes moistened, I was reminded by the Spirit that I can sometimes be so blind to how powerful words can be. They can edify or tear down. They can encourage or discourage. They can speak goodness or darkness. They can make a friend feel loved or they can make her feel like her friendship wasn’t what she thought it was.

I apologized to my friend last night, but I wanted to write this blog because I want to be real with you. As a blogger, I’m sharing words every day that can be powerful. It’s so important that we use those words wisely. It’s important that we think before we speak. I value my friend so very much. I’ve been so blessed by her friendship, love and support. Her and her family have been an encouragement to us, helped us when we were hurting and shown us the love of God. When I wrote those words, I didn’t even consider how they were going to be taken. I didn’t mean what they implied. Still, harmful words are hard to erase.

I’m blessed to know that my friend has forgiven me, and I so hope she knows how much I care for her and appreciate her friendship. I hope she knows I treasure her and her family. Life as a believer in Christ is all about growing, and we never stop learning….usually from our mistakes. I’ve learned a lot from this one. Hopefully you too can learn something from my mistake before having to make it yourself.

Words are powerful. Use with caution!`

Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

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What Selfies Don’t Reveal

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Ah the selfies! They are constantly flowing through the social media news streams and allowing us to see the side of people that they want to share. I know people who take a ton of selfies and others who never post pictures of themselves. Media reports talk about connections between producing massive quantities of selfies and such concepts as narcissism. I don’t know. I think ultimately there are two points that cannot logically be refuted:

1. People share selfies because they want others to admire them in one way or another; and

2. People only share what they want you to see.

Smiles, silly faces, glam shots….selfies can bring out many different characteristics and even emotions. Some people go for the goofy approach, giving us a sampling of their fun and playful personality. Others are clearly the result of careful calculation to make sure the best angles and lighting are achieved for maximum beauty. Some selfies are subtly sexy in nature. The pout. The big eyes. There are many variables. At the end of the photo shoot, hopefully you have something to share that will acquire tons of “likes” and be admired by many.

As eager as some are to take stunning selfies, they are just as keen and cautious to avoid pictures that are less flattering. We only share what we want people to see and we only want people to see the very best side of us. Yet, as I glance through the pictures, I can’t help but wonder what’s really going on in the lives of these lovely people whom I care about and love. What’s going on in their hearts? How are their walks with the Lord? Do they need prayer? Help? A hug? Selfies don’t tell us these things…in fact, they seem to often be more of a masquerade or charade.

Anyone can make a beautiful. photo-shopped picture, pop it up on their wall and make the world believe they’re happy. Then when the news breaks that there’s been marital problems, addition issues, illness and financial strain, we are all so surprised. After all, they looked so happy in those pictures. Their lives looked so together.

It’s not wrong for us to want others to see the best sides of us, nor to smile even when we’re hurting inside. I just think we need to be willing to be real with one another…at least those trustworthy people in our lives who can handle the raw, unfiltered ugliness that we ALL experience from time to time. You see, we live in a fallen, sin-infested world in bodies that are prone to breaking down. None of us have perfect lives. None of us have selfie-approved lives all of the time. Sometimes we’re a mess. Sometimes we have bad hair! haha Sometimes we are hurting far beyond what anyone can comprehend.

Friends, sometimes we are so desperate for people to admire us and look up to us that we refuse to admit when we need help, prayer or support. We need to strip off those chains and be willing to let others in. God never intended us to travel this narrow path alone. We need each other. Holding it all in will only cause us harm and additional pain. Share your burdens with each other and be available to help carry the burdens of others. That’s the true Christian way. That’s the Jesus way.

You know what’s awesome? God shows us in His Word that it is the beauty of the heart that matters. It matters so much more than the physical beauty that the world craves. I’m not saying we should stop taking selfies. They can be lots of fun to share and see. What I am saying is that I’m not content with selfie relationships that are based only on outward, photo-shopped illusions. I am willing to be real and show my beloved sisters in the Lord who I really am….the good and the bad. I know they will love me for all of me and they will encourage me, which will make me a better person in the end. As we edify one another in the Lord, the beauty of our hearts grow. That’s true beauty!

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Teaching Your Kids to Look Down on Others

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Being a parent is such a huge responsibility. I can say with confidence that teaching my daughter to love and follow the Lord are at the top of my priority list as a mother. Preserving her purity and training her up in the Word are of the utmost importance. I want to instill in her a love for the things that God finds beautiful in a woman – purity, meekness (power under control), prudence, patience, modesty, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, grace and mercy. These are virtues that I long to see her grow into as a young woman someday.

In order to instill those virtues, I teach her God’s Word, pray over her and give her real life examples. Those examples may be good and bad examples….what TO do and what NOT to do. However, I think it’s very important that in giving her examples, I am not teaching her that it is in any way okay for her to look down upon, condescend, despise or judge those brothers and sisters who are not convicted in the same way that we are on these issues. In other words, I do not want to raise a snotty young woman who is quick to offer disapproval to anyone who isn’t like her.

When I use the dreaded word “Judge”, by the way, I understand that some will confuse what that means. The Word talks a lot about judging. The Bible doesn’t tell us not to “judge’ in terms of identifying sin. We judge all the time. We judge what is right and wrong. We are to judge rightly. However, we are not to judge in the sense of passing a judgement or sentence, and we are not to condemn or despise someone, looking down on them. That’s the judgement both I and God’s Word forbids.

Here’s an example. The Smith Family are great. They are Christians and seek to follow the Lord in all they do. In the Smith Family, the girls have decided that they led to wear skirts or dresses everyday because they truly feel that God is honored in it. There’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is how the 12 year-old Fanny Smith reacts when a new girl her age comes to church wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She wears a look of shock and distaste on her face. She refuses to make eye contact. She immediately sees herself as a “better” Christian and labels the other girl as being “carnal.”

Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe after years of wearing skirts the Smith Family suddenly feels the Lord put on their hearts that they don’t need to dress that way all of the time and they discover a new liberty in Christ. Will others who continue to wear dresses and skirts teach their children to look down on them? Will the Smiths judge the skirt-wearers for being stuck in “legalism”? Where will the judgement end????

There are plenty of other examples. Parents who emphasize healthy eating may inadvertently teach their children to look down on overweight brothers and sisters. Perhaps the parents look down on them too? Homeschoolers may teach their kids to look down upon public schoolers and vice versa. Sigh

You know, when I aim to raise my daughter in the Lord, my number one lesson to her is not whether or not the Bible teaches that women should wear skirts or headcoverings or eat only organic or homeschool. You see, those are secondary issues. They are dead end issues. I want my daughter to be used by the Lord for wonderful and awesome things. I want her to be a light in this world to a lost and dying population. I want her to shine forth the love and grace of the Lord Jesus to all who come in contact with her. I do not want her to be an uppity, antisocial child-young person-adult, who looks down her nose at anyone who isn’t just like her. Where’s the love of God in that? Where’s the graceful heart of the Lord in that?

So do we stop teaching our kids to walk in their convictions? Absolutely not! I know the standards I want to set for my daughter, and I pray that they are a blessing to her as they guide her into adulthood someday. However, I want to teach her at the same time that we are called to love one another and to accept one another the way Jesus does. We are called to friendship with other believers. We aren’t to stand in a corner or with a small group of like-minded friends and just watch as other young people stand alone or leave. We aren’t supposed to be so heavenly minded that we are no good to the people here on earth. We learn from Jesus, whose own disciples questioned Him for eating with and ministering to sinners. Jesus showed them a love and acceptance they couldn’t resist and they were changed.

Teach your young ones that, in order to minister to someone, we must first be willing to love them unconditionally. We must pray and work to empty our hearts of this type of judgement. We need to reach out with open arms, regardless of the way another looks, talks, dresses, eats, smells…haha…whatever! Teach our kids to be like Jesus, who didn’t sin but loved sinners. Amen?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14

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A Family on Mission Together, Stays Together

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Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Throughout the life of any marriage, there are going to be mountain tops and valleys. Some marriages contain far more of one than the other, but both exist in some form. Today we see couples in the valley times calling it quits on the journey far too early. Many times we see Christians giving up because they’ve been in a valley for a while and haven’t been able to find the road up and out.

There are many circumstances that lead us to the valleys. It could be external issues such as financial strain (or other money concerns), health problems, child raising disagreements, a lack of respect and love in the marriage and, most of all, a lack of Jesus in the marriage. What’s interesting is that all of those issues I mentioned could be quickly and easily resolved when one fixes that last most critical point. Jesus in the marriage.

Not “religion” in the marriage. Jesus in the marriage.

Not “spirituality” in the marriage. Jesus in the marriage.

Not “church attendance” in the marriage. Not “charitable giving” in the marriage. Not “singing the hymns, raising the hands, thinking about what’s for lunch after church” in the marriage. It’s all about Jesus. So what was Jesus about?

Jesus was on mission. Jesus was about winning souls to the kingdom. Jesus was about sharing the gospel. Jesus was about making disciples and teaching the Word. Jesus was about praying and interceding. Jesus was about self-sacrifice and service. Jesus died so that others could live. Jesus was on mission.

A family on mission together, stays together. 

You want to combat divorce in the church? We need to get families on mission together. Does that mean they have to pack up their bags and move to the Congo or go to Iraq to share the gospel? Well, if Jesus calls them there then yes! However, being on mission doesn’t always mean going on foreign missions. It can mean that, but what it truly means is living a life of kingdom purpose. Jesus has given us all a commission to be on mission. Our life’s purpose should be to share the gospel and train our children up to do the same. That’s our purpose and our calling…..not SOME Christians, but ALL Christians.

You know what really stifles that missional life of sharing the gospel? DIVORCE!

Yes, it’s hard to be focused on sharing the gospel, ministering to people, sacrificing of your own time, resources and safety even to live out a life of service to the King when we are trying to get the divorce papers in order too. We know that God hates divorce. I tell you that those issues that bring Christian couples to the brink of divorce would be obliterated if they were to give up their lives, pick up their crosses and follow Jesus. It’s that simple.

Jesus lived a life of sacrifice and service. He was living, and dying, for others. The problem with so many marriages today is that people are living for themselves. In most cases, when divorce isn’t about abuse or adultery, it is about those valley times and people just aren’t happy. I tell you with confidence that a couple will not remain in that valley if they are living their lives on mission for Christ. If that means going on a foreign mission, go for it! The happiest marriages in the world are often those families who serve in the mission field. They could be living in a hut, surrounded by violent people and battling malaria and still be more solid in their faith, their marriages and their walk with Jesus than Mr. and Mrs. Smith over here who are getting divorced because they can’t stop bickering about money. It’s not because the missionaries are “better people” or because their lives are perfect. It’s because they have chosen a life of service and sacrifice and being on mission (where ever they are).

When we are fulfilling the calling of the Lord in our lives, the other problems seem to fade away and become manageable. A family who is on mission together, with kingdom purpose in their hearts, stay together. If they keep Christ at the center and the mission always present, they stay together. If they train up their children to follow Christ in this great commission, they stay together and the kids learn what God intended marriage and family to look like.

I want to reiterate that being on mission doesn’t mean you have to pack up and go. It could, but it doesn’t always. It means that your household has a mission-filled aroma about it. It means you work together to best serve the Lord by serving others. You go out and share. You bring people in and minster to them. You seek every opportunity to share the gospel and make disciples. You serve your brothers and sisters in the Lord whenever possible. You feed the hungry and clothe the naked. You care for the widows and orphans. That’s being on mission.

Some of you reading this may be wanting this life but are married to an unbeliever who won’t be on mission with you. Do not try and nag, manipulate or bully your husband into following the Lord…it doesn’t work that way. The best thing you can do is pray, serve the Lord, and love and respect that man of yours all the days of your life. One of those days he may just be won over by your good conduct. Never give up. He is your mission and you will win him over without words, but by being the amazing, respectful, submissive, loving and honoring wife God called you to be. That is the best witness in the world.

So come on families….let’s be on mission for Jesus! Lose your life and find that you gain new life in ways you had never imagined. Thank You Jesus!

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Real Tears with Jesus

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As a writer and blogger, it is my deepest desire to be real in my writing. I have no intention what-so-ever of painting myself as a perfect Christian, woman, wife, mother or even friend. I don’t have a need for people to see me as anything more than the real me – a woman who longs deeply to be who the Lord wants me to be, but is completely and totally flawed. There’s no use in denying it. Like Paul, I consider myself to be the chief sinner. I can’t wait for that day in glory when my flesh no longer desires sin and the enemy’s lies never even come close to the ear of my heart! Oh what a glorious day that will be! Until then, you’re stuck with this mess of a friend…this flawed wife and mother…this imperfect, perfect-only-by-grace woman.

While I’m perfectly happy to be upfront and honest about my shortcomings, my pain is a different story altogether. You know, we all go through difficulties, trials and valleys. We all struggle at times in our lives. While I desire to be real with my readers, friends and family, I also know that I am prone to hide away when I’m in pain. I’m prone to hide the hurt, the struggle and the tears. My closest friends know that when I am going through hurt, I tend to isolate. I prefer to cry alone.

And yet….I’m not alone.

“You have kept count of my wanderings,
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8

In those hurting times, when my heart is failing and the tears flow freely, while I may hide away from the world, my Jesus is there. He’s always there. He knows every tear that slips away and every broken beat of my heart. He remembers them and cares. He understands what I’m sure no one else can. He holds me, rocks me, comforts me and reminds me that I can cry real tears with my Jesus. I don’t have to be brave or put on a show. I don’t have to pretend my life is perfect and that I’m beyond the pain that we experience in this life. I can just cry. I can weep freely and allow my tears to be caught up by my Savior who loves me.

If you’re hurting today and hiding away, remember that you can cry out to Jesus. You can be real with Him. He sees your heart and He cares for you deeply and truly. He knows every tear and every heartache. He may not take away the circumstances that are bringing the pain, but He will most definitely carry you through them. He will most definitely be near you and capture your tears in a bottle. You can cry real tears with Jesus and He will turn your mourning into dancing when the time is right. Thank You Lord!

 

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Five Marriage Killers Part 4

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4. Manipulation & Spiritual Domination

When we look at scripture, we see a long list of women who manipulated their husbands in order to get their own way. Let’s start with Eve in the Garden of Eden, feeding her husband bad fruit (Genesis 3). Adam should have been leading, but Eve took the reins and led them both into temptation and the first sin. Should Adam have refused to follow her into sin? The answer is clearly yes, which is why both were disciplined by the Lord. However, would Adam have ever considered eating the fruit if not for his wife’s encouragement? Perhaps not. How about Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 16)? Sarah’s deep desire to give an heir to her husband prompted her to convince her husband to commit adultery with her own handmaid, Hagar, and to produce the son of the flesh, Ishmael. Once the son of promise, Isaac, came along, there was tremendous friction and subsequent pain. We certainly cannot forget Delilah (Judges 16) and how she manipulated Samson, causing him to lose his hair, his strength, his connection with the Holy Spirit (for a time) and eventually his life.

These are just a few examples of women manipulating their men, but manipulation may not always be leading our husbands into sin. Sometimes it is simply leading them in a different direction than they feel God has called them. A man and woman get married and the woman wants to have a child right away, while the man feels they should wait for a few years so that they can spend time together as a married couple first. The woman seduces her husband and conveniently forgets to take her birth control pills. Whoops! Now certainly there is no sin when it comes to sex in marriage, nor is having children a sin, but the refusal of the wife to follow her husband and her clear manipulation is far from fitting behavior for a daughter of the King. Perhaps you want to move to the beach but your husband feels called to buy a home in the mountains. Circling the ads for lovely beach homes for sale and leaving them sitting on his favorite chair when he comes home is not the way to do it. Neither is crying and complaining all day and night until you get your way. These are tactics of manipulation and are not in line with God’s Word.

The same principle holds true when it comes to spiritual issues. Women are far too swift to take up the role as spiritual leader when they think their husbands are doing the job incorrectly. Spiritual domination by a wife can be a marriage killer. I know a young woman who was the daughter of a pastor, and she married a nice, young Christian man when she was about 19 years old. This young woman and I would chat about married life, and I was always taken back by her attitude of spiritual superiority over her husband. Her husband was raised in a different type of church than she was, and so there were small differences in doctrine. She would complain that after hours and hours of trying to convince her husband that his church was wrong and hers was right they would get nowhere. She called him stubborn, but I think the more problematic of the two was this woman who thought it was her job to teach her husband in spiritual matters. If I, as a friend and outsider, picked up so quickly and with such clarity that this woman considered herself far above her husband in spiritual wisdom and maturity, than there is no doubt her husband felt the weight of her spiritual domination on a daily basis. No doubt he felt disrespected and deflated at home instead of built up and edified.

Don’t get me wrong. It is fine for a wife to share with her husband in a respectful and humble way. Most godly husbands cherish their wife’s opinions and are more than happy to hear her feelings on various topics of faith, the Word and spiritual growth. However when a bossy, dominating woman sits across the table from her man and lectures him for hours about praying longer, throwing out any PG-13 rated movies they have, or his faulty views on the issue of whether or not the Bible speaks against tattoos, I have to question her spiritual discernment. God never intended wives to lead their husbands in spiritual matters, or to instruct them. Yes, she may be right sometimes, but her disobedience to the Lord is far worse a sin than her husband’s occasional bad decision. The correct response would have been to lift her husband up in prayer and to speak with the law of kindness on her tongue. God is the head of her husband, and He will complete the work He has started. A pushy woman is merely a hindrance to the handiwork God wants to do in her husband’s heart, and she ought to spend more time focusing on her own spiritual growth than worrying about that of her husband’s.

Now we look for a moment back to Eve. People love to debate which of the two was more to blame for the fall in the Garden of Eden. Eve was the first to fall into sin, being deceived and tricked by that cunning serpent, and she gave to her husband of the tree as well, who was not deceived but willingly disobeyed God’s instruction. Men love to talk about how women lead men into trouble, just as Eve led her husband into temptation and sin. On the flip side, where was Adam’s leadership or discernment? We don’t see him struggling against doing what he knows is wrong, or rebuking his wife. When it comes down to it and their sin is exposed, both man and women tried to pass the blame and both were punished and therefore both guilty. While figuring out who was more to blame is not necessarily an important quest, we do learn something quite fascinating and significant from this passage about our strengths and weaknesses as women and the roles we are intended to have. We will take a right turn in the Bible to 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

 

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

 

Feminists hate this verse. They love to label our brother Paul as being sexist and the Bible as being outdated and oppressive. Others will attempt to explain away this verse by saying that it was only for the early church and does not apply today or that perhaps it is acceptable for women to teach as long as they are under the authority of male elders. After all we’ve come so far in our mission to create equality between men and women, and to prove to the world that there is no difference between us, right? Wrong. The Bible doesn’t change because God doesn’t change. He created us for a beautiful role and purpose. As women we are precious jewels to our Heavenly Father and to our husbands, should we choose to follow God’s plan for us as wives. There is nothing belittling or insulting about this passage of scripture. Nor does it say it is for a time or a generation, and therefore we must accept that it is for all generations and still applicable today.

Let’s move on to the second part of the passage from 1 Timothy about Adam and Eve. Paul is explaining why women are to learn in silence at church and not to teach or have authority over men. Notice he doesn’t say it’s because women are not educated well enough in the Bible or that it is because at the present time woman were not treated as equals in society. Paul gives two reasons for creating these role boundaries. 1. Adam was created before Eve, and 2. Adam was not deceived in the Garden but Eve was.

Indeed, as we read back in Genesis 2 we see that Adam was created first. This does not mean he was more important than Eve or that he has priority over Eve. It is simply the order in which the Lord God willed for mankind. He has appointed the man to be the leader, going forth first with his wife following right by his side. Men are given a huge responsibility here. Teachers of the Word of God are always bearers of great responsibility as they must pray and study diligently not to lead anyone astray or misinterpret the Word. Secondly we see that Eve was deceived by the serpent. In Genesis, Eve makes the mistake of having conversation with the serpent, misquoting God’s actual words and then allowing the enemy to fill her heart with lies. She was caught up with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. As a result, she was deceived. She certainly wasn’t the only one in sin. Adam sinned willfully. The Word does not mention him being deceived, but he did sin. Perhaps in God’s deep knowledge of the character heart of women, He knows that we are often times more easily deceived and led away by emotions than our other halves. There is no shame in this, but the verse in 1 Timothy makes it clear that this commandment not to allow women to teach or usurp authority spiritually over men is not cultural or for Paul’s generation alone, but based on the will and wisdom of our Lord God.

As women we are to refrain from taking control of situations and decisions, even if we think we will handle them better. If you are a controlling woman, this will really be a challenge for you. If you are set in your ways and are married or planning to be married, pray for God to change your heart as I did before I was married. If you are one of those ladies who must have everything “just so”, pray that the Lord will give you a spirit of flexibility, patience and submission. God finds these characteristics so lovely in his children.

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Five Marriage Killers Part 3

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3. Sexual Stalemate

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25 “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” Genesis 4:1

God created sex. He intended for marriage to be consummated by an intimate sexual fulfillment when two bodies are made one flesh. It is a beautiful gift that God gave His children for wives to experience sexual intimacy with our husbands for the cause of having children and for a pleasurable bonding with each another. The Lord God said man and woman would be one flesh before sin had ever entered the world, therefore we know that sex between a husband and wife is not sinful, nor is it defiled. It is in fact a lovely and most natural unity.

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled…” Hebrews 13:4a

Sex is a beautiful and honorable union when it happens within marriage. We see back in Genesis 4 that Adam “knew” his wife Eve and she conceived a child. Now we all know that the word “knew” is referring to sexual intimacy. This word is used throughout the Bible to refer to love-making. It’s so fitting as well to consider that a sexual relationship is the physical act of knowing someone so intimately that you are aware of every part of their body. This is why it’s so important for Christians to strive to remain pure until marriage. That intimate sexual knowledge is one that should only be shared between a husband and wife. Your husband should be the only one to know you that intimately and vice versa. It is so sad that the majority of people today miss out on the blessed experience of being their spouse’s one and only sexual partner.

God had a design for sex. He formed man and woman to be perfectly suitable partners for one another. In simple terms, all the parts fit, and when they do, the pleasure is incredible! Ladies, God designed us to be sexually involved with our husbands. As women we must recognize that our husbands have sexual needs that must be fulfilled. Science can show us why men seem to need sex more often physically. Their simple anatomy and reproductive system have been created in a way to need regular release to maintain a state of well-being. Sure men can go without sex—of course they can. The question is why should they? If their bodies were created, by God Himself, to renew and require release, why should we deny them the fulfillment of what their bodies are demanding? We should not. It’s simple.

While our men are driven by physical sensitivities to feel the need for regular sex, we women tend to need sexual intimacy on an emotional level. For many of us, it is through sexual bonding that we feel loved, connected and close with our husbands. I know when my husband and I have had to go for short lengths of time without intimacy it has left me feeling a bit disconnected and needing that physical closeness. If we need sexual intimacy emotionally and they need it physically, then it’s a win-win situation!

Women of today are deceived into thinking that a wife should never feel obligated to make love with her husband unless she feels like doing it. We are told that we should consider our own needs first and the needs of our husbands secondly. We are told that we have the right to say no when we’re not in the mood (or fake a headache as the magazines would say), and that our husbands must simply accept that and reign in their natural desires. Biblically speaking we see a sharp difference in the approach to sex. God tells us that, when we are married, our bodies no longer belong to us but to our spouse, and that we are to meet each other’s needs whenever they arise.

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” 1 Corinthians 7:2-5

This passage starts out with a command and a way to avoid lust and fornication. Let every man have his own wife and every woman have her own husband. God knows that we are sexual creatures. He made us that way. He knows that we will struggle with lust and the desire to have sex. He knew that Adam needed a helper to meet ALL his needs—including the sexual ones. Marriage is the only right place to express that sexual nature of ours, therefore let a wife have her husband and let her husband have his wife.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence and likewise also the wife unto the husband. What does this mean? The Greek word for “benevolence” is the word “eunoia” which means “goodwill and kindness”. Women should render unto their husbands the goodwill and kindness that is due to them. When the verse says it is “due” to them, do not be deceived into thinking that means you only give them the goodwill you think they deserve it. Our reverence of our husbands is not based on what they deserve. If you think of it that way then you have to swap it around and also say that your husband only needs to be kind towards you when you deserve it.
Do you think so highly of yourself that you think you will always be deserving of his best towards you? Do you really think you are perfect sister? I know I’m not. I don’t deserve my husband’s affections and love all the time. If we really got what we deserved, we would all be cast into the lake of fire. Thanks be to God and Jesus Christ, Who has shown us kindness and given us—not what we deserve—but His unending mercies and grace. Your husband may not deserve your goodwill but the Lord Jesus Christ is commanding you to give it to him regardless.

The passage goes on to talk about the wife’s and the husband’s bodies. “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” Now this goes against everything the world teaches today, doesn’t it? They tell women it’s perfectly okay to deny their husbands sexual intimacy because it’s their body. They give their hearty approval for abortion because they say it’s a woman’s choice what happens to her body. The Lord God of the universe says that when you marry your husband and commit your life to him, you give over ownership of your body to him permanently. If your body is a door, you give your husband the key so that he may enter in at any time. Wives, your bodies, according to the Word of the Living God, belong to your husbands, and you are not to deny them the pleasure that you have to offer.

No doubt there will be some reading this fuming with hot anger. Let me address one point that is certain to come up and cut it off before it even begins. By saying the wife’s body belongs to her husband I am NOT saying that a husband should or has the right to force his wife to have sex against her will. It is very wrong for any man to force any woman to have sex, even his own wife. I am VERY against it. Whether or not a woman chooses to follow God’s instruction to give her body willingly to her husband is her decision to make. She can decide to disobey God or she can obey. That is up to her. I think I’ve made myself clear.

“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” 1 Corinthians 7:5

Ladies, the world wants us to believe that we should look after our own needs first, but the Word of God says that we are to care more about our husband’s needs than our own. Withholding one’s body from her husband is in direct contradiction to the Bible and I would encourage you ladies, if you struggle in this area, to pray for God to help you make things right and meet the sexual needs of your husband. Keep him satisfied at home and be the lover he’s always wanted you to be. And remember to enjoy it!

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