Mar

22

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The Myth About Divorce

divorceThere is a great joy to the early struggles of marriage.  When people who “make it” talk about the early days of their marriage, they admit it was bittersweet but they say the sweet ended up outweighing the bitter.  Researchers agree.  In a recent study conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, researchers found that “two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.  In addition, the most unhappy in their marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.

The study went on to say that there is a kind of “divorce assumption” in America.  People assume that they will either stay in a bad marriage and continue to be miserable or get a divorce and become happier.  But the social science data challenge that assumption.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no evidence that unhappily married people who divorced were any happier that unhappily married people who stayed married!  In no way does divorce reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, increase one’s sense of mastery, or generally improve any of the twelve separate measures of psychological well-being.  Even the unhappy spouses who divorced and remarried generally were no happier than the unhappy ones who stayed married.  In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that unhappy people are unhappy, period—married or not.

Dr. Waite concluded, “Staying married is not just for the children’s sake. . . . results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold.”  It may look as if you will gain ground by eliminating some stresses of a bad marriage, but divorce creates more stresses than people bargain for: the ugliness of a breakup between partners; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravation about custody issues, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; plus the brand new relationships or marriages that also fail to make one happy.

If you are expecting marriage to be nothing but bliss, you will be sorely disappointed.  It’s not that there is not bliss to be had—there is; it’s that bliss comes only after blisters.  Marital bliss is the result of marital blisters—lots of hard work, where you work till it hurts, sometimes till you bleed.  Marriages get happy not because partners get along so grandly, but because they stubbornly outlast the ways they don’t get along.  There are all kinds of rough spots to work through when you step into life with another person: financial  problems, job reversals, loss and its accompanying depression, child problems, and sometimes even infidelity.  These things can destroy.  But they don’t have to.

I know there are millions of unhappily married people throughout the world today.  Maybe you are one of them.  But unhappy marriages are unhappy because most ignore (or are completely oblivious to) the mistakes they are making in their relationships.  There is hope for troubled marriages—even if you have become heartbroken and confused.  But there is a connection between what you are putting into your marriage and what you are getting out of it.

The mere suggestion that people need to change their own behavior in order to get a better result is often greeted by blank stares. People tend to believe they should have a good marriage for no other reason than that marriage is supposed to be good.  They believe they should have a good marriage because that is what they prayed for.  They believe they should have a good marriage because. . . .we.., just because.

Someone who went through a divorce said, “I hit a horrible impasse in my first marriage.  I felt I was right and she was wrong, so I cashed out. In my second marriage I saw the same things starting to occur that destroyed my first marriage.  At first I thought I had made another bad choice in partner, but I decided to change how I was married, not my  marriage partner. It turned everything around.  I love my second wife, but I also understand now that I could have loved my first wife and not experienced the hell of divorce and the lifelong awkwardness it creates—especially with kids.”

Divorce is not always what you think it is.

My Love Notes From God

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Mar

18

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There Is No Easy Button

easyLots of people wish life had an easy button… like the commercial for the office supply store Staples, where you just push the big red button with the word “easy” on it and everything you want  just magically happens. But the reality is, there are no easy buttons in life, and that is especially true in Christianity—even though people often think and act like God is the easy button for us.

Frequently, believers will treat God like the magic genie or giant vending machine in the sky. We ask Him to do things just so we don’t have to do it ourselves;  then we don’t have to put any work or effort into a situation.  Husbands and wives will pray for God to make their marriage better, yet they will continue to invest no time and attention into the relationship.  People may be diagnosed with some illness or condition and beg God to heal them and take it away, but they won’t do anything to change their diet, exercise or lifestyle that would improve their health.  Students will blow off studying for an exam, yet earnestly pray for God to help them do well on the test.  There are people who pray and ask God to bring them a job or a spouse, but never go out and look for one! I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that’s not the way it works.

God will help us. We can ask Him to give us the strength and courage to persevere and do the right things—like dealing with disease, a difficult relationship, or temptation—but He doesn’t just magically fix it or take it all away to make it easy.  This is especially true when it comes to dealing with and controlling feelings. Here is one common example that I’ve heard numerous times from men:   I’m so tempted to look at other women and pornography and I’ve prayed and prayed for God to take those feelings away. I’ve also heard people say that they are experiencing great temptation with attraction to another person other than their spouse and want God to just “take those feelings away”. Mind you, they don’t want to flee the temptation or stay away from this person or situation.  They don’t want to learn to control their feelings—they want the easy button instead. And quite simply, there isn’t one.

Part of being a Christ follower is learning not to be led by feelings. We must learn that feelings don’t determine our behavior or else we will be doomed. Most people think that if they feel it, they just have to do it and that’s why they pray those prayers asking God to “take them away”. They reason that surely humans can’t help what they feel! Sadly, too many people end up being slaves to their feelings and think they cannot possibly manage, control or resist their urges, temptations and emotions. Therefore they believe that the only reasonable and certain solution is for God to just zap them away. Nonsense!

The bible is very clear that we are to fight temptation and that God will help us so we don’t have to succumb.  I Corinthians 10:13 says: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV) That means you don’t have to give in, nothing is too much for you to take—despite what your feelings tell you.  In the book of James scripture tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you (4:7). But we don’t want to resist the devil; we want to pray and ask God to make him to go away. These are wrong thoughts and wrong prayers. God won’t do it. He won’t sprinkle you with pixie dust and make it all vanish. We are expected to live by His word and that means we have to do our part in this—never giving up and never giving in. James goes on to say we are blessed when we persevere (1:12 and 5:11)

Every human being is tempted—whether that means you are tempted by visual lusts, feelings of attraction or dissatisfaction, the tendency to be mean and nasty to people, complacency in your faith, food, alcohol, drugs, and the list goes on and on—but that doesn’t mean we are to be condemned for feeling certain things.  We are to resist, not in our own will power, because as believers we have the Holy Spirit and the power of the risen Christ at work in us to enable us to stand up to any and every temptation or feeling. The problem is often people equate the want to with the have to, but just because you feel it, doesn’t mean that you listen to those wants or feelings or that you act upon them. And sometimes those “want tos” can be really strong, but they are never greater than the strength we have as Christians. Don’t tell me that your desire to look at porn is more powerful than Jesus!

It’s at times of temptation and struggle that we must rely on the power available to us. That is when it is vitally important to have the word of God in you so are able to quote the truths of scripture that will enable you to combat and fight those urges.** Only then will we be able to break free from being a slave to feelings and not allow emotions to dictate our choices.  We must stop thinking we have to be “true and honest to our feelings”. They are the most unreliable and dishonest thing a person could possibly follow. As Christians we must learn to control our feelings and not allow them to control us.

Stop asking and expecting God to do all the heavy lifting, just so you can have it easy and not do the work that it requires.

Remember, Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

My Love Notes From God

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Feb

28

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Categories: Marriage

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Can You Change Scrambled Eggs?

scrambled eggsA lot of dilemmas that people find themselves in stem from their own choices, actions and behaviors. Maybe they were sexually promiscuous for years, went down the path of sexual promiscuity since they were teenagers, neglected their marriage and treated their spouse horribly, committed adultery, got divorced, entered into a step-family situation…the list can go on. The source or cause of the current issues and problems can be interchangeable, but the same question comes forth. They want to know how they can fix it, undo it and “make it normal”.

Most people want some magic prayer or answer as to how they can make it like it never happened. In other words, how do I unscramble the eggs that I scrambled?  They don’t like the consequences of the choices they made in the past and don’t want those consequences to impact the present or future. Here’s the hard truth: We reap what we sow. It’s in The Bible and apparently churches aren’t teaching this to their people outside of the financial context. Preachers will often use the concept in terms of money, yet fail to extrapolate it to the whole of life.

If you never pay attention to your spouse, if you have an affair, if you sleep with a dozen different people and get an STD, guess what? You reap the negative consequences. But, if you spend time with your spouse, stay faithful in your marriage, remain a virgin and live monogamously, you reap the positive consequences. Amazing how that works!

The world never talks about the ramifications of our choices. A point of fact, personal responsibility and understanding cause and effect is a rare thing in the culture of today. Hollywood makes it seem as if there are no consequences to amoral behavior and that as long as you are doing what feels good to you and makes you happy, everything will be fine. But that is a lie. What we do has a direct connection to what we get in life.

Just take a look at our financial condition in our country today.

Here is where many Christians get hung up. They may have done all sorts of things prior to coming to faith, or even as a practicing believer, and they understand the concept of sin and forgiveness. So they ask God to forgive them of their sins and then expect the consequences of those sins to be erased. They misunderstand what it means to be forgiven of sin.

Before God it is as if these things had never happened. He does forgive and remove the guilt of our transgressions and makes us pure in our standing before Him. But the consequences remain for us to deal with. Please hear what I’m saying…can God do anything? Yes! He can remove every memory you have, restore any relationship, heal your mind and body of disease, and every other thing under the sun that we can ask for or need.

And I certainly can give you my best advice on how to live in the situation, deal with your circumstances, cope with the outcomes, manage the consequences and still have a good life. What I can’t do is tell you how to take it all away and make the fallout of your choices disappear because the principle of sowing and reaping always applies.

Paul writes in Galatian 6:7-8, Do not be deceived:God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

It’s an imperative teaching that churches must pass onto their people and parents must get into their children. Yet, even though Paul warns us, it seems many Christians are deceived.

They operate under the delusion that they can scramble the eggs and then God, or their pastor can unscramble them. People think they can sow poison and destruction in their lives and that somehow there is a magic prayer to say or a magic wand to wave so they reap blessings and goodness. They want to harvest what they did not plant and think that it’s not fair to get anything less than their greatest wishes and desires. Christians think this way because they fail to understand the biblical concept of sowing and reaping sin, and its consequences.

Just look at David, one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history, yet the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, were with him for the rest of his life on earth.

It’s as if they are now sitting with a plate of scrambled eggs and saying, “But I don’t want my eggs scrambled. I want fried eggs. I prayed and asked God to change them into fried. Pastor Mark, make these fried for me, will you?”  And here’s the deal. You can’t unscramble them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the plate of eggs. You may prefer, fried. You may long for fried. You may look at the other people sitting at the table enjoying their fried eggs and wish that you could have what they are having. You may think it’s not fair that you get stuck with the scramble eggs. But the bottom line is they are still good eggs. You can eat them, live with them and enjoy them just the same.

It’s important to learn and teach our kids that if you want fried eggs, it’s best not to scramble them in the first place.

Make good choices in your life, and teach your children to do the same. Then you will reap the blessings all through this life.

My Love Notes From God

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Feb

13

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Categories: Learning To Listen, Love, Marriage

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Everything Changes When We Understand

understandUnderstanding is extremely important when it comes to a healthy successful marriage.  When you are willing to understand each other, new vision and hope will emerge.  You will immediately become energized to work on your marriage, even if it is ripe with trouble.  Here is a story that illustrates how everything changes when we understand. How our understanding can effect our willingness to stick to a difficult relationship.

Once there was a boy who lived with his mother and grandfather.  His grandfather was not really an elderly man, but he was confined to a wheelchair and had very little use of his arms.  His face was badly scarred, and he had a difficult time swallowing his food.

Every day the little boy was assigned the task of going into his grandfather’s room and feeding him lunch.  This the little boy did faithfully, but not joyously.  It was quite a mess to feed Grandfather.

As the boy grew into adolescence, he became weary of his responsibility.  One day he stormed into the kitchen and announced that he had had enough.  He told his mother, “From now on, you can feed Grandpa.”

Very patiently his mother turned from her chores, motioned for her son to sit down, and said, “You are a young man now.  It is time you know the whole truth about your grandfather.”  She continued, “Grandpa has not always been confined to a wheelchair.  In fact, he used to be quite an athlete. When you were a baby, however, there was an accident.”

The boy leaned forward in his chair as his mother began to cry.

She said, “There was a fire.  Your father was working in the basement, and he thought you were upstairs with me.  I thought he was downstairs with you.  We both rushed out of the house.  Your grandfather found you, wrapped you in a wet blanket, and made a made a mad dash through the flames.  He brought you safely to your father and me.

“He was rushed to the emergency room suffering from second-and third-degree burns as well as smoke inhalation.  The reason he is the way he is today is because of what he suffered the day he saved your life.”

By this time the boy had tears in his eyes as well.  He never knew; his grandfather never told him. And with no conscious effort on his part, his attitude changed.  With no further complaints, he picked up his grandfather’s lunch tray and took it to his room.

Once you understand why your husband acts that way, or why your wife thinks that way, it will change how you feel about him or her, though nothing has really changed.  Compassion will come with an accompanying perseverance—all because you now understand.  I cannot overstate the importance of how everything changes when we understand.

My Love Notes From God

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Feb

11

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Categories: Kids

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Teaching Our Kids to Make Good Choices

good choicesChoices make kids feel smart, but choices don’t necessarily make them wise. Sound strange? Well, consider what your day as a parent might look like.

Little Caleb wants you to read him a book. He doesn’t ask; he sweetly says, “Mommy, read me a book.” And because you know reading is an important thing for little Caleb’s mental development, you gladly reach for one.

Caleb doesn’t want that book. He wants the other book you didn’t pick. Still, at least he wants to read, you tell yourself. So, you point to the couch. Caleb flops on the loveseat. You tell yourself that it doesn’t really matter because at least he sat down.

When the book is finished, you ask your precious son what he wants for lunch. He tells you peanut butter and grape jelly. You don’t have grape jelly. You have strawberry.

Caleb doesn’t want strawberry. He wants grape.

That’s when the meltdown begins.

So, what went wrong? In a thousand little moments like these, we’ve allowed our Calebs to become wise in their own eyes. They’ve been trained to assume that they know what’s best. And it’s our fault.

Wisdom Takes Time

Solomon tells his son that wisdom comes—over time—by listening to his father and mother (Proverbs 1:8), but even their instruction ultimately goes back to God giving wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). But you’ll notice something Solomon doesn’t do. He doesn’t give his son choices. He just tells him what to do, with all the subtlety of a dreaded party pooper. Don’t go near that woman. Get some brains. Don’t hang out with losers. (Maybe that’s not exactly the same words he said, but you get the idea.)

Obviously, Solomon’s not going for cool dad of the year. He wouldn’t pass muster in Parenting magazine. And you know what? He doesn’t care. Neither should you.

Wisdom is passed on over time. Children aren’t born with it. They really don’t have the capacity to make good choices until you lay down a moral foundation. And when we give them so many choices at an early age—what to wear, what to eat, what to do—we’re accidentally teaching them something we don’t really want to teach.

What’s that? Well, think about it. In our story, Caleb picked the activity; Caleb picked which book to read; Caleb picked where to sit; and Caleb picked what to eat. Who does Caleb think is wise? Caleb. So, when you tell Caleb no about the jelly, you’re not just “laying down the law.” You’re attacking his pride—pride that we parents helped create.

Why It Matters

Decision-making is, more often than not, a moral issue, especially for young children. Letting them have such power means that you’re letting go of some of your authority. Sure, it may seem innocent. But over time, with decision after decision, you’ve ceded all kinds of ground.

And let’s be blunt: young kids aren’t ready for that sort of responsibility. It puffs them up like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They don’t know how to handle authority yet. They need you to show them how to be wise first.

So, don’t feel “uncool” if you set Caleb’s schedule, pick the book, and give him no say in lunch. Instead, realize that you’re establishing a godly foundation that he can build on. When he’s proven that he respects your authority to make decisions for him (Ephesians 6), then he can gradually enjoy more freedom to decide on his own.

And you’ll keep your sanity as well.

My Love Notes From God

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Jan

17

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Categories: Grace, Love, Love Notes

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Remember You Don’t Walk Alone

love noteWe all go through life hitting some bumps in the road. Sometimes we get a flat tire, sometimes the weather is stormy and dark, but Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The italics are mine.

In Christ Jesus our Lord we will find peace and rest for our souls. The world and the devil will throw you around and try to get you off the path.

In the world we will have tribulation, but take heart, or be of good cheer, Jesus has already won. The victory is already ours. Satan my be pointing a gun at your head and threatening to pull the trigger, but the gun has no bullets. It’s empty just like Satan’s threats are empty. Ha can’t do anything to you.

We don’t operate toward the victory, we operate from the point of victory.

My friend, that makes all the difference in the world.

Live your life in the victory that Jesus Christ has already secured for you on the cross. You are a winner, and Jesus is now your new Master, and He wants to give you peace and rest.

Listen to this short video from Dr. Tony Evans. I pray it will comfort you, no matter what your situation is.

 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

Are you weary and heavy with burdens?

Go to Jesus. Take some time away from everything and everyone, and spend some time alone with Him. He’s waiting for you. He wants to lift those burdens from off your shoulder, and He wants to give you His peace. he wants you to lean on Him and rest in His ever lasting arms.

May God help you to do that today.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others, and please leave a comment below.

Visit our website and sign up for your free “Love Notes From God“.

 

 

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Jan

10

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Categories: Encouragement, Marriage

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Are You Selfish in Your Marriage?

marriageAll marriages start off very selfishly. When a couple begins dating, it is generally all about each person’s own interests. “I like what you do for me. I like the way you make me feel. When I’m with you I’m happy. You make me feel validated.” At the beginning, marriage really is the ultimate in narcissistic expression. The reason you are getting married is because of what he/she does for you. And it’s the same for the other person. It’s all about me, me, me!

But then you get these two me, me, me people together and something has to give. Marriages where couples are able to make the transition from selfish, me-centered thinking, the ones where the husband and wife realize that they can’t get everything they want, are the ones that make it. The marriages where couples can’t do that…and many people don’t…are the ones that fall apart.
It’s amazing how many spouses are always asking, “How can I make my spouse___________? Fill in the blank with whatever fits.

How can I get my spouse to load the dishwasher the way I want?
How can I get my spouse to do the things I want to do?
How can I get my spouse to keep the house better?
How can I get my spouse to spend less money?

Chores, money, time, attitude…the list goes on infinitely. They may use other words like “get”, “change”, encourage”, “teach”, etc., but the real idea is how do I make my spouse do what I want? These are the people who have not made the shift from the me, me, me and I want, I like, I need mentality to a sacrificial, giving, putting the other first, we way of thinking.

Listen to me. The bottom line is that you can’t make anyone do anything. People will complain that their spouse doesn’t clean the bathroom the way they want, or fold the clothes, or hang the towels, or wash the dishes, the “right” way…which is code for my way!

I’ve got news for you, The Furor, Your Highness—she’s not your slave; and he’s not your slave! Stop being a narcissistic snot! Not everyone gets everything they want. If there is a specific and certain way that you just have to have things done and you don’t like it when your spouse fails to meet your standard, the answer is simple: You do it!

There are areas in our home that I am pickier about, like my office, so I am the one who cleans it.  In other areas, it’s my wife who wants things done in a certain way, so she takes care of that. What we don’t do is argue and insult each other all the while insisting that the other person does it my way. I either shut up and let her do it her way, or I do it myself if it’s something that want to have done just-so.

Sometimes you have to give, compromise, do it yourself and hush up. If you constantly fight to win, dig your heels in to have everything exactly the way you want it, when you want it and how you want it, you will lose, but not in a good way.

Sometimes you just have the mentality that “I get to lose.” Deliberately choose to lose. Lose your selfishness, your ego, and your right to be right all the time. Ironically, losers win and winners lose in this one.

by Mark Gungor

My Love Notes From God

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Jan

2

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Categories: Encouragement, Grace

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Having Peace in Every Circumstance, Part 3

stormsBelievers often find themselves living in contradiction to the world, and we should. The runaway anxiety and constant fear that grips so much of the world does not have the same hold on us—or at least, it shouldn’t. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at anxiety from a biblical perspective, and examining God’s care and provision for His people, and how that should free us from worry.

Today we’re bringing our Attacking Anxiety series to a close with part three of our discussion on Paul’s prayer that we would know and rest in God’s lasting peace and grace. The apostle wrote, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18).

A final characteristic of God’s peace is that it is not subject to circumstances. Paul’s prayer was that we might continually enjoy it “in every circumstance” (v. 16). This peace is not subject to anything that happens in the worldly realm. It is not built on any human relationship, and it’s not dependent on human feelings, decisions, or situations.

Rather, God’s peace is built on a divine plan and promise from an unfailing God who will secure you in Himself, and who will do everything for your good. This peace is a product of an unchanging divine relationship, and it is unbreakable, unassailable, and transcendent.

As we noted earlier, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He was saying, “There’s nothing to fear or be anxious about because I’m giving you a divine, lasting peace that cannot be fractured or damaged by the world.” We demonstrate that Jesus keeps His promises when, in the midst of worldly upheavals that would normally tear us up and trouble our lives, we remain calm.

Paul’s great desire was that we enjoy that kind of well-being, which is why he prayed toward that end. His parting wish was this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). He wanted every man and woman who would ever put his or her faith in Christ to experience the abiding presence of God’s grace.

Grace is God’s goodness or benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). It was in the person of God’s Son that “the grace of God has appeared,” making salvation available to all (Titus 2:11). Once we embrace this saving grace through faith in Christ, we are blessed with God’s grace, enabling us to withstand any difficulty that would tend to make us anxious. Paul described this grace while confessing to a difficulty that brought him great anxiety:

There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. . . . Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians12:7-10)

As believers, we also are blessed with the grace that equips us for divine service. Paul expressed his appreciation for this grace in saying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy . . . the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

Grace is what enables us to grow spiritually in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In the material realm, Paul appealed to God’s grace in encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous in giving to the Lord’s work: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it. And again, like God’s peace, the conditions for receiving it are trusting God, forsaking sin, enduring the refining process, doing good, and living by the Word. As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and grace. And that has a wonderful way of crowding out anxiety.

I want to close this series on a personal note. Just a few days after preaching a sermon on the peace and grace God bestows on His people, I had an unprecedented opportunity to apply it to my own life: I was notified that my wife and youngest daughter were in a serious auto accident, and that my wife, Patricia, would probably die. Everything seemed like a blur to me, the details frustratingly sketchy—I was afraid she was already dead. During my hour-long drive to the hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on the severity of the situation. Yet I experienced a deep and steeled peace simply because I knew God had not failed me—His grace was in complete control.

I am happy to report that God spared both their lives, and that Patricia recovered beautifully. If you too rely on God’s grace, He will see you through the most difficult trials.

MyLoveNotesFromGod

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Dec

21

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Categories: Encouragement, Faith

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Having Peace in Every Circumstance, Part 2

stormsIt’s only through God’s grace that believers can face every circumstance with calm, assured peace. Anxiety does not have to reign in our hearts—we can hold fast to God’s peace and provision through any of life’s storms.

We’ve been looking at the nature of the peace God grants to believers, as explained in Paul’s prayer from the church at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18.

Not only is that peace divine in origin, but it is also a gift. When Paul prayed, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace,” the word translated “grant” is the verb meaning “to give.” It speaks of a gift. God’s peace is a sovereign, gracious gift bestowed on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 85:8, a verse you may have never noticed before, the psalmist stated, “I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.” God grants peace to those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). There’s no greater gift for the anxious than God’s peace.

Some, however, will seek relief for their anxieties through a false peace. God is generous to whom He grants His peace, but there is a limit. Isaiah wrote, “‘Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:19-21). He will grant peace to those who come to Him from near and far—those who grew up hearing much about Him and those who heard little to nothing—but those who don’t come to Him, the wicked, enjoy no real peace.

Thomas Watson explains further:

Peace flows from sanctification, but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. . . . They may have a truce, but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of His cannon; but though there be a truce, yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between stupefied conscience, and a pacified conscience. . . . This is the devil’s peace; he rocks men in the cradle of security; he cries, Peace, peace, when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger (A Body of Divinity [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986 reprint], p.262).

The peace of the wicked is born out of delusion. True peace is the child of saving grace. In a prayer similar to the one that closes 2 Thessalonians, Paul said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Peace is a gift to those who believe.

And God’s peace is the gift that keeps on giving. A less commercial way to express that truth is how Paul said it: “May the Lord of peace . . . continually grant you peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). By adding “continually,” Paul was emphasizing that it is constantly available. The implication is, however, that it can be interrupted.

It isn’t God who interrupts our spiritual peace, but us. We can suspend the flow of peace in our lives by succumbing to our flesh, which is still part of this world. Unless we “walk by the Spirit,” our means of controlling the flesh (Galatians 5:16), we are open season to all kinds of anxieties: the dread of the unknown, the fear of death, the loss of a loved one—and we all can list a string of others.

How does this unfortunate process begin? When we stop focusing on our permanent condition in Christ, who will certainly bring us to glory. And when we start basing our happiness on the fleeting things of the world. Those things by definition will change. Thus, if we get upset when they do, we will spend our lives in distress.

People who can ride through the toughest issues of life and remain calm are not indifferent; they’re just trusting God. What if our ride is a little bumpy? What if we’re feeling troubled, anxious, and fearful? How can we restore the peace? How can it remain uninterrupted?

The psalmist said to himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11). He reminded himself that God was there to help him. We can trust Him because He is trustworthy. He genuinely cares for us.

Long ago, God made it perfectly clear to Israel that peace comes from obeying His Word (Leviticus 26:1-6). The same truth applies today. Peace is restored through obedience. The first step is to turn from sin. Sometimes the sin is the doubt, fear, and anxiety itself, but also it can be an underlying sin that has produced those feelings. Probe your heart and isolate the cause of unrest. Forsake the sin that has been revealed to you and obey God by applying the opposite virtue. In the case of anxiety, that means having faith in God to help you manage life’s details.

Something else that will restore your peace is to accept whatever stresses or challenges God has seen fit to bring into your life. In the book of Job we read:

Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. . . . In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you will not be afraid of violence when it comes. You will laugh at violence and famine, and you will not be afraid of wild beasts. For you will be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure, for you will visit your abode and fear no loss (Job 5:17-18, 20-24).

If you understand that God is using all the difficulties you face to perfect you, you’ll be at peace. It is not all for nothing. You may not always know why you’re going through this or that, but be encouraged that there is a good reason. Turning to the New Testament, Paul said if you want peace, do good (Romans 2:10). All who do good will enjoy peace. To be more specific, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. . . . And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). Living according to the Word—according to heavenly wisdom, to God’s revealed standard of righteousness—brings peace.

If you’ve lost God’s peace in your life, you can find it again. Retrace your steps by trusting God in everything, turning from sin and walking in obedience, enduring His refining work in your life, doing what is good, and living by His Word in a righteous way. As Paul said, God’s peace is continually available to you. Avail yourself of it.

My Love Notes From God

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Dec

8

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Having Peace in Every Circumstance – Part1

stormsAny anxious Christian would love to have this prayer offered on his behalf: “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Those powerful, encouraging words come from the apostle Paul at the end of his second letter to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18). They serve as a potent reminder of where we can and should turn when anxiety threatens—to “the Lord of peace Himself.”

Peace is commonly defined as the sense of calm, tranquility, quietness, bliss, contentment, and well-being that we feel when everything is going the way we’d like it to go. That definition, however, is incomplete because those feelings can also be produced by a pill—or by alcohol, biofeedback, a nap, a generous inheritance, or even deliberate deception. The reassurance of a friend or someone you love can also produce that kind of temporary peace.

That’s not the kind of peace Paul had in mind. Godly peace has nothing to do with human beings or human circumstances. In fact, it cannot be produced on a human level at all. Any manufactured or manipulated peace is very fragile. It can be destroyed instantly by failure, doubt, fear, difficulty, guilt, shame, distress, regret, sorrow, the anxiety of making a wrong choice, the anticipation of being mistreated or victimized by someone, the uncertainty of the future, and any challenge to our position or possessions. And we experience those things daily.

The peace that God gives is not subject to fluctuations and uncertainties of life. It is spiritual peace; it’s an attitude of the heart and mind when we believe and therefore know deep down that all is well between ourselves and God. Along with it is the assurance that He is lovingly in control of everything. We as Christians should know for certain that our sins are forgiven, that God is concerned with our well-being, and that heaven is our destiny. God’s peace is our possession and privilege by divine right.

Paul defines this peace for us in several ways in 2 Thessalonians 3:16. To begin with, it is divine: “May the Lord of peace Himself . . . grant you peace” (emphasis added). The Lord of peace is the One who gives it. The pronoun Himself is emphatic in the Greek text and underscores God’s personal involvement. Christian peace, the peace unique to believers, comes personally from Him. It is the very essence of His nature.

To put it simply, peace is an attribute of God. If I asked you to list the attributes of God, these are ones that would probably come most readily to mind: His love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, and immortality. But do you ever think of God as being characterized by peace?

In fact, He is peace. Whatever it is that He gives us, He has and He is. There is no lack of perfect peace in His being. God is never stressed. He is never anxious. He never worries. He never doubts. He never fears. God is never at cross purposes with Himself. He never has problems making up His mind.

God lives in perfect calm and contentment. Why? Because He’s in charge of everything and can operate everything perfectly according to His own will. Since He is omniscient, He is never surprised. There are not threats to His omnipotence. There is no possible sin that can stain His holiness. Even His wrath is clear, controlled, and confident. There is no regret in His mind for He has never done, said, or thought anything that He would change in any way.

God enjoys perfect harmony within Himself. Our Bibles call Him “the Lord of peace,” but in the Greek text a definite article appears before the word translated “peace,” meaning He literally is “the Lord of the peace.” This is real peace—the divine kind, not the kind the world has. Paul’s prayer is that we might experience that kind of peace. Its source is God and God alone.

Coming soon, Part2

 

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