He Reigns!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Try, Try, and Try Some More

"But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
~1 Kings 19:4

Life is hard. It's hard for all of us. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we all get discouraged and feel like we want to quit. The same is true in 1 Kings 19 as we read about Elijah. He was tired. He was ready to give up. And he was ready to die. Why? Because he felt like he had failed. He had done everything that he felt like God wanted him to do yet the two people, Ahab and Jezebel, that he wanted to see turn their lives around, turn their lives over to God, and change their evil ways, did not. Instead they ordered Elijah to be killed.

When we have prayed about something, and believe that God has given us an answer, it's easy to get discouraged when we don't see any fruit from our labors. When we pray for something and we don't see an answer, or hear from God about what the answer might be for that prayer, we can get discouraged.

Being discouraged can cause us to give up. Being discouraged can cause us to be depressed. Being discouraged is a natural emotion that we all experience at one time or another, but it can also be
an emotion that causes us to cave in and give up.

We have to be watchful, and alert as 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, "because our adversary the devil prowls around like a lion seeking whom he may devour." Negative emotions can allow openings for the enemy to come in and magnify the things that we perceive to be wrong in our lives. And many things do go wrong in our lives.

We're going to lose jobs. We are going to lose friends. We are going to watch loved ones die. We are going to see our children get into trouble. We are going to be broke, living paycheck to paycheck. And all of this will happen probably while we watch others around us prosper. It's easy to be focused on our circumstances, and to get discouraged about the things that we don't see, rather than the things that we do see.

God never promised that we would not experience loss, sorrow, or discouragement in our lives. That's part of being human. But He did promise that He would always be there no matter how rough it gets.

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."

Looking at our circumstances instead of looking at the One who is in control of our circumstances diminishes what Christ did on the Cross. If we say that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, yet continue to look at the circumstances and problems that we have in the world around us, then we are lying to ourselves and we are lying to God.

Being strong and courageous is not something that we just hope for, it's an order. We are commanded to be strong and to be courageous no matter what we are facing.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)."

We may not face the same type of enemies that Elijah or Joshua did, or the types of battles that fill the Old Testament. We may not face the types of problems that Paul did in the New Testament, facing imprisonment for the things that we say or do, at least not yet, but we still face every day life. And every day life is messy and full of trouble. It always has been and it always will be.

Our part is not the battle itself, because God handles the battle for us. Our part is in how we face the battle, and how we stand while going through the battle.

"Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:13)."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Watch Your Mouth!

"A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it."
~Matthew 15:11

"Watch your mouth, young lady!" My mother didn't put up with sass from my siblings or me. One verbal warning was all it took because my mother didn't mess around. We knew one more word would mean we'd get our mouths slapped. In those days, we understood those warnings were to teach us respect for our parents and others.

The verse above isn't just about disrespect, it's about our eternal souls. Verse 18 goes on to say, "the things that proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and those things make the man unholy."

We speak from the abundance of our hearts. What is in our heart is going to come out of our mouths. Whether those things are good or bad, people know us by the words of our mouth. We see it on the news and we see it on Facebook, and other social media every single day. The things people post on social media are the things that fill their hearts. The Bible tells us, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)."

Even the memes we post that we may think are funny, or in some other way amusing, are often crass and off-color. I often see people post Bible verses, and then the next post will be something that has a four letter cuss word in it, and they think nothing of doing this.

"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so (James 3:10)."

Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He will come into our hearts and guide us by His Holy Spirit. However, the caveat to this is that we have to let Him be Lord and Savior. The Lord wants to clean us up on the inside so that our hearts are pure and right before Him. Because one day we are all going to stand before God Almighty, and we are going to answer for every word that comes out of our mouths (Matthew 12:36).

"Let no no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen (Ephesians 4:29)."

It seems to me these days, more and more people are just interested in hearing their own voices without paying attention to what they are actually saying. Our words make a difference. Our words can build up and our words can bring down. Our words can cut like a knife. Our words can make people happy or they can make people sad.

We teach our children not to bully and not to say hateful things, yet we do not even think about the things we say to our spouses or to our friends in front of our children. We complain about hatred in the world, yet we do not even consider the hatred that is coming out of our own mouths.

We have a lot of problems in this world but every single one of them can be traced back to the problems we have with ourselves. As  part of the human race, we need to clean up our own act. But as part of God's family, we need to practice what we preach.

"Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone (Colossians 4:6)."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wives, Submit! Really?

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord."
~Ephesians 5:22

This is probably the most unpopular verse in the Bible for women, and one of the most abused by men. What does submitting to your husband mean? Is this just a way for men to control women? Before you decide the Bible is anti-female, let me assure you, it's not. In fact, this verse doesn't mean what most people think it does, and it is most definitely not intended to be used as an excuse for men to run roughshod over women.

In everything that God does, there is an order. There's an order in the church -- Christ is head of the church, a pastor is second-in-command, followed by the associate pastor, and then any others, such as deacons or whatever an individual church calls their support ministry. Every person in a church is subject to their pastor, who is subject to God. However, the pastor is also subject to his congregation in the sense that if a pastor is stepping outside of biblical parameters for his position, the church body has a responsibility to say something to ensure the integrity of the church.

As a whole, society is built on the same order as the church. We have a government that is responsible for the nation, with individual state governments, county governments, city and local governments that are all responsible for the people of that area. Each of us are subject to local, state, and federal laws. All of these are designed to keep peace and order for the citizens, and to ensure our individual liberties and protection as human beings.

But order and peace begin within the home. Without biblical order in the home, we find that the family begins to deteriorate, children become unruly, and we see that happening more and more. Women are becoming the heads of households, and are single parents raising and trying to support their children on their own. This was not God's design for the home.

God's design is for a godly home, where parents are devoted to Jesus Christ, and put Jesus as head of their own lives first. In a godly home the husband is the head of the family. This does not mean the husband is to dominate his wife and children, but that he is submitted to, and under the rule of, Jesus Christ. It means he is responsible for his family's support, care, and welfare, and he answers to God for his family.

A man is to "cleave" to his wife (Genesis 2:24). In other words, they are to be glued together. They are to be "one flesh" (Mark 10:8), and are to consider their bodies as belonging to the other spouse (1 Corinthians 7:4).

As the husband submits himself to Jesus Christ as Lord of his life, he is under the protection of God. In the same way, when women submit to their husbands, they come under his protection. When it's storming out, we put on our jackets and get out the umbrella to be protected from the elements. In the same way, when we submit, we come under the umbrella of the protection of our husbands who are under the umbrella of protection of God.

This is why it is so important to make sure that we marry a godly man. We are to wait for the Lord to bring us our husbands. But even men who are in the church are not always what they seem, so we have to enter into these relationships with prayer, godly advice, and the assurance that the person we are about to marry for life is truly the person God wants us to marry for life.

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

In the same way, men must choose their wives through prayer and godly counsel because "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife (Proverbs 25:24)".

Monday, August 28, 2017

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?"
~Luke 12:25

We worry. A lot. People worry about their spouses, kids, jobs, bills, their health, car repairs, getting someplace on time...and the list goes on. In fact, studies show we spend nearly seven years of our lives worrying!

According to WebMD, excessive worrying causes a host of physical and psychological problems such as high anxiety and social disorders. Anxiety releases cortisol and triglycerides into the bloodstream, which raises blood sugar levels. In turn, these stressors can cause irritability, headaches, naseau, muscle tension, short term memory loss, digestive issues, coronary artery disease, and even heart attacks. So instead of solving anything by worrying, we actually create new problems.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)."

Jesus tells us not to worry about our daily lives because there is much more to life than our physical needs. Our spiritual lives need to be fed much more than our physical.  'Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).'

Our lives, apart from Jesus become unmanageable. We begin to worry about things that we either can control, cannot control, or try to control. Our worry leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to more and more stress, which leads to depression and on to a host of physical and mental ailments, until eventually, worry has taken over our lives, yet our lives have not changed.

On the other hand, a life that blossoms out of our relationship with Jesus Christ is free from worry, free from stress, and free from anxiety. Our health flourishes, our lives flourish, and we have all that we need both physically and emotionally.

In this world there is enough trouble to last a lifetime -- several lifetimes -- and worrying about it isn't going to change any of it. When we truly believe that God is in control, then we will know that there is nothing here to worry about and we will have peace in our lives that can only come from Jesus Christ.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27)."

Friday, August 25, 2017

Soul Ties

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
~1 Thessalonians 5:23

The words "soul ties" does not actually appear in the Bible and it is a concept that has come from the human mind. However, there is enough biblical evidence to back up the idea. When we join ourselves to another person, especially sexually, we become tied, in an emotional sense, to that person, even after the relationship has ended.

God created us to be with one man or one woman, depending on our gender, for the rest of our lives. We were not intended to have multiple partners. We were not intended to go from person to person looking for the "perfect" relationship, and we were not intended to have multiple sexual partners prior to marriage.

We were intended to keep ourselves pure physically and emotionally, so that when we meet the one that God prepared for us, we would come to that person the same way that the church will come to Jesus Christ -- without spot or wrinkle.

We continue to have emotional attachments to a person that we've had a relationship with even after the relationship ends. Whether it was a one-night stand or a short-term relationship, there is no ending of the emotional tie that remains in our minds and hearts even years after it occurs.

When sexual intimacy occurs between a man and a woman a soul-tie is created. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24)." We become one with the person that we have sexual intimacy with, and along with the sexual connection comes an emotional connection. It's much easier to sever that fleshly connection then it is to sever the emotional connection. And we see the disastrous results years later.

Not only do these connections last for years and cause emotional upheaval for us, it is passed on to the next generation. Children who are born out of wedlock by fathers who are absent suffer emotional problems that come from the absence of that parent.

1 Corinthians 6:16 warns us against casual sexual encounters -- 'Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”'

Sexual immorality is one of the leading causes of divorce. It is, in my opinion, the leading sin in the world. We see sex glorified in movies, TV shows, commercials, music, and videos. Everything around us is based on sex, and we are being enticed to buy products using sex, or enticed to go to certain places using sex in the advertisements. Everything in this world is based on sexual enticement.

However, the Bible tells us to "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18)."

So much of our heartaches comes from what we do with our bodies. So many diseases are a transmitted because of what we do with our bodies. But the Bible tells us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to treat them as such (1 Corinthians 6:19).

We were designed for Heaven not for hell. The lies of satan abound in this world but the truth of God remains the same and is available for us in His word.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Obey Your Parents

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
~Colossians 3:20

It's a different world than the one I was raised in. When I was growing up there were rules and we followed them. There was no doubt about what would happen if we disobeyed mama or daddy. And I raised my children to obey and to follow the rules, and to hopefully become good citizens of the world. But things are no longer that way. Daily, we see parents and children who are at odds. We see parents who say they cannot control their children. We see children who are arrested for violent crimes at very early ages. We see more and more children being introduced to the penal system. We see teen pregnancy on the rise, teen drug abuse, teen violence, and more teens totally out of control. And these are the future adults of the world.

What has happened to our children? The same thing that has happened to the adults in this world. We took God out of the homes, we took God out of the workplace, we took God out of the schools, we took God out of the government, and now we are living with those dire results.

We are incapable of governing ourselves, our land, or our children without the word of God. An ungodly government leads to ungodly citizens. Human beings were never meant to live apart from God. We were created in God's image as part of His grand plan. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they brought sin to all future generations. Unable to cope with the sin problem, God sent us the solution -- Jesus Christ.

Whether or not we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior has no bearing on the fact that He is there for us. If we want to see our land healed, our families healed, our children under control, our marriages healed, and our lives on track the way God intended them to be, we have no choice but to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Ephesians 6:1-3 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."

The promise of a good life begins in childhood. We must have godly parents to raise godly children. And if we are going to have any hope for peace, and a future for our grandchildren, we must all turn to God so that He can heal our land.

"...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ~Ephesians 5:25

I've always found it amusing that in the Bible wives are not once commanded to love their husbands; they are commanded to show respect for their husbands. On the other hand, husbands are commanded to love their wives. Not just love as in having feelings of affection for, but to love her the way that Christ loved the church. An all encompassing, sacrificial love - agape love.

In a biblical view of marriage, a man has an enormous job as husband. He is to be head of his household the way that Christ is head of the church. He is to be the leader of the wife and the children. Not just in a sense that he has to work and support them, which he is commanded to do as well, he is to be a Christian leader and to teach his children the ways of the Lord, and make sure they grow up with a biblical view of life honoring the Lord God. He is to be a shining example of Christian love, and a shining example of a Biblical husband to his wife. He is to be an outstanding member of society and the church; a man that other men look to for direction and to emulate as a husband.

In 1 Timothy 3 there is a list of qualifications for men to oversee the church. It begins with "he must be the husband of one wife" then continues:
temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well (vv. 2-4). These are the qualifications a man must have in his own home before he is able to hold any position in church.

This seems like a contradiction to everything that we see going on in the world because everything from God is absolutely contradictory to everything of the world. God has a plan and an order for our lives, including our married lives. When we step out of God's will and into the lies of the world, we can see the reason for divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

God does not allow for a man to be violent for any reason, especially not with his wife and children (Colossians 3:19, 21). Domestic violence is one of the only two reasons allowed for divorce. A man must also support his family. In today's society, that seems to be lost on a good majority of men. 1 Timothy 5:8 says a man who doesn't support his family is "worse than an unbeliever."

Being a husband and father is a huge job filled with immense responsibility. Neither role is to be entered into lightly or without the knowledge that it is a commitment to the Lord for life.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

An Excellent Woman

"Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all."
~Proverbs 31:29

The wife in Proverbs 31:10-31 seems like a whole lotta woman to live up to. In fact, she seems perfect. She appears to be some kind of superwoman with a clean house, perfect hair, make-up and nails, with kids who obey and never try to kill one another, and a perfect marriage to boot. Definitely a woman I've never met.

The Proverbs woman has been used as a measuring stick for women in church for as long as I can remember. As a younger woman, I used to scoff at the idea of this wife because she is so seemingly perfect and who can be perfect? Definitely a woman conceived in a male mind. But as I've aged, I see the usefulness of studying this woman. She has much to teach us.

The Proverbs woman is a loyal, faithful wife. She supports her husband in his ministry and his life. She is a good mother who raises her children to love God, and to honor their parents. She is kind, friendly, and generous. She is a working woman who contributes to society and helps build her family's security. She is really no different than you or me.

No matter what goes on in the world around us, God's word is unchanging. His expectations of us, whether male or female, are exactly the same now as they were when written. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 14:8).

Life around us is crazy, messy, and lately, seemingly out of control. It's like a hurricane or tornado that spins wildly, destroying everything in its path but in eye of the storm, it's silent and calm. Jesus is like that. No matter how life may spin out of control, if Christ is our center, we will experience peace and calm.

As women, we have an immense calling on our lives. We bear the brunt of raising children, keeping the home, cooking, cleaning, managing household affairs, caring for a husband and working full-time jobs. It's a heavy load with immense responsibility. At times it can also seem as if we carry that load alone. At times, I am convinced the author was right when he wrote, "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." Sometimes, it's as if my husband and I speak different languages.

But God made us differently for a reason. We have our own skill sets as women, and our own talents as individuals. We are all the woman in Proverbs 31 because that is who God designed us to be - strong, wise, diligent, smart, educated, efficient, skillful daughters of the King.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Open Marriage Part 2

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered."
~1 Peter 3:7

Marriage is ordained by God. He is a family man and our marriages are important to Him. While there is nothing wrong with being single (1 Corinthians 7:7, Matthew 19:11), marriage was designed for procreation and to keep people from sexual sin. Marriage is a special covenant between a man and a woman with God that is a lifetime commitment. With the exception of violence (1 Corinthians 7:15) and infidelity (Matthew 5:31-32), there is no excuse for divorce. Even those who are a Christian and marry a non-Christian, or a spouse who becomes a Christian during the marriage while the other spouse remains a non-Christian, has no excuse for divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).

However, the current divorce rate is about 53%, even among professing Christians and those who attend church regularly. Why is this? Quite simply - satan. That may seem like a cop-out to some but when examining marriage from a biblical view, we see that everything God ordains as being holy and good is fiercely opposed by the devil. He does not want us to succeed in our walk with God and our marriages and families become prime targets. Remaining firmly planted in the Word of God, seeing the world from a godly perspective, and living out our lives in a manner pleasing to God are the first steps to ensuring our marriages last a lifetime.

"A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34 NIV)."
The love of God is call "Agape" love. This is a deep, abiding love that surpasses all other types of love. It is a love that overlooks the faults of others and accepts them fully. This is the love Christ has for each of us. The love that led Him to the Cross to give His life so that our sins will not be held against us. It is the love that purchased our souls from hell and allows us entrance to Heaven. When we fully understand the love of God for us, we see that it is much more than the love we know from our own experiences.

There are two other types of love in the Bible. "Phileo" love is the love of friends. The type of love we have for our best friend, our parents, siblings and others. The other type of love is "eros" love. This is sexual love, desire, or lust. It is the type of love most closely associated with an intimate relationship. Having both types of love for our spouses is important. But to have a marriage that endures, we must also love our spouses with the same love God loves us, that is Agape love. This is a sacrificial love. It never asks, "What's in it for me?" Agape love is an action, not a feeling. It is what we do, what we say, how we act with our spouse. It is putting that person ahead of our own needs, and it is acting in love even when the other person has made us angry or isn't acting in a loving manner toward us.

It can be very easy to react in a like manner to someone who is being loud, insulting, angry or otherwise hurtful. But that isn't how God tells us to respond. We are to love one another (John 15:12-13), to show our love (Romans 5:8) for one another, and to do no wrong to another person (Romans 13:10), no matter how they are treating us. That doesn't mean we have to cower and take abuse, but we are not to repay wrong for wrong (1 Peter 3:9).

Marriage is a blessing from God that gives us a partner to help us through this thing called life. When approached in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus, our marriages will be as loving and fulfilling on the last day of our lives as on the wedding day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Open Marriage Part 1

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered."
~1 Peter 3:7

Marriage isn't easy. Living with someone until 'death do us part' is a daunting task. And trying to make a marriage last in a world that says it's okay to toss aside anything and move on to the next thing, makes lifelong commitments seem less than desirable.

My husband is a truck driver and he's around other drivers either in person or on the CB. Many of these men enjoy telling other truckers about their lives at home. They talk about the sports they watch, the toys they own, and ultimately, about their wives and marriages. My husband has seen a firsthand account of the differences between worldly marriages and godly marriages.

Some of these men don't tell their wives how much money they make, they have separate bank accounts, they split the bills so the wives have to pay their "share," and some have separate lives. When my husband told me this, I thought it sounded more like roommates instead of marriage.

God created our marriages to be open, trusting, faithful, with no doubts about our spouse. Secrets of any kind within a marriage breeds mistrust, jealousy and anger. Yes, everything you do is your spouses business just as everything your spouse does is your business.

My husband's email account and mine are linked, we both have all passwords on computers, phones, and every site we might have that requires passwords. We know pins for one another's bank cards, credit cards etc.  He has full access to my purse and wallet, and I have full access to his wallet. We have full access to everything the other does.

That doesn't mean we mistrust one another or that we rifle through one another's things. In fact, I can't remember the last time I looked at anything of his....he's actually pretty boring!

We have absolute trust in one another because we know our desire is to last a lifetime. Our marriage is designed on a triangle with God at the top point, my husband and I at the other two points, and everything else about life - children, jobs, friends, finances etc. - are in the middle. God is the head of our marriage, the Pattern we follow (Ephesians 5:22-24). God is Head of the church, the husband is Head of the house, but that doesn't mean wives are less than equal with their husbands. It means the husband has the greater responsibility for the care and support of his family. Every man will be held accountable for how he cared for, or failed to care for his family.

God didn't design our relationships as temporary or replaceable. Even our existance is to be everlasting. Living within God's design and plan, means not only will our marriages last a lifetime, we will be headed for everlasting life with Jesus in Heaven.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Tithe Or Not To Tithe

"In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
~1 Corinthians 9:14

Tithing is a hotly debated subject among some Christians. Their argument is that it's Old Testament, even though Luke 6:38 seems pretty clear to me, and Jesus said, "Render unto Cesar what is Cesar's and unto God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21). And Psalm 24:1 tells us "The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it..."

I believe in tithing. God has blessed me and I know He expects me to bless others however I can. He also expects us to support our pastors and the churches we attend. While I have heard people say that a pastor should support himself, this is contrary to Scripture. In fact, Paul devotes 1Corinthians 9:1-19 to explaining why a preacher should be supported by his congregation.

In today's world, there are some very real, practical reasons to pay your tithes and help support your pastor. While churches are tax exempt, that only applies to income tax. There are still bills to pay. The lights, water, sewer, garbage, property tax, insurance, repairs​, to name a few of the larger costs. But there's a lot of smaller costs: office supplies, classroom supplies for Sunday School, website costs, etc. And that doesn't even cover paying the person who is responsible for taking care of it all, while also being pastor, teacher, counselor, maintenance personnel, janitor, and shepherd of the flock.

You go to church to be fed the Word of God, to worship and fellowship with other believers, to be loved, cared for and to find emotional support during times of crisis and hardships. Church is a buffet for what we need spiritually and emotionally.

When you go to a restaurant to eat, you don't expect them to feed you for free, so why do so many expect to dine at church for free? God asks for a mere 10% to be returned to His house to support those He has called to take care if the congregation, and people refuse to give. Yet those same people think nothing of tagging on a 20% gratuity for the waiter who delivered their plate to the table.

Tithing is important to God. It shows your faithfulness, your belief that He really is in control, that He can take your small portion and multiply it greatly, and above all that, it shows He is Lord of your life.

God has given us everything. He died on the Cross out of love for each of us. He asks for our commitment to serve Him by serving others in our actions, deeds, and finances.

He is either Lord of your life, including your money, or He is Lord of nothing in your life.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Is Gonna Hurt

"You rejoice in this greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials. These trials are so that the true metal of your faith (far more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire) may come to light in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Messiah Yeshua (1 Peter 1:6-7, TLV)."

Trials and tribulations make up our life. We all go through them to one extent or another. When someone complains and says, "Why me?" My answer is usually, "Because it's your turn."

No one wants to go through trials in life. They're painful and we don't like to be in pain on any level. The problem is, we can't avoid trials because even if we do the right thing, keep to ourselves, keep our mouths shut and don't run off the rails, we are still affected by the world around us. Our spouses, children, relatives, co-workers, friends, and even strangers affect our lives. The struggles of the world around us affect our lives, moods, and finances. None of us are an island and we cannot avoid being tested in life. But we can decide how we are going to deal with these tests.

Suffering in life isn't always about the event we are going through, it is also about how we handle it and what purpose it serves within us. "And not only that, but we also boast in suffering—knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 3:4-5, TLV)."

There is purpose in the trials of life. It builds character and faith in us but it also shows our faith and trust in the Lord to those around us. Trials even produce happiness!
"Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him (James 1:12, TLV)."But all of those results are predicated on our response.

(1) How am I responding to a problem?
People of God should respond in a godly manner, not in a worldly manner.

(2) How should I respond? We are to respond in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ.

(3) What lesson is there to be learned?
Every trial has a life lesson; don't be afraid of the trial but instead, seek the lesson within.

(4) Does my response demonstrate to others my faith and love for Christ?
Trials build our faith in God but also shows God to others.

(5) How can God use it in my life?
Trials test our faith and gives us a new, richer understanding of who God is.

Being tested is not God being angry with us but rather a way of refining us for His glory. Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), and He faced many trials leading to the Cross, but He over came the Cross and set an example for us (John 16:33). And He did not leave us to struggle alone.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

 ©Marie McGaha 2017
No reproduction without author's permission

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Be Courageous

She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”
~2 Samuel 13:12-13

Tamar was about to be raped and pleaded with her brother, Amnon, to stop. She even begged him to go to the king (their father) and ask for her hand in marriage. This shows how desperate Tamar was since marriage between relatives was strictly forbidden by the Torah (Leviticus 18:19). However, her words fell on deaf ears, and Amnon overpowered his sister and raped her. He then tossed her out as if she were to blame and Tamar lived out her life a broken woman.

There are many things in life that aren't going to make sense. There are going to be many people who ignore us when we speak, even when we're being reasonable. Even when we're speaking truth, there will be people who are going to ignore what we say. There are going to be times when we become so desperate, we will say anything to change the situation we are in. There are going to be times when we feel helpless to change the road we're on.

Life isn't easy and bad things happen. Things beyond our control will happen. Situations we create that cause other bad things are going to happen. We are going to be hurt - physically and emotionally. We are going to have broken hearts. We're going to experience loss. We live in a sick world that spreads it's disease to everyone on some level, either directly or indirectly. That is the penalty for living in a sinful world. No one is immune, however, we can help ourselves and those around us.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Christ has a complete understanding of the human condition, of our pain and our weakness. And he alone is able to give us eternal comfort and rest (Matthew 11:28).

No matter where we've been, no matter the mess we've made, no matter the pain we live with, no matter how broken our lives are -- Jesus can make us brand new, change the path we're on, and give us purpose.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

We are also overcomers. We are conquerers (Romans 8:37) with the strength and ability to be the women of God we were designed to be. We have a strong spirit and a strong mind (2 Timothy 1:7), and in Jesus, we can accomplish anything.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us
(Romans 8:31)?"

©Marie McGaha 2017
No reproduction without author's permission

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Slavery Or Freedom

"But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king's sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar."
~2 Samuel 13:32

Two years passed before Absolom had the opportunity to kill his brother, Amnon, for raping their sister, Tamar. Absolom had been "determined" to make sure Amnon paid for his misdeed, and eventually, the opportunity arose. By this time, I wonder if Tamar's honor was still the primary focus, or had the rage against Amnon taken on a life of it's own?

Sometimes bitterness, hatred, anger, hurt feelings, and the desire to get even can blind us. We can become so focused on our own private hell, we go beyond reason. I remember when the uncle who molested me from age three to age eleven died. My father came by to see if I wanted to go to the funeral but I refused. All I wanted to do was dance on his grave in a red dress and high heels.

Would that make me feel better? Would that have resolved the conflict within? Would it have affected him in any way? Probably not.

We often turn to revenge when we've been harmed by another. Turning the inward frustration, pain, and anger on the person who harmed us seems like a great idea. We think that by giving those feelings an outlet, they'll go away. We think that if we can hurt back it will have some type of soothing affect on our soul. Our flesh calls for pure, unadulterated revenge to set things right in our world, however, the opposite often occurs. Revenge doesn't make us feel better and often leads to a new, larger set of problems.

Everything Christ preached goes against our natural desires. Matthew 6:15 says, "if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you." For most of us, that's difficult to understand. Forgiving those who have harmed us goes completely against our human nature.

But isn't that why Jesus came to Earth? Wasn't He here to set the example of unconditional love and absolute forgiveness to all who ask?

I heard a priest say, in response to being asked if he forgave the men who killed his brother, "No, I do not forgive them."
"But you're a priest!"
"Christ forgives. I'm not Christ!"

I think a lot of people might respond that way. I know I did for a lot of years. The idea that I should forgive the man who ruined my life was abhorrent. He deserved my hatred and loathing. Most assuredly, he did not deserve my forgiveness. But, in the cold light of day, do any of us actually deserve forgiveness? Is any one of us able to look at the the Cross and declare we are not in need of what Christ did there? And if we are in need of Christ's forgiveness, how much more should we forgive others?

Forgiving those who have caused us great harm isn't easy. It doesn't always happen overnight. Forgiveness is a learning process, and it is definitely a growing experience. And it is absolutely necessary if we are to move forward in life.

"...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (Philippians 3:13).

Forgiving others frees us from the grip of what our abusers have done to us and allows us to move forward toward what lies ahead. It moves us out of a murky past and into a bright future. Refusal to forgive is committing to a life of bondage and slavery. Forgiveness is a commitment to freedom.

©Marie McGaha 2017
No reproduction without author's permission

Monday, August 7, 2017

Living With Sin

Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!”
~2 Samuel 13:15

As if it wasn't bad enough to have raped his own sister, once Amnon was finished with her, he tossed her out as if she were a common whore. And he "hated" her as if what had just happened was Tamar's fault. Tamar then had to live out her days, not as a king's daughter in the palace but as a broken woman in her brother, Absolom's house.

The violation of her body was something that would heal but the violation to her life, to her very existance would last the rest of her life. But it wasn't only the violation of what her brother had stolen from her - her innocence, her virginity, the trust she'd had in him, and her ability to marry and have a family - there was also the violation from King David - her father.

What must it have felt like to know the man who raised you, loved you, cared for you, and was supposed to protect you refused to do so?

In Tamar's day, a woman did not leave her father's house until she was married. This was to protect her virtue and honor against any man who may try to seduce her, and to also prevent any gossip that may arise from anyone trying to hurt a woman's reputation. A woman's reputation, her virtue and honor was what she had to offer any future husband and it was her father's duty to ensure her safety and to bring justice for any violation. Even though King David was "very​ angry" (v. 21), he did nothing.

Poor Tamar. She was forced to live with such violation of her body, heart & mind. So much so that the Bible says she "put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went" (v. 19). And she "lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom's house" (v. 20). Tamar was forced to live with what happened to her but she also had to live with the sins of her brother and her father.

Sin has consequences for everyone involved, even those who have no part in committing the sin but are, nevertheless, it's victim. There are physical, mental, and spiritual repercussions for sin that spread like a ripple in a pond and touch everyone in our lives to some degree. We may think that the things we choose to do are our business and no one has a right to tell us what to do, but our choices always affect others. Even the secret sins eventually come out and touch the lives of others. No matter how sneaky we think we are, or how good we keep secrets, our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Sin violates the very core of who we are and who we hope to become. Sin is never a single entity but rather, has its own group of friends. No matter the sin, it's center is betrayal, lies, and mistrust. Sin spreads like a black, sticky mess you can't wipe away and adheres to everything you touch. Sin affects every area of life​ and can sever friendships, marriages, and family ties. It can cost finances, homes, and careers. It can end relationships, bright futures, and the very lives of those we love most. Sin leads to to death in every aspect.

Sin - the cause,
Christ - the cure!

©Marie McGaha 2017
No reproduction without author's permission

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sin Separates Us From God

"When King David heard all this, he was furious. And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar."
~2 Samuel 13:21-23 (NIV)

We see two different reactions to the news that Amnon had raped his sister Tamar. Absolom kept his mouth shut & David was furious. It doesn't mean Absalom was any less furious than David, we just see two men handling a situation in two different ways.

King David had many children with many different women. So I imagine being a parent to all of those children while also being king of Israel was difficult but I had 12 kids, so I know how hard it is to raise a brood like that. On the other hand, I also know what it's like to be a working mom and still raise kids. So the fact that David was king of Israel should have nothing to do with his parenting skills, or lack thereof. The Bible tells us that David was furious but later on in other chapters, we see David did nothing. He did not speak to Amnom, he did not correct Amnom, and he certainly did not punish Amnon. In those days, according to the Torah, the punishment for what Amnon had done to Tamar was death. Perhaps knowing this, David simply could not bring himself to make the charge against his own son -- his first born son, the one who would presumably become king after David's death. Whatever the case was, David made a grave mistake here.

Not only did Absalom wind up killing Amnon, Absolom wound up trying to stage a coup and being killed. David lost two sons and his daughter spent her days a broken woman.

When it comes to sin we must correct it quickly. Sin has devastating effects on our lives, the lives of those we live with, the lives of those we love, and the lives of those who have to deal with us on a daily basis.

Allowing sin to continue without saying something, and to continue in the sin that we are committing, allows that sin to continue to grow into something ugly, and the effects can be devastating to everyone.

David made some huge mistakes in his life and every time he did, it cost him the life of one of his children.  Our punishment in life may not be as devastating as losing a child, however as long as we continue in sin we are going to lose something. We will lose people in our lives, maybe not by death but by them walking away and leaving us because they cannot continue watching what we are doing. And then, in our sin we are also separated from Jesus Christ -- and that is the most devastating blow of all.

©Marie McGaha 2017
No reproduction without author's permission