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Friday, April 20, 2012

Boundaries In Marriage



Boundaries in Marriage
By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend


Marriage is first and foremost about love. It is bound together by the care, need, companionship, and values of two people, which can overcome hurt, immaturity, and selfishness to form something better than what each person alone can produce. Love is at the heart of marriage, as it is at the heart of God himself (1 John 4:16).

Yet, love is not enough. The marriage relationship needs other ingredients to grow and thrive. Those ingredients are freedom and responsibility.

When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free, they live in fear, and love dies: "Perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18). And when two people together take responsibility to do what is best for the marriage, love can grow. When they do not, one takes on too much responsibility and resents it; the other does not take on enough and becomes self-centered or controlling. Freedom and responsibility problems in a marriage will cause love to struggle.

Today is the day to work on your own boundaries in marriage. As the Bible teaches, make the most of today, for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). What you take initiative to deal with today will affect the rest of your married life. And what you ignore or are afraid to address will do the same.

What’s a Boundary, Anyway?
In the simplest sense, a boundary is a property line. It denotes the beginning and end of something.
When boundaries are not established in the beginning of a marriage, or when they break down, marriages break down as well. Or such marriages don’t grow past the initial attraction and transform into real intimacy. They never reach the true "knowing" of each other and the ongoing ability to abide in love and to grow as individuals and as a couple-the long-term fulfillment that was God’s design. For this intimacy to develop and grow, there must be boundaries.

In relationships, ownership is also very important. If I know where the boundaries are in our relationship. I know who "owns" things such as feelings, attitudes, and behaviors as well. I know to whom they "belong." And if there is a problem with one of those, I know to whom the problem belongs as well. A relationship like marriage requires each partner to have a sense of ownership of himself or herself.

The first way in which clarifying boundaries helps us is to know where one person ends and the other begins. What is the problem, and where is it? Is it in you, or is it in me? Once we know the boundaries, we know who should be owning whichever problem we are wrestling with.

Responsibility also involves action. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen because we take action. We need to change some attitudes, or behaviors, or reactions, or choices. We must actively participate in the resolution of whatever relational problem we might have, even if it is not our fault.

Each spouse must take responsibility for the following things:
  • Feelings
  • Attitudes
  • Behaviors
  • Choices
  • Limits
  • Desires
  • Thoughts
  • Values
  • Talents
  • Love
Our attitudes-not those of our spouse-cause us to feel distressed and powerless. How we behave and react is part of the problem and we have to change these patterns. We allow ourselves to get pushed beyond certain limits and then become resentful or powerless. We do not turn desires into accomplished goals, or we do not deal with our sick desires.


But the good news of boundaries is that God’s plan of responsibility has not changed. We are not at the mercy of our spouse’s behavior or problems. Each spouse can act both to avoid being a victim of the other spouse’s problems and, better yet, to change the marriage relationship itself. The process always begins with taking responsibility for your own part in the problem .

FREEDOM!
We were not meant to be enslaved by each other; we were meant to love each other freely. God designed us to have freedom of choice as we responded to life, to other people, to God, and to ourselves. But when we turned from God, we lost our freedom. We became enslaved to sin, to self-centeredness, to other people, to guilt, and to a whole host of other dynamics .

Boundaries help us to realize our freedom once again. Listen to the way that Paul tells the Galatians to set boundaries against any type of control and become free: "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1) .

PROTECTION:
You need protective boundaries that you can put up when evil is present and can let down when the danger is over .

THE MISCONCEPTION:
There is a lot of misunderstanding about boundaries. Some people are against boundaries because they see them as selfish; other people actually use them to be selfish. Both are wrong. Boundaries are basically about self-control .

My client could not say to her husband, "You can’t speak to me that way." This demand is unenforceable. But she could say what she would or would not do if he spoke to her that way again. She could set a boundary "on herself." She could say, "If you speak to me that way, I will walk out of the room." This threat is totally enforceable because it has to do with her.  She would be setting a boundary with the only person she could control: herself.

If someone trespasses your personal boundaries in some way, you can take control of yourself and not allow yourself to be controlled, or hurt, anymore. This is self-control .

The most basic boundary is language. Your words help define you. They tell the other person who you are, what you believe, what you want, and what you don’t. Here are some examples of words being used as boundaries:

No, I don’t want to do that.

No, I won’t participate in that. 

Yes, I want to do that. 

I will.

I like that.
I don’t like that.

Your words, or lack of them, define you to another person.

http://www.legacyatwork.com/pdf/Boundaries_in_Marriage_0809.pdf

There is a total of 52 pages in the above link (PDF format). Please feel free to click on this link and read more about "boundaries in marriage."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Personal Encounter with Jesus



This Easter Sunday, I would like to remind of our "access to God," a personal encounter that is sometimes taken for granted.

Under the old covenant, in the Old Testament, our access to God was extremely limited.  Unless one was the High Priest, one could never meet directly with the Lord. 

In the Old Testament there was a veil that separated the the most holy place in the temple and the tabernacle.

In Exodus. 26 this veil is described for us: v.31-33 "And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy."

The high priest was required to make an animal sacrifice before attempting to enter this most Holy of places to meet God face to face.  Only a pure, perfect man without sin could be a suitable sacrifice that God would accept as an offering for sin.

PRIOR to the death of Jesus on the Cross:
  • Only priests of the Levite tribe could offer gifts and sacrifices.
  • Only Hebrews could be called the sons and daughters of the Lord.
  • Only those who kept the Day of Atonement were considered in right relationship with God.
  • Only those who fully knew and followed the Law could be called righteous.
To understand the purpose of the veil we must understand the work that Jesus came to do.

Jesus said in John 6:37-39: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."

This verse speaks of the Lord's work in saving his people from their sins.

Jesus is the righteous One and, according to 2 Cor. 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

"Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments." Matthew 27:35

"Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.  And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, "My God, My God!  What have You forsaken me?!" Matthew 27:45-46.

"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold!  The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth trembled and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."

"When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, and saying, "Truly this was the Son of God." Matthew Chapter 27.

AFTER the death of Jesus on the Cross:
  • Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Romans 10:12-13 says, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
  • A person can be called a child of God regardless of race, gender, or social status.  Gatatians 3:26-29 says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
  • Whoever believes in Christ shall be counted as righteous.  1 John 2:29 says, "You know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him." 
  • Whoever believes in Christ shall inherit everlasting life.  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoesoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
  • All who believe can make the ultimate sacrifice to God. Luke 10:27 says, "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind."
This Easter Sunday, I want to remind you how easy and personal our acces to Christ is.  Praise the Lord!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Criticism Gone Bad!



"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26

What does criticism mean?  To express grief, pain, or discontent.
To make a formal accusation or charge.
To find fault with; point out the faults of.

How many of us can remember a cutting remark from childhood?  "Look how silly her pants are!"  "She has buck teeth!"  "I don't like girls with glasses!"  "Her house has K-Mart furniture!"  "I can't play with you because you don't have a nice home."

Now, these remarks above are all blatant remarks from one child to another and are intended to hurt and injure the recipient's heart and soul.

But what about remarks spoken by adults and to adults that are equally as damaging?  "Nice house, Mary, but I would've chosen one with a wraparound porch."  "Sure it's a nice car, Tom, but I would've chosen one with leather interior instead."

One of the root causes of "criticism gone bad" is jealousy.  "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."  When one of your friends gets something new - say, a new home or even a new car - instead of being excited with your friend, you are jealous and so you make a "dig" at your friend's new purchase, as illustrated above.  The Bible says to "rejoice with those who rejoice."  Romans 12:15.  Are you able to rejoice when your friends receive good things in their life that you don't have?  Jealousy is one root of criticism that can cause hurt.

Another root cause of criticism gone bad is negativity.  "...out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks."  Luke 6:45.  An example could be this scenario:  You come home from working all day to find your teenage daughter cooking a meal of pancakes and eggs for the family for dinner.  But you also notice that she hasn't done that load of laundry you specifically asked her to do when you left for work in the morning.  Do you yell at her:  "Why didn't you get that load of laundry done like I asked?  I work hard all day long and I expect to come home and have a clean load of laundry!"  Or...do you respond this way:  "Looks and smells delicious!  Thanks for thinking of me and the family and taking initiative to cook this meal for dinner.  But after dinner, while I do the dishes, I'd like you to start that load of laundry that's still sitting in that basket, okay?"

The Bible says "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  Philippians 4:8  The point here is to be a cheerleader (encouraging) rather than a demolition crew (destructive) with your words.

The third cause of criticism is sarcasm and/or cynicism. Sarcasm is a cutting remark that wounds.  Cynicism is an attitude of jaded negativity.  For example, your husband took some initiative to do a load of laundry without you having to ask, but instead of being thankful, you make a sarcastic remark: "I think pigs must be flying in the sky right about now!  I never thought I'd live to see the day when you did a load of laundry without me having to command you to do a load."

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs."  Ephesians 4:29.

Just as the furnaces in our homes need a filter to filter out the dust and dirt, so our mouths need a filter, as well.

I would encourage you today to find a trusted friend or spouse who can help you stop your destructive comments.  Maybe your spouse can give you the "time-out" symbol in sports when you begin to speak jealously, or negatively, or with sarcasm/cyicism.  Perhaps your coworker can "signal" you when you begin to use these root causes of criticism in your workplace.

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Questions and Answers to Share with your KoTH Partner:

  1. Share with your KoTH partner how critical words have hurt you personally.  How has this wound healed?
  2. Who do you most often criticize?
  3. Very honestly, where does jealousy raise its ugly head in your life?
  4. Why are Christians so good at sarcasm and cynicism, do you believe?
  5. If you are a negative person, what are the roots of that negativity?
  6. Who in your life/world needs encouragement right now?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rewards In Heaven



Rewards in Heaven

One of the things I feel I have picked up from the Holy Spirit is that it will really be “worth your while” to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father and go with His call on your life rather than you deciding what you are going to do with your life.

The reason for this is that there will be some incredible rewards being given out in heaven for those who are willing to do good works for the Lord while living down here on this earth.

Good works will not get us into heaven, as the Bible specifically tells us that we can only be saved by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. But being willing to do good works for the Lord in this life will bring us certain types of rewards as you will see in the Scripture verses I will list in this article.

As I have said numerous times in many of our other articles, each Christian must make a big personal decision as to how they will live their life on this earth. You can either choose to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father and let Him decide what your divine destiny is going to be in this life, or you can choose to do things your own way and completely run your own life.

Most Christians take the latter approach. They do not ask God what their vocations or jobs should be in this life. They do not ask God who they should be marrying in this life. They do not ask God what their real goals and aspirations should be in this life. In fact, the only time they really approach God is when they get in some kind of trouble and they then need some type of miracle from God to get them bailed out of a bad situation.

When many Christians are faced with what the Bible says about making a full and complete surrender of their entire lives over to God the Father, they really have a hard time in doing it.  They are afraid if they fully surrender everything over to God, that they will lose their one and only chance to make it big in this lifetime. They are afraid that God may call them to do a job that may pay them only pennies a day.

Many Christians are not really aware of some of the verses in the Bible that are talking about God really rewarding His people for the good works they can do for Him while living down here. I will go ahead and give you some of these key verses in this article.

The Bible also says that crowns will be given to some of His people for different levels of service. And when the Bible says that crowns will be given, I believe this is literal interpretation, and that crowns will really be given by God for special types of service.

I also believe that God can reward you with some incredible blessings while you are still down here on this earth. However, the rewards I will be keying on are the rewards that you will be receiving when you enter into heaven. These are the rewards that will really matter. These are the rewards that will last you for the rest of your eternal life. A lot of what God can reward you with down here on this earth are still perishable rewards. You cannot take some of these blessings with you when you die and cross over.

Remember the story of Moses. Moses was 80 years old when God called him out of the desert to rescue His people from the Egyptians. Look at the exciting and adventuresome life that Moses had in God over the last 40 years of his life. It is never too late to fully surrender your entire life over to God the Father to see what He can still do with it.

Now I will give you some very interesting verses from the Bible that will specifically talk about these rewards and crowns.

How well you work for God, and what you accomplish for Him while down here on this earth is where the good works will be coming in. The gift of eternal salvation gets you into heaven, but good works will be getting you the bigger and better rewards once you enter into heaven. This is why the Bible says that “faith without WORKS is dead.”

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things DONE IN THE BODY, according to what He has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

… and each one will receive His own reward ACCORDING TO HIS OWN LABOR.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone ACCORDING TO HIS WORK.” (Revelation 22:12)

“… I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS.” (Revelation 2:23)

So Jesus answered them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or land, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a HUNDREDFOLD now in this time … and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

The Bible specifically talks about 5 different crowns that will be given to some of God’s people when they enter into heaven. If you look very closely at what these crowns are going to be for, they will be for work that is done for God that is beyond the normal scope of what the average Christian may attempt to do. This is for work that goes far, above, and beyond what the average Christian may actually strive for.

Just like trophies, rings, and plaques are given to sports heroes or winning teams in sports, God apparently is going to be doing the same thing in heaven. He will be giving out certain types of crowns for the people who were willing to go that extra mile, who were willing to give that extra special effort in whatever God had called them to do. These crowns will be a special reward that will be rewarding excellence and maximum effort.

These crowns will also be incorruptible and will last for all of eternity. They will be a special mark and a special token given by our Lord to honor and reward all of those who have faithfully served Him in this life – way above and beyond what the average Christian would have considered doing for Him. Now here are the five specific crowns mentioned in the Bible.

1. The Crown of Righteousness

This crown will be given to those who have lived a good and righteous life for God while living down here on this earth. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

2. The Incorruptible Crown

Bible scholars feel this next verse implies that some will be given what could be considered a “victor’s crown.” And this crown is called incorruptible. The New King James Version calls it an “imperishable” crown – the Original King James Version calls it an “incorruptible” crown. Either way, it will be a crown that will last for all of eternity.  The apostle Paul goes on to state that those who run in any kind of a race, all run with the goal of obtaining some kind of prize. He then goes on to state that those who run a race in order to win the prize are temperate in all things.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an IMPERISHABLE CROWN. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

3. The Crown of Life

This next crown has been called by many the “martyr’s crown.” Jesus Himself says that He will give this crown to those who undergo severe hardship, testing, tribulation, and/or physical death on His behalf.
The Bible does not say anything about whether or not these 5 crowns are ranked in any way as to which is greater. However, if they are ranked in any way by God the Father in heaven, then I believe there is a very good chance that this next crown will be ranked #1 out of the 5 crowns available to all believers for special service. 

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the CROWN OF LIFE.” (Revelation 2:10)

4. The Crown of Rejoicing

This next crown has been called the “soul winner’s crown.” The apostle Paul is calling those he has saved his “joy” and his “crown of rejoicing.”  The word “crown” seems to be implying that God will be giving out a crown to those who have been instrumental in getting other people saved and led to Him through the blood of His Son Jesus.

For what is our hope, or joy, or CROWN OF REJOICING? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

5. The Crown of Glory

This next verse is telling the elders of the church to “shepherd” the flock of God. Shepherds lead the flock into the ways and knowledge of God. They are teachers. These could be the Sunday school teachers, the pastors and ministers who teach the Word of God in their ministries, or people who are appointed by God into the office of a teacher like a Joyce Meyer.  I believe God will be giving His teachers and shepherds this crown due to the extreme importance of bringing up others into the knowledge and ways of God. Once you get saved, this is just the beginning. God wants you to grow in His knowledge and grace by reading from the Bible and learning as much as you can about Him, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.
SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the CROWN OF GLORY that does not fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)

Conclusion

All of these crowns will be permanent, incorruptible, and will never fade away. They will be eternal rewards bestowed upon those deemed to be deserving of them by God the Father for extra-ordinary service rendered on His behalf while living down here on this earth.
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* portions taken from http://www.bible-knowledge.com/rewards-in-heaven/

I'd like to thank my dear Sister in Christ, Billie, for making me aware of the above information. 

Questions and Answers to share with your KoTH partner:
  1. Were you familiar with any of these verses that speak about eternal crowns?
  2. Out of the crowns listed above, which two crowns would be the most difficult for you to "obtain"?  Why?
  3. Can you share a Christian song or poem with your KoTH partner that might speak of eternal crowns?
  4. How can your KoTH partner pray for you this week?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Broken Promises



This year, 2012, marks our next Presidential race in America.  Politicians and Presidential hopefuls stand on stage in fancy suits, fancy shoes, and coiffed hair telling Americans how they will be their "savior" in all issues facing our lives.  From economic depression to environmental issues, each hopeful will boast of his or her power to save.

Our world as a whole has many needs.  Political candidates world wide make promises of how they will improve worldwide conditions...if only you vote them into office. 

But Government cannot make the changes that people need the most.

Our basic needs are spiritual in nature and cannot be satisifed by political solutions.  It's only when we are changed inwardly through the Holy Spirit that we can then change the world around us.

God's promises are the only promises that never fail to be kept.  After all, a promise is of value only if the person speaking that promise can follow through.

Here are 7 Promises of God to us:

What can be said about God's promises to us?

  1. He has promised to supply every need we have. The Bible says: "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus". That's Phillipians 4:19. Now notice, God has obligated Himself only to the extent of our needs. That would include food, clothing, shelter, companionship, love, and salvation thru Jesus Christ. It would not include the multiplicity of luxuries that we have come to think of as needs.
  2. God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. (II Corinthians 12:9). in fact, He has made provision for our salvation by His grace through faith. Read Ephesians 2:8. It is through an obedient faith that we have access into the grace of God according to Romans 5:2.
  3. God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation. Instead, He assures us that a way of escape will be provided. This promise is recorded in I Corinthians 10:13. Jude wrote: "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude v 24). Darius, King of the Medes, said to Daniel, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16). He did deliver Daniel from the den of lions.
  4. God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection. Peter said: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:32). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3,4). Later on he adds: "but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).
  5. God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.
  6. God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Read Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38).
  7. God has promised His people eternal life (John 10:27,28). In closing, let me appeal to you to live so that the promises of God will be yours.

 Changing the world is a daunting, seemingly impossible task.  When we look out at the world and the shape it's in, we are overwhelmed.  What can we do?  Where do we begin?  We must first look up to the One who can bring true hope and change.  He has the answers the world needs.

Let us not forget to look inward...because if we hope to be God's hands and feet in this world, we must first know and share His heart.

* Taken from LifeLessons Bible Studies For Life, The Roads Less Traveled Learner Guide, Winter 2010-2011.
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Questions and Answers to Share with Your KoTH Partner:

  1. Do you trust more in politicians than in God to create change in our world?
  2. As God's instrument of peace and love, how can you help create change in today's world?
  3. What issue is most concerning to you in modern-day America?
  4. Do you pray about this issue and ask God to help bring about change?
  5. When a politician makes a "promise" to you, what will your response or thought be?
  6. Which promise of God touches your heart the most today?
  7. How can you pray for your KoTH partner this week?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God Demands Loyalty & Faithfulness to Him



Many Christians simply go through religious motions while ignoring that God demands true loyalty & faithfulness to Him.

Hosea 6:1-3 says this:

"Come, let us return to the Lord.  For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds.  He will revive us after two days, and on the third day, He will raise us up so we can live in His presence.  Let us strive to know the Lord.  His appearance is as sure as the dawn.  He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land."

Because the people had not remained loyal to the Lord, He declared, "I will depart...until they recognize their guilt and seek My face; they will search for Me in their distress."  Hosea 5:15.

Have you noticed that straying from the Lord brings you great distress?  What personal distress have you experienced as a result of turning away from the Lord?

The purpose of distress is to lead us back to the Lord.  Hosea 6:1-3 speaks of the attitude with which straying people should return to Him.  The verses above show the confidence we have in the Lord when we repent (or "return" to God).  When we repent and return to the Lord, He wants us to do so on His terms, not ours.  We are to abandon our willful and wicked ways and to recommit ourselves to walking  with the Lord.  When we do, "He will heal us...and He will bind up our wounds."

This healing doesn't mean we won't bear the scars of our sin's wounds, for sin always has a destructive impact.  But it does mean that we will be forgiven and restored to His fellowship and to useful service.

Hosea 6:4-6 says this:

"What am I going to do with you?  Your loyalty is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes.  This is why I have used the prophets to cut them down; I have killed them with the words of My mouth.  My judgment strikes like lightning.  For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burn offerings."

Most of us are far from perfect in our Christian walk.  We have strayed off of the straight path more than once.  Those who readily declare their repentance but quickly return to their false gods and wicked practices are "as the early dew that vanishes," so, too, their loyalty to the Lord evaporates in their day-to-day living.  Loyalty to God cannot be empty words.  You must have a sincere and honest heart. 

You claim Jesus as your Lord...but do you do what He says to do (as well as what he says not to do)?  Do you help others?  Do you lead others to His saving grace?  Do you follow the 10 commandments?  Jesus used Hosea 6:6 to expose hypocrisy. 

God spoke...and still speaks to us...through the prophets.  Are you listening?!  The prophets declared God's devastating judgment on His disloyal people.  Yes, they piled up sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord...but they withheld their loyalty and stood condemned.  Our religious activities are meaningful only when they express our heart's devotion to the Lord.  We live out our devotion in prayer, Bible study, public worship, and in our daily lives.  God expects this kind of loyalty from His people.

*taken from LifeLessons Bible Studies for Life, "The Roads Less Traveled," learner guide for Winter 2010 - 2011.

Questions and Answers to Share with Your KoTH Partner:

  1. Why do you think many people choose to live with their spiritual pain rather than return to the Lord?
  2. How are you striving to know the Lord better?
  3. When you repent and return to the Lord, does your repentance last?
  4. What threatens to push aside your loyalty to the Lord?
  5. Could you be depending on your religious activities to please God rather than your personal commitment to Him?
  6. The term "loyalty" comes from the Hebrew word "chesed."  Chesed represents the commitment two parties have to a covenant relationship.  Please locate the Webster's dictionary meaning for the term "loyalty" and write it down.
  7. How can your KoTH partner pray for you this week?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh, Praise Him!



“As the deer searches for streams of water, so my soul searches for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).


When was the last time you raised your arms to God and praised His Holy name?  When was the last time you spent time loving on the Creator of this world?  When was the last time you stopped everything you were doing, dropped to your knees, and cried tears of joy and thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for you?

When was the last time you felt this way (see below):

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).

I would ask that this week, you set aside 15 to 30 minutes to do just that: Praise, magnify and glorify the Name of the Lord, and love on the one, true God of this world.  Put down your novel, set aside your household duties, say "not right now," to the TV programs that draw your attention away from God, and tell your children/grandchildren to give you a few moments alone while you worship the Lord God.

Below is a video of a man on the streets of New York City who took time to outwardly and unashamedly praise the name of the Lord.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpVsF4W8V2Y

Turn your ear
To Heaven and hear
The noise inside
The sound of angels awe
The sound of angels' songs
And all this for a King
We could join and sing
'All to Christ our King!'

How constant
How divine
This song of ours will rise
Oh, how constant
How divine
This love of ours will rise
Will rise...

CHORUS:
Ohh praise Him!
Ohh praise Him!
He is Holy!
He is Holy!

Turn your gaze
To Heaven and raise
A joyous noise
Oh the sound of salvation come
The sound of rescued ones
And all this for a king
Angels join to sing
'All for Christ our King!'


CHORUS {x2}

Oh la la la la la la..
Oh la la la la la la..
Oh la la la la la... laaa laa laa laaa!

CHORUS

How infinite and sweet
This love so rescuing
Oh how infinitely sweet
This great love that has redeemed
As one, we sing...

OUTRO:
Hallelujah,
Hallelujah
He is Holy,
He is Holy
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Questions and Answers to Share with your KoTH partner:

  1. How did you feel after spending time on your knees before the Lord?
  2. How difficult was it to set aside time to do this?
  3. Do you feel that this is something you should be doing on a regular basis?
  4. What other worship and praise songs can you share with your KoTH partner that will help her to worship the Lord?
  5. Go to the Scriptures and find two verses that speak of worshiping and praising the Lord, and share them with your partner.
  6. Ask your partner how your can pray for her this upcoming weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When the Journey is Difficult


"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - God

What are you struggling with today?  No matter how painful or how terrible, it is temporary.  Look to God and His eternal Kingdom.  Thank Him for your glorious future dwelling place, free from sin, sickness, conflict, or need.

Left colum:  What you say.  Right column:  What Jesus says to you.

"I can't go on." ...................................... "I will carry you." (Isaiah 46:4)


Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.


"I am too tired." .................................... "I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."


"It's impossible!" ..............................  "All things are possible."  (Mark 10:27)

Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God."


"I am empty inside." ............................ "I will fill you up." (Matthew 5:6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

"I am dying."  ....................................... "I will raise you up."  (2 Corinthians 4:14)

We know that the one who brought the Lord Jesus back to life will also bring us back to life through Jesus.


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Questions and Answers to Share with your KOTH Partner:

  1. What are you struggling with this week?
  2. Which scripture above comforts you?
  3. Ask your partner what she is struggling with this week.
  4. Share with her some additional scripture that will be of comfort to her.
  5. Write out a prayer for your partner and her specific need.

Monday, January 30, 2012

God's Unconditional Promises For Your Life

God’s Unconditional Promises
There are “unconditional” and “conditional” promises contained in the Bible and spoken by God.  An unconditional promise by God means that God will do “such-and-such” without us having to do a thing in return.  These promises are FREE, without a hitch, without a prerequisite in our lives.  We will be discussing 21 of these unconditional promises for our lives, taken from the New Testament.  It is God’s responsibility to make sure they are in place when we need them the most.


Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 19:26 … but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Acts 10:34 … God does not show favoritism
Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
2 Cor. 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor. 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Col. 3:11 Here (in Christ) there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
2 Tim. 2:13 … he (Jesus) will remain faithful,
2 Tim. 2:19 … “The Lord knows those who are his,”
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
James 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
1 Peter 3:22 (Jesus) who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Rev. 1:7 … he (Jesus) is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.
Rev. 17:14 … he (Jesus) is Lord of lords and King of kings.
Rev. 20:7-10 … the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Rev. 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it (The New Jerusalem), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Rev. 22:3 No longer will there be any curse (in The New Jerusalem).
Rev. 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:37-39
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Proverbs 1:33
But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”
John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Romans 10:9
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The promises of God are powerful and awesome to grasp. I pray that these scriptures about God’s promises were helpful to you today.

There is a deeper lesson in all this. These unconditional promises actually relate God's redemption plan in Christ, a plan that was set forth before the beginning of time. To try to even understand it is beyond our grasp. To say that God is unjust or unfair is not true in the least. It is merely that we are unable to understand things that are finite. God is perfectly just in all His ways.

Paul gave some insight into this area when he said, "We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to [God's] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph1:11)
Notice that Paul said our will does not figure in the picture. It is God's will that is at work. This is why I said earlier that nothing happens in a believer's life by chance. The apostle John certainly agrees. He said that our birth from heaven was not a thing of our will. He says, "[We] were born, not of blood nor of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)

When we were born again, it is because God opened our ears to hear and placed in our heart to respond.

We see this being worked out in a lady named Lydia. It says, "A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." (Acts 16:14)

We also see this worked out in the life of a man called Peter. If you recall, Peter actually denied the Lord three times. Was that the end of the story? No, indeed. Jesus sought him out, restored him fully, and gave him the privilege of preaching the gospel at the very place where Peter became fearful of his life.

Yet there is something we may forget. Recall what the Lord said to the 70 who returned and were rejoicing over all the miracles that took place through the name of Jesus. What was the Lord's response? He said, "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:20)

Peter's name had been recorded in heaven long before there was a world. Only God can do that. And Peter's name being recorded was not based on some goodness to be found in Peter. There was no goodness to be found in him. If any part of our salvation is based on our personal goodness, then no person will ever be saved. The Bible says there is none good. Not a single one.

But there is a point in all this --- Regardless of how well we think we understand the mystery of our salvation, the fact remains that God's unconditional promises do not rest upon how well we are able to perform. They are not our performance promises. Each of these promises rest upon God Himself. When He says that He will never desert us or forsake us, that promise cannot be broken.

Questions and Answers to share with your KOTH partner:
  1. Did you know that there were unconditional promises by God for you?  Which promise above struck you the most, and why?
  2. Can you find an additional unconditional promise of God found in Scripture and share it?
  3. Can you think of a time when you felt unworthy to receive God’s unconditional promises?
  4. How does it makes you feel to know that your performance in Christ does not matter when receiving these promises?
  5. Which promise will you share with a family member or friend this week?
  6. How can your KOTH partner pray for you this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts




See full size image

Would you like to know what your spiritual gifts are?


This is a 4-page personality quiz (link above).  Following the quiz, the site will ask for your email address, and will then email the results to you.  contained in the email will be information on how you can use your spiritual gifts to help in your church and in your community.

Rom 12:4-6 (NAS) ...We have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function... Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.

1 Cor 12:11 (NIV) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Cor 12:4 (KJV) Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Rom 12:6 (NEB) The gifts we posses differ as they are allotted to us by God's grace, and must be exercised accordingly.

1 Pet 4:10 (TEB) Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God.

1 Cor 12:4 (NAS) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Eph 2:21 (TCN) ...every part of the building, closely joined together, will grow into a Temple, consecrated by its union with the Lord.


Introduction

In the life of the local church there are two major problems related to the subject of spiritual gifts. The first is that far too few Christians are involved in any kind of ministry. They conceive of themselves as spectators rather than participants. None of these ‘spectators’ have the joy of being actively involved in ministry and of seeing God work through them in the exercise of their spiritual gifts. We shall assume that on the basis of our study in Ephesians 4:16 you would no longer consider this a viable option.

A second problem is with those who are actively involved in the ministry of the local church, but who are not functioning in a ministry which corresponds to their spiritual gifts.

Perhaps one reason why so many have chosen to do so little or nothing in the way of ministry in the local church is because they have seen how frustrated those are who are striving to accomplish tasks they were never intended to attempt. The primary qualification for most tasks in the church is a willingness to try, or at least too little fortitude to turn down the job.

The solution to both these problems is a proper understanding of the subject of spiritual gifts. You will understand that many books on the subject of spiritual gifts have been written and that no one message will deal with every important issue.

The Importance of Knowing Your Spiritual Gift

For various reasons, many have played down the importance of knowing your spiritual gift. Let’s begin our study of spiritual gifts by suggesting several reasons why it is imperative for every Christian to know his gift.

1. The prominence of spiritual gifts in Scripture. One of the ways we can measure the importance of a principle or a doctrine is to determine the amount of space devoted to it in the Bible. Subjects or doctrines which are merely implied are surely of less significance than those clearly stated. Matters mentioned infrequently should not be regarded as crucial as those frequently dealt with. Using this standard of measurement, the subject of spiritual gifts is a vital one, for we find gifts addressed specifically in four major portions of Scripture: 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14; Romans chapter 12; Ephesians chapter 4; and 1 Peter chapter 4. In addition to these central passages, spiritual gifts are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Spiritual gifts must be important to the Spirit of God Who inspired the writing of the Word of God and thus they should be important to us.

2. The elementary nature of spiritual gifts. When the book of First Corinthians was written, it was addressed to those who were obviously not very mature in the faith. There were many forms of carnality cited by Paul in this epistle. The things of which Paul wrote in this book were not matters of the ‘deeper life,’ but rather the elemental truths of the Christian life. Due to the emphasis on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, we conclude that the doctrine of spiritual gifts is important and that it is foundational and fundamental to the Christian life.

3. Spiritual gifts are a matter of individual stewardship. When Peter spoke of spiritual gifts in his first epistle, he considered them a matter of personal stewardship:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

Peter meant that just as we must give account of our use of the material things God has placed under our control, and just as we must give account of the use of our time, so we must also be accountable for the use of our spiritual gifts.

Now it is very hard to be a good steward of something we know nothing about, and of something which we do not even know we possess. If you were given the responsibility of managing the assets of someone else, the first thing you would do is to take inventory of what resources were at your disposal. You would demand to know what assets you were to use wisely. So, also, the Christian cannot be a good steward in the matter of spiritual gifts without knowing what his gifts are:
  • Spiritual gifts are of great practical value and benefit to the believer.
  • Spiritual gifts are of such great practical value to the Christian he simply cannot afford to be ignorant in this matter. Let me suggest some areas of practical benefit.
Knowing your spiritual gift(s)will enable you to find your place of ministry in the local church. Since every Christian has a particular function in the body of Christ, and since your spiritual gifts equip you to carry out this function, knowing your gifts help you to plug in to the ministry of a local church.

Knowing your spiritual gift(s) will enable you to determine your priorities. One of the most common problems we all face is having more things to do than we have time to do them. Paul indicates in Romans chapter twelve, verses six through eight, that we should make the use of our spiritual gifts a priority in our lives. In simple terms, when we have too many things to do we must choose to function in the area of our spiritual gifts. You must know your spiritual gifts to set these priorities.

Knowing your spiritual gift(s) will be of great help in discerning God’s will. To extend our last point just a little bit further, knowing your spiritual gift(s) can be of great help in discerning the will of God. The choice of your occupation, whether ‘secular’ or ‘religious,’ should take into account whether or not it will help or hinder the exercise and development of your spiritual gift. If you are not gifted to teach, you have a valuable insight into God’s will when you are offered a teaching position. There is a very distinct relationship between knowing the will of God (Romans 12:1-2) and understanding your spiritual gift (Romans 12:3-8).

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Probably the simplest definition of a spiritual gift would be this: A spiritual gift is the God-given capacity of every Christian to carry out his function in the body of Christ.
The thrust of the first half of Ephesians chapter four is that the effective functioning of the body of Christ is dependent upon the contribution of each individual part of the body. Spiritual gifts enable us to carry out our task within the body of Christ in a way which no one else can. Using the analogy of the physical body in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve, Paul reinforced this same concept. Every part of the body is essential to the well-being of the body. When one member fails to do his part, the body suffers.

There are two important corollaries to this truth that spiritual gifts equip the Christian to carry out his unique contribution to the body.

First, spiritual gifts are not primarily given to benefit the individual, but the entire body. Anyone who seeks a spiritual gift and employs it in order to give himself a kind of spiritual ‘high’ is missing the point of spiritual gifts. Perhaps this is the most serious criticism of the contemporary tongues movement. Not only has one gift been exalted above all the others, but the primary purpose of this gift seems to be self-edification.
Second, if spiritual gifts are given to enable us to carry out every essential function of the body then we should expect spiritual gifts which correspond to every function described in the Scriptures. This is precisely the case.

While we can see that all are to engage in the exercise of these functions, there are gifts which overlap these functions. It is those who are gifted in these various capacities who will excel in this particular function. If for every area of ministry there are those specially qualified for that ministry, it is vital to that ministry that those specially gifted in that area should be involved in that ministry.

(*All written information above was taken from http://bible.org/seriespage/spiritual-gifts-1-corinthians-121-11)
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Questions and Answers to Share with Your KOTH Partner:
  1. Click on the link at the top of the study.  Take the 4-page quiz and write down your top 3 spiritual gifts.
  2. Examine each of your top 3 gifts and write out what they mean for your life, and how you can use them to serve the church and/or your community.
  3. Knowing that God has given you these gifts, will you use them?  How?
  4. How can your KOTH partner pray for you this week?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Round 2, "When Love Hurts" Emotional, Psychological, and/or Physical Abuse in Christian Marriages




When a bride takes her vows, she doesn’t expect violence to mark her marriage. But sadly, for some that is the case. It’s probable that you know someone who is the victim of verbal or physical abuse: a neighbor, a daughter, a sister, or a friend. This powerful 4-part series pulls back the curtain on the dark secret of abuse and offers hope and help to those caught in its painful cycle.

When Love Hurts: Understanding and Healing Domestic Abuse, When Abuse is Worse than Divorce, Part I
Product Number: DOD2049
http://www.dod.org/products/DOD2049.aspx
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When Love Hurts: Understanding and Healing Domestic Abuse, When Submission is Misused, Part II

Product Number: DOD2050
http://www.dod.org/products/DOD2050.aspx

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When Love Hurts: Understanding and Healing Domestic Abuse, When Apologies are Dangerous, Part III
http://www.dod.org/products/DOD2051.aspx

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When Love Hurts: Understanding and Healing Domestic Abuse, When the Church is Needed Most, Part IV
http://www.dod.org/products/DOD2052.aspx