Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Love Nuggets

Don’t you just love it when the Lord uses your life experiences to make such profound connections to His Word? I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit because He is always speaking, guiding, teaching, and correcting us so that we can live out our lives in a manner that reflects Christ and be most effective for the Kingdom and eternity!  Recently, I had one of those moments where the Lord made a clear connection between something I had went through and His Word and it allowed me to see His Word with such clear understanding.  The Word of God is alive and active and I have found over the years that when the Lord reveals Himself through His Word to us, it always prompts action on our part! My heart has been stirred friends and I am on a mission to live out my days here on earth loving God in a way that is so clear that He wouldn’t ever need to ask me the question “Do you really love Me?”

Let me begin by telling you what happened to me earlier this year.  But before I do that, I need to lay some ground work.  My husband and I have quite the love story.  Our story goes all the way back to grade school, but we didn’t officially become “sweethearts” until junior high.  We dated for six years before getting married and he truly was (and still is) my very best friend.  I love that man with all of my heart and I would do absolutely anything for him.  It’s hard to find the words to explain how much I love him.  My love runs so deep that just the thought of him can bring happy tears to my eyes and a flood of emotions can well up inside of me.  There’s not many relationships in my life that have that kind of effect on me.  Have you ever felt that kind of love before?  I can’t help but think about him and be overwhelmed with gratitude that I have someone and something so special.  I don’t ever want to take him or our relationship for granted so any time we have the opportunity to invest in our marriage and show each other how much we love one another, we are both pretty good about making it known…whether that be through words or actions.  We have been married for 15 years and I have poured everything I have into loving my man! Sure, I have moments when I fail and there have been days I could have loved him better, but for the most part, I have loved him the best I could.

Recently, we started seeing a marriage counselor and one of the first exercises he gave us was to write down a list of love nuggets.  Love nuggets are specific, yet practical behaviors that our spouse can do to make us feel loved.  In our 15 years of marriage, I had never really thought about what it was specifically that my husband does to make me feel loved.  I just knew he loved me well!  But you know, as I began to think about it all week long, I started to realize that when my husband calls me or texts me throughout the day, that really makes me feel loved.  When he leaves me an encouraging note or gives me a card expressing his love for me, that makes me feel loved too.  Embracing me with a big squeeze when he gets home from work, holding my hand, or wrapping his arm around me to hold me close…those are all easy and practical ways for him to make me feel loved.  Even things like filling my car up with gas or helping me clean up the house…those were indeed my love nuggets!  Those were the kinds of things that truly make me feel loved.  As I made my list of love nuggets, I couldn’t help but think back to a book I read years ago called “The Five Love Languages”.  As I looked over my list of love nuggets, it was apparent that my primary love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation, but acts of service was evident too.  What do you think your love language is? 

Nathan and I didn’t talk to each other about our lists of love nuggets all week.  Our counselor asked us to wait and discuss them together at our next session so I had no idea what Nathan’s love nuggets were.  I figured Nathan could guess all of mine because I’m a pretty good communicator when it comes to letting him know what I like and don’t like.  He knows me pretty well and after being together for over 20 years…he gets me. Honestly, I figured I’d know his love nuggets too!  As he began to read them off during our session, I was shocked that what I thought were his love nuggets didn't make the list!  Out of the 10 love nuggets that he listed, I only did a few consistently and knowing that…well, let’s just say it crushed me!  Here I have been married to this incredible man for 15 years and to discover that I have been falling short for so long in making him feel loved…it made me feel sick to my stomach…literally!  Everything on his list was so easy and effortless…if only I had known.  I would have been doing them all along!  As I processed the fact that for so long I have been loving him the way that I best felt loved, I realized that in doing that, I failed to love him the way he deserved and desired to be loved.  That hurt my heart so much and later that night, I just broke down and cried.  My husband tried to reassure me that he has always felt loved by me and that he loves all of the ways I show him that I love him, but these were just some of the first things that came to his mind as he quickly made his list.  I felt a little better by the end of our conversation because he explained to me that he had procrastinated on his assignment (gasp…not my husband!) and was having a hard time thinking about specific actions so he scanned the list of ideas that our counselor provided and chose some of those ideas that he thought sounded great and thought that would definitely make him feel loved!  Even then, because of my deep love for him, it tore me up to think I could have done more to make him feel loved and appreciated over the years. It didn’t upset me because I felt like I failed.  It upset me because he’s been too good to me…I WANT to give him everything he ever needed, wanted, or desired!  That’s just how much I adore him!  I didn’t want to start doing these things because he was making me or asking me to…I simply wanted to do these simple things for him because he was worth it and so much more!  Since we made our original lists of 10 love nuggets, we have gone back and added many more!  Any time Nathan does something for me that makes me feel loved, I always tell him, “I’m adding that to my love nuggets list!  That made me feel really special and loved!” and he does the same for me! It has completely transformed the way we love each other!  He is worth the extra effort to love him in ways that may not necessarily come natural for me and he thinks I’m worth it too!  I just wish we had communicated these love nuggets to each other earlier in our relationship because I don’t want to waste a day when it comes to loving my husband.  It’s an honor to love him and it's been so fulfilling to know that when I do these little love nuggets that he feels just as loved as I do.  That’s what I want him to feel all the days of our lives!  I wake up every single day now thinking what can I do today to show him he is loved and I make sure to hit as many love nuggets on the list as possible!  We thought we had a great marriage before, but man, our love nuggets have only intensified the love we share!  I encourage you to make a similar list with your spouse!  My husband appreciates a good sappy love note, but he’s an acts of service guy!  If I cook a good meal and have dinner ready for him when he gets home or plan a golf outing together or even a night for him and his buddies…now that really makes him feel loved!   Whereas, my husband could buy me gifts all day long, but if he isn’t giving me enough physical affection or words of affirmation, I may be asking myself, “Does he really love me?”  We need to learn what our spouse’s love nuggets are and then love them whole heartedly in those areas!

Fast forward a few weeks later after learning this about my husband…the girls and I had been studying about the death and resurrection of Jesus in preparation for Easter.  One morning, as we wrapped up our unit on Christ’s resurrection, we camped out on the story of Peter and the disciples having breakfast with Jesus on the shore before His ascension into heaven.  Peter still hadn’t gotten over that awful night when he had denied Jesus three times.  He was absolutely heart sick over his actions and he had wept bitter tears as he was truly sorry and repentant for his failure.  He loved Jesus with all of his heart and I’m sure after hearing about Christ’s resurrection, he probably wondered if Jesus still wanted him as one of His special disciples.  As Jesus and Peter sat together on the beach, apart from the others, we see in John 21 that Jesus turned, looked into the eyes of Peter, and gently said, “Simon (Peter), do you love Me more than these?”  
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed and care for My lambs.”  Jesus knew that He would soon be going back to heaven and He wanted Peter to become a good shepherd and help teach His Word to all of the new Christian believers.  
Jesus asked Peter a second time, “Simon, do you really love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter answered, “You know that I love You.”
“Then take care of My sheep,” Jesus said.  Jesus meant that Peter must help care for all who would become His disciples and followers. He knew that His flock would have trouble, temptations, hard tests, discouragements, and battles; and He wanted Peter to help them to grow strong and become true, steady Christians who could lead others to know Christ.  
Once more, Jesus asked him, “Simon, do you really love Me?”
Peter was grieved and hurt that Jesus asked the question this third time.  Once more Peter assured Him, “Lord, you know my heart and You know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed My sheep.” 
That day on the seashore, Jesus ended His conversation with Peter by saying, “Follow Me.”

As I read this story, I felt the Holy Spirit impressing that same question on my heart, “Do those who say they love Me really love Me?”   

Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked Peter the same question three times?  I don’t think it was because Jesus needed to be convinced that Peter loved Him…He already knew all things.  I believe He asked the same question three times so that Peter was convinced!  Peter loved Jesus with all of His heart, but He didn’t know how to show that love!  He was loving Jesus the best way He knew (kind of like I was loving my husband the best I knew how, yet if I had only known his love nuggets I could have loved him so much better!)  So, look what Jesus did…He gave Him a list of love nuggets before He ascended!  Did you see that?  Just as Nathan listed out clear as day what I can do to show him I love him, Jesus told Peter as clear as day, “If you love Me, then feed and care of my lambs and sheep and follow Me!”

As the Lord began to make this connection in my spirit, I just began to weep.  “Yes, Lord!  You know I love you!”  I cried out. My heart hurt just as it did when I realized I had wasted so many years not loving my husband in the best way. The Lord has been so good to me…to us all!  It broke my heart that He may not feel loved by those who profess to love Him.  I found myself asking the Lord, “How can I love you better?”  He deserves our best love!  I don’t love Him simply to be promised heaven, I love Him because He is worthy of my love. It’s an honor to live my life loving Him the way He desires to be loved.  But the Lord began to reveal to me that He has so many children that say they love Him, they profess to love Him, they profess to be devoted to Him, yet they are loving Him the way they think is best, meanwhile, their love falls so short from what the Lord really desires!  They are missing all of His love nuggets!  You see, many Christians believe reading their Bible every day means they love Jesus or praying often and going to church is how they show Jesus they love Him.  Others think volunteering and giving to charities show they love Jesus.  Those are all great things to do, but that’s not what makes Jesus really feel loved.  You see I was doing a lot of great things for my husband…all of which he appreciated and enjoyed…but when I realized what his love nuggets were, I was loving him in a way that assured him I really loved him.  That’s what Jesus wants from us!  He hears us tell him we love him, He sees us trying to show Him we love Him, He knows our hearts desire, but He gave us His love nuggets list and He’s waiting to see if we really love him.  

John 14:15 says, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

John 14:23, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”

So, when Jesus asks each one of us the question over and over, “Do you really love Me?”  It may be that He’s trying to tell us, “I know you say you love Me, but if you really loved Me, you would be keeping my commands and obeying my teaching.”  The ten commandments are in essence God’s love nuggets to us and just as Nathan and I have added to our original list of 10 love nuggets, Jesus has done the same thing throughout His teaching! Everything that was taught in God’s Word after the original commandments, are more love nuggets for us so we can know what it looks like to love Christ!   God’s Word says anyone who believes in your heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord”, you will be saved. We are saved by grace and we don’t have to earn salvation or follow a list of love nuggets in order to be saved. However, just as in marriage, our relationship cannot withstand the pressures of this world if the only thing we have is a marriage contract.  When we said our vows, we said them in faith that each one of us would keep our vows and live in a way that reflected the love we professed for one another on our wedding day.  So it is with our relationship with Christ!  Our relationship with Jesus can’t withstand the pressures of the world on words alone.  When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are making a profession of faith that we are going to live like Jesus is Lord.  He’s asking us today, “Do you really love Me?”  I say “Yes, Lord!”  I choose to keep His commands even when it’s hard.  I choose to follow His teachings even when everyone else has compromised. I choose to follow all of his commands, and not dismiss the ones that don’t line up with today’s worldly views.  I choose to stand alone.  I choose to obey his teachings even when persecution comes.  I choose to keep his commands even when it’s unpopular.  I choose to give Him my whole heart for all the days I have left here on earth because He’s worthy of my love and He deserves my best love.  I choose to love Him the way He desires and not just what is comfortable for me.  He’s been too good to me.  What an honor it is to keep His commands and obey His teachings…it’s not burdensome at all when you truly love someone.  Can I ask you the question today…”Do you really love Him?”     

Friday, April 20, 2018

Marriage Under Attack

Happy New Year friends! This year is already flying by! How can it already be mid-April and yet, this is the first post of the year?  Despite my absence, God has been far from silent.  He has used this season to draw me in so close as He reveals His love and goodness to me.  He is speaking to me and His words are changing me from the inside out.  He is so good to me.  Let me catch you up on life a little!  

Last summer, I began to feel a shift happening in my life.  I felt the Lord leading me to give up some responsibilities and focus on my family.  We simplified our schedule and really focused on being intentional with our time together and focusing on training up our children in the Lord.  Shortly after making these changes, I felt the Lord impress on my heart to pray for my marriage, specifically against the spiritual attacks of the enemy.  My marriage has always been fulfilling and although not perfect, our love and relationship has come fairly easy and our love for one another has never been tested. Despite being in a good place with my husband, I couldn’t shake that nudging to pray a hedge of protection around my marriage and my family.  The more I prayed for my marriage, the more the Lord opened my eyes to the spiritual attacks against Godly marriages and families.  The Lord showed me a vision of the enemy standing outside the doors of Christian marriages and the devil was just giddy to get a foot inside.  As he waited so patiently outside the doors, he was peeking through windows, looking inside, peering, pacing, eagerly rubbing his hands together and snickering an evil laughter as he anticipated getting inside. He knew that if he could just get a foot into the door, that’s all it would take to push in full force and wreak havoc not only in that marriage, but in that entire family.  The Lord began to reveal to me over weeks of praying that it only takes the smallest crack for Satan to slip into a marriage and take up residence and the Lord showed me that most of those cracks begin as a fleeting thought.  In fact, I wrote a blog about this last year.  You can read it here.  Those thoughts, when entertained, become imaginations and that opens the door for the devil to have a foothold in your life and if not taken captive, they become strongholds and an open invitation for the enemy to wreak havoc in your life, in your marriage, and in your family.  

For months, I prayed for my marriage.  There were times I didn’t even know how or what to pray since our marriage was in a good place, so I just prayed in the spirit.  Romans 8:26 says when we don’t know what to pray, “the Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings and words that cannot be uttered” so when we pray in the spirit, we are praying the direct will of God Himself and praying for things we don’t even know we need to pray for! Ephesians 6:18 says“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on all occasions.”  

Within weeks of all of this, I found out that several Christian couples we knew had filed for divorce. My heart absolutely broke at the news because although I didn’t know the details surrounding each breakup, I knew exactly who was to blame for destroying these Christian families and it was the devil himself.  He knows his time is short so he is being very strategic on who he seeks to take out. He’s after our seed!  That’s why he’s targeting the family unit and the church…that’s where the fertile soil is and that’s where the good seed is being planted!  If he can break the family unit, the seed gets disturbed and the roots are pulled. Without deep roots, the seed may die because it’s ability to get proper nourishment is hindered.   He’s going after ministers for the same reason...he wants their seed!  If he can distract the shepherd and get him off course, he can sweep in and wreak havoc on the sheep!  I kept hearing the Lord whisper to me, “Pray for your marriage and be on guard!  Your enemy is prowling like a roaring lion, waiting for someone to devour and he wants your seed because your seed reaches far beyond the four walls of your home.” Initially, I felt like Peter when the Lord told him he would deny Christ three times, he argued with the Lord and told him he would NEVER do such a thing.  I said the same thing to God!  “No, Lord!  Not us! We would never get divorced! That’s not an option for us!  We have a strong marriage!  We would never let that happen.”  But just like Peter, if we get too comfortable in our own strength and in our ability to fight off temptation in our own strength, we will fail miserably.  The Lord began showing me that my husband and I were not off limits.  In fact, he began to remind me that the enemy is threatened by us and our children so we are on his list of targets and the devil would love nothing more than to take us out!  When I truly understood this reality, I wasn’t overcome with fear, but instead, something rose up within me like nothing I have ever experienced before. It made me MAD!  I was ready to put on the armor of God and step into the ring with Satan himself because this meant war!  I was ready for the fight and I was determined to send the devil running back to where he came from and make him sorry he ever had me on his target list! Devil, you can’t have my marriage and you sure can’t have our seed!

I had spent weeks praying for my marriage, but as the Lord opened my eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare waging in the heavenlies not only for my marriage but for all Christian marriages, I went to my husband and filled him in on what the Lord had been speaking to me.  I looked him straight in the eye and told him if we so much have a crack in our marriage, we need to identify it and close it before the devil comes in and magnifies it!   I wasn’t’ about to let the devil gain access into our marriage through some crack that we had overlooked or perhaps put a Band-Aid over without resolving the issue that caused the crack in the first place!  No way!   Despite our great marriage, we both easily identified a weak area that if left unaddressed could be used by the enemy to bring division in our marriage and that’s all it would take to open the door to the enemy!   We came together and prayed over that area for the next several weeks and with the Lord’s leading, we decided to be proactive and take steps to strengthen that weak spot in our marriage long before it ever turned into a tool for the enemy to use.  We were committed to guard our marriage and protect our family.  We have faithfully renewed our minds in God’s Word daily and prayed together regularly.  We have continued doing devotions together that build our marriage and we have been careful to place healthy boundaries in order to guard our marriage from even the appearance of anything questionable.  We also decided to see a marriage counselor to seek advice in improving our communication with one another.  That has been one of, if not the best thing, we have ever done for our marriage…well, that and faithfully attending our Married Couples Sunday school class at church!   In fact, when we left our first session of counseling, we both said in the car ride home that we felt like we had just sat in a private Sunday school class with the best teaching from some of our favorite books like “Love and Respect” and “The Five Love Languages”…except we felt like we were drinking from a firehose!  Whoa! It was awesome!  I highly encourage every couple to invest in marriage counseling throughout their marriage!  We go to our doctors for yearly preventative checkups to ensure we remain physically healthy and we go to church even in the good times so that we can stay spiritually full and healthy.  Why would we not treat our relationships with the same care and nurturing that we do our physical and spiritual health!?  Don’t wait for a crisis to occur!  God wants us to be a part of His maintenance care plan so that He can fix the problems as soon as they arise so that minimal damage is done and we get back on His course!  He is faithful and He is for us!  I have loved this season of growing with my husband and looking back over the past several months, I can’t help but smile and see how God has been so faithful to guard and protect us.  He is such a good, good Father.  He goes before us and prepares the way.  He orchestrates His plans so beautifully and he takes the things that the enemy means for harm and he works it for our good!  Only God can do that!  Only God! 

I don’t know what season you are going through, however, I do know Satan is on an all-out warpath and he is targeting Christian families and ministers!  I want to remind you thatwe don’t fight against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, and the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms(Eph. 6:12) The enemy is NOT your spouse!  Once you recognize that the real enemy is the devil himself, you will stop wasting your time and energy trying to change your spouse or your circumstances.  The only way to overcome the spiritual attacks on your marriage is to rise up and fight with your spiritual weapons!  Listen, you are NOT off limits!  If you are breathing and you love Jesus and you are trying to raise your children to follow Jesus or spread the gospel…Satan has already sent out assignments to destroy you!  But do not fear!  The Lord has given us everything we need to stand against the devil’s evil schemes!  We have been given the full armor of God AND the covering of the blood of Jesus!  And let me just tell you something…the Word of God is our sword!  All of the armor of God is designed to protect us and defend us but I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be on the defense all the time! That gets exhausting!  I want to be on the offense!  That’s where the sword of the spirit comes into play! That is the only piece of the armor of God that puts us on the offense!  The Bible says the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow!  When we pray the Word of God, declare the Word of God, and meditate on the Word of God, it’s as if we are piercing the devil himself every time!  He has no option but to flee or die when we fight with the Word of God!!!  Find a scripture and a promise to stand on and declare it over your marriage, over your family, and over your home and watch the Lord work on your behalf!  Isaiah 54:17 is a good one to start with!  “No weapon formed against me will prosper!”  Declare that today!  God is faithful and He has not forsaken you!  Rise up!  Fight for your family and be on guard!  If you are on guard, you won’t be given a surprise blow that takes you and your family out!  I’ll leave you with this quote from Michael Todd…”It’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you down.”  Be alert and stand guard!

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s evil schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people!” Ephesians 6:10-18

Friday, December 22, 2017

Keepin' It Real!

“Just bein’ real”

This is a phrase I hear often, especially on social media and I’m not gonna lie…I cringe when I hear it or any form of it! 

#keepinitreal #realtalk #letsbereal #justbeingreal

To me, it’s one of those phrases that is full of passive-aggressive punch and condescending tone.  There’s usually always a not so nice message wrapped up in it.  Typically, these phrases insinuate that unless you share some or all of your not so pleasant moments, you are lying or just an overall fake person.  I have even heard some people go so far in saying it actually makes them sick when people don’t acknowledge their #keepinitreal moments and act like their life is perfect because they know…it’s obviously all a show.  Now, I’m not really sure how long this saying has been going around, but these dramatic statements have only been magnified to me within the past year.

When I first started noticing people share their desire for “realness” and “authenticity” on social media, it seemed to be coming from a place of insecurity and it always reminded me of Steven Furtick’s quote, “We compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”   For some reason, people can no longer just see the highlight reel from someone’s life and recognize that these shared moments are only a glimpse into that person’s life.  Social media has given people a false sense of entitlement to know the intimate details of everyone’s life and when they don’t get those details, they begin to fill in the details themselves based on their limited information.  And for many, they make inaccurate assumptions.   They assume people are trying to convince others that their life is perfect if they only share the good times when in reality, they aren’t trying to convince anyone of anything.  They truly are just enjoying the moments as they come and get excited to share these moments with their family and friends hoping to bring a smile to their face as it did theirs!  I mean, maybe people really do take the time to stage photos and lie about conversations and events to paint a lovely picture in an effort to cover up the pain that’s really happening in their lives, but come on people…are we really that insecure with ourselves that we are going to assume the worst about people when all they do is post happy and encouraging posts on social media? 

It kind of takes me back to my middle school days!  Who remembers the term “goody two-shoes”?  This term was used to describe an excessively virtuous person, a do-gooder…but it had a very negative connotation.  No one wanted to be “that person”.  I can remember when someone would get called a “goody two-shoes”, they would begin to spill the beans on every little bad thing they had ever done because God forbid, no one wanted to be known as that kid…the always do-gooder.  They were the ones that would get made fun of and they never fit in.  They wouldn’t get invited to fun parties because the good girls and boys made people uncomfortable.  They weren’t relatable or liked by most.  Many kids spent lots of time and energy trying to convince others that they weren’t as “perfect” as others saw them and many of those kids were embarrassed about being labeled the good kid.
When I started seeing this “let’s be real” trend on social media gaining popularity, I found myself thinking like those middle school kids.  At first, I felt like I needed to tell everyone all my struggles and failures just so they didn’t think I was a fake.  I started questioning everything I posted on social media and said to people.  Would my words be received with smiles or eye rolls?  I found myself feeling like I needed to convince others I wasn’t perfect.  And what better way than to share all my struggles, weaknesses, and mistakes.  I mean, that’s what people are really looking for when they want others to “be real”, right? 

But every time I started to post about my “real” moments…you know, those less than flattering moments, I heard that still small voice whispering to me that I needed to delete and not post.  That still small voice was the Holy Spirit and do you know what I have learned?  The Holy Spirit is our filter.  He helps us take those thoughts captive before we speak them…or type them.  He urges us to be silent when our quest to be transparent can in turn tarnish our witness.  He convicts us of our wrongs quietly and seeks repentance when we would rather use our struggles as an area to connect and be relatable.  He seeks change when we seek comfort in knowing we are in good company.  He really began to work on my heart about this #keepinitreal trend and here is what he taught me.  The quest to be relatable isn’t worth sacrificing my influence. 

I’m afraid that’s what is happening all over social media.  We are sacrificing our influence all for the quest to be likable and more relatable.  I see it on my newsfeed, I see it in blogs, and I even hear it in some churches.  It’s a call for authenticity and transparency.  People want to relate to their peers, bloggers want to relate to their readers, and speakers want to relate to their audiences so in their quest to be more relatable, they share some of their more vulnerable or “real” moments in life.  It’s all about building connections and relationships.  We have been told “You lead with your strengths and you connect in your weaknesses” so in an effort to build connections with people, we are being more vulnerable and opening up about struggles, our weaknesses, and our failures.  But social media is not the place to share our vulnerable moments. 

I am extremely cautious as to who I accept friend requests from on social media.  Because I post pictures of my children and family, I have very secure privacy settings and I only accept friend requests from people I actually know!  Even then, I still have close to 800 friends!  I didn’t even know I knew that many people!  My friends list is made up of family, dear friends, acquaintances, old classmates, previous students and coworkers, pastors, teachers, and many who I admire.  Knowing that all of these different groups of people have access to my posts, I have to make sure everything I post is filtered by the Holy Spirit.  Whether I like it or not, people are watching me and my words and actions will leave a lasting impression.  As a Christ follower, I am more concerned that my posts, words, videos, and photos leave a sweet fragrance that reflects Jesus than I am about people relating to me. 

Several years ago, I did a Beth Moore Bible study and in it she said something that was so profound to me that it stuck with me all these years later.  She said, “Be authentic to all.  Be transparent to most.  And be intimate with few.”

I looked up the definitions to those words because they seem to be trending on social media.  To be authentic simply means to be genuine and accurate.  We should be authentic to all.  When we post things on social media, we need to be sure we are giving an accurate glimpse into our lives.  Notice I said an accurate glimpse.  It’s just a glimpse.  Don’t be posting false information.  Be authentic.  Transparent means easy to perceive or detect, evident, and obvious.  We should be transparent with most.  That means most of the people on your friends list and in your sphere of influence should be able to detect what kind of person you are by reading your posts.  The things you post and the things you say should serve as evidence as to who you are.  When you are transparent, people don’t have to make guesses or assumptions about you.  Your values, convictions, and priorities are obvious.  That’s transparency.  Then there is intimacy.  Intimate means private or personal, detailed knowledge.  This kind of information is intended for just a few people.  This small circle of friends knows your dreams and your fears.  They know your strengths and your weaknesses.  They know the intimate details of your life and your children’s lives.  Sharing private and personal information on social media when you have several hundred or thousands of eyes reading is just not wise.  You may get more followers, more likes on social media, and more clicks on your posts, but at what cost?  As Christ followers, being relatable and likable shouldn’t be our goal.  We need to be set apart from the world and we should be living by a different standard.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not!  But do we really need to share our flaws and failures to the world just so others can relate?  No!  No!  No!  I see so many people that have a great call on their lives to be influencers and it makes me so sad when I see them compromising their ability to influence all for the sake of likability. 

Research has proven that people remember negative memories far more than the positive ones.  It’s true!  I have a billion amazing memories of my childhood, but wouldn’t you know it that I still remember the one time one of my elementary school teachers had a melt down and cried in front of our class?  And in the 36 years I have lived, I still remember the only time my parents were in a “heated argument” and then there’s that awkward time my Facebook friend told the world what she really thought about her life.  My point is it doesn’t matter how many encouraging words you say over your lifetime on social media or how many good things you do, that one bad seed can leave a lasting impression.

As Christ followers, our sphere of influence should be far greater than our circle of friends that we are intimate with.  Too much transparency can tarnish your influence.  I believe as Christ followers, our number one tool to influence and touch lives is living out your life in a way that reflects Christ.  Hands down…a life well lived will leave a far greater impression on those you leave behind way more than any words or stories you shared.  Period.  So please don’t feel like you need to be transparent with everyone in order for the door to be opened to make a difference in their lives.  Trust me…people are watching you.  They notice how you handle tough situations.  They notice the way you look at your husband.  They notice the way you love your kids.  Let that speak volumes.  Let the Holy Spirit be your filter.  Let Him silence you when necessary and let Him lead you to speak when a message needs to be heard.   Often times, the strongest messages and lessons learned can come from a place of weakness, so I’m not saying never share…just be sure your message brings glory to the Lord and not just another comforted follower.  And don’t be afraid to share your highlights!  I don’t think you are bragging or being fake!  I love it!  I’m so thankful that the Lord has surrounded me with amazing friends and leaders!  I love learning from you!  I love being challenged by you!  I love learning from you on how to be a better mom!  I love to see where I can be a better wife!  And I love it when you challenge me to go deeper in my relationship with Christ!  I’m watching!  I’m listening!  You make me want to be better and do better!  So keep sharing! 

I think we should start a new “let’s be real” trend!  I think we need to change the tone.  I would love to start seeing #keepinitreal on all of the blessed moments of your life.  As Christians, we are living in the favor of God and its time we get real about sharing how blessed we truly are and stop being ashamed about it!  Life is beautiful!  I can’t imagine living any other life than this blessed life that I get to call mine!  God is so good!  So can we start being real without others getting sick of our happiness and mushiness?  Life is short people!  Let’s embrace the good and trust God to change the bad and let’s leave behind a sweet fragrance of Jesus with every word we speak and every word we type friends!  Here’s to my new favorite hashtag for the coming year! #keepingitreal

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Silent Killer in Christian Marriages

Not long ago, I felt the Lord leading me to intercede for my marriage.  Being that I already pray for my husband and our marriage daily, I found this nudging a little alarming…to the point that I stopped and asked God right then, “Why?  Is something wrong?”  No sooner than that thought crossed my mind…literally, I didn’t even have enough time to voice my question to the Lord…He answered.  His response was so clear, it might as well have been an audible answer, but it wasn’t.  I felt the Lord tell me, “All is well, but there is an enemy waging war for your marriage and family.  I tell you to pray that so that you will be alert and aware of his tactics.” 

For those of you who don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord, you may not understand how someone can have these clear conversations with God.  I can’t even explain it other than just tell you that all believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of them and although the Lord speaks to us through His Written Word and through prophets, He most often speaks to us through His Spirit that is within us!  Before Jesus left this earth, He told His disciples “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7.)  The Holy Spirit is a game changer in the life of a believer because He is our helper!  The Holy Spirit plays many roles in a believer’s life, but one of His roles is to be our Guide.  I can’t imagine trying to navigate this life without the help of my guide!  He goes before me and prepares the way.  He leads me every step of the way.  And as my guide, He is in constant communication with me preparing me for the next step so that I won’t stumble.  He is the Spirit of Truth, only speaking what the Father says Himself (John 16:13) and I trust Him completely.  When He speaks, I listen.

So when I felt Him leading me to pray for my marriage, you better believe I was on it!  Not knowing exactly how to pray or what to pray, I just prayed in the Spirit.  Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers.  I recognized that there is indeed an enemy waging war for my children and my marriage, but as a believer I don’t have to live in fear!  As long as I am living my life devoted to the Lord, I understand that I pose a threat to the devil!  He knows his time is short and it makes him mad!  He is desperate to take out as many as he can in what time he has left and those who are fully devoted to Christ have the biggest targets on their back because they pose the biggest threat to keeping him from accomplishing that which he has come to do!  I have a friend who describes it as “New levels, new devils!”  As we walk in obedience to what God has called us to do here on this earth and go to new levels in our relationship with Christ, the devil isn’t just going to leave us alone and move on to the next one!  No!  He just ups his games and tries to come at us from a different angle in hopes to catch us off guard and defeat us!  But thank goodness for God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, because with them, we have everything we need to be victorious! 

As I have been interceding for my marriage these past few months, the Lord has really opened my eyes to the attacks of the enemy on marriages.  I have seen the effects of those attacks on marriages inside the church today.  It breaks my heart.  I catch myself saying, “I would never…” or wondering “how did it get to this?”  but then the Lord gently reminds me that no one is off limits when it comes to the attacks of the enemy and it very well could be me if I am not on guard and protecting myself from the silent killer in Christian marriages today…Satan’s deception runs deep friends.  It starts with a thought…and then turns to imaginations…and then becomes a stronghold.  Once that spirit of deception takes root in a person’s heart and becomes a stronghold, that’s when a person begins taking actions that lead to destruction…right where the enemy desires to see you fall!  John 10:10 says the devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  He hates seeing your marriage flourish.  He hates seeing our families grow and prosper.  He wants to destroy it all and steal all your happiness along the way!  He hates seeing husbands being the priest of their homes.  He hates seeing mothers and fathers train their children in the ways of the Lord.  He wants our kids and he is willing to use whatever he can to get them…even our schools, our government, and our entertainment.  Whatever doors he can open, he’ll go after it because all he needs is a point of entry.  The devil is no dummy.  He knows that if he destroys the family unit, he has easier access to our children so he is waging war on Christian families like never before.  And his tactics...DECEPTION…the silent killer!  It begins as an innocent thought.  Every broken marriage…every family unit destroyed…it began as a thought.

If my husband/wife was more like __________, my life would be so much better.

If my husband didn’t work so much, I would be happier.

She’s/He’s really good-looking. 

I wish my spouse didn’t ____ so much.

He is such a great guy.

She is a really good person. 

I wish my spouse treated me the way _____ does.

I wish we had a life like _______.

This isn’t the life I dreamed about.

I wish…

If only…

We’ve all had them.  Be honest.  Especially now that we have social media showing the highlight reels of everyone’s perfect moments, it’s even easier to have these or similar thoughts cross our mind!  However, when we are alert, grounded in faith, and have the Holy Spirit as our Guide, we recognize these thoughts as bait from the enemy!  He is at work friends and we have to be alert and take these thoughts captive before imaginations begin!  If not, pretty soon we will find ourselves imagining what life would be like if we left our spouse or if we had a life like someone else.  We will begin imagining how much better our life could be.  2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  When a couple says their vows, they make a covenant to keep those vows “until death do us part.”  Marriage is a BIG deal to God!  In fact, marriage is the closest thing we have to describe Christ’s relationship with the church!  The Bible tells husbands to love their wife like Christ loves the church and God’s Word tells us Christ is coming back for a spotless bride!  Can you see why the enemy would want to destroy this covenant so badly?  It represents so much more than just a family unit!

Don’t allow Satan’s lies to take root in your heart to the point that your family is destroyed!  Take those thoughts captive!  I don’t care how bad things are in your marriage!  No marriage is too broken for God.  He can restore your marriage and make it stronger than ever before.  It may not be an easy road, but with God, all things are possible.  Recognize that your battle is not against your spouse, your finances, or a career.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5.”   Our battle is with the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy…not our spouse!  Be alert!  Recognize that when those thoughts come, that is just the enemy’s tactics to bring division in your marriage.  Division is an open door for the enemy!  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Mark 3:25.”  The devil wants you to ignore the spiritual reality behind the physical one, because as long as you're focused on what you can see with your physical eyes, he can continue to run rampant underneath the surface.  

I am so thankful for the role of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am thankful that God is fighting on my behalf and that through prayer and spiritual warfare, we have the power to thwart the attacks of the enemy completely...those fiery darts that we don't even see yet...we can fight for our marriage and prevent the problems before they arise!  Yes, the devil is real.  Yes, his attacks are very real.  Yes, he wants to steal our joy and destroy our future.  It’s no joke.  But you need to hear something today, friends!  Listen to what God’s Word says and get it into your heart today!

“Put on the FULL armor of God, so that you can STAND against the devil’s evil schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the FULL armor of God, so that WHEN the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND YOUR GROUND, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take of the shield of faith, with which you can EXTINGUISH ALL the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the world of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17

“Submit yourselves to God.  RESIST the devil, and he will FLEE from you.” James 4:7

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  RESIST him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.” Isaiah 54:17

“In all these things, we are MORE than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

“But the Lord is FAITHFUL, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and NOTHING shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it WILL be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:18-19

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you.  They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Deuteronomy 28:7

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is FAITHFUL; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

“Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

“If God is FOR us, who can stand against us?” Romans 8:31

“Through You we will push back our adversaries, through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” Psalm 44:5

“For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” Psalm 18:39

Friends, when we belong to Christ, we are victorious!  This is just the short list of scriptures that reference battle and how to overcome the attacks of the enemy!  If anything, we need to be aware that there is a real war waging and we need to be alert and aware of the enemy’s tactics!  Do not be deceived!  Take those thoughts captive!  I’m not saying to ignore problems in your marriage as they arise.  There may very well be things in your marriage that need to be addressed.  Talk about them.  Get wise counsel.  Pray together.  Be honest about those problems and ask God to intervene.  But recognize who the battle is with.  It’s NOT your spouse!  The real enemy is the one waging the war on your marriage…it’s the DEVIL himself.  Take those thoughts captive and don’t even entertain them!  Those thoughts cannot become a stronghold in your marriage when you begin to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ!

For the past few months, I have been praying continually for my marriage and for my children.  I have been putting the full armor of God on daily.  I have talked to my husband about what the Lord has put on my heart and we have prayed together.  We have put boundaries in place to protect our marriage.  We don’t even want to open a door for compromise...not in our marriage and we sure don’t want to be responsible for opening a door in someone else’s marriage!  Listen, husbands and wives…guard yourselves and take steps to protect your marriage now!  Do not seek out or accept friendships on social media of anyone you have previously dated.  Do not fall into the comparison trap.  Just don't do it!  Don't compare your spouse to anyone else.  Do not call or text anyone from the opposite sex.  If you feel comfortable calling or texting someone of the opposite sex for just casual conversation, there is a boundary that has been crossed that can easily lead to something more friends.  Guard yourself!  Avoid situations where you are alone with someone of the opposite sex…not only to avoid the appearance of anything inappropriate but to protect yourself too!  It’s just not wise.  The enemy is sly.  He is patient.  He will work on one boundary at a time.  Don’t be deceived.  Recognize his tactics and take precautions now.  Establish boundaries and take those thoughts captive.  Do not be deceived.  Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!  The battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory!  Just walk in obedience and be alert! 

“As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord!”  Begin covering your marriage and your children with prayer.  Pray in the Spirit and put on the full armor of God…daily!  Read the Word of God daily because the more you know God’s voice, the easier it is to recognize the lies.  And pray together!  A marriage that prays together stays together!  I am lifting you up friends.  I see the enemy at work and I see the lives he has already destroyed.  It breaks my heart.  It stirs me to action.  I pray that those who read my words today will be stirred to action as well.  We are in the fight of our lives friends.  Don’t be caught off guard.  We have all the tools necessary to be victorious but if we don’t see the enemy coming, he’ll blindside us.  Open your eyes…your spiritual eyes today.  I’ll leave you with this today and pray it over your marriage daily…”And the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined, let no one separate.” Mark 10:8-9.