By Gail Rodgers
John and I recently celebrated another wedding anniversary! The years pass so quickly. On one hand it feels like our wedding really wasn't all that long ago. Yet on the other hand if feels like we have comfortably been together forever!
A wooden plaque hangs in our kitchen. We've moved a lot over the years and this plaque has hung in every home we've made. That and the old brown bear hide help to say "home" when we put them up.
The plaque has a Bible verse on it. It's a verse God gave John and me before we were married. He made the plaque for me when we were engaged. It has become the testimony of our marriage.
"Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5).
Change comes to all of our lives in many ways. Sometimes change is welcome. Other times it invades our lives with a disruption that is unwelcome. Change can cause tension and uncertainty.
John and I took some time to recall some of the specific ways God has been faithful to our family. It's easy to brush by them in the rush of day-to-day life. It's easy to forget them when we have a fresh question mark looking us in the eyes.
Yet God builds a track record in each of our lives. Sometimes our faithfulness in trusting is weak and we feel doubtful. Yet when we take time to focus on how He has been faithful to us in the past, it brings fresh faith to trust Him for our future.
Take some time right now to think back over the various ways God has been faithful to you in years gone by. Thank Him for His track record in your life. Take the fresh question mark that hangs over your life today and declare your trust in our faithful God. Commit your way to Him even if you have no idea how God can answer your question mark of today.
Don't let the tension and uncertainty of change eat away at the relationships in your home. Trust God with the changes. Commit your way to Him daily. Keep trusting Him. He will work in your life and in your home. It's a promise!
You know the uncertainty in our lives right now. I want to freshly commit my way to You and trust You to help us navigate the changes that we face. Quiet the tension in my heart and help me to bring a calm to our home in this time of change. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
How Spiritual Community Can Enrich Your Marriage
by Sheri Mueller
As I think back, there were three very significant decisions we’ve made as a couple.
The first key decision was finding a church that was vibrant, alive and relevant. The second, joining a couple’s bible study, a small group. And the third decision was serving in ministry together.
This Connecting component — Church, Group and Ministry— has grown our spiritual intimacy beyond our wildest expectations.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NLT)
This verse applies to our marriage in so many ways. When we tried to do our marriage alone without God and other Christians to hold us up, we failed miserably. If there is one piece of advice we can give any couple considering marriage, wondering about marriage, planning their marriage and who are currently married is: Don’t do marriage alone.
I know each one of us can come up with all kinds of excuses not to attend church. It’s not relevant, it’s boring, I can’t stand the music, and I’d rather stay in bed. Church attendance has to be a joint effort—you both need to be there. Look for a church that you both LOVE! The effort is worth it. Need help finding a church?
When a couple in deep weeds comes to us for advice we often ask, “When was the last time you were in church together?” They will look at each other, shrug their shoulders and tell us they don’t remember. When you are disconnected from your church family, you are disconnecting yourself from God and your marriage. It is not possible for you to grow as a couple or family without a firm foundation in a local church. I know this is true because it was very much the life Jim and I lived for the first ten years of our marriage. We didn’t attend church, ever. Not even on holidays. We had no place to go, no one to lean on, and no one to ask for help when our marriage started to crumble.
One of the best books I’ve read on community is John Ortberg’s, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.
John writes: “God created human beings because He was so in love with community that He wanted a world full of people to share it with. He wanted to invite all of us to dance with Him, Christ and the Spirit.”
John continues: “We all have a deep desire to connect. The yearning of our soul is to attach, connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul. Our need for community with people and God is as essential as food and water. This need does not go away. It is a need that can be met through God and His church, God and His people.”
Small Group is the place where we found acceptance. It was a place where we studied the bible and discovered we could not do life alone. It was the first place where I realized Jim and I were not alone in our marriage struggles and challenges of raising godly children. Our church family fed us, paid our bills and prayed for us when we lost our jobs. They enveloped me with prayer, cards and phone calls when my mother passed away. I know it would have been extremely difficult to walk through these valleys of life without our group.
Group puts people in our lives that hold us accountable. They help us keep promises and encourage us to grow. We can’t do that on our own. Group is a place of safety, openness, and sharing. We need people to nudge us and sometimes give us a good swift kick when we’re taking the wrong path. Simply, we need others to walk beside us! We discovered group to be necessary to spiritual growth as a couple and as individuals.
Consider Christ’s ministry — He did not do life alone. He recruited twelve men in need of repair — His disciples. Twelve imperfect people like you and me. Christ still chose them to walk with Him until the very end. He desires the same type of community for us. Be a part of our online community in chat.
The third component of Connecting is Ministry or Serving Together.
Learn what your spiritual gifts are, then find a ministry that you love to do. It might be serving the poor, cleaning the church, teaching kids, helping in your local food pantry, and building homes for Habitat. What’s your passion as a couple? Jim and I love to volunteer at our church and serve as marriage mentors.
Discover what it means to serve God and others as a team. Your marriage will grow in immeasurable ways. You’ll be an upfront witness to the spiritual gifts God has given your spouse.
We’ve experienced the thrill of seeing God work through answered prayer and watching Him come through in the most difficult of circumstances. Our faith has grown, our love has grown and we’ve had the opportunity to share our love of Christ with many, many people.
Watching God use Jim’s evangelism gift has grown my faith in immense ways. Through Jim, I’ve grown to be a fully devoted follower of Christ, watching God work in the frontlines, even touching atheists and agnostics. It is something I would not have experienced if we weren’t serving together.
The Christian's Relationship to the World
A common criticism of the church of Christ in the opening part of the twenty-first century is that God's people are losing their identity as those who should be distinct from the world. It is certainly true that in many places Christians are being converted to the world rather than converting the world to Christ. The more we think like the world, act like the world, dress like the world, and worship like the world, the more we're going to be removed from the doctrine of Jesus Christ. We have a pattern to obey (II Tim. 1:13; Rom. 6:17), and that pattern has direct reference to the Christian's relationship to the world.
John chapter 17 records Jesus' prayer to His Father shortly before His death. The Lord prayed for His disciples and set forth at least four principles that should guide us as we think of our relationship to the sinful world. Notice the pattern this prayer delineates concerning the world and the true disciple of Jesus Christ.
1. Christians are in the world (Jn. 17:11,12). Jesus prayed, "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world... keep them through Your name." Since the kingdom has not yet been delivered to the Father (I Cor. 15:24), and entered into it's eternal, glorified state (II Pet. 1:11; Rev. 21:9-11),God's people have work to do while here in the world.. While we're in the world we will be surrounded by temptations and distractions that seek to pull us down. The apostle Paul even pointed out that if we should attempt to avoid the presence of evil men we would need to go out of the world (I Cor. 5:10). However, these difficulties are designed by God to be the vehicles of spiritual growth and prosperity for those who remain faithful until the coming of Christ (I Pet. 1:6,7).
2. Christians are not of the world (Jn. 17:14,16). The Bible makes a distinction between being "in the world" and being "of the world." God's people are necessarily "in the world" in that they physically inhabit it, but we are not "of the world" through sharing its same desires and goals. John told the Christians, "Do not love the world, or the things in the world... the world is passing away and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I Jn. 2:15,17). Jesus said those who abstain from the filth of the world will be hated by the world (Jn. 15:19), but our Lord has overcome it and promised us victory (Jn. 16:33).
3. Christians are to remain in the world (Jn. 17:15). Jesus prayed to the Father, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." It is our purpose to remain here to fulfil our Father's good purpose. The very existence of the church of Christ in the world is a monument of God's manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10). While we are sojourners and pilgrims in the world (I Pet. 2:11), and our ultimate citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) we have work to do while here on earth (Mk. 16:15,16). Christians must guard against being overtaken by the temptations of the world and shipwrecked in their journey to their heavenly home (I Tim. 1:19; II Tim. 4:10).
4. Christians are to be sanctified while in the world (Jn. 17:17). To be sanctified means to be set apart from the world unto service for God. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified through the truth, namely, the truth as revealed by God. While we face the bitter trials that come to those who desire to live godly (II Tim. 3:12), we can rest assured that our efforts in the kingdom will work to our sanctification. Paul said it is God's will that we be sanctified (I Thess. 4:3). Through conforming to God's moral pattern, love for the brethren, and doctrinal soundness, Christians enjoy the comfort that comes through sanctification from the world (I Thess. 4:4-18). The pattern of morality, love, and doctrine is found only in the word of God which is able to make us mature and equip us for every good work (II Tim. 3:16,17).
If we could keep the principles of our Lord's prayer in mind, we will be better equipped to fight the growing tendency in the Lord's church to conform to the temporal image of this world – we will instead be transformed into His image, from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18). As long as the world stands, it will not give up in its effort to convert God's people to its losing cause. But Christians are to garnish their infallible weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). We are assured the victory if we will but overcome the world while living in it. Don't give up!
As followers of Jesus Christ, our faith is certainly personal, but it is not private.
Growing spiritually in relationship with others is one of the Marks of Discipleship. Christianity is all about relationships. As Christians, it is our assigned mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We do so by engaging in relationships with others. Those relationships develop as we love, influence, and encourage one another in the Spirit of God.
Take a moment and read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.
In order to enter into relationship with one another, or grow existing relationships, we must earn the right to be heard. We do so by loving one another; by living in one another's lives. It was when Paul lived among the Thessalonians that his message of salvation became real. Consider Jesus' model of relationship, as well–it was by becoming involved in and asking about the life of the woman at the well in Samaria that Jesus earned the right to effectively share the joy of living water with her (John 4:4-26). It was by spending time in the life and home of Zacchaeus that Jesus grew in relationship with him (Luke 19:4-10). It was by investing in others' lives through physical healing that many of them were introduced to the kingdom of God.
Perhaps you have been in a relationship which required a significant investment of love in order for the message of Christ to be heard. Perhaps there is a relationship in which you are currently involved that is crying for such love and such revelation. Perhaps it is time to reach into your school, workplace, city, country, and world to develop new relationships with people who are hungry for love and hungry for the message of Christ which makes possible such love.
How can you invite the love of Christ into your relationships?
What is one relationship in your life that needs love to further develop?
What may be the result if you shower love on those with whom you are in relationship?
How might you enter into and develop new relationships?
As the Thessalonians became accepting of Paul's love and saw the joy of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, they became imitators of Paul in sharing the Good News (1 Thessalonians 1:6). As a result of Paul's influence, they became an influence in the lives of others: "And so you became model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thessalonians 1:7). Paul's relationship with the Thessalonians created a sacred space in which God could influence their faith.
The gift of Christ has to be "caught, not taught"–and so it is significant that we are in Christian relationship with one another so that we can model the love of Christ. Mere words cannot do justice to our eternal promise in him, and so we must strive to live lives worthy of the calling we have received. Our prayer is then that those around us may understand the amazing gift of being in relationship with Christ, and may therefore become imitators, having been influenced by the joy exhibited in the lives of Christians.
What is the value of influencing one another in Christian relationship?
What friendships have influenced you?
Why have you been influenced in those friendships?
Share a story of a time you have influenced a friend in a positive way.
Once we are in Christian relationship with one another, serving God together, we have the great joy of encouraging and supporting one another in the faith, just as Paul did for the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).
For what relationships do you regularly thank God?
Do you have a Christian support network?
Who encourages you in your faith?
Who do you encourage in the faith?
Are you receiving the spiritual encouragement and support you need?
Five Ways to Improve Your Friendships
Dietta L. Stewart
A few years ago my friend Tina told me that she might be moving to a new city. This news caused me to realize that I had taken our friendship for granted. For the first time I saw the blessing her friendship had been to me. I also took a look at my other friendships and realized I had some work to do! Here are five ways I found I could improve my friendships. You may find them helpful as well.
Don’t expect one friend to meet all your needs. In their book What Every Mom Needs, Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall write, “Just as no marriage can meet our every need for intimacy, neither can a single friendship”. It is essential to look to more than one friend to meet our special needs for intimacy. If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming overly dependent on that person, expecting more from her than she is capable or even willing to give. That’s when possessiveness sets in to suffocate the relationship. To have a lasting friendship, we must first be willing to let her go and give her room to be who she is. Also, including various friends in our lives will speak to the different aspects of our personality.
Find value in yourself and in others. “Do not be awestruck with other people,” wrote the late Norman Vincent Peale in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. “Most people despite their confident appearance and demeanor are often as scared as you are and as doubtful of themselves.” Realize that each person has something valuable to bring to the relationship. When each friend sees the other this way it brings a healthy balance to the friendship and neither person runs the risk of losing her identity.
Allow friends room to grow. Tina once told me about one of her friends from high school. It was five years before she saw her friend after graduation, and then a couple more years passed before she was able to see her again. But during the time they were together she said, “It was like we’d never left. We could always pick up where we left off.” A good solid friendship picks up where it leaves off. We often wonder, “Don’t we have to see our friends or call them at least twice a day to be close?” The answer is “no”. Most women barely have time to talk heartily with their friends once or twice a week, let alone a day. A friendship should be built on trust. We have to trust that our friends do love us and care for us, even when they can’t see or call us as often as we would like. When a friend needs to take some time away to minister to others or to further develop, we should encourage her efforts and be sensitive to her need.
Accept friends the way they are -- don’t try to change them. Have you ever given a friend advice and then found out later that she didn’t follow through with what you told her? Were you hurt or upset? Did you feel betrayed, like maybe she didn’t trust you? It’s not our responsibility to change or fix our friends. Our purpose is simply to love them. Like us, our friends are “under construction”. If there are any changes to be made God will make them in His time.
Pray for and with your friend. Prayer with a friend is like a tall glass of ice water on a hot summer day – it’s refreshing, it’s cleansing, and it revitalizes the spirit. When I pray with my friends it becomes evident to me that we share more than a friendship. We are sisters, and we share a loving Father.
A few weeks after receiving the news from Tina, I found out that she wasn’t leaving after all. She and her husband decided that where they were was home. Though initially she was happy, she seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief when she found out she was staying. So did I.
As glad as I was that my friend didn’t leave, I was even more glad that she almost did. If she hadn’t presented me with the mere possibility of her moving, I would have missed an awesome opportunity for growth. Now I am privileged to know the real treasure I have in my friends and I am thankful.
The Christian Counter