SEVEN THINGS TO KNOW IF YOUR SPOUSE IS DIFFICULT

SEVEN THINGS TO KNOW IF YOUR SPOUSE IS DIFFICULT

 

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-18)

 

There is a good chance your spouse is not everything you hoped for in a marriage. Of course, neither are you. Imperfect people have a way of disappointing imperfect people. Perchance your spouse is difficult at times to live with, here are seven things for you to know.

 

God Loves You

There is a loneliness in a difficult marriage that keeps you alone. If you are not careful, you can begin to think the good Lord has left you too. It is not true. God loves you, and your circumstances do not alter His love for you. Conditions can change you, but one of the Lord’s many attributes is His immutability: He never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

 

Your Spouse Is Caught

Paul would say something caught your spouse (Galatians 6:1). Imagine if you were walking through the woods and found your spouse ensnared around the ankle by a bear trap. Your spouse is caught in sin, and cannot extricate himself/herself from it. The caught-ness does not excuse the behavior or the need to confront it, but it does help you to understand there’s a greater issue in play (Galatians 6:1-2).

 

You Are To Restore

Paul wants you to give serious thought to how you respond to your spouse. If you walked up on your spouse in the forest, how would you respond? Would you become angry because something caught your spouse or would you try to gently restore while keeping watch on your soul, so you do not become tempted to sin?

 

Find Some Help

Because of your spouse’s habituation in a pattern of difficulty and your vulnerability, you must reach out for help. Do not go through this alone. Regardless of your spouse’s desire to control you, find someone to walk with through this process. Even the Bible’s call to submission does not prevent you from helping a caught person.

 

Prepare For the Long Haul

I do not know if your spouse will ever change. I do know there are several situations in the Bible where the Lord allowed sin. Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), the story of Joseph, (Genesis 50:20), as well as the story of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16; Romans 9:17), are three examples. The most profound illustration where God allowed sin for His greater purposes is when He crushed His Son (Isaiah 53:10).

 

Pray Without Ceasing

Though I am not sure your spouse will change, there is no question the Lord is calling you to an other-world reliance on Him (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). You cannot fix your spouse (1 Corinthians 3:6). I know you know this, but I want to state it clearly, and you need to remind yourself of this truth over and over again. Your most compelling call to action is to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

 

Guard Your Heart

Guard your heart with all diligence because what flows out of it will determine the course of your life (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45). Your marriage is a temptation for you to sin because of your disappointment. Do you hear yourself thinking? Do you hear how you speak to others about your marriage? Do your close friends agree that you’re guarding your heart?

 

Time to Reflect

Your gratitude will affect your attitude. It is a quirky saying, but you will remember it, and if you apply the saying to your life, it will begin to change you regardless of what happens to your spouse.

DOES YOUR MARRIAGE LOOK LIKE THIS?

DOES YOUR MARRIAGE LOOK LIKE THIS?

 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)

 

A husband and wife are not just two people within the marriage. Yes, they have independent relationships with the LORD and with other people, but they are also one flesh. Like our blessed Trinity, there is perfect oneness that unites the Persons.

 

This kind of union is both a mystery and practical reality. Though you cannot fully understand what a one flesh union means, you can functionally and faithfully participate in a one flesh marriage, while enjoying its benefits.

 

Before two people make a one flesh covenant (agreement) with God, they were two individuals belonging to different family units. At some point after meeting, they realized that being with each other was worth leaving their respective families to set-up their unique autonomous domestic empire.

 

A family is not just when a couple has children, but when a couple is married. The first family unit was Adam and Eve. They later added children to their family unit. This newly formed family of two agreed they would honor, cherish, love, and serve each other until death separated their one flesh union.

 

At the beginning of any marital covenant the couple, for the most part, are two different entities. Though “on paper” they are one flesh under God and before the world, they are yet unable to enjoy all the benefits of being one flesh fully. With time, grace, community, and intentionality, it will be possible for them to mature into a God-husband-wife harmonic union.

 

Not able to entirely enjoy what it means to be one flesh is similar to our relationship with the LORD. After your second birth (John 3:7), you received everything (2 Peter 1:3) needed to be Christlike (Ephesians 4:22-24). However, the functional working out (Philippians 2:12) of the fullness that God intends for you to enjoy takes a while to enjoy thoroughly (2 Peter 3:18).

 

One flesh living is a lifelong journey. From your first introduction to your future separation at death, your lives should be an ever-unfolding mystery that incrementally reveals itself as you navigate the contours of life together.

 

The idea of living in a one flesh marriage is like many petals on a flower that mature through time. It is an assimilation of mind, body, soul, spirit, emotions, will, strengths, weaknesses, and more. Here are some of the goals a married couple moves toward as they begin to mature into a practical one flesh union. Begin each descriptor below with, “We are one in…”

 

Desires Passions           Affection for God        Parenting         Finances

Plans    Aspirations       Choices            Thoughts         Ideas

Words  Manners           Relationships    Tastes   Interpretations

Dreams Friendships      Forgiveness      Humor Confession

Hobbies           Expectations    Fun      Intimacy          Prayer

A man and a woman are different in many ways, particularly as it pertains to their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and gifts. To be one flesh does not mean they are to be a carbon copy of each other. It means all of their positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses blend into a unified, harmonic, God-centered, other-centered, one flesh union.

 

What Adam was missing, Eve supplied. What Eve was missing, Adam provided. Like gears perfectly meshing into each other to make the machine function at an optimal level, the husband and wife “mesh” into each other so they can present a God-glorifying symmetry.

 

Being different does not have to displace unity. Because of the grace of God, your differences within your one-flesh union should create completeness and wholeness. Just like in the Trinity, there is a place for differences within the unity.

 

Time to Reflect

Think about the “one flesh” list above. Which ones stuck out to you? What other one-flesh ideas would you add to the list? Add three things.

DOES YOUR BEHAVIOR PUSH YOUR SPOUSE TO CHRIST?

DOES YOUR BEHAVIOR PUSH YOUR SPOUSE TO CHRIST?

 

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

 

How do you positively or negatively contribute to your marriage? In broad categories, you can help in one of two ways, though you probably assist in both, depending on what is going on in any particular season of your marriage:

 

You can motivate your spouse by grace.

You can de-motivate your spouse by your sinful attitudes, words, or behaviors.

There are times that a spouse can be so hurt and so angry with their spouse—because of the ongoing disappointments from their spouse—that they do not see their sinful contributions to the marriage.

 

Those are the sad situations where the person shuts out the Spirit of God from the marriage (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). The mounting disappointment is overwhelming, and the spouses are more about grenade launching than redemptive communication (Ephesians 4:29).

 

For the wife, it will almost always be in the area of respect. Nothing will cut the heart out of a husband like a wife’s disrespecting attitude or tongue. Her husband is wired to lead, but because of sin, his temptation is to lead poorly, especially in their marriage. I am sorry it is this way, but too often, that is the case. He needs a wife’s assistance to help him to lead well.

 

For the husband, it is mostly about love and protection. Nothing will cut the heart out of a wife like a husband who is lazy in his love and his protective care. If he does not love his wife well, he is contributing to her steady distancing from the marriage (Ephesians 5:28-29). Though she is responsible for her choice to distance herself, he is responsible for his sinful contribution to her actions.

 

The answers for the husband and the wife are to think about each other the way Christ thinks about them. Christ loves imperfect people, and He is always busy working on their behalf, seeking to redeem and transform them into His likeness.

 

Is your spouse imperfect? Does that surprise you? It should not. The testimony of Scripture is far less flattering regarding the human condition. Your spouse deserves to go to hell. There is nothing that speaks to his/her worthlessness like the outcome for all spouses, who have not been born a second time (John 3:7; Romans 3:12; Revelation 20:15).

 

The good news is how the gospel penetrates all people’s nonsense and gives them something undeserved. The gospel gives spouses empowering favor (James 3:6). What they get is not based upon their behaviors (Isaiah 64:6), but upon the grace, mercy, and love of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

 

Imitating Christ’s redemptive behavior is how you are to live with your spouse (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ does not put things in your way to demotivate you to live for His glory. He is not annoying or aggravating. He draws you by His love. He overcomes your nonsense by keeping His eye on a better prize (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:14).

 

Christ is a transformer, whose purpose is to transform your life. Even being despised and rejected by others did not deter Him from His restorative goals (Isaiah 53:3; Galatians 6:1-2).

 

Time to Reflect

Think about how what you should be doing to your spouse is what Christ does for you.

 

How has your behavior contributed to the state of your marriage?

Does your spouse feel encouraged being around you?

RADICAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION TIP

RADICAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION TIP

 

“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

 

A few years ago I was counseling a couple who were angry with each other. During our counseling, I asked the wife what was wrong with the marriage. Without hesitation or skipping a beat, she gave me a long, clear, and detailed list of all the things that were wrong with her husband. There was no question about it: he was a failure.

 

Because I like to play fair, I turned to the husband and asked him about the state of their marriage. Without flinching or taking a breath, the husband gave me a list of all the things his wife had done wrong in their marriage. There was no question about it: she was a failure.

 

Two people looking at the same thing had two completely different perspectives on how their marriage became such a dysfunctional mess.

 

Not to be discouraged because of their impeccable memories about what was wrong with their marriage, I turned back to the wife and asked her to give me a list of all the good things she appreciated about her husband. I asked the husband for a similar list regarding his wife.

 

At that point, the most fascinating thing happened. Without warning and within seconds both spouses were overcome with a severe case of amnesia. They could not think of anything.

 

Because my combatants found themselves stuck in their self-imposed self-righteousness, I decided to take another angle to break the conundrum. I read Matthew 7:3-5 to them.

 

I asked each spouse to list all the ways they had personally failed in their marriage. The one stipulation was they could not add the word “but” to any of their reasons for their personal failures in the marriage. Their log list was to include all overt as well as less discernible offenses that they had inflicted on each other.

 

Simultaneously to building their log lists, I asked them to create a grace list. They were to write down all of the good things they appreciated about their spouse, as well as all the good things their spouse does in their marriage.

 

I would like to say they did what I asked them to do, but that was not the case. It is rare for any couple to take this challenge because of the claim that stubbornness, unforgiveness, and other pride-related issues have on their hearts.

 

The gospel is radical by itself, but it is even more radical when two people begin to practicalize it into their lives. What about you? Has the gospel radicalized you? There are two ways to assess yourself:

 

Are you more aware of and more willing to identify your sin than the sin of your spouse?

Are you more willing to be an encouragement to your spouse rather than a critic?

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies and do good…for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. – Luke 6:32-33, 35

 

Time to Reflect

If you want to radicalize your marriage, here are four things you can do today:

 

Start your log list.

Start your grace list.

Meet with your spouse to confess your log list, while asking for forgiveness.

Share your grace list, while thanking God for His work in the life of your spouse.

DATING TO DIVORCE AND HOW WE GOT THERE

DATING TO DIVORCE AND HOW WE GOT THERE

 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)

 

If you put two sinners in a room (home) for an extended period with no plan for escape, you can expect problems. There may be a lot of love along the way, but there will also be problems. It’s unavoidable.

 

The dating couple can break-up and go on to the next relationship. Vocational relationships are similar. If you don’t like your boss or the environment in which you work, you can move on to the next thing.

 

Marriage is different. Though it’s easy to get into, there is no escape plan other than death (Matthew 19:8). Sadly, too many couples ignore the hardness of their hearts and create an alternate plan. It’s called divorce.

 

By the time two people enter a dating relationship, they come together with baggage: fallen shaping influences given to them by Adam, others, and their poor personal choices. Then after you mix their baggage together, there is no way to avoid sinful combustion in the home.

 

As you have probably surmised, you and your spouse are sinners. You not only came from your respective mothers’ wombs speaking lies (Psalm 58:3), but you created a whole lot of baggage before you met each other. Some of your baggage was your doing, while other individuals heaped the rest of it upon you. Either way, you both came together with more luggage than Samsonite.

 

Perhaps you did not perceive all the issues during your dating relationship. Maybe your pre-marriage counseling was inadequate. Too often there is no one with the courage, grace, wisdom, or competence to speak into the lives of engaged couples. And to tell the truth, you were “in love,” so there was very little anyone could say to you anyway, right?

 

You left your baggage at the dating door and didn’t pick it up again until you were six months into your marriage. If you have been a wise and humble couple, you have sought help for your marriage. You know that the best sanctification happens in a community.

 

Sometimes couples do not seek help early, and after being married for more than a decade, they cannot keep their problems under wraps any longer. Their marriage problems begin to escape their ability to keep it quiet. The couple’s nest is emptying as their children become older, and they are still without a sin plan. The children are no longer a distraction, and the struggling couple has to decide between four options:

 

Find help.

Get a divorce.

Find other distractions like ministry, hobbies, or grandchildren.

Coexist in a house that is not a home, waiting on one of them to die.

My appeal to any couple in trouble, regardless of the length of their marriage, is to get help. God’s grace is greater than your problems, no matter how complex you think your problems are. The Bible has a lot to say about working through conflict. There is a plan for sin, and it begins with the gospel. The only requirement is humility (James 4:6).

 

Though you may have begun on the wrong foot, it does not mean you have to stay that way. God came to redeem and restore what you cannot fix. Redeeming broken things is at the heart of the gospel. I appeal to you to get help today!

 

Time to Reflect

Are you still surprised that your spouse sins? If so, why are you surprised?

Rather than being frustrated by your spouse’s failures, what is one way you can cooperate with God in helping your spouse change (Galatians 6:1-2)?

 

THE MOST EFFECTIVE THING YOU CAN DO

THE MOST EFFECTIVE THING YOU CAN DO

 

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

 

The modeling and practicing of repentance in your home are at the top of the list of what you both should be doing. And if you are not doing this well, your marriage can only limp along, with a Bandaid approach to death, while accelerating the accumulative frustration that leftover, hungover sinning does to you.

 

There is no way to circumvent the hard and humble way of going to your spouse, confessing your sin, asking for forgiveness, and for that spouse to have a similar kind of humility that forgiveness granting exemplifies to the offender.

 

And from that good starting point, you will know if you have authentically buried the hatchet if you can talk about what happened in nonpunitive ways. There is no biblical reason for a Christian couple not to do this, but I suspect the overwhelming majority of those who name the name of Christ do not live out authentic, practical repentance in their marriages.

 

But it gets better: After you have declared that you nailed the sin to Jesus’ cross, you can start doing the grace-empowered work of working through what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to keep from repeating the offense.

 

Where else in God’s world can the offender and the offended collaborate in the sanctification of the offender, and the ongoing restorative development of their marriage? Real life change is a stunning turn of events for fallen people. And it’s one of the best kept secrets in Christian families and the local churches they attend.

 

If you are a practitioner of full repentance, keep on digging into the process. It’s a gift from the Lord (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Don’t ever let up. Refine it. Be sure it is reflexive repentance: as soon as you sin, you name it and claim it, and your spouse reflexes in a similar way by granting repentance and then restoring the marriage.

 

Time to Reflect:

Here are the 13-steps in sequential order to authentic, biblical repentance. I’ve labeled and defined each step for you. As you read through the list, ask yourself if you are doing these things?

 

Sin – What does it mean to have clearly defined sin categories?

Guilt – Do you understand that all sin brings guilt, whether you know it or not?

Conviction – Do you have a biblically informed conscience that experiences the Spirit’s conviction?

Confession – After you sin, do you “agree” with God (and anyone else you sinned against) that you transgressed?

Pre-forgiveness – When your spouse sins against you, do you quickly get to the place to where you want to forgive your spouse?

Forgiveness – When you sin, do you seek to transact forgiveness with your spouse?

Post-forgiveness – Does the power of the gospel neutralize the offense between both of you so you can talk about what happened?

Reconcile – After you ask for and receive forgiveness, are you able to reconcile by the power of the gospel.

Restoration – With the sin behind you, do you actively seek to keep from doing it again?

Put off – Do your sin categories give you the insight you need to know what to put off?

Renew your mind – As you are putting off the offense, are you training your inner person not to do it again?

Put on – What does it mean to put on Christ?

Disciple – Active repentance is not about getting better, but about getting better so you can help others. Are you practically discipling your spouse?

 

HIS PROBLEMS, HER PROBLEMS: ONE PROBLEM

HIS PROBLEMS, HER PROBLEMS: ONE PROBLEM

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become

one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

I watched my wife go through three miscarriages. They happened to her. It was her pain, her

disappointment, her fear.

They were my miscarriages too. I did not feel and hurt the way she did. I have no idea of the physical,

mental, and emotional agony of a miscarriage–at least not the way she does. But I hurt because she was

hurting. I hurt because I lost something too. We are one flesh.

When someone murdered my brother in 1997, my wife hurt along with me. She did not hurt the way I did,

but she hurt because her husband was hurting. We are not two people, acting independently of each other.

We are one body (Hebrews 13:3). When I sin–no matter what it is–my wife has a responsibility in that

sin. She would never say,

That’s Rick’s problem. That’s his sin.

No, it’s our sin. She is not guilty of my sin, and she does not repent of my sin, but she has a role to play

because she is me and I am her–we are one. When I sin, she runs to my aid by calling me out or caring for

me. She becomes my disciple. My confidant. Similar to when a briar cuts an arm, the body comes to the

rescue.

Too often when one marriage partner sins, the other acts as though they are not part of the one flesh

union. This kind of marriage detachment is the Job’s wife syndrome: the non-sinning spouse gets mad

when the other spouse sins (Job 2:9).

Ironically, this means both of them are sinning. When two people respond sinfully to sin, they both are

guilty before God and before each other. They both need to repent.

It’s like cursing your arm when it gets cut. That’s weird. That’s your body. You shouldn’t get mad at

yourself when something happens to yourself. Are you following my logic? It is biblical insanity to get

mad at your spouse when he (she) sins.

When part of the body rejects another part of the body, you have a problem. You better call a doctor or, in

this case, if you’re unwilling to repent, you better call your pastor or some other competent helper. You

need help. There is something wrong with your body.

Are you a rescuer and restorer or are you a critic and condemner? You’ll never be more tested on this than

when your spouse does something that hurts you. Never forget that your spouse is an instrument the

LORD uses to mature you.

We see this in Paul’s warning about a person in sin and a person who helps a person in sin. Take a look at

these three verses and note how much time he spent talking to the helper (47 words) rather than the

person in sin (7 words).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of

gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill

the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

(Galatians 6:1-3)

If you don’t see your spouse’s problem as your problem, you won’t be an active part of the solution, and

your marriage will go to places where it cannot recover. Paul warned the restorers to guard their hearts

against this kind of self-deception.

Time to Reflect:

How would you characterize yourself as it pertains to your spouse: are you more of a restorer or

condemner?

ARE YOU “FOR” YOUR SPOUSE?

ARE YOU “FOR” YOUR SPOUSE?

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

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave

himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

(Ephesians 5:1-2)

If you are going to imitate the Lord in your marriage (Ephesians 5:1), being “for” your spouse must be a

logical and loving practice. That is how Paul talked to the Romans about the Lord’s attitude toward them.

He said God was for them.

And God is for you too. Think just a moment about how God is for you and how that motivates you to

love Him. God being “for you” is the highlight of the gospel; He is the one person you cannot have

against you.

Before Paul told the Christians in Rome that God was for them in Romans 8:31, he provided a few

practical examples of how God was for them (Romans 8:29-30). He talked about God’s active goodness

on behalf of those He loves. Here is how he said it:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he

might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those

whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

They were not left to wonder about God’s “for-ness” toward them. They felt the assurance of His love,

based on His activity. He foreknew them, predestined them, called them, justified them, and glorified

them.

Do you remember the context in which Paul wrote Romans? People were killing the Christians in Rome.

It was a public slaughter, a time of personal disappointment and defeat. The culture had turned against

them, and Paul wanted the believers to know they were not alone: God was there. God was for them.

Not only does he remind them of what God did (vs. 29-30) by bringing them to the point where they

could clearly see God’s activity in their lives (vs. 31), but he continued to hammer the gospel nail by

repeatedly reminding them of Sovereign God’s protective care. (Read Romans 8:32-39)

Speaking about God’s love for them only once was not enough for Paul. He believed in gospel

redundancy–using different words and ways to say the same thing until his audience not only understood

what he was saying but that knowledge transformed them.

What better thing could you give to your spouse? If the Lord is for your undeserving spouse and you are

for your undeserving spouse, your spouse is in the best place any human could be. The two greatest things

that could ever happen to a couple is for them to live in the overflowing awareness of God’s unmerited

pleasure while exporting and experiencing each other’s undeniable affection for each other.

Take a Moment to Reflect:

You would do well to follow Paul’s example by examining your heart as it pertains to how you think

about and treat your spouse. These questions will aid you as you think about the gospel and its practical

outworking in your marriage.

Is your spouse assured of your love, based on your actions (James 1:22)?

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Read: Colossians 1:24-26

During Jesus’s ministry, “The disciples came to Him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them’” (Matthew 13:10-12).

The “them” in verse 12 refers to non-believers. In Jesus’s day, many of his stories remained a mystery, or a secret, to non- believers. But, then came Paul. He was able to reveal that Jesus came to seek and save lost sinners just like us. He said in Colossians that he had become a “suffering” servant of the body of Christ, which is the church. He was presenting “the word of God in its fullness.” Because Paul told the world, people heard about Jesus and came to know him.

We can do what Paul did and share the story of Jesus. Because we now have the Bible, we can both tell and show the story. As believers in a relationship with Him, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus continually reveals new things to us as we read scripture and pray. We want to share with others the knowledge and joy this brings. It’s one way to be sure we are progressing in our journey of learning about who Jesus is and who he wants us to be.

The Bible only remains a secret if it is not read. To a world that still waits in desperation to hear the Good News, what a joy to share the wondrous secret that God’s word is alive and active and waiting to be revealed (Hebrews 4:12)!

Reflect:

·       If you are not spending at least 10 minutes each day reading your Bible, start today with a Bible reading plan! 

·       What is one way you have found reading the Bible to be difficult? What is one way you have found joy and comfort in reading?

·       What are some scriptures that you have found especially helpful in your journey? Have you thought about sharing those with others as a way to introduce them to Bible reading?

You Have a New Address

You Have a New Address

Read: Colossians 1:17-23

Have you ever felt dominated by something? Like it’s ruling your life? Maybe every fall you refuse to schedule anything on Saturdays so that you can watch your favorite college football team play. Or maybe you’ve said that if you don’t get at least two cups of coffee in the morning everyone should watch out. Sometimes, things can take control of our life without us consciously deciding to submit. Sometimes, it’s more serious than college football or caffeine. Sometimes it’s sin.

All of us have sinned. Do you ever feel controlled by your sin? Like you can’t get out from it? Like you don’t have a choice in doing it? Or like the guilt that you feel from it will never leave you? You aren’t alone. We have all felt that way, and in Colossians, Paul writes about Christ’s answer to that.

Paul says that Christ, who has given us redemption and forgiveness of our sins, has rescued us from sin’s control over us. He says that Christ has brought us into His Kingdom, under His protection.

Because of Christ’s rescue, we no longer have to feel the weight of sin’s dominion over us. We don’t live in the kingdom of sin anymore. We live in the Kingdom of God!

Reflect:

·       The only way to have our hearts changed to be more like God’s is if we’re honest with Him about what we struggle with. What do you feel like has control over you?

·       What’s one way that you can thank God for rescuing you from sin today?

·       In Mark 5:19, Jesus says “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” In what way (and with whom), can you share your story with today?

If you’d like to read more about how Christ has freed us from sin, just check out Romans 6.

Bring in the Light

Bring in the Light

Read: Colossians 1:13-16

Too often, we stroll through without a care in the world, consumed with self and blind to the dangers of darkness. Many fail to recognize the urgency of being rescued from the dark. But God, because of His great love for us, relentlessly pursues us, especially when we are in the dark. Because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, He is willing and ready to sweep us up into His arms and rescue us from certain destruction (2 Timothy 1:9-10). For, while we were still know-it-alls, laughing at the dangers of life and living for the moment, Christ died for us.

He did not wait for us to realize we were running into traffic. He did not wait for us to slow down, pull it all together and fix our lives. He gave His life regardless of the fact that we are sinners. He did this so we could believe in Him and be brought into the light. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (v.15). In Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). The soul asleep in deepest gloom is changed from night to day when Jesus walks into the room and pushes away the dark, filling it with light.

Reflect:

·       What is one area of your life that is full of Jesus’s light? How did it get this way?

·       Is there an attitude or habit you keep hidden in the dark? If so, what is one way you can bring it to the light?

Ask God to help you live freely in His light. Give Him complete control.

Put Your Knowledge Into Action

Put Your Knowledge Into Action

Read: Colossians 1:9-12

The book of Colossians encourages us to put our knowledge into practice. It’s not enough to just know information from the Bible because knowledge doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom and understanding. In order to gain the full understanding that God wants for us, we must live out our faith. Like the teacher who can’t gain full understanding of the effectives of his lesson plans until after he’s presented them, we can’t gain full understanding of the Biblical knowledge we have obtained until we actually act on what we know.

We can know that we are called to serve others (1 Peter 4:10), but until we serve, we aren’t going to fully understand the purpose of serving. We can know that we must forgive others (Ephesians 4:32), but until we put that knowledge into practice, we won’t gain the wisdom that comes from living more like Jesus. We can know that we must put God first in our finances (Malachi 3:8-12), but until we tithe and give offerings joyfully, our knowledge is nothing but knowledge. God wants us to live lives full of wisdom and understanding. By putting our knowledge into action, we can begin to gain those qualities and become more like Him.

Reflect:

·       Are there any Biblical truths that you know but aren’t putting into action? What is one step you can take today to move from knowledge to wisdom and understanding?

·       Do you need to know more about the Bible before you can begin putting it into action? Just ten minutes of reading a day can change your life. Try one of reading plans to help you get started.

You Are Not the Answer

You Are Not the Answer

Read: Colossians 1:6-8

If you are overwhelmed by life, take comfort in this: You are not the source to the solution. You can't face these difficulties alone, and you're not meant to. You will not win the battle on your own, so stop trying. It's okay to let go.

Colossians 1:6-8 says our hope is in Heaven. The Gospel, the word of truth, bears fruit in our lives, and it won't stop. The grace of God is real and active. Christ ministers to us and through us. The Holy Spirit fills us with his love.

God is the solution we need. He is the source. Consider the way plants grow: we may choose a sunny spot for our garden, place the plants in good soil and even water them. But who is the one who made the sun? Who gives earth the right nutrients plants need? Who decided two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom are essential for living things to survive? God is the origin of photosynthesis. He makes science work. He is the source of all wisdom and growth and beauty and life. We just move dirt and water around.

The same is true in our lives. God has placed you where and when you are for a purpose. The house you live in, the people you know - none of it is a coincidence. He knows you. He formed you. You are not an accident. He knows what brings you joy and life and what brings you hurt and sorrow. Stay connected with Him through prayer, scripture, and community with other believers, and He'll show you how to overcome.

Reflect:

·       Is there an area in your life in which you feel overwhelmed? What is one thing you can do to begin looking toward Jesus for the solution to your anxiety?

·       What is one way you stay connected to God? What is one way you can stay better connected?


 

Gratitude Adjustment

Gratitude Adjustment

Read: Colossians 1:1-5

The gift was just right. It was delivered exactly as planned. But something went wrong. Days turned to weeks, and not a word was heard about the gift. Sound familiar? How rude. Maybe the recipient hated it. But surely at least a “thank you for trying” was in order.

When we don’t receive the thanks we feel we deserve, we find ourselves getting angry. But who gave us the resources to buy that gift and the ability to go shop for it? How many times have we forgotten to say thank you? Have we become ungrateful?

Ungratefulness in our lives is not limited to gifts. It may come in the form of comparing what you have to someone else’s life. If only I were taller, or richer or skinnier, then I’d be satisfied. Or you could be so connected to technology, checking news, emails and “urgent” tweets, you miss the miracle of a sunset or an irreplaceable moment with your family. We also display ungratefulness when we keep track of all the people who neglect to thank us or constantly worry about potential disastrous outcomes for the future. Ungratefulness can also show when we begin to take for granted our brothers and sisters in Christ who continuously pray for, encourage and support us or those who encourage us by their unwavering faith.    

If you find yourself doing any of that, you’re not alone. Before you start beating yourself up, there’s good news.

Paul and Timothy give us a great example of thankfulness in Colossians 1:3 as they remember to thank the people in Colossae for their encouraging faith. Philippians 4:6 tells us exactly how to attack anxiety and derail destructive thoughts: “Don’t worry, but pray; tell God what you need; thank Him, and God’s peace will come.” And 1 Corinthians 1:5 says it all: “For in Him you have been enriched in every way.” You have everything you need. Thank God!

Reflect:

·       Write three things in your life you’re thankful for right now. Why is it important to remember these things?

·       What is one way you can show gratefulness toward those who encourage you and support you in your faith?

“Stop Saying "Hate" and Start Saying "Joy" by Joyce Meyer

“Stop Saying "Hate" and Start Saying "Joy" by Joyce Meyer

Let there be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse [obscene or vulgar] joking, because such things are not appropriate [for believers]; but instead speak of your thankfulness [to God].  (Ephesians 5:4) (AMP)

Quite often people use the phrase “I hate.” They hate driving to work, cleaning their houses, going to the grocery store, cutting the grass, paying their bills, and on and on.

I think each time we say we “hate” something, it makes it harder for us to do it with joy the next time.

Start saying by faith that you enjoy those things that are naturally more difficult for you to enjoy. Start saying it in obedience to God, and soon you will find those things to be more enjoyable.

We can talk ourselves into things and out of things. You can talk yourself into despising something you need to do, or you can have a good attitude and speak good words about it and make it a lot more pleasant.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to agree with Your Word and begin talking myself into a joyful life. Help me to speak life-giving, positive, and thankful words. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Gifts of Grace” by Joyce Meyer

“Gifts of Grace” by Joyce Meyer

As long as we are worrying, we are not trusting God. It is only by trusting, by having faith and confidence in the Lord, that we are able to enter into His rest and enjoy the peace that transcends all understanding.

Prayer Starter: Father, I take a moment right now to lift up my needs to You. Help me with this day to trust You completely and receive Your peace, knowing You have everything under control. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Gifts of Grace” by Joyce Meyer

“Gifts of Grace” by Joyce Meyer

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  (Romans 12:3)

Proud people compare themselves to others and feel superior if they are able to do something others cannot do.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, the apostle Paul wrote, But by grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) o God I am what I am (AMPC). If you do not realize you are what you are by the grace of God, you will think more highly of yourself than you should.

You should judge yourself soberly, knowing that without God you can do nothing of value. Success only comes by His grace. Your accomplishments and abilities are not yours to take credit for—they are gifts from a loving Father.

Prayer Starter: Lord, thank You for Your grace that enables me to do everything. Help me to always treat others with an attitude of humility. Help me to constantly lean on You and humbly receive Your help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Avoid the Slingers” by Joyce Meyer

“Avoid the Slingers” by Joyce Meyer

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

There were people in the Bible called "slingers" who defeated their enemies by slinging stones and throwing dirt into their wells, contaminating their life source of water (see 2 Kings 3:25).

We all know people who sling accusation, judgment, criticism, and faultfinding at others. We certainly don't want slingers in our life, and we don't want to become slingers either.

Don't be a slinger who contaminates your own faith or the faith of those around you. Spending time with God will fill you with "living water" (see John 7:38). You will be edified and become a source of encouragement for others all day long.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I know it’s only through spending time with You that I can become a source of encouragement and blessing to others. Help me to protect this time and seek You diligently. Help me to become someone who is full of faith and who strengthens the faith of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Staying Power” by Joyce Meyer

“Staying Power” by Joyce Meyer

[Looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity]... (Hebrews 12:2) (AMP)

People who finish well in life are the ones with strong character. As believers, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit is developing the character in us that we need to do what God calls us to do—we have “staying power.”

Jesus did not quit when His circumstances were rough, and He is our example. The Bible says we are to look away from all that distracts and look to Jesus instead.

I think most of us want to do and be everything God intends for us, and to enjoy it along the way. Great joy comes with finishing the race God has called you to run.

Enjoy the journey and keep your eyes on the prize. One of the greatest testimonies you can have is I’m still here. When you speak those words, you are saying, “I did not quit. I did not give up. I am still here.”

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I have staying power. I make the decision today to keep going—to never give up. Help me to run my race with perseverance and discover the joy of finishing each task well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“The Best Thing for You” by Joyce Meyer

“The Best Thing for You” by Joyce Meyer

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly... (Romans 12:6) (AMP)

We all have different gifts, but we shouldn’t compare or be jealous of the gifts of others.

I remember hearing one preacher talk of how often he saw Jesus. I had never seen Jesus, so I wondered what was wrong with me.

Another person I knew prayed four hours every morning. I could not find enough to pray about to keep praying for four hours and always ended up bored and sleepy, so I wondered what was wrong with me.

I had no gift to remember large portions of Scripture like someone I knew, who memorized all the Psalms and Proverbs as well as other entire books of the Bible, so I wondered what was wrong with me.

I finally realized that nothing was wrong with me.

Whatever we cannot do, there are many other things we can. Whatever someone else can do, there are also things they cannot. Don’t let Satan deceive you any longer. Don’t compare yourself with anyone in any way, especially not spiritually.

We can see other people’s good examples and be encouraged by them, but they must never become our standard. Even if we learn how to do something from them, we still will not do it exactly the same way.

At some time or another, I think we all fall into the trap of wondering why we are not like others we know or why we don’t have the same experiences they do, but it is a trap—and a dangerous one. We are caught in a snare set by Satan when we enter into spiritual competition and comparison, and we become dissatisfied with what God is giving to us.

We should trust that God will do the best thing for each of us and let Him choose what that is. If we trust God in this way, we can lay aside our fears and insecurities about ourselves.

I am sure we would all like to see into the spiritual realm and have an abundance of supernatural experiences, but getting frustrated if we don’t only steals our peace, and certainly does not produce visions of Jesus.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for making me a special individual with unique gifts and talents. Help me today and every day to be the best me I can be. Help me to also love and appreciate others for their unique gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.