May I Join You for May?

I can’t believe May has nearly arrived. I don’t feel like I’ve exhausted April yet and it’s already time to take off into the wild-blue future. That said, I’m going to do my best to linger in the past a little bit longer. I want to talk a little bit more about the persecuted church. I want to dig into the persecuted church in America? Think it doesn’t happen? Think again. We’ll take a close look at the truth about our religious liberty in America, how it’s being threatened and increase our prayers for those who boldly protect and defend our freedoms.

I just finished a Bible study called Enhancing Your Marriage, by Judy Rossi. The last chapter reminded me of something I haven’t done in a while. Judy led participants in praying for their husbands using Scripture almost exclusively. Years ago, I read a book called Praying the Bible: Pathway to Spirituality.  Though I do not advocate all of the Campbells’ doctrine, this book changed my prayer life dramatically. Thanks to Judy’s reminder, I have  once again culled the Scriptures for God-sotted prayers. It makes praying easy, not to mention powerful and focused. I’ll share several prayers with you this week that I have written from chapters in the Bible.

Satanism is a topic that most Christians either rush toward out of gross curiosity and the tantalizing opportunity for debate, or they run the other way with tails tucked between their legs. “Flee, flee, flee evil!” I just picked up a gripping book called Ascent From Darkness. Author, Michael Leehan shares how “Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.” As Satan is the father of lies, there are few books more fitting to review on this blog. As I share my thoughts on this book, I’ll whet your appetite to devour it yourself.

And finally, if you’re being truthful, do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that when you’re the most out of control, you are the most primed for miraculous intervention? Just this morning, my entire day’s plans crashed and burned before 10 a.m. Being a woman of preparation and forward thinking (to a fault) I was tempted to go back to bed and just try again tomorrow. However, the dog needed out no matter how badly my day was going, so I took him to the trails. There, my miracle happened. The exciting thing is that this miracle bubbled over and blessed someone else too. I’ll share that story with you and in the meantime, I’m going to be on the lookout for many “mini” miracles. If you see any, will you share them too?

See you soon!

We’re Doomed!

When Breakaway started up at my church, Burke Community Church, this fall, I immediately, like a good disciple, enrolled in the Beth Moore study. The other studies sounded familiar or I had never heard of the author. It seemed like a natural choice. Funny, the delightful Holy Spirit sometimes leans against my spirit, pushing me in a different direction. The hard part is, he doesn’t usually say why. Fortunately for me, this time I was obedient.

Just in time, I switched into the marriage study, Enhancing Your Marriage, by Judy Rossi. How often do you have the study’s author for a teacher?

To be honest, right now I feel like I’m drowning in marriage advice. I really wanted to focus on something else for a while. So I have really enjoyed the first four chapters of the book as they seem to deal with personal, interior issues. I guess the premise is that I have to be personally right with God before I can begin to focus on any relationship besides mine to Him.

A question came up last week as we were reading in Deuteronomy. Do you have a problem with this verse?

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9-10

This is one of those verses that send people running, screaming, “How can a loving God allow future generations to suffer for their parents’ sins? That’s not FAIR!”

After a lengthy discussion in class, I continued to ponder this verse. Yes, God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants, but that simplistic explanation doesn’t work for me. God has allowed us to know Him through Jesus Christ and His word and everything He does is consistent with His character. So, how can a God who IS love, punish innocent generations?

Consider:

Amanda had been shooting heroine for three years. After an untimely one night stand, she stood in the stall at Wal-greens and a little pink stick told her future. Pregnant. Forty weeks later, her daughter was born addicted to heroine before she ever had the chance to say no.

The consequences of Amanda’s sin were instantly translated into her daughter’s life. Amanda was destroyed every time she looked at her little girl. But that agony thrust her into an all out effort to get clean. She would offer Julie the best future possible.

Amanda began to speak about drug addiction in public schools and other forums. Every time she held Julie she was reminded of her sin and recommitted to abstinence and reaching out to others in desperate situations.

God allows the consequences of sin to tarry for three and four generations because people are hard headed and slow learners. He allows the consequences to linger so that future generations will not repeat the sins of their fathers. And remember, He said, “to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him.”

BUT GOD…

And hear the goodness of your Father’s heart: “showing steadfast love to THOUSANDS of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God’s love endures infinitely beyond the curse of sin. It is absolutely in keeping with God’s character to work for us to keep us from sin and to offer us an undying, incorruptible love. (Jer. 31:3)

Who? Little Ol’ Me?

On Friday, I will tell you a little bit more about a Bible study that I’m taking at my church. But in speaking of Weakest Moments on Wednesday, I really wanted to share this.

The study I am taking is about marriage. I feel like I really stink at this marriage thing. My husband and I are so different. How do we talk to each other? He’s never home. How do I invest in US? So, I sheepishly enrolled in the study that I hoped would “fix” me. I was floored when after the first day of class, the co-teachers asked me to be a small group leader. I thought, if only they knew how messed up I am. If  they knew how many times I’ve danced on the edge of giving up, they would never ask me to lead. But, when I prayed about it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge, so I agreed.

Much of the time, I have my radar of up for what I should be doing for God. I rarely feel satisfied with where I am. Surely there is some capacity that I am not filling.

I didn’t believe I was equipped to lead women in a marriage class; so I kept looking for something else. As I continue in prayer, I want to share some of what the Lord has been telling me. I hope you are encouraged in the vocation that He has given to you.

Abby,

Consider that I have lead you to here. I’m not ceasing to lead and guide you, but don’t you think I brought you HERE for a reason? Maybe I want to use you now, but you’re often so focused on whatever you are preparing to do. Whatever you think you SHOULD be doing for me.

Abby, choosing my way will not mean drastic change of direction or taking on something new. But learn to be interested  and invested in what I am doing in you today.

You have asked for ministry. You have been given the ministry of loving women, exposing their strengths, introducing them to relationship with me. Do not fear. Do not allow a false spirit of fear to lead you astray. You must follow, fear, listen to, serve and cling to me. I will do more than you can imagine or desire.

Do not be like Zechariah, whose voice I took for a time when he failed to believe in my power to conquer all human weakness.

I love you. Abba”

How Tough Should Love Be?

Everyone’s heard of tough love. It’s touted in interventions, employed by therapists and pondered by parents. It means: harsh or stern behavior, often thought cruel by the recipient, with the end goal of their higher good. (That’s my own definition, but it sounds official, doesn’t it?)

 

A parent shuts and locks the door behind their 17-year-old son who has been using drugs. Tough love demands that they withdraw support until he humbles himself to accept help.

 

A mild version of tough love is grounding – withholding something of need or value until the tantrum-tossing-two-year-old obediently quiets. Another example, a coach who pushes his players to near exhaustion in order to bring out their very best.

 

It is another tough love scenario that I am curious about. Is tough love biblical in marriage?

 

Many Christian counselors advocate tough love toward a habitually sinning spouse: a husband involved in pornography, a plastic-crazed wife who has driven the family into debt, an alcoholic husband or an unfaithful wife.

 

In those cases, what does real love do? Counselors often suggest that the offended spouse leave the situation. Divorce is not the end goal, but hopefully separation will force the spouse to “hit rock bottom.”

 

One psychologist explained it in terms that made obvious sense, “The offender will not stop the behavior until the pain of continuing is greater than the pain, shame or embarrassment, of change.”

 

When I hear this logic, I emphatically agree. As an addict myself (formerly addicted to many anorexic behaviors) I know that it is essential to hit “rock bottom.” So pack your bags, scribble a note or confront them head-on and head out. Right?

Such drastic behavior will undoubtedly force a drastic response. Right?

 

I was firmly persuaded until last week. I read 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, and Psalm 15:4, and 130. First Corinthians 12, espouses the body of Christ’s correct behavior. Paul admonishes the church to respect each other’s differences, honor one another, weep and rejoice with each other. All of these behaviors are designed to produce harmony and effectiveness in the body of Christ. Then it seems, if all these fail to establish and keep peace, Paul trumps them with, “But I will show you a still more excellent way.”

 

Enter, The Love Chapter. Can I possibly “bear all things,” if I leave my spouse when I get too uncomfortable? Can I possibly “believe all things,” if I refuse to attend when my spouse tries to explain their side of the story? Can I possibly hope and endure all things, when at some point, I walk away, leaving the future dangling between us?

 

I have been memorizing Romans 12. In verse nine, Paul begins a long definition of genuine love. His insistence, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” echos over and over in the halls of my mind. How can leaving show honor, in any way?

 

There are two final passages that block the doorway when I consider the tough love method. One is 1 Peter 3:1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”

 

And 1 Corinthians 7:13-14, “And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”

 

Finally, a godly counselor of a different persuasion, recently encouraged a spouse feeling led to stay in a difficult situation. He insisted that there is no shame in staying, quoting Psalm 15:1,4, “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”…”[he] who swears to his own hurt and does not change;”.

 

So, this week I want to explore the concept of Tough Love. Is it true and biblical? Is it a lie that we tell ourselves, or that the culture offers to hurting people for an excuse?

 

I am reading Dr. James Dobson’s book, “Love Must Be Tough,” and a Bible study called, “Enhancing Your Marriage,” by Judy Rossi. I will offer my gleanings from these two resources. Also, I earnestly ask for your thoughts and experiences.

 

Relationships, especially family relationships, and especially marriages are in dire jeopardy. Let’s discover and discuss God’s truth that brings healing.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let’s pursue Him!