Friday, April 17, 2009

Devotional: Life's Intersections

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” – Jer. 10:23

“A man’s steps are of the LORD; How then can a man understand his own way?”
- Proverbs 20:24

I was driving down the road the other day and came to an intersection where I had to turn left. I was waiting behind several cars as I waited for my turn to make the left and noticed that the oncoming cars were very far off. As the cars were turning I noticed that, even though the oncoming cars were far off, each driver was hesitating and double-checking before turning. I started wondering, as I was eager to turn before the light changed, why the driver’s were double-checking and hesitating before they turned if the oncoming cars were so far away. Then God hit me with a realization.

He placed on my heart that we, people, often double-check and hesitate before going onto a path that God has made for us. God oftentimes opens a door for us, and we know that it is clear and open and from Him, yet for some reason, we hesitate and double-check to make sure it is clear to go. We second-guess His decision and the path He has set before us and we think, “Well, that looks clear, but I might have a better idea,” or, “Are you sure, God, I mean, everything looks clear, and You are in control, but what about (enter fear or question here)?” Sometimes He gives us a way that we faithfully go into but after time, we stray from it because we put our desires first, get tired of waiting on results, or we want things done quicker, we want shortcuts. We forget that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We also forget that God knows “the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sometimes we are waiting on the Lord but we grow impatient and forget that everything is done in God’s time, not ours, and that time is nothing to God. As I continued driving I saw an airplane rising above the rising sun and I was reminded of the verse: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). If we wait on God, He will lift us up, He will give us the strength to endure the wait and the outcome will be greater than what we would have come up with ourselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we should always check an intersection (literal intersection) before crossing, but in the intersections of life we need to remember that God is the Crossing Guard and we are His. The Crossing Guard holds up the stop sign and the whistle to command attention. We are in the hands of an Awesome Creator who has an awesome plan for us. Yes, this plan may include being put through the fire and it may be scary but in the trials we face, we are being built up. The suffering we endure under Christ is not for no reason. In Christ it all has a purpose. I encourage you to fully put your trust in Him and instead of questioning God, when He leads you in a certain direction or down a certain path, I encourage and challenge you, and myself, to make the turns that God desires us to make, and to live the life He desires for you. There is nothing better than being in the will of God, and even though cars may be coming fast and hard from the other direction, God, our Crossing Guard, is in control.

Sometimes the paths we must go down are painful and sad, but God is with us every step of the way. Our foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ is unshakeable, immovable. Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” God won’t leave us hanging in the middle of the intersection by ourselves especially when there’s oncoming traffic. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

References: The Bible, NKJV;

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marriage Series:Part 1: "The Foundation"

My boyfriend and I recently finished attending marital classes that were offered by our church. I personally recommend taking marital classes to anyone who is looking to get married someday and even to those who are already married. These classes offered insight into what God says about marriage through His Word. Over the next several posts I’d like to share with you what I learned in these classes…

This post (Part 1) is about setting a firm foundation in your marriage. The foundation of your marriage should be God. If anyone would know anything about marriage, it would be the Creator of marriage, God. He made marriage perfect; however, we ourselves are not perfect. We are not perfect people and we will not always make the wisest decisions, but we have God and His Word to guide us into, and through, what each of our roles in marriage is (that’s a future post) and how we should live our lives.

If we keep God in the center of our marriage, He will bless it. In keeping God as the Rock in which we stand our marriage we will be following His Word and living according to His will for our lives; there is no better place to be than in the will of God. He is immovable by any storms that may pound against the walls of your marriage. Knowing that God made marriage perfect, and knowing the storms will come, what better place is there to be than in the hands of the Creator and steady, unbending foundation of Jesus Christ? In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

If we keep God in the center of our relationship, He will bless and honor the marriage because in keeping Him at the center of it we will be following His will and His Word. We will be submitting to God’s authority and the authority of the Bible. Keeping God as first priority in our relationships means following what He says even if we don’t understand or even if we don’t necessarily want to. We need to seek God and His will for our lives through prayer and through His Word. The Bible is very clear about how God wants us to live our lives and how we should treat each other. God has a plan for each of our lives that is better than anything we could ever come up with. In submitting our lives to Him, our lives will be blessed with peace, understanding, and love.

The Bible is very clear that we should not be with an unbeliever in marriage.
2 Corinthians 6:11-15 says, “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” In the old days, farmers would place a yoke on oxen or other animals in order to plow the land. Imagine placing and ox and a donkey in the same yoke together. The donkey and the ox are physically and temperamentally different, they wouldn’t work well together. I can tell you from personal experience that being with someone who hasn’t given their life to the Lord is really heart breaking and frustrating. Being with someone who doesn’t believe what you do can leave you lacking and can even bring you down spiritually, not to mention, you are more prone to fall away from your relationship with God because that person does not believe what you do or is not as stronger, or stronger, than you in your faith. It can also become a flirt to convert mission, or missionary dating, if you will. God doesn’t tell us not to do things in order to restrict us; He tells us these things because He loves us and wants what is best for us.

Having Jesus at the center of your relationship with benefit your relationship tremendously. Forgiveness is a big part of life, especially in marriages. In giving your life to Christ you are acknowledging that you are a sinner. Remembering that Jesus died for you and your spouse gives a whole new perspective to the marriage. We all have to remember that when we get married, we are marrying a sinner, just as we are a sinner.

When we get married, we are leaving our separate homes with our families to start a new one. The Bible says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Having a home built on the love, understanding, and peace of Christ is completely different than building a home tumbling under the weight of the world that is falling apart all around us. The world offers us temporary escapes from the pressures we feel in everyday life. Through the world we may seek a peace that we hope will remove the uneasiness we feel in everyday life, but the uneasiness will still be there when we finish the bottle of wine or the television show. God offers a peace that will “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). God gives a peace that the world cannot give us; He gives us peace in the midst of trials so that we might endure and be built up.

Now, some couples may be in the situation where one is a believer and the other is not. Because of this, some spouses ask, should I divorce my spouse? God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
The only reason for divorce to be permitted is if adultery is committed (Matthew 5:32). God tells us in His Word, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2). We are to honor and respect each other and ultimately serve God. Wives, God calls us to respect and submit (we’ll get into that in a future post) to our husbands; live a life that honors God and your husband will see that change and Christ’s love in you. Husbands, the Word of God says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Christ loved the church with a sacrificial and unconditional love.

1 Peter 2:4-7 says, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone…’” God wants what is best for us and He already has plans for us more awesome than we could ever come up with ourselves. So I urge you to seek Him in your marriage and place Him as the foundation and cornerstone of your relationship. In doing this, your marriage and lives will be blessed and honored and will be better and stronger than you could have imagined.

Consider this: "Marriage is not science or mathematics. It is a partnership, a ministry, and a sacred relationship ordained by God. Marriage takes work and work means that one will practice at their marriage. How many people do you think are still practicing at their marriage?"

Note: I have added my thoughts to the notes taken in class therefore the post may not directly resemble or reflect the curriculum in my church's marital class.

References: The Bible, NKJV; Calvary Chapel Kendall Marital Classes Notes