Companions!

Ephesians 5:33-Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. NKJV

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In my previous blog, I wrote about some of the things my husband and I put into practice to create a strong marriage and family unit. In today’s blog, I want to talk about two things in light of the Word of God; love and respect! Love and respect are companions that no marriage can survive without! If you are married or are planning to get married, learn that love and respect go together in building and maintaining a lasting relationship.

I have been exposed to a lot of teaching on marriage over the years, but in those first ten years or more, I sought out teachings. As I mentioned before, my husband and I were committed to attending a couple’s fellowship after we got married, something his older brother and sister-in-law raved about. Secondly, we invested in teaching tapes and books on marriage and attended marriage conferences. Lastly, after hearing things that impacted us, we agreed to implement those things in our relationship because we understood hearing wasn’t profitable if there was no intent to obey what we heard.

Ephesians 5 is a familiar passage that is used to teach on the subject of marriage relationships because Paul expounds on the correlation between a husband and wife and Jesus and the Church. Then he ends his comparison with this statement:

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:33 NKJV

On the day of the wedding, most couples believe they are madly in love with each other and love will take them to a happily ever after. However, the truth of it all is that marriages are built on more than feelings of love. Strong marriages are built on a decision to love.

In Ephesians 5, Paul gives us a closer look at what love within a marriage looks like:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her

Ephesians 5:25 NKJV

Husbands are exhorted to love their wives as Christ loved the church. So what does that type of love look like?

  • It’s a life of sacrifice. (See Ephesians 5:2). Jesus gave His life to demonstrate that He loved and was committed to us. Husbands are to imitate Jesus in this type of love. I remember my husband left the Navy and gave up flying when we started our family. He wanted to be home to witness his daughters grow and be a part of their everyday lives. He sacrificed something he loved doing to love us. I didn’t ask that of him; he made that decision. There have been times when he wondered if life would have been different if he had continued with his flying, but he has never regretted being with us! Wives are not asking for husbands to die for them, just to make them feel as if they would if they had to!
  • It’s unconditional. (See Romans 5:8). Jesus doesn’t love us because we are always so easy to love. In fact, He loves us when we are unlovely! Unconditional love means that you have decided to love your spouse whether they act like you want them to act or not. I’m not the same woman my husband married. I know that’s shocking! When we married, he asked me to stay at home because it meant so much to him to walk into the house after school and see his mom at home. So I did. I was at home for about 15 years, but when our youngest went to kindergarten, I returned to the workforce. Well, I couldn’t keep up with cleaning the house, cooking, ministry, family, and being available to him. Things had to change around the house for all of our benefit and my sanity. Notice, I said things changed, but not our commitment to loving each other!
  • It looks like the love you give to yourself! (Ephesians 5:28). Paul says that when a man loves himself, he nourishes and cherishes himself. Every spouse wants to feel cherished and taken care of. My husband and I do this in ways that may differ from you, but we know when we feel nourished and cherished. For example, he and his brother worked in construction together. His brother would stop and buy flowers for my sister-in-law, so my husband would buy some for me. I don’t love flowers like that. So, after a couple of times getting flowers, I told him I would rather have a break from cooking. My sister-in-law loves flowers so much she can receive them every day!

Was Paul saying that love is a one-way street? No! He addresses the fact that a wife is to love her husband in another letter:

That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children..

Titus 2:4 NKJV

I believe this is easier for women to do. I have seen women love some men that I would have never given the time of day! But they loved their man! I’m happy for them! When I counsel a woman who is having issues and realize that she loves her husband but not his behavior, I encourage her in her love for him! I talk with her about forgiving him, not taking everything so personally, picking her battles, and so forth! Because love covers a multitude of sins!

I believe people can handle a lot of things when they feel loved! Husbands, wives, and children alike benefit from the unconditional love that says I love you when you make me happy, and I love you when you don’t make me happy! I have chosen you as the object of love and my affection; nothing you say or do can change that fact! Ever!

If you struggle to understand how to make your spouse feel loved, I recommend the book, “Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts” by Gary Chapman! It was written many years ago, and there have been other books written as a follow-up on the subject, but it’s a great resource if you need support in this area.

Through the book, my husband could see why I didn’t like flowers and why he blesses me when he mops the floor. My love language is acts of service. His love language is quality time, so when I am off, and he is running around doing errands or looking at jobs, I hop in the truck with him to spend some extra time together. Small investments like this, taking the time to find out how your mate ticks, reap great benefits!

Wow! I’ve already deleted half of what I’ve written and haven’t touched the surface of loving one another! Not only that, I have not even begun to deal with respect! So in my next blog, I will continue the conversation on respecting one another. Until then, stay encouraged! Understanding how Jesus loves us helps us to understand how we are to love others. It’s a lifetime of learning, but it’s worth the work! Wonderful Jesus!

Together In Him!

Ecclesiastes 4:12-Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. NKJV

It’s good to be blogging again. My husband and I visited Jamaica to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary, and I decided to just totally relax and enjoy our time together. While we were on vacation, I received a text from someone who said that we should consider writing a book or doing a podcast about marriage. Maybe someday, but not yet!

That caused me to think about the things that have helped us to have a successful marriage, and today I want to open up a little and share some of the things we have practiced.

Solomon wrote:

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 NKJV

Our relationship has been centered in Christ. At our wedding, my husband shared how God supernaturally brought us together, and I can assure you that God has kept us together. Growing up, neither of us was a witness to a thriving marriage. On our second date, it was a big conversation that we had. We were physically attracted to one another, but we were also spiritually attracted to one another. We believed that if we were going to make it for the long haul, we needed Jesus to be at the center of our marriage.

We agreed that we would always worship together. We attend church together every week, even today. Whenever one of us is not at church together, the other person is out of town or sick. And that is rare because we don’t like to be separated! We agreed in the beginning that we would listen to teaching tapes (before Youtube) and find a married couple’s ministry to participate in. And we did! We gained valuable insights that enabled us to navigate the waters of building our lives together. Eventually, we hosted married couples in our homes with the express purpose of encouraging each other in the journey of marriage and taught a Sunday School class for married couples.

Another thing that we decided on before we married was to never argue in front of our children. I told him how I witnessed my parents fighting, which traumatized me. He had similar experiences, so we agreed that when we were upset about something, it would be discussed privately, without yelling or attacking each other. (Things we learned from those tapes and marriage books). We kept to this!

When we were becoming upset in front of the kids, we would stop the conversation and take it up later or realize it wasn’t worth the battle. In other words, we learned to pick our battles! And we never argued in front of other people! Disagreed, yes; argued, no way!

My husband and I were with another couple heading to an event. They got into an argument and began using profanity and calling each other names. We tried to suggest that this was not good for their marriage, but they ignored us. And they eventually divorced. We really do have to watch our words with each other!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 NKJV

If you speak life into each other and your marriage, you will experience a healthy marriage. If you speak negative words or death over your marriage, you will end up miserable or divorced. Watch your words! Criticizing your spouse is a sure way to kill a marriage! Making jokes at their expense is painful. Using threats and manipulation to control one another is selfish! Love and respect are key to a strong marriage (See Ephesians 5).

So what happens when we don’t agree? Because we have not always agreed with each other! When we have a disagreement and things get heated, we step away from each other and the conversation. After we have had time apart, we come back together and discuss it without our emotions flying all over the place. And during that time, God has usually dealt with us, letting us know that we have to apologize or forgive. I know this sounds super spiritual, but it isn’t! It’s the way we do life! Do I always want to apologize? No! Do I always feel like obeying the Word? No! But we are committed to treating each other with respect and love, and according to the word of God, so we do the things that foster that type of environment!

Holding grudges, telling everybody about our disagreements, and talking about each other in a negative light are not things we cultivate! I tell people we aren’t perfect, but we are perfect for each other and have learned to respect and support each other!

Another thing we did was to raise our kids together. It wasn’t me raising the kids and him providing for the family. It was a together relationship. We were involved in helping them with their schoolwork. Because he has an engineering background, he helped them with math and science, and I handled reading and writing. That worked for us! I attended field trips and helped at their school when I was an at-home mom, but when I returned to the workforce, he went to the schools. We enjoyed spending time with our kids. We took family vacations whenever we could and spent a lot of time with them during their growing-up years. We took them to church, encouraged them to serve the Lord, and talked with them about God and their lives in Christ! Do we get along perfectly all the time? We don’t! But we love each other!

When our oldest daughter turned 12, we started having date nights. Every Friday night! We’ve been having them for over 20 years! After 6 days on vacation, we still had our date night. Our daughters plan their Fridays knowing we won’t be around for dinner. Family members, friends, and co-workers know Friday is our date night. Honoring this time together is our way of letting each other know that we value our marriage and each other enough to make this a priority in our life.

Recently, my youngest daughter accused me of being spoiled. She even calls me the passenger princess because my husband always drives when we are together. We taught them as little girls that our relationship with them was important, but so was our relationship with one another. I love them seeing their daddy treat me in this manner. He is a great model of what to look for in a husband, and their our greatest testimony of the life we have lived together in Christ!

We are together and happy because we made a decision over 36 years ago to keep Jesus at the center of our relationship. We chose to obey His commandments regarding our life together. In Him, we have experienced ups and downs, good times and tough times, but we weather the storms of life because we stay anchored in Him. He’s the third cord of our relationship!

My heart still sings the same song today it sang 36 years ago. Only God could love him more! Although our girls give me quite the challenge with who loves him more. Not quite a book, but just a few tips that have kept us “together in Him”!

If you are married, make Jesus and His word the center of your relationship! Build it on the Rock of our salvation, and you will weather the storms of life. If you are single, don’t do life with someone who won’t do it with you and Jesus. They aren’t worth it in the long run. If you are divorced, don’t beat yourself up wishing and wondering; just continue to live and love Jesus! Be encouraged single or together in Christ! Solomon knew what he was talking about when he wrote our text for today! Wonderful Jesus!

The Search for His Will!

Ephesians 5:17- Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. NKJV

Searching for God’s will is not always easy, but there are some things that we can do to be able to hear from God and understand what His will is for our individual lives. As I have already stated, some predetermined things are His thélēma for our lives; however, He has specific plans for each of us. That puts me in mind of one of my favorite scriptures:

For I know 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 NKJV

Yes! God knows those plans, and it is up to us to seek Him and discover them. Prayer is most definitely a vehicle in which we seek the plan of God for our lives, but today’s blog is on how to understand how God shares His will for our lives.

When Joseph discovered that Mary was carrying a baby that wasn’t his, he decided to divorce her privately. However, that was not God’s will for his or her life. So God shared His will for Joseph’s life through a dream.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV

Joseph’s will was a divorce because it didn’t make sense to him that a woman could be telling the truth about being pregnant without being with a man. But God’s will was that Joseph and Mary have earthly responsible for Jesus; therefore, He made His will known to Joseph through a dream. The wise men had a similar experience. After they visited with Joseph and Mary, they had purposed to revisit Herod to tell him where the King was. However, in a dream, God told them that wasn’t the plan that He had. (See Matthew 2:12)

Dreams are throughout the pages of the Bible and are a wonderful way to hear the will of God. However, we need to exercise caution with dreams, making sure that they line up with God’s word. Sometimes, we need to bounce them off of others we respect in the faith to ensure that we are indeed hearing from God.

Another way to discover God’s will for our lives is through a vision. A vision differs from a dream in that you are awake when you experience the vision and asleep when you have a dream. Ananias had a vision when the Lord wanted him to go to witness to Saul. Saul persecuted the believers and was headed to Damascus to continue his attacks on them, so they were not trying to befriend Saul. Therefore, the Lord knew that Ananias would need extra encouragement to visit Saul.

Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

Acts 9:10 NKJV

He had already called Saul to be one of His apostles, and He needed Saul to understand what the gospel message was really about. It was His will that Ananias would personally minister to Saul, and He spoke to him in a vision, giving clear directions and assurances to Ananias. I’m sure we would all love to experience a vision to hear His will for our lives.

When God’s will to bring the Gentiles into the fold was ready to manifest, He had to get Peter’s attention in an undeniable fashion. So in a vision, He spoke to Peter about not calling things unclean which He had cleaned. It was His will that Peter would personally go to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, to share the gospel with him.

While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

Acts 10:19-20 NKJV

Have you ever heard of a man’s man? Well, Peter was a Jew’s Jew! Talking to the Gentiles, fellowshipping and eating with them, and embracing them into the kingdom would not have crossed his mind. But it crossed God’s mind because it was His will for Cornelius, for all Gentiles, and He purposed to use Peter to open the door.

Another way to know God’s will for our individual lives is through His written word. David wrote:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 NKJV

How does this even work? Aren’t we all reading the word? I remember my husband sharing with me how he knew I was to be his wife. He said he was reading about Samson in the Bible, and he ran across this verse:

Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for [she pleases me well.”

Judges 14:3 NKJV

As he was reading this verse, my name flashed across his mind, and he believed that God was telling him that we would marry and I would please him well. We had only met once before in an airport in Sicily and had only spoken on the phone once afterward while I was stationed in Italy, and he was waiting on a friend in Turkey. That took faith! But God made it happen when he couldn’t see how it ever would.

Another way the will of God has been made known is through the leading of the Spirit of God. Jesus had to experience the wilderness. The devil wasn’t responsible for Him going into the wilderness; the Spirit of God was ( Matthew 4).

When Saul and Barnabas partnered together, it was because the Spirit of God put them together.

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 13:2 NKJV

And at a later time, the Holy Spirit forbade them to preach in certain places:

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

Acts 16:6-7 NKJV

They desired to preach in Asia, but the Spirit said no because it wasn’t God’s will for them. They wanted to preach in Bithynia, but again the Spirit of God said no. Many people have experienced God’s direction through the nudgings of the Holy Spirit and have been grateful.

What I am trying to share with you is that there are many different ways that God reveals His will to us. But none of them will be contrary to His word. What I mean by that is that it was God’s will for Saul to preach, just not in Asia. That was obviously someone else’s field of ministry.

If you say that God’s will for your life is to be married to a leader in your church and that leader is married, then I can assure you that God isn’t speaking to you. That spirit is not of God because it would be contrary to His word regarding marriage, divorce, and coveting. If you tell me that God wills for you to remain at home and watch any pastor you want on live stream because you can get a more rounded teaching from the word, I would say that is in violation of His word that encourages us to assemble with one another and to be a part of a local church.

Anyway, I hope this helps you to realize that God the Creator is creative, and He uses any means necessary to make His will known to us. Don’t waste another year wondering what His will for your life is. Get busy praying and reading the Bible to discover His will for you! Love you! Wonderful Jesus!!

Discovering His Will!

Ephesians 5:17- Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. NKJV

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I’ve been blogging about the will (or desires) of God that are applicable to the lives of all believers. It’s not possible in a simple blog to cover all of those desires because there are many things in the logos (written word) of God that are intended for all believers. We don’t have to fast and pray about those desires, we don’t have to seek counsel about those desires, we don’t even have to wonder about them; they are the expressed will of God for our lives, and our response is to obey them.

When I became a bride, no one had to sit me down and explain to me the basics of being a wife. I understood that I would live with my husband, consummate our marriage, belong to him, be unavailable to others, and do life with him while raising any children we were blessed with. I didn’t have to fast and pray to see if I would move in with my husband or have my own residence. That’s ludicrous! I didn’t have to fast and pray to see if we would consummate our marriage. These were no-brainers. Yet, there were some things that were necessary for our success that I had to pray about, starting with the most basic one, should I even marry him.

Becoming a Christian is a simple act of faith, but it is a huge commitment. It’s not about getting fire insurance to avoid hell’s torment! It’s entering the most crucial relationship of a lifetime with Creator God, who has committed His all to us and who expects a reciprocal relationship from us! Therefore, it is expedient that we understand what the will of God is for us collectively and individually.

As I’ve stated, we don’t need to fast and pray about most of His will. We need to learn what His will is, and most of it is pretty standard, and then obey it: your life needs to change, you should attend church, you should support your church, you should spend time reading the Bible and learn how to pray, you should live a holy life, you should be thankful, etc. The rest comes as you do the basics!

What are some things that we can do to understand God’s will for our individual lives? In the words of my pastor, “I’m glad you asked?” Let’s look at our verse for today again:

Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:17 NKJV

Paul wrote that we are not to be unwise, so that means that we are to obtain wisdom concerning God’s will for our lives. James wrote about how we are to gain wisdom, leading us to a foundational truth about discovering God’s will for our lives. Let’s see how it is written in the Amplified Bible translation:

If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask [for wisdom] in faith, without doubting [God’s willingness to help], for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think  or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord,  being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].

James 1:5-8 AMP

I’ll let you unpack all of that at your leisure but simply state if you want to be wise, you ask God for wisdom (aka prayer), who will lovingly and willingly instruct you. If you say you want to hear from God but also want to do your own thing, you are double-minded and not asking in faith, so hearing from Him will be difficult.

My husband and I were talking about this the other day. Eventually, most conversations about God come back to marriage scenarios for us. Both of us were engaged to someone else before we met. However, in our desire to get it right the first time, we prayed continuously for God’s will. It should’ve kept us from getting engaged, but often times the influences of others can push us into decisions that seem good but are not godly. We entered those engagements believing we were doing the right thing, but as we prayed, God’s will was revealed (this is not the one), and we had enough sense to move on, making ourselves available for each other. After 36 years of a wonderful marriage, I think we have irrefutable confirmation that our marriage was in the will of God! Praying for wisdom is key to finding God’s will for our lives.

David prayed for the will of God to be done in his life:

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

Psalm 143:10 NKJV

David asked God to teach him what it meant to do His will. A prayer we can all benefit from praying. Jesus prayed for the will of God to be done in His life:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

Matthew 26:39 NKJV

Jesus knew God’s will for His life. He agreed to God’s will for His life. But when it came time to submit to the will of God, He struggled and prayed for the strength to carry out the will of God for His life. Sometimes, it will be painful to fulfill the will of God in our lives, but like Jesus, our example, we must submit our will to God’s will. I know of a young lady who called off her wedding a few weeks before the date to obey God’s will for her life. It was painful and maybe even embarrassing, but today she is thankful that she obeyed God.

Paul found that in the midst of doing the will of God (which was preaching the gospel), his will to go to Asia differed from God’s will, which was for him to go to Macedonia:

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 16:6-10 NKJV

When Paul found out God’s will, he followed it. It’s not enough to know the will of God. Because once you know the will of God, you should be found obeying it.

Another key point to discovering God’s will is recognizing that God’s will always align to His word! Always! I thought I would get to it in this blog, but I got caught up in praying about the will of God. Here’s the last thought on praying about the will of God I want to share:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 NKJV

As you seek God’s will for your life, let the peace of God guard and protect you. When I want to know what to do and which direction to go, I pray until I feel a sense of peace in His presence. It may not make sense to others, like saying yes to a marriage proposal after a month of long-distance dating, but when you have the peace of God, it will guard you. Wonderful Jesus!

The Mystery of His Will-Part 2

Ephesians 1:9-Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself. NKJV

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When you’re inside a maze trying to find your way out, the path can seem confusing and the exit unattainable. I think mazes are somewhat claustrophobic and frightening because of all the dead ends leading to nowhere. When I play games involving going through a maze, I often want to quit because I prefer games with a start, middle, and end.

Many people find searching for the will of God to be like living life inside a maze. Sometimes they run into so many dead ends that they begin to feel hopeless and weary of ever finding God’s will for their life. In my previous post, we discovered that many of God’s thelēma (desires or what He has determined shall be done) for our lives have been revealed. I believe that when we begin understanding God’s revealed will for our lives in general, it becomes easier to discern His specific will for our individual lives.

In First Thessalonians, Paul gives us more insight into God’s thélēma for our lives:

 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

1 Thessalonians 4:3 NKJV

It is God’s thélēma that we live a life of sanctification or holiness. The Greek word used for sanctification in this verse is hagiasmos, which signifies a “separation to God.” In other words, our lives should be lived in a manner that tells others that we belong to God. Paul includes the example of us abstaining from sexual immorality. One would think that as we place our trust in God, we would automatically understand that a separated life to God means abstaining from sexual immorality and other things that are in the world. But that is not always the case; therefore, Paul commanded that we steer clear of activities that would be considered sexually immoral.

Sanctification would therefore be included in the list of things that God has predetermined that we shall do as believers. He didn’t think of sanctification as people began to sin; He predetermined that we should live a life of holiness in the beginning:

 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

Ephesians 1:4 NKJV

I know that I have said in a previous post that sanctification isn’t necessarily about how we dress (although some of us need some help in this department), nor does it refer to wearing jewelry and makeup or the lack thereof. I clearly recall a member of a church I attended several decades ago telling me my baby was in the hospital because I had pierced her ears. That’s not sanctification; that’s condemnation! And it isn’t from God.

The key to sanctification is in its literal translation, and that’s living a life separated to God, a life of holiness. In the Old Testament, God said

For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.

Leviticus 11:44 NKJV

And later, in the New Testament, Peter wrote:

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all  your  conduct,  because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV

We give our lives to a holy God. He is without sin and has freed us from the power of sin. Therefore, His expectation, His will for our lives, is that we live holy before Him in love.

In 1 Thessalonians, we find another aspect of the will (thélēma) of God for our lives.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Paul wrote that we are to give thanks in everything in our lives. I was recently talking with a former co-worker of mine. She mentioned that the job we had worked at had its challenges. I responded by saying I was thankful for the time I had worked there. I met some people I enjoyed working with and made a career change that works better for me. Even while working there, I had purposed to demonstrate to God that I could be thankful in everything since previously I had not been. That was God’s will for me, and as I purposed to be thankful, He opened up a better opportunity for me.

Again, I must speak with caution. Paul isn’t telling us to be thankful for everything that happens but to be thankful in the midst of everything that happens. I could never be thankful that my mother passed away when I was so young, but I am thankful that the grief drove me to the Savior. God doesn’t think that when the enemy is trying to destroy us, we should be thankful for the situation. But if we learn to be thankful during those times, we will more easily see His hand in our lives and in our situations. It’s His will that we are thankful people.

Again, there is so much to know about the revealed will (thélēma) of God, and I just can’t share it all. But I have one last verse that I want to share found in Romans 12:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is  your  reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

It’s God’s thélēma that we present our bodies as a living, holy sacrifice to Him. (Here’s that sanctification being mentioned again). He’s not going to let us off the hook! Holiness is simply His will! It is also His will that we are not conformed (fashioned or shaped) to this world’s system. When we look like the world, we stop looking like God! When we stop looking like God, we have nothing to offer the world! It is also His thélēma that we are transformed (changed into another form- that new creation), which happens when our minds are renewed so that we can be living proof of His thélēma. Our lives are testimonies that He lives and still has the power to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free!

God’s thélēma has our best at its roots. His will is never about destroying our lives or taking the fun out of them so that we walk around disgruntled and unhappy about being believers. No! His thélēma is just the opposite. He has only goodness laid out for us. David said that goodness and mercy followed him. That’s God’s will for us also. So while you are looking for the will of God, make sure that His revealed will (thélēma) is already entrenched in your life so that you will see and understand His will for your personal life. Wonderful Jesus!

The Mystery of His Will!

Ephesians 1:9- Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself. NKJV

Photo by Robert Obru0119bski on Pexels.com

As we turn our attention to the New Year, most begin thinking about what we need to do to have a great year. It may be called a New Year’s resolution or a new goal, but no matter its title, we all plan to bring changes in our life for the upcoming year. As believers, we understand that our plans will be more successful when we include God in those plans. Solomon stated these words in the book of Proverbs:

Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:3 CSB

Although this is an accurate assessment of achieving success when establishing new plans, we must also realize that it is not just committing plans to the Lord but also obeying His instructions regarding those plans. A reminder in God’s word about obeying His instructions is also found in Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Most Christians understand this concept and work to live their lives by this principle. I was laughing and talking with a relative when she said, “I just want Him to tell me what it is that He wants me to do, and I will do it!” However, I have found that, in many cases, that’s simply not true.

In looking at the verse for our blog today, I noticed that Paul referred to the will of God as a mystery. A mystery is something hidden, a secret thing. Movies and books are written about mysteries. Sherlock Holmes, a great solver of mysteries in the late 1800s, is still a great source of entertainment for people today. The reason is that most people enjoy the adventure of solving a mystery.

Whenever we plan a family trip, we try to find an escape room we can enjoy together. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of escape rooms, they are created within a single room or combination of rooms with a mystery that needs to be solved within a given amount of time. If you solve the mystery, you can escape the room. If you don’t solve the mystery, you lose the game and have to be released from the room.

Sometimes we solve the mystery and escape the room, while at other times, we solve the mystery too late to escape the room. Once, we were in an escape room with so much going on that we had difficulty eliminating the things in the room that were crucial to solving the mystery and the things that were there to be a distraction. What’s my point? Some secrets are easier to discover than others, and in the case of God’s will for our lives, this holds true! God’s will was hidden in a mystery, but Paul said that some aspects of the mystery have now been made known. There are other aspects of His will that we have to seek out.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote that God has revealed His will to us, and it was His pleasure to do so.

Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself 

Ephesians 1:9 NKJV

What aspect of God’s will has He made known to us? Throughout the scriptures, God has expressed His will for our lives to be reconciled to Him. The Greek word for will in Ephesians 1:9 is thelēma, which means desire or pleasure. Some things are the expressed desire of God for us to experience, yet many people will go to their grave not enjoying His pleasure for them. For example, it is God’s thelēma that we become a part of His family.

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,  according to the good pleasure of His will

Ephesians 1:5 NKJV

The good pleasure of the Lord, His thelēma, is that we become children of God. He predetermined before the creation of Adam that everyone who received Jesus would be adopted into His family by Himself. It brings Him great pleasure to see His will executed in people’s lives, yet many refuse His will for their lives.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13 NKJV

This was a great mystery before it was revealed. In the Old Testament, the blood of animals was shed for the sins of the people. But God had a plan in place that would not just cover the sins of the people but would remove the sins of people, giving them the right to become children of God. It was and is His will that we are saved from our sins. He has released enough grace on the earth to save all of mankind; and even though it is His good pleasure that none are lost, many will refuse His will for their life.

Satan knew that God had a plan and that Jesus was the key to that plan. But he didn’t realize how the plan would be executed, although it was hidden in plain sight. Had God revealed His plan too quickly, Satan would have never placed Jesus on that cross! So the mystery was hidden until God was ready to reveal it! This principle is true in our lives, also. Some things are yet to be revealed because if Satan knew everything God had planned for us, he would be busy trying to stop those things from happening!

Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,  that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 

Ephesians 1:9-10 NKJV

God had a set time for revealing His will regarding our salvation. When that set time came, “the dispensation of the fullness of the times,” the mystery was made known. As believers, we have taken the first step in living out the will of God for our lives when we believed in Jesus. But there is so much about His will for us to know. Jesus gave us instructions about living a life centered in God’s will. He told us to pray these words:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10 NKJV

We should be found praying for the will of God to be done on earth and in our lives as it is done in heaven! We should take nothing for granted, assuming nothing about our lives, but we should be praying for God’s will to be done in our lives!

Again, there is so much more to the will of God, and we are just scratching the surface. In order for us to walk in the will of God and enjoy His thelēma in our lives, we must be aware of what His thelēma is for us.

It was not my original intent to write several blogs on this topic, but now I feel a need to continue this topic to ensure that we have a greater understanding of His thelēma for our lives. After all, if it is no longer a mystery because it has been revealed, we should want to know it and embrace it as a part of our reasonable service to Him! It’s a great topic as we enter 2023, so I trust you will return as we further investigate the mystery of His will. Wonderful Jesus!

Merry Christmas to All!

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the end of this year! God has been amazing as He has kept watch over us and brought us to this special day. Someone was really pulling on God for a White Christmas because most of the country will experience it from the looks of it. Whether you are in a sunny place or warm snugly space, we wish you the happiest Christmas ever. Thank you for your support and I look forward to starting a new series in January. Wonderful Jesus!

Joy to the World! (Repost)

Luke 2:10-11- Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

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For centuries, the Jewish nation has lived with the promise of a Messiah. The prophecies were as real to them, as the Law which they kept. Every child, male and female, learned of the Messiah. They sat a place for Him Who Was to Come every year during the Passover. They learned of Him from their earliest of days, and now, He is come!

The shepherds are out with their sheep. This is truly another clue that Jesus wasn’t born in December. Shepherds typically stay out with the sheep during the warmer seasons, especially when they are expecting lambs to be born. This is not a hidden fact, it is easily discovered with an internet search. It is suggested that the shepherds would not have been out unless they were expecting lambs; however, I’m still leaning towards the fall because of Elisabeth’s pregnancy. Another reason is that these particular shepherds were not just out watching their flocks, but they lived in the fields, sharing protection and responsibilities of caring for their sheep.

As they recline for the evening, suddenly, an angelic being appears before them. Luke writes that the glory of the Lord was all around the angel, and the shepherds were greatly afraid. Not surprising, since most people were afraid when angels appeared.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Luke 2:10-11 NKJV

Isaiah spoke of a child being born to us, and here the angel of the Lord tells the shepherds that the Child has been born. Something had to be ringing in their spirits, resonating with what the angel has said in spite of the fear. Maybe their minds went back to that familiar prophecy:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be call Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 ESV

Most of us are familiar with this verse, but let’s go back for a moment to the preceding verses:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

Isaiah 9:2-3 ESV

Did you notice how frequently the word joy, or its synonyms are used in this passage. The people were walking in darkness, as a result of a sin-infested world, but now they have seen a great light! This Light has caused their joy to increase. They are rejoicing with the joy of the harvest. They are glad as those who have conquered and attained a great spoil over their enemy and can now divide the spoil! This is the language of Israel as it prospers!

When Jesus is born, not only is verse six of Isaiah fulfilled, but also the verses before it. The people of Israel has been walking in darkness. Historically, they have had no contact, no encounters with the God who had done so much for them. They are in subjugation to the Roman empire, living beneath their status as the people of God. Maybe the shepherds have been discussing their plight, wondering where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was in their plight. Maybe they were rehasing stories of the days of glory when David ruled the nation. Maybe they are wishing for the day when the Messiah would come and deliver their people! We don’t know!

But what we do know is that an angel of the Lord appears to them and tells them that he has great news for them. News of joy for all the people! A Child is born! The Messiah is come!

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:12 NKJV

The angel then tells them how they will find the Babe, and how they will know He is the Christ! Only one baby was born that night in Bethlehem, in a barn. After His birth, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a feeding trough. If they hurry, and they should, they will find Him as the angel described!

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 

Luke 2:16 NKJV

They found Him! They found the Christ! He had surely come just as the angel had said! They were so excited! They were thrilled! They were told by an angel of the Messiah’s birth and had been given an angelic invitation to go and visit Him while He was only hours new to the world!

Can’t you feel their excitement? What a beautiful experience it must have been for them! As they watched their flocks, they weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen! But they were given a heavenly display of the glory of God and invited to witness the Savior, the Babe that was given to us!

We’ve been given that same invitation! We too can experience the joy that comes with the knowledge of the Savior! What an impact that night had on the shepherds! What an impact He has had on my life, on the lives of so many others who realize that the Babe born in the manger, was the Man who hung on the cross for our sins! The real joy to the world, is that though the darkness may linger, we have experienced the Great Light!

We’ll look at the other event of this glorious night in the next blog! Please enjoy this rendition of Joy to the World by Chris Tomlin! Wonderful Jesus!

The Royal Hope!

Isaiah 11:1-2-There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. NKJV

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Isaiah prophecies on different occasions of the coming Messiah. In Isaiah chapter 7, he tells of the Messiah who will be conceived of a virgin and that He will be called Immanuel. In Isaiah 9, the Messiah has additional names given to Him, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In the ninth chapter, Isaiah reveals that He will be of the seed of David, and His kingdom will not end.

As we look at chapter 11 of Isaiah, we are again reminded of the coming Messiah and his ancestry. In this chapter, however, we are told that He is from the stem of Jesse, David’s father. Not only is He of the lineage of David, but He is like David, coming from Jesse, a shoot. Or, as we say today, “A chip off the block.”

In Isaiah 6, we find an interesting reference to the Messiah:

But yet a tenth will be in it, and will return and be for consuming, as a terebinth tree or as an oak, whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump.”

Isaiah 6:13 NKJV

Isaiah wrote in chapter 6 that the Davidic kingdom would come to an end, but there would be a remnant remaining. Of that remnant, a holy seed would come. We find in Isaiah 11 a similar reference to that stump or root out of Jesse.

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-2 NKJV

As I searched through the commentaries to gain insight into what was happening, I found the statement that this Rod from the stem of Jesse was referred to as a Royal Hope! That resonated with my spirit, and I want to share why!

In chapters 9 and 10, Isaiah prophecies the judgment that will come upon Samaria and Assyria. The sin of the people and the darkness of their lives were indicative of their refusal to obey God, and so His hand is stretched out against them. But even still, God had promised David that his lineage would have a forever kingdom, so a remnant is left. Out of this remnant, the Messiah would come, a Royal Hope for the people of God!

In the days that Isaiah prophesied and for hundreds of years later, David’s kingdom dwindled until it was no longer recognizable. He had descendants, but they no longer ruled the kingdom. But approximately 600 years after this prophecy, the Messiah was born to the world. He was the Branch of Jesse and the Seed of David. He was Royalty twice over, from the royal lineage of David and God’s heavenly lineage. And He was not only the hope of Israel but the hope of the world!

For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Acts 28:20 NKJV

When he stood before King Agrippa, Paul stated that he had been arrested because of the hope of Israel! We know that Jesus was the reason he was in chains, and here we see Him referenced as that hope!

And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.”

Romans 15:12 NKJV

This is the prophecy from Isaiah 11, showing that the world would have access to the same hope that the Jewish nation was waiting for, and His name is Jesus!

Isaiah saw the state of his countrymen, and that did not give him hope. He saw the future and the kingdoms that would place them in bondage and strip them of the glory they had tasted from the Lord. He knew the times ahead would be difficult at best, and he told them there was hope and He was coming! Over two thousand years ago, Hope was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and they called Him Jesus.

It doesn’t matter what our environment looks like. It is not important what our past entails. Today is not a whole lot different from what it was in Isaiah’s day. People are still arrogantly throwing their weight around. People are still refusing to bow their knees to Jesus. People are still bent on living life the way that they see fit. And amidst all of this is darkness, chaos, and confusion.

Mental health issues are on the rise, and people seem to be lost and uncertain about tomorrow, with a sense of hopelessness at the root of it all. But that’s okay because the same Royal Hope that stepped out of eternity into Mary’s womb, then died on the rugged cross, rose that we might have hope today!

The same Spirit of the Lord that Isaiah said would rest upon Him is still available to all. He still oozes with the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might. His knowledge is limitless, and He is God! He is everything we can ever need and all we can hope for!

Don’t think of Jesus as the Babe in the manger this holiday season. He was a Babe in a manger; now He holds all power in His hand! He is King over all kings of the land. He is Lord over every lord in the world. And He has made Himself available to us. I once heard a preacher say, “You don’t have any trouble; all you need is faith in God!” I believe that despite your trouble, the best decision you can ever make is to place your faith in God! Reach out to Him and receive the most precious gift this season you can ever have, the gift of Jesus, our Royal Hope! Wonderful Jesus!