June is a good month to get married. Just ask the thousands who will walk an aisle during this month to promise their lives to each other “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.”
June 20th, my wife and I will celebrate 36 years together. Those years have contained many, many days of laughter and joy, many days of burdens and sorrows, and many, many days of answered prayer. God has been so good to us.
Today, I want to share with you five ways to keep your marriage fresh even after 36 years. Tomorrow, I’ll give you five more.
Be assured of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone. “God made all of us to have a personal, vibrant relationship with Him. Whoever you are and wherever you’ve been, God is personally interested in you and longs to share a close relationship with you.” Watch the following video to learn more about the most important relationship: The Gospel
Live together in the Word of God. Since God has created marriage, the best place to learn how marriage is to operate is to read the Creator’s Word. Share with each other what God has personally taught you in His Word and read the Word together. The Word of God is never stale, so glean from its fresh manna everyday.
Pray together. One of the best ways to keep your marriage fresh and to stay connected is to pray throughout the day together, at meals, when burdens arise, when wisdom is needed, and before you drift off to sleep.
Have fun. It is so easy to grow old in your marriage, get used to each other, and then forget how to enjoy life. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep a light heart. Laugh with each other; laugh at yourself. I mean, who needs comedians? We have people! We are just funny!
Keep on dating. Men, remember what you did to win your girl’s heart? Go back to those days.
You can have a quiet date on the back porch after the kids go to bed . . . star gazing!
Take a walk around the neighborhood and hold hands. Stop along the way to enjoy the flowers, the scenery, and each other. Kissing is permitted on the sidewalk in public!
Buy one ice cream cone and share it as you sit in your car listening to the old songs of your dating years. When the ice cream is gone, put your arms to good use!
Play a game and enjoy a bowl of popcorn.
So, what will you do today to get fresh, be fresh, and live refreshingly with your spouse?
Come on now. Don’t deny it. You’ve been thinking about that annual summer vacation to the beach, Disney World, Pigeon Forge, etc. Vacations are a good thing. We all need our physical, mental, and spiritual batteries recharged!
Question. When you go on vacation, do you plan for those special daily times to build your relationship with the Lord? Do you take your Bible, journals, and books so you can feed your soul? Can you say when you have returned that you and your family love the Lord more or less? Do you research the area before you arrive to find a solid Bible preaching/teaching church where you and your family can worship on Sunday morning?
I will submit to you without reservation, the best parts of our vacations over the years have been our time in the mornings in the Word and prayer. Vacation must not be a time to leave the Lord at home. Vacations should be a time where everyday distractions are removed, and you can enjoy His presence and His precepts!
I hear so often from so many that due to their work, school, recreation, and church schedules, they struggle to get time in the Word and prayer. And believe it or not, it shows (I know by experience in my own life). Vacation is a time for you to unplug from all the aforementioned things and be refreshed. What better way to do so than to meet with Jesus everyday as an individual, as a couple and as a family. Even Jesus Himself went apart from the crowd to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23).
Furthermore, because you are in such a relaxed mode on vacation, that’s even more reason you need the Word of God to ward off the attacks of your flesh, the world and the devil. I promise you, they never take a vacation.
And finally look at the effect the intake of the Word will have upon you:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:97-104)
So, as you plan for all the places you will eat, recreate, lodge and relax, be sure to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33). By the way, He’s the One Who gives you the strength, provides the funds, and watches over you for your vacation.
Don’t take a vacation from the Lord when you are on your vacation!
Valentine’s Day is always a very special day for married lovebirds!! Red roses, boxes of chocolates, dinner dates, romantic venues, recalling of Valentine’s Days of the past, perfume, cards, terms of endearment left on sticky notes all over the house, pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram, communications of the degree of love for each other, and on and on it goes for this special day!!
But . . . what about today, the day after Valentine’s Day? You put much thought into how you would express your love to your Sweetheart. You went out of your way to purchase that perfect gift. You fantasized in your mind the most romantic setting and fulfillment for this special day. You wrote down your thoughts of love and appreciation in a card. You made sure the whole world knew about it on Facebook.
All of this took intentional thought and effort.
This leads to me say one crucial thing about how to keep your marriage moving forward, to keep it hummin’!
You have to work at it every day!
No, you don’t have to buy a $75 bouquet of flowers or have a candlelight dinner at Ruth’s Chris every day. You intentionally . . .
Verbalize your love to each another
Kiss (Eliminate the peck!)
Look at each other
Seat your wife at the table
Hug each other
Serve each other
Enjoy a 5-minute date in the pantry with the door closed
Leave love notes
Share what God has taught you from His Word
Hold each other
Speak words of encouragement
Enjoy being with each other
Listen to each other
Forgive each other
Make sure your spouse comes before your children
Make sure your spouse knows you love him/her more than the children
Be gracious to each other
Touch each other
Pay attention to each other like your mate was Facebook
Wash her car
Bake him his favorite cookies
Do the things you did when you were dating . . . even many years later
Keep having fun (Don’t grow old grumpy!)
So, what are your intentional plans for your lovebird today, the day after Valentine’s Day?
It is now 355 days away, and yes, I am counting, until we gather again for the Friday evening session of Men’s Prayer Advance! Every year, I must say that it is a “little bit of heaven on earth.” There is a genuine spirit of expectancy; a passion to worship in song, prayer and praise; a longing to hear the Word preached again; and an unparalleled unity among men before the Throne of God!
How is it that over 600 men gathered in one auditorium are singing with all their heart and voice, even if they have no musical ability? How is it that these men are uninhibited in their expressions of love for God and surrender to God? How is that men are willing to clap and/or raise their hands in praise, shout for joy, and even move to the altar in conviction even during a sermon, pray with such honesty and transparency, and not be ashamed to confess Christ before their peers?
I believe the answer is found in Exodus 14:30-31, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
And then note their response to the Lord’s working as recorded in Exodus 15:1-3 and following,
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
The Children of Israel had been exposed to the character and works of God! They saw, listened, believed and then worshiped!
The Friday night service is a touch of heaven because we arrive on Thursday afternoon in need of a touch from God, a heart-change. From the very first general session until Friday night, we are exposed to powerful, convicting preaching; many times of prayer with another man or in groups; CPR prayer (confession, praise, requests) in our Thursday half-night of prayer; Sweet Hour of Prayer on Friday mid-morning; breakout sessions that deal with men’s heart issues; and music that magnifies Christ, glorifies God, and lifts the soul!
So, when Friday night rolls around, you have over 600 men who are ready to worship because as we heard this year, “we are not cleaner, we are CLEAN” before the Lord!
You know, Sunday services at church, for instance, should be times of awesome worship, too, if we are being exposed every day to the Word and broken in prayer! When you have a daily fresh encounter with God Who is your Holy, Loving, Just, Righteous, Awesome, Transcendent Heavenly Father, it will affect your worship! And as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, worship is 24-7 . . . not just on Sundays or Men’s Prayer Advance.
So, are you giving God Exodus 15 kind of praise today?
Are your co-workers experiencing salt and light (Matthew 5:14-15) and seeing Matthew 5:16 fulfilled in their lives because you have been exposed to the Son?
Will today in your home before your family and next Sunday at your church be a touch of heaven because you are clean?
As we were so challenged this year, we must “keep the clay wet” (Jeremiah 18:6); “shut the door” (Matthew 6:5-15); and “stay in faith” (Hebrews 11:6).
Understanding fully that Daniel 9:3-19 is dealing with Israel, there is a much-too-close parallel to our country, the United States of America. As we gathered at the altar in our church last Sunday night to pray, this Scripture text was our guide for prayer and supplication. For every believer across this land, Daniel’s prayer needs to be the attitude and action of our prayers today and tomorrow for us and our country.
America is not equal with Israel in the eyes of Jehovah, but the same sinful, unbelieving heart that caused God to turn from Israel is the same deceitful heart that has brought such shame to our land; a nation that once was greatly used to declare the gospel at home and around the world as well as stand for the righteousness. Now, look at us!
Believers in every town and city, we need to fall to our knees, repent and cry out to God! Set aside your personal worldly pursuits. Put entertainment, ballgames, and Facebook to death for now. Churches, forego those programs that you think are so important (Prayer is the only thing that gives power to ministry programs anyway!) There needs to be prayer meetings before and after school, throughout the day in our homes, in our small groups, at the office, in our commute to and from work, on our lunch breaks, on the street corner, at family gatherings, etc. Prayer is the declaration of your need and dependence upon God. Prayer is the means of finding grace and mercy in a time of need (Hebrews 4:16), . . . and we are in a desperate time of need that ONLY the Throne of Grace can provide!!!
People of God, WE MUST PRAY, AND I MEAN PRAY!! Let Daniel 9 be your guide. You see, no matter who is seated in the White House, they cannot correct our nation’s sinful pattern of guilt and destruction. Only the Gospel changes everything (Colossians 1:13-14)!!!! See you at the Throne of Grace!
The worst sin is prayerlessness. (P.T. Forsyth)
God is more willing to be prayed to, and more ready to hear prayer, than we are to pray. (Matthew Henry)
What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more. (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
Daniel 9:3-19Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
The recent cool temps have beckoned us to enjoy our backyard fire pit. Last Saturday night, we had 16 folks gathered around the fire sharing testimonies and singing under the stars accompanied by two guitarists. Monday night, our daughter and son-in-law joined us for some family conversation and ice cream around the fire. After they departed, my wife and I roasted marshmallows and talked for a while.
There’s something about a fire that draws you into some good fellowship. There’s something about a fire that also creates some good practical spiritual applications for life. Early on in the evening, the fire was full and burning bright. To keep it that way, I had to keep adding logs to stoke the fire, and I had to pay attention lest it die out.
As I write this post, our fire pit has no life in it due to letting the fire go out and the cold temps settle in overnight on the remaining ashes and burnt wood. No one is sitting around the fire. No one is attracted to its glow, nor warmed by its flames, nor sustained by the food cooked over its embers. But, when the cools temps roll around this evening, that beckoning call will return.
How careful we must be to keep our hearts burning for the Lord (Luke 24:32;Romans 12:11). Just as I have to keep an eye on the fire to maintain its blaze, may I tell you that the best way to keep your spiritual heart on fire is through intimate prayer. That includes your daily time of sitting at Jesus’ feet with your Bible and your eyes wide open listening and praying the Scriptures (Luke 10:38-42). Also that includes conversing with Him throughout your day (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Combined, that’s keeping your eye on the fire, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of genuine, authentic life comes from Him and abiding in Him (Psalm 16:11; John 1:1-4; 11:25; 14:6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-4; John 15:1-17). As you pray, your heart will be warmed, your countenance will be changed, your life will be sustained, and you’ll find yourself wanting to be close to fire as you dwell in this cold, dark, sin-filled world.
Are you cold? Stoke the fire. Get closer to the fire. Keep your eye on the fire. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is the vital breath of the Christian; not the thing that makes him alive, but the evidence that he is alive.”
Well, summer is over. What did you do for your vacation with family or just your spouse or with some friends? Disney? The beach? The mountains? Did you take any day trips? How about a recreational excursion? What planning went into your time away? What was the result of your vacation? Any take-aways?
Vacations can be a huge refreshment that can leave many wonderful memories, provide a break from your daily routine, and give some much needed rest. Interesting enough, sometimes when you return home, you need another week to just recoup from your vacation (Lol).
Question: When was the last time you took a spiritual vacation? No, I do not mean running away or taking a vacation from the Lord, but a planned set of days and location where you and/or family go to grow your relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you ever taken such a trip?
This sabbatical was so extremely helpful spiritually. My wife and I spent most of our mornings at home, on the front or back porch, reading, praying, studying, journaling, and listening. Some days I would travel to the lake, or a secluded mountain top, or a quiet stream and spend my time letting God teach me and whittle away at my heart.
Perhaps you could spend one day a quarter at a place like Fairhaven Ministries, Roan Mountain, TN, and give that whole day to just meeting with the Lord. Pack your lunch, take your books, and go hide away with the Lord. You, too, could find that lake, stream, mountain top or other secluded area.
Another great opportunity would be to attend Family Camp at a place like The Wilds in Brevard, NC. There you would have time to get alone with the Lord; time for just you and your spouse to study and pray together; and opportunities to meet together as a family. The preaching services, music, and workshops would draw you and your whole family closer to the Lord. And a side note, I promise you would not spend as much on this vacation as you would for the same amount time, motel, and meals as you would at Disney. And, your whole family will come home stronger in their walk with Christ than if they had spent a week at Disney. (By the way, I’m not hatin’ on Disney. Just sayin’. . .)
So, when you plan for your vacations and get-aways for the months ahead, how about planning some time to get alone with the Lord? You will never regret it.
Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Luke 6:12 – In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
We have had several folks ask us what we did on our sabbatical. Well, here’s a brief look into this blessed 31-day journey.
Going into the month, our goals were, as mentioned in Sabbatical Journey #1, to rest, refine, replenish, recharge and refocus. My wife and I greatly anticipated TIME . . . TIME to pray, read, seek the Lord, think, prepare, pray, seek the Lord, study, read, pray, think, seek the Lord, etc. The Lord graciously gave us our hearts desire. James 4:8 says, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
How wonderful it was to begin the morning meeting with my Lord in such places as our back porch, by a creek near a waterfalls, up high on Beauty Spot, in the sunroom at my in-laws or on the back deck of a lake cottage. During these days, I read portions of or completed the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. My, how the Lord did speak to my heart! One of best parts was reading the Truth and then watching the Lord make connections that day either through a book I was reading, situations I found myself in or conversations I had with others. My journal is a treasure to me of what God clearly spoke to my heart!
On August 25th as I sat all alone on the Appalachian Trail with Bible, journal and pen in hand, having just read Colossians 1:24-29, I wrote the following: As I look down the AT, I see a marker pole with a white blaze, and I am reminded of Jim Eliot’s quote, “Lord, make me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” The more TIME you spend with the Lord, the more you want to be that kind of man.
Thank You, Lord, for TIME to meet with you, uninterrupted and with no time limit. Eternity will be awesome!!
How easy it is to complain, to worry, to fret, to try to fix things by human means, to gripe, to get angry, to fuss, to be lazy, to be indifferent and/or to be of various other attitudes and actions when it comes to the sad situation of our world, the status of many churches, and the general decline of morality in America. Yesterday’s Supreme Court 5-3 decision to strike down a Texas law regulating abortion clinics was just another example of the continual moral demise of our nation. So, do we continue to take the easy response as mentioned above? May I suggest the need and remedy . . . compassionate, heart-felt, crying-out, biblical, desperate prayer!
I hear folks complaining, talking, and postulating all the time. I do not see many people praying. I don’t hear folks saying, “Let’s stop wasting our energy on fleshly responses and going through the motions. Can we have a meeting of desperate prayer? I’ll host a desperate praying meeting at my home. Can we meet an hour early before the services and have a desperate prayer session?” How much does the church pray today? Are we really desperate for the Lord to intervene, to save souls, to bring revival to our land, to our churches? Evangelist James A. Stewart said, I have discovered in my own revival ministry that God only answers the prayers of the saints who are desperate. There has never been a true awakening anywhere on earth until there was a desperate Church.
Recently, I have seen God answer in the salvation of souls, bring about change in sinful situations, and provide in unexpected ways . . . all as a result of heart-felt, crying-out, biblical, desperate prayer! It is the prayers of single believers desperately seeking God’s face. It is the prayers of groups of believers meeting on a regular basis desperately seeking God’s face! The commonality; they are desperate!
Spend some time reading Psalms 140-143 and note David’s desperate pleas in prayer and his praise. As you turn your desperate pleas toward God and recognize His attributes, His names, and His character, your pleas will be mixed with praise! Your heart for God will be enlarged. Your faith will increase. Your hands will be lifted up in praise. Your lips will declare His glory. You will see souls being saved! You will see revival! You will see how desperate you really are for God and how He longs to see you utterly dependent upon Him!
Our sufficiency is a God. Difficulties melt in His presence. In Him are those mighty, overcoming energies, which accomplish the possible and the impossible with equal readiness. . . . The real resources are with Him for the evangelizing and the redeeming of the world. But He has not been able to do many mighty works in the non-Christian lands because of our unbelief as a Church. We have not possessed our possessions. God has been waiting to be honored by the faith of a generation that would call upon Him for really large outpourings of His power. (J. Lovell Murray)
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed (Mark 1:35). Where’s your solitary place? Where do you go to disconnect from the world and reconnect with your Heavenly Father? Do you have a spot in the mountains, in the back yard, at a cabin, or in the woods where you can pray, read Scripture, write, listen, sing, observe, think, memorize and be still?
Even Jesus Himself did not “burn the candle at both ends” or run 75 mph every day. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed (Luke 5:16). If you are going to be like Christ and follow in His footsteps, neither will you. Yes, you may have your “War Room” at your house where you daily meet with Christ, but you need a solitary place. Ask the Lord to lead you to one, to help you rearrange your schedule, and then to clear the way for it to happen. You may go for one hour, an afternoon or a day or more. Guaranteed, you’ll be glad you did.
The picture above is one of my favorite solitary places. I had to run there today for an hour, and be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) . . . and I am not.
Where’s your solitary place to meet with God?
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mk. 6:30-32).