Marriage Moments

There are many of these throughout the day.  The word moment is defined as “a very short period of time, a little while,” and it also refers to importance.  So a “marriage moment” happens when in the course of the day you plan or act spontaneously to take a brief amount of time to express your love, concern, and attention for your spouse because he or she is of  great significance to you.  Your marriage life is a weighty matter.  Both of you have decided to grow your marriage, enjoy each other, and not get used to each other as the days go whereby you don’t take each other for granted and your marriage grows stale.

It had been a taxing, stressful day which had an affect our on relationship.  Needing to stop my routine and work attitude of “let’s get this job done and move on to the next one,” I poured out on the bar counter all of our Scrabble tiles for a game of Take Two.  No phones, no music, no distractions, just a moment with my wife having fun because she and our marriage are important.  You see, a long marriage is made up of a WHOLE BUNCH OF MOMENTS over the years!

Need some help? Here’s a few marriage moment ideas:

  • Kiss longer; no peck and run!
  • Play a quick game of UNO, Take Two or Farkle after supper at the kitchen table. (Tell the kids to go to the living room, work on their SS lesson or homework. They need to understand that Mom and Dad need some fun time, too.  Don’t let your kids run the house!  Teach them how to respect your time and how to sit still. You also need to teach them what a good marriage is all about.  They are watching you.)
  • Call each other in between appointments, send a text or Facebook message. Build up some excitement for the end of the day or week. Give your spouse something to anticipate!
  • Go sit down on the back porch under the full moon and sit realllllly close!! Say you don’t have a back porch or a swing? You do have an old blanket and a backyard, right?
  • Sing your favorite love song to each other while dancing in the living room.
  • Hug like you were dating!

Proverbs 5:18 – Let your fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . for a moment and then a whole bunch of moments!!

Warped Living (2)

What in the world is that? Well, Isaiah 47:10 gives us a good picture:

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

As we saw in last week’s post, warped living is characterized five ways in this passage:

  1. Trusting in your own wickedness.
  2. Thinking that no one sees your sin.
  3. Listening to yourself and to others who agree with you, then applying what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying.
  4. Following your heart.
  5. Controlling your life as if God didn’t exist.

So, what are the manifestations of a warped life? (Connect with the five characteristics above.)

  1. Living in the destructive unbelief of worry, anxiety, fear, dread and making excuses. Tim Keller said, “Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience. Worry is saying “I know and I’m concerned God won’t get it right.” Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  2. Disregarding the holy, omnipresent, omniscient eye of God who sees your cheating, your speeding, your porn, your over-eating, your laziness, your refusal to own your sin and then repent of it because you like it too much! Proverbs 15:3, The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (By the way, your children are watching, too!)
  3. Placing the human wisdom of man that imprisons us above the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. Example—When someone shares a troubling Facebook post about a death or illness, note all the humanistic statements.
  4. To follow your heart is make how you feel about something, what you really want, what will make you happy, to be the litmus test for your life’s decisions. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Proverbs 3:5-7 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Psalm 37:4 is crucial in this regard, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  5. This is living with your mate before marriage; sex outside of marriage; making choices that do not match with the Word of God; no time for prayer; etc.

Living a warped life is to be deluded and led astray from God and His Word. Whatever choices you are making that are currently leading you away from God, please reject them, repent of them, and replace them with that which does not take the place of God. Please meditate on the following:

Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor
.

10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.

11 The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.

1There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:9-12)

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore
. (Psalm 16:11)

(Picture – The Crooked House, Sopot, Poland, eurolink.co)

Warped Living

Sitting in my study chair reading Isaiah 47, the following arrested my attention.

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, is describing the fall of the Babylonian empire due to her (47:1-3) pride and wickedness. In doing so, He uses this descriptive phrase: Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you.

To be warped is to be led astray; to be deluded; to be perverted. How does this happen in an individual’s life, especially a believer’s life?

You are warped when . . .

1. You trust in your wickedness. In other words, you live in the land of your own human viewpoint rather than absolute truth, divine viewpoint. A slow, meditative walk through Proverbs 10 will describe the difference between wicked (human, selfish) and righteous (divine, godly) living.

2. You say, No one sees me. How easy it is to think that you sin alone; no one sees you. Then as you continue to accept your sin, to justify your choices, and brush over the wickedness, even calling it acceptable names, you have already gone far down the road of believing that anyone sees. I assure you, God does, your friends do, and if you are a parent, your children do. Warning: more is caught than taught.

3. You listen to yourself and to others who agree with you, then you apply what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying . . . Your wisdom and knowledge have warped you. There was a day in your life when you knew what God said was right or wrong, but over time, you have come to accept and gloss over sin.

4. You follow your heart . . . and you have said in your heart. The warning of Jeremiah 17:5-10 should get everyone’s attention, especially verse 9.

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

5. You control your life as if God did not exist . . .I am, and there is no one else beside me. Peruse through Isaiah 45, and you will see that only God alone has the right to say, I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me (45:5). When we live by our own expectations, our own desires, our own thoughts, for our own happiness, and leave God out of the picture, we are living a warped life.

What are the manifestations of warped living? That will be the topic of our next post. In the meantime, read Isaiah 45-47, and the words above. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where you are living a warped life. He will guide you and show you the Truth. As He does, confess your sin, repent and follow God and His Word.

I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right (45:19) . . . not warped.

(Photo by Nicholas Kennedy Sitton)

Blessed Quietness

Noise is everywhere! Music blaring over the speaker system in the clothing stores, loud diesel pickup trucks billowing their smoke as they scream by your house, parents hollering threats at their children as they make their way through Wal-Mart, phone notifications and text messages keeping us on edge, etc.

Sadly, too many of us do not know how to be still or even how to deal with “awkward” quiet. For far too many, our lives are characterized by rush, running, and racket.

While being on sabbatical this month, one of the blessings that has come our way has been times of quiet and stillness. They have come to us seated by the lake at Watauga Point for the afternoon, enjoying the gardens outside Boone Tavern Inn after breakfast, outdoor supper by a quiet brook at Pottery Barn Cafe & Grille, on our back porch, in our family room, and on the deck and the upstairs window seat of a friend’s lake cottage to name a few.

Blessed Quietness, a hymn from yesteryear, speaks to that which alludes so many. How can you know and experience that blessed quietness?

The fourth stanza says, “What a wonderful salvation, where we always see God’s face! What a perfect habitation, what a quiet resting place!” First of all, you must have the chaos in your sinful heart and soul quieted by the resting work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ alone. On the cross when Jesus was crucified, He declared, It is finished, and He bowed His and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The work of salvation was complete (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9). The greatest rest for man comes with the complete assurance of full salvation through the complete work of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the following: John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28; 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13.

Second, meditate and operate in life through the familiar words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (1-4).

In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2b are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”. Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you. He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest. (Moran, Hope4Israel.org)

Begin each day with quiet in the presence of your Shepherd. Bathe your soul in the Word of God and prayer. Rest in Him as you read. When you pray, talk out loud to God, but then stop and listen to Him speak quietly to you. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 42:1; Philippians 4:6-8).

Men, you take the lead. Discipline yourself to have times of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord. Designate a place at home, in the woods, on a walk, or by a creek where you can read the Word and commune with the Lord. Here’s a helpful resource.

Husbands, make sure your wife has times of solitude. She is your first ministry.

Dads, teach your children how to be still before the Lord even when they are young.

We will always have noise around us, but don’t let it rob you of the stillness of salvation and your relationship with The Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange the rush, running and racket for blessed quietness.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
what assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me,
how the billows cease to roll
!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #14)

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

For fourteen days you have joined with your brothers and sisters in Christ meeting at the Throne of Grace! During these two weeks, you have been challenged to pray with praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude, to intercede for others, to pray contemplating the greatness of God, to believe God for His increase, to consider the sovereignty and compassion of God, to not forsake prayer gatherings, to cry out for our sin-sick nation, and to pray through trials walking in victory.

As you look back over these fourteen days, . . .

  • What has impacted your life about God, about His Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit?
  • What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you about yourself that has led to repentance and a sweeter walk with Christ in you?
  • How has your life of prayer (not your prayer life) changed, been encouraged, and motivated?
  • Has your time in prayer been motivated out of trying to have a relationship with God or because you have a relationship with God Who lives in you?
  • Have you sensed a greater burden and delight in prayer?
  • Have you had times of conversation with your Heavenly Father rather than a one-way chat? Did you pour out your heart and then listen to Him speak or it was just ritualistic prayer phrases?
  • Can you go a day now without praying?

As we embark on this final week leading up to Resurrection Sunday, may your relationship with God in prayer increase even more in view of the empty tomb and the intercession of our living Christ on our behalf right now! May you see God at work all around you each day as your heart for Him is made more sensitive to the One Who indwells you and walks with you as you participate in Christ’s life!

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ”
― John Bunyan

21 Days of Prayer (Day #10)

“Thank you for this 21 day journey. I am one who does not fast well, and I have never been moved to do it, but I was reminded that there are other types of fasts. I for one have now been convicted that I consume far too much political junk food all day. Time for a fast from a chunk of that! Time to re-sort those things.” These are the words from a text I received yesterday morning and used with permission. What rejoicing it brought to my heart! This believer gets it!

Yesterday’s reading took me to Nehemiah 1-2. Nehemiah receives news from Hanani concerning the destruction in Jerusalem. The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire (1:3). He had known some facts of the situation before, but this detailed firsthand account moved him in a powerful way. In verse 4 we read, So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

There are two things that I want you to get from this today.

First of all, note the descriptive words of 1:4. Nehemiah was broken. Indeed, we should be driven and motivated to prayer by the love God has for us and the love of Christ in us, but are you driven to prayer because you are broken over the destruction caused by your own sin, rebellion, pride, disobedience and unbelief? Please catch that as Nehemiah prays (1:5-11), he doesn’t use the pronouns “they” or “you.” He includes himself by the use of “I” and “we.” So much so, you read in 1:6-7, Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. If we are to see a move of God at BCBC, His INCREASE (1 Corinthians 3:7-8), we must be broken!!

Consider something with me, please. Have you ever been so burdened in prayer that you cried out to God in verbal anguish of heart and soul? Did the tears course down your cheeks? Did you find yourself groaning, aching over the burden, weeping over sin, responding in such a fashion as we see with Nehemiah, David (Psalm 34:17-18; 51:1-17), and Jesus (Luke 22:44)?

You see, prayer doesn’t lead you to brokenness until your pride and preferences die (Romans 6). Jesus said, Not MY will but Thine be done (Luke 22:42). “MY” will must die before it is resurrected into “THY” will. This is the power of the cross and the resurrection. Death to self; alive to Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).

Second of all, please note that Nehemiah fasted. Remember, the purpose of fasting is for a Christ-centered, biblical purpose. My challenge to you this week is to set aside whatever will remind you, “I’m giving this up so I can spend time before the Lord in prayer.” For instance, if it is giving up a meal, when you want to eat, let the hunger pain remind you of the greater need of prayer! If you are giving up social media for a week, every time you want to check Facebook, let that be a reminder to pray for God’s increase at BCBC, for lost souls to be saved, and for revival among our church family.

Brokenness and fasting—two important ingredients too often missing in the believer’s life of prayer. Today, let’s . . .

  • Read the passages of Scripture given in today’s prayer challenge and answer the questions. Will you be broken?
  • Consider what needs to be set aside this week in fasting in order to be more aware of the need of prayer and the presence of Christ in you.

21 Days of Prayer (Day #9)

Praise the Lord for all of you who have joined us on this 21 day journey. My heart was thrilled to see the number of hands raised in the morning gathering signifying their commitment to prayer.

Why 21 days? According to www.biblestudy.org, “Twenty-one symbolizes the great wickedness of rebellion and sin. After the children of Israel left Egyptian bondage they had 21 major rebellious events as they traveled and wandered in the wilderness.”

On Monday, February 8th, while driving to Kingsport, TN, and talking with the Lord about the future at Boones Creek Bible Church and the sin that abounds in our world today, He brought prayer and fasting to my mind.

On Tuesday, February 9th, one of the passages in my daily Bible reading was Luke 5:35, But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days, which set my mind to thinking about fasting and prayer. Then I read in Philippians 2:21, For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. A reason to fast is to break us away from a self-seeking mentality. Warren Wiersbe said, “In a very real sense, all of us live either in Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, or in Philippians 2:21.” Then I read Psalm 119:145-152 which speaks of crying out to the LORD with our whole heart.

On Wednesday, February 10th, continuing to seek the Lord’s will for BCBC in reference to prayer and fasting, I read in Luke 6 these words, Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God (6:12). As I read, I wrote in my journal, “Why pray and fast?” The answer came in my reading of Philippians 3, Have no confidence in the flesh. . . . that I may gain Christ (3:3, 9). Making the connection, fasting is not a ritual to brag about or think oneself more spiritual than others or to become a legalistic matter, but it is a time set aside to remove all distractions, even necessary food, to spend concentrated time seeking the Lord’s face in submission, repentance and surrender. The Christ in me fasted and prayed, why shouldn’t I?

In the days to follow, my daily Bible reading continued to contain passages about prayer, fasting, and crying out to God. Upon reading 2 Chronicles 13-21, the Lord settled it in my heart, and we began this journey on Sunday, March 14.

As we work our way through this second week, may I encourage you to:

  • Consider fasting and prayer for the purpose of hungering and thirsting for God rather than earthly, human desires (Psalm 42:1-2a); for the purpose of seeing strongholds of evil (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) torn down in our hearts in such a way that it would usher in a great revival that would “shake” BCBC (Acts 4:31), that would melt our idols and cause us to die daily (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6).
  • Consider fasting and prayer with a proper biblical motive — seeking God’s face, not His hand — with a broken, repentant and contrite spirit (Psalms 34:18; 51:17; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Peter 5:5-7).
  • Consider keeping a journal of the truths God is teaching you about Himself, Christ, the Holy Spirt and yourself. Also, answers to prayer; changes God is bringing to your attitude about prayer; the blessings of prayer and fasting; perhaps writing out your prayers.

I heard Evangelist Ron Lynch say in a recent message that God got ahold of his heart two years ago at Men’s Prayer Advance in reference to his viewpoint on prayer. He said, “God taught me that we are not to have a ‘prayer life’ but a ‘life of prayer’.” May these 21 days in the presence of the Lord bring us to have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3), but to have a vibrant, faith-filled, obedient, passionate, cup-running-over, expectant, crying out, submissive “life of prayer.”

Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between his will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer. — Elisabeth Elliot

21 Days of Prayer (Day #3)

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1-10

If you read the Bible with a sensitive heart, you will often be overwhelmed with the great difficulty of many of its commands: “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). The list could go on and on. How can we possibly obey these seemingly impossible commands of Scripture?
The disciples felt overwhelmed by Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17:1-4. He told them to be on guard so that they would not cause any young believers in Him to stumble. And He said that if their brother sinned, they were to rebuke him and if he repented they were to forgive him, no matter how often the cycle was repeated. The disciples instantly realized that these were tough demands. To walk uprightly so as not to cause a new believer to stumble and to forgive someone who has wronged us are not automatic behaviors! Forgiveness especially is tough because our feelings are involved. So the disciples respond by asking the Lord to increase their faith (17:5). It was an honest request stemming from the right motives. They saw that if they wanted to fulfill these demands, they would have to have God’s strength and enabling to do it.
But Jesus’ answer (17:6) indicates that more faith is not really the issue. Faith is not measured by its quantity, but simply by its presence. A mustard seed sized faith will accomplish impossible things. The real need, Jesus says (17:7-10), is for more obedience and humility. We should view ourselves as God’s slaves who owe Him simple and unquestioning obedience. And, when we have done what He requires, we should not get puffed up with pride in our great obedience, but should simply say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” Thus …
When we encounter the difficult commands of Scripture, we should not focus on more faith, but on more obedience and humility. (Steven Cole)

In prayer today, let us focus on “Lord, increase my obedience as I humbly submit to You, Your authority and Your great love for me.”

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the commands of Scripture you are not obeying?
  • In addition, read again through the commands given in the first paragraph of this devotional.
  • Confess your disobedience (1 John 1:9).
  • Cast all your fears, excuses, doubts, laziness, whatever you are choosing as stumbling blocks of disobedience at the feet of Jesus (1 Peter 5:5-7).
  • Submit to the Word and “step into the water” (Joshua 3:8).
  • Bottom line, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15). Make the connection here with abiding love from our 1 John 4:7-21 study.

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

21 Days of Prayer (Day #2)

Yesterday, you spent time in awe of God’s greatness as you meditated on Psalm 145. Oh, how I trust your time in His loving, holy presence was rich and full of grace and glory!!

Psalm 100:4 exhorts us to enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! As you launch into prayer each day on this journey, be sure to spend time praising God for His holiness, goodness, patience, and other attributes. Then, thank God for His blessings and be specific . This morning, use Psalms 100 and 103 to begin your week with praise and thanksgiving.

Here’s an example using Psalm 100

  • Sing a hymn of praise to the Lord (100:1-2).
  • Praise the LORD for His attributes, naming them and sharing why from your heart they are meaningful to you right now (100:3).
  • Praise the LORD for how He will shepherd you this week (100:3).
  • Thank Him for at least ten specific things He has done in the past 24 hours (100:4)
  • Talk to the LORD out of your love relationship with Him as you rejoice in His goodness, His steadfast love, and His faithfulness (100:5).

Now share your requests with the Lord, and before you do, let me ask, “How will your fresh encounter of praise and thanksgiving effect your time of supplication?”

May your prayer life be one of INCREASE today because you have chosen the best part (Luke 10:42).

21 Days of Prayer (Day 1)

21 Days Of Prayer | Devotional Reading Plan | YouVersion Bible

Psalm 145 is glorious psalm of praise acknowledging Who God is and what He has and is doing, James Montgomery Boice said it this way, “Psalm 145 is indeed a monumental praise psalm, a fit summary of all David had learned about God during a long lifetime of following hard after the Almighty.”

Today, as we begin this journey of 21 Days of Prayer to Resurrection Sunday, may I encourage you to give these days to following hard after the Almighty, the God of Majesty, Love, Holiness, Righteousness and Compassion?

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (Mark 1:35). Jesus said that He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He followed hard after the Almighty.

Today, find a solitary place where you can get alone with your Heavenly Father to pray.

  • Bring your Bible, a journal (book or tablet), and a hymnbook.
  • Read Psalm 145 out loud with heart and devotion to your Heavenly Father.
  • Go back and pray through the psalm, taking your time to meditate on a line or a verse; stop and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to you. Don’t be in a hurry. You can’t know the heart of God on the run.
  • As you pray and are silent at various intervals, write in your journal what the Spirit is saying to you.
  • When a verse speaks of blessing the Lord, choose a song and sing it Him!
  • When a verse speaks of praise, tell the Lord how great He is and thank Him for what He has done.
  • Perhaps record in your journal five things about Who God is and five things He done.
  • When you return to your family, share with them what God has revealed to you about Himself and about you. Have them share with you about their experience in the solitary place with the Lord.
  • Make this time in His presence all about praise and thanksgiving . . . no requests! Just enjoy following hard after the Almighty, being in the presence of the One Who loves you unconditionally, eternally, and immensely!

Psalm 145:18 says, The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. May you be greatly encouraged as you spend time with the One Who sought you out and adopted you for a love relationship that is real and personal. Follow hard after the Almighty!