Enough Is Enough

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My favorite paragraph in this article by Gary Thomas is:

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby,twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We shouldconfront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.

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Painful Wound Of Divorce

My eyes filled with tears as I scrolled through the Facebook news feed. Yet another couple was celebrating their anniversary. “Can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I said ‘I do’” the post read. “More in love than ever!”I felt the painful wound of divorce tear open once again. Why didn’t I get my happily-ever-after? What is so wrong with me that I can’t be loved? I did all the “right” things and everything still went wrong! This isn’t how I planned my life!

There are times when you’ve done all you can do to save your marriage, but it still ends in divorce. I know the feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and disillusionment because I have been there. Love never gives up, right? Doesn’t the Bible say that? How did this happen? What happens when “happily-ever-after” shatters?

The truth is, the only thing we have to offer is love. That’s it. And the only thing a potential spouse can offer is love. And what greater love is there than the love of Christ?  The love of God liberates us from shallow mockeries of intimacy. Sometimes this means that breakups are even more difficult (something deeper is at stake).

It’s not that you don’t feel loved right now — it goes further than that. You feel unloveable. How do you receive the love of God when someone has thrown a rejection bomb into your heart, closed the hatch, and broken off the key?

Look, every human wants the same things; to be valued, respected, honored, loved, appreciated,needed…all emotional needs.
Before we begin to seek someone else to fill a void that we desperately want, why do we not realize that in relationships you Are going to be hurt, you will get your heart broken, and there will be times you ask yourself how in the world did I get in this mess?
Sometimes, we get into abusive relationships that so break our spirit,that we buy into the lies that we deserve exactly what we get,so we stay and become beaten, abused, and demeaned (by the person who once said I love you).  It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters whether you want to live or just continue a life of existence. To learn that before you can give love you must be able to love yourself enough to admit sometimes when we want something so badly, we will accept any behavior including abusive behavior in relationships. Being betrayed,Yes,it hurts but you never can go forward in life driving a parked car.
How can you or anyone give away what they don’t possess?
Life hurts. Roses are beautiful flowers, however,they also have thorns and depending whether you acknowledge the thorns, knowing they can inflict pain if not properly respected; we can realize much about life and love if we stop, think before we jump.
The reality is marriage is not always a clear path with a guaranteed outcome.

So, What do you do when you’ve done everything Jesus told you to do, but your spouse is hard-hearted like Jesus describes in Matthew 19:8? The Bible assures us He is close to the brokenhearted and those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 147:3, Psalm 34:18)  Divorce is one of the most painful events you can go through. We are not meant to carry the pain alone.

Sometimes, people need permission to be broken. And it is from that broken place that they are finally able to become whole again.

Time and time again, when faced with some of life’s hardest moments, I have shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.”  Sometimes we just need to surrender and fall into the arms of our Heavenly Father.

Teaching Our Children To Love God

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One of the biggest blessing in my life has been to homeschool my children.  The Word of God was a major part of our day, starting with quiet devotions in the morning and spilling over into every subject – handwriting, history, and language arts.  We used Deuteronomy 6 as our mission statement and model.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

As parents this is our first responsibility, the Bible tells us that children are a gift from the Lord, specially created for His pleasure and divine purpose (Psalm 127:3-5; 139:13-16). God has entrusted us with our children for a very short time, during which parents have the responsibility of training, instructing, nurturing, and disciplining them, as well as overseeing their education (Ephesians 6:4). At the same time, I realize home schooling is not for everyone and that’s o.k.  But, it is imperative that Christian parents teach their children the Word of God from a young age, showing them how to incorporate it into their daily lives, trusting continually in God. We are to keep His words on our heart, to think on them, to meditate on them, to reflect on them. Knowing we cannot give our children what we do not possess. We cannot pass along what we do not own. No one else can do it for us. We are to love the Lord with all our heart and to share and model that love with our children.  Our children are watching us and modeling our attitudes and behaviors. They are parroting back our attitudes about Christ and His church.

Every part of the day as a family is an opportunity to spend time in the Word together, whether the Bible is in front of us or not!

Hopefully, Long after you and I are gone our children will have raised their children and have seen their children’s children will come to know you, nothing else will matter but that we here today taught our children to know Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. Nothing else will matter—certainly not the money we saved, the businesses we ran, the houses we lived in, or even the friends and memories we shared—none of that will matter. The only thing that will matter will be the Gospel—the saving Truth of Jesus Christ, which has brought life to us and to our children. That is the greatest gift you can give your child—the gift of life, real life, in Jesus Christ.

I pray Lord that we know in our heart the One in whom we  believe. That You are Lord, our God and that Your word of promise will not fail. Thank you Lord that Your grace has redeemed us to be your own. May our love for you overflow in our hearts as we teach our children your ways, that they may grow to Love you and your Word.  Help them Father to grow in the grace and knowledge of You.

May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Wounds That Do Not Show

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I grew up in a world where I was afraid all the time. Sexual abuse starting at age 5, stalker and rape at age 15, alcohol and drug abuse permeating my childhood. All of these traumas I kept quiet. For years. I lived under that unwritten, unspoken mandate that to tell was to betray.

It wasn’t until I met Jesus at eighteen that the secrets started to spill.  Although, it would be many years before I had the courage to tell the whole truth. I have been met with very different reactions, from encouragement to well, maybe don’t tell everyone. What I have learned is, that hiding the truth will cause it to fester, which is what I have been doing for many years. Proof being many failed relationships. If we want Jesus to set us free, we need to tell the truth…the whole truth. I would be lying if I said it no longer hurts, but the Lord has allowed me to use my hurts for His glory, which feels amazing.

Unfortunately, the imprint of childhood trauma still shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell… when we least expect it. It can cost us everything if we do not seek help.

Healing is worth it. Sometimes our very existence can be exhausting. Yet, people will want us to heal on their time. They will ask us to hurry up, forgive and move on…and my favorite “get over it.”  However, people don’t understand that it takes a lot of focus, prayer and courage for us to just show up.  I am living testimony that you can heal with Jesus, that you can transform in such a way that people would be shocked that you ever walked that path of pain.

You may be thinking, well that is great for you but you don’t know what I lived through…you’re right. I don’t. But consider this…Instead of seeing your past as a burden, start seeing it as a chance for God to use it for his glory! We actually have an advantage really, because we know our need for Jesus..sometimes, it is all we have. We know we can’t heal on our own. Our weakness is the starting place for the Lord to set us free.

That’s why, I can now thank the Lord for the pain, shame and fear in my childhood.. Because of it I am a better mother to my children. It helps me see my desperate need for Jesus and my unshakeable faith.  It is like a verse in Job where after all the terrible things that happened to him he say’s “I knew of you (God), but know I see you.”  We have seen the worst and we survived, there is freedom in that.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”  Psalm 55:22

If you have found yourself burdened down, anxious, or worried about any area of your life, I believe this message is for you, you are not reading this by accident. God wants you to know that you were never meant to handle everything on your own, which is why you feel weighed down with the cares of this life. If you haven’t already, pray about that thing that you are worrying about, and release it to God, knowing that He has promised to take care of you. Ask Him to show you if there is anything you can do, and leave the rest to Him.

Dear Lord, Please help those struggling with hurts in their life, to be able to accept these issues and heal Lord. To understand that some things take time to process. I pray for encouragement so that we may not tire of waiting or doing good. While these things may take time, slow progress is being made. May the Holy Spirit assist us in doing these things, guiding us and filling us with wisdom. May we feel your love today. Please equip us with the patience we need to endure in Jesus’ name AMEN!

Our Refuge

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“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolation’s he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way, the mountains fall, or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall. When life gets overwhelming and busyness takes over, remember Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Run to Him, lay down your worriess and fall into His arms. Acknowledge that He is God and that He is exalted in the earth. Be still and know that He is God.

Amen

Dear Lord,

I need you.

I am desperate for your help.

I am desperate for your wisdom.

I am desperate for your miracles.

Calm me.

Soothe me.

Refocus me.

I will listen to you.

I will remember that you said, “Be still and know that I am God.”

As I read your words, I will allow you to calm me.

I will remember that –

I am not desperate – I just feel desperate.

I will put on the belt of truth. I will speak tr

A Cheerful Heart

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When I think of this verse, I immediately think of my daughter Jenni.  Jenni was/is the most happy carefree child I have ever known.  Anytime, I made eye contact with her she would ALWAYS break into a big grin, even when she was unhappy with me for disciplining her, try as she might to be unhappy she just could not do it!  There are so many things she did that brought me so much joy!  When she would laugh, it’s the best sound I’ve ever heard (still is), unconditional love, hugs and kisses, snuggling and just watching her learn new things each day, it’s all just priceless and pure joy to behold.

Memories like these will definitely make you smile, maybe even tear up. A warm glow fills you like a candle, burning  deep inside your soul.  Children give us unconditional love, as adults we can learn a lot from children, they have no biases when it comes to love. If you smile at a child, he/she will beam a huge smile back at you for no reason other than your presence. Children do not love with expectation of something better in return, they just love.

Think about it. To everyone, all over the world, a smile is the universal expression of friendliness and goodwill, and even a tiny baby recognizes that a smile is a happy thing.  Smiling is also good for you… it lowers your blood pressure, helps your immune system to work better, and releases natural pain killers, endorphins, and serotonin.

There is no downside to a genuine, warm smile, and for that grumpy or harried someone who is having a really bad day, your friendly smile can be a real mood changer. Try giving the gift of a smile… and giving it freely throughout your day. You may be surprised at what a difference a smile can make!

Nothing reveals more about our hearts than our words and actions. Our heart contains the motivations for what we do and why we do it. We are encouraged through scripture to pay attention to our hearts with due diligence. As we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ—our hearts will become more convicted about sin and more tender loving towards people especially the lost

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

One of the best blessings in being a believer in Jesus Christ is the peace that rises above every life situation. While others are fretting with worry, believers have the power of the Holy Spirit to guard their hearts and minds with peace and joy that has no human explanation. Having peace and joy allows believers to continue to go through hardships painful situations without regret. The key to having peace in our hearts is surrendering all our prayers to God and trusting in Him to take care of each one.  Just as the body can’t function well without a healthy heart, neither can the Christian with a spiritual heart—we will be sluggish in our work, hard at hearing God’s word, and slow to recognize His presence. The consistent disciplines of the Christian faith of prayer, Bible study, and fellowship will keep our spiritual hearts hearts pumping strong towards our eternal destination.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for not only saving my soul, but for the promise of healing also.  I do appreciate the many times over the years that You have healed me personally.  I also thank you for the gift of healing as I have prayed and You have touched others with Your healing virtue.   You truly are the Great Physician. I do appreciate that about You.  Lord, I do want to always remain in a joyful attitude, no matter what might come my way.  Fill me with Your love, joy and peace daily, so that I might be an example of Your goodness. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

My Daughter And Queen Esther

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For Such A Time As This

I think every little girl dreams of being a princess.  My oldest daughter Summer’s favorite bible story was about Queen Esther.  She always enjoyed reading and learning about this amazing Queen that God chose, not to mention watching the video a million times!  From a very early age Summer was all girl, she loved to dress up like a princess with all the jewelry and crowns.  I wanted her to learn and hear about real-life princesses and queens that were brave, strong and selfless.  The Bible has the ultimate queen heroine Queen Esther!

The book of Esther takes place during exile in Persia and recounts the plot to exterminate the Jewish nation. Since Esther has miraculously become Queen, she was in a unique position to foil the evil plot. Her cousin Mordecai utters this famous quote to Esther regarding her divine destiny: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Chapter 4:14)

As a mom, I was glad that she wanted to emulate Esther and here is why:

Esther is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other woman.

Esther was a queen who knew the power of when to speak and when to remain quiet.

Esther had courage: Remember Queen Esther when she said the words, “If I perish, I perish.” She was undoubtedly a brave queen. She was a remarkable woman who was willing to risk her life to save her people. She was a woman of principle who was willing to put the lives of others ahead of even her own life. She was an outstanding example of serving others even under the most stressful circumstances. Jesus Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Esther’s beauty came from the inside where the presence of God’s unfailing love lived in her (Esther 2:8) Over and over in Esther’s story, we see she found favor. “Favor” is the word hesed in Hebrew and it means “God’s unfailing love”. Favor was the secret of Esther’s beauty. When the people saw in the palace, including the king, it wasn’t only her physical appearance they were seeing. They were seeing the presence of God inside of her.

Now, my daughter Summer is an adult getting ready to have her own family. If I was asked to describe my daughter; Esther would come to mind why? Because she is fiercely loyal, smart, determined, brave and deeply faithful.  She always carries herself (even as a small child) with grace, modesty and style, she has an inner (as well as outer) beauty.  I like to think that those early years of studying, reading and watching Esther ‘s story are now part of her DNA. That was the beauty of homeschooling, I could do and did a complete curriculum study on Esther.

Like Queen Esther (4:14), we each have been created for His purpose – “for such a time as this.”

We can all use this story in our everyday lives. Most of the time our lives will be pretty routine, but all of us have a few defining moments when we may be called on to put godly principle above personal benefit. What will you do when you encounter those defining moments in your life? What will you do when you face “such a time as this”? Will you choose to do the right thing as opposed to what might give you some personal benefit?

Esther shows all of us the way, and we can be inspired by her example.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)