What does God value?

This is my lesson for this week. May it bless many and bear fruit to the glory of Jesus.

I am the younger of two children. I have only one sister. She is older than me. Her name is Kristan.

Growing up, I was always competing with Kristan. I never felt like I was as good as her. She was a quiet girl who didn’t cause much trouble. I always thought she was prettier than me. She was taller than me – and she still is. She was an excellent piano player while I struggled through my piano lessons.

Because I felt like she was better than me in so many ways, I tried to be better than her in other ways. I showed off by being talkative, friendly, outspoken, and loud. I earned awards in science fairs and debate competitions. I went to a special school for the top students in my city, yet I still felt like I was in her shadow.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever compared yourself to someone else and felt like you weren’t as good, as smart, or as pretty as them?

Last week we talked about what people like to share on social media like WeChat and Facebook.

I think one reason why people like sharing on social media is because they want people to praise them. We all want people to think we’re smart, beautiful, kind, and good. We all want people’s praise.

Now that I am an adult, I still find myself comparing my strengths to others’ weaknesses. I like to share the highlights of my week when my family did something special. I don’t share the moments when I got mad at my husband. I don’t share when my house was a mess and I served frozen pizzas for dinner. I don’t share when I spent 2 hours scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. I want to show the good things my kids or my husband or I did. I still want so much for people to praise and value me. This is still a struggle for me.

How about you?

I want to show you a short video of a young man with Down Syndrome speaking at a meeting for some American government leaders. While you’re watching this video, I want you to think about how you feel watching this young man and how you would feel if he was your son.


You can watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/vtS91Jd5mac

If you were this young man’s mom, would you be proud to call him your son? Why? Why not?

Now let’s think about our own families. If you had a son, would you value him more if he was the top student in his Chinese class? What if he won a track meet or an English competition? What would he have to do to make you proud?

What about God? What does God value? What makes God proud? To find an answer, let’s consider the story of the shepherd boy David who grew up to be the King of Israel. The first king of Israel, King Saul, had disobeyed God and God was looking for a new man to be king of Israel. God sent His prophet Samuel to a man named Jesse to find a new king from one of Jesse’s sons. When Jesse’s first son arrived, Samuel thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed,” but Samuel was wrong.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.
The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

但耶和华对撒母耳说:“不要看他的外貌和他高大的身材,因为我不拣选他。
耶和华看人不像人看人,人是看外表,耶和华是看内心。

Let’s try reciting this verse together. First, you can listen to me say it. Then, we will say it together.
Finally, I’d like a few sisters to try it by themselves.

God had chosen Jesse’s youngest son who was out in the field caring for the sheep. As we are told in Acts 13:22, God had chosen David, the son of Jesse, because he was a man after God’s own heart who would do everything God wanted him to do.

Does that mean that David never sinned? Does that mean that David never broke God’s laws? No, it doesn’t. In fact, David committed adultery with a married woman and had her husband killed. Yet, David was repentant over his sin. David grieved over his sin and turned to God for forgiveness. David held fast to God and had faith in God even when life was very hard.

So, what exactly is in a man’s heart which makes God value him?

What do you think, sisters? What makes a person worthy to be called God’s child?

God created each and every person in His very own image. Every single person ever made was created in the image of God – no matter their skin color, no matter their wealth, no matter their intelligence or ability level, no matter how much money they have. Every single person has value in the sight of God because every single person is created in the image of God.

But not everyone is God’s child.

Jesus “came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:10-13)

The only thing that can make you God’s child is faith, faith in Jesus Christ, the only Son of our Heavenly Father God. This alone is what makes you worthy. Faith is the greatest value.

And even this faith is a gift, as we read in Ephesians 2:8, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

As you trust in God, then He will strengthen you and guide you to do great things for Him. He will change you, grow you and make you more like His Son as you trust in Him.

Like I once worked so hard to be better than my sister, when I became a Christian, I worked so hard to earn God’s love. But I was wrong. There was nothing I could do to deserve God’s love.

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might,
let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this,
that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD
who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

耶和华这样说:“智慧人不可夸耀自己的智慧,勇士不可夸耀自己的勇力,财主不可夸耀自己的财富。
夸口的却要因了解我,认识我而夸口;认识我是耶和华,我在地上施行慈爱、
公正、公义;因为我喜悦这些事。”这是耶和华的宣告。

Let’s try reciting this verse together. First, you can listen to me say it. Then, we will say it together.
Finally, I’d like a few sisters to try it by themselves.

God delights in steadfast love, justice and righteousness. Yes, He does. And He wants us to do these things, too, but He wants us to do them by faith. He wants us to obey Him by faith.

Jesus chose the intellectual Paul, a Jewish Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians, to share the good news of salvation with the lost. But Jesus also chose four common fishermen like Peter to spread the gospel. Does Jesus love the intellectual Paul more than simple Peter? No.

As Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the church in Corinth,

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,
not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world,
even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29
)

弟兄们,你们想想,你们这些蒙召的,按人“人”或译:
“世上的标准”、“世界的标准”来看有智慧的不多,有权势的不多,出身尊贵的也不多。
但是 神却拣选了世上愚笨的,使那些有智慧的羞愧。他也拣选了世上软弱的,使那些刚强的羞愧。
他也拣选了世上卑贱的和被人轻视的,以及算不得甚么的,为了要废弃那些自以为是的,
使所有的人在 神面前都不能自夸。

Do you think if your child got better grades or your husband had a better job, then God would love you more?

Do you think that if you were prettier or smarter or richer, then God would love you?

What if you memorized more Bible verses or prayed more or went to church more often, then would you be worthy of God’s love?

What if you gave all you owned to the poor or gave up your life as a martyr for Christ, then would you finally be valuable to God? (See 1 Corinthians 13 for more on this!)

Look at these pictures of my husband and my son in our backyard. My husband is much taller than my son when you look at them up close, but when you compare either of them to the height of the trees, they are both so tiny.

We may like to compare ourselves to one other, but when we compare ourselves to God, then we see how short we truly are. None of us are perfectly good, wise or holy. Only God. God loves you because He is God. He is your Creator, and He wants to be your Father. There is nothing you can say or do or think to make yourself worthy of His love.

In your own power,
you are unworthy and undeserving,
but in Christ Jesus you have infinite worth.

I don’t know whether you need to hear this because you need to be reminded not to show favoritism to your children or your coworkers or your friends, or because you need the reminder that you can’t earn God’s love, but I know that you need to hear this. 

When you place your trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you. When God looks at you, He sees His Son, Jesus Christ, in your heart. Jesus Christ is who makes you worthy and valuable, completely worthy and infinitely valuable, and Jesus Christ is the truly the only one truly worthy of praise.

Let me encourage you to share this good news with someone else this week.

Weary

Week after week passes, each week the same.

Dishes to wash.

Classes to teach.

Dinners to cook.

Groceries to buy.

It is so easy to grow weary. It is so easy to think that life is without purpose or meaning. Yet, the light shines in the darkness. The Lord gives strength to the weary. In His mercy, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf and the hearts of the captives.

I find encouragement in knowing that our Heavenly Father never grows weary. In my weariness and weakness, I am able to recognize the enormity of God’s power.

God alone is almighty. He alone is outside of time and space. He alone is able to do everything and know everything. He intentionally created me to need food and rest, that I would recognize my humble state and praise His almighty glory.

So, today, sisters, let me encourage you. Do not grow weary of well-doing. God is not finished with you. In this world you will have trouble, but you can take heart because Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man – has overcome this world! This world is temporary, but the new heavens and new earth are eternal. Do not work for the food that perishes! Instead, work for the treasures which are everlasting. (John 6:27) God Himself is your peace in the storm, the giver of every good thing.

We are together in this earthly journey. Let’s encourage one another as we see the end drawing near. As my Chinese friends say, “Jiayou!” (Keep going!)

All glory to His Almighty name

TWIG

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 ESV

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

Trust = Obedience. Distrust = Disobedience.

“If deep in our hearts we suspect that God does not love us and cannot manage our affairs as well as we can, we certainly will not submit to His discipline.” – Elisabeth Elliot (Nor His Word or His plan for our life.)

The more we know the Lord’s loving goodness and mercy, as well as His almighty power, the more we will trust Him and His plans for us.

You can know God. Imagine that! God has given us His Word, so we can know and trust Him. The more you know and trust Him, the more closely you will follow and obey Him.

How can I come alongside you?

Message me or leave a comment.

Micah 6:6-8 with a 21st Century American Twist

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God most high?

Shall I go to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night?

Shall I attend Wednesday morning Bible studies and Wednesday night choir practices?

Will the Lord be pleased if I post Bible verses every morning on Facebook and every night on Instagram?

What if I homeschool my children from birth to high school graduation or put them in the finest Christian schools?

Shall I wear long hair and long skirts and bake homemade bread and desserts for my family?

He has told you, O woman, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.

To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.

See Micah 6:6-8, Matthew 22:34 – 23:39 and 1 Corinthians 13.

Pay back time

We are told that we deserve death because of our sin. (Romans 6:23) Aren’t you thankful that Jesus took your place?

Now we can love others because He loved us first. (1 John 4:19)

We can love others even when they hurt us. We can completely trust God, the only Righteous judge, the only one who is perfectly wise, perfectly good, and perfectly powerful.

A word for me today.

– TWIG

Where does your help come from?

I used to think that faith in God was nothing more than a crutch for weak people.

Now I realize that we all need help, and we’re all looking for help somewhere.

Are we looking for help from our parents, our government, or our own strength?

What kind of idols are we pursuing?

Where are we looking in our time of need? Sugar? Social media? Stuff?

Let’s worship the Lord together, the only one WORTHY, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign Ruler over the affairs of men. HE is my helper, what can man do to me?

Of seeing, knowing and trusting in Deuteronomy

And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 29:2‭-‬6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.29.2-6.ESV

The Israelites had seen with their own eyes all that the Lord had done in Egypt, the trials and the signs and the wonders. They’d seen the ten plagues that God had sent on Egypt and they’d seen God open the Red Sea for them to escape.

Their eyes had seen it, but the Lord had not given them a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.

So, God led them through the wilderness, providing for them for 40 years, giving them food and water and preserving their clothing, so that they would know that He alone is the true Lord, their God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to know that He is the Lord and sometimes that means He has to lead us through the wilderness.

God wants us to see Him in the trials and in the wonders.

Do you know that He is the Lord? Do you trust Him today? If you don’t, will you start seeking Him today? He wants you to know Him.

For more on this, read Deuteronomy 3:21-22; Deuteronony 4:3,9; Deuteronomy 8

25 tips for staying married for 25 years … and looking forward to another 25

This has been quite a year for me. My oldest son got married January 6th and my oldest daughter got engaged November 8th. My in-laws celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer and my husband and I celebrated our 25th this Christmas.

This summer, my dad spent two weeks in the hospital during which we feared he would never recover and this fall my faithful prayer partner’s young adult son passed away unexpectedly. My children’s last surviving great grandparent passed away in his twilight years this spring, while their youth pastor began the hard journey of life on his own, after losing his bride of almost 30 years in a fire last Christmas.

It has certainly been a year full of intermingled joy and pain.

Earlier this week when my husband and I were out celebrating our twenty-fifth with a delicious fondue dinner, our young, blond, single waitress asked us the secret to staying married for 25 years.

My husband shared with her the advice that his recently-departed grandfather had shared at his last anniversary celebration, when he and Bill’s grandma had been married for 70 years. Are you ready for his sage advice?

“Don’t get divorced.”

Yep. That’s it. That’s the secret to a long marriage.

“Don’t get divorced.”

It reminds me of a song from my favorite movie of all time, The Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, a dairy farmer, “Do you Love Me?”

Golde has a hard time answering, replying in song, “For twenty-five years, I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

Thinking through it more, and with some added prodding from her needy husband, Golde concludes that she does, in fact, love him, singing,

“For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him.

For twenty-five years, my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”

In our 21st century, me-first, emotion-driven, wealthy American culture, we are losing the basic understanding that staying married is largely about staying committed to the covenant we made before God to remain together through sickness and health, riches and poverty, good times and bad, to love, honor and protect until death parts us.

So, I agree with my husband and his grandpa, that the secret to staying married is, “Don’t get divorced.”

But let’s look deeper into the scriptures, to glean more wisdom from its pages, and consider 25 tips for staying married for 25 years …

  1. Choose your spouse wisely and refuse to be unequally yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) The best marriages are formed from the union of two people who are both committed to loving the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the most important foundation that can be laid for a successful marriage that can go the distance. If you’re not married yet, recognize that the choice of who to marry is truly the most important decision of your life. Count the costs and choose wisely.
  2. Heed the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-7, “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.” Don’t put your trust in your own wisdom, or articles you read on the internet. Put your trust in God.
  3. Pray together with your spouse. Pray for each other. Pray for yourselves. Pray for others. But, pray together. I noticed a big difference in our marriage when we began praying together after being married for almost ten years.
  4. Keep the marriage bed holy. (Hebrews 13:4) The greatest marriage struggles we’ve had have come from issues in this area. Wait until marriage to become intimate. Recognize that God intends for sexual relationships to be enjoyed exclusively in the context of a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman. (1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Ephesians 5:1-6, Matthew 5:27-30)
  5. Recognize that as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equally important, but have unique roles, so are a husband and wife equally valuable, but have unique roles. As Jesus submits to His Father, and the church submits to Christ, so a wife is to submit to her husband. As Christ loved His bride the church, even unto death, so husbands are to sacrificially love, lead, and serve their wives. This mystery is indeed profound, but marriage displays the glory of God and the gospel in a visible way to a watching world. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  6. Keep your heart humble, striving to remove the log from your own eye. (Matthew 7:5) See yourself, rather than your spouse, as the foremost of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:5) Remind yourself of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, not as a way of seeing how badly your spouse is failing, but as a way of seeing your own need for a Savior. Put your own name into these verses and see how you’re doing. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
  7. Confess your sins to each other. (James 5:16) Be transparent and honest with one another. Be quick to apologize and reconcile. As soon as you recognize that you have hurt your spouse, go to them immediately and seek their forgiveness. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  8. Forgive each other. Don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. (Hebrews 12:14-15, Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13) I have often struggled here. I have to remind myself daily of how much God has forgiven me and how important it is for me to forgive likewise.
  9. Maintain a “gentle and quiet Spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4) Peter wrote this particularly for women, and particularly for women whose husbands are not following God, but it applies to men as well. In a marriage, we should both commit our lives to the Lord, to trust Him fully, so we can be free to have a meek spirit before Him and each other.
  10. Commandment #10: Do not covet your neighbor’s spouse. (Exodus 20:17) No spouse is perfect. They all have flaws. And so do you! Remember that the glimpses you get of other married couples on social media or at church on Sunday mornings are not full and accurate pictures of their married lives. All good marriages take work. (Ephesians 5:1-6, Colossians 3:5, James 4:2)
  11. In everything give thanks and give thanks in every thing. Trust that God is always, always at work, even in the very hardest of circumstances. Let the sacrifice of praise be ever found on your lips. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20, Hebrews 13:15)>
  12. Do not give up meeting with other believers. No marriage can thrive without fellowship with other believers. We need our spouse, but we also need others. Get involved and stay involved with a local body of believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42)
  13. Find a mentor and be a mentor. Young women need an older woman to train them to love their husband and children (Titus 2:3-5) and young men need an older man to teach them. And this isn’t only for the first 5 years of marriage. Even after 25 years, I still need older women to pull me back from the ledge sometimes. And I have grown so much in my own marriage and faith as I’ve mentored other women in theirs.
  14. Daily remind yourself of Romans 8:28, that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In the here and how, we only see the backside of the cross-stitched work of art full of tangled, knotted threads, while God is creating a masterpiece of interwoven colors. Trust that God is the only God Almighty, a good Father who always keeps His promises. When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. Choose to believe in the dark what you believed in the light.
  15. Keep a careful watch over your mouth. (Psalm 141:3) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Recognize the importance of bridling your tongue and what terrible fires it can set ablaze.(James 1:26, James 3:2-10) Use your words to speak the truth in love rather than disdain, to build up rather than tear down. (Ephesians 4:15)
  16. Keep an even more careful watch over your heart, for out of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
  17. Recognize the spiritual battle that you are in. Have you been born again into the family of God and filled with His Holy Spirit? If not, you’re fighting a battle you can’t win. But, if so, remember that you are not battling against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil, so make sure you have on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20) There are going to be times when your spouse hurts your feelings. He will be insensitive. He will forget to call. He will leave the toilet seat up. She will burn the dinner and forget to wash the laundry. Pray and stay alert to the enemy’s schemes and don’t jump into a fight that you’re not supposed to fight.
  18. Sometimes the enemy will win for the moment, but remember that Christ is the final victor. Satan may win a battle, but Jesus will win the war. Satan may be the prince of the world, but God is the Almighty King of Glory. Sometimes your spouse will sin against you. When that happens overcome evil with good rather than repaying evil for evil (Romans 12:21, 17). Take up the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.
  19. Remind yourself that the anger of man will never produce the righteousness of God. (See James 1:19-20 and Matthew 5:22) You cannot nag or argue or guilt your spouse into changing. You are responsible for your actions and your words, not theirs. Entrust your spouse into God’s righteous, Almighty hands.
  20. Recognize from the start that life will be hard and marriage will be hard. There’s never been a perfect marriage because there’s never been a perfect man, except Jesus (and He never married and if He had, His wife wouldn’t have been perfect either). Unmet expectations are joy stealers. Beware of having unrealistic expectations of your spouse. If you want something from your spouse, kindly appeal to them for it, but trust God for the results.
  21. Make God’s Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. (Psalm 119:105) Hide it in your heart like precious treasure. (Psalm 119:11) Let the scriptures transform you, trusting that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that you may be complete, equipped for every good work. (Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17) Here are a few good places to start: Psalm 119, 1 Peter 3, Colossians 3, Romans 12, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. Read and study and memorize. Have daily drinks, weekly dates and annual days with God, the fountain of living water, the only one able to quench your thirst.
  22. Serve Christ individually and together. Whether at home, at church, or in your community, see yourself as a blood-bought servant of Christ. Serving alongside each other and serving together develops a common purpose and goal in life that helps you stand firm in the storms. As Paul encouraged those who were earthly bondservants, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
  23. Practice the golden rule with your spouse. “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31) Oftentimes it is easier to be kind to your neighbors and friends and even strangers than it is to be kind to your spouse. Intentionally seek opportunities to serve your spouse. Make him a cup of coffee. Rub his back. Send him a quick text expressing your love. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
  24. Tell your own soul that love is an action, a decision, a choice, not just a feeling. We can put on love. We can choose to love. The more you choose to love, the more you will feel loving. Like Tevye’s wife, Golde, you can wash the clothes, cook the meals, clean the house, bear the children, and maybe even milk the cow, and end up loving your spouse in the process of serving him. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8)
  25. Finally, remind yourself of the truth of the gospel, that we are all broken people living in a broken world in desperate need of a Savior, and that Jesus, God’s only Son, the God-man made a way to reconcile us back to a Holy God, by giving His own blood to pay the price for your sins. Trust in Jesus today. Repent of your sins and turn to Him and receive His forgiveness. He died for you that you can live for Him, both now and eternally.

Romans 5:1-8, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

1 John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

If the Almighty, Perfect, Sovereign, Creator-God of the universe, can take on flesh, coming to earth as a humble baby and die a criminal’s death on a cross in my place to save me from my sins, then by the power of His Holy Spirit at work in my heart, I can say no to sin and yes to Jesus, forgiving and loving my spouse, like God in Christ forgives and loves me. Apart from His saving grace and power, I can do nothing good. And apart from His saving grace and power, neither can my husband. We are both nothing more than two forgiven children walking hand-in-hand down this narrow road that leads to eternal life. That’s the true secret to a joy-filled marriage.

Want to join us?

A Word of Truth and Encouragement for a Hurting Sister

God has called you.

God has purpose for you.

God is with you.

God has placed His Spirit in you.

God has given you wisdom and faith.

God has delivered you and redeemed you.

God has made you a new creation, the old is indeed gone and the new has indeed come.

God sees you and knows you. He sees your hidden thoughts and deeds, and still He loves you.

God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing, eternal love.

God has demonstrated His overwhelming, boundless, undeserved love for you, a sinner, in sending His very own Son from the glory of heaven to live a humble life and die a painful death in your place.

God will never leave you or forsake you.

God will never take His Spirit from you.

God wants always and only for your good and not for your harm.

God’s commands are always and only for your good, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-good.

We can always, always trust Him because He always, always keeps His promises.

God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of need.

Come, praise His name with me.

Come, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with me.

You are not alone.

Almighty God is with you in this good fight of faith and so am I.

Related scriptures:

  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 139
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:1-21
  • Ephesians 2:5-22, 3:14-21, 6:16-17 (better yet, read all of Ephesians)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7-9
  • Titus 1:1-3, 2:11-14, 3:4-7
  • Hebrews 13:5-6

TWIG

How can I help you in this good fight of faith?

The Meaning of Marriage – Chapter 5 – Loving the Stranger

Keller begins this chapter with a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is … learning to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” (pg 147)

This opening paragraph jumped out at me because I’ve often thought that Bill and I should’ve dated longer before entering the covenant of marriage. In many ways, I still think that, but frankly, people change. We certainly did. Marriage changed us. Becoming parents changed us. Trials changed us.

The person you marry after dating for ten years, won’t be the same person after ten years of marriage. Certainly, we ought to do our “due diligence” to get to know someone before getting married, but we also ought to be prepared for that person to grow and mature in unexpected ways.

Keller continues, “Marriage brings two human beings into closer contact than any other relationship can bring them. The parent-child relationship is of course very close – they live together and see one another’s character – but there is a major power differential there. The child and the parents are on such different planes that it is easy for either the parent to dismiss the child’s criticism or the child to dismiss the parent’s. Besides, it is expected that children grow up and leave.” (pg 151) “While your character flaws [fearfulness, pride, perfectionism, impatience, miserliness, lack of discipline, etc.] may have created mild problems for other people, they will create major problems for your spouse and your marriage.” (pg 153)

As a child, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality was really hard for my parents.

Then, as a parent, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been really hard for my kids.

But I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been the most difficult for my husband. My struggle to humble myself and submit my will to his, has been the hardest for him to handle.  Indeed, as Keller puts it,

“Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses … it reveals them.” (pg 153)

I’ve often been inclined to blame all of our marriage struggles on my husband or to think that I must have married the wrong person. In reality, my own sinful pride and selfishness have often been the true culprit.

As Keller writes, “Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth” – the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of you heart – it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.” (pg 154) Ouch.

So often we balk when our spouse tries to share ways in which we need to grow. Keller urges the reader to “give your spouse the right to talk to you about what is wrong with you.” (pg 155) Often the very person who rubs you wrong, is the exact person that the Lord is going to use to conform you into His likeness. If your spouse reveals how impatient, prideful and selfish you are, it isn’t your spouse’s fault. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if we still think that marriage is all about our happiness, rather than a vehicle to bring God glory.

Keller goes on to explain, though, that marriage has not only this great power of exposing the true flaws of your heart, but also to heal your deepest wounds. The powerful, unconditional, faithful love of a spouse can bind up the wounds of the past like nothing else. “We must learn to send love in forms that the other person can comprehend.” (pg 169) We each hear, feel and receive love in different ways. Sometimes we particularly need to receive a certain communication of love because a significant person in our past was inept at it. Sometimes we need a certain form of love because of our current life circumstances. “We tend to give love through the channels in which we like to receive it.” (pg 172)

“In the incarnation, God came to us in a manner that we could grasp. So we, too, must clothe our love in the forms to which our spouse can relate.” (pg 171)

Loving your spouse should be seen as a conscious action, rather than an involuntary feeling. We must transition from “falling in love” to demonstrating love. Keller then shares his description of several ways to demonstrate love, including affection, friendship and service.

But, as is Keller’s way, the author once again returns to the importance of practicing gospel-love with your spouse. In marriage, we see the immense power of truth and love intertwined, because our spouse knows our sin all too well, not like a physician or counselor looking in from the outside. Rather, they know our sins intimately and personally because they have been the recipient of our selfish, careless, insensitive actions.

This pain can push us one of two ways. We can either lash out in anger, telling our spouse how foolish, messy and selfish they are, destroying them with our truth-telling. Or we can fall prey to the opposite error: avoidance. We can stuff and hide how we really feel, affirming them with charming lies.

“The gospel transforms us so our self-understanding is no longer based on our performance in life. We are so evil and sinful and flawed that Jesus had to die for us. We were so lost that nothing less than the death of the divine Son of God could save us. But we are so loved and valued that he was willing to die for us. The Lord of the universe loved us enough to do that! So the gospel humbles us into the dust and at the very same time exalts us to the heavens. We are sinners but completely loved and accepted in Christ at the same time.” (pg 185)

Friends, Jesus knows us to the bottom of our heart. He knows our secret deeds and thoughts. And yet He loved us enough to die for us. This is true love.

Jesus was perfectly full of truth and perfectly full of grace. Can we do that, too?

This is the beauty of marriage.

The final sentence of Chapter 5 has new meaning for me today as my oldest daughter begins looking forward to her wedding day next spring. Keller ends this chapter with, “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.'”

Let’s pray together for our children and their future spouses. Let’s pray together for the newlyweds in our midst who are thinking, “I must have married the wrong person.” And let’s pray for our own hearts and for our spouses as we walk this difficult road of marriage hand-in-hand.

TWIG