A Different Kind of Life-Hack

You probably know some helpful life hacks for cooking, cleaning, or organizing your garage.

life hack

Here’s one for your marriage:

Remember the letters H-A-C-K.

The word “hack” is not very appealing, but as an acronym, it represents some fantastic tools for building your marriage.

HACK is an acronym for 4 super-important elements in a great marriage:

Honor
Attentiveness
Commitment
Kindness

If you will focus on just these four things, you will strengthen your marriage. If you will keep pouring these four essentials into your relationship, you and your spouse will be able to deal successfully with almost anything that comes your way. Like sturdy planks, these items create a platform that can sustain a ton of stress and strain.

[Click HERE to continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com.]

Blessings to you,
Tami

When You Love God but Can’t Trust Him

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God—and I know that she does—but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

trust God

How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

trust God

God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved, and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

Are You a Burning Bush?

A Burning Bush

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied. (Exodus 3:1-4, NLT)

suffering

What an incredible sight! Out in the wilderness, Moses discovered a blazing bush that didn’t burn up.

It got Moses’ attention. He stopped. Intrigued, he moved closer. And then God spoke to him.

A Spectacle of Grace

Over 200 years ago, John Newton realized that this burning-but-not-burnt bush was a vivid metaphor for Christians as they go through fiery trials. Newton wrote:

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses, ‘Why is this bush not burned?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace.¹

Newton called these suffering-but-victorious Christians “spectacles of grace.” Joni Tada uses the phrase “spectacles of glory.” Joni, by the way, is the perfect example of this! Not only is she a quadriplegic, but Joni has also battled cancer, and she lives with chronic pain. Despite immense suffering, she faithfully maintains a joyful, thankful spirit.

Perhaps you are a spectacle of glory.

At some point, God calls all of us to be spectacles of glory. When we walk through difficult circumstances without being destroyed, it grabs people’s attention. They say, “How can this be? What is going on here?” They turn their eyes from their usual focus. They stop to look. And as they gaze, still and attentive, God speaks to them.

Smoke or Spectacle: Your Choice

When you experience fiery trials, you can be badly burned, and your life can turn into ashes. You might become bitter, resentful, and stuck in grief. You may feel abandoned by God, and you might feel sorry for yourself. Discouragement and despair may overtake you. Your strength, your success, your usefulness—it all seems to go up in smoke.

suffering

OR … you can be a bush that is not consumed! 

You can be a spectacle of glory as the fires of suffering burn without burning you. Do you remember the young Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace? They were not consumed—not a single hair was singed. And when they came out of from the flames, they did not even have the smell of fire on them.

A Captive Audience

You can be a miracle that gets the attention of others. (It will probably get your attention, too!) Like a burning-but-not-consumed bush, you will create opportunities for people to hear the voice of God.

suffering

People will say, “What’s this? How are you going through these circumstances with a calm spirit? How are you going through all this without being bitter or belligerent? Why are you not anxious or angry or addicted?” Because  your response to suffering is unusual, they will stop for a moment and look away from their usual activity—like Moses turning away from his flocks—and they may hear God speaking to them.

We can yield to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. He will be our radiance—the blazing fire that fills us but does not consume us. We can let God turn us into spectacles of grace and glory.

Whose Suffering is This?

The Scriptures tell us:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are going through, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice—be very glad— as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT)

Notice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Usually, we participate in our own sufferings, don’t we? We participate in our life, our pain, our worry, our frustration, and our feelings of being rejected. But when we live that way, we are like bushes burned and consumed.

Instead, we must give our lives to Christ. We must walk through hard times knowing that these are His sufferings. We can say, “This is God’s life. He can do with it whatever He pleases. I gave it to Him, and I trust Him.” All the pain, the weight, and the rejection is His suffering. It all becomes redemptive suffering, in which nothing is wasted. All of the pain is being molded into a container for glory, a vessel that will overflow with glory.

Redemptive suffering increases our capacity for joy.

Keep On Doing What is Right

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

What are some of the good things that we should continue to do? Here are several things that are always right to “keep on doing”:

  • Keep trusting that God is fully attentive to you, absolutely loving, and perfectly wise. Keep trusting that He is trustworthy!
  • Keep forgiving.
  • Keep praying fervently and without ceasing.
  • Keep your heart open and soft toward your spouse. (God often uses the hot coals of kindness to melt icy-hard hearts.)
  • Keep honoring the spirit of your spouse.
  • Keep your covenant vows.

God has given us this wonderful promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

If you are walking through fiery trials, I pray that God will sustain you as an amazing “spectacle of grace.” As you are filled with His Spirit, you will be like a burning bush, radiating with His spectacular glory!

Blessings to you,
Tami
 

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¹Quoted in A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me. Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan. 2016. Page 7.

 

 

The Two Gifts of Pentecost

This Sunday, June 4, is Pentecost.

We have just had a big holiday weekend here in the United States, so you may not feel eager for another “event.” But Pentecost does not require a lot of preparation, and it is too wonderful to miss!

Very simply, Pentecost is a day to thank God for the Scriptures and for the Spirit. God gave these marvelous gifts to guide,  strengthen, and comfort us.  Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church because, according to Acts 2, it was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind, appeared like flames of fire, and filled the believers.  (Read more about Pentecost HERE.)

Be sure to celebrate!

Your celebration can be as simple as sticking a birthday candle in a muffin and then taking time to thank God for His gifts. Or you can celebrate with a meal and use some of these ideas, below. (The following is an excerpt from Simple Celebrations.)

Here is a simple menu for a Pentecost meal:

  • barley soup
    You can easily add barley to vegetable soup or to beef-and-vegetable soup.Pentecost
  • bread
    Two loaves of braided bread are great because the ten strands can represent the Ten Commandments.
    Pentecost
  • honey
  • something prepared with oil
    You might try latkes, but anything that your group likes is fine.
  • birthday cake

How to Celebrate

Explain that Pentecost is a special celebration of two of God’s fantastic gifts to us: the Scriptures and the Spirit.

As you serve the barley soup, explain that Pentecost occurs seven weeks, or fifty days, after Passover. In Biblical history, this was the time of the spring harvest. Barley was a spring crop.

Explain that fifty days after the first Passover, when God brought the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, God gave a wonderful gift to His people at Mount Sinai: the written Word of God. This was a covenant gift of the first—or “old”—covenant.

Serve the bread, and talk about how the Scriptures nourish us. Have someone read Matthew 4:4. Serve honey—or jam for children under 2—and talk about how the Scriptures are sweet to us. Read Psalm 119:103.

Pentecost

Light the candle as you discuss how the Scriptures are like light for us. Read Psalm 119:105. You may also want to read Psalm 19:7-11.

Serve the food that represents oil. Say that we are celebrating the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit, who was given to God’s people as a covenant gift of the new covenant. The old covenant was the covenant of earning God’s acceptance, but the new covenant is the covenant of receiving God’s acceptance and friendship.

Tell your group that just as the gift of the old covenant came fifty days after Passover and with loud noises and fire, so the gift of the new covenant came with loud noises and fire fifty days after Jesus became our Passover Lamb. On that day of Pentecost, the believers in Jerusalem received the Spirit of God. Scriptures you may want to read highlighting the Spirit are Romans 8:5-16 or John 14:16-17, 26.

Pentecost

At the end of your meal, celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church! Read about it in Acts 2:1-4. With cake and candles, thank God for His Church, which is made up of all believers in Christ.

Have a joy-filled Pentecost!

Celebrating with you,
Tami

The Chief Sinner in Your Marriage

“I am the chief sinner.”

Who would say something like that? We might be ready to nominate someone else for “chief sinner” at times, but we don’t often suggest ourselves.

But in a letter to a young pastor, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT). This is the same man who wrote much of the New Testament and who was beaten, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and finally beheaded for his devotion to Christ. Paul also said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, NIV). It is true that Paul persecuted Christians before he became one himself; but even so, we wouldn’t call him the worst sinner of all. Is this some kind of unusual humility, unique to Paul?

Or could it be that he is modeling something for us? Maybe Paul was demonstrating something important for all of us as Christ-followers.

[Click HERE to continue to read this article at StartMarriageRight.com.]

Blessings to you,
Tami

Coming Up:

Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us ON THURSDAY (April 20) for our prayer call with Mark and Jill Savage. They have an incredible story of a restored marriage. (Read more about this couple HERE.) You will be encouraged by their insights, and you will be strengthened by the time of prayer.

You can join us by phone or online at 12:30 (EDT), or listen later to the recording posted online. Simply visit the Prayer Call page on MannaForMarriage.com for info on the call or to view the recordings.

Congratulations to Angie for winning a copy of Mark and Jill’s book, compliments of Moody Publishers. 🙂

A Weekend Getaway

As you plan your summer, be sure to schedule some time for your marriage. A great way to do that is to sign-up for a “A Weekend to Remember.” There are many of these marriage events scheduled for this summer and fall.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a fantastic getaway for you and your spouse. You will spend two nights at a lovely hotel, listen to great speakers share practical insight and encouragement concerning marriage, and enjoy some much-needed quality time together.

When you register, be sure to use the group code, MannaForMarriage, to receive a
$100 discount on your registration. Click HERE to learn more, to find a location, and to register.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a FamilyLife event. You may contact FamilyLife directly by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Remember to ask for the $100 discount by using  the group name: MannaForMarriage.

See you Thursday!
Tami

No More Perfect Marriages

God Specializes in Restoration

Mark and Jill had been married for 25 years and had five children. He was a pastor, and she led a well-known women’s ministry. Together, they spoke on marriage and parenting.

But then he had an affair, left the home, and asked for a divorce.

restoration

However, God intervened and fully restored Mark and Jill’s marriage. In the process, they learned what had sabotaged their relationship and how they could more effectively strengthen their marriage. They share their new insights in a very practical book, No More Perfect Marriages: Experience the Freedom of Being Real Together.¹

restoration

Being Real

“Being real” is something Mark and Jill Savage do well in this book. They are real not only with one another, but also with their readers. I appreciate the authors’ openness and honesty.

Not only do they say, “Here are some things that happened in our marriage,” but they go beyond that: Mark says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart,” and Jill says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart.” Those insights are critical because until we look at our own hearts as husbands and wives, we are dealing with only surface issues in our marriages.

The truths in this book are important for all of us—whether our marriage is great, struggling, or broken—because being diligent in guarding the thoughts and motives of our heart is always the most important thing we do. One of the best things we can do for our marriages is to recognize and take responsibility for our self-talk and inner motivations.

Accepting One Another

And here is something that I love about this book: there is a consistent theme of accepting one another. That is what God does for us; He accepts us with warm welcome.

Jill explains the value of acceptance:

Acceptance has helped me honor my husband. It’s helped me celebrate who he is. … I’m not his mom. … I’m not his teacher. … I’m his wife, and acceptance has helped me to link arms with the man I love in order to walk through life together. (72)

Mark also recognized the need for acceptance:

I realized I wasn’t accepting Jill for who she is. Instead, I was working against her, trying to change her into what was easier and more comfortable for me. I was working to make her into who I wanted her to be. (72)

Fighting the Fades

The thesis of the book is that there are seven “fades” which gradually erode marriages, but there are also eight God-given tools which overcome those fades. Do you recognize any of these fades?

  1. failing to deal with unrealistic expectations
  2. minimizing your feelings or those of your spouse
  3. not accepting your spouse
  4. reacting to disagreement in damaging ways
  5. defensiveness
  6. being naïve and failing to protect your marriage
  7. avoiding emotion

Using God’s Tools

To counter the fades, God gives us eight powerful tools: courage, forgiveness, grace, love, humility, wisdom, compassion, and acceptance.

Doing things God’s way isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is determining [that] something is more important than the fear. (48)

We act courageously in marriage when we persevere rather than quit. When we act with integrity rather than letting our feelings control us. … When we talk rather than shut down. When we apologize even if we aren’t the only one wrong. … Get your courage on and push through those fears for the sake of your marriage. (51-52)

When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:

1) Does this hurt me or just irritate me?

2) Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person? (56-57)

Let’s be aware of the fades, and let’s keep using our tools! The Spirit of God will help us to recognize and repent of the junk in our own hearts, and He will give us new attitudes, new thoughts, and new motivations. God works miracles and masterpieces in every heart and home lifted up to Him.

You Will Not Want to Miss This:  A Prayer Call with Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us on April 20.

I am excited that Mark and Jill will be joining us on our weekly call. They will share some insights and encouragement for several minutes before leading us in prayer for our marriages.

Join the prayer call online or by phone. Click HERE to learn how. (It’s easy, and you will be in listen-only mode.)

A Book Give-Away

Interested in receiving a copy of No More Perfect Marriages? If so, just let me know with a comment on this post by APRIL 5.  Moody Publishers will mail a complimentary copy to one person, randomly chosen.

Blessings to you!
Tami

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¹Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.