Thankful for God’s Generosity

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It’s been awhile since I shared one of my devotionals that were published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleSince Thanksgiving is this week, I think this one is particularly appropriate. It is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

I have so much to be JOYFUL and THANKFUL for. Each day God provides me with exactly enough of everything I need. This year is special to me because He is using a new-to-me medication to keep my migraines away. Since mid-August, I have not had one migraine, and that in itself is cause for much celebration and thanksgiving. 

Beloved, what blessings from God are you especially thankful for today?

When I want to thank God
for His generosity . . .

To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church.
—Ephesians 3:20-21

Generous to a fault,
you [God] lavish your favor on all creatures.
—Psalm 145:16 MSG

All sunshine and sovereign is GOD,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
—Psalm 84:11 MSG

Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial.
 
—Psalm 111:3-4 MSG

. . . I will pray.

Bountiful God,

How can I look at my life and not be thankful for everything You have given me? I’m not referring to material possessions, although I am grateful for all those blessings. I’m thinking of the magnificent ways You help me get through each day.

When I need patience, I reach out to You—and You’re there. When I need courage—I reach out and You’re there. When I need hope, joy, faith—You’re there. You’re always there with all I need to face each day with dignity.

Some people would say that You are generous to a fault! I know You don’t have any faults, Lord, but it’s partly true. You give me so much more than I could ever even imagine, far more than I could ever ask for.

Thank You, Lord, for opening Your generous arms and bestowing on me so many blessings. Thanks for meeting my every need. Show me ways to be generous with others in return. I want to be like You in every way, but especially in this way—I want to be called “generous to a fault” in honor of my heavenly Father.

Amen.

Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought
that God loves you with a tenderness, a generosity,
and an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams.
—Abbe Henri de Tourville


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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The Marriage Triangle: Marriage is Like a Garden #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle:
Marriage is Like a Garden

by Anna Popescu

The first marriage took place in Eden, a glorious and beautiful Garden, that was part of God’s creation. God created Adam and placed him in Eden to care for all the trees, plants and flowers. He saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created all the animals and birds to be his companions, and told Adam to choose a name for each one. But Adam still didn’t have a suitable helper for him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept;
and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.

22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman,
and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked,
the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:21-25

Initially life was wonderful for Adam and his helper. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). The Garden of Eden had everything they could ever need to live an abundant life together.

This is when things get out of hand as the cunning serpent enters the picture. He questions Adam and Eve about the garden, challenging God’s command that they can eat the fruit of every tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had told Adam that if he did eat the fruit from that tree, he would die.

Knowing this, the devious serpent engages Eve (not Adam) in a conversation:

Serpent: 1 “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Eve: 2 “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [Note that God did not tell Adam he could not touch the fruit of that tree!]

Serpent: 4 “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Well, you can imagine how excited Eve was as she heard the serpent’s sly words. Of course, God had not really meant that she and Adam could not eat such luscious fruit!

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
that it was pleasant to the eyes,
and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence
of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:1-8

And that was how sin entered the world. Eve was deceived by the serpent; Adam went along with Eve’s decision. Adam, as God’s first human creation, should have taken the lead to make sure that they obeyed God’s command. Eve was created to be Adam’s helper (ideal partner 1). She should have consulted Adam before making the big decision herself.

God then made three declarations (Genesis 3:15-17):

  • He told the serpent that he was forever cursed to be the lowliest of all creatures and would always have to crawl on his belly.
  • He told Eve that she would give birth with sorrow and great pain, and that she would always be under Adam’s authority.
  • As for Adam, God said that because he listened to Eve about the fruit of the forbidden tree and ate it with her, he would always labor with much difficulty to reap the harvest.

Through this series of events in the Garden of Eden, difficulties entered our lives and our marriages, and that brings me to this question:

How well do you look after your marriage garden?

Husbands and wives, we need to make sure we tend to our marriages as carefully as gardeners watch over their gardens so that weeds don’t have a chance to take over. What weeds am I talking about?

Our marriages will not always be perfect, but we should strive for peace and understanding. Sometimes it is the seemingly little things that begin to irritate us. If we give in to our frustrated emotions, the smaller weeds of discontent begin to take root. That’s when we need to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That definitely includes negative thoughts. In other words, we need to pull those newly budding weeds of dissatisfaction before they grow deeper roots.

When we turn our attention and negative thoughts from ourselves
and focus instead on Jesus,
it is easier to see the positive aspects of our spouse.

There can be many weeds in our marriage garden if we allow ourselves to dwell on the negatives. All of us have irritating behaviors. How we choose to react to those annoyances in our spouses will make the difference between a marriage of two people merely existing in the same house to a married couple who share a home by living and serving each other in the love of Christ.

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Marriages, like a garden, take time to grow.
But the harvest is rich unto those
who patiently and tenderly care for the ground.
─Darlene Schacht


1  How was the woman a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18)?

#Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Holding a small mustard seed in the palm of a hand.

As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. 

—John Ortberg

Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of true faith can do very great things.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus,
falling on his knees before Him and saying,

15 
“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill;
for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

16 
I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17 
And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him here to Me.”

18 
And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him,
and the boy was cured at once.

19 
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”

20 
And He said to them,
“Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.

—Matthew 17:14-20

We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. —William Barclay

Beloved, having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. These are under God’s care and control.

What it does mean is that if we rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us, we can rest on the assurance that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.

Just like that tiny mustard seed.

We will then understand that what we may regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be—completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.

Wait For the Lord

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Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
yes, wait for the LORD.

—Psalm 27:14

No one likes to wait.

I can remember when the only ways we got in touch with each other was to phone them or send them actual written letters. I know, I’m dating myself here! Then email became the preferred method of communication because it was so much quicker.

We still use email but most of us now text our messages to each other because that is even faster. And don’t even get me started on how much we rely on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to instantly transmit our thoughts.

We rush through fast-food drive-thrus.

We even drive faster than we should because posted speed limits seem impossibly slow to us.

How many times have you been waiting for an elevator where you or someone else has already pushed the “up” or “down” button. The button is already lit up but then another person approaches and presses the button again because that will obviously make the elevator arrive faster.

And check out the “Walk” light image above. In big cities, most people walk to their destinations. Waiting at crosswalks is always interesting. Many people repeatedly push the button that changes the light as if the light will immediately change in their favor. Some people step off the curb as they’re waiting so they’ll have a head start when the light does change. And then there are those who are so impatient to get across the street that they won’t wait for the “Walk” light to appear. They dodge cars as they force their way to the other side.

It strikes me that all of this is similar to the way we sometimes approach God when seeking direction in our lives.

Sometimes we swamp God with prayer because we think we might get our answer faster.

Other times we’re like those who step off the curb while waiting for the “Walk” light: we know God will answer our prayer but we step out ahead of His timing.

And how about when we rush headlong with our agenda without waiting for God to show us His will? We mistakenly proceed on our own to do what seems best to reach our goal but how often do we get tangled up in what might have been because we jump so far ahead of God’s timing?

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Beloved, I have been there more times than I can count! Waiting for God is not easy, is it? Sometimes that kind of silence can feel like forever. We start to think we’re praying the wrong way or that God doesn’t understand how urgent our situation is.

Beloved, God knows exactly what is going on in our lives and in our hearts. He has always been aware of what we need—before we were even born! His timing is always exactly right!

Even though I am still in a season of waiting, I am faithfully trying to remember that:

…with the LORD one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.

—1 Peter 2:8

What that means to me is that even though I may think it’s taking too long to see the Lord’s will in my life right now, that doesn’t mean He isn’t already working things out.

This is exactly the time for me to keep on praying while waiting and trusting. How about you?

John MacArthur: Contemplative Prayer

Today I’d like to share with you something I saw and read a couple of months ago on John MacArthur’s  Grace to You site. The portion of the video and interview below are about contemplative prayer, a phenomenon that is not new but is steadily growing. 

Contemplative prayer presupposes that the Christian must seek outside of Scripture to hear all that God is saying, thus Scripture loses its position as the final, authoritative Word from God.¹

Below is the portion of the interview video where John MacArthur addresses the subject of contemplative prayer.

This is the section of the interview transcript for that video:

PHIL JOHNSON: What are your thoughts about contemplative prayer and the whole spiritual development movement, you know the Dallas…?

JOHN MacARTHUR: That’s just a lot of bunk.

PHIL: All right, so

JOHN: You know, it is. It’s just…look, it’s sort of a contemplating your navel, intuitive spirituality, digging deep into find your spiritual core and your spiritual center which is nonsense, but they throw Bible words at it, words like Jesus, God, Holy Spirit.

PHIL: There’s also even a dangerous aspect of mysticism there…

JOHN: Oh it is mysticism. The assumption is that spiritual truth is somewhere inside of you and that is not true. Spiritual truth is outside of you, it is external to you. It is in a book, outside of you. It is not in you. You can contemplate yourself all you want, you can go sit on a rock in the middle of nowhere and think and you will find in you no source of divine revelation whatsoever because divine revelation is external to you, it’s external to every human being, it’s in a book that God wrote. And when you put the book down and start looking into your own brain, all you’re going to do is be led down a black hole.

So…but everybody’s into spiritual formation. I was looking at a church website the other day and it proclaims itself to be an evangelistic church and an orthodox church, happened to be a Presbyterian church. And the whole website was about spiritual formation. And one of the things that they were offering was dance class in order that you can learn to get in the rhythm of the Holy Spirit. I mean, that’s just…that’s what J.I. Packer called zany. I mean, that’s just crazy stuff. But that’s what happens when you start trying to poke around inside of yourself for spiritual truth when it’s all contained in one book and that book is external to you, and the spiritual truth resides in that book, if you never lived, or if you never had a thought…it’s the external truth that we must understand because there’s nothing inside until that truth gets in our minds. And then you can go into your mind and draw out biblical truth. But if you’re trying to look deeper than what’s in your brain, which is what this is about. I don’t get it, you know me, I’m about as mystical as a rock. But I don’t even know what they’re doing and I don’t know what they come up with but all of that mystic stuff, Dallas Willard and others like him, confuse people because they use the name of Jesus and they talk about God and they use Bible verses.

Go here for the video and transcript of the entire “Practical Concerns in the Local Church: An Interview with John MacArthur.”

¹Christian Research Network: Contemplative Prayer

Related links:

 

The Marriage Triangle: Living for Jesus in Your Home #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle:
Living for Jesus in Your Home

by Anna Popescu

Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. It is both wonderful and difficult. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. We enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to our vows, but eventually real life breaks in and sometimes we end up treating our friends better than our spouses. Or we show our better side to our friends more often than to our spouses.

Why is that?

How do we get to the point where we’re on our best behavior for everyone but the person with whom we pledged to spend the rest of our life?

Living creatively for Christ in the home is the acid test for any Christian man or woman. It is far easier to live an excellent life among your friends, when you are putting your best foot forward and are conscious of public opinion, than it is to live for Christ in your home.1

Living under the same roof with anyone is difficult, whether that means spouses, children, extended family or friends. Dwelling in close quarters with others means we see can easily each other’s faults. Disagreements over the smallest things can easily escalate into huge arguments. We often forget to take into account individual preferences for food, TV shows, internet usage and noise levels. Often there are introverts who must figure out a way to get along with extroverts. One person may prefer neatness while another is a slob.

There is no easy way to live with other people unless you do your utmost to be respectful and polite to each other at all times. How realistic is that? It takes way too much work. So it’s no wonder that we eventually shut down or explode at home when nerves are frayed or someone rubs us the wrong way. It is so much easier is it to show your best self in public. After all, you’re not with them 24/7, so you can afford to be more laid-back. At home, you’re in one another’s face and bound to get overly caught up in the hyper emotion of the moment.

If you’re part of a married couple, it gets even more complicated. Satan is in the business of trying to demolish the bond that holds husbands and wives together, and he will do everything possible to see that happen.

In the six thousand years since the Garden of Eden, two of Satan’s most strategic assaults have been focused on destroying the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the unity of our homes. A detailed study of God’s Word will show us that the devil is focused on ripping our families apart. Satan will use any tactic he can; he will capitalize on every advantage imaginable to disrupt the harmony in our homes. 2

How do we combat this? By setting Jesus as the head of our home and marriage.

If you look closely at the Marriage Triangle image, you’ll read: The closer a husband and wife get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other! How is this done?

Pray-Together

  • It is imperative that we each make time everyday in the Word, learning more about Jesus and how He wants us to live. This will bring us closer to Him.
  • Pray daily for God to order your steps (Psalm 37:23-24), showing you how to love your spouse better. As you pray, mentally put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and keep Him in your mind as you go about your day.
  • Pray for your spouse, that God will fill him/her with the desire to want to know more about Him.
  • Pray with your spouse for each other.
  • Pray for yourself, that God will show you exactly how to be the spouse He wants you to be. Ask God to open your eyes to ways you can serve your spouse with much love.
  • Finally, look for ways each day to uplift and treat your spouse the way you would want them to treat you. God has specific guidelines for this (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Throughout our marriage my husband has noticed a trend in my behavior. Maybe you can relate? I smile, laugh and engage with friends and family, only to jump into the car or leave with my husband and exhale how I really feel. My face scrunches up, my attitude turns cold, I sometimes snap at my husband with stern words or slump down with defeat.

My husband kindly expressed how he felt about me giving my best to others, mentioning that he wants me to be real and honest with him, but he would also love to be around the version of me that is kind, compassionate, joyful, and all the other ways I engage with others.(emphasis mine) 3

Do you remember your courtship days? Weren’t you on your finest behavior most of the time? Didn’t you want your date to think the best of you? Why should that change just because you’re married?

Beloved, let’s try to remember to show kindness and respect to the one who God has blessed us with as a mate—no matter how busy we are. Our marriages will reap untold benefits and blessings.

Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministry shared an excellent prayer for couples. This is the intro:

I would encourage you to take your spouse’s hand and either have someone read this prayer over you or read it together. Use it as a reminder and recommitment.

And if your marriage isn’t at a place where that’s possible, pray this in the quiet shrine of your heart. As our key verse, Psalm 34:15 tells us, God hears you. He knows. He loves you. He will show you the way.4

Please take the time to read the rest of this wonderful prayer here.Couples-Love-God-First

When couples love God first
they love each other better. 

–Brela Delahoussaye

Beloved, life is hard. There are too many ways our lives can get messed up and mixed up by what’s going on in the world today. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus and strive to put your spouse first, even though that idea goes against what we hear in the current society of “what’s in it for me?” attitudes. I have learned firsthand that not only does God bless a loving and giving attitude, but your marriage will thrive.


1 Live Creatively for Christ, by Billy Graham

2 The Reality of Spiritual Warfare in the Home

3 Do You Give Your Husband Your Best?

4 A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer

Pathway of #Pain

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Pathway of Pain

If my days were untroubled and my heart always light,

Would I seek that fair land where there is no night?
If I never grew weary with the weight of my load,
Would I seek for God’s peace at the end of the road?

If I never knew sickness and never felt pain,
Would I search for a hand to help and sustain?
If I walked without sorrow and lived without loss
Would my soul seek solace at the foot of the cross?

If all I desired was mine day by day,
Would I kneel before God and earnestly pray?
If God sent no winter to freeze me with fear,
Would I yearn for the warmth of spring every year?

I ask myself these and the answer is plain,
If my life were pleasure and I never knew pain –
I’d seek God less often and need Him much less,
For God is sought more often in times of distress.

And no one knows God or sees Him as plain –
As those who have met Him on the “Pathway of Pain.”

Author: Helen Steiner Rice