Setting Your Marriage Free

Setting Your Marriage Free: Discover Freedom in Christ Together

Everyone seeks freedom. But the Bible tells us that, spiritually speaking, no one is free. 

So what do we need freedom from? How can we gain freedom? How can that freedom change our lives and relationships?

What Do We Need Freedom From?

The short answer is SIN. 

Adam and Eve believed a lie from hell and as a result, they were the original sinners. As their descendants, we have inherited their sinful nature, and are separated from God. He cannot and will not be in fellowship with sinners. 

Only through Jesus can we restore our relationship with God and be in right standing with Him and acceptable to Him in heaven. Until we understand this we are blown around by the winds of the world while we are alive, and doomed to hell when we die. 

 

We need freedom from the attack of the devil on our lives which causes us to sin and be separated from God.

Revelation 12:7-11 “the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray…and his angels with him…–accuser of our brothers, hurled down from heaven”

How Can We Gain Freedom From Sin?

Good news is found in Acts 13:22-41. 

“the good news…Jesus is the Christ the prophets spoke of–the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him, everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

We can gain freedom from sin! When we have faith to believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life and there is no other way, we are made free. 

God knew and knows we cannot overcome the attack of the enemy on our own.  So, He came to earth as a man, Jesus. If we will accept that Jesus’ death was the one-time, sufficient sacrifice for our sins we can be made right with God.

 

2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

 

2 Corinthians 7:10  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Freedom in Christ is Eternal

When we accept Jesus, we are made right with God, and we are accepted and welcomed into heaven for eternity. 

According to Romans 6, we are to identify with Christ’s resurrection as we do with His death and see our flesh – our natural self – as crucified with Christ. 

Our sinful selves are crucified with Christ, and we are a new creation in Christ. Therefore, sin has no claim on us. We are made new; we are children of God even while we are still alive on earth. 

Luke 9:23 says, Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Christ makes two points: 

  1. “deny yourself, take up your cross daily.” We need to see ourselves as crucified with Christ. It is not up to us to do good, do our best, and shoulder our burdens alone.
  2. “follow me.” We are called to get behind Jesus; to put Him between us and whatever the sin is.  When temptation comes, don’t fight it in the flesh. You will lose–flesh cannot overcome sin. Fight it in your faith, knowing that you are crucified with Christ and you no longer live, but Christ lives in you!!

 

The Christ we trust as Savior for eternity can be our Lord today and deliver us from the attacks of Satan –if we trust Him and have faith breath by breath! 

 

This is FREEDOM!

Accepting Eternal Freedom

Some of the early Jews of Acts 13 could not accept Jesus as Savior and certainly not as Lord.  Paul said to them “Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life …”

Do you consider yourself worthy of eternal life? Jesus thought you were worthy enough to die for.

If you are trusting Jesus for eternity then trust Him for today!  When attacks come and get you down, make a conscious decision to fight back.  Gain freedom from the attack by using your faith in Christ to trust Him to prevail on your behalf.  Put Him between you and whatever form the attack comes and know that He can deal with it. When WE try to deal with it we lose.  It’s a spiritual attack and we just can’t go there without Jesus!

Set Your Marriage Free

Once you and your spouse have become free in Christ, you can work together to set your marriage free, as well. 

Start by breaking family cycles of abuse that have been passed on to you from previous generations. Ask God to reveal any self-centered thoughts or behaviors that have kept you from assuming your responsibilities to love and accept one another. Then repent. 

Release old hurts through forgiveness. Unmask Satan’s deceptions in your relationship and seek the truth that will set you free. Renew your marriage covenant with God and each other. 

After you set your marriage free, maintain that freedom with activities like attending church and marriage retreats, reading and studying your Bible daily, and praying together. When trials and hard seasons come, remind yourselves of your identities in Christ, take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and share your struggles openly with each other so you don’t drift away. 

If you want additional support and encouragement in your relationship, working with marriage mentors or attending a marriage retreat can help you reconnect with each other and to Christ. 

 

When you find freedom in Christ, and focus on who He wants you to become, everything else in your life – including your marriage – will be impacted.


6 Things to Expect from a Marriage Retreat

6 Things to Expect from a Marriage Retreat

1. A Peaceful Getaway

We are a getaway, literally. We are in the northeastern part of North Carolina east of I-95 and north of US 64, about 100 miles from Nags Head. An area known to be rural, agricultural, and a great place for hunting and fishing! We are “away” from the Triangle, the Piedmont Triad, and the Metrolina. Richmond and Norfolk and Greenville are at a distance too. There are more traffic lights in Raleigh than people in Northampton County.

We have lots of space which gives you the perfect space for peace and quiet. We also have no traffic jams, though you may have to negotiate a cotton picker or tractor occasionally.

When the clouds are right, you can hear trucks on the highway, but you never see them when you are at Longview Retreat. Miles of farm roads and trails in the woods allow endless opportunities for walking, running, or puttering around if you want to bring your golf cart. Expect to relax, unplug, and take a break in the natural beauty.

There is something about getting away from our day to day responsibilities that seems to help when we need to talk about things that are not directly related to our day to day schedules.

If you feel out of touch or disconnected from your spouse or your marriage is not what you want it to be, come to the Genesis House sometime and purposefully talk about it. If you need help with this, Jane and I are onsite and willing to sit with you and help work through things.

2. Christian Messages

You can expect Jesus at Longview Retreat… Or at least His teachings. We will express ourselves from a conservative Biblical viewpoint. And the love of our Father God will be in all we say.

Sin, in one form or another, is at the root of all our problems. Jesus is the only way to overcome sin. When we know Him as our Lord and Savior, we come under His covering, and our ability to resist sin changes dramatically.  

Jane and I have been married for over 40 years. I was saved when I was 35, and she was 41. So, we have done marriage with and without Jesus. It’s much better with Jesus.  

The power that brought Him from the grave is available to Christians through the Holy Spirit, and it makes it possible for us to love and respect our spouses when we may not always feel like it. 

Mercy, grace, and forgiveness are also hallmarks of Christianity. These characteristics have a tremendous positive impact on the marriage relationship. Understanding Jesus as Lord of your life for today allows us to walk in them and embrace them, and be the godly men and women–husbands and wives–that God created us to be. 

We all sin. At Longview, we are not here to be judgemental, nor are we here to condone sin. Regardless of a person’s beliefs, history, or circumstances, even though they may differ from ours, we want you to expect to feel safe coming here. 

3. Hospitality

We very much want you to enjoy your visit to Longview Retreat. Not only do we want to minister to your spirit and soul, but also your body. If you have dietary restrictions, we can accommodate them.

We strive to eat fresh and healthy but do sneak a little sugar along the way. If you are here for a weekend group event, your picnic basket is tailored to your choices. It is not a “boxed lunch.”

Our staff is all volunteer. These saints’ ministry is to serve you. They want your time here to be a blessing as they pray, cook, clean, and serve.

4. Group Sessions and Discussion

At Longview, our marriage retreats are conducted in group settings with other couples. This is a chance for you and your spouse to interact with others as a means of broadening your perspective. 

You will enjoy fellowship with other couples who are looking to do exactly what you are: improve your marriage for the long haul. 

So, settle in, enjoy the opportunities to learn from others, and keep an open mind throughout the entirety of this potentially relationship-saving experience.

5. Individual Time To Process

Between sessions, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to revisit what you have learned and to talk more about some of the issues raised.

We believe that a couple can make significant progress just by themselves if they give it a chance. And the beauty of a marriage retreat is being away from the demands of daily life, so you can focus on your marriage. You can delve into your feelings and spend time exploring them.

Having individual time to process together like this will strengthen your bond as a couple.

6. Develop A Toolkit

The possible causes of marital strife are plentiful; however, Christian marriage retreats can give you the tools necessary to develop a successful marriage. During your couples retreat, you will learn useful skills that will help you deepen and strengthen your relationship, boost your intimacy, and constructively resolve your conflicts.

Ultimately, our weekend retreats are meant to help equip you to grow and help your relationship flourish. Our marriage retreats are structured to give you new tools and guide you to make positive changes.

If you’re interested in learning more about building a better relationship, click here to schedule your next visit to Longview!


4 Common Lies About Marriage & Truths to Dispel Them

4 Common Lies About Marriage & Truths to Dispel Them

Marriage is an amazing gift from God. Yet often, the greatest gifts aren’t always cherished the way they should be. There’s a battle over marriages today, and the enemy wants nothing more than to destroy them all.

But we don’t have to let him win.

God certainly has a better way, He’s the One who created marriage. His words provide guidance, wisdom, strength and hope when we face lies from the enemy about our marriages.

 

1. Being in love and feeling happy are the most important things in my marriage.

Imagine a marriage where the husband and wife think marriage is supposed to make them happy. They are miserable whenever conflicts and setbacks arise and may eventually want to walk away from the marriage altogether. 

Consider how different this couple would feel if they approached marriage with the focus of growing into more mature, agape-loving people who helped each other do the same. Each day would be an opportunity to learn something new about marriage and about each other. Each day would open the door for them to grow into more fully loving and wholehearted people. And, yes, both of them would be content, peaceful, and even happy as a result.

God made us each and differently.  We don’t do life the same way. Our “favorites” are different–sometimes we struggle with “where do you want to eat?”, “what movie do you want to see?”  So, things like tithing, number of children and how to discipline them, aging parents, and job layoffs can and do create tremendous stress and unhappiness in our relationships.  

Unhappiness does not mean that you have married the wrong person. It may mean you have the wrong expectations for your marriage. God’s goal for marriage was not just to “make us happy.” The truest picture of marriage is that it symbolizes the love of Christ for us.  And His desire for us all is that we be made more into the image of Himself.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” Eph. 5:25, 33

2. Sex anytime I want it & someone who will always listen.

Well ….  Not exactly.  Somebody in this relationship does not want sex 24/7, nor do they always want to talk for an hour.  You know who is who in your marriage. So what do you do about that? You live with it. Life is not your honeymoon.  When you truly begin to do life together and not “my way”, all this will get better.  

Everybody goes into marriage with a “me” mentality.  We don’t realize how powerful “self” and selfishness really are until we are married.  Dating or living together is not the same as marriage. Marriage is not extended dating.  This person doesn’t go home–your home is their home and now to your surprise, things aren’t going the way you had hoped.  There is nothing wrong! You have work to do. You both need to learn how to be married–especially to each other.  And there is no dictator and no doormat in this home!  If marriage is possibly the greatest institution God has given us, how do we do it His way?  

3. I’m not the problem in this relationship–my spouse is.

You must believe two things in order to fight this lie. First, there is nothing about your fallen self that is “good.” The Bible clearly says that all of us come into the world with an inclination toward badness, which is referred to as the “flesh,” or “sin nature.” Secondly, you have to believe that you are not a better person than your spouse. Each of us comes into the world with a bent to do sinful things.

The answer to this lie is in Jesus.  He takes our sinful nature away from us and replaces it with grace, mercy, love, respect, forgiveness, understanding, and repentance. We get to choose — His way or the world’s way. 

In Art of Marriage, “The problem with your marriage is you, and the problem is you,” the counselor said to the young couple in his office. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Cor. 13:4-5

We are both the problem unless we learn what Jesus is all about.  Even then, the enemy gets in it and deceives one of us and we still screw it up.  But, if we have been doing life with a spouse that is a committed Christian, we welcome their gentle corrections when they see what we cannot.  This is iron sharpening iron and the way God intended for us to be married. Join together against the enemy. 

4. If you need help, it’s too late.

By God’s design, men and women are as different emotionally and relationally as they are physically.  But we don’t see this until we marry when our real personalities show up during the stress of life. We want our spouse to do life the way we do it and this causes conflict.  If your marriage struggles with this don’t freak out–get help–the sooner the better..

Sometimes this can be the beginning of a great marriage. We recommend pre-marital counseling to anyone about to get married. Counseling can help couples grow in their marriage and their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Proverbs 15:22 “Without consultation, plans are frustrated. But with many counselors they succeed.” 

Marriage counseling does not have to be with a professional therapist. It is also not a sign of weakness. A marriage mentor, a good friend, or a weekend retreat could work. You never know where wise counsel will come from. See it, embrace it, and don’t believe the lie that it is over if you need it.


What Is A Marriage Retreat and Why Should You Attend One?

What Is A Marriage Retreat and Why Should You Attend One?

What is A Marriage Retreat?

A marriage retreat is a place… a getaway opportunity for you and your spouse to learn skills to actually know how to be married. A destination to relax. It can be a weekend event with national speakers at a large hotel somewhere like the beach, or a fixed location that runs a business as a marriage retreat.

A marriage retreat is also an opportunity to invest in your marriage relationship. Food, clothing, shelter, and transportation are vital investments in your daily life that certainly make a difference, but they are only part of the picture. How does your spouse feel, how are they doing emotionally? How is their heart? We are created as spirit, soul, and body. Spiritual and emotional nurturing are every bit as important and necessary as meeting physical needs. A Christian marriage retreat will offer support in this area. Purposeful, dedicated time away from your normal daily routine is the best way to address this side of life. A marriage retreat is a perfect place to get help with this. 

A marriage retreat is a chance to learn. It’s been said that no instructions come with babies or spouses. But wait, there is hope! A marriage retreat can be a continuing education for the job of marriage. If you’ve been married over six months, you probably have realized this person does not think or do life exactly like you do. But you don’t have to figure it out by yourself; you can learn from the experiences of others that have traveled this road before you. 

Is A Marriage Retreat a Good Option for You?

Some of the reasons couples attend marriage retreats include reviving your connection, deepening your bond, and learning how to grow personally and as a couple.

If you like meeting new people and you feel comfortable in a group retreat setting, you can register for couples retreats like Love and Respect, or The Art of Marriage. In the atmosphere of Godly love and acceptance, you can explore your feelings, thoughts, needs, and deep dive into your relationship.

However, if you prefer a more private version of couples retreat, then you can experience one-on-one marriage mentoring with Joe and Jane Brown to receive guidance. You can jump-start your mentorship with Longview’s Prepare & Enrich Relationship Survey, to pinpoint strengths and opportunities for growth for you and your spouse.

We take care of our bodies–our teeth, our eyes, ears, skin, and overall health.  We take care of our cars, homes, and children. Your marriage is no different; you need to take care of it too.  Longview’s marriage retreats can help you rejuvenate, reconnect, and restore your personal relationships and connect with God on a deeper level. 


5 Goals to Focus on When Attending a Marriage Retreat

5 Goals to Focus on When Attending a Marriage Retreat

Couples attend marriage retreat weekend events for two reasons; a general maintenance tune up for a good marriage, or help and hope for a marriage in crisis.  A marriage is like most everything else in life–you have to take care of it. And the more you put into it the more you will get out of it. Here are some goals to focus on when you and your spouse attend a marriage retreat, so your relationship can be renewed and restored.

 

1. Learn Something New

During your time at the retreat, you have opportunities to learn something new, see something in a new way, or gain clarity on something cloudy or misunderstood. This can be as simple and reassuring as “Hey, we’re not the only couple having this kind of conflict,” to complex topics like “Sin in one form or another is destroying our relationship, and Jesus is the ONLY real way to overcome sin.”

2. Find Hope

The purpose of your married couples retreat is to emerge with hope that ultimately strengthens your bond for years to come. Make it a priority to discover hope. That hope can be for a better marriage, for hearing something that will make a difference in your life, or hope that you WILL change and not just talk about it again.

The ultimate hope developed during your retreat is the hope that Jesus IS who He says He is and that He can change us both to see life and live in a completely different way.

Most of us don’t know how to be married, but we see (or used to) many others doing it, so we think we should be able to, too. And we should, but quite often, we overlook one incredibly important detail.

We are living in a world at war. It’s a spiritual battle for our souls. If we don’t understand what is going on and how to protect ourselves and our marriage, we will lose precious ground that can cause damage that takes an act of God to restore.

3. Reconnect

You will gain even more from your marriage retreat if you are willing to unplug, spend quality time with your spouse, and enjoy events specifically designed to bolster your bond. Disconnect from this crazy, hectic world that sometimes feels like a meat grinder (and guess who the meat is), and reconnect with each other like in the beginning.

Neither of you signed up for marriage desiring or expecting it to be the whirlwind you are now living. Why are we SO busy? We have so many time-saving conveniences, yet we have no free time.

What’s behind all that? Do you think it could be our enemy from hell?

When you spend a weekend away with your spouse, use it to reconnect intentionally. Be alone with each other and talk about your relationship. If you need help, Longview Retreat’s marriage experts will help you through it. And if you don’t need one-on-one support, Longview offers a beautiful setting to ease your mind; to relax, to give you the space to make progress as a couple.

4. Develop Understanding and Empathy

Another goal to focus on is to find tools to understand each other. 

“Why does she want to talk about it so much?” “Why won’t he talk to me about this–where is he going?” 

Do women confront to connect or confront to control? Hmmm. Most women process life verbally, and most men like to think things through. Not always, but often. Regardless, when we expect our spouse to go through life and do life the way we do, we set ourselves up for conflict. A conflict that, in some instances, was designed by God. Come to Longview Retreat and hear what Emerson Eggerichs has to say about Tuesday night.

The strongest and most successful bonds are built on understanding, respect, and love. At your retreat, open up, be willing to listen, and healing will come naturally.

5. Rebuild a Foundation

For some couples, attending a marriage retreat is meant to provide relief from the crisis they’re experiencing in their relationship.

Some couples may have an elephant in their living room. This can happen if one spouse tries very hard to “be nice” and gets to the point of eruption– they’re ready to explode. Marriage is not what they expected, and they have no skills for untangling the mess they now call life. NOBODY wants this. But we very much want to be happily married so we put up with it until we can’t any longer.

In either case, we now have a full-blown crisis, and restoration will take huge doses of love, respect, forgiveness, and repentance. Which we now have so little of.

A marriage retreat is an opportunity to re-establish a loving and godly foundation that proves sturdy when conflicts, disagreements, and hardships arise.

 

Ultimately, your weekend marriage retreat is a time for you and your spouse to enhance your relationship and emerge feeling refreshed. What better place than at Longview Retreat?

Click here to learn more about our retreat options, and choose the package that will offer you quality time and relationship-building activities to restore your marriage.


The Difference of a Christ-Centered Relationship

The Difference of a Christ-Centered Relationship

Longview Retreat and the owners, Joe and Jane are passionate about relationships, especially the marriage relationship. Frequently you will hear us say, “put Jesus in the center of your relationship.” Why? What difference will that make? How do you do it? What does this look like?

 

The Short Answer Is Sin 

Sin comes from Hell and is the primary force of evil against us and every relationship we are in. The devil is all about destroying us and uses many different forms of sin to do it. Jesus is here to redeem and restore us, regardless of how far we have fallen. He wants us with Him; His life, death, and resurrection were for all. Not just that relative handful of humanity that existed the day He was crucified. By His death and resurrection, sin was defeated for all. For a long time, I believed I could deal with sin without Jesus. I was wrong.

 

I had a Jesus problem. I was not trusting Him for today. I was trying to do it on my own. I did not want to love others as He did. I did not want to do life, marriage, or any other relationship the way He told me to do it as recorded in the Bible. I was allowing my flesh to be in charge–I wouldn’t allow my spirit to follow Him and live His way. 

 

I enjoyed sin. We all do. That’s why we do it. There is always some amount of comfort or pleasure in it– that’s how it is. We get sucked into it, and before we realize it, we have accepted it as “who we are.” But that is a lie from hell! If your spouse seems more like a roommate than a gift from God, you probably have a Jesus problem. When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, put Him in the center of your life, you will be able to break free from sin and the many ways it ruins your life!

 

You Get A Choice

It is black and white. There are only two teams in this game of life. And the amazing part is that we get to choose which side to be on. I was 35 before I switched teams and began my relationship with Jesus. 

 

I am a stubborn, hard-headed person. The enemy had me headed toward hell, and I didn’t recognize it. That’s scary! But God is merciful and patient. He never gives up on me or you either. He is always here with us.  

 

My Life Before Christ

As a teenager, I was a “good” person, but, it was all selfishly motivated. I was doing it for me and what I could get out of it. Even though I grew up in church, I didn’t know Jesus. I knew about Jesus. Hey, Satan himself knows about Jesus. Knowing about Him is a whole lot like that other team on the playground–you know who their best players are. What good does that do you?

 

So, that’s where I was when I got married to Jane — doing life my way, manipulating for what I wanted and not understanding why she didn’t think like me. Why does she get mad when I work late? I’m not playing golf. I was a workaholic. It was easier to be at work with what I did understand and have some control over than to be at home where my twisted ideas of how to be in relationship with a human being (pornography will do this to you) didn’t always go well. We wanted to love each other, but there was always an undercurrent of conflict.

 

Life started to fall apart financially. I was a self-employed cotton farmer, and it was not going well. I was barely profitable and could not support a growing family. Our six-year-old daughter had started cussing. That’s who we were. Good, solid, worldly people going through life as best we knew how. Trusting our friends for advice, who were like us–good, solid worldly people. And we were going to church–but for all the wrong reasons. We were the hypocrites that have given “church” such a bad name. Don’t hate on me– it’s the South; everybody goes to church in the South. As my grandmother used to say, “God hep us.”

 

The Change

I realized something had to change. I got saved when I was 35 and began my relationship with Him. One day I will meet Him face to face, and He will ask me something like “So, what did you do with the life I gave you?” We all will be asked whether we accepted Christ as our Savior one day. 

 

On that day, I want to thank Him for allowing me to be in heaven through the righteousness extended to me by my belief, acceptance, and love for Jesus, The Christ. I hope you do too. Our time on earth is only about preparing us for eternity. 

 

Godly Love

One definition of love is “a commitment to act in someone else’s best interest.” Jesus came to earth as a man to show us how to live and overcome the enemy attack we all are under. He showed us how to love. And it’s all written down! You can learn it. You don’t need to wait until you are 59 to get it. 

 

The enemy uses sin to derail our lives. Jesus came to tell us and show us how to respond to the enemy. The Bible is full of “one another” verses about how to treat each other and be in the relationship God’s way. 

 

Learn More About The Bible’s Messages for How We Treat One Another

 

Our flesh resists and does not want to be under Christ’s control. I’ve lived it. I tried to do it my way for too long. I was going one on one against Satan, and I didn’t realize it. And things were slipping. Only Jesus can deal with Satan. Only Jesus can deal with sin– that’s why you have to have Him in your life. That’s what His death on the cross was all about. It was the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin.  

 

Jesus In My Marriage

That same Jesus is now in my marriage. When life hits the fan, I know He is here. None of it surprises Him. Jane and I trust that come what may; He is in control. I don’t care what it is: kids, work, aging parents, or sin. 

When we agree to put Him at the center, there is peace even in the middle of a storm. 

It’s our choice. We keep our focus on Him and keep Him at the center of our marriage.

 

I am called to love my spouse with 1 Corinthians 13 love that sees the best in my spouse. Now I know I cannot do that on my own. I tried. For the first couple of decades of our marriage, I did not know Jesus, so I had no way to consistently overcome the things I did that hurt our relationship. 

 

When I gave my life to Jesus Christ, one of the first amazing discoveries for me was the realization of the power God gives to believers to live a life according to His way and plans. As a follower of Christ, now when I get ready to say or do something hurtful, I get a conviction within me that prompts me to respond in a better way. 

 

Do I follow that Holy Spirit nudge always? NO. I am learning and praying to ask God to increase my love for Him. The Word says, if I love Him, I will obey His commands. I will want to please God more and will respond in loving godliness to these nudges. I seek to do that increasingly in my marriage. It WORKS!!! God knows we will never be completely perfect until we reach Heaven. But I keep trying!

 

When my spouse and I both seek to let God’s power work through us to love and respect each other better, that is when marriage sings!!! We are sure that our marriage is much tighter, secure, and joyful with the power of the Holy Spirit available to us through Jesus, working in us, for the Glory of God!! We then bring delight to God, and we are blessed in our relationship. God knows what will be best for us. He has shown us over and over again, even when we doubted the way He was taking us. He is FAITHFUL, and we have learned that He is always working for our good.   

 

Making Jesus the center of your life, marriage, and relationships is your choice to make. He hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s us that move away from Him. If you are cold, move closer to the heater. The short answer is don’t do life alone; do it with Jesus. 

 

Make Jesus the Center of Your Relationship

Read through the Bible in a year, every year. Read different translations or “through the Bible in a year” translations. Maybe a chronological translation. Pay close attention to how Jesus, Paul, James, and others say how to live. 

 

Attend a church that preaches the Bible in a way you understand. I’ve been to some and always felt they were shooting over my head. When you hear a sermon, it should be encouraging or convicting. If it has no impact either you weren’t listening (it happens) or it wasn’t any good. If you can’t think back and remember something he said in one of his sermons; you might want to consider listening to somebody else’s sermons.

 

Pray every day, during the day when life is going on. Go to God for everything, in the moment. Pray by yourself or with your spouse. Jane and I will pray many times a day. If we get in an argument, we will pray. If we have a decision to make of some consequence, we will pray. If friends or family have something going on, we will pray. Prayer is like oil in an engine–it will keep everything working right. 

 

Hang out with Christians. You may lose some old friends, or maybe you will change your relationship with them. 

 

Use a daily devotional. The Holy Spirit will reveal much to you on your own. But reading what others have learned will get you where you need to be quicker. Read one for two or three years and add a new one. Read Christian books and magazines. Watch Christian movies. Make a conscious decision to separate yourself from worldly entertainment.  

 

Pursue Jesus. Get to know Him. Take stock of how you use your time and spend your money. Where is Jesus in this? Consider who you hang out with. Are they pointing you toward Christ or worldly things? What are you listening to, reading, or watching? Losing weight and being healthy requires effort on your part. Getting to know Jesus and being healthy spiritually will too. Believe and understand there is a battle for your soul and where it will spend eternity. 


Understanding Sin

Understanding Sin

Sin is anything that comes between God and us: any person, place, attitude, belief, desire, or activity. It includes sins of commission and sins of omission. Satan is behind it all twisting and spinning the truth, tricking us into sin.

 

I was fooled as a young man. I was sure if I worked hard enough, I could get it all done and provide food, clothing, shelter, and transportation for my family. Which I did, but did not realize how my wife was becoming a single parent because I was never at home. She needed me there. Not as a worker, but as a husband and father; to go through life together and deal with all the stresses that a young family faces. I did not love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). I eventually figured it out.

 

Christ is the Key

Jesus is the ONLY way to overcome sin. We can not do enough or be good enough to overcome the attack of the enemy. It is beyond our design or ability. I fought against lust for 25 years. I knew I was saved but did not understand why lust would not go away. Pornography and racial prejudice and a lot of other stuff went away, but not lust.

It finally was revealed to me I was fighting against sin with my flesh. I was trying to be “good enough” through the works of my flesh–my human nature. I knew I was saved by my faith in Jesus, and I would spend eternity in heaven. But, I believed a lie from hell for 25 years that I could overcome lust by denying myself that indulgence. It never worked. I continued to see the pretty girl and have thoughts beyond what I knew were proper.

 

Trust in Him

During a moment of solitude, I finally got it. I was trusting Jesus for eternity and me for today. That’s wrong! I knew Him as my Savior but not as my Lord, especially for today. I was half-dealing with the sin in my life in my way. I was not trusting Jesus with this. I was picking and choosing how I wanted to be a Christian–and lust would not go away! I was trying to overcome sin with my flesh–by being good enough. It was not working.

By faith, we trust Jesus for eternity. Similarly, Jesus can be trusted to save us and deliver us from the daily attacks of sin we experience. He empowers us to obey the Bible’s commands on how we treat one another and have relationships. To “love one another as I have loved you” when that “other” happens to be someone not very lovely. When we choose not to love the unlovely, that attitude is sin and is coming between God and us. We need to release Jesus and His Power in our lives for today.

 

Take Up Your Cross

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus can see the end from the beginning. He knows what flesh is about–He was a man. He knows we need to hear something pretty severe to break the grip sin has on us for today–kill the flesh. Not physically kill yourself, but spiritually, give it up!

If a Roman soldier told you to take up your cross, he meant you were going to die. Jesus carried His cross to His crucifixion. To deal with sin in this world today, we must see ourselves as crucified with Christ (Romans 6:3,6,8) and follow Him (take up your cross daily and follow me). Put Jesus between you and the sin. HE CAN DEAL WITH IT–He has, and He can overcome sin–you haven’t and you can’t. Do this by FAITH in Him; the same faith you are trusting in Him to keep you out of hell at your death. Follow Him today–right now, to deal with the sin in your life!

Hopefully, you knew Christ as Savior and Lord from day one. I did not. It took me 25 years to break the grip from hell that was distorting my life. I fought it well; I never gave into it. But what a waste of time and effort! I should have changed long ago to make disciples and teach them to obey His commands– as He commanded me (Matthew 28:18-20).


Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

“I know we are all in the same family, but the Holy Spirit seems to always be out of town–I don’t know him very well.” One morning a member of my men’s group shared this comment, and it made me think.

Why is it that many of us understand God and Jesus, but we are a bit fuzzy on the Holy Spirit? Christians celebrate the birth and death of Jesus with Christmas and Easter. We have vivid Bible stories of God creating the world, God speaking to Noah to build the ark and guiding Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. But things slow down with details on the Holy Spirit. Or do they?

Why don’t we know the Holy Spirit the way we do God and Jesus? We are aware of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but for some reason, it is harder to put words with the Holy Spirit. We don’t have the same understanding as we do with God and Jesus.

This was another result of the fall from grace when Adam dropped the ball in the Garden of Eden. He stood there and watched as Eve believed a lie from Hell and did nothing to stop it. Furthermore, he tried to blame what happened on God and Eve. He took no responsibility for his failure to step up and be the man God created him to be. And it repeats to this day. This “fall” is when sin entered the world. It’s where the sinful nature that we each are born with came from.

 

What the Bible Says

The Bible has a lot to say about the Holy Spirit, but our fallen human nature doesn’t want to hear it. We don’t want to embrace the Holy Spirit because He convicts our sinful lives. Our innate sinful nature doesn’t want to understand.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” John 14:16-17.

Jesus was speaking here to the disciples as he was preparing to leave them. Later in the passage, Jesus described the Spirit as a counselor, who will teach us and remind us of what Jesus has said. Later in the book of John, we are told that the Holy Spirit will also convict the world of their guilt.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains that without the Holy Spirit we are not going to “get it”–we will not understand what Jesus, the Bible and God’s plan for humanity is all about.

“God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.

In Galatians, Paul tells us to live by the Spirit, and not by our sinful nature; these two natures are contrary and will conflict with one another.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentlenesses, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

 

The Devil’s Conspiracy

Could it be we are falling victim to a conspiracy to keep us locked in our sins? Why don’t we know the Holy Spirit very well? The devil does not want us to. Satan and his demons are behind this conspiracy to keep us from knowing and understanding the Holy Spirit.

The enemy manipulates our sinful human nature to the point that we do not want to be convicted of our sin (John 16:8). There are things about sin that we enjoy– that’s one reason we go there. Without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we are not going to break from sin on our own. The shattered lives we witness every day are a testimony of NOT knowing the Holy Spirit and not living by the Spirit and not being led by the Spirit. Those shattered lives are the opposite of that–doing life by the world’s ways.

 

We Need the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the crucial link to overcome sin in our lives today. His conviction calls us out on our sins. When we ignore this, we will become hardened and calloused to sin. Continuing to do this long term allows sin to become a way of life.

The Holy Spirit is the power that raised Jesus from the grave, and that power is there for us to overcome sin in our life. We tap into that power when we believe the gospel–that Jesus died for our sins. By our belief in his death and resurrection on our behalf, we too can be free from sins and the devil’s grip on our life today! The Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit; we are “born again” by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Without the Holy Spirit, we try to overcome sin on our own–by our flesh, will power, human nature, or be good enough. If that got it done, our world would be free of sin by now. No one wants to perpetuate the downside of sin–we only want to enjoy the pleasures. We have all tried to break free of sin, and it’s adverse effects, but man can not do it on his own. This is what Jesus was all about. He came, He lived, He died to pay the penalty for OUR sins. There is nothing about us that will ever be sufficient for our righteousness before God, apart from Jesus Christ. That would be like driving your car to the moon–you can’t do it!

If we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and unrighteousness and choose to accept Jesus, God will forgive us of our sins. We will be acceptable to Him in heaven for eternity. If we also identify Jesus as Lord of our life for today, we can finally break free of sin’s grip on our daily life. Our Savior died on a cross at Calvary–our Lord rose on the third day–He is alive!

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

 

Receiving the Spirit

So, how do we receive the Holy Spirit?

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.'” Acts 2:38

Jesus told us that whoever believes in Him, “streams of living water will flow from within him.” The flowing water is the Spirit, whom his followers would receive. In Acts, Paul had a conversation with some disciples regarding the Holy Spirit. “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus… When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them.” So, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior! When we accept Christ, God immediately seals us with His Spirit.


One Another

One Another

The Bible is full of commands for being in relationship with each other, especially the marriage relationship.  Some of them are listed below. Our natural human nature tends to be selfish and does not embrace most of these behaviors.  When we choose to know and follow Jesus Christ as Lord, we gain the power that brought Christ back to life, the power to recreate our human nature as a new man and we are much more able to follow Christ and live for today, the way He has shown us to live.

Do unto others

  • Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you”

 

Love one another

  • John 13:34-35  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  • Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”
  • 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
  • 1 Peter 2:1-3  “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

 

Respect one another

  • 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
  • Ephesians 5:33 “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

 

Accept one another

  • Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God.”

Serve one another

  • Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

 

Bear with one another

  • Ephesians 4:2  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

 

Submit to one another

  • Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

 

Encourage one another

  • Hebrews 3:13  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
  • Hebrews 10:24  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”
  • Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Do not judge one another, Do not grumble about one another

  • James 4:11 “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”
  • James 5:9 “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

 

Be hospitable

  • 1 Peter 4:9  “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-22 “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

 

Be humble

  • 1 Peter 5:5  “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

 

Why would I want to do this? Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will obey His commands.

We also know that God loves us unconditionally. Take a look at His never failing, unending, persevering love for you. He has promised nothing – that includes nothing you can do – will ever come between you and God when you embrace and accept His Son. 

What if God designed marriage to make us both happy and holy? Your marriage should be a reflection of God’s love for the church; it serves as a vivid metaphor for the central message of the Gospel. Most of us don’t really have marriage problems, we have Jesus problems. We don’t want to do what He said do. You and your spouse can love and respect each other like God does – unconditionally – with His help. 


Putting Jesus First in Your Relationship

Putting Jesus First in Your Relationship

Marriage seems to be struggling today, and everywhere you look, couples are having trouble. God’s plan for marriage looks different from the average marriage today. In Genesis, He talked about a man leaving his mother and father and becoming one with his wife. What has happened? How have we drifted so far, and how do we get it back? Sin is the problem, and loving others the way Jesus did is the solution.

Improving Relationships

The Bible has many commands to us regarding being in a relationship. Which skills do you need to improve on?

  • Love one another as I have loved you.
  • Serve one another in love.
  • Pray for one another.
  • We are to esteem others more highly than ourselves.
  • We are to take an interest in the needs of others.
  • Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. He gave Himself up for her.
  • Wives are to respect their husbands.
  • Forgive one another as you have been forgiven.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (Philippians 2: 5-6).

“However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

If Christ, who deserved it all, but didn’t exalt himself, why do we?  Why do we think we are “all that.” Why do we want to make our own rules for how to go through life?

 

Our human nature does not want to do these things I just listed. None of what I just said, that Christ said for us to do, is dependent on the other person’s behavior or whether or not we feel they deserve it.

 

Unconditional Love and Respect

The skills listed are things we can do regardless of the other person’s behavior. Emerson Eggerichs says, “Our response is our responsibility.” We are responsible to God for our actions while we are on this earth. And it doesn’t matter how the other person acts.  When we love and respect others unconditionally, we want them to reciprocate, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about that.

 

I struggled with this. It didn’t make sense to me to do all this good stuff with no assurance it would be reciprocated. So, I started picking and choosing how I was going to go through life. I now know I never did understand how to love others well. You see, I was hung up in lust. Lust I understood, but godly love–true unconditional love–I did not fully comprehend for a long time.

 

When I was about 13 years old, we had a revival at the church I grew up in, and I consciously told God no, I did not want to follow Jesus. I had found out about pornography by then, and I knew God was going to have a problem with that. So, in my teenage wisdom, I thought it best to leave God out of my life.

 

Later, Jane and I got married, and we had three daughters. My career grew, and I was still ignoring God. I dedicated my time and energy to making money, being the provider. I spent most of my time working, while Jane’s at home with three kids. I might bathe somebody or read them a book at bedtime, but she’s pretty much a single mom. But I didn’t understand what her problem was. Why is she mad at me?

I later learned that during these early years, what we were doing was drifting apart. Life was coming at both of us hard and fast, and we were looking to self to get through it. I was not there for her, and she was not in my world at work. My priorities of job and family were out of line, and nothing was working well for me. When I was 35, I found 30″ sweetgum trees in a field of no-till cotton that was about 10″ tall. This is before RoundUp Ready cotton, and I was looking at a nightmare. Meanwhile, back at home, my six-year-old daughter had started cussing.

 

I was saved right on the edge of that cotton field. I told God I was making a mess, and I needed help. He’s been helping me ever since. The relief and peace He has given me are incredible!

 

Today and Every Day

It was not enough to give my life to Jesus Christ; I needed to give Him each day. I was able to break from pornography, my language cleaned up a lot, and my racial prejudice changed dramatically. I started to read the Bible a lot. The Bible spoke to me in ways it never had before. I started listening to Christian radio–BBN. The preaching and teaching I heard made a lot of sense. I read Christian books; I started writing stuff down, trying to make sense of it all. But I had a severe misunderstanding that took me years to figure out.

 

I was trusting in myself for today, not Jesus. That is sin! I continued to be hounded by lust. I tried to justify it and then later to break free of it. I could not shake it. We can’t overcome our sins without Jesus. God created us to depend on Him for what we don’t know. But I didn’t know that back then. I was operating on the principle that if it feels good, do it.

 

Finally, I had a revelation from Christ. I saw Him clearly. He was on the cross and looked as bad as Isaiah described Him, and He said to me, “Is this not good enough? Do I have to go through this again, before you choose me for today?” I felt so ashamed and now choose Christ, and his unconditional love, for today. His love is the antidote to sin in your life. Learn to love and respect others the way Jesus does for us.

 

Obedience to God

The writer of Hebrews tells us the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and did not enter God’s “rest” because of their unbelief and disobedience. When we choose to accept Christ, He will resist temptation on our behalf. Now, we may enter that rest, spoken of in Hebrews, and come in from the desert! Christ gives us back our peace, hope, and joy that the enemy has taken.

 

If the enemy continues to beat you down, and your life, your marriage, or your relationships do not have the joy they should; then read Romans 6 and ask yourself “Am I crucified with Christ?” Don’t do it by your flesh–do it by your faith! 2 Corinthians 5:15 reminds us “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

 

Being Crucified with Christ

Not only is Jesus the way to overcome sin for today and live a life of freedom from it–He gives us the power to do so. Jesus told us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus was telling us we need to die to ourselves daily. He knows when we follow our self-interests, we will go the wrong way. We need to see ourselves as crucified with Christ and follow Him.

 

And He is here with us! He says, “follow me.” Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

So, here’s how you can be crucified with Christ. To make it work, all you have to do is have the presence of mind to choose Christ before you respond by your flesh when sin attacks. The thought flashes through my mind that I have NO DOUBT He is taking me through eternity. Likewise, He will guide me through today. Then I’m able to do what I know is right, and OVERCOME SIN! At that point, I “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” I am dead to sin, and that list of skills at the beginning is a lot easier to accomplish. I’m a lot closer to loving others the way Christ does.

 

Christ-Centered Relationships

So, for our relationships to grow, we have to follow God’s guidance and be obedient to His commands. Only faith in Jesus can change your life. We need faith that He is who the Bible says He is and that through Him, we can overcome the sin we face daily.

 

Stop relying on worldly advice to fix marital problems with spiritual roots. Go to the Bible, where the institution of marriage was created. How is what you are doing working out for you? Are you happy? Is there peace and joy in your home? Are you and your spouse living as” one” or as roommates? What about your children? What’s coming out of their mouths? (Mine quit cussing as God transformed our family). When you choose to do marriage God’s way, the rate of divorce drops to around 1 or 2%. Don’t believe the lie from hell that you can fix it without Jesus.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

 

How well you love and respect your spouse does not determine where you spend eternity; your love for Jesus does. And He said, “If you love me, obey my commands.” One day each of us will stand before our maker on a holy day of judgment (2 Co 5:10). We will stand alone, and He will ask, “What did you do with the Life I gave you?” What are you going to tell Him?