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YESLORD Posts: 12,978
11/17/11 11:22 A

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NOVEMBER 17

Unlikely Heroes

This matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act. EZRA 10:4

I used yesterday's reading to let Jim and Shirley Dobson's son, Ryan, tell his own adoption story. Stories like this are so rich with the loving sovereignty of God—how He takes two needy situations and unites them in one holy purpose. For His glory.

We must never forget that the choice of a young, frightened girl to stand in the face of a personal storm and believe God for something better is an act of sheer courage. Being pregnant and unmarried, though sadly not as uncommon as it used to be, still invites sideways looks and quick glances at the young girl's ring finger. To carry a child to term instead of choosing abortion, to endure the feelings of shame that rise up as a young girl begins to show, is an unavoidable embarrassment like few others.

Ryan, reflecting on the experience of his own birth mother, said, "I talk to adopted kids all the time who think somehow they've been abandoned, and I say, ‘No, no, you have no idea what it means to go through a pregnancy.' I've seen my wife go through it. I've seen how tired she is. And to think that a young 17-year-old girl did that for me, not being married—and on top of it all gave me up to give me a better life, never to see the rewards of it . . ."

Yes, Ryan, it's truly amazing.

Perhaps you're watching an unmarried pregnancy up close in your neighborhood, your church, your extended family . . . maybe even in your own.

I pray that you will be the one who offers encouragement, strengthening her in the heroic decision to choose life for her child.

DISCUSS

What is your typical response to seeing a young, unmarried, very pregnant girl? Talk about how the Christian community can celebrate the protection of unborn life with a young girl who's made a mistake.

PRAY

Pray for the Christian community to welcome those who've made mistakes, offer the healing balm of love and celebrate the heroism of those who choose life and not death



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YESLORD Posts: 12,978
11/7/11 7:14 P

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NOVEMBER 7

One Against None

That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love. COLOSSIANS 2:2

One of our favorite games that our children absolutely loved playing was Reverse Hide and Seek. We'd turn out all the lights in our house. Then, instead of having one person look for everyone else, one person hid and all the others would try to find him or her. When you located the hidden person, you would quietly slip into the same space to hide with him or her. The game would keep going until only one person was left seeking all the others in a pitch black, totally silent house.

It wasn't easy being the last man standing. Swiftly, the house would become very quiet and still. All you could hear was the sound of your own panting and your appeals for everyone to show themselves. But usually, the giggles and snickers of seven people huddling in the bathtub or under a table would give away their location. When the last person finally joined the crowd, it was a huge relief—almost like a family reunion, full of laughter, hugs and silly recaps of the highlights.

What a picture of how marriage and family relationships ought to be.

Rather than allowing anyone to isolate himself or herself, we should seek each other out, huddle together and reconfirm the fact that we're sharing life together. No one's going it alone. Not in this house.

So I'm appointing you today to the office of Seeker. I challenge you to commit yourself to watching for signs of isolation in each other and in your children. Sure, there are times when we all need our space—the opportunity to pray and process things. But always stay sensitive to the first feelings of distance that creep into your relationship.

Don't let it stay quiet for long. Go on the prowl. Look behind the curtains.

Pursue one another and God, together.

DISCUSS

Is there any hiding going on in your home? Any isolation? Talk about how you should seek out one another.

PRAY

Pray that you will know when your spouse or a child is withdrawing into isolation and that you will know what to do.



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11/5/11 4:05 P

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NOVEMBER 5

Man to Man

I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. PROVERBS 4:11

When each of our sons, Benjamin and Samuel, graduated from high school, I treated them to one of the most unusual breakfasts they had ever enjoyed.

It was a simple meal held in a local hotel meeting room. Also in attendance were some men who wanted to help Barbara and me send each of these young men off to college with some godly advice. Man to man.

Each man talked about what he wished someone had shared with him before he started college. They talked frankly about the challenges and temptations our boys would face, and they exhorted them to grow spiritually, intellectually and morally.

At Samuel's breakfast, for example, Bob Lepine, my friend and co-host on FamilyLife Today, recalled that when he attended college, his goal was to earn a high grade-point average. But he challenged Samuel to focus on growing in character and wisdom. Bob said that after college, "people look at the mark of a man's life, what his reputation is in the community. Grade points aren't the issue. The issue is learning what God has you there to learn."

Another man in the room that day was Bill Bright, president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. "I would like to recommend more than anything else, Samuel, that you master this Holy Word," he said. "Every day I get on my knees to read this Word, because it was inspired by God. It is living."

Now, 10 years later, I'm encouraged to see how both of my sons took the advice of those godly men. Third John 1:4 says, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." From this dad's standpoint, my heart soars to see what fine men Ben and Samuel have become.

DISCUSS

Who are some friends you can use to speak truth into the lives of your children and encourage them to stand strong and follow Christ?

PRAY

Ask God for a handful of adults who will build into the lives of each of your children



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10/12/11 12:14 P

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OCTOBER 12

Serve God, Not Self

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" ISAIAH 6:8

There can be only one Lord in this relationship, or it just doesn't work. Any other combination of play-callers in this game plan results in confusion, distraction and disobedience.

Non-negotiable Number Six: Serve God, Not Self

The Bible exhorts us to become "slaves" or "bond-servants" of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 6:6; Acts 16:17; 2 Corinthians 4:5). We are all slaves of some master.

If that master is sin, we will be enslaved to evil. If that master is self, we will be in bondage to our pride. It is Jesus Christ who gives us the power to break free from these masters and find life in Him as our true Master.

Barbara and I have written on a number of occasions about a document we created in our first year of marriage in 1972. It was our first Christmas together and we decided that before we gave anything to each other, we would give God what we called "The Title Deed to Our Lives."

Each of us sat down and wrote out a document that signed over all our rights, all our possessions and all our dreams of what we'd ever hope to have.

We gave ourselves as fully and completely to God as we could at the time. We became bond-slaves of Jesus Christ. I cannot begin to tell you how liberating that decision was.

Nearly 20 years later, we opened the envelopes that contained our "Title Deeds." I laughed as I read back over all that we gave God on that day. What we gave Him on that day could hardly be considered a loss when we compared what He had given us as His bond-slaves. I cannot imagine what our lives would have looked like if we had chosen a lesser master.

Serve God, not self. When He is Lord, you have the best Master on Earth.

DISCUSS

What would it be like for you to sign a "Title Deed of Our Lives"? What would you give up? What would you gain?

PRAY

Pray that God will make you willing to be willing to be His bond-slaves.



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10/10/11 3:19 P

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OCTOBER 10

Believe God, Not the Deceiver

Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. JOHN 8:44

A Long Island businessman in the 1930s bought an expensive brass barometer to mount in his home. However, when the man pulled the instrument out of the box and started to hang it, the arrow that indicated current weather conditions was pointing hard to "Hurricane."

Angrily, he pounded his palm on the glass face of the barometer. The arrow didn't move. He shook it and then banged it on the table. The arrow still didn't move. This thing was obviously defective. So the next morning he fired off a nasty letter to the manufacturer and dropped it in a mailbox on his way to work in Manhattan.

But sure enough, a storm did roar through Long Island that day. And when he drove home in the afternoon, his house was destroyed . . . in a hurricane.

You see, there is absolute truth and there is deception.

Non-negotiable Number Four: Believe God, Not the Deceiver

All of life is a choice of who you will believe. Life is a battle between believing the truth or swallowing lies. And because the nature of our hearts—like that of the man in this story—is to doubt the truth and believe deceptions, it takes a deliberate effort to embrace God's truth as non-negotiable. If we don't keep our minds in the truth of the Scriptures on a daily basis, we become easy marks for our constant foe, the devil, who is both "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14) and "the father of lies."

So even when the Scriptures teach something you don't like, it's always the right choice to believe God anyway. It's better to know the truth that a hurricane is coming than to mistakenly think you're in the clear.

DISCUSS

What deceptions have you fallen prey to in the past? How have they burned you? What is God asking you to believe today?

PRAY

Pray for daily, deliberate, ongoing discernment.




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10/4/11 6:31 P

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OCTOBER 4

Forgiveness for a Price

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 PETER 4:8

I don't know anything at all about what caused it, what led up to it or even what came of it. But I'm sure it was hard for people not to notice a full-page ad in the Jacksonville newspaper one morning that read: "Please believe the words in my letter. They are true from my heart. I can only hope you will give me the chance to prove my unending love for you. Life without you is empty and meaningless."

It was a full-page $17,000 advertisement and plea for forgiveness.

According to the ad's author, his wife of 17 years had left him two weeks earlier. She was living temporarily with her parents in a gated community, beyond the reach of her husband. Even her cell-phone number had been changed to keep him from contacting her. But relatives told him that she had indeed seen the large display ad and had left the room crying.

I pray that they were able to work things out. But—again, not knowing the circumstances—this still goes to show you that marriage, unlike any other human relationship, is the joining of two hearts into one flesh. The pain of living at a distance, even temporarily, feels like a limb being torn away. We can't think straight. We can't enjoy ourselves.

That's why your marriage must be a place where mercy and forgiveness are regularly being asked for and extended. Given, received and embraced. None of us are able to always be everything our spouse wants us to be. But only through the power of grace and forgiveness can you live through seasons of disappointment—with yourself and with one another—and come out feeling united again.

It might even save you $17,000 and even more heartache.

DISCUSS

Is there anything between you two today? Anything that you need to ask forgiveness for . . . or forgive one another for . . . right now? Just do it.

PRAY

Thank the Lord for His full forgiveness of us and for the ability to extend the same to each other.



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9/21/11 2:40 P

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SEPTEMBER 21

Carrying Charge

Live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman. 1 PETER 3:7

Each fall, a ski resort in Maine hosts an event that is little known to the rest of the nation: the North American Wife Carrying Championship. To compete, husbands transport their wives through a hilly, 278-yard obstacle course that includes a 20-foot trough of water and 2 log hurdles. They can carry their wives in whatever way suits their running style—piggyback, fireman's carry or the more popular "Estonian" method, with the wife upside down across his back, legs crossed around his neck, arms held around his waist. The only enforceable rule is that she not touch the ground.

Ex-Olympians are sometimes among the contestants, while others are probably just there hoping for the first prize: the wife's weight in beer, plus five times her weight in cash and a thousand-dollar voucher toward a trip to the World Wife-Carrying Championship in Finland. (I'm serious.)

Admittedly, this event sounds a bit crude and primitive. But there is nothing archaic about a wife needing her husband to carry her sometimes—to be her strength during a tough stretch of circumstances, to stand with her in prayer, to be the broad shoulders she leans on when life gets heavy.

Yes, I've "dropped" Barbara a few times over the years. But I've had the privilege of shouldering her load in life-and-death health issues, a teenager's rebellion and dozens of those pesky parenting issues that can wear a mom down.

We have our own race to run and it's an honor to carry her.

Husbands, be there for your wife. Listen. Care. And if need be, carry her. And, wives, don't try to do it all by yourself. Lean on your husband. Let him help you. God will give him the strength. We need to be there for each other.

DISCUSS

Husbands, do you "carry" your wife well? What is one area of life right now where you need to be doing a better job of bearing her load?

PRAY

Pray that you will learn appropriate dependence on each other.



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9/17/11 12:25 P

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SEPTEMBER 17

One Home at a Time

A smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory. MATTHEW 12:20

Major General Robert Dees (U.S. Army, Retired) was one of a rugged group of alumni from the 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—who commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of World War II's Operation Market Garden by parachuting into the same drop zone in Eindhoven, Holland, as their heroic predecessors.

By almost any historian's accounts, the aerial assault initiated on this date in 1944 was a tactical failure. Yet it was part of an overall march to victory . . . and for some, the gift of life. Though on one hand it miscalculated the offensive's ability to secure "a bridge too far" (as portrayed in the well-known book and movie of that title), for some it became a bridge to hope and a future. That's what General Dees discovered this September day in 1994.

After his parachute landed, he was greeted by an elderly Dutch woman who fell to her knees and grasped him around the legs. Through her tears, through the words of an interpreter, she told this gripping story: In September 1944, the Germans were executing five fathers a day in Eindhoven—to keep the population in submission and deter the brave Dutch underground. On the day this woman's father was to be shot, the American troopers fell from the sky, saving his life. She had not yet been born, she said, so she was alive because of
Operation Market Garden.

General Dees's story reminded me that each home is important in the battle for the family. Your small courageous choices—to stand for truth, to remain committed to one another and to raise a family that honors Jesus Christ—will yield a victory of some kind. Don't give up. Just like that little Dutch girl and her dad, the next generation is at stake.

DISCUSS

Even if your efforts to strengthen your marriage and family haven't visibly made a difference lately, what little victories is God enabling you to win?

PRAY

Pray for the perspective to see bright spots in the midst of battle and for the courage to liberate your family and others from the cultural battle for the family.




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