Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Explanation

On my last blog entry, I gave you Romans, Chapter 8 to ponder and consider for yourself, because that Chapter of the Holy Bible has had a profound influence in my life. I hope it will in yours as well. It was Romans, Chapter 8 that taught me how to go on after my child, my baby, went to heaven without me. I was studying Romans 8 in Community Bible Study when our tragedy happened, a gift, more than a gift, an explanation for what had happened.

Unknowingly, I had been living a double life before Bronner went to heaven. I lived for God, but I also lived for myself. True, I attended bible study every week. I taught Sunday school. I sent my children to a Christian School where I was a very active parent. But, the flesh has a strong pull, as do the things of the world. God made me see through Romans, Chapter 8 that life in the flesh and lived for the desires of the flesh and the pleasures of the world brings death, and, in fact, is death itself, because any life lived not according to the Spirit of God isn’t life at all.

The morning after my darkest night I laid on my couch in shock and horror and disillusionment. I tried to read my bible searching for answers, but I couldn’t read. I physically couldn’t do it. My eyes couldn’t focus on the page. My stepdaughter, Brandi, came and sat on the other end of the couch. She didn’t know what to say, but she was there. So, I handed her my bible and asked her to read Romans, Chapter 8 to me, and she did.

When she finished, I asked her to read it again, so she did. And, when she finished the second time, I said, “Again. Read it to me again.” I wanted to hear it over and over again, because in it were answers, lots of answers. It told me that God wasn’t condemning me. He hadn’t taken my baby out of judgment or punishment for some sin, because He tells me in the very first verse of that chapter that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And then it said, “Don’t set your mind on things of the flesh but on the things of the Spirit.” My baby was now spirit. He was no longer flesh. He was in heaven with God. And heaven became so much more real to me. I knew Bronner. I knew what he looked like. I had touched him and kissed him and loved him. I knew he was real. I just couldn’t see him anymore. And, that made me realize that God and heaven and everything the bible talks about was just as real as Bronner had been to me the day before.

We get so caught up in our lives here on earth even as Christians that we think that heaven is so far away. We know that it’s coming someday, but it seems so distant to us and even unimportant. Isn’t what I’m doing right now for God what I should concentrate on? Maybe, but never forgetting to eagerly await and hope for the glory that is to be revealed to us at the second coming of Christ. God was taking me to a new awareness and a deeper understanding of Himself, of heaven, and what my life’s focus should really be about.

I had thought that because I was Christian, I was exempt from pain and suffering. Stupid, I know, because there’s nothing in scripture that indicates that. I just thought I was protected and blessed and special. I really felt special to God. Sometimes, I felt like it was just me and God and that’s it. I still don’t understand how He can have such a personal relationship with me, so real that I can feel His presence, and have that with so many others as well. God is so incomprehensible even as we learn more and more of Him. He is magnificent and giant and so far above us that His omnipresence and omniscience and eternal nature are almost unfathomable to us.

But, here in Romans 8:16-17, I am hearing something very different from what I had thought before, and if you don’t pay close attention, you might miss it the first time around. I had. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Did you catch it? “provided we suffer with him” If we are truly children of God, then we will suffer, and if we want to inherit with Christ the earth when God makes it new again, we will follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and the Lamb was slain. I felt slain, stabbed right in the heart, broken, confused, with excruciating pain that no one could relieve. But these words were.

It says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Not worth comparing? Are you serious? That’s got to be good stuff for this not to even matter. But, I am learning that it is. I look forward to heaven and to Christ’s appearing in the clouds more than you can even imagine. I long for that day when I step into the gates of heaven. I pray for Christ’s quick return everyday. “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.” But with eager expectation, I wait with patience. This is exactly what it says to do. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (vs. 23-25)

I pray every day for God to give me patience, to help me endure the absence of someone most precious to me. Everyday, I need help to get through the day, and God provides it. I miss my baby every single day, and it doesn’t get any easier. I had tasted life with Bronner, and I knew it to be good. I am keenly aware of what I’m missing out on, and it’s hard.

Every day is hard. Every one of them. So I need help from God. I have to have Him with me, or I couldn’t do it. I wake up every morning asking God for help. It’s usually a very short and direct prayer at my waking moment, “God, help me.” “God help me make it through today, because I want to be obedient to the work you have called me to and to be here for my other children and for my husband and for my friends, my church, and my family. But I need Your help. I cannot do it on my own.”

And He answers “Yes” everyday. So far. He promised He would, and He has. He says right here in Romans Chapter 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (vs. 35) “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” (vs. 37)

So, I am not separated from God. And, with His Spirit, I can see Bronner. My mind’s eye still sees, and I even catch his scent from time to time. I feel that somehow, I’m already there. That what I see here right now on earth is the apparition, and what is real, what is really real, is there. It’s all there. My citizenship is in heaven with Bronner. My treasure is there. My hope lies in it. And more and more, I feel like a foreigner in my own country, like I really don’t belong here. But, I know that what is going on here right now matters for eternity, forever. I feel like this is my opportunity to work. There, I will be happy. There, I will be free. But, here, with my burdens laid down and my hope securely fastened around me, I do what God asks of me here in this world. He’s asked me to teach and to write and to go and to raise and to love and to help and show and to speak on His behalf. And, I count it a privilege, an honor, to serve my Lord.

I feel like a warrior, a soldier, going into battle where nothing is about pleasure or worldly gain but about justice and peace, defending the weak, helping the oppressed, teaching the lost, and bringing hope to those who have lost all hope. I think about America when she finally got into the war, World War II. She didn’t want to fight. This wasn’t her battle. She was at peace, but she saw that so many were not at peace, so many were being held captive, and so many were dying. So, she got in the game and did her part to free those in bondage and to bring about peace.

I believe that is why God has left me here, why He took my baby. It was so I would die to myself and live for others. He knew that I would. And in His infinite wisdom, He did what would have been unthinkable to a mere human, but His perspective is so much larger than ours. He sees the big picture, the future, and everyone, not just me and my happy family. I’ve learned that, yes, I am special to God. Yes, He loves me, but He loves so many others as well. He loves us all and desires a relationship with each person He created. It is His breath flowing through each of us that has given us life. He is our creator, not just mine, but everyone’s. So, He has chosen to use me and my family to bring others to Christ. And, I know because of Romans Chapter 8 that all of it is working together for good, because I love Him.

Romans Chapter 8 was read at Bronner’s graveside the day he was buried. Brandi read it that day, because I was still to weak to speak or to read, but I did read it on the 1st anniversary of his death standing at the wailing wall in Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish women shushing me. On that day, my feet were planted like the roots of a strong tree, and nothing or no one could stop me from reading that Chapter of the Bible even though many would have liked to it seemed. And as I read, I felt the power of its words grow stronger and stronger until it crescendoed into its paramount last verse, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Romans 8

Life in the Spirit

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right had of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Submissive Wife

(adapted from a speech I did last February for a marriage conference)

Rick can tell you what it looks like to be the spiritual leader of his home, but I want to take on what it really means to be a submissive wife and why being submissive doesn’t have to mean that you lose your say or your identity. As Christians, we are all under authority. Children are to obey their parents. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to obey Christ and follow His example, and Christ, Himself, even submitted, not only to God, The Father, but also to the authorities of His day.

So, how did being a submissive wife become a bad thing? Isn’t it a command of God? But when people turn away from God, nothing He says or commands makes sense to them. The women’s libers who tried to make women into men, and even worse, into God controlling their own destinies and futures and not leaving that to God or His standard but only what “feels” right and good to them at the time just didn’t get. They couldn’t understand God’s ways, His commands, or anything else His Word had to say, because they weren’t looking through the unveiled eyes of a person filled with the Holy Spirit.

And what is so sad is that their worldly ideas have become the norm in our society. Even among Christian women, the prevailing thought is still that being a submissive wife means being inferior to your husband in some way, but that’s not what God’s word says at all.

Genesis 1:26-28 says this:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

I see nothing in this passage that tells me I’m inferior to Rick in any way. Sounds to me like we’re exactly the same in God’s eyes. We’re both man, according to this. We’re just male and female. We were both created, according to this passage, in the likeness of God.

Then in Genesis 2:18-25 we read in more detail how it is that we came to be male and female.

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

That’s beautiful. How I wish they would have stayed in that state. Death would have never entered into our world. Sin would have never entered. I wish they would’ve obeyed. But they didn’t, so that leaves us here in this fallen creation learning what it takes to get back to the garden of God.

But, the passage says, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” so God created “a helper fit for him.”

Women, do you realize how important you are to husbands? He’s walking around with a piece of him missing. You’re his missing rib. He’s not complete. He’s not whole without you. He needs you. You’re his helper.

God gave Rick a dream, and in it, Rick was battling a demon. It was this woman dressed like a gypsy, and Rick fought with her and screamed at her passages of scripture until he grew tired. Then, in his dream, I stood up and started battling her, the demon.

God revealed to Rick in that dream that I’m here for him. I can help him battle all these demons that want to tear him down, that want to render him useless to God. And you know what, ladies? I’m not gonna let that happen to my husband. No, when he’s tired, I will help him.

It’s not just cooking dinner for him, or having sex with him. It’s giving him good ideas and advice on his work, on his relationship with God. I’m here for Rick. Anything God reveals to me, he may have just as well revealed it to Rick, because Rick’s gonna hear it. I tell Rick everything. If I learn something new from scripture, I’m telling him, because I’m excited about it and can’t wait to tell him.

So, where do the problems begin for Adam and Eve? We all know they ate from the tree God told them not to eat from. They were given a test to see if they would obey God, and they failed. They didn’t listen to the voice of God, they listened to Satan, and so they sinned.

That meant that they had to be punished. They were sent away from the garden and not allowed to eat from the tree of life. Now I do want to say here that in the last book of our bible we find out who will get to eat from that tree, which is in the paradise of God. Jesus said, “To the one who conquers.” (Revelation 2:7) Conquers what? Sin, by the free gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, we’ll see in Genesis 3:16-21 the punishment God handed down to Adam and Eve.

“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Well, here we see that Adam was gonna need a helper, ‘cause life was gonna be hard, and to Eve he said, I’m going to multiply your pain in childbearing. Life wasn’t going be as sweet for them as it could have been, but God did provide a way out. He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the women and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

That’s Jesus Christ we’re talking about here. He’s the one that’s going to crush the head of the serpent forever, and, in fact, has already delivered the crushing blow by providing salvation for man. Here in this passage we also see God taking responsibility for his creation, man, and providing skins to clothe them with. This was the first sacrifice. God had to kill an animal in order to provide those skins for Adam and Eve, so their sin in the garden had been atoned for, but they still had earthly repercussions for their sin.

Here in verse 16 we see a mystery unfolding. “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children.”

In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul says that women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Now, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense until you think it though. Women are not saved through childbearing but through the redeeming work of the cross just like men are. Christ saves us if we believe, so what’s Paul talking about?

I believe there’s some symbolism going on here. The man and his wife represent the relationship between God, The Father, and Christ, the Son. They are the same. They are equal, yet one is the head of the other. God the Father and God the Son are equal, but one takes a submissive role to the other willingly. Hmmm…

So, if Adam is the head, and Eve was to take a submissive role, then she was going to have to suffer to get her most prized possession, her babies, just like Christ was going to have suffer to get his most prized possession, the church.

But, in delving out all that punishment, God also told the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Now, here’s where the women’s libers come back in. It’s in our nature to try to rule over our husband. We want to be in control. That’s part of our punishment, but God says, no, take the submissive role to your husband. That’s hard for us women, so hard, in fact, that it’s impossible to do without the Holy Spirit. See, the Holy Spirit brings with Him, power. What kind of power? The kind of power that can prevail over sin.

See, God told us to be submissive to our husbands, but it’s in our nature to try to rule over him.

Now, there’s a battle.

It’s the battle between sinful flesh and the Spirit of God.

We are to live by the Spirit everyday. Now, that’s impossible for someone who doesn’t have the Spirit of God. You must be saved in order to have access to the Holy Spirit’s power, comfort, guidance, and help.

But with Christians, it’s still a battle everyday. Are we going to listen to the Spirit of God within us or are we going to give in to the sinful desires of the flesh?

Yes, it is our desire to rule over our husbands, but it’s God’s desire that we not, that we willingly put ourselves into a submissive role.

Don’t you want to be obedient to God? I do. I want to serve Him completely, and that means I am my husband’s helper. He’s the one in the forefront, and I’m the one in the background offering him any kind of assistance that will bring forth more fruit for God.

Because you know what? It’s not about Rick either. It’s about God. We, together, are to bring glory to the Father in heaven.

Maybe some of you are saying, “Well, it’s easy for her to be submissive to Rick, because he is living for God. He is a model of a Godly, Christian man.” I know people think that, because they’ve said it to me before. So, what then? What if your husband isn’t being the spiritual leader that he should be? Well, God’s got an answer for that, too.

He says, in 1 Peter, Chapter 3:1-6:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives—when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

Win your husbands to the Lord by your conduct this says. Set an example for him. If he’s not doing it right, you do it right, and just maybe, he’ll follow. There’s no telling how many stories of men coming to the Lord because of their wives there are. That must a countless number that only God knows, but I bet you, it’s a big one.

But, at the beginning of that chapter we see the little word, “likewise.”

Peter tells us “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands…” Like what? Well, what had he been talking about before? Servants and the ultimate servant, Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:18-24:

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Wow, that just makes me want to fall on my knees in gratitude for what Christ did for me. I was so blind before I knew God. I was straying like a lost sheep, but the shepherd came and got me. He rescued me from darkness and has brought me into the light, and I’m so thankful to Him.

That thankfulness is more than gratitude. I owe Him my very life. Any hope I have is because of what Jesus has done. I am nothing without Him, and I understand that all His ways are right and just. He is infinitely wise and has given us of His wisdom through His Word and His Spirit, so I can believe and trust that His commands and plans for my life are better than anything I could come up with on my own.

I can trust Him, so when He tells me to submit to my husband, I will. Because, I know in doing so I am crushing the head of the serpent along with Him. I become more and more of a conqueror over sin and death and Satan with every obedience to Christ. So, I seek out His truth. I seek and find what is right and good in His sight, and with everything that I am I intend to follow Christ not out of obligation but for the joy of it, because I love my Lord. I love Him with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength. And as I love my Lord Jesus more and more, I love my lord, Rick, more and more. And one day, Rick and I will sit together at the marriage supper of the Lamb with Christ celebrating His bride, the church, Rick and I included. I hope you will be there with us on this grand occasion.

And to sum it all up, we look to Ephesians 5:22-33:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Well, profound, it is. But, I can see that throughout our marriage Rick and I have been one. His thoughts are my thoughts. We agree on almost everything. We have the same values, opinions, ideals. We have the same spirit. We are one. He is me, and I am him in a very profound way. If you sin against Rick, you’ve sinned against me. Because I love him as I love my own body. If you say anything against me, you’ve said it against him, because the two of us have become one flesh.

And see how this intertwining of ideals, hopes, desires is a picture of Christ and His church. Let me tell you, if anyone says something against Christ or Christianity, it makes my blood boil. It makes me mad, because I love Christ. I’m protective of His name. If anyone’s out profaning Christ, I don’t like it. And you know, He doesn’t like it when someone comes against and attacks me either.

I have no doubt that Satan’s punishment for the death of my son will be severe. Don’t get me wrong, I know God is the only One who can give or take away life. And more and more I see that God orchestrated the whole event for the power it would have in bringing about truth not only in my life and Rick’s life but in countless others. God’s sovereignty isn’t in question here, but the vehicle through which death, all death, came will be punished, and that was Satan.

But all of this, our marriages, our trials, this life is for our sanctification to make us holy, set apart for the Lord, because nothing unclean can enter into heaven. Nothing.

So let’s commit our lives, our marriages, and even our trials to God, submitting to his authority in our lives, and saying “Not my will, but Thine, Oh, Lord, be done.”

It may not make you happy, at first, to be a submissive wife, and you may hear me say this again and again, but one of the greatest lessons God has taught me through my trials is that life isn’t about being happy, it’s about being holy. And when you reach that, holiness, there will be joy. And joy is greater than happiness, because it is lasting. Our joy is forever if we belong to God.

So choose submissiveness, choose holiness, and choose to love.

God bless,


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Real Love

February is the month for love, so let’s talk about love. What is love?

Love is defined by Webster as strong affection and warm attachment to someone or something. It means to cherish, to feel a passion, devotion, or tenderness for, and is also defined as unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for another.

Well, I have to say that from the moment I married Rick, I have always felt loved. I have always felt cherished by him. He has a tenderness for me that is filled with unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for me. I have no doubt in my mind that he is fully devoted to me and would protect me with his very life.

But, I also have no doubt in my mind, that his love for me is undeserved. Why does he love me like that? Is it because I’m so wonderful, smart, pretty? No, has nothing to do with it.

What I want to get across here is that love, true love, is unconditional, and Jesus Christ is the model for that kind of love.

There is nothing we can say or do that could change what is true and unconditional. Now, let’s go back to the dictionary.

unconditional: not limited in any way and not subject to conditions.

So, unconditional love doesn’t really depend on conditions, does it?

No, it doesn’t.

In a marriage, does that mean I could treat my husband with disrespect and him still love me? Does it mean I could spit in his face and him still love me? Does it mean I could have an affair and him still love me?

Yes, yes it does. I could do all those things and if Rick really loved me with an unconditional love, he would still love me. Because why? His love would be unconditional.

Now, that’s a revelation.

Think about Christ on the cross, they did spit in his face, and what did he do? He prayed for them. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And how many times do we go whoring around after other gods, like money, and Him forgive us. I’ve got news for you: there is nothing unforgivable in God’s eyes except for the sin of unbelief. If God, who is perfect, can forgive, then you, who are sinful, can forgive.

What do you need to forgive today?

Now, let’s go back, if my husband loves me with an unconditional love, does that mean I can do all those things I mentioned, spit in his face, disrespect him, cheat on him?

No, not if I love him with an unconditional love, too. If I love Rick with that same unconditional love…I would have strong affection, warm attachment, and unselfish (key word here), loyal, and benevolent concern for him as well. I would cherish him. I would feel passion, devotion, and tenderness for him.

And then, we’d be talking. If he loves me with an unconditional love, and I love him with an unconditional love… we’ve really got something, don’t we?

What would that look like? A marriage filled with that kind of love, the kind that is not self-serving, the kind that thinks about the other person first?

If I’m thinking about him and he’s thinking about me, and I’m putting his needs over my own, and he’s putting my needs over his. My gosh, can you imagine?

What would Rick want today? Let’s see… sex in the morning, meatloaf, cornbread, and fried okra for lunch, and my undivided attention at night? OK

What would Sherri want today? Well, answers to all my questions, in the morning, heaping praise for that home cooked meal at lunch, and a back rub at night… You got it, coming right up.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? A husband who wants to serve his wife, and a wife who wants to serve her husband.

Listen, we’ve got to stop thinking the way the world thinks.

Do you hear this kind of talk?

“Well, I just don’t love him anymore.”


“Yeah, I’ve fallen out of love.”

How juvenile and silly is that?

“I just don’t love her anymore.”

“She’s not meeting my needs.”

“He’s not the man I married.”

How selfish can you be? You know what I say to that? Grow up!

It’s not about you. It’s all about God. Love is a choice. It’s not a feeling. It’s a commitment. When we stop thinking the way the world things, and start thinking with the mind of Christ, then, only then, will we get it.

Christ gives us the model on how to love, and what did he do? He humbled himself. He came from heaven to earth to love, to serve, and to die. He loved us so much that he would die for us, not because we were so wonderful and good. No, He died for us when? While we were still sinners. He loved us with an unconditional love.

And then He said, “All you who believe, come.” “Come to me, all you who are weary, cast your cares on me, because I care for you. Enter by the narrow gate.” He’s the gate, people. Christ is the narrow way. He’s the only way. He said, “I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

I believe that if you’re not Christian, you don’t know what love is. If you don’t know Christ in a personal and real way, you don’t love your wife. You don’t love your husband. You can’t. It’s not in you to do so.

When we receive Christ as our Savior, only then do we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit comes it’s fruit. And the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Who’s got a problem with self-control? Give it to God. Give it all to Him. If you’ve got problems in your marriage, Christ is the answer. Forgiveness is the answer. Healing is the answer. Don’t run from your problems. Run to Christ, and lay them at His feet.

If you’re just starting out in your marriage, grab hold of Christ and don’t let go.

When Rick and I were about to get married fourteen years ago next Wednesday, we had this sweet, precious pastor, Rick Cagle, tell us the truth. He said, “If you don’t have a church home, get one.”

He said, “Marriage is hard, and it’s gonna take God to make it work. If you don’t have God in your marriage, it will fail,” and then he drew us a diagram. Seriously. He drew a triangle with Rick and me as the bottom two points and Christ at the top, and he said, “The closer you each grow to God, the closer you will grow to each other.”

That has proven to be so true in our lives. Rick Cagle was right. We did need God in our marriage. We still need God in our marriage. And the closer we grow to God, the closer we grow to each other.

We all need God. We need Christ in our hearts and God as our head in order to be able to do anything well. When we’re in anything for ourselves, whether it’s a marriage, a job, whatever, it won’t work. We need to do everything for the glory of God. Everything. We can’t just give Christ our sins; we’ve got to give Him our lives. We are to live our lives as a living sacrifice to Christ.

The best thing you could ever do for your marriage is to get involved in a strong, healthy relationship with God. All other relationships will fall into place if that relationship is right, and that includes marriage, especially marriage.

When you’ve got it right with God, then you can get it right with your spouse. And when you have a strong, healthy marriage, you have happy, stable kids who feel secure and safe in your home. When your home is in order, then, only then, does the bible say you can go out and minister to others.

So, you see, the whole world depends on healthy families.

The body of Christ, the hands and the feet and the mouth of God here in this world, needs each of its parts in order to work properly.

When I needed my friends and sisters in Christ to mourn with me, to sit with me, and to cry with me through the hardest part of my grief, they were there. They were able to think about me and pray for me, because their own lives were in order. If they had not been, my friends wouldn’t have had time for me. They would have been more concerned with their own problems, but they weren’t. They were ready with great ideas for me and my family in our time of need, because their family life was in order.

Some of you may know we baptized our six-year-old at the time, Brody, in our pool a few months after Bronner went to heaven. It was such a holy day unto the Lord, a sort of taking back. We used the bible verse, “Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good” on the invitations, and that’s what we did that day. We overcame evil with good, and we continue to overcome evil with good. That’s our purpose.

The day of the baptism, God revealed Himself to me in truly miraculous fashion, but what I want to point out to you is that it had been a friend’s suggestion that we have a baptism in our pool.

That friend along with a whole group ladies had come to our house and prayed through every room and over the pool and our whole property for any darkness of death to be lifted, and it was. But while we were praying that day over the pool, my friend, Julie, almost jumped in herself, clothes and all, to break that darkness, but I wouldn’t let her. I did, however, take her suggestion to have a baptism there in that place, and it became one of the most beautiful days our family has ever had with the Lord.

So, that’s what healthy marriages can do, they can minister to others, they can be used of God, and they can be found worthy of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Choose to love. Choose the husband or wife of your youth. Forgive and serve, and as you grow closer to Christ, watch yourself grow closer to your spouse. Happy February, the month for love, and God bless.