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Joy and Encouragement in Marriage

Does the love you have for each other bring joy and encouragement to both of you?

The book of Philemon is a letter that Paul wrote to a wealthy person named Philemon. While Paul was in Ephesus, Philemon heard Paul preach and became a Christian. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who stole something of Philemon’s and ran away. He too heard Paul preached and became a Christian and then was a great help to Paul while Paul was imprisoned. The letter to Philemon was to encourage him to forgive Onesimus and receive him back not merely as a bondservant but as a “beloved brother.” Paul opens the letter telling Philemon about the joy and encouragement he brought to Paul even while Paul was in prison.

There are two key themes to the book: reconciliation and the Christian virtue of love. Paul both praises Philemon for the love he has shown to Paul and all the believers in his area, and he facilitates reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul informs Philemon that Onesimus has been reconciled to God and his hope is that he will also be reconciled with a fellow believer.

While the story of Philemon and Onesimus can teach us much about reconciliation, I want to focus on verse 7 in Chapter 1 because there is an important lesson about love in this verse that we can apply to how we love our spouses.

How can we apply this to Christian marriage?

There is great joy in Christ-like love

Recently, we celebrated the marriage of my nephew and his bride. They were supposed to have been married back in April. However, my nephew is in the Air Force and stationed overseas. Because of COVID, the military issued “stop movement orders” and my nephew couldn’t get home. He finally got his leave approved, but he couldn’t come to the state where we live. His leaves was granted for the state just North of us. So, we went an hour north and we got those two kids married. There were hoops to jump through every time they turned around, but the look on his face as his bride entered the church made all that hoop-jumping worth it! There was great joy all over his face in that moment.

Christ-like love begins by recognizing Christ’s love for me

But for those of us who have been married for a while, we know that there comes times when marriage isn’t quite so joyful. There will be times where we hurt one another or make our spouse angry. But Christ-like love will love anyway. When I think about my own life, my sin, the times I’ve let Christ down, it amazes me that He loved me enough to endure the cross for me. But that’s is exactly how much Jesus loves me. He died for me and forgave me of my sin.

Love after the honeymoon

In the original wedding plans for my nephew he was going to have leave for a few weeks and be home a few days before the wedding and spend time with family then take his bride on an extended cruise for a honeymoon. What the military approved was only one week of leave. He was married on Saturday and left the following Thursday to return to duty while his bride remains here until all the paperwork is completed for her to join him there (which can’t be done until after they were officially married). So not only was the wedding plans quickly altered, but so was the honeymoon plans.

We all start out in the honeymoon phase where everything is “happily ever after.” But sooner or later the rose colored lenses fall off and we begin to see each other for who we really are. No matter how perfect your Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful is – we all have faults and flaws. And there is nothing like living together to bring them into the light! However, when we have Christ-like love for one another, we can experience joy in marriage. If you don’t feel very joyful, then consider if your love for your spouse is a Christ-like love.

No matter how perfect your Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful is, we all have faults & flaws. And living together to will bring them into the light! But when we have Christ-like love for one another, we can experience joy in marriage.

There is encouragement in Christ-like love

Both Onesimus and Philemon had been encouraging to Paul while he was imprisoned. As we do life together, there comes times of difficulty where we need to encourage and build each other up. Maybe its when a promotion doesn’t come through or when you feel God is answering a prayer. Maybe its when you long to begin a family, but the pregnancy doesn’t happen. Or perhaps it just when one of you have had a hard day. Whatever life throws at you, you should be each other’s greatest cheerleaders and encourage one another.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” In Hebrews 10, he said, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” And in 1 Peter 8-10, Paul taught, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

When you’re in the tough.

Life is tough. But one of the gifts about marriage is having someone to do life with so that we don’t have to go through the tough alone.

Life is tough. But one of the gifts about marriage is having someone to do life with so that we don’t have to go through the tough alone. When I think about how Christ loves me, I’m aware that when I go through the tough, Christ is with me – He sees and He knows.

So if I have a Christ-like love for my spouse than I take the time to see and know when he is in the tough. I don’t just stand up on the solid ground and say, “Hey! I see you down there in the tough! You doing ok?” Rather, like Christ, I jump down into the tough with him and I help see him through it. I pray for him and I ask what I can do to help him. I look for ways to make life a little easier for him while he’s in the tough. And I cheer him on. Or sometimes I just sit in the tough with him and hold his hand until we get through it together.

When I think about how Christ loves me, I’m aware that when I go through the tough, Christ is with me – He sees and He knows. So if I have a Christ-like love for my spouse than I take the time to see and know when he is in the tough.

Bringing joy and encouragement back into love

Take some time to ask yourself the following questions: How much joy is there in my marriage? Do I encourage my spouse when he/she needs it? In what ways to do refresh his/her heart? Do you recognize when your spouse is in the tough or are you so caught up in your own difficulties that you can’t see his or hers? When your spouse is feeling down, what do you do to encourage them?

Bringing joy and encouragement back into love is possible. But it requires a Christ-like love that is unselfish and unending. It requires a Christ-like love that is willing to forgive and reconcile. And it requires a Christ-like love that builds one another up. Find a way to be an encouragement to your spouse today or a way to bring them an unexpected joy.

Based out of Day 232 of the book, “God, Love, and Marshmallow Wars”
by Julia M. Bruce

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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars is a book that includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:

  • Scripture to memorize and meditate on.
  • Conversation Starters.
  • Concepts from the Bible on Godly marriages.
  • Romance Builders.
  • Relationship Builders.
  • Personal reflections.
  • Date ideas.
  • Group date ideas for you and other Christian couples.

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Joy in Trials

by guest writer: Fran Coffield

When Trials Come

The year 2020 was a year of struggles, trials, doubts, and fears. Like many of you, I often felt confused and questioned “where is God in the midst of my pains?” There is a plaque on my desk that reads, “When life gets too hard to stand, kneel.” So, I knelt in many earnest prayers, and the more I prayed, additional trials arose. I sought answers from God’s Word.

Count it all Joy – even in the trials

James 1:2-3 says to “count it all joy when [not if…when] you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. However, my patience was so thin it could snap at any time. Should life be so hard for a Christian?

Lacking Wisdom

James 1:5 says, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” This I did and immediately John 16:33 came to mind where Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” Not very encouraging to a hurting soul! However, the end of His statement says, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Still, there was little cheer to be found when each day brought a new dilemma. The husbands of two different friends died, a friend was in ICU with Covid 19, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer requiring a mastectomy, a family member with multiple medical conditions was put on dialysis which put a strain on each family member in the household, and the list continues…

Trials of people in the Bible

I recall the lives of many Biblical persons called by God for specific tasks and the trials each faced in their daily lives:

  • Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused of a crime, thrown into prison.
  • David was anointed king as a young shepherd boy but spent years hiding in fear from King Saul.
  • The apostle Paul was shipwrecked, bitten by a deadly snake, beaten and left for dead.
  • Naomi was left alone with no income after her husband and three sons died.
  • Mary was hailed as “highly favored,” yet had to witness the crucifixion of firstborn child.

Every Bible “hero” faced days of trails, doubts, and fears.

Is peace and joy possible in a world of trials?

So, is it possible to find peace and joy in this troubled world? Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Worldly peace is not the absence of trials. God’s give is peace in the midst of trails, heartaches, and confusion.

The Purpose of Trials

I found the answer to my questions while reading the MacArthur Study Bible. 1 Peter 1:1-9 reveals the purpose of God in allowing us to undergo difficulties, sorrows, and trials of many kinds is for me to test the reality of my faith. These verses say:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

English Stand Version Bible

Five things to remember about trials

Once I come through the trial by trusting in God alone, I have the assurance that my faith is genuine and God’s word is truth. There are some points to remember that will give strength while the trials are present:

  1. Verse 6 reveals that troubles are for “a little while.” It may seem like forever, but the trouble will end.
  2. Every trouble has a purpose. Verse 6 says, “if need be.” There is a lesson to be learned in every trial.
  3. Verse six also tell us the trial will bring grief.
  4. There are various forms of trials. Not every person has the same trouble, nor need to learn the same lesson.
  5. The trouble should not lessen our joy. Joy is a gift of God that is possible for us even in the midst of sorrow and trials.

Our Testimony to the World when faced with Trials

The eyes of the world are upon the Christian. We have a great testimony when we can find joy through the grace of God in the midst of life’s storms. We can find strength by knowing Jesus is in the storm with us and will carry through it. I cling to the words of Isaiah 41:9b-10 which state, “Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am THY God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (KJV)

Do you have the eyes of a friend, a neighbor, a relative or a co-worker upon you to witness how you handle the storms in your life?


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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce

What’s Inside God, Love and Marshmallow Wars?

God, Love and Marshmallow Wars is a book that includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:

  • Scripture to memorize and meditate on.
  • Conversation Starters.
  • Concepts from the Bible on Godly marriages.
  • Romance Builders.
  • Relationship Builders.
  • Personal reflections.
  • Date ideas.
  • Group date ideas for you and other Christian couples.

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Did you hear the news? There’s Hope!

Week 2 of Advent: Hope

Where do babies come from?

Christmas is a celebration about the hope we have because of the birth of one baby. A Dallas Newspaper printed the following responses of children who answered the question, “Where do babies come from?”

  1. Linda Staley (age 5); “Mommies go and buy them at stores. Girls cost $5 and boys cost 50 cents.”
  2. Michael Sale (age 5); “I’m not sure, but I know moms have to get them. If you’re kind of handsome, it means you’re a boy; if you’re wearing lipstick, you’re a girl.”
  3. Alicia Crew (age 5); “From fairy godmothers. They make them out of yarn and crayons.”
  4. Kelly Sweat (age 6); “They come from the frozen food section in the supermarkets, just like TV dinners. All the mommies have to do is warm them up.”
  5. David Joyner (age 6); “My mommy told me that storks bring them, but I know that isn’t true, because we have lots of babies around here and no storks. I think they come by UPS.”

A unique birth of a very unique baby is our hope

On a night long ago a baby entered the world that was like no other baby before then or since then. Jesus didn’t come from the store. He didn’t cost 50 cents (although we often treat Him like that’s all He’s worth). Jesus wasn’t kind of handsome. In fact, Isaiah 53:2 says, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

He was just your average looking man of Jewish descent. There was no fairy godmother that made Him out of yarn and crayons. Like every other infant born into the world, He was knitted together in His mother’s womb. Instead of yarn and crayons, it was atoms, cells, and DNA that was woven and knitted together. There was no frozen food section in the market place so that rules out that option. Wise young David already ruled out the stork theory. And not even the Pony Express had been created yet so he didn’t come that way or by UPS.

So what makes His birth different from all the other births throughout history? I mean, after all, babies are born every day. About the only time you hear about a baby being born in the news these days is when there are 4 or more born at once to the same mother. Or maybe the news will print a story about the first baby born in a new year. Or when there is a tragic story such as a baby birthed and abandoned in a gas station restroom. Jesus’ birth is different because it was unique and because his birth is our hope for redemption and restoration.

A birth announcement from angels

The baby born that night in Bethlehem didn’t get a news crew – he had a heavenly host of angels to tell the good news to everyone – and they started with some shepherds. The angels didn’t go to the rich and famous with their message of hope. They appeared to the poor and lowly people who were generally seen as “unclean” because they cared for dirty animals. Their news was the news the Jewish people had been waiting for since the first sin in the Garden of Eden. It was joyful news. It was news they just had to go and see for themselves. So they immediately left the sheep and went with haste to see the baby and found Him just as the angel had told them. After the shepherds saw the baby, they told everyone they saw. Can you hear them? Can you hear the excitement in their voices?

“Hey! Did you hear the news?”

“No. What news?”

“A Baby has been born!”

“Oh ok. Why is that news? What’s so special about another baby?”

“This is the hope we’ve been waiting for! He’s Immanuel! The Messiah!”

Matthew 1:22-23 puts it this way:

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Five reasons the birth of this baby is a big deal and cause for hope

In these two verses of Matthew (as well as prophetic verses from Isaiah and from Luke’s account in Luke 1-2, we can find five reasons that the birth of this baby is such as big deal that we still celebrate it more than 2000 years later: 1) the baby had a unique conception. 2) He had a divine origin. 3) The heavenly host of angles couldn’t contain their joy and bust into singing 4) His names show us His character while also revealing His deity. 5) He had a purpose for coming to earth .

Reason #1: There is hope in His unique conception

The birth of Jesus was a big deal because this baby wasn’t conceived in the normal way. And there wasn’t IVF back then either.  This baby was born from a young girl who was still a virgin. Every other human being that has been born had both a mom and dad who contributed to their DNA. But Mary was a virgin when the child was conceived and she was still a virgin up to the time of Jesus’ birth. Matthew 1:25 says, “and [Joseph] did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” 

Jesus’ conception was one of a kind and will never be duplicated again – He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God. Listen to what the angel told Joseph in a dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20). 

When the angel visited Mary and told her she would have a son, she understood the way sons are made and she knew that she had never been with a man. So she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). The angel replied,”The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;

Yes, a young virgin girl who was highly favored was chosen to mother God in the flesh. That’s big news because this baby is both 100% human and 100% God! Because He is God in the flesh, He is our hope. But that’s not all….

Reason #2: There is hope in His divine origin

Not only was His conception newsworthy, but so was His origin. This baby who born in Bethlehem to a poor, young virgin and laid in a manger had royal, Kingly blood. He’s the King of kings who was also the Architect of the entire universe.

He fashioned the sun, heated it to 35,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit and hung it in the exact spot it needed to be so that there could be life on earth. A little bit closer and we’d all burn up. A little further away and we’d all freeze to death.

Then He molded a cold, shining ball that is 2160 miles in diameter and gave it a substance that would reflect the light of the sun in such a way that it would give a soft light in the night hours. Next, He made the stars and He must have really liked the stars because there are 100 billion of them just in the Milky Way.

Then there is Earth. It only has six sextillion, 588 quintillion short-tons of elements that with just a spoken word they all came to be, joined together, and Earth was created. Then He created boundaries for the sea and told them they could only go that far – and dry land appeared. He added some trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables – all getting ready for Earth to sustain life. He added fish to the sea and birds to the sky. Then came animals of all kinds and finally, His greatest creation – Adam.

This same Almighty Creator that spoke our entire world into being compressed Himself down to a single divine and holy cell and fused that cell with the ovum of a Jewish teenager. That cell divided and then divided again – and again – and again. Over and over as the tiny baby grew inside the womb of Mary. Then, “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” and as the Holy, righteous Son of God entered our world as a tiny baby, thousands of joyful angels burst into singing – they simply couldn’t contain themselves.

Reason #3: The angels were so full of joy, they couldn’t contain themselves

Had Jesus been born in our world today, the angels probably would not have only sang at his birth, but they would have posted a picture of the proud mother and her precious bundle of joy all over social media and with that many angels, social media would have frozen. The news would probably pick it up, but while they might ask, “Who’s this baby?” the story angle would be about how his picture broke social media – not about the significance of His birth and certainly not that this child’s origin is one that is divine and holy – straight from Heaven itself. That is big news too – but wait – there’s more!

Reason #4: His names show His character and His deity

Have you ever noticed how baby’s born to royalty have a whole string of names? Jesus did too. When the prophet Isaiah foretold about this baby, he said, “his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Well that wasn’t enough so Isaiah also said his name would be Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). 

Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

These names signified His character. The child would have extraordinary wisdom (Wonderful Counselor). He would have life that never ends (Everlasting Father). He will bring peace (Prince of Peace). But the two most significant names are Mighty God and Immanuel. As “Mighty God,” Jesus was not only 100% human, but He is also 100% God.

Mighty God

The word translated mighty is Gibbor, which means “strength, power, hero.” The Mighty God has the strength to hold together every atom of the universe, endure the tortures of the cross, and still have enough strength for us to cast all our cares upon Him. He has the power to create the world from nothing with just a spoken word, turn water to wine, heal the sick, cast out demons, walk on water, feed 5000+ with just two fish and five small loaves of bread, and countless other miracles. And to every person  who comes by faith believing in Him for the salvation of their souls and forgiveness of their sins – He is our hero.

Immanuel

Then there is this name Immanuel. Matthew tells us what is significant about this name. The meaning of the name is “God with us.” The Almighty God came to earth to live among His people. When the angel spoke to Mary, he said, “therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” His origin is from the throne of Heaven and He came to earth be laid in an animal’s feeding trough and slept on some prickly hay because the world had no room in the inn for Him. Surely that is newsworthy! But yes – there is still more.

Reason 5: His Purpose for coming to earth is our hope

Thankfully, for kindergarten aged Jesus he didn’t have to write all those names on His papers in school. The angel that spoke to Joseph said, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves.” So not only is the name Jesus much easier to spell, but it tells us what this baby’s purpose is: “for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). It’s the whole reason He came. It’s His purpose.

He was born so He could die and that through His death He would save us from our sins. For Jesus to leave Heaven to be born as a baby and live among us and dying for us held no benefit to Jesus whatsoever. It was all sacrifice for Him. Yet He did it – for you and for me. Had He chose not to come, we’d have no hope. His coming was for our benefit.

Our sin separates us from a holy righteous God and the wages that we earn for our sin is eternal death in Hell. But God, because of His love and mercy provided a way for us to be redeemed and that way was to send His only Son to pay the price for us and through His death, we could have eternal life. So the purpose of His birth was to give hope to all mankind and it’s been giving hope for more than 2000 years so that we still celebrate the birth of this baby, Immanuel, God With Us. That not just news – it’s GOOD NEWS and tidings of joy for all people. It’s our hope for redemption and restoration.


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This book includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:

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What does it mean to “backslide”? (Isaiah 57:15)

What do you like best about Sunday School?

Students in one Sunday School class were asked to write down what they liked best about Sunday school. One little boy, who also happened to be the pastor’s son, thought for a moment and remembered all the songs the class had sung during the year. His spelling was not as good as his memory, for he wrote, “The thing I like best about Sunday School is the sinning.” Hopefully this little boy understood that when we backslide, God stands ready to forgive those who have a contrite heart means.

We might chuckle, but the sad part is too many people actually enjoy sinning. They do not have a contrite heart. Rather they have a heart of pride and arrogance.

Only Christians can Backslide

A person who has never placed their faith in Christ and become a child of God cannot backslide. Christians, however, can be guilty of backsliding and returning to their old sinful ways and habits. To backslide is basically to slide backwards into a previous pattern or behavior. They might at least for time enjoy the sin while they ignore the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit convicting them. But as a child of God, they will eventually become miserable in their sin because God will seek out His wayward child.

An old preacher used to say that if you are not moving toward Jesus, you are moving away from Him. There is no middle ground. No drifting or coasting along. No foot on this side of Christianity and the other foot planted in the world. When we backslide, we either choose to continue down the slippery slope of sin or we humble ourselves with a broken and contrite heart and come to Jesus for grace and forgiveness.

What is “backsliding”?

As a Christian, we begin to “backslide” the moment we begin to move away from God. Most often, the word is used when Christians begin making sinful choices such as excessive drinking, sexual immorality, dropping out of church, cussing, gambling, setting up idols, or other sinful behaviors that were part of our life before we were saved. It is a backwards motion that takes us back to lifestyles we had before we became a Christian.

Backsliding doesn’t mean we lose our salvation

It’s important to understand that a person who is backsliding has not lost their salvation. We know this based on several scriptures:

John 10:28-29

John 10:28-29 tells us that once we’ve placed our faith in Christ, no one can snatch us out of His Father’s hand.

Romans 8:1

This verse says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Romans 8:35-39

In these verses, Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To sum up, absolutely nothing can separate us from God. Through our faith and acceptance of Christ as Savior, our place in the family of God is secure even when we backslide. And because nothing can separate us from God, He stands ready to forgive the one who has a contrite heart.

Is the word “Backslide” in the Bible?

While you will not find the word, “backslide” in the Bible, you will see the phrase “fall away” or the Bible will tell us about people who moved away from their faith in Christ and returned to what they knew before. Both Paul and James write about Christians that went back to their familiar sins and wandered away from their faith (See Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20).

What causes us to backslide?

What causes a Christian to backslide? While sometimes, it’s simply giving in to temptation, life circumstances can also lead one to wander away from their faith. If we experience difficult circumstances, hurtful relationships, unfair treatment, or trauma, we might begin to question God’s goodness and wonder if He is still in control. We might question His love for us if He would allow us to go through these circumstances. We might wonder if He’s forgotten us. But it isn’t God that’s forgotten us. We forget God’s promises to us like the one found in Isaiah 43:2 that says, “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.

Overcoming Backsliding

When bad things happen, we become angry, depressed, bitter, confused, and overwhelmed. Instead of claiming His promises, we revert back to the sinful nature to try to soothe what we are feeling and lessen the pain of what we experience. Our Bibles stay closed. We drop out of church. We give God the silent treatment. However, it is in these moments that we need more than any other to stay grounded in His Word and our knees should be raw from kneeling in prayer. This is how we overcome backsliding.

God is waiting for the contrite heart

We all end up backsliding at some point. Remember that if you are not moving towards God, you’re moving away from Him and that is was it means to backslide. Thankfully, Jesus said He is our Good Shepherd and He seeks out His “lost sheep” (John 10). He doesn’t want us to backslide. He wants us trust Him. But as His children, He will call us back and pursue us with an everlasting love. When we come back to Him with a repentant and contrite heart, God will be there waiting. Waiting to revive our heart and spirit (Isaiah 57:15).  

Peter is an example

The greatest example of backslide in the Bible is Peter. Each one of could be Peter. It’s a story of Peter’s pride and his failure. But it is also a story of grace, love and renewal. Let’s look at his story:

Peter’s Pride before Jesus’ Arrest and Crucifixion

Before Jesus’ arrest, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ – the Messiah – the one they had been waiting for. Then Peter tells Jesus that he would die for him to which Jesus responded, “Before the crock crows you will deny me three times.” Just as Jesus said, in His trial, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times… and then Peter heard the rooster. Jesus turned to look at Peter. In that moment, something changed in Peter. Something died. The pride and arrogance, his confidence that he would die for Jesus were killed. Peter, which means “rock”, was more like the shifting sand under the crashing waves washing in and out of the shore. As realization sunk in, tears began to fall down the his face. He ran away no longer bold and confident, but a broken sinner in need of forgiveness.

Peter hears of the empty tomb

Three days later, Peter receives the news of an empty tomb. He runs to the tomb. He had to know and see that Jesus had risen from the dead. It was his hope of restoration. If Jesus was alive, just maybe – Jesus would forgive him and he could be renewed. The weight of his guilt was more than he could stand. If only, he could be forgiven.

Peter grew tired of waiting for Jesus to show up

After the resurrection, Jesus sent a message to the disciples through the women that had come to the tomb. He told them to go to Galilee and wait for him. So they did, but they had to wait…and wait….and wait. Perhaps disappointed and losing hope, Peter grew tired of waiting for Jesus to show up (don’t we do that too?). Maybe Peter thought, “I knew he wouldn’t come for the likes of me.” Maybe Peter thinks that if he leaves the group, Jesus would come to the rest of the disciples. Whatever was going on in Peter’s mind, he decides to return to his old ways and instead of waiting on Jesus, he goes fishing.

Peter stopped fishing for men and went back to fishing for fish

Some of the other disciples followed him. (How often when we choose to backslide, do we take others with us?) He goes back to what he knows and trusts. In the boat, the fish doesn’t know of his shame and failure. They don’t point a fin at him and laugh about how he boldly proclaimed he’d die for Jesus and then turned around and denied knowing Him. His failure plagues him. Maybe it keeps him awake at night. Perhaps every time he sees the reflection of his face in water he sees shame, guilt, failure, and brokenness. Maybe he thinks, “I’m just a fisherman. Who am I to think that Jesus would choose me to build His church on? I’m no rock!” Maybe he stops going by Peter, the name Jesus gave him and started using his old name of Simon.

So, he goes back to fishing. He fished the entire night, but caught nothing. Not even one tiny, little fish. A failure at being a disciple. A failure at fishing. He’d let Jesus down. Maybe as Peter was exhausted from fishing all night, he collapses down on a bench in the boat and with his face in his hands and tears begin to flow once more, he wonders how he can go on.

The voice of a Friend

Peter hears something and looks up towards the shore and a man is there. He listens again and the voice says, “Friends! Have you caught any fish? Throw your net on the other side. You’ll find some over there.” Peter has a deja vu moment as he wonders “Where have I head that before?” He shakes his head as the memory of his last fishing trip before Jesus had said, “Come follow me” had a similar ring to it.

He’d fished all night and caught nothing on that night too and Jesus had been the one to tell him to cast his net on the other side. When he did, he and his companions brought in so many fish the nets began to tear and they were so heavy the boat was close to sinking.

He looks at the man on the shore again. Squints his eyes. Who was this? Was he just trying to pour salt into the huge, gaping wound in his heart? Still, Peter doesn’t talk back. Perhaps he thought, “What if it’s Him?”

He wearily stands and picks up the net. Tosses it on the other side of the boat with a splash into the sea. Just like before – there were so many fish, he couldn’t haul the net in. Perhaps Peter couldn’t bring himself to hope what His heart wanted to hope – that Jesus was the man on the shore because in the Bible, it’s John who figures it out. He cries, “It’s the Lord!”

Peter swims to Jesus

That’s all Peter had to hear. He jumps out of the boat. His only intention is to get to Jesus just as fast as he could and rowing back to shore with so many fish would just take too long – even if it was just 100 yards or so off shore. But when he gets to shore, he stand there with his clothes dripping water, looking at Jesus, and he has no words. It’s as if there are no right words to say to the one he had hurt and disappointed – the one whom he had failed. 

Breakfast with the Savior

Jesus fixes breakfast for them and they eat in silence. Peter needed for Jesus to say something. He didn’t need for Jesus to remind him of how he had failed. He didn’t need a sermon. And he didn’t need, “I told you so.” Peter was constantly and vividly aware of his failure. He was already at a place of having a contrite heart. What he needed was Jesus’ words of love, grace, and forgiveness. He needed to be made new – again. Peter didn’t need to be “saved” again. He had already placed his faith in Christ – he just needed for Jesus to forgive him.

“Simon, do you love me?”

Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Simon, do you love me?” Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus tells him, “Feed my lambs.” Then, Jesus asks it again. Peter answers again and Jesus tells him to feed his lambs. Jesus asks a third time and Peter, feeling frustrated, answers for a third time and Jesus once again says, “Feed my lambs.” 

Peter re-commissioned

Peter is hurt. The man he had offended, denied, and rejected was asking him if he loved him. But, Jesus was tenderly reaching out to this wounded, hurt man who had made the biggest mistake of his life. Peter had denied Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked Peter if he loves him, followed by “Feed my lambs.” Jesus then invites Peter to once again, “Follow me.”

For Peter to become the rock the Jesus said he would, Jesus had to re-commission him and invite him back to ministry by saying “feed my lambs.”

Although Peter had been the one in the wrong, Jesus went to and sought out Peter. The weight of Peter’s guilt was so heavy, that it kept him from being able to seek Jesus out to make things right. The same is true for us. We stay in our state of shame and guilt rather than seeking Christ’s grace and forgiveness. But, just like with Peter, our good shepherd will seek us out to heal us, restore us, renew us, and forgive us.

God is always with the one who has a broken and contrite heart. Like Peter, He tenderly seeks us out, longing to revive our hearts and call us back into serving Him. Don’t stay in the boat with your failures and sin. Jump in the water and get to Jesus as quick as you can. Can you hear him say, “[Your name], do you love me?”

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God, Love, and Marshmallow Wars

What’s Inside God, Love and Marshmallow Wars?

This book includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:

  • Scripture to memorize and meditate on
  • Conversation Starters
  • Concepts from the Bible on Godly marriages
  • Romance Builders
  • Relationship Builders
  • Personal reflections
  • Date ideas
  • Group date ideas for you and other Christian couples

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You are our Glory and Joy (1 Thessalonians 2:20)

The joy of Fall

There is something beautiful about every season. They each bring glory and joy in their own way. In the Spring everything is new and the first buds of flowers begin to bloom. In the Summer, there is long days, vacations, beaches and lots of warm sunshine. Many experience snow in the winter or at least all the beautiful Christmas lights. But Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons with the leaves changing colors.

If you don’t live in Florida like we do, then you’re probably seeing some cooler temperatures and changing leaves. We are too, its only in the 80s for a high rather upper 90s. Then there is all the pumpkins spice flavored everything that comes out. Last year, I even saw Pumpkin Spice Special K cereal in the store. I’m not a fan of anything pumpkin flavored personally, but I love the smell of a good fall pumpkin scented candle.

Fall means the holidays are just around the corner

Fall also ushers in the excitement of the upcoming holidays. I love the holidays. There is so much glory and joy in them. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the glory and joy we have in Christ and all that God does for us. Christmas is all about celebrating the glory and joy of the birth of our Savior. To me Christmas is the best of all the holidays.

Family, Friends, and Holidays

I have always lived closed to my family and family is a big part of our holidays. Thanksgiving includes a pot-luck dinner with aunts, uncles, cousins and whoever they bring with them – it’s usually a big crowd. Christmas includes my sisters, mom, kids, nieces and nephews, and one grandkid. One of the biggest joys of the holidays for me is being with family. But we also have family that live out of state and we only see them once every few years. My sister-in-law has become my best friend and I love her kids as if they were my own. But in 15 years of being part of Brian’s family, we’ve yet to coordinate everyone together so that we can do the holidays together — one day we will!

Who are you missing?

Not only do Brian and I miss Shari and her kids at the holidays, this year my our family, we will be missing two from around our dinner table. My nephew joined the Air Force last year and is now stationed overseas. His youngest brother, Kelly, is currently at boot camp for the Marines. He will graduate in less than a month but then he’s headed out for training. And with COVID restrictions, my sister doesn’t know yet if she will get to attend his graduation. She may not get to see him at all before he is shipped off to the other side of the country.

So, we added something new to our holidays last year – Facetime with Blake. Hopefully, we will get to Facetime with Kelly too this year. I think about my younger sister (Blake and Kelly’s mom) who is experiencing the holidays with two of her four children not at home. For her, holidays are now mixed with joy, but also missing these two sons who we are all so very proud of.

Paul also missed people

Paul understood missing people he cared about. In 1 Thessalonians 2:20, Paul had a great desire to see the Thessalonicans again. In Acts 17:8-10, we learn that the Thessalonicans had to send Paul and Silas away quickly at night due to persecution that broke out. Since that time, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2, that he wanted to come back to them time and time again, but Satan hindered him. To Paul, this group of Christians represented his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing.

Even though they had been able to help Paul and Silas secretly escape the persecution, they remained in the midst of it and continued to suffer after Paul and Silas were gone. Yet they remained fast to their faith and served God out love.

Do you ever wondered if Paul felt guilty to be away from the persecution while his friends were still there experiencing it? Paul may have escaped it from there, but pretty much wherever he went Paul experienced persecution for the Gospel. He understood what they were going through.

Paul wrote a letter to his friends

For this reason, Paul longed to see them again – to encourage them. Instead, he had to settle for sending a letter. Simply put, Paul missed them, just as we miss our loved one when we are separated from them. In his letter to them, he wrote: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!”

Are you Jesus’ Glory and joy?

Today, Jesus is sitting in heaven watching His church. Some take the religious freedoms we have lightly while others live daily in fear of being discovered. We know that Jesus is coming again, but even Jesus does not know the time that His Father will say, “Son, go get my children.” Do you ever stop to wonder if Jesus longs to be with us? Just as Paul sent a letter to the Thessalonicans, Jesus left us with a letter. It’s called the Bible. Do you ever wonder if as Jesus is talking with His father does He say of us, “Look father! [Insert your name] is my glory and joy!” Would He be able to say that how we live for Him represents His hope, joy, and crown of boasting?

What about us? Do we say the same thing about Jesus? Could we look our a friends and family and say, “Jesus is my glory and joy?” How would you be able to tell someone  about the joy and glory that Jesus brings to your life?

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