Finding a Life Mate: The Character Traits Worth Looking For #22

30 06 2017

 

In 2011 my first twenty-one blogs were titled, “Finding a Life Mate: The Character Traits Worth Looking For.” I loved the idea of starting a blog about something I am passionate about: preparing for marriage. I recently read through all 21 of them once again and did a bit of editing. In doing that, I realized I missed a really important area. That area was spiritual formation through prayer.

In learning to place God first in our lives, my wife and I have discovered that our similar spiritual values and our longing to pray for and with one another are vital to the health of our relationship. Dating to eventually marry a fellow believer with the commonality of core spiritual values has created a oneness in our relationship that is simply unsurpassed to any and all other areas of marriage unity.

When we encounter a difficulty or a bump in the road of marital bliss, our first response is to pray together. The scripture relates that the reason we fight and argue is because we do not pray first. (James 4: 1-2) If we can discover this freedom with the one we are looking at as a life mate, we are well ahead of the game. Why? Because our relationship with Jesus and our ability to pray and look to Him is the most intimate thing we can do together. And, it is by far, the most mature act. Look for a life mate that looks to God first, it will take a lot of pressure off of you.

Start reading those first 21 blogs here.  Or, recommend them to a friend who is looking for their life mate.

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Saint Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer

15 05 2017

Saint Patrick, Ireland’s beloved patron saint, has a prayer of divine protection attributed to him which was later made into a hymn. There are different versions, but one goes like this:

I armor myself today with the power of the Most Holy Trinity, in the oneness of God, Creator of the universe. I armor myself today with the baptism of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, his ascension and glorious second coming.

I armor myself today with God’s guidance to direct me, God’s might to sustain me, God’s wisdom to instruct me; God’s word to give me speech, God’s shield to protect me; God’s army to defend me against the snares of demons, against the lure of vices, against all who plot me harm.

I invoke all these virtues today against every hostile and merciless power that may assail me, against the incantations of false prophets, against the laws of heathenism, against the false laws of heresy, against the deceits of idolatry, against every art and spell that binds the soul to evil.

Christ guard me today against every poison, burning, drowning and fatal wounding.

Christ be with me, Christ be behind me, Christ be within me, Christ be beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ to be where danger threatens, Christ be in the hearts of those around me forevermore.

Christ be with you!





How Do You Spend Your Free Time?

30 04 2017

One of my favorite New Testament verses states, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.”  (Matthew 13:1) I simply love this verse because I crave what it says.  Our Lord, while on earth, with just a three-year window, took time to sit by a lake.  What was He doing?  That’s just it, He wasn’t “doing,” He was being.  He took time out to rest, to reflect, to breath in the fresh, moisture-filled air that surrounds the tranquil presence of water. I see Him in this moment as having no “to-do” list, no sermon preparation, no rushed got-to-do-it-now feelings… just rest-filled hanging out with His heavenly Father.

We live in a culture that is noisy and full of time-stealing stuff. We’re always accessible. Can we take time to “sit by the lake” and simply enjoy His presence?  Work is a gift from God, but so is rest. How do you like to rest? Remember, life is a balancing act in order to maintain our spiritual, physical and emotional health. Separating and centering ourselves every once in a while is a really spiritual thing to do, just ask Jesus.





Recognizing THE Voice

17 04 2017

From time to time the Wall Street Journal has some fascinating stories to tell. I recently caught one that was titled: U.S. To Rebels: Listen To Mom. The article was a worthy read which  shares the story of rebels who steal children from their parents as young as age 5. Such was the case with Obira Julious from Uganda, forced to grow up in the Central African Republic. He was compulsorily inducted into the Lord’s Resistance Army thirteen years ago and is now age 18. Hiding in the brush while a U.S. military helicopter flew over him, he thought he recognized a voice.

US Army psyop specialists have begun to record the voices of mothers and fathers and are creating personalized leaflets dropping them from the helicopters. Played over the loud speakers of the flying birds are messages from mothers like, “I am asking you to be strong and not to worry about anything; please come home.” And, “The soldiers will not harm you; they will bring you home safely.”

Obira had not heard his mother’s voice for over 13 years, could he be sure it was her? After decades of violence, the U.S. military is offering hope to these child soldiers to return home without firing a shot. Obira did just that and is now back home in Uganda with his family who longed for his return.

It’s a sad story with a great ending as a life was saved through one mother’s voice and the U.S. Army. Thank you to those men and women who through their military service not only protect our nation, but who are saving lives like Obira. This story is a great reminder to us concerning the voices we are listening to and the voices we need to listen to.

Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart… (Ps. 95: 7, 8; Heb. 3: 7,8)

The sheep listen to his voice. (Jn. 10: 3)

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…” (Rev. 3: 20)

“Help me, Father, to hear and listen to Your voice above all the others I hear on a daily basis.”





Weariness: Going From 2016 to 2017

2 01 2017

 images-3Weariness. This morning Mary and I prayed together about “a spirit of weariness.” We felt it at different times throughout the year of 2016. There were multiple illnesses we were battling. There were major concerns in our family with aging parents. There were emotional and spiritual attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. Of course the elections were within themselves a whole new level of campaign weariness and continually planting seeds that did not appear to take root. It’s a bit hard to describe or put our finger on any one thing, but all together they spelled:  W E A R I N E S S.

I love that Jesus addressed weariness because He himself became weary of the Pharisees, the crowds, the unbelief and the world around Him. He even became weary of His own disciples telling one of them to get behind Him and others, seemingly, scolding them for their lack of faith. The Apostle Paul describe himself as weary in II Corinthians 11:27. It just happens when the weights, the issues, the pressures of this world begin to take a toll on our hearts, our minds and our faith.images-2

Answers for 2017: Isaiah said that we would run and not grow weary (Is. 40:31). Jesus said to come to Him all of you who are weary (Mt. 11:28). He promised rest. Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:9 to not grow weary in doing good or in doing the right thing. I love the honesty of the Psalmist who said in Psalms 119, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” But mostly, I take courage from this verse in the book of Revelation, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” In other words, you have not given up.

imagesPress on. 2017 is a whole new opportunity. No matter what is at the root of your weariness, do not give up!





The Perfect Christmas Gift

19 12 2016

images-3I had spent the last two summers living at the beach in Delaware and found a girlfriend from New Jersey. Somewhere in our second summer together I discovered that she was not just another girl, but in my mind, THE girl. There was this one big, glaring issue however: she kept trying to “witness” to me and according to her I needed to “be saved.” I had no idea how to answer her questions about the second coming of Christ or exactly what salvation even meant. “Being saved” was something most of us teenage guys just weren’t looking for. My tactic became asking her her thoughts of those impossible questions and then simply agreeing. It worked in part.

Late in the fall of my high school senior year the girl from New Jersey sent me her “last and final letter.” Included in those “Dear John” pages was a gospel tract outlining salvation through Christ. I hated her and I hated God for breaking us up. I didn’t date anyone for a year after that. But…those nagging words on that bi-fold piece of paper kept following me everywhere I went. Repeatedly throwing it around my room, it just kept showing up. Frequently re-reading, ”For God so loved the world…” I held out, stayed angry and stubbornly refused to give in.

The answer to my dilemma became hanging out with my friends on weekends and engaging in self-destructive behavior. All the while He was drawing me. His “still small voice” kept speaking. He just wouldn’t leave me. So, in desperation I said out loud, “Would You just leave me alone; life is no longer any fun!” I swear I actually felt His Presence move away. I shouted, “No, no don’t go!” Ugh, it was so confusing, so hard and the biggest decision of my life weighed on my shoulders.

images-4Jesus was the Perfect Christmas gift that December of 1971. I did bow my knee. I prayed that prayer at the end of the little tract and Christmas with Christ took on a whole new meaning. Has Christmas come into your heart?





Keep Praying; Don’t Quit

5 12 2016

images-3Breakthrough . . . after twenty-five years of praying.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Jason, Greg, Scott and Mike were my closest friends throughout high school. We were inseparable. We knew the intimate details of one another’s life. Then I had to go and ruin it all by “getting religious.” In December of 1971 I bowed my knee to Jesus and the partying (literally) was over for me. New friends, those who would disciple me as a baby Christian, began to emerge.

While I never condemned my close high school friends, and, I kept my friendship with them, I no longer participated in or condoned their behavior. It was a radical change for me, but I didn’t really consider how radical of a change it was for them. The first half of my senior year of high school I was living a very ungodly life-style; while the second half was filled with “Jesus freak” meetings. My friends were confused by the change in my life. They didn’t look down upon me, they simply could not comprehend why I would no longer participate in the things we once enjoyed together. I asked God for the opportunity to share my personal testimony with each one of them – individually. Jesus honored this prayer, and before we went our separate ways after graduation, I shared about the encounter I had with my new Master.images-4

That same year, I left my home area to serve in the military. I methodically placed Jason, Greg, Scott and Mike on my weekly prayer list. I just knew it would be a very short time until they each bowed their knees to Jesus.

Twenty five years passed, and I was still waiting, still praying. The only problem now was that I was beginning to entertain thoughts like, “Just take them off your prayer list,” and “Why transfer their names to new prayer cards, move on to more important matters.” But, thank God for my wife. One day I asked her if I should keep them on my prayer cards or just remove them. Her immediate, faith-filled response was, “Don’t you dare remove them, let’s keep praying.” Okay, so maybe I/we could persevere a few more years.

Within months of that very conversation, Scott called me from Boston. He asked me if it was okay for him to be water baptized. My very first response was, “Let me find a seat.” And then, “But Scott, have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?” He told me he had through the ongoing witness of a Baptist co-worker at IBM. I revealed to him then that I had been praying for him for over 25 years. His reply? “I know.”images-4

Jason’s mother called me several months later. Jason was depressed and without a friend, suffering from a broken marriage relationship and addictions. Jason’s mom said to me, “Steve, I believe he’ll take your call if you will call him within the next ten minutes.” I called; we met; he prayed. I then experienced the honor of water baptizing him and have an ongoing discipleship relationship with him to this day.

A few months after the encounter with Jason, Scott called to ask if I had heard from Greg. He went on to tell me that Greg had recently started participating in the worship band of his United Methodist church and that he was signed up for a summer mission team.

Have you ever felt like giving up in prayer? I have, but let me encourage your faith to continue to persevere. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36). Because… “we are not of those who shrink back…but of those who believe…” (Hebrews 10:39).








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