Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Way "I DO" Should Impact Your Spouse's Eternity

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve! I love L.O.V.E.! Dark chocolate, gifts, hugs, smooches, romantic stuff, cuddles, sweet nothings, $5 cards, Hallmark movies, all of it! I love thinking about memories with my husband as we approach Valentine’s Day how we met, how we were too shy to speak to each other, how we planned “the talk,” how we knew that we didn’t want to be apart, how we endured six months of long-distance dating, how we began wedding plans, how we told our families, how we planned our honeymoon, etc. But those are not my only thoughts of Valentine’s Day. I have lots of other Valentine’s memories, too - the ones that consist of me being alone on the dreaded holiday. I didn’t date until I met Patrick, which means that 25 of the 29 Valentine’s Days that I’ve been alive were spent without a significant other I have not at all forgotten about what it was like to be single, and I remember the heartache I experienced as I longed for the Lord to allow me to be romanced by a man who would one day be my husband. During the wait, I learned lots of good things about marriage, but I also picked up on a lot of bad stuff by watching too many romantic movies while living in self-pity, building my future husband and marriage up to be something more important that it needed to be. Unrealistic dreams and expectations started piling up, and they didn’t all disappear once I got married. Marriage and the dream of being loved by a husband became an idol one that the Lord wanted me to give to Him before He would bless me with what I desired.  (So, side note, if you’re not married yet, I hope you’ll keep reading, too, because these verses and lessons might encourage you to hold onto a right and godly idea of marriage, not the unhealthy one that our culture even church culture, has adopted.)

The Lord has recently burdened my heart for my marriage in a way that I haven’t been burdened before. I picked up a book from a stack of books near my bed. The book’s title is You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan and Lisa Chan. It is a wonderful book wonderfully challenging, encouraging, and convicting. While reading the book, I reminisced back on a conversation that Patrick and I had early into our marriage. “Would we be married in Heaven?” Sadly, no, we won’t. Heaven is a mystery. There are so many things we do not understand about it, but we do know that we won’t be connected to our spouses in the same that we are on earth. Praise the Lord, we will be married to Him, as we are His beloved bride! But to a young newlywed, I was kinda sad that Patrick wouldn’t be my husband in Heaven. Will we know each other there? Will we be connected in a deep way there, even if it’s not the same way that we are as one in our marriage relationship on earth? Hmmm. Of all the things I learned from my parents, other couples, marriage books, premarital counseling, and experiences since being married, I was never really focused on marriage in light of eternity. But, as I was reading the book mentioned above, I began to understand that I don’t need to be worrying about what our marriage will or will not look like once we are in heaven. What I should be focusing my time on right now isHow is my contribution to our marriage helping my husband to be sanctified so that He will be prepared to meet God on the day ordained for him? Ouch! No, we may not be married in Heaven, BUT the way that we live and love and act toward each other WHILE ON EARTH can affect us when we each stand before the Lord one day! So out of Christ-like love, we should each do everything in our power (through Christ!) to point our spouse to Christ so that they will be ready to stand before our God! That’s heavy!

On p. 10, Francis Chan starts out by making the following statement: “Because I’m crazy about Lisa, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have a great eternity. I want her to look back at her life without regret. I want her to be confident that the time she spent on earth prepared her for Heaven.” As a spouse, we have the strong influence and important role of spurring on our spouse to have the kind of great and fruitful life that will prepare them to hear “Well Done!”

Basically, the lesson is simple. We need to be women who point our husbands to Christ, no matter if we think they deserve to be treated the way Scripture mandates or no matter if its really difficult at times. Your love and devotion might be the catalyst that will inspire your husband to dive deeper into his relationship with Christ. We don’t think of eternity enough, but we should! It’s a realllllly big deal, and the day we see our Lord and Maker face to face will be the most riveting and awe-inspiring moment of our lives! While we don’t need to live in fear of that day, we do need to feel the weight of it because what we do RIGHT NOW determines what that day will look like. Now, we know that if we have been saved and redeemed by Jesus' blood and sacrifice, that God will look on us with mercy instead of wrath. BUT we don’t want to merely scoot into Heaven; we want to be welcomed home because of how faithful we were to Christ while on earth! And what does this have to do with marriage? Everything! Serve your husband as Christ has called you to no matter what. Love him with all that you have no matter what. Encourage him and pray for him and let him lead so that He can confidently stand before the Lord on that day, and you can, too.

The Lord has put LOTS of scriptures on my heart to help this lesson sink in. As you read them, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider the “Application” questions that follow.

Ways to Spur Your Spouse into Godliness
-       LOVE = 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
-       TENDERNESS, HUMILITY, and PRAYER = 1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
-       PURITY BEFORE THE LORD, OUR JUDGE = 2 Peter 3:14-18 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
-       EDIFICATION, NOT STUMBLING BLOCK = Jude 24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
-       SELFLESS, LIKE CHRIST = Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

For Husbands
-       1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
-       Ephesians 5:25-33 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.

For Wives
-       1 Peter 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 externalthe braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear 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 own 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.”
-       Ephesians 5:22-24 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.”

Encouragement that God Hears Your Prayers for Your Marriage
-       Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
-       1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

APPLICATION (for those who are married)
1.      Make a list of all of the traits of a godly wife that you can find in the “For Wives” section. Find some other Scriptures on your own. Pray through these traits. What are you already doing well? What are some ways in which the Lord needs to train your heart and mind to be obedient to these mandates for a godly wife?
2.    Make a list of all of the traits of a godly husband that you can find in the “For Husbands” section. Now, DO NOT make a list of ways that your husband does/does not meet these expectations. Our job is NOT to judge and condemn. Rather, make a list of ways that you can pray for your husband so that he can “be found by him without spot or blemish” (2 Peter 3). Realistically, you may be the only person praying for your husband and for your marriage. Don’t waste your time criticizing, nagging, or living in discouragement. The Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of that! Rather, get motivated to PRAY and ENCOURAGE, and get busy doing it!
3.    Read some Scripture about eternity. There’s lots of good descriptions found in Revelation. Ask God to burden you for the day that you and your husband will individually stand before the throne. Ask the Lord to give you a passion and fire for serving Him NOW and encouraging your husband to do so also so that you will both be ready for that day of judgment and mercy! Eternity is not often on our minds, but it should be!
4.    Prayerfully approach your spouse to discuss some of the points and Scriptures above. How can the Lord use these verses to strengthen your marriage and revitalize your love for Him, each other, and His mission of the Great Commission? (Don’t use this time to point out things in each other that need to be "fixed"use this time for encouragement, prayer, forgiveness, dreaming, and serving!) 1 John 5:14-15 promises that HE WILL HEAR US if we ask anything according to His will. All of this Scripture on marriage IS HIS WILL for YOUR marriage, so pray for it! He will hear it and answer faithfully!

APPLICATION (for those who are single)
1.      Make a list of all of the traits of a godly wife that you can find in the “For Wives” section. Find some other Scriptures on your own. Pray through these traits. Ask the Lord to train your heart to these ways, rather than to what our culture, even church culture, deems as “successful” for marriage.
2.    Make a list of all of the traits of a godly husband that you can find in the “For Husbands” section. Pray for your future husband, if that is the Lord’s will for you. Pray for him with whatever God has him doing right now. Pray for him after he is your husband, that he will follow the Lord’s standard. It’s never too early to pray for him!  
3.    Read some Scripture about eternity. There’s lots of good descriptions found in Revelation. Ask God to burden you for the day that you and your husband will individually stand before the throne. Ask the Lord to give you a passion and fire for serving Him NOW, and in the future, encouraging your husband to do so also so that you will both be ready for that day of judgment and mercy! Eternity is not often on our minds, but it should be!
4.    Based on the verses and points listed above, write out some prayerfully thought out goals and dreams for your marriage. How do you want to be loved? How do you want to serve your future spouse? How do you dream of serving the Lord together, whether that be through church, family, missions, your careers, homeless ministry, giving, etc.? 1 John 5:14-15 promises that HE WILL HEAR US if we ask anything according to His will. All of this Scripture on marriage IS HIS WILL for YOUR future marriage, so pray for it! He will hear it and answer faithfully!

(So, I’m sorry for all of the list-making, but I hope that it has proven fruitful! I like to have a tangible list of things that I’m learning and want God to do!)

Now, as you approach Valentine’s Day, whether married or single, think of your spouse/future spouse, and PRAY EARNESTLY for them, that they may be found faithful to the Lord. And I can promise you, it won’t happen through nagging or worrying or criticizing or doubting, BUT THROUGH your prayers and the Lord’s merciful power and sanctification. You have such a ministry to your spouse to PRAY for them! God loves marriage, and His heart is for your marriage (or future one!) to bring glory to Him. Pray about and brainstorm ways that you can serve the Lord together, working together to fulfill His grand mission of telling everyone you know about the saving power of Jesus Christ! That is His mission, and therefore should be the mission of every godly marriage! Don’t make your marriage be about your marriage; it’s much bigger than that! Focus it entirely on the Lord’s mission and glory!

Happy Valentine’s Day, sisters! Make this V-Day about more than gifts and romance or about self-pity and loneliness. Get to praying, loving, encouraging, serving, dreaming, and telling others of the greatest love story of all time! (And if you’re married, you can throw in some of the chocolates and smooches too! ;-) )

Always, Jacquelyn 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Way a 2-Year Old Needs Her Mama

 Riley Grace is 2.5, and she needs her mama. She lets me know everyday that she needs me and wants me. She lets me know each day that I pick her up from school that she needs me. She lets me know each evening when I help her onto the potty for the 40th time to avoid accidents. She lets me know during bath time when she’s anxious to sit in the tub because she’s fearful of pottying in the tub now that she’s aware of it! She lets me know each night as we cuddle in her chair together to read her two favorite “Bible Book” stories, as she calls it. And she let’s me know as I tuck her in and she’s saying her nighttime prayers, which generally go something like this: “Pray for Daddy. Pray for Mama. Pray for Mama’s shirt. Pray for bed. Pray for Mimi and Pop. Nana and Papa. Grams and Pops. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” She is precious! She loves me and needs me. She remembers me throughout the day, loves when I pick her up from school, calls to me when she’s scared, needs help, or wants a playmate, and remembers even my shirt in her nighttime prayers. She’s a sweetheart, and I love that she needs and wants me.

She’s recently gotten in to the habit of saying a very cute thing when we’re going through our nighttime routine. When I pick her up to say prayers, she says, “I got you!” as she hugs me tight while we start our prayers. The first time she said that, I bursted into tears. I knew that she had listened to me tell her that countless times when something frightened her, and now, here she was, saying it back to me, not knowing how sweetly and deeply it would affect me. But it did, and I will remember it all of my life. It was a very impactful moment for me for a myriad of reasons:
-    She was listening to me and picked up on how I treat her. I’m so thankful that she picked up something positive, and in her doing that, I was reminded of the deep weight of my words and actions on her impressionable spirit.
-    She cares for me. She understands the security that she feels when I tell her, “I got you,” and she was saying it back to me!
-    She needs me. She needs me to hold her during our nighttime prayers. She needs me to take 20 minutes to go through her nighttime routine. She needs me to kiss her and ask for more kisses so that she can say “No” and then give them “one more time.” She needs me to tuck in her babies and make them kiss her so she can giggle. She needs me to say, “I love you forever” as I leave the room. She needs me
-    BUT as she grows, she won’t need me in the same ways (cue the reason I was crying). She will grow and mature, and that is a natural process
-    AND as she grows, even when she DOES still need me, she won’t want to need me because she will yearn to be independent. While that independence is not bad, she will still need guidance, even when she doesn’t want it. That will be a hard thing for this mama to watch, but I can pray and hope that the Lord will guide her in her quest for becoming her own person and relying on Him for herself, without the continual guidance of Mama.

Which brings me to my mama. I’m 28 (yikes), and I need my mama. I don’t need her in the same way I did when I was a child, but I still need her, and I’m SO thankful for her! I remember in my late teens and early 20s, I thought that I needed her less and less. I (usually) listened to her advice politely, and lots of time I would end up taking it, but there were also times where I wished that I could just be independent. Now, as I’m a wife and a mom, I realize how right (Sorry, Mom!) and wise my mom usually was and still is! I’m so thankful for her, and I applaud her (and Dad!) for living through THREE daughters’ agonizing teen years of budding (although rocky and dangerous) independence!

My main point in saying all of this is that when I pondered the process of Riley Grace needing me, then thinking that she doesn’t need me, and then hopefully coming back around to realizing that she needs me, just differently than before, I started thinking about our need for the Lord.

I wonder if He looks at me and thinks,

“Jacquelyn, I wish so badly that you realized your deep need for Me at all times and in all ways. I wish you desired Me and pursued Me as you did the first day that you realized your need for a Savior. I wish you didn’t think of yourself as ‘all grown-up’ and capable of handling things on your own. I wish you would slow down to realize that you cannot survive without time with Me, even if you’re convinced that all of your other tasks cannot wait, while I can. I wish you needed Me like you did when you were a child, when you came to me for everything, no matter how small or insignificant it may have seemed with all of your joys, sorrows, and requests. I wish you needed Me like Riley Grace needs you when she’s scared or wants a playmate or wants someone to hug. I wish you wanted to show you love and care for Me as Riley Grace does when she holds you and says “I got you”, even though its really you who’s “got” her. I wish you brought all of your requests to me, even if you feel like they’re as silly as Riley Grace praying for “Mama’s shirt!” My desire is for you to be fulfilled by Me, because in My wisdom and sovereignty, I know that I’m the only One who can fulfill your every need and longing. BUT that cannot happen if you don’t realize your deep need for me. I love you. Come to Me, daughter, and be held and healed. You need Me, and I want You to see that and find me in your seeking. ”

So as I boohoo my way to Riley Grace being in her 20s and not thinking she needs me (Wow, I’ve taken this way too far, considering she’s only 2! But I’m sure I’m not the only mama who does that, right?!), the Loving Father of course shows me that I have done the same thing to Him countless times, and that His Fatherly heart is even more grieved than my heart will ever be for my sweet and sassy Riley Grace. He placed these verses on my heart last week as I was studying about prayer, and they see fitting to remind us all that we need Him. He offers us an open invitation to come to Him and find rest and healing for our souls. My prayer is that YOU will realize your deep need for the Lord that cannot and will not be satisfied with anything else! And that once you realize it, YOU will pursue Him with an urgency like never before!

Matthew 11:25-28 “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal himCome to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Always, Jacquelyn