Give Up Your Life

Ephesians 5:25 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

Last week, as we were cruising down the road through our little southern town, our ten year old son randomly asked “daddy, what would you give up in the whole wide world to be with mommy?” My groom looked over at me in the passenger seat. Our eyes widened, as if to say, “where did THAT thought come from?” The little man in the backseat repeated himself “what would you give up, dad?” Glancing back in the rearview mirror my groom confessed, “buddy….…I don’t know!”

IMG_6600My heart has silently been asking that same question since the moment I said, “I do” on May 18, 1996. For more than 21 years, I’ve longed for my husband to give up his life. Not to physically die, but to emotionally die to the things that steal his time and attention away from loving me. Fortunately, I have the privilege of saying that I’ve been the beneficiary of a man who has crucified selfish ambition, hobbies and bad habits in years past. Whether He was motivated by the Holy Spirit, or by my persistent “encouragement” the result was the same: He obeyed God and I reaped the overflowing reward: Love.

Listen up fellas! I’m gonna let you in on a secret:

If you lay down your life, your wife will feel loved.

When your wife feels loved, she will submit to you.

If both of you submit to the Lord and one another you will become one.

You may be thinking: “Dag gone it. I work my tail off every day, providing for my family…and she doesn’t even appreciate it!!!” I’m sorry about that. It’s incredibly ungrateful of her. It would be nice if she praised you for your work, but regardless, it’s your role. Read Genesis 2-3. Adam worked hard. It’s your “job” to provide food, clothing and shelter for your family. But just in case you think I’m being unfair, re-read Genesis 2-3. Do you have children? Eve had pain and so did your wife. Now read Proverbs 31. Does your wife manage the home? Does she have a “job” too? Does she train your children? Does she help others in the community and in the church?

Love her.

Give up your life for her.

It’s no more than what Jesus did for you. It’s no more than what He did for His bride, the church. He submitted His will to the Father every moment of every day. He worked. He served (and He wasn’t praised). He suffered. He was betrayed. He was mocked. He was beaten. He was falsely accused. He was crucified. He willingly gave up His life.

Give up your life.

You may be thinking: “how do I do that- practically?”

What are some things the Holy Spirit has been whispering for you to give up?

What are some things your wife has been persistently “encouraging” you to give up?

  • TV
  • Social Media
  • Video games
  • Hobbies
  • Sports
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Pornography
  • Prized possessions
  • Serving the community or church (but not your family)
  • An unhealthy relationship with a friend, family member, or co-worker

Here’s the challenge: Give it up for 40 days. See what God does in your life- and your marriage.

Love, Your Wife.

God Tested

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

On the night of our wedding rehearsal, my father-in-law proposed a toast. It was a heartfelt speech, welcoming me into the Bullard tribe. Yes, tribe. A full-blooded Native American of the Lumbee Tribe, my father-in-law came from a very large close-knit family. Growing up in extreme poverty and feeling the sting of prejudice from southern white and black men alike, he left the tribal area to pursue a better life for himself.

But he never forgot his family.

Family was everything.

With raised glasses and our entire wedding party giving close attention, my fiancés father spoke assertively, “Jodie, you are now a part of our family…and we take care of our own.”

(kindof sounded like I was marrying into the mafia!!!)

Doug Sr. and I had a rocky beginning. I was a strong willed young woman. Barely 18 when I met his son, Doug Jr. (who was almost 6 years my senior), I was a rebellious, directionless sinner. He was a strong, disciplined, God fearing man. Needless to say, we didn’t get along very well- especially when I sat in HIS lazy boy recliner one Sunday afternoon to watch HIS naptime entertainment; golf!

Six months later, after Doug and I were engaged, he disapproved of the impending nuptials. IMG_1830Yet over the course of the next year and a half, we began to know- and love one another. And by the time my wedding day dawned, he had accepted me as a daughter, adopting me into his family on a warm spring day in 1996. Fifteen months later he had a massive heart attack. The family patriarch was gone.

After God adopted me into His family, I had a hard time trying to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I was disciplined: I read the bible. I prayed. I served at church. Yet, I was completely unaware that in a dark corner of my soul, I had built an idol. It was named “family.”

Then God tested me.

He asked if I was willing to take each family member, whom I loved so much, and lay them on the altar.

Would I justify my relationships? (“God- you designed family. I’m supposed to love my husband, children, parents….)

Or would I repent?

I confessed the lie: family is everything.

I received His truth: God is everything.

I choose to obey the commandments, in order.

There’s a reason Jesus said we are to love God, then love others. Others may take care of us, train us, love us and welcome us into their family, but others will fail us. Idols will fall.

Yes, we must love our spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. But we must not love them more than Jesus.

Matthew 10:37

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Has God tested you?

Have you confessed the lie: family is everything?

Have you received His truth: God is everything?

Have you chosen to love God, then love others?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend: all of your family has sinned.

They’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.

They will never give you eternal or abundant life.

They will forsake you.

They will leave you.

But, Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus laid down His life on the altar for your sin.

Jesus will never leave you.

Jesus will never forsake you.

(and like the mafia, Jesus always takes care of His own!!!)

Thorns, Cares & Riches

Matthew 13:22 (KJV)

 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Every summer, when I was a little girl, my mother would require my older sister and I to weed “the hill.”

Begrudgingly, we’d wake up in the wee morning hours to avoid the heat of the Southern California sun at midday, put on our garden gloves and start digging & pulling thorns out from the MASSIVE hill. (I may over-exaggerate a bit….but when you’re a kid, everything seems MASSIVE doesn’t it?!)

After several days of digging & pulling, “the hill” would be restored to its original beautiful landscape.

But you know what? By the next summer, we’d be out there digging & pulling MORE stinkin’ thorns!

Ugh.

Such is the case with children of God. We get saved and God gives us a glimpse of the beautiful landscape that He has planned for our lives. We soon discover, however, that as we seek His Kingdom, He begins to reveal hidden thorns that the enemy has planted on our hill! Yet, by His grace, we can believe His promise to deliver us and we can wake up in the wee morning hours, put on our garden gloves, and ask Him to start digging & pulling the cares & riches out!

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for cares as merimna: “to draw in different direction, distract…that which causes a care, especially an anxious care.” Cares of the world can be any thorn the enemy plants in our mind that convinces us to believe a lie, instead of God’s truth. We can be distracted and anxious over our marriage, our children, our friends, our position at work, our position in the church- all of which choke out the Word, as people & position become more important to us than our Lord and Savior. Cares believe the lie that without the relationship or position, we won’t be loved or accepted. In short, we’ll be abandoned and alone.

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for riches as pluotos: “wealth, money, possessions, abundance…used evilly.” Basically, it’s any tangible thing that we own which was obtained with a greedy heart. Riches believe the lie that God will not provide everything we need. It justifies “wants” as “needs.”

Our church just finished a sermon series on The Parables of the Four Soils in Matthew 13. Although it isn’t yet summer here in North Carolina (even though some days it feels like it!), the seed that I received from those teachings encouraged me to wake up in the wee morning hours, put on my garden gloves, and dig into the rich soil of God’s Word. I’ve come to realize that the enemy’s thorns will continue trying to choke out Truth to keep His Spirit from producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in my life. BUT, I don’t need to worry, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His Spirit will lead me into all Truth. When I seek Him, I will find Him. When I ask Him, He will reveal any cares of this world & deceitfulness of riches that have taken root in my soul. When I confess my sin to Him, He will forgive me. And if that weren’t enough, He’ll even restore my hill to its intended beauty.

Is your life producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any hidden thorns that are choking out His Word. Confess, repent and forgive for believing the lies associated with cares & riches. Choose to trust God in all things- and watch as He restores the landscape of your life into His intended beauty.

On the way

Exodus 4:24-26

24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. 25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet[a] with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the Lord left him alone.

Wait. What? The Lord confronted Moses and was about to kill him?!?

Moses had seen the burning bush.

Moses had heard God’s call to deliver the Israelites from slavery.

Moses had seen evidence of God’s power when his staff turned into a serpent!

And Moses was on his way to Egypt to fulfill his purpose.

But, before he could face Pharaoh and lead his people to freedom, Moses needed to face the failure to lead his family. Even though the terms of the covenant that God made with Israel was hundreds of years old, it still applied to Moses. Before he could deliver the 10 commandments, Moses needed to obey God’s command.

When confronted by the Lord, Moses must have turned to his helpmate in shock and disbelief. But instead of surrendering to fear, Zipporah fulfilled the requirements of the law by submitting to her husband- and his Lord. She literally took the knife into her own hands and circumcised their son!

Then the great I AM fulfilled His first promise: Moses’s brother, Aaron, met him at the mountain of God on the way to Egypt.

IMG_4379From the beginning of creation, God has chosen married men to lead His people to “lands flowing with milk and honey.” But He doesn’t call them to go to Egypt alone. Instead, He makes a helper suitable for their journey. And since He is a loving Father, when His sons fail to lead their family, He confronts them on the way to their purpose, so they can repent and obey.

Has God called you by name?

Has He called you to confront Pharaoh and lead His people to the Promised Land?

Will you trust …and obey Him?

Will you love your wife?

Will you train your children?

Will you take your family with you on the way to Egypt?

If not, God’s promises for your life will be delayed…and you may find yourself wandering around in the desert for 40 years.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Trust Him.

Obey Him.

Lead your family.

Lead His people.

And you will see the Promised Land.

Drunk & Naked

Genesis 6:9-10, 9:20-25

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. 10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 

20 After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. 21 One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

24 When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. 25 Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

“May Canaan be cursed!
 May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

IMG_1850It didn’t take long for blameless Noah to screw up after the flood. Whether he intentionally planned to become intoxicated or failed to realize the potency of his homemade wine is unclear. Nonetheless, he was drunk- and naked.

Had the story stopped there, his sin of gluttony would have stayed between him and God. But he, like many of us, had children that would be affected by his actions. Ham saw his father naked. Instead of dealing with the embarrassing exposure, he ran and tattled to his brothers. How often do we see a family member in embarrassing situations because of their choices, yet we say nothing to them…but choose instead to blab it to other relatives? Sham and Japheth, feeling sorry for their father’s predicament, backed into the tent and covered him with a robe. How often do we cover up our family members shame because we’re afraid to look at the sin and rightly deal with it before God?

Although Sham and Japheth were blessed by Noah for honoring and showing him respect, their actions would impact Noah’s family for generations, as would Ham’s. Because of his judgment and desire to point out his father’s fault to others, his son, Canaan was cursed.

God’s Word is clear about the impact of sin upon families:

Exodus 20:5

….I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.

And the same applies to His favored children today:

My drunkenness will affect our children.

My nakedness (lack of modesty/sexual sin) will affect our children.

My judgment will affect our children.

My pride will affect our children.

My rebellion will affect our children.

My curses will affect our children.

BUT, let us not forget the Good News!!!! The Lord also promises He will

Exodus 20:6

lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

AND…

1 John 1:9

if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Sure, there can still be consequences for our actions, but our God is also the One who redeems and restores!!! I’ve seen Him take my sins and remember them no more. I’ve heard Him speak blessings in place of curses over our family. I’ve felt His freedom released in my soul. I’ve watched Him protect our children from the traps of the enemy. ALL things are possible in Him. All He asks is that we willingly surrender our drunk & naked sins to Him…and confess them to one another, so that we may be healed.

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

When you see Me

John 12:44-46

44 Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

As a child, did you ever awaken in the middle of the night after a bad dream and cry out “daddy…daddy I NEED you!?”

Why do we choose to remain alone in the dark when we become adults? Why do we stop crying out to our Father for help?

We refuse to humble ourselves and pray.

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

Despite the fact that I realize prayer can eclipse the darkness around- and in me, it’s still not always my first weapon of choice. Instead, I often rely on my superior intellect and abilities to light my candle so that I can find the fastest, easiest way out of the dark.

Case in point:

IMG_0218As our family boarded an Airbus A321 during the wee morning hours last Saturday to travel to our vacation destination, I was once again consumed with worry. “What if there’s another terrorist attack? What if the pilot has mental illness and crashes the plane? What if we hit unexpected turbulence and fall from the sky? What will I do? How will I comfort our children?”

As I tried to rationalize these fears with statistics (you know the one about being more likely to die in a car accident that on an airplane?) I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “I am with you….”

Would I trust Him, or myself?

Thankfully, I chose Him.

But just to make sure that He was on that plane, this daughter cried out “daddy, daddy…I NEED you- please show me where you are!” When I looked towards the center aisle I saw Him (not physically, but in the Spirit) sitting on the floor, with the biggest grin, shouting “this is gonna be FuuuuUN!” I chuckled after I noticed the fighter pilot glasses He was wearing and control yoke He was holding to fly the plane (He looked a bit like Snoopy, aboard his red doghouse!!!).

IMG_0226As we flew south like birds for winter, the light of the sun began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside the aircraft. Simultaneously, the light of the Son began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside my soul. And once again, I was able to know that HE is God, that HE is in control, that HE holds the keys to death and the grave…. and when its time for me to die physically, HE will be with me- and then, then I will spend all of eternity praising the One who sent Him!