You Must Love

Matthew 22:37-39 New Living Translation (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

I’ve been told I can be very emotional (if you’re wondering….yes, I AM a woman!). Yet, just like Joseph in Genesis 50:20, I know that those judgments which were meant to harm me, God meant for good.

Emotions should be expressed (to God – and sometimes, others).

That doesn’t mean we should use our feelings as a drama queen to seek attention, allow them to control us, or yield them as a weapon to manipulate others, but God gave us a heart (soul); mind, will and emotions, for a purpose.

IMG_5968During a recent “discussion” with my groom I was expressing my heart to him about our relationship. Let’s be honest, I was telling it the way I saw it: he wasn’t loving me the way I wanted to be loved! Emotionally, I was all over the place- bouncing back and forth between love and anger.

Weird.

I mean, I knew I loved him and I knew his actions sometimes made me angry, but why was I feeling these emotions simultaneously? I decided to ask the Creator of the universe, the Creator of me, and the Creator of my husband: Lord, what in my heart is going on here?!

Be still.

Know that He is God.

Backstory: the previous day the Holy Spirit whispered “pride, self-righteousness….” when I asked, “what do I need to repent for?” Hmmm. I didn’t feel prideful or self-righteous. Trusting that the Creator of the universe and the Creator of me knows better, I confessed, “Father, forgive me for being prideful and self-righteous.”

Back to the story: As I sat in my comfy chair the next morning, listening to the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the light penetrating the sunroom, the Holy Spirit showed me that I had removed my heart and laid it down on the ground as an offering to my husband.

Um. What?

Wait.

“Love your neighbor (husband) as you love yourself,” right?

Yes.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband,” right?

Yes.

Then, what?!

Enter: deception, stage right.

Jeremiah 17:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?

What seemed like an action of a loving, submitted wife was actually the result of a desperately wicked heart. I loved my husband- not God- with all my heart. I was worshipping a man, not Jesus. Consequently, when my spouse broke my heart, I felt attacked (resulting in my anger). Failing to recognize the condition of my heart (deception), I assumed he was to blame for everything (hence my self-righteousness). Left unchecked, my heart began to suffer cardiac arrest (yo-yo feelings of love and anger).

Grieved by the revelation, I quickly confessed and repented to the Lord. He retrieved my wounded heart, washed it by the cleansing of His Word and performed a heart transplant (in case you’re wondering, I am recovering well. Thanks for asking).

My fellow wives,

I urge you to “guard your heart above all else” (Proverbs 4:23). If you’re having yo-yo feelings towards your husband, ask the Lord, “am I loving my groom with all my heart, soul and mind?” If the Holy Spirit whispers “yes,” then confess and repent for idolizing him. Receive God’s forgiveness and extend forgiveness to your husband if he’s broken your heart in any way.

Then, give Jesus all your heart. He gave up his life for you! He loves you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He promises to (as we say in the south) “bless your heart” – and your marriage.

Love,

Your fellow disciple

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!!!)

Pain, Desire & Struggle

Genesis 3:16-19 (NLT)

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,

and in pain you will give birth.

And you will desire to control your husband,

but he will rule over you.[a]

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree

whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,

the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains.

19 By the sweat of your brow

will you have food to eat

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

How well I know the curse of pain as a daughter of Eve. All my pregnancies produced physical and emotional suffering in my body and soul. I delivered one daughter without drugs, but ALL our children caused indescribable pain when I gave birth.

How well I know the desire to control my husband. As a newlywed, I believed I was to share “the pants,” in order to rule and reign together as head of the family. In my rebelliousness and brokenness I used my strong personality to gain control… and when my husband attempted to lead, I viciously attacked him with my words.

Then I met Jesus.

Jesus became the curse for me, a sinful daughter of Eve. He died not only to give me eternal life with my Father in heaven, but He also gives me abundant life in Him on earth! No longer am I enslaved to the curse. I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, sometimes, unfortunately….I still listen to that slithering, sneaky snake.

Jesus said in this world, I will have trouble.

Pain will still occur.

Desire to control will still rise up.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When I choose to trust Jesus, instead of the enemy, I receive God’s blessing: abundant life! I am comforted in pain. I know that He is in control. I submit to my husband, as unto the Lord. And even if my husband doesn’t love me as Christ loved the church, I feel how wide, how deep, how high, my Father’s love is for me.

cropped-IMG_2982.jpgFor more than 20 years I’ve watched my husband scratch a living. By the sweat of his brow, he has provided food for our family each day. As a son of Adam, the curse proclaimed over his life is different than mine. It affects his work mentality. Mine affects my relationships with him and our children. Regardless, if either of us chooses to submit to the enemy, the same result occurs: death.

If I am deceived, and my husband listens to me, and we both eat the forbidden fruit, spiritual and emotional death separates us from God- and one another.

Does that mean its all my fault?

No.

I am accountable for my sin- not my husbands, not my children’s. Mine.

My husband is accountable for his.

When a husband listens and obeys God’s commands, he finds his identity in the One who formed him from the dust of the earth. His work is not who he is. He is a son of God.

When a wife listens and obeys God’s commands, she finds her identity in the One who formed her from man for man. Her role of mother and wife are not who she is. She is a daughter of God.

Who are you listening to?

Who are you obeying?

Who are you choosing?

I choose life.

I choose the way.

I choose the truth.

I choose Jesus.

Where it is Deeper

Luke 5:1-11 (NLT)

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,[a] great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,[b] its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Simon was a hard working fisherman. On the night before the biggest catch of his life, he failed to pull in a single fish.

Complete failure?

Perhaps in the eyes of his fellow fisherman.

But not according to Jesus.

From a Kingdom perspective, the empty boat was an outward sign of an inward transformation that would take place in the heart of Simon Peter. Simon’s “bad day at the office” was a tangible demonstration of what would be required to follow Jesus; forsaking himself- being completing emptied of all self-sufficiency.

IMG_5056Our disappointments, failures and losses often remove the excess from our lives so that we are able to be still – and listen to the Word of God. With no work to do, Simon had available time to sit among the crowd on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and listen to Jesus preach. But after the sermon, Jesus told him to climb into his boat and go back out, where it was deeper.

Simon obeyed.

The deeper is where we face our greatest fears. The deeper is where we cannot understand His ways. The deeper is where we see Jesus do the miraculous. The deeper is where we willingly call Him “Lord.” The deeper is where we fall to our knees before Him. The deeper is where our hearts realize we are too much of a sinner to be around Him. The deeper is where we are left awestruck.

And then….then, Jesus tells us to not be afraid.

He speaks the great commission into our life.

He tells us we will fish for people…..IF we are willing to empty ourselves of everything, and follow Him.

Your Own Work

Galatians 6:4-10 (NLT)

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

The comparison trap always leads to death in the soul. Whether we are measuring our waistline, our bank account, our marriage, or our position at work, comparing ourselves to others makes us dissatisfied. Either we feel like a loser (“they are way better at such and such than I am”) or, it inflates our ego (“I am way better at such and such than they are”).

KIM_2018_edited-1The body of Christ is no exception. A worldly view of our family members of faith ranks people by where they serve. The people on stage are AWESOME! The people changing dirty diapers…not so much. God is not impressed by our ranking system. He is not amused with our justification for idolizing certain areas of service. He is not naive about our desire for attention or worthiness. He is not ignorant of the condition of our heart. He knows all. Yet, mercifully, He forgives all.

When we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength our souls are set free from the comparison trap. We are still. We know Him. We know who we are in Him. We know the gifts the Spirit has given us. We know the talents the Lord has equipped us to use for His glory.

When we love Him, we obey Him.

When we obey Him, we submit to His will for our life.

When we submit to His will for our life, we do good – especially for those in the family of faith…..and it makes absolutely no difference to us if we use a microphone or a diaper to do it.

Pay attention.

Pay careful attention.

You are responsible for your own conduct.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone.