THERE IS HOPE…

The last word Jesus spoke on the cross was tetelestai which translated means “it is finished” in Greek.

Jesus put an end to all sin, all shame, and all guilt with that one word.

As human beings we define ourselves with one word:
failure
alcoholic
divorced
addict
worrier
worthless

Jesus, in His last breath cancelled out all these definitions by declaring tetelestai – it is finished.

Sin is finished and no longer has a hold on us.  We may still need the ice pack for the bruises that sin has left in our lives but the hold of sin has been broken.

We may sin and suffer the consequences but Jesus conquered the power that sin has in our lives with that one word tetelestai.  “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil“ 1 John 3:8.  By His death on the cross and His resurrection He rendered Satan powerless – tetelestai, Satan’s power in a Believer’s life is null and void. We now fall under a covenant of Grace!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

My two favourite biblical definitions of grace are “the attitude of God toward men” and “the liberty that God gives men.”

Liberty is the “state of being free.” God’s grace causes us to be free from the chains that had us bound—alcoholism, addiction to pornography or drugs, worry, jealousy, anger, self-pity, pride, eating disorders, poor self-image. The list is endless. Graciousness is defined as being “courteous, kind, and pleasant.”

In Isaiah 30:18 we are advised that “the Lord longs to be gracious to you.” What an amazing thought: God longs to be kind, generous, and courteous to us.  

If you are struggling with guilt or shame or worry or fear or an addiction or un-forgiveness or hurts – repeat to yourself tetelestai, tetelestai – it is finished.  The guilt is gone, the shame is gone, and you are no longer under condemnation.  Pray that God will give you the courage to come to terms with the past, to seek help for an addiction,  to know that you are worthy in order  that one day you will be able to say about that addiction tetelestai, it is finished – I am free.

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Marry Someone With the Same Vision and Who Makes You Laugh

A couple close to me recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

On the surface, they are like ‘chalk and cheese.’

The wife is optimistic, impulsive and very positive. The husband, on the other hand, is a wee bit less optimistic and less impulsive.

About ten years into their marriage I asked her what it was that she saw in him that made her want to marry him. She responded, “His soul’s vision is the same as mine and he makes me laugh.”

It made me think of the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi where he states “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2)

They are both inordinately compassionate, hate injustice in any form and will always stand up for the downtrodden.

They both have a heart to serve the poor and marginalized and through the years I have admired how they are able to allow those who suffer to feel dignity.

They also both have a wonderful sense of humor.

She went on to explain that she had never met a man who shared the same soul vision as she did and who was prepared and committed to making that vision a reality no matter the sacrifices it might entail.

Their totally different personalities and way of doing things was something they could deal with because they shared the same soul vision.

Twenty years after asking her that question I asked the husband what advice he would give to other married couples or those contemplating marriage from his experience of 30 years marriage.

His reply was almost a replica of what she had said: “I think the only advice I have is to marry someone who shares the same values and goals in life as you do. And when things get tough—as they always do—hold on to the reasons why you married, and hold on to that commitment no matter what.”

“A soul mate is the one person whose love is powerful enough to motivate you to meet your soul, to do the emotional work of self-discovery, of awakening.” —Kenny Loggins

For 30 years I have watched as these two have chosen to continue to love each other through every difficulty and challenge. Her reply to my question about marriage advice after 30 years was:

“My marriage wisdom is sporadic. Commitment not a feeling and its jolly hard work.”

There has also never been a time when I am with them that there has not been laughter. No matter how dire a situation they have always maintained a sense of humor.

Kindness and a generous spirit go a long way. And a sense of humor. It’s like medicine—very healing. —Max Irons

Or as the Bible puts it “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)

Commitment, hard work, a shared vision and a sense of humor are vital if you are going to have a good marriage.

So my prayer for all couples contemplating marriage or who are married is 3 John 1:2…

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”

Originally written for and published on https://www.startmarriageright.com/…/marry-someone-with-th…/

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THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Saw the above post on the Glendermott Presbyterian Church Facebook site and my heart rejoiced. My immediate thought was:

“God must really love this church, they have got it so right”

The church building is being refurbished so the church will now be meeting in the hall for services.

In the Bible the Greek term for ‘church’ is ekklesia – to call out of.  We are called ‘out’ of the world to serve God.

We are the church.  Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

There are Believers all around the world whose demeanour and behaviour change drastically as soon as they enter the church building grounds.

They go from being in a bad mood, shouting at the children, fighting with a spouse, getting angry at drivers on the road to being pleasant and polite and friendly to everyone as soon as they enter the church building.

Some Believers could win Oscar nominations for their acting abilities on a Sunday morning.

They go from being angry, depressed, sad, anxious… to pretending to be happy, content, and at peace with the world.

I am one of those Believers.  I live with a family of similar Believers.

Too many of us are not living as the church of God.

We should daily be growing in the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Colossians 3:9-10 puts it so succinctly Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

For many years I lived with this thought “how is it possible that I have the self-control to pretend for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning that everything is fine with my world, and yet, do not have the same self-control at other times?”

No matter what anyone says or does to me in church I never lose my temper, or show that I am angry, or burst into tears.  What I do instead is to keep quiet, think about it and if it is really bothering me I will contact that person when I have thought more about the situation.

I do this because it is out of place for me to lose self-control in the church building.

What hypocrisy and how farcical – I am the church. I should be exercising the same self-control and self-discipline that I do for those few hours on a Sunday morning every moment of my life.

I am the church so I should be reflecting love, peace and joy to the world.

So, over the years (albeit a very slow process at times) I am consciously choosing to live in God, to seek His face, to reflect His love to the world.

One of my favourite authors C.S. Lewis puts into words exactly how I feel.

“Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect – perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, health, and immortality.  The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment.  How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain.”

We have to allow God to get into us. The way we do this is through prayer, reading God’s word, meeting in the church building and being the church of God at all times not just on a Sunday morning.

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water.  If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”  – C.S. Lewis

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A MORNING SPENT WITH GODLY MEN (AND WOMEN)

What a privilege it is to be able to spend a morning with the Godly men of ROTOP.

This past Wednesday Rev Douglas Bower was the speaker and his topic was “The race that is set before us”.

ROTOP stands for Round Tables of Prayer and its mission statement says that all the men must strive “to learn to function ‘as a unit’ in ‘watching over’ and ‘looking after one another’ demonstrating the reality of faith in the true, living God; proving how practical the principles of the Word of God are; and how invaluable to everyday living”.

Every now and again they open their doors and allow women to attend.  If it hadn’t been open to women this past week I would have sneaked in anyway because Douglas has a way of expounding the Scriptures and I would not have wanted to miss an opportunity to listen to him speak!

Douglas spoke on the ‘long race of the Christian’.

“We are all racing towards the reward, and have to keep our eyes fixed on the heavenward prize”.

Below are some of the main points he made:

We need

  • to keep our eyes on the finish line – never looking backwards only forwards
  • to follow the track
  • to listen to the ‘marshals’ directing us – the men and women God places in our lives to encourage us and guide us
  • to have Gospel centered prayers
  • to not let earthly things distract us
  • to be prepared for tribulations, trials and difficulties
  • to make use of any handicaps and turn them into advantages

At one point he asked the following question which has stuck with me:

“If you were to be arrested for being a Christian – would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

How wonderful it would be if we were able to answer that question with a resounding YES. If our lives reflected good craftsmanship at all times.

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
Martin Luther

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RECREATE YOUR MARRIAGE

“There is such restoration in creation to relieve stress” Susan Winter

Many marriages would benefit if spouses put the above sentence into practice!

God created man and woman to come together in holy matrimony to reflect His glory and love through the marriage covenant.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

IN THE BEGINNING

When we first get married we are in love, we want to honor each other and as believers we want our marriage to reflect God’s glory so we are willing, in the beginning stages of our marriage, to gloss over the not so nice character traits in our spouse or the fact that they do not react as we expect them too. We tend to make excuses for our ‘better’ half and often blame ourselves if things aren’t going as smoothly as expected.

The reality is this: each one of us brings our past and our expectations into the marriage. Whether we like it or not, we are programmed to a large degree because of our past, to react in certain ways.

A husband may have grown up with a mom who stayed at home and did all the household work and cooking and just assumes that is what his wife is going to continue to do. Or his mom may have worked and he expects the same from his wife. The wife may have grown up with brothers or a father who helped in the house and shared the cooking and, therefore, her expectation may be that her husband will likewise share these duties equally. Or her mom may have stayed at home and raised the children and this is what she anticipates will be what she will do once the children are born.

There are so many ‘truths’ as we know them stored in our subconscious minds that are very different from the ‘truths’ that are stored in our spouse’s subconscious mind.

The traditions and assumptions around birthdays, Christmas, Easter… any number of things may also be entirely different, and if these expectations have not been expressed, our reactions to not having our assumptions met could cause many misunderstandings.

AS TIME GOES ON

After a few years go by, we may notice that resentment begins to creep in. Unmet expectations begin to fester and boredom of routine may set in. Disillusionment and hurt have ensured that you and your spouse have grown further and further apart and both of you are so stressed that you are beginning to think that you have made a huge mistake and this is not the person you want to spend the rest of your life with after all.

Hence this thought being so meaningful for a marriage: “There is such restoration in creation to relieve stress.” (Susan Winter)

BRINGING IT BACK HOME

Restoration is the act of restoring or bringing something back to its former position or condition. We need to actively work at restoring our marriages, to bring back the love we had for each other.

Creation is the act or process of bringing something into existence. We need to bring our love for our spouse into existence once again.  As Martin Luther King Jr. put it:

“There’s something about love that builds up and is creative.”

Relieve has two meanings and both are appropriate in restoring our marriages.

The first one is to relieve or cause pain and distress to become less serious and severe. The second meaning is to take the place of or stand-in for someone. We need to actively think about how we can help relieve our partner of the pain that has been caused in the marriage and we need to ‘stand’ in the place of our spouse and try and imagine what they feel and think about the marriage.

Stress is pressure or tension exerted on something or someone. It is accompanied by feelings of worry, anxiety, and strain.

What stress are we causing our partner with our past and present behavior?

We need to find creative ways to relieve that stress on our marriage.

We need to “Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32).

We need to learn to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“So far as you continue to entertain what makes you unhappy, you shall always dance to the tune of what will make you unhappy. A mind-set change can cause a great change.” ―Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

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A SUPERNATURAL MARRIAGE

“God is an awesome, amazing, miracle working God and we are a Supernatural people.” —Brian O’Donnell

The word Supernatural is defined as: “a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature… unnaturally or extraordinarily great”

Marriage, purely by definition, is beyond scientific understanding, unnatural and extraordinary, therefore, marriage is definitely supernatural!

You take a man and a woman (bearing in mind the saying men are from Mars and women are from Venus), from different backgrounds, family dynamics, sometimes different cultures, with different habits, traditions, expectations and you put them in the same building—they are expected to sleep together, eat together, live together, have children together and live together forever AND they are meant to do this lovingly, willingly and kindly.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:2-3

It takes a huge amount of supernatural ability to express those characteristics in the bounds of a marriage!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I don’t know about you but I need (and my husband needs) a supernatural, miraculous power working in our lives to be patient, kind, not self-seeking, not easily angered and this pertains especially to me—not to keep a record of wrongs in our marriage.

This is my husband and my 27th year of marriage.

Yesterday morning we had a huge fight—shouting, slamming of doors, sarcasm, anger, the works!

He left the house and was halfway down the road when he realized that he had forgotten something in his haste to leave so had to come back home. I met him in the kitchen and we both burst out laughing.

The fight came out of nowhere, was about something trivial and unimportant, but because we are going through a stressful and challenging time in our lives and work at the moment, we took our frustrations out on each other.

It was a good reminder to start guarding our hearts against anxiety and fear and not to take our stresses out on each other.

In other words, to care for each other with God’s supernatural love. In order to do this, we need to search God’s Word and learn from Him and ask Him to equip us with His supernatural love for our spouses.

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” —Matthew 4:4

We need to live by God’s word if we want to possess the land God has promised us…the land of good health, happy and fulfilled marriages, Godly children, good businesses, miracles…

We can, with God’s help, change our damaged, mediocre, hurting marriages if we would but only recognize how great we are because we are made supernatural through Jesus Christ.

“We are Supernatural, powerful people who, if we choose too, could live everyday by the Spirit of God in a miraculous way.” –Brian O’Donnell

Our marriages need to be supernatural.

Originally written for and published on https://www.startmarriageright.com/2019/06/a-supernatural-marriage/

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SUPERNATURAL CHRISTIANS

“If you are not a Supernatural Christian, you are not a Christian”

These words were spoken yesterday by a man of God who I have admired for many years, Brian O’Donnell.
He also said:

“God is an awesome, amazing, miracle working God and we are a Supernatural people”

The word Supernatural is defined as:
“a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature…
Unnaturally or extraordinarily great”

I am a Christian so I love the fact that my existence is beyond scientific understanding and that I am unnaturally and extraordinarily great because I am a child of the most High God.
A God of miracles.

Brian spoke on Deuteronomy 8.
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors…
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.”

God led the Israelites through the desert for forty years, and yet, their clothes did not wear out, their feet did not swell, manna was provided fresh every day apart from when they got tired of eating manna and complained… “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’” That evening quail came and covered the camp…” (Exodus 16:12,13)

What amazing miracles and yet the Israelites, just like us today, got bored with these miracles, stopped noticing them and started complaining.
Brian noted that “the devil tricks us back into normalcy”, we get bored and tired with our everyday amazing lives, our bodies that are so miraculously made, our jobs, our families…and then we start to complain and lose interest in God’s miraculous world.
When we stop looking at and spending time with God we start to move away from God.

Many years after the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, after fasting for forty days and forty nights, the first words Jesus spoke when Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread were “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4)

We need to live by God’s word if we want to possess the land God has promised us…the land of good health, happy and fulfilled marriages, Godly children, good businesses, miracles…

God can take us out of our lifestyle of mediocrity if we would but only recognize how great we are because we are made supernatural through Jesus Christ.

“We are Supernatural, powerful people who, if we choose too, could live everyday by the Spirit of God in a miraculous way.” – Brian O’Donnell

Based on a talk given by Brian O’Donnell at ROTOP, 22/05/2019.  ROTOP – Round Tables Of Prayer, https://web.facebook.com/groups/211216175676927/

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