Marriage - What Is It Really About?

Marriage. Wikipedia defines marriage as a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. What a worldly definition, and a sad one.

Two things that jump out to me with the above definition of marriage are 'rights and obligations' as well as the comment about how it is an acknowledgment of a sexual relationship. That's not what marriage is about! For one, I don't consider myself as having any 'rights' or 'obligations' in my marriage. It's about a partnership - becoming one. Secondly, marriage isn't just an acknowledgement of a relationship, more so, that of a sexual relationship. This being said, what is marriage really about?

Marriage: What Is It Really About?

What we really have to look at is what God's purpose is for marriage. A quick note - the below is what my husband and I discussed through pre-marital counseling {almost 3 years ago!!}. It was one of the best things we did in preparation for marriage and we still carry those lessons with us to this day.

Let's look at the beginning:
"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18 ESV)
We were created for Companionship! A loving relationship; a relationship where we can freely express our love for each other.

Look at that verse again:
"...I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18 ESV)
We were created to Complete each other. This doesn't mean we have rights and obligations to each other. In marriage, we become one.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24 ESV; emphasis added)
 Most importantly, though, we were created in the Image of Christ.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'....So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:26, 27)
We need to remember that God's primary marriage is for us to be more Christ-like. I love the image of a marriage illustrated as a triangle. The husband and wife are the two base points, with God at the top point. In marriage, the closer a husband and wife moves toward God, the closer they draw toward each other. Christ needs to be at the center of our marriage.

Let's not let the world define our marriages. I love this definition of marriage:
"Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman in which they promise to be a faithful husband and a faithful wife in a new one-flesh union as long as they both shall live. This covenant, sealed with solemn vows and sexual union, is designed to showcase the covenant-keeping grace of God."
Let's remember that marriage is a model of Christ and the Church.

What does a biblical marriage mean to you? Pleas share in the comments below!

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Growing Your Faith: Storing God's Word In Your Heart

The three things that I am working on being intentional about this year are being in God's Word daily, being in prayer always, and lastly, storing God's Word in my heart.

Psalm 119:11 - Why We Should Memorize Scripture

I would be the first to say that I am absolutely horrible at memorization! I grew up going through the AWANA program - which is all about memorization of scripture. But I became the pro at short term memorization!

This is such an important aspect to our relationship with God though, and needs to be a priority in our lives. It needs to be something that we are intentional about doing, along with devotions and prayer.

As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of the Desiring God website - I've referred to it quite a few times over the last month on being intentional about growing your faith. There is a great quote I came across this week on why we should memorize scripture from Dallas Willard, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California (emphasis added by me):
"Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That's where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization!"
I love that - it being a way of filling our minds with what it needs. I love when a verse comes to mind just when I need to hear it, and this only happens through memorization. Be sure to check out the entire article by John Piper - it lays out a few great reasons why memorization of scripture is essential to our lives. Here's another good article on scripture memorization by Jon Bloom.

The one thing with memorizing scripture is that there is not one way to do it better than another way. You just need to find out what works for you. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful:

1. Write It Out

For me, repetition is key. Whenever I have needed to learn something, if I write it out a few times or more, I tend to be able to recall it better. Just the simple act of putting pen to paper a few times really helps me out.

2. Surround Yourself With It

Write out the verse or verses you are working on memorizing on index cards and place them in key spots. In your house, in your car, on your desk at work, on your mirror in the bathroom. Anywhere you might come across it throughout your day.

3. Take Advantage of the Tools You Have

Pretty much everyone I know has a smartphone nowadays. Or a tablet or computer. Use it to your advantage! It is so easy to take a picture and add text to it - set it as your background or screensaver. Every time you look at your phone or computer, you will first see the verse!

4. Speak It Out

Not only does it help me to write it out, but as I come across the verse(s) in the key places I have set it, whenever I see it, it helps to speak it out too.  The visual and oral aspect of it is really helpful!

Wondering where to start? Pick a few of your favorite verses to start with, I find that this makes it easier to ease into the process of memorization. After that? There are lots of books out there, or even websites, with lists of some great verses for memorization. Even further - memorizing a big chunk, or even a complete book? I came across this tool that was recommended in quite a few articles I read: An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Dr. Andrew Davis {PDF}

What are some ways that you find helpful in memorizing scripture? Share below!

Growing Your Faith: Storing God's Word In Your Heart

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Growing Your Faith: Being In Prayer Always

Last week we talked about how to grow your faith by being in God's Word daily. Another very important way to be intentional about growing your faith is being in prayer always.

Growing Your Faith: Being In Prayer Always

I would have to say that my prayer life was strongest when I was in high school. Our youth group had a prayer night that met weekly. What a lesson in prayer that was! One of the messages that I learned back then that has stayed with me is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - 'pray without ceasing.'

Growing Your Faith: Being In Prayer Always

We lead busy lives. There is always something vying for our attention. We live in a world where we can be contacted wherever and whenever by a phone call or text message. As easy as it is for us to contact others, so often, we fail to realize, fail to remember, that 'contacting' God is even easier! There are three ways I feel we can pray without ceasing each day:

1. Whisper Prayers

Whisper prayers are those that are little, quick prayers that you can lift up as you go about your everyday life. These are prayers that as I am going throughout my day and something or someone comes to mind, I lift it up to God. Giving thanks for something or someone, lifting up a quick prayer as something is pressed on your heart.

2. Everyday Prayers

I consider everyday prayers as those before a meal or before digging into God's Word. They are a little more formal than whisper prayers. These also include those items or people on your prayer list.

3. Dedicated Prayers

These are the prayers where there is such a tugging on your heart that you can't help but find a quiet place to sit down and spend some time in dedicated prayer. Times when you feel the Holy Spirit urging you to slow down and drawn near to God.

The one thing we must remember with prayer is to not forget to pray in the good times. We are never not in need of drawing near to God in prayer. I love what Timothy Keller has to say in his new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God:

Don't fall into the trap of going lax in prayer when things are going good. There is always something right around the corner, and you need to be prepared for that. The only way to do that is to draw near to God in both the bad times and the good times!

The one thing that I will leave you with today is to use what is available to you out there to help you remain in prayer daily. Keep a prayer journal, download an app to keep your prayer time organized, set alerts on your phone to remind you to take time to pray. There are so many tools out there nowadays - make them work for you!

Is there an app or other tool that helps you stay in prayer daily? Please share below!

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Growing Your Faith: Being In God's Word Daily

This year, one of the things that I am trying to be intentional about is growing in my Faith, growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Proverbs 31:30 describes the woman as one who fears the Lord. This is my desire for all of us. I'm going to reference another sermon by John Piper that I stumbled across that speaks on this very verse and what it means to fear the Lord:

"A woman who fears the Lord will not run away from God to satisfy her longings and relieve her anxieties. She will wait for the Lord. She will hope in God. She will stay close to the heart of God and trust in his promises. The prospect of departing in to the way of sin will be too fearful to pursue; and the benefits of abiding in the shadow of the Almighty too glorious to forsake." 

Oh how I strive to be this woman. To find my strength only in the Lord. This requires growth.

We've already covered what Faith is, so now, how can we grow in it? By being in God's Word daily. I think we need to be intentional, organized, prepared, as well as social to build a desire to do this daily.

Be Intentional

If you can, set a specific time each day that works for you. Getting in a 'routine' or 'habit' of diving into God's Word is the goal! I use those words loosely, because I don't want it to become a chore for you. It's a desire to be in His Word that I hope for you.

I, on the other hand, have a 7-month old who likes to interrupt any kind of schedule I might set! One day, she might give me a 2-hour nap, while other days she might not nap at all. It's hard to have a set time, trust me, I know! I try to have a general time - morning to early afternoon. I know that this is the goal for each day, so when I do have a free moment, diving into God's Word is priority. There is always later for household chores.

Be Organized

Let's be real. Chances are that if you don't have a designated spot in your house to be in God's Word, you probably aren't in it. If your Bible is in one room, study materials in another, and pens/highlighters hidden away in a drawer, it's hard to get motivated to dive into His Word because you first have to locate everything. Now imagine if you have everything you need in one place - it's so much easier isn't it?

Pick a spot in your home, whether it be on your nightstand or in your den, and set that as your study spot.

Be Prepared

Know what you are going to study before you sit down. There are so many ways you can dive into God's Word. One way is to do a word study where you choose a specific word and learn how it is used throughout the entire Bible. This can be a great way to see what the Bible says about a certain struggle you may be having. Another way is by purchasing a devotional or study to use as a tool to guide you as you study His Word - this is one of my favorite ways to go. If I don't have a plan and am not guided, I tend to get lost.

There are also some great online tools out there! Two of my favorites are She Reads Truth and Love God Greatly. For some, it can be hard to stay motivated if you are doing it alone. These websites allow you to be in a community of women studying God's Word together. They even have organized studies you can join in on. I love hearing how others are understanding the same passages - it can help looking at verses under a different light! And it's always great to have a place to go if you have questions.

{Love God Greatly has a new study starting next week: Made for Community.  Enrollment ends today 1/9/15!}

Be Social

Join a community of women. Get involved at your church. Join the women's bible studies that are organized. And if your church doesn't have one, or one that might work with your schedule, another local church just might! I'm part of a Life Group at my church with my husband and three other couples and all of our little ones. It's so important to connect with others while connecting with God - sharing in life together! It's so important to have someone or a group of people in your life to keep you accountable to studying God's Word and growing in your faith.

What are some of your favorite studies you have gone through as you have studied God's Word? Please share in the comments below!

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Faith - What Is It?

Faith - what is it really? There is no better way to define this than to look directly to His Word.  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as follows:

To live out your Faith intentionally, you have to first know what it means. Check out this sermon by John Piper on this very topic titled What Faith Knows and Hopes For. Piper can explain this verse so clearly and so much better than I ever could, I just have to send you his way!

Here are a two excerpts that I really loved:

  • On the assurance of things hoped for - 
"Faith is a spiritual apprehending or perceiving or tasting or sensing of the beauty and sweetness and preciousness and goodness of what God promises - especially his own fellowship, and the enjoyment of his own presence."
  • On the conviction of things not seen -
"We all look at the same fingerprints, but some see and some don't. Those who see have the evidence - the testimony - in themselves."

I'll leave you with another great definition of Faith that I have grown up with {I am not sure where I first heard it from, possibly from Pastor James MacDonald}:
"Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, no matter how I feel, because God promises a good result."
Such an amazing promise to rest in! This is a quote I have memorized, along with Hebrews 11:1. I always have to emphasize the "no matter how I feel" part - Faith isn't always easy, but God always promises a good result!

What are a few of your favorite biblical verses on Faith? Please share in the comments below!

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