Families

A Shameless Plug/ A Call for Help from my Brothers and Sisters

This past year has been a struggle for our family, ever since my husband took the leap of faith and started his own business.

Like every start up company, we’ve had our ups and downs, but the common theme has been “Trust in The Lord, He will provide.”

So, in trying to help ends meet, I went back to school. I will be finished with my first round of classes this spring, and will be going on to get my RN later this year. I also opened an Etsy shop, (hence the shameless plug phrase), selling my Scripture photos.

Here’s where I need your help, Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I’m selling digital copies and prints, all for very low prices, just enough to help pay the bills. Please head on over and check it out! I don’t have a Facebook account, our family has chosen to stay off of the site; but you’re welcome to spread the word about https://www.etsy.com/shop/EncourageTheSoul

Thank you and God Bless,
Amber

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“A Christian View of Marriage” by Brian Michael Steck

We stand in a moment of history where decisions are being made which influence our culture, shape our future and define our truths. What is a biblical view of Marriage as it pertains to homosexuality? What should we think about the idea of homosexual marriage and how should a follower of Christ respond?

I don’t expect that all or even most should share my views. Our U.S. and global culture has been on long road of divergence from biblical values. Many of the landscapes we observe now from our viewpoint in time are a result of decisions made years ago which have slowly been eroding our understanding of marriage.

The growing number of divorces within the church and the general absence of voice from the pulpit has both left our congregations untrained in biblical truth on homosexuality, and given the society around us a poor picture of marriage as God intended it.
Why is marriage important to a Christian?

Marriage fulfills a number of functions. For the Christian, these functions are primary:

First and foremost, Godly marriage is given as the most accurate picture of Christ and the Church. From the current viewpoint, many marriages are dysfunctional and falling apart, so subsequently, our view of God is marred. However, a marriage between a man and woman, where the man acts as the head of the household and both man and woman play unique roles and seek to serve the needs of one another, is a depiction of our relationship with Christ. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25)

Subscribing the responsibility of “marriage” to homosexual relationships distorts this picture, and muddies our view and holy fear of God and heterosexual marriage.

Secondly, marriage serves to raise healthy families and influence society. While this has also been disguised over the last several decades, healthy marriages raise healthy families.

Fathers impart character, identity and masculinity to their sons. Daughters receive their self-worth and identity as a woman from their fathers. Mothers nurture sons during early years and teach daughters the value of modesty and femininity. Christian and secular psychologists today are discovering and agreeing that the mother and father each play specific, necessary roles in parenting and raising children.
Thirdly, marriage is the primary God-given means for procreation. God commanded Adam to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28) and provided him with a “suitable helper”, Eve (Gen 2:18).

It is a natural function of a healthy marriage, to engage in sexual intercourse, which in turn produces offspring. No other combination of man, woman or animal has the blessing of being fruitful and multiplying. Despite what our culture would have us believe, Children, biblically speaking, are a gift from God.

If, as a society, we bestow the title of “marriage” on any long-term relationship other than a man and a woman, we undoubtedly fail to fulfill these three primary functions. The purpose is lost and the system breaks down.

That’s why marriage is important to the Christian.

Why should the Christian’s view of marriage, or anything else for that matter, be of importance to our society?

There is no prominent reason why society should care what Christian’s think about marriage or any other issue, except that it is essential that we, as a society, come to grips with whether we believe in an absolute truth or not. Does any value deserve to be upheld? By the look of things around us, no — every man is right in his own eyes. Yet, if there is no final yardstick or ruler by which we judge our morality, we fall prey to endless depravity, disorder and pain.

If truth is self-defined, then who is to say that a 30-year old man should not be allowed to have sex with a 13-year old girl? By what set of morals do we decide whether it is right or wrong to marry an animal because that is my sexual preference, or a grown man with a young boy? If sexual preference or mere sentiment are the defining basis for morality, then we are working with a moving scale. In that case, would I not be right to defend my equality? I think so.

Yet, our culture has looked at sexual relations with minors, bestiality or sodomy as wrong and unnatural? Why?
Is it not that there are underlying and inherent truths that we must face and agree upon? Could there be an absolute truth on the subject?

I believe that our culture must make a decision, either to accept that there are absolute truths which define our basis for morality and the laws that govern it, or to deny an absolute truth and let each man govern himself. There is either truth, or there is not — there is no in-between. “A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Prov. 21:2)

How must followers of Christ respond to homosexual marriage?

Our primary desire should be to glorify God and usher His Kingdom here on earth, both by posturing our hearts and lives toward Him, as well as modeling Christ and inviting others into an eternal relationship with God. We are on earth to act as God’s redemptive agents here on earth, and God is at work to return all things to their proper order.

We must follow Christ’s example and seek to love others sacrificially. We must model healthy marriages, because they reflect God’s intended relationship between Christ and the church. We must pray and acquire the heart of the Father. We must utilize the platforms and gifts God has given us to bring His Kingdom and fulfill the will of God.

In short (because it’s easier to remember short things):
Pray
Love
Act

Pray for God’s will to be done, that we acquire the heart of the Father and that His Kingdom come. Love sacrificially and with wisdom. Love is not an excuse for immorality or relativism. “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Prov. 3:12)

Act on the morals and commands of the Lord. We are not merely bystanders floating along by the currents of society. “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

It is futile and foolish for a government to believe they may define laws and expect that all men will, at all times, agree and obey them. Not every moral value must be upheld by a law; the Jewish people tried that and have found it impossible to keep them all. For that reason, grace abounds in Christ.

That being said, our laws must originate from some view of morality, or our relativism will guide us into utter lawlessness.

It is one thing for our government to grant tax benefits to homosexual couples on the basis of equality. No man, in their right mind, can argue that a homosexual couple does not have feelings for one another. That is absurd. They can argue, however, that the privilege and title of “marriage” originated from biblical values, and is defined as a relationship between a man and woman.

A man cannot assume the title of “policeman” simply on the basis of equality — the role of a police officer is unique, carries with it particular responsibilities and is bestowed by a higher authority. Nor can a man choose to marry a child on that same basis. While, in their eyes, they may have every right to assume that title or fulfill that role, there are other laws governing the world they live in which prohibit this, for the benefit of the entire society.
What the government decides to do with tax code and same-sex unions is one issue. What they decide to do with the role and responsibility of “marriage” is quite another — one that we, as Christians, should be willing to stand for.

Homosexual marriage is not a matter of equality. As humans we are all created equal in value — not necessarily role or function — but certainly value. The battle to hold “marriage being solely between a man and a woman” is about protecting a God-given role and responsibility.

Proverbs 16:18 “A Change Of The Heart”

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 16:18

A mother is a figure of comfort and strength.  To become a mother of whom God can be proud of, we must first become a woman that God can be proud of.  Becoming a woman after Christ’s heart starts just there; with a change of heart.  The world teaches girls at a young age to be independent and (to the extreme) ‘man haters’.  A change of heart is one of the most difficult challenges, but one that we as mothers, we will learn to do often.

Here in Proverbs is an awesome example of why pride has no place in a mother’s heart.  Pride needs to be replaced with compassion.  Don’t get me wrong here, being proud and standing your ground as opposed to disciplining your child are two different things.  Showing a loving compassion for your child is the same thing that we ask God to show to us.  Being a mother of God is to walk with a heart of Christ.  A heart of love and compassion.  For, where would we be, if our Father didn’t love us and show us compassion?

Praying The ‘Whatever It Takes’ Prayer

 

It takes a strong, rooted faith in God to pray, “God, do whatever it takes to save them…”, because He will.  In my life, I’ve recently been in a heavy battle with the enemy for the spiritual health of my marriage and my family.  I’ve found myself praying the “whatever it takes” prayer more and more often, and have seen His hand move in my life!  He has allowed health issues, financial issues, and “the past” to come to a major head all at once, all the while giving me a peace and a joy and a comfort, encouraging my spirit with the knowledge that He is in complete control and has a perfect plan for my life.

Whatever It Takes

Jesus is teaching the teachers about what happens to a demon once it’s cast out.  The demon goes wondering about for a while, but then declares, “I’ll go on back home.”  When the demon returns home, that is, into the body of whomever it left, it’s welcomed back, so it invites seven more demons in.  While Jesus speaks about the demon going home, the members of his own home are trying to get into the house.  They can’t get in – Mary and James must stand outside!  Now I can’t imagine that the juxtaposition of these two passages is a coincidence.

And it’s not.  By asking those inside the house, “Who is my family?” Jesus makes it perfectly clear that he doesn’t necessarily consider his brother a part of it.  His attitude is something like, “My followersare my family since my family are not my followers.”  The strained relationship between Jesus and his family is difficult to understand until we look at our own families and realize that ours are not all that well-adjusted at times either.  Wouldn’t you resent a family member who was perfect?  It might be easier to get along with the black sheep of the family than the white sheep.

Actually, one of the most difficult mission fields of all is one’s own family and friends.  Folks at home know you too well.  There’s often just too much history.  In my case, family members have been separated by geography for years.  Times have changed us yet we still relate to each other as though it were 1972.  Maybe in your case, your family has been in your face so much that there’s over-familiarity – you get on each other’s nerves.  And though you love one another, you might not always like one another.  Sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt.

This may have been the case for Jesus and his brother James.  It’s pretty obvious that, though they must have loved one another, they didn’t like one another.  James was a little younger than Jesus; they worked together in the building trade.  They both were literate; both very Jewish.  James was also known as “Zadok,” “the righteous one.”  Historians report that James had calloused knees from praying so much.  James and Jesus both died as martyrs at the hands of temple henchmen.

They both became religious leaders in different Jewish denominations.  Religion separated them from the first.  Jesus was a liberal.  James was very fundamentalist and legalistic.  The rift on matters of faith became so acute as to make them friendly enemies.  James simply couldn’t believe Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man (see John 7).   They went their own ways.*

Though James was known as a holy man, he was neither living right in regards to his brother nor believing the right things about him.  He was just a little off.  He might as well have been a thousand miles off.  Wouldn’t you think that this brother, who grew up with Jesus and witnessed his miracle ministry, would be a believer in his brother’s message?  Would you believe if you were James?  Maybe so and maybe not.  We all know how religious hard-headedness, moral inflexibility and false teaching can divide people who should love each other better.  Sometimes division is caused by jealousy.

But something unexpected was to happen.  Peter was supposed to take over the Nazarenes in Jerusalem.   Jesus turned the keys to the kingdom over to Peter.  But Peter doesn’t take over, James does, the Bible tells us (Galatians 2:11-13).  How is it that James, who didn’t believe, suddenly not only believes but takes over the business?  Inquiring minds want to know why didn’t James believe in Jesus from the first, what caused him to change his mind, and how might we also help turn our brother around for Eternity’s sake?

 

Accustomed to Darkness

Friends, the world is saturated in spiritual darkness.  Our text begins with darkness:  the return of a demon to the body of a man.  The only way darkness may be dispelled is through enlightenment.  The light of Jesus penetrates the darkness of the world.  Those who crave light will discover light.  Even those who don’t crave it may be enlightened by it.  Those accustomed to living in light find the experience of total darkness horrifying.  Maybe you’ve been in a cavern when the tour guide switched off the light.  Before long, terror creeps upon you.  When someone flicks on a tiny flashlight, the darkness is pierced and all eyes are drawn to the flicker.

In the spiritual realm, it’s exactly the opposite.  People are accustomed to darkness, blackness.  Their eyes for spiritual things are vestigial – they have a means of perceiving light but it doesn’t work; their “spiritual eyes” are blind.  They can’t recognize the light even if it beams on them.  Healing their spiritual eyes takes a miracle.

 

The Veil of Darkness

Paul knew James personally.  Even after the ascension of Jesus, Paul knew James to be a hard case against the gospel.  Paul might’ve even been describing James’ spiritual condition when he wrote:

Our gospel is veiled, veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded their minds, to keep them from seeing the gospel light of Christ’s glory.

The veil of darkness was invented by the devil to blind humanity to the truth. Though James was a very religious and just man, though he was close to Jesus, he was blinded by the devil to his brother’s true identity, and this blindness caused sibling rivalry that kept him from his salvation.

It’s the same way with those who have, like James, been brought up in the church but have never seen the light.  The evidences of Yahweh’s spirit are spiritually discerned. The blind are not able to see them. To the blind, the things I teach are foolishness.  In order to see the light, the blind must become sighted by divine appointment.  Only a miracle of Yahweh can heal their blindness.

 

Jesus Appears Personally to James

As I mentioned before, James, not Peter, became Jesus’ successor in Jerusalem. Since James was blind, how could this happen?  Paul tells us how:

Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and he was buried, and he was raised on the third day, and he appeared to Peter [Cephas], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred at one time, most of whom are still alive. Then he appeared to James. (1 Cor 15:3-8)

James came to believe because his brother returned from death and visited him.  James was 513th on his visitation calendar.  What a surprise!  Jesus reveals himself so that James might enter the Kingdom and fulfill his mission. James’ spiritual eyes come open; the veil is lifted; he is converted. The rest is history.

Why won’t folks here turn to the truth and live?  Why aren’t the churches that teach the truth full?  Because spiritual light may be perceived as the result of a miracle.  It’s a miracle that anyone in the whole world sees.  If our brother is to be healed of his blindness — if the veil is to be torn off — then there must be a miracle.  A miracle would result in our brother seeing Jesus on his own terms, or better, on Jesus’ terms.  But not necessarily on our terms.   It’s a miracle when someone sees Jesus through our faith or lifestyle or words.  But we shouldn’t be discouraged when this isn’t the case.  Why not?  Because no matter how wonderful or favored or good a preacher or evangelist we are, a personal miracle of revelation must still take place before the blind see.

 

What is Intercession?

What might we do to facilitate a miracle of Jesus’ revelation to our brother?  Well, if Jesus had compassion for James, we could have as much; and if he could see James’ potential in the Kingdom, we should be able to see our brother’s potential as clearly.  Jesus took the time to make a way for his brother in eternity, and we have even more time – time that’s wasted in trivial pursuits.  Certainly if Jesus prayed for James, we can pray.  What’s more important than that?

Jesus prayed.  He often communicated with his Father in matters of strategy and evangelism.  He lifted up the spiritual blindness of his nation to his Father, and mentioned many names.  Jesus now lives with us in an unseen dimension.  However, he never stopped praying, and he has prayed for you by name.  It says that even now he makes intercession for us.  Intercession is a word for prayer that means “going between.”  It’s prayer that bridges a gap.  You can always reach some god through prayer, but nobody comes to the Father but through Him.  He’s the bridge.

Did you know that we are to be intercessors?  We bridge the gap between the Father and our brother so that he might receive the miracle of sight and see Jesus face to face.  People say they don’t know how to pray.  You can learn.  Yahweh doesn’t care if your prayer is stylish or not.  He’ll hear you because Jesus is interceding on your behalf.

Who says you can’t do anything for a dollar?  You can learn to pray.  I bought a book at the dollar store called The Everyday Guide to Prayer.  It has a hundred prayers simply written so you can read them to the Father.  Or you may recite the Lord’s Prayer and add to it the line, “Father, remember my brother James today that he might see the light of Jesus.”  Yahweh never gets tired of hearing the Lord’s Prayer even though we do.

Jesus also intercedes for us against the devil.  The veil that blinds our brother is his invention.  Intercession against the devil is something we should continually be engaged in on the behalf of our blind brother.  This is called “warfare” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  An AK47 has little effect on a bodiless demon.  However, our weapons are not material, but spiritual with ample power to destroy the blinding darkness.

We must counterattack before it’s too late.  We must be defensive and pray for our brother to be healed of his blindness, but we must also be on the offense and pray against the devil’s devises. We see Jesus praying against as often as praying for.  He prayed for his brother’s sight and against Satan’s veil of blindness. And if we really care enough about our brother, I mean, if we really care, then we mustn’t be sloth to do the same. After all, this life is not just a bowl of cherries; for the believer, life is war.

 

How to Do Warfare

How can we minister simple spiritual warfare for our brother?  We could read this prayer:

“Father, I claim my brother’s life for your Kingdom.  Tear away the veil of blindness from the eyes of his heart so that Jesus might be revealed to him.  Do whatever it takes to reach him.  I thank you for my brother’s future life in You in advance. Amen.”

Here’s a good companion prayer.  In this one, we pray against the devil’s work.

“Father, I claim the authority as your child to intercede with you on my brother’s behalf.  I command the devil to desist from blinding my brother in the name of Jesus of Nazareth and I demand that the walls of pride, resentment, rebellion and jealousy to be torn down so that he might see the your light and live.  Father, do whatever it takes to reach him.  Amen.”

Though the deception of the devil is strong, a deception is all it is.  These two prayers are like tiny pistols that, if repeatedly discharged in the right direction, will bring the big blinder down.  Simple prayers are a fine place to start learning.  You’ll win if you pray like this frequently.

These are the weapons Jesus uses now to defeat the devil.  He used them for you to bring you the light.  As for brother James – he’s now St. James.  These same means Jesus utilized to free his brother,you have right this instantplus you have far more time and patience than Jesus ever did.  You’re in the Lord’s Army, after all.  Fight for what’s yours!

 

Expect the Unexpected

I know how these prayers have worked for me.  I prayed them for one man almost every day for two years then he saw the light.  When the devil was defeated and Jesus opened his eyes, his conversion was as natural as the rain.  But let me offer one warning.  Yahweh’s answers are unpredictable.  If you pray, expect the unexpected.  Let me tell you about the years Capt. Hook’s mother prayed these prayers.

Capt. Hook is an anointed child evangelist.  Very few know his real name.  He lost his right hand, left leg and an eye in an accident.   He dresses up as a pirate with a wooden leg, a hook for a hand and an eye patch.  I had him in for a youth meeting once and seventy children responded.

Years ago I visited Capt. Hook’s elderly mother in the hospital.  She wouldn’t tell her son’s real name, but she did tell his story.  Capt. Hook was raised in church but he was blind to the light.  In his post-high school days, Hook was wild and cruel.  He became a leader in Hell’s Angels.  He sold narcotics to children and promoted child prostitution.  He spent time in prison and came out worse than he went in.  He was on his way to an early death.

His mother wouldn’t give up on him.  She prayed for him constantly and engaged in spiritual warfare against the devil.  For years, often in tears, but always in faith, she would see him in her spirit as though he were already a new man.  She prayed, “Father, do whatever it takes to reach my son.”  She fought the devil tooth and nail for him.  Had she known what “it would take” to reach him, she might have given up.

For when Capt. Hook was thirty, he had a young runaway girl on the back of his motorcycle when he decided to race a locomotive through an intersection.  He lost.  The girl was killed instantly.  Hook lived, but lost his leg, hand and eye and was in a coma for some time.  In the coma, Hook saw his mother’s prayers and tears over and over.  Torn away now from the demonic strongholds of his rebellious life, Hook also saw the light of Jesus, who healed him of his blindness, just as he had for James.  When Hook came to, he was the new man mother had envisioned.  A miracle had taken place.  As Hook’s long, long recovery progressed, he worked out how he might pay back the Kingdom for all those young people he’d exploited and the one he’d killed.

This incident was a hard answer to prayer, all right.  But it may have been the only answer possible, given Hook’s sin and blindness.  He later recalled the scripture, in which Jesus says:

Matthew 5:29-30.  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It’s better to lose a member than have your whole body go into Gehenna.

By this time, Hook didn’t consider his sacrifice so unreasonable in return for what he received.

Friend, we’ve been given the authority to win the war for our brother, just as Jesus won James, through divine intervention, revelation and the work of prayer. Yahweh still does miracles!  But we’re called to call forth the miracle that Jesus died to procure. The unbeliever can’t fight the war — he has absolutely no weapons. Don’t ever blame him.  But you have compassion, vision and “all prayer.”  As Jesus lives, you will win brother if you are willing to do “whatever it takes.”

Do Not Forsake The Assembly

 

Hebrews 10 says Christians are to stir one another up to good deeds, “not forsaking our own assembling together” (v. 25). But, what does that mean?  The key term “forsaking” translates the GK word egkataleipontes (pres act ptc nom pl masc), which is from the lexical root egkataleipo. According to Mounce, the term is rightly glossed to read “to leave, to leave behind, to forsake, and abandon.” BDAG says it means “to separate connection with someone or something., forsake, abandon, desert.” Kohlenberger adds “to give up.”

The writer to the Hebrews uses the word only one other time. Hebrews 13:5 says, “God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”The word “leave” does not have the same finality as “forsake.” The idea of “forsaking” carries the notion of total abandonment. Paul uses the term in 2 Tim 4:10 and 4:16 to speak of those who totally abandoned him. “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim 4:10). “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me” (2 Tim 4:16). Therefore, the GK term translated “forsake” in Hebrews 10:25 means that the believer must not abandonthe Christian assembly.

In conclusion, this text does not mean that a person must come to the assembly every time the doors are open. Rather, it means that we must not “abandon” the assembly. But, what does that mean? Is the notion of abandonment purely subjective? If people come regularly for Christmas and Easter every year, have they “abandoned” the assembly? What if they come once a month and never more, but they come consistently every month? How do we know when someone has abandoned the assembly? Is it purely subjective? I submit that unless we have a clear doctrine of the Sabbath, then we have no objective measure by which to decide what “forsake” means. I would argue that to “forsake” the assembly means unrepentantly breaking the Sabbath (which includes exceptions for acts of mercy, piety, and necessity: Matt 12).

1 Timothy 2:15

“But women (she) will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”  1 Timothy 2:15

 

In the whole context of this verse, it’s saying that we (women) were the first sinners and that through the up bringing of our children (not to mention ‘childbearing”!!!) we as women are saved, or ‘restored”.  So, to sum this all up; when we raise our children in the way of the Lord, we are therein restoringourselves to the women God intended us to be.

God’s plan for us, originally, wasn’t to suffer through childbirth, only to be rejected later as a horrible mother (by the worlds’ standards.)  We are to raise our children to honor and to love God and us, and they will be a blessing to our hearts.  Just as we are a blessing to our Fathers’ heart when we worship Him or honor His name.

When we see our child doing what is right, don’t we instantly want to reward them?  It’s the same with our Father in Heaven.  But here is the difference: when the wrong choice has been made, our reaction is usually one of anger and rage (now, be honest here…)  The Lords’ is one of sadness and grief.

Because that one wrong choice that we made (maybe being “too quick to anger”) has hindered our walk with HIm.  And in doing so, has set us back in recieving the reward He wants and longs to give us.

That is the eternal love of our Father; “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”  (Ex. 34:6)

This is the same love and faithfulness that we need to show to our children so that they may see God through us.  And that they will one day too walk with the Lord.