Dear God, please forgive me

For background on today’s post, please see previous posts where JC has shared her story – including “Spiritual Abuse” and “The Cycle of Trust.”

Credit: JC

By JC

Dear God,

Please forgive me. I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not trust You during my storm.

Funny thing is that I know the story about the disciples and You sleeping in the boat, commonly known as “Jesus Calms the Storm”:

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!'”
Matthew 8:23–27

I read your Word everyday so I know this story. And yet, for a long time, I have doubted Your control over the storm I am in. I never said it that way or thought about it that way, but that is what I did. While I never doubted that You love me, I was not hearing from You. Despite my faithful prayers, the many times I cried and begged for an answer, You were silent. I felt like the disciples – scared and crying out, “Lord, where are You?”

I prayed to You, Lord, asking for You to bend me and break me to Your will. I kept handing over the situation to You, reminding myself of Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

But then I would take the situation back from You:

Lord, You are not moving, I do not see anything improving for months and months, despite my prayers and fasting and my broken heart. I do not understand, I know You love me. I have been a Christian for over a decade, so I know what to do when prayer goes unanswered–Fast, ask God if there is unconfessed sin in my life, check if what I am asking is in line with Scriptures, talk to Godly people, and sometimes understand no answer is an answer.

I was trying everything just to survive.

Then, I was listening to K-LOVE at work this week and I heard this: God waits until you truly surrender to Him. Then, He kindly says, “My child, I was just waiting for you to be done.”

That hit me hard. I was trying to do this or that. While I was praying and fasting and removing sins from my life, I had not fully surrendered to You. It was unintentional, I believed I had surrendered. But, what I was saying was “God, please fix this . . . just not that way please.”

I was not fully surrendered to You. I then started praying, “Lord, please do whatever You want. I no longer care. Just please do something.” [I am not recommending this exact prayer, as I had a bad attitude.]

I spent a few days praying this and inviting the Holy Spirit to work on my bad attitude.

Then, You moved.

And You moved in a big way.

I am sorry I did not trust You. I am sorry I kept handing over my burdens and then taking them back. I am sorry I did not fully surrender to You.

Thank you, God. You have taught us so much. May we never forget these lessons:

  • You provide (Philippians 4:19)
  • Trust in You (Proverb 3:5)
  • Be still (Psalm 46:10)
  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
  • Owe no one a thing, except love (Romans 13:8)
  • Love Jesus first
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
  • If it’s His will, He will
  • “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28)
  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20)
  • And nothing can separate us from Your love (Romans 8:38-39)

Amen


Doctor Lois Evans, beloved bride of Texas-based pastor and author Doctor Tony Evans, went Home on December 30. Doctor Evans on January 5 provided a poignant sermon as a tribute to her, embedded below or available directly on YouTube. JC notes, “He talks about being close to God, how you can hear and see Heaven when you stay close to Him. She trusted Him in her death. We must always stay close to Him and trust Him no matter what.”

 Credit: Tony Evans (YouTube)

Too great to understand

Credit: JC

By Snow

In the course of our lives, there are people who touch us, inspire us. People who help us become who we are. Perhaps a teacher…a grandmother…your mom…a best friend…a coach…a co-worker…an uncle…a sister…a pastor…an aunt…a brother…maybe even a niece…a nephew…a son…a daughter. Whoever your special people are, these people who have touched your heart, have you told them how you feel? Have you thanked them?

If they are still alive, seek them out. Call them. Write them. Visit them. Do anything to let them know.

Life being what it is, it may seem it is “too late.” Perhaps they have passed away, for instance. In that case, you can still write them a letter only you will ever see. Still express to them what they meant to you. Still thank them. Or, perhaps, seek out a close member of that person’s family. He or she would probably love to hear what their relative meant to you.

I’ve had a number of people who have been critical in my life so far, who have touched my very soul. I’ve talked about a couple of them on this blog, and there are others. I am blessed, very blessed to have had many loving, caring people in my life.

I realize, however, that not everyone feels that way. Maybe your life so far hasn’t been what you hoped it would be. Maybe you can’t think of even one example of someone you’d like to thank right now.

And that’s okay.

Because I have an example for you. Someone that loves and cares for you unconditionally. And that is Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest love ever, whoever you have loved or has loved you the most, and you are not even close to how much Jesus loves you. His love for you is infinite, as vast as the universe.

He knows everything you ever did (John 4:29) and ever will do. Think about that for a moment. The power of that. Jesus knows everything about you, yet He still loves you. Fully.

You may have broken every single commandment, but He still loves you.

You may have hurt every single person in your life, but He still loves you.

Every single person in your life may have hurt you, but He loves you.

He gave up His life for you, died for your sins and mine. The sins of all humanity, past and future.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

If you already know Jesus, then you know what I’m talking about. Take a moment to thank Him. For everything good in your life. For all of your blessings. Are you praying to Him every day? Are you reading the Bible every day? Are you listening for Him? Don’t just bide your time here on Earth, make the best of it. Spread joy. Spread the light. Spread Jesus.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, then I ask you, I beg you to take a moment to consider this gift He is offering you.

You need only to believe in Him as God’s Son, who died for you and rose three days later, accept Him in your heart as your Savior, and He will forgive your sins and grant you eternal life in the Perfect Place – Heaven.

While this locks you in for a wonderful afterlife, it also gives you an opportunity for a new life right here, right now in this world. Open your heart, and He will use you. Open your heart, and He will show you His plans for you. Open your heart, and you will know the depth of His love.

You will be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will see the world in a whole new light. What was dark before, you will fill with His light. What worried you before, He will battle for you – indeed, He has already won.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Who will you inspire?

Credit: JC

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

An opportunity for great joy

By Snow

As mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be writing daily posts for the next couple of weeks. I usually won’t decide the content in advance – though I do have a few ideas I’ve been tossing around for some time now that may show up.

Today, I want to take a look at an excerpt from one of my favorite books of the Bible, James.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:2-8

I love the outlook on life this passage promotes. We are not promised easy lives, and some seasons will be harder than others. When we hit obstacles, though, James says we should learn from them in order to build our characters.

However, what if you don’t know what to do? The answer is simple: Ask God.

This is one of the reasons it is so important to pray and read the Bible daily. When a crisis comes up in your life, you will already be used to speaking with Him and hearing His Word. If you do not already read and pray daily, I encourage you to do so. Start with a few minutes a day and see where it goes. In our fast-paced world, taking time to speak to Him as well as read scripture is a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress.

Credit: JC

Before I was saved, I very much believed in God. I prayed to Him mostly for “big things.” I remember in high school, for instance, praying over and over in my head, “Please don’t let my mom die” during a surgery she had where there were serious complications and she lost a lot of blood. I did come close to losing her that day, but God indeed saved her, and I was blessed that she lived nearly another 30 years – brightening so much of my life.

One of the things I failed to do before JC led me to Jesus, though, was pray to God daily in order to establish a personal relationship with Him. I sure was missing out. Connecting with Him in this way brings so much joy and peace. I can feel Him in a way I never could before.

In addition, while I had attempted to read the Bible once or twice as a kid, I only made it as far as Leviticus in the Old Testament. I do remember reading some of the New Testament, though – as I found the red ink for the words of Jesus fascinating.

Once I was saved back in June 2018, reading the Bible became part of my daily life, just as much as praying. This quiet time makes all the difference. I have read the full Bible three times since then, with two more read-throughs in progress on various plans. I do not claim to be an expert, far from it. However, I feel it is important that we all read and absorb the Word for ourselves.

Before I was saved, my priorities were all wrong. I loved God, sure, but He was that powerful figure I went to when I needed something. As far as my day-to-day life, I didn’t see how He fit in. I was serving the wrong masters – trying to fill holes in my heart and in my soul with stuff, food, and other destructive habits. I am sure He wanted to help me. In fact, I know He did, but I was too disconnected. Until Jesus.

As we encounter challenges in our lives, we must seek Him out. Find Him in the situation. Take a moment. Take a breath. Listen. He is there. And when we encounter similar circumstances again down the road, we can say, “I’ve seen this before. I’ve got this,” and face the situation with more confidence. Because, after all, Jesus has you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

How will you commit to God in 2020? We have 12 suggestions

Credit: Snow

By JC & Snow

Happy New Year! As the sun rises on the 2020s, this is a perfect time to take stock of your life. Many people will make “resolutions” that will be all but forgotten by this time next week. What is the point of doing that?

Instead, we suggest that you make daily commitments for your soul. Here are some to consider:

  1. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (from Philippians 4:4).
  3. Meditate on Scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8).
  4. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (from Romans 13:8).
  5. Provide God a contrite heart, not sacrifices (Psalm 51:16-17).
  6. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).
  7. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6).
  8. Remember that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
  9. Be holy (Leviticus 20:26).
  10. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (from Matthew 6:33).
  11. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ […] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (from Mark 12:30-31).
  12. Serve widows and orphans (James 1:27).
Credit: JC

“I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
Isaiah 43:16-20

For both of us, 2019 was a year full of change. Except for giving birth, just about every other major life event that can happen to someone occurred to at least one of us in 2019 – much of it chronicled here on this very site. It was a year of blessings and tragedy, and through it all, we had Jesus and each other.

As the above excerpt from Isaiah says, though, “forget all that.” For you, that may mean forgetting 2019. Or it might mean the 2010s. Or even your entire life to this point.

Forget all of it.

Jesus is about to do something new in your life. Focus on what He is about to do. Look for Him. Feel Him.

Watch as He makes a pathway for you through the wilderness. Watch as He brings you water in the dry wasteland.

He is always there with you. He has a plan, and you are in it. He has already begun. See it.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you in 2020 with peace, love, and joy.

For He shall save His people from their sins

By Snow

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
Matthew 1:18-25

It is Christmas morning. I am running late for a family gathering. I just finished wrapping the last of the presents. I haven’t even showered yet. With absolutely nothing planned in advance, what better time to start writing a blog post after nearly three months of silence on my part?

This is my first Christmas morning “alone.” Of course, I am really not alone. I always have Jesus. I always have God. I always have the Holy Spirit. I have even felt my mom, who passed away in May, flit in and out a couple of times today.

While I cannot be with them today, I have also been looked in upon by my beloved and by my friends. In fact, when I was feeling down a few minutes ago, I instantly received a text message from a friend, followed by another from my beloved. Like I said, Jesus is with me and looking after me. I am blessed.

Some of us will spend time today with family and friends. Gifts might be exchanged. The shopping frenzy just ended, and the return frenzy is about to begin.

Let today, though, be a moment of peace. For today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Breathe.

Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends.

And if you find yourself “alone,” remember, that you are not truly alone. Jesus is with you. Feel Him.

Once you have accepted Jesus in your heart, no one can separate you from Him and His love. For that is the ultimate gift, His gift to us.

Jesus came here to our sinful world not to receive gifts, not to take residence in a grand palace and rule from afar, but to serve others. His life and death, indeed, was in service to all of us. His life is a perfect example of the loving humans we are all capable of being, as creatures designed in His image.

While we cannot achieve the perfection of Jesus, we can strive to improve ourselves and how we treat others every day. In this world, we are faced with many temptations. It is easy to take the route of negativity, but what does that accomplish? Look on this world with positive eyes. Find the good in others. Find ways to spread love. Find hope.

No, we are not perfect. Even the best of us is still a sinner. That is why it is critical to understand the importance of the birth and death of Jesus. He came here not only to serve as an example but to sacrifice His life for our own. Through His death, all of our sins are forgiven and eternal life with Him is ours — as long as we believe in Jesus and accept Him in our hearts.

No matter where you fall on the scale of sin, you need Jesus, and He is waiting for you. Even if you have broken every commandment at least once, Jesus will still forgive you and grant you eternal life.

Even if you consider yourself a “good person” who does many good deeds, you still need Jesus to forgive you, for you are still a sinner. You could never do enough good deeds to make up for your sin. Only Jesus can pay that price, and He already has.

If you already know Jesus, then stop for a moment.

Feel Him.

Feel His love.

Thank Him for the many blessings in Your life. Every breath is a blessing.

Breathe.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not reach out to Him today? Pray with me. Use my words or your own. He will know what your heart wants to say.

Jesus,

I open my heart to You, the Son of God. Thank You for dying on the cross for the sins of humanity, including my own. Please forgive me my sins. You were resurrected after death. Please grant me eternal life to be with You always. I need You, Jesus. Please make me a new creation and open my eyes anew. I give my life to You, Jesus. Please fill me with Your love and the Holy Spirit.

In Your blessed name I pray, Jesus.

Amen

Credit: JC

I am thankful to Jesus for making me a new creation. For forgiving me my many sins. For showing me the potential He sees in me. For showing me the depths of a love I never knew possible. For Mom. For my beloved. For my family. For my friends. For His provisions. For every breath. I thank Jesus.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you!

Spiritual abuse

By JC

The term “spiritual abuse” is not something I looked up on the Internet. I do not even know if such a phrase already exists. Here is how I am defining it: When someone you are under the authority of, per the Bible, fails to fulfill their Biblical responsibilities and instead creates an environment of disobedience to God.

I am the first person to say that nobody is perfect. This is not about a failure along the way or an error. This is about a spiritual authority that has a consistent pattern of being disobedient to the word of God, yet claiming they know Jesus. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know a little about my story.

God has recently laid it on my heart to go deeper with you and reveal more. My intent is to help just one person. Perhaps that one person is you. If so, I have been praying for you.

I have been married for 23 years; neither of us were saved when we got married. Eleven years ago, I was saved, and then two years after that, my husband was baptized. There are many responsibilities in the Bible that are given to governments, people in authority, and to husbands and wives. Ever since I was saved, God put on my heart the burden to give up my old life and be on the mission field full time. What an honor to serve Him full time.

My husband did not have the same call on his heart. We talked to the Senior Pastor, who told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” The problem with the pastor’s advice is that he never said to my husband, “Have you prayed about the burden on your wife’s heart? She is adamant this is what she has heard from the Lord.”

My husband does not pray, does not read the Bible, and never speaks the name “Jesus.” But, as a “good,” submissive wife, I thought that the pastor and my husband were right. God is not a God of confusion. For over a decade, then, I buried that burden deep within my heart. I went on mission trips each year. I prayed that God would reveal the same burden to my husband, but He did not or my husband never revealed He did. That burden is with me every day to this very day. But I replay what the pastor said, “God is not a God of confusion.”

Daily, I beg God for my husband to draw closer to Jesus. I beg for God to provide me with a husband who will read the Bible with me or pray with me or provide some example to our three kids of what a Christian husband and father might look like.

Morning after morning and night after night during my prayer time with God, I sob. I cry out to God. I have become an expert at stifling my sobs, as I do not want the kids to hear me. I have also become an expert at “cleaning up” my face should one of the kids enter the area where I am praying. I wipe the tears extremely quickly and slap a smile on my face. I even learned that a certain eye cream helps when I have cried too hard and my eyes get puffy.

I have become an expert at hiding my pain. I have become an expert at burying what I know God put on my heart: Full time missionary work. I tell myself that if God wanted me to be a full time missionary, He would burden my husband. So, maybe the timing is not just right yet. Keep stifling those sobs, keep using that eye cream, keep being submissive.

Credit: JC

In March of this year, my best friend in the world passed away extremely unexpectedly. He was 46-years-old.

I was crushed.

I could not breathe.

The police were waiting for me to arrive. And there my best friend was, gone, laying on the floor, gone at age 46. I had to make decisions about cremation, funeral services, his finances, etc. I am his executor. I agreed to do this, yes, but not now. I thought when we were 90, maybe.

You left me. I felt alone and so hurt. Jesus quickly swooped in and reminded me that you were a child of God. You are now with Him and completely healed. Jesus reminded me that I will see you again. I still cling to that knowledge to help me get through the pain day-by-day. Praise Jesus for His promises.

The death of my best friend awoke in me a journey that I needed to go on. As I planned his funeral and cleaned out his home, I kept feeling him with me spiritually. I believe that when someone has crossed over, they are still with you, just in a different way. As the months passed, I felt my best friend sharing with me that he had no idea how much I cried and hid my tears and buried what I was created to be and denied what I heard from God.

I began to research about Christian divorce and talked to a few close, Christian friends. I heard it over and over: “God hates divorce.”

I continued to cry out to God and continued to stifle my sobbing and hide my tears and deny who I was in Him.

A few months ago, God showed me examples in the Bible of people under ungodly authorities. In Exodus 1:15-16, Pharaoh tells the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys. Verse 17 notes, “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders.” In verses 20 and 21, it says, “So God was good to the midwives […]. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the midwives for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar requires all people to bow down and give worship to a statue. Three Jewish men refuse to obey the king. In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar says, “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue.” In verse 18, the men reply, “We want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” The king throws the men into a blazing furnace and God saves them. Then in verse 28, “They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” The three men were then promoted to even higher positions than before. It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the three men for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.

I am currently in a Bible study by a popular American preacher. He says that when the wife fulfills Biblical responsibilities that belong to the husband, everything gets turned upside-down and the family unit is exposed to the enemy. I believe that, but what does a wife do? Stand by and allow her kids not to be led at all because it is the husband’s role?

Years ago, I made a conscious decision to lead my children and, yes, I assumed Biblical responsibilities that my Christian husband refused to do. I never stopped praying for my husband to be the spiritual leader that God created him to be and for me to be the wife that he needed to fulfill that role. No progress. More sobbing. More hiding the pain.

I have been fasting and praying for years about how to reconcile the command to be submissive to my husband versus the call that I know God has placed on my life as well as me leading the children versus my husband. I am choosing to divorce my husband. There are many reasons why I made this choice: verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, and, most of all, spiritual abuse.

I am not saying this path is for everyone. You must pray and listen to God. I have peace with the path I am now on. I have bathed it in prayer and asked for forgiveness from my husband and from God. I will continue to cry out daily for my husband, even when he is no longer my husband. The most important thing in this world is Jesus. Luke 12:31 says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”

All I need is Jesus. I want to give Him my life, my every breath. I have denied for a decade what He created me to do. I will be judged by other believers for the path I am taking. But this is not about them. This is about many years of daily conversations with God and me obeying the commands He has placed on the lives of every believer.

As I was praying about my marriage, my husband, and the path I am going down, I felt led to read Genesis. Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, when Jacob just wanted to marry Rachel. In Genesis 31:1-16, conflict arises between Jacob and Laban. In verse 3, it says, “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there and I will be with you.'”

There will be occasions in our lives that God will use conflict to get us on a new path and, more importantly, He will use conflict to sever relationships that are not guiding us to God. If there is a relationship in your life that is causing you to move away from God, pray about severing it. Our command is to obey God, above all other authorities we are under: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

What I realized is that in choosing to submit to my husband, I was allowing myself and my kids to be led away from God. When I began to move toward God, conflicts arose. I realized that the marriage I am in is a mockery of God. There is nothing Biblical about this marriage other than two people in it who claim to know Jesus as Lord. I choose to no longer submit to a husband who refuses to pray, read the Bible, or speak the name above all names, Jesus.

Yes, I will be judged by people for filing for a divorce. But I have peace in knowing that I am not confused, and I will no longer be spiritually abused or abused in any other way.

I am a child of God, and He loves me.

A 40 day fast to deepen your relationship with God

By JC

I recently completed a 40 day fast for my marriage during which I performed at least one daily act to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. While Fireproof was an initial jumping off point, I created my own version to better fit my situation. I learned as I did mine and landed with the below.

Goal: Deepen your relationship with God.
Notes: I recommend that you combine this with a daily food fast. When you crave the food(s) you have given up, it will remind you throughout the day of the fast. Due to its origins, the text of this fast assumes you are married. However, you could potentially replace “spouse” with any key person in your life. As I mentioned last time, this fast is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone.
Prayer when craving the missing food(s) and during your daily quiet time: “Let today be the day I come to know You deeper than ever before.”

Day 1: Commit to reading the Bible daily for at least 15 minutes, if you do not already do so. Commit to praying daily for at least 10 minutes, if you do not already do so.

Day 2: Find a “Nathan” for this fast to hold you accountable. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, and tell you like it is.

Day 3: Ask how you can pray for your spouse. If he or she won’t/can’t answer, pray Deuteronomy 6:5 over them: “I pray [spouse’s name] will love the LORD our God with all [his/her] heart, all [his/her] soul, and all [his/her] strength.”

Day 4: At least during the fast, commit to live out Ephesians 4:26-31:

“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

Day 5: Commit to live out Galatians 5:22-26:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Day 6: Commit to communicating to your spouse either a verse or a prayer every day during the fast.

Day 7: Forgive your spouse. Write a letter to give them or burn.

Day 8: Ask your spouse how the situation or circumstance he or she asked you to pray about is going. If a specific request was not provided, communicate to them, “I am praying for you daily.”

Day 9: Do something unexpected that your spouse will see as a kind gesture.

Day 10: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 11: Write our three positive things about your spouse. Leave it for him or her to find.

Day 12: Think of something you do that you know annoys your spouse. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t do this thing for the rest of the fast.

Day 13: Think of a conflict you and your spouse have that you can pray about and find a compromise. Try to put your spouse first.

Day 14: Be present with your spouse. No need to say or do anything. Just be present.

Day 15: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite dinner.

Day 16: Find a way to show respect to your spouse today.

Day 17: Pray to God to examine your heart and show you anything that offends Him.

Day 18: Pray for God to allow you to see your spouse through His eyes.

Day 19: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 20: Remove any temptation that may be in your life – a person, a thing; get help for an addiction, etc.

Credit: JC

Day 21: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 22: See if your spouse will share with you anything for which you need to ask forgiveness. If so, ask forgiveness. If you don’t feel sorry, pray about it. Don’t just emptily apologize.

Day 23: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 24: Leave your spouse an encouraging card with Scriptures.

Day 25: Find out your spouse’s love language. If you already know, fill him or her up.

Day 26: Pray with your spouse. If you can’t, tell him or her that you are praying for them.

Day 27: Recommend a Bible study to your spouse to read alone or together.

Day 28: Thank your spouse for a specific thing he or she recently did.

Day 29: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 30: Leave your spouse a handwritten letter of encouragement with verses.

Day 31: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 32: Write what made you fall in love with your spouse. Give it to him or her, if you so choose.

Day 33: Create a “break” for your spouse. Do a chore, errand, or something else he or she would normally do.

Day 34: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite meal.

Day 35: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 36: Spend time with God. Ask Him to examine your heart. Listen.

Day 37: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 38: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 39: Determine what, if anything, you want to share with your spouse about the fast. Any letters written during it? Any insights?

Day 40: Write vows of commitment to God. What areas in your relationship with God need to be renewed? Strengthened?

In a future installment, I will share my renewed commitment to God from Day 40. Thank you for reading. I pray that if you choose to fast, you will find what you seek.

40 days in the desert

By JC

Today is the last day of the 40 day fast for my marriage. I completed at least one daily act of kindness for the past 40 days to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. Prior to this fast, I was frustrated with my spouse’s behaviors and saw him differently than I do now. Doing the acts of kindness had an opposite effect than I would have expected. My spouse ignored or rejected all of my acts of kindness and instead increased his negativity.

I have been praying hedges of protection with the blood of Jesus at least once a day around the kids and the house to protect us from the increased negativity. There is so much power in the name of Jesus!!

Before I go any further with this post, I feel burdened to say that the 40 day fast approach is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. Please get help. I learned over these 40 days that it takes 7 times for someone who is being abused to finally leave. More sobering than that, not everyone survives to their 7th attempt. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone. He sees you as His temple:

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

There are many other verses, but just know that you are loved by God Almighty, there is hope, and you ARE strong enough in Jesus to leave. I now know that.

I received so many insights during this 40 day fast. I mentioned one example of a fast in my last post, that one is for two married people who are both believers and one spouse does not hate the other. That is not my situation, as my husband has not spoken to me in many months and refuses to be in the same room with me, even though we currently live together. So, I modified the fast I used to better fit my situation, but still included Christ-like daily tasks. I will post the revised fast I created soon.

I recommend that if you create your own fast, daily pray and obey two sets of Scriptures. The first is:

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:29-32

The second set of verses is:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
from Galatians 5:22-23

Pray that you will show the fruit of the Spirit daily to your spouse and to others as well.

Armed with daily prayers and an open heart, the insights began to flow over the 40 days:

  • Working to be more like Jesus ALWAYS hurts because as sinners, we are so far from Him.
  • Everyone needs a “Nathan” and should be a “Nathan” for someone. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, tell you like it is, and hold you accountable.
  • If your spouse is saved and does not pray with you, read with you, worship with you, or help you feel Jesus, get on your knees and pray about it. It is a problem. Galatians 5:7-8 states, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” These verses spoke volumes to me in my situation.
  • God never commanded us to obey someone in authority when they are leading us to rebel against God. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but I will note only one. From Daniel 6:6-10, “So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said [. . .] give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. [. . .] But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” We are never to rebel against God because someone in authority over us leads us that way. Never.
  • I had to realize the need for God to change my heart. Regardless of how my spouse acted. I needed to respond in a Christ-like manner and show my kids a healthy example of Jesus in marriage in my home. I needed to examine my own heart.
  • I must see my spouse as a child of God; Jesus died for my spouse. No matter how I feel about him or how he treats me, God loves my spouse. I prayed that God would help me to see my spouse as God sees him. Instead of frustration with my spouse, I began to feel deep pity. I then cried many mornings praying for my spouse as I saw how he is missing out on the incredible relationship that believers should have with Jesus. To be clear, my spouse says he is saved and has been baptized, but refuses to pray with me or the kids, I have never seen him read the Bible or heard him quote Scripture or say the name “Jesus.” It is not my place to judge his relationship with Jesus, all I know is I now pitied this person that used to frustrate me. I began to beg God daily that my spouse would come to know Jesus deeper that day then he ever had before. I will continue to pray this.
  • I asked my spouse, “How can I pray for you?” Note that I prayed for him daily already, but this was an opportunity for him to share with me, if he chose to, what his prayer needs were.
  • Share with your spouse that you pray for them daily. It is irrelevant if they care or acknowledge this. You never need anyone’s permission to pray for them.
  • Anytime you try to move your family to obedience, Satan will fight you hard. He wants the family out of alignment with God’s Word because the family is the foundation to everything.
  • I needed to find things for which to appreciate my spouse, such as, “Thank you for cutting the grass.”
  • I needed to acknowledge Christian things my spouse does, such as, “I am grateful that you were baptized.”
  • I wrote a letter to my spouse asking for forgiveness. As he has not spoken to me in many months, I still wanted to do this task, as I am sure I have hurt him over the years of our marriage. I did not want to write some generic letter, so I prayed about what to write that would be authentic and possibly heal my spouse. During my quiet time one morning, God showed me that I failed at Ephesians 5:22-24, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” As a wife, I did not always obey these verses. So, I apologized to my husband for not consistently obeying Ephesians 5.
Credit: JC
  • As the hate and hurt flowed from my spouse, Pastor’s wife shared with me that it is the anguish in my spouse’s soul manifesting, which reinforced the pity I now feel.
  • I wrote vows to God on the last day of the fast. Pastor told me this fast was going to be more about me and less about my marriage. I admit I did not understand that in the beginning, but he was right.

If your spouse is not saved, I highly recommend Stormie Omartian‘s The Power of a Praying Wife Book of Prayers or The Power of a Praying Husband. I prayed through this book nine years ago, and my spouse made a profession of faith and was baptized as I completed the book. Also, please refer to 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.” I was in that boat for two years where I was the believer and my spouse was not. Again, I am not at all saying to stay with someone who abuses you. Please get help.

As for Snow, his unbelieving wife is divorcing him. This situation is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “If the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.”

As the 40 day fast concludes, I now see my spouse as someone to be pitied, and I cry out for him daily instead of the “mindless” prayers I used to pray for him. I now know that with Christ’s strength, I can respond to hate with love. I now trust God even more, for I was reminded that God has me and my kids; He always has. I now pray “Thy will be done” and mean it.

I thank God for this fast and pray that if you choose to enter a fast, you will receive the insights you seek.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
James 1:5

Sunlight and rain

Credit: JC

By Snow

“When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
from Luke 23:33-34

The above is a powerful statement. Jesus has been beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross, and tortured in various other ways as well. However, He asks God to forgive His tormentors. While He is suffering, dying for all of our sins, Jesus thinks not of Himself but of those who are killing Him. He thinks not of vengeance but of mercy.

This sets Jesus apart from any other would-be deities – at least the ones that I’ve ever heard about, anyway. Looking at Greek mythology, for example, would Apollo have asked his father, Zeus, to forgive humans who were torturing him? No. The lightning bolts simply would have started raining down. End of problem.

Not Jesus. He asks His Father to forgive His tormentors. Stop and think about that action. The beauty of it. It is the inverse Kingdom come to life. What an incredible example Jesus sets. He lives up to His own words, for during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated:

“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
from Matthew 5:44-45

Do you want to break the chains ensnaring you with your enemies? Love them. Though it is difficult to achieve, if you love your enemies, they no longer have any control over you. They want you to react, to stray from your values, from your God. Instead, you love them, and in so doing, you rise above and declaw them.

Paul explains in a much more eloquent fashion than I can:

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. […] Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Romans 12:14,17-21

It is only natural to want revenge in certain situations, but you are misplacing your energy. Do you really think any revenge you come up with is going to be superior to what God can deliver in His righteous anger? “I will take revenge,” He says. Let Him handle it. Trust Him.

I try not to label people as “enemies” in my life, for even that gives them energy, but there are certainly some individuals that come to mind who have, from my perspective, either hurt or attempted to hurt me or loved ones over the years. Inspired by the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, I have started praying for them. No matter what they did or attempted to do, none of them have committed atrocities like the tormentors of Jesus, so surely I can be as forgiving as He was?

Easier said than done, though, and I struggle each time. My Bible Study Partner suggests one approach is to pray to see them as God does. How can we see them through the eyes of God, rather than our human eyes? Doing so can lead to a new perspective and a different heart when dealing with them. You may find pity or sadness for them, rather than responsive hurt or anger.

Even if I am able to accomplish the above, I must admit, however, that I doubt I could have the presence of mind to be as gracious while in the midst of undergoing torture like Jesus did. “Jesus is perfect, so of course He responds perfectly” I think to myself, looking to excuse what I suspect my own failings would be in such a situation.

Then, another Biblical example flashes to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit). In the early days of the church, in the aftermath of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Stephen is persecuted for being a follower of Jesus. While in the process of being stoned to death and becoming the first Christian to die for his faith, Stephen – as imperfectly human as you or I – follows the example of Christ:

“He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.”
Acts of the Apostles 7:60

Jesus and Stephen have set a high standard for us. As with many of the ideals of the Bible, loving your “enemy” is best achieved by starting small and working at it each day. Think of someone who “torments” you in some way. Begin praying for that individual today. Feel how it changes your perspective of him or her. Feel how it changes you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Never truly apart

By JC

During a fast where one of the prayers was to hit me with a 4×4 of what to do in my marriage, I felt led by God to meet with two friends – a pastor and his wife. In previous posts, I have talked a little about my marriage and the struggles that exist in the church family and assumptions and so on. There was a lot going on in my mind, how do I know what is from God? I do know that “God hates divorce,” for I have heard that over and over.

My friends both had been married before; they each had different experiences. They were brutally honest with me, which I needed. I came in with a list of reasons why I needed a divorce – self-justification of why Malachi 2 did not apply. They said, of course God will forgive you if you choose to divorce your spouse. That is not the right attitude, though. Out of love, they called me out, and asked, did I want their permission to divorce, or did I want a path that would deepen my relationship with God as I proceeded?

Of course, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God! I had mentioned Snow to them, and they asked whether I was having an affair with him, and I said absolutely not. Which is the truth. I shared that we pray together and read together daily, that we fast together. That we have been on this journey together since June of 2018. They then said that I was having an emotional affair with Snow. I had not seen it that way, but there was a 4×4 I needed.

It is true that Snow did many things my spouse refused to do, such as speak to me, pray with me, read with me, serve with me, and fast with me.

In order to be fully emptied out and healed, they said I needed to fast for 40 days from Snow AND show Christ’s kindness to my spouse during those 40 days. Based on Fireproof, there are little tasks, like do an unexpected act of kindness. Things I was already doing for my spouse prior to the fast included, praying for him everyday, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I did not speak hurt or hate into his life, and I worked hard to never say a bad word about him to our kids. Those things continue.

This fast approach is to achieve two things:

  1. Eliminate the enemy using Snow as a temptation.
  2. Allow me to treat my spouse in a way that honors God.

Pastor and his wife had not left their previous marriages in healthy ways, and it caused them damage as individuals and brought baggage into their marriage to one another. They made it clear this fast was about ME and being emptied and healed and focusing on God and being fully dependent on God. I would come out stronger and closer to God.

I know that God used them to speak to me because I had been hearing whispers from God that I needed to fast from Snow (for both of us, not just me), but I would not listen because I did not want to do it. When it was mentioned by Pastor, I knew this was God, and I also knew that I would not be able to move forward without doing this. So, very unwillingly, I agreed to the 40-day covenant with God – broken only if my spouse left or a death occurred. Pastor then said not to tell my spouse or kids what I was doing.

I went to Snow’s place that very night and shared that I needed to fast from him for the next 40 days. That was harder than I thought, which only reinforced that I needed to do it. Fasts are supposed to be a sacrifice, that you give up a thing that is being placed above God or that is going to hurt to give up. Fasts are not supposed to be easy. They are supposed to have a cost assigned to them.

“David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. […] David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.'”
2 Samuel 12:16,22

I was still on the food fast about my marriage, so I maintained that fast and kicked off this new one. As mentioned, it is combined with being Christ-like, regardless of how my spouse acts. The goal is to demonstrate to the kids a healthier example and leave the marriage knowing I treated my spouse in a Christ-like manner. I was not always doing this before, for when spouse got on my nerves, I would tell Snow things he did – a “no-no.” I had not seen it that way, as Snow is also my best friend – but they were right, I was having an emotional affair. I would add that I was also having a spiritual affair. As they said, the fast is more about me than it is about my spouse.

Driving away that night from Snow’s place, I was struggling to breathe, let alone drive – I felt like I was hyperventilating. I felt sick to my stomach – how will I survive without praying with him, reading with him, being challenged by him as we read the Scriptures?

Credit: JC

I have since learned that I do, in fact, feel Jesus through Snow. He is one way that I feel Jesus. I also feel Jesus on my own, of course, because I do have a personal relationship with Jesus, but I definitely grow in Jesus when we are studying or praying together. I learned just how much I love Snow and how spiritually entangled I am with him. So, yes, I definitely needed to fast from him.

I will not be leaving my marriage for a man, but instead leaving a marriage where I acted as Christ-like as I could and, yet, was ignored or rejected. Pastor said this was irreconcilable differences.

The first few days of this fast, God answered prayers left and right, and I started to trust Him more and more. He started to show visions in dreams and such of a future assignment. All the while, I was doing acts of kindness and my spouse was rejecting them at worst or ignoring them at best. This was exactly what I expected, but, again, this is about me and providing a Christ-like example to my kids and leaving this marriage knowing I acted as Christ-like as possible to my spouse.

We are now on the 14th day of the fast. Back on the 5th day, God wrote the following through me. I shot up out of bed and immediately started to write this poem. I don’t do poetry. It was flowing so fast, I could barely keep up, and the lines were being given to me out of order, so I was guessing where they would go. It just flowed, and I tried to keep up.

Praise You in this Fast

I will praise You in this fast.
I belong first in Your arms,
Healing me and sealing me from my past.
Blowing away life’s fiery storms,
I am being purified,
And I am being prepared.
I will testify!

Yes, this pain is more than I can bear,
In You, my salvation does lie.
Wash me clean,
Bend me, break me,
I must walk by faith, not by what I have seen.
You are my God!
I will raise my hands in praise!

Rip down any facade.
No matter how high the waves, You carry me and lift me above,
While this tears at my heart, I have never felt so close to Your love,
And now we know we are never truly apart.
I have learned incredible trust,
Work and purify and refine,
I did not want to do this, but now I see I must,
You are a jealous God and said “I want you both to be all Mine.”

With many tears, I obey,
Like clay, reshape my life.
Each day, You are showing me the Way.
At the end, I will be his wife.
I have learned I needed to forgive,
I needed to cleanse,
Being freed, I can truly live.
I needed to see through Your lens.

I have been ripped in two, my very soul,
This mourning has torn my heart,
Only You can fill this hole.
Now we will never be apart,
You have taught me to trust.
Love the Lord God with all your strength and mind,
Body, soul, spirit and might,
You are all I need to find,
You fill me with the strength to fight.
You fill me with confidence I will see him again,
It will be at the end of an aisle,
Though I don’t know exactly when.
At each thought of You and him, I smile,
I surrender all to You,
That is what this fast is about,
So the one can become two,
Removing each and every doubt.
I am Yours forever,
We will walk side by side always,
We belong together, wherever and however,
Never to be separated, not even by the end of days.

Our souls are intertwined with each other,
We are so buried in You,
We will never worship another,
This love is being purified and made true.
While we bend and break in Your hands,
Our love and bond in You grows,
May You always shield our marriage from life’s demands,
Running into Your arms is all we need to know.

Thank you, thank you for this fast!
While we lay shattered,
New clay molds are being cast.
Our bodies and souls will not remain battered,
You saw us in the womb,
Wove us together in history,
Freed by Jesus the second He left the tomb.
Drop these chains, release the hurt, you are now part of His story,
Who could ever fathom such love,
May we never forget the lessons of this fast,
Through life’s storms, we will keep our eyes on You above,
Our growth and trust, may it ever last,
Forged in pain and tears,
We will praise You in this fast,
As You gently wash away our fears.