Do You Not See It?

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As my husband mentioned in his guest blog post, there are times when we can be spiritually nearsighted and not clearly see God working in our lives. But, nonetheless, He IS doing something. God IS working on our behalf—whether we see it or not.

In the Bible, we also read about this concept of having eyes but not being able to really see.  Jesus told his disciples he often spoke in parables because the people “Though seeing, they [could] not see…” (Matthew 13:13, NIV).  Also, after feeding the multitudes Jesus overheard his disciples speaking about bread—they had just witnessed an incredible miracle and they were stuck on bread—and Jesus responded by saying, “Do you still not SEE or understand?  Do you have eyes but fail to SEE, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:17-18).

In an earlier blog post I made this year, When Life Has You Feeling Punch Drunk, I mentioned how God had really impressed on my heart a verse to hold on to for this year – Isaiah 43:19.  And, as the months have passed, God has continually placed this verse before me.  I have seen it everywhere!  On social media, in devotionals, and in books I’ve read, etc.

One specific translation of the verse has stood out to me most.  In the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation the verse reads (emphasis mine): “LOOK, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming.  Do you not SEE it?  Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

“Do you not SEE it?”

When I read this translation, those words struck me—“Do you not SEE it?”  I contemplated and wrestled with this question.

I asked the Lord, What are you trying to say, God?

The pride in me arose.  My response revealed the state of my heart. 

I can SEE very clearly.  

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know my husband and I have been searching for a place to live for over a year now, and we have only encountered one closed door after another.

So my attitude and reply to this question was: God, I can SEE that no door has opened for us.  I can SEE the dead-end sign following every attempt. 

We sought to purchase a co-op, and we did our due diligence by connecting with realtors, researching neighborhoods and school districts, and attending open houses.

God, I can SEE we are doing everything we are supposed to, and, yet, nothing.

According to our thought-process, a co-op fitted us best considering buying a home in New York nowadays seems financially out of reach.  My husband and I reasoned we were not ready to get into a home purchase.

God, I can SEE a home involves too much money, too much responsibility, too much maintenance, etc.  Would we love a home?  Absolutely!  But, I just don’t SEE how that could happen for us at this time.  

The real estate market numbers proved my point.  Our personal budget numbers proved my point even further.

Do YOU see God? 

The audacity of me to question if God can see.  If I were in God’s place, I would have wiped me out.  But, thank God He’s God and I’m not!

In His mercy, He allowed us to continue viewing co-ops.  And, in His grace and unfailing love, He protected us from getting into bad investments.

This past February, we saw a co-op in the neighborhood we wanted to settle in and we thought, This is it!

Thrilled at the idea of our search being over, we placed a bid on the apartment. The sellers accepted our bid, and we moved forward to begin the closing process.  We signed contracts with our lawyer, and then waited for the sellers to sign so we could go on to the next steps.

We thought it strange after a week passed and no response from the sellers came in. So, we called our lawyer to follow-up.  Our lawyer informed us the sellers had gone into contract with another buyer…Say WHAT?! 

God, what are you doing?!  What is going on? 

And, God continued to say, “Do You Not SEE It?” 

Though seeing, I was not really seeing.  Though having eyes, I could not see.

So, my husband and I began our search again.  We went back to viewing co-ops.  This time we broadened our scope, and thought maybe we should search in another neighborhood.  We dragged our poor boys out with us and viewed several more apartments.  Nothing.

Then, about two months later, on a Sunday while worshipping in a church service, someone slipped my husband a little handwritten note, which said, “You have been unsuccessful in locating an apartment because you were aiming too low.  You will not find one because the Lord has a house for you and your family…”

My husband was shocked and in awe.  He sent me a text with excitement letting me know about the note and asked what were my thoughts.

I got excited too.  I thought, Wow, God wants to bless us with a home!  That’s amazing.  But, that must be for the future—like five years from now.  Our budget doesn’t exactly match up right now. 

(Someone should have slapped me, I know…).  

So despite the note, we continued looking at co-ops.  We placed bids on 3 different apartments.

We placed the first bid and it fell through.

We placed another bid on a second apartment, and that fell through.

Then, we placed another bid on a third apartment (the only one left on the market in the co-op community we liked) and that fell through as well.

Do You Not SEE it? 

God in His mercy closed every door.  Now, I was starting to see it.  God was protecting us from going a way He did not want us to go.  Why?  Because He had something better planned.

So, we decided to view some homes.  Even though we didn’t SEE how God was going to work everything out, we knew He wanted us to go this way.  And, finally, I submitted.

I said, Lord, this is scary because I don’t know how everything is going to pan out, but I’m going to step out.  I’m going to do it afraid.  

The day we were scheduled to view homes with our realtor, I prayed before leaving the house – Lord, please don’t let today be in waste.  Please open a door.  

We saw three homes, and one in particular we really loved.  We didn’t know how the Lord was going to work it out for us, so we said, Lord we need a word from you—like tomorrow! 

It was a Saturday and so the following day was Sunday, the day we worship in the Lord’s house.  We said, we need to hear from you Lord tomorrow!

Sunday came and we went to church as usual.  Our kids and I came home early, and my husband stood at church for the rest of the services.  As I put the kids to nap in the afternoon, I said, Lord we still need to hear from you.

Once the kids fell asleep, I received a text with an audio recording of a prophetic message.  I was floored at how God decided to send His Word.  The message basically stated that the Lord was going to provide; He knew the cost of real estate; and He was going to provide for the remodeling as well.

Do you not SEE it? 

Yes, Lord, now I see it.  

I cried at the thought that God would desire to bless us despite my lack of faith and sight.  How merciful is He?  How faithful is He?  Even when we are unfaithful…It’s amazing.  He left me speechless.

We went forward and placed a bid on the home we loved, and it was accepted!

We are only beginning the process of paperwork, inspections, and then onto closing, but we are praying and believing that God is going to do as He said!

And, even if the deal falls through, for whatever reason, we know it’s because God has something better.  His thoughts are much higher than ours.  I have learned that the hard way!  Not because God made it hard, but because I made it hard!  A lot of tears, a lot of visits to co-ops and open houses, time we will never get back.  But, we thank God He closed those doors and kept us.

I want to encourage you – if you are face to face with a closed door know it is because God has another open door much better for you!  He is working all things out!

Put on “spectacles of faith” to see what God is doing!  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not SEE” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).  Let faith stir up in your heart today and be sure of what you hope for!  Be certain of what you do not YET see!!!

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will SEE the deliverance the Lord will bring you today” (Exodus 14:13).

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Spiritual Nearsightedness

I have a special guest post on the blog today.  I asked my husband, Ariel, to share with us a message he recently shared with me.  We pray it encourages you!


I used to get lost all the time.

While driving on the highway, my wife would ask me, “Wasn’t that our exit?”

My reply would usually be, “No, we’re taking a short cut.” Or, “Yes, but, I just wanted to spend some extra alone time with you.”  🙂

But, we both knew I was lost.

The problem was…confession time…I needed glasses.

I was nearsighted.

I could easily read a book, or type on my laptop, but the signs on the highway were a blur to me.

When I’d realize it was my exit, it was usually too late to get off.

Did I have glasses? Of course!  But…I’m vain.  So, without my glasses I would get lost.

Being nearsighted is a physical condition, but it can also be a spiritual condition.

I call it Spiritual Nearsightedness—when I see God, but His Will appears blurry.  I’m traveling along with God in this thing called life, but His purposes are not clear.  During those times, it’s difficult for me to perceive His plan.

At times, my lack of clarity usually leads me to make assumptions.  And, unfortunately, assumptions are dangerous because, when we make them, they are usually wrong. Most often, assumptions tend to lead us, lead our thoughts, and lead our emotions in the wrong direction.

It’s interesting how we never assume something positive.  Our assumptions are mostly always negative.

When we find ourselves in difficult situations in our finances, with our kids, in our marriage, on the job, with our health, it’s hard to see clearly. It’s difficult to perceive what God is doing when faced with hard circumstances.

So we make assumptions about God.

We say to ourselves:

He must not love me.

He must not hear my prayers.

How could God allow this?

We’re left traveling down a road of discouragement, or, worse, bitterness.

The problem though isn’t God.  The problem is that we have Spiritual Nearsightedness.

We believe in God. We love God. But, we don’t see Him in our situations. We can’t perceive His will or His plan for us. We’re not really clear on where we are heading; we’re not clear as to where our destination is.

We need help to see clearly.

A particular story in the Bible has helped me during my moments of Spiritual Nearsightedness.

In the book of Luke, chapter 8, we read of a synagogue leader, Jairus, who came and fell at the feet of Jesus begging that he come to his home (Luke 8:41).

Jairus was in a desperate situation. His daughter, who was twelve years old, was dying. I’m sure he was gripped with worry and fear at the thought of losing his daughter. But, despite what he may have felt or thought, Jairus seeks Jesus.

So Jesus decides to go to Jairus’ house.

En route to Jairus’ home, Jesus stops after realizing that someone had touched him, and that power had gone out from him. A woman with an issue of bleeding for twelve years had touched Jesus’ garments in the hopes of being healed. Jesus stops to address the woman and assures her that she had been healed.

While Jesus is still speaking to this woman, the Bible states that, “…someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore’” (Luke 8:49).

Can you imagine the thoughts rushing through Jairus’ mind?

If only Jesus would have just hurried up. Why did He delay in going to my house? What am I going to do without my little girl? Now my daughter is dead.

Why bother the master?  Why continue praying?

In our lives, we are often met by what seems like dead situations as well. Or, we assume they are dead.

Why should I continue believing for my marriage?

Why should I think God is going to rescue my wayward son or daughter?

God isn’t going to bless me. Why should I continue asking God for a child?

The situation appears dead.

May I challenge you today? With our Spiritual Nearsightedness it may be difficult to perceive what God is doing.  The situation may seem to be dead by all natural appearances, but we all know that God is in the business of resurrecting the dead.  And, if He is able to do that, why should we stop petitioning the master?

Jesus did in fact make it to Jairus’ home. Upon his arrival, he finds everyone in the house wailing and mourning for Jairus’ daughter.

Rather than join them, the Bible says that Jesus instructs them, “ ‘Stop wailing…She is not dead but asleep’” (Luke 8:52).

To their amazement, Jesus tells them that the girl was only sleeping!!

At times, we perceive our situations in the same way. We wail and mourn over things that we declare as “dead,” while they are only asleep.

Those things that seem void of any life at the moment–our marriages, our finances, our children, our dreams—they are not dead yet. Please know that the potential for life is still there, even for those areas where hope seems lost.

The Bible goes on to state that the people, “…laughed at him, knowing that she was dead” (Luke 8:53).

They all laughed at Jesus.

They probably thought Jesus was crazy.

What is He saying? What is He doing?

They filtered Jesus’ words through the state of their circumstance.

They had vision problems. They could not see clearly or understand what God was doing.

We at times have the same vision issues. We are Spiritually Nearsighted.

However, our vision condition isn’t a flaw in our eyes. No, it’s a flaw in our faith.

So what’s the cure?

We need spectacles of faith.  We need a covering of faith over our spiritual eyes that enhance our ability to see.

The only way we can receive today what God says about our tomorrows is by faith.

It is by faith that we are able to accept the word that our situation is not dead, but simply asleep.

It is by faith we can trust His plans over our fears and concerns.

It is by faith we can trust His sovereignty over our own thoughts.

It is by faith we can trust His word beyond what we see.

When my wife and I experienced a miscarriage, it was a difficult time. It was a time where things got real blurry. We could not perceive what God was doing.

Why would God rob us of this joy?

We could not understand.

Now, five years and two sons later, we see that God had a plan all along.

If we would just look at our circumstances with eyes of faith, we would be able to perceive that God IS doing something on our behalf.

My prayer has become –God, cure my Spiritual Nearsightedness by giving me lenses of faith so that I can see what you see!


About the Author: Ariel Nieves is the founder of Thrive Coaching, which helps Pastors and Church Leaders with connection strategies and discipleship. Click here to discover 10 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles.

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Posted in Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Hope, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Choosing Hope Over Bitterness

Today I’m trying something new on the blog.  Below is a video blog, or “vlog” that I recorded earlier today.  I pray it encourages you to choose hope over bitterness.

 

Verse References from Video:

Ruth chapters 1-4

Hebrews 12:2

Romans 8:28

Romans 5:5

 

For more information on the book 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, by Nicki Koziarz click here.

 

 

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Posted in Bible, Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Hope, Miscarriage, Women | 7 Comments

Anchoring My Hope in God’s Promises

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“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45, NIV)

This past weekend, we celebrated our firstborn’s fourth birthday.  And, yes, this mama was quite emotional.

You see, our son is no ordinary child.  I’m sure most parents feel this way about their children, and rightfully so.

In our case, Nicholas is a promised fulfilled.  He is a living reminder to my husband and I that God certainly does keep His promises.

If you’re new to the blog, my husband and I experienced a miscarriage when we first attempted to have a child.  The months thereafter brought us face to face with different stages of grief, and I, personally, dealt with crippling anxiety like never before.

But, one day God spoke a promise.

I will never forget.  After months of anxiety and panic attacks, I felt a tug on my heart and knew God was pulling on my heartstrings.

On a Sunday afternoon, my husband pulled our car into a parking spot in front of our apartment building, and for some reason I kept feeling this tug on my heart.  I turned to my husband and said, “I think we’re going to get pregnant again, and it’s going to be soon.”  After going through our loss, speaking those words surprised me.  And, the fact I believed my words to be true shocked me even more.  To my surprise, my husband looked at me and said, “I feel the same way.”

About a month later, on the same weekend I was scheduled to deliver our miscarried baby, my husband and I found out we were expecting.  On the weekend where I assumed we’d be mourning, we were rejoicing.  I thought I was going to be afraid, nervous, or anxious at the news for fear of losing another child.  But instead joy, peace, and hope filled my heart.  Fear had lost.  Hope had won.

So, when I look at our boy, I remember God’s promise.  I remember the victory.  I remember His faithfulness.  And, hope rises within me.

There is hope in His promises.

If you’re waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, let this blog fill you with hope today.  Blessed are you who believe that the Lord would fulfill His promises to you!

I love this song by Elevation Worship called “Your Promises.”  I pray it blesses you!

 

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When Life Has You Feeling Punch Drunk

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“Punch drunk.”

Those were the words my dear friend used to describe how I felt. She called to see how I was feeling after visiting a series of doctors to no avail. Within one week I had experienced sudden swelling, bad bruising, and numbness in the center of my middle finger. After going to the ER, visiting my primary doctor, and seeing four specialists in different fields, no one could explain what was wrong.

This, unfortunately, was just one of the many “punches” our family experienced over the course of a one-year span.

During my second pregnancy, about two weeks prior to my scheduled C-section, my family and I decided to visit the local mall.  We casually walked from store to store on what was supposed to be a normal Saturday.  But, things took a turn for the worse when my husband’s tongue all of sudden became heavy and his speech became slurred. We rushed to our car; I got behind the wheel with my big belly and drove us straight to the hospital. After a two-day hospital stay, the doctors prescribed my husband medication and sent him home.

Two weeks after our mall incident, I gave birth to our second son, Silas, who was just perfect. But, I, on the other hand, faced some complications. I had developed a lot of scar tissue from my first C-section, which had to be removed. The removal lasted more than anticipated and I lost more blood than was planned. I was left with stitching on multiple organs, and so weak that I had to be placed on bed rest for three consecutive weeks.

Four days after his birth, our newborn son accidentally fell out of his baby carrier and had to be taken to the hospital for observation.

In the weeks and months to follow, my husband had two more visits to the ER, underwent special medical exams, and had several follow-up appointments.

In the midst of all that, we were in the early stages of a six-month long fight with our health insurance carrier, which denied my husband’s hospital stay – requiring us to pay 100% for the expense.

My husband’s health improved and the issues with our health insurance carrier were resolved, but then the medical bills started rolling in. Our finances experienced one major hit after another.

During a season where we thought we were going to be saving monies to purchase property of our own, we were spending thousands of dollars on medical bills.

And now, my finger was swelling.

Hundreds of dollars spent on co-pays and exams, and still no explanation.

I know there are worst things we could have been facing. And, our situations were nothing in comparison to what others face day in and day out. But, we just felt so struck down, squeezed, and stretched.

We felt Punch Drunk.

My friend described it best.

According to the urban dictionary, the boxing term is used when a boxer receives so many hits from his opponent that “his disorientation is described as and similar to being drunk.”1

There’s no breathing room. It’s one hit after another. And, there’s no opportunity for a response or a counter punch.

You’re “punch drunk.” You’re under some type of influence. You cannot focus. You cannot think soberly. You cannot see clearly.

And, you begin to question.

We definitely began to question.

Does God really see? Is God really going to come through? Did I commit some kind of sin that has blocked my access to God?

Things just didn’t make sense.  Confusion and uncertainty permeated our hearts.

I mean, we maintain ourselves pretty healthy.

We give tithes and offerings unto the Lord as the Bible instructs. I can honestly say giving has never been a struggle for us.

We love God with all our hearts and we seek to put Him first in our lives.

So then, why were all these things happening? Why all the punches?

Searching for answers, I decided to take a closer look at the life of Job, who the Bible says was “…blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). But, the bible states, for whatever reason, God allowed Satan to attack Job—Satan threw a few punches so to speak.

One day four messengers visited Job, all bearing bad news—and I mean like really, really, bad news. Devastation came upon his family, his livestock, and even upon his own body.

The bible says, “While he (the messenger) was still speaking, another messenger came…” (Job 1:17).

Job didn’t even have a chance. Bad news came one hit after another.

Though the bible states Job lived an upright life, even Job began to question if he had done anything wrong (Job 7:20). Confusion and uncertainty set in.

Job felt like his hope had been uprooted like a tree (Job 19:10).

He felt like he cried out to God, but God was not answering (Job 30:20).

Punch Drunk.

Hopeless.

Weary.

Fatigued.

What do we do when we’re Punch Drunk?

What do you do when you pray and it feels like no answer or reprieve is on the way?

Trust.

Trust in the One who holds you in the palm of His hands.

Trust in the One who fights for you when you have no more fight left.

Trust in the One who works all things out for the good.

I recently heard a sermon by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church entitled, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” Pastor Craig encouraged listeners to trust in God’s purpose even when life doesn’t make sense. He shared, “We don’t have to understand or like the plan to trust in God’s purpose.”

Pastor Craig described a moment when even Jesus’ prayer was answered by silence—when upon the cross he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). No answer resounded from heaven while Jesus hung on the cross and died. As Pastor Craig shared, “Just because God is silent doesn’t mean that God is absent. He’s still good. He’s still doing something.”2

In Job’s case, he questioned his circumstances but never did he denounce God or his belief in Him.

And, at the end of a horrible season, the bible states, “…the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (Job 42:12).

In our case, my husband and I sent our final payment for all those hospital bills last month. I guess you can say we ended the year with a bang (J). Upon paying the final bill, it felt like the word DONE was spoken over our season of punches. It’s finished. It’s over.

At the start of this New Year, I felt the Lord impress this verse on my heart:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

We’re believing God for that NEW thing this year. And, we’ve already begun to see His provision in just the first weeks of this New Year.

We’re believing that God is going to restore and bless like never before—not because we deserve it, but simply because we are His children.

And, as for a place of our own? When God does it, I’ll be sure to share the news!  🙂

 

  1. “Punch Drunk.” – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=punch+drunk
  2. When God Doesn’t Make Sense – http://www.life.church/watch/when-god-doesnt-make-sense
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How to Get and Stay Naked in your Marriage

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I know. The title is a tad edgy, but just stick with me for a bit.

Today, I have the honor of hosting my husband, Ariel Nieves, on the blog.

A few years ago, we shared a message at a marriage event and we’ve decided to share it with you. We pray it encourages any married couple that feels their marriage is hopeless. May the God of all hope encourage you today to believe Him for your marriage!


 

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25, NIV).

In the beginning of Genesis, Adam and his wife stood before God and each other naked and without shame, exemplifying God’s original design for marriages. Isn’t that God’s intention for married couples – that as husband and wife, we would stand before God and each other naked, transparent, and without shame?

The word naked means: bare of any coverings, defenseless, exposed, or unprotected. As a result of their nakedness and transparency, shame had no place in Adam and Eve’s relationship. Nothing hindered them from being fully connected, thus truly making them one flesh fulfilling God’s intent for marriage.

But, in the same way God has a plan for marriages, so does Satan. The Bible tells us Eve engaged in a conversation with a serpent who, synonymous to Satan, made Eve doubt God’s instructions to her and her husband about not eating from a specific tree in the Garden of Eden.

The Bible states Eve ate a fruit from the tree, and shared it with her husband. Upon eating the fruit they became aware of their nakedness. So what did they do? Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Genesis 3:7). They hid from each other.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden…and they hid from the Lord God…” (Genesis 3:8). The Lord comes searching for them in the garden and, again, they hide.

They hid from each other, and they hid from God.

Fear and shame settled into Adam and Eve’s union.

They became exposed, but not in the way God desired them to be.

Their indecent exposure drove them to cover themselves. Ashamed of their bareness they made their own coverings.

Isn’t that how shame works? It enters a marriage and prevents full disclosure. Shame encourages us to conceal and cover ourselves.

Hiding from our spouse, and hiding from God, the disconnection begins.

Natalie here – When my husband and I got married we had baggage. Before coming to know the Lord, I dated someone I should not have and was called “fat.” Those words put me on a journey of great struggle with anorexia and insecurities. After committing my life to the Lord, God began to work in me and helped me overcome some of those battles. A few years later, I began to date my husband and eventually we married. During our earlier marriage years, I realized I still hid behind certain insecurities. Never quite secure enough to share my feelings, I would shut down after any disagreement. My husband struggled to engage in honest conversation with me. Feelings of inadequacy were my choice coverings.

Ariel here – When I was conceived, my dad was married but, not to my mom. Being born out of an affair affected the way I thought about marriage. While dating my wife, I worried about proposing to her because I thought my marriage would end in an affair. I didn’t know how to be a husband. To make matters worse, pornography made its way into my life at the age of fourteen, and it became like gum on the bottom of my shoe. No matter how hard I tried to get rid of it, it was still there. I walked around with a lot of shame and guilt, and, when we got married, they too came along for the ride. Shame caused me to hide and disconnect.

Maybe you can relate to our stories? Perhaps shame has entered into your marriage, and has caused you and your spouse to disconnect.

Do you find yourself hiding?

In most instances, not only do we hide from our spouse, we also hide from God. We compromise our time of prayer, and the reading of His word. We go to church only when we’re scheduled to serve. And, when asked how we’re doing we respond, “We’re blessed and highly favored.” We hide. We disconnect.

Is it possible to go back to the original design of marriage?

Can we have Genesis 2:25 marriages?

YES!

James, chapter five, verse sixteen provides a roadmap to get back to the way God intended marriages to be – that naked, without shame relationship.

The verse reads: “Therefore CONFESS your sins to each other and PRAY for each other so that you might be HEALED.”

CONFESS

Confession is the total opposite of covering and hiding, which is our natural instinct. Confession brings things out into the light. Confession exposes. Confession lays everything bare, including: wrongdoings, grudges, resentment, anger, and any unforgiveness we may have towards our spouse.

A form of intimacy, the process of confessing allows you to reconnect with your spouse.

A word of advice: Confess no matter how small it may seem. Don’t allow things to fester and build up. The idea of “what your spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt them” is a LIE! Those “little things” can grow into very uncontrollable monsters.

The other component of confession is acceptance. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you take the good, the bad, and the ugly. ‘Til death do us part. When it comes to dealing with humans there’s a lot of ugly. Allow freedom for your spouse to confess. And, make sure no penance or payback follows. You may feel hurt by certain things, but choose to process those feelings together.

Changing your Facebook profile status to “single” is not an option. Confession can be difficult, but love keeps no records of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5). The word “love” in this verse means agape love – unconditional love – a love only God can give. If you are connected to God, He is able to give you the love you need to love your spouse; the love you’ll need to overlook an offense. Remember, your spouse isn’t the enemy. We don’t battle flesh and blood. The enemy is the enemy, and his agenda is to cause division. (Note: If you are in an abusive marriage relationship, we strongly recommend counseling so a mediator can assist you and your spouse through your situation).

PRAYER

The next step: prayer. Some things are only resolved through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29), which means if you’re serious about your marriage you’re going to have to go to war in prayer.

Instead of fighting in our marriages, we must fight for our marriages.

Our weapons are not carnal; they’re mighty to bring down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Intercession and prayer paves the way for peace and unity.

Natalie here – Can I be naked with you? When my husband confessed his struggle with pornography, I felt less than. I immediately thought, I am not good enough. After wrestling with his confession, I realized my husband wasn’t the enemy. The struggle with pornography was the issue and that’s what I had to fight. This shift in perspective challenged me to take an unmovable stance in prayer, and I interceded for my husband until the stronghold of porn broke. I appreciated my husband’s openness. He spoke frankly with me because he didn’t want to hide, and we fought and overcame together.

HEALING

The final step: healing. We really believe a divine exchange occurs during the healing process. An exchange where we take off our coverings—all the stuff we’ve been hiding behind—and we become exposed, and we receive God’s coverings. We must be naked so God can clothe us with His garments. He’s not going to set his garments over coverings we’ve made for ourselves. A holy unraveling must take place. As we strip each covering off, we may feel the encroaching weight of guilt, but God doesn’t judge us by our coverings. In His eyes, we are covered in His blood.

After Adam and Eve sin and hide, the Bible tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  God clothed and covered them despite what they did. And, He wants to do the same for us.

Stop hiding from your spouse. Stop hiding from God. Confess. Pray. And, then, see the healing overflow in your marriage.

You and your spouse won’t be “just making it.” You’ll be overcoming.

In closing, years later the Bible records in the book of Zechariah, a vision the prophet had of the high priest, Joshua. Zechariah envisioned Joshua dressed in filthy garments, filthy coverings, and Satan stood at his side accusing him. God then rebuked Satan and requested the removal of Joshua’s garments.

“Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you’” (Zech. 3:3-4).

Like Adam, Eve, and Joshua, you may find yourself under some coverings. Perhaps those coverings are more like filthy garments. Maybe as Joshua experienced, Satan is also accusing you—convincing you it’s best to stay covered, it’s best to stay hidden because what will others really think of you? What will your spouse think of you?

The last thing Satan wants is for us to begin confessing, and reconnecting with God and our spouse. He might be reminding us of our shameful state, but God wants us to remove our filthy garments. God wants to quiet every accusation and lie from the enemy. He wants to dress us with His fine garments, His coverings.

We want to exemplify a Genesis 2:25 marriage. No marriage is too hopeless for God’s healing. Hope still remains.

Confess. Pray. Receive God’s healing today.

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Learning How to Be Instead of Do

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Here in New York City, our culture is very much go-go-go. We rise and shine, hustle in the daily grind, and then repeat it all over again.  It’s pretty much the way of life.

To be busy is a cultural expectation. We must be doing something right if we’re busy. We’re aspiring, succeeding, making strides. Or, at least, that’s how it appears.

At times, we find our value in doing since we’re meeting the cultural expectation.

I have struggled with this for a long time, and didn’t even realize it until I withdrew from the busyness.

During my battle with anxiety and panic attacks, my husband and I made a tough call and decided I needed to quit my job. We deemed it necessary in order for me to heal and get well.

We both worked in full-time ministry and – as true perfectionists – we lent ourselves to be the work-a-holic types.

So, I went from maintaining a busy schedule to not working at all.

It was like going cold turkey.

Despite knowing the decision would help me, it raised difficult questions for me:

What would I do with myself?

What would I do with my time?

The most daunting question of all: What will others think of me?

To me buzzing and bustling about was a good thing. I found my value in being busy. It labeled me smart, successful, and hardworking.

In my mind, extracting myself from the busyness would make me susceptible to labels like “lazy,” “idle,” “unsuccessful.”

The idea of resting and being still brought a lot of unrest to my mind and heart.

It has been over three years since I stopped working. Since then I have become a stay-at-home mom and, unfortunately, I still struggle with finding my value in being busy. As you can tell from previous blog posts, being still is not my forte.

In the Bible, Jesus’ friend Martha was much like me. Martha invited Jesus to her home and she planned a big dinner in his honor.

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked. But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! There is really one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it way from her!’” (Luke 10:38-42, TLB)

In Jesus’ day, women kept busy by taking care of their home, their children, cooking meals, cleaning, drawing water, et cetera.

It was the “cultural expectation” for women to handle those responsibilities. Martha prided herself in meeting those expectations. Being busy and concerned over the dinner preparations for Jesus—those were all things she was supposed to be doing. Most likely the last things on her mind – sitting and being still.

Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, decided to sit at the feet of Jesus. She chose to be still—to rest at His feet.

In those times it wasn’t a woman’s place to listen to the teachings of a Rabbi—that was the role of a man.

Mary went against what culture said she should be doing and she sat with Jesus.

To the onlooker Martha was doing all the right things. Busy accomplishing her duties with such great care and excellence—all for her guest of honor, Jesus. Surely, He deserved her best, right?

Mary, however, chose stillness over busyness. And, yet, Jesus affirmed Mary’s decision. According to Jesus, Mary discovered something He would not take away from her. She tapped into something few people truly get.

Mary tapped into being instead of doing.

She was being still. But, in her stillness, she was being attentive. She was being fully present.

Mary could have multi-tasked and helped her sister Martha while she also listened to Jesus’ teaching. But, no – she chose to sit, cease from activity, and probably lock eyes with Jesus as if no one else was in the room. She perhaps thought to herself, I might not have this opportunity again.

At times, I find myself having the same “jittery” disposition as Martha. Worrying about so many things. Checking off items on my to-do list. Making meal preparations. Cleaning up. Paying bills. Going to doctor’s appointments. Planning out activities. Making sure the kids are learning and being stimulated.

And, unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle, I often overlook the thing that truly matters the most—being instead of doing.

Being still.

Being present.

I’m realizing this struggle not only affects my relationship with Jesus, but also affects my relationships with those closest to me.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to be a friend to my husband. I rattle off all the errands he has to run, and I forget to simply ask how he’s doing.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to simply be a mama to my boys.  Instead of taking a few minutes to hear of the latest Lego character and engage in meaningful conversation with my son, I run from room to room like a military officer picking up toys and correcting my children for their mess.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to be there for my family and friends. Rather than pick up the phone to check in on my grandmother, I scan my to-do list convincing myself I will definitely make time for that tomorrow.

But, tomorrow is not a guarantee.

I’m asking God to help me to number my days that I would gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12)—wisdom in making decisions; wisdom in my relationships; and wisdom in the use of my time.

Are you like me, and Martha? Worried about so many things? Things that in the long-scope will not really matter?

I encourage you today to be still.

Be present.

Make that phone call.

Treat your child to a one-on-one date.

Sit at Jesus’ feet with no agenda other than to worship Him and hear from Him.

I promise you, you won’t regret it.

 

P.S. – One thing that has helped me intentionally be still and present with Jesus has been the First 5 app.  This app has challenged me to give the first five minutes of my day to the Lord, and devote undivided attention to His word. Check out their site! The app is free!

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A Fitness Class that Requires You to Be Still

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A few years into our marriage, my husband and I realized we had gained a bit of weight as newlyweds.  We enjoyed our date nights, eating at different places, and trying new foods.  But, eventually, it caught up to us.  So, we decided we were going to try our best to maintain our health, and we committed to working out at our local gym.

I felt like enrolling in a fitness class would produce the results I was looking for, and so I signed up for a weekly boot camp session.  The first time I met the instructor, I knew this class was not for softies.  He was a seventy-two-year-old former Marine who had veins and muscles popping out of his biceps, triceps, forearms, calves, hamstrings—labeling the man as “toned” and “fit” was an understatement.  Everyone knew he meant business.

From start to finish, the class consisted of non-stop movement.  If the instructor saw anyone slacking off a bit, he’d quickly yell out, “Come on!  Pick it up!”  The fast-paced music, the counting of reps, the use of dumbbells and steppers, the militant orders to spur everyone on—everything about the class screamed high energy, constant motion, and intense activity.  And, ultimately, the activity brought about great results – core strengthening, muscle building, and muscle toning.  Those things are difficult to develop without an intense level of activity.

It’s interesting though, how this concept doesn’t necessarily apply to the development of our faith muscles.

My husband and I are currently in a place where God is definitely “toning” our faith muscles, but instead of increased activity what we have heard from God is “Be Still.”

Say what?  God, you want us to be still?

Yes.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

“…you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).  

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently…” (Psalm 37:7).

Not quite the instruction I expected.  I hoped for more of a “Do this, then do that” type of instruction.  The kind of directive I can actively take steps towards.  Not “Be Still.”

How will we see any results if we’re still?

It’s so hard for me to be still.  I perceive being still as doing nothing – as being inactive.

But, what we perceive as inactivity can be God’s greatest moments of activity in our lives.

In our stillness, God is actively working things in us and out of us.

In our stillness, God is working out our faith muscles.  He’s stretching us.  He’s building up our inner-core strength.  He’s working out our endurance and perseverance.

In our stillness, God is working out of us any unbelief and doubt.  And, in their stead, He is instilling a steadfast spirit, and unwavering trust.

So that, when life seems to be falling apart – we’ll be immovable.

So that, when storms come and winds blow – we’ll be firmly rooted.

So that, when we hear of bad news – our hearts will be steadfast (Psalm 112:7).

So that, when things come against us – they will not overcome us (Jeremiah 1:18-19).

Being still is not for wimps.  But, I’m certain the results will not disappoint.

If you’re enrolled in the same faith fitness class, be encouraged; God is actively working in us and for us!

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Holding on Tightly to a Hope that will Not Disappoint

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“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Poconos area, in Pennsylvania, to visit family.  Unbeknownst to us, we drove into torrential downpours during our trip.  The raindrops pounded ferociously on our car, and our vision became extremely limited. Unable to read road signs and street names properly, we just hoped we were heading in the right direction.  We set our windshield wipers on the highest speed, turned our high beams on, and proceeded cautiously hoping we would eventually arrive to our destination.

Thankfully, after some time, we arrived safely.  Our trust in our vehicle to get us there was not in vain, and our hope was not disappointed.

At times, life can place us in the same predicament, not just literally, but spiritually and emotionally.  Seasons of “torrential downpours,” entering unknown and uncertain pathways, simply going on a bit of hope that we are indeed headed in the right direction.

During those times, what can serve as our “high beam” so to speak?  God’s Word.

God’s Word is a lamp for our feet, and a light onto our path (Psalm 119:105).

God’s Word is filled with promises we can fully put our hope in.

When we cannot see the next step ahead, or a familiar signpost; when darkness and hopelessness envelop us; when we are unsure of which way to go—God’s word says:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8).

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).

In a place of uncertainty, let us remember to do as the author of Hebrews says – to hold unswervingly to this hope we profess.

May our hope not be deterred.

May we not veer to the left or to the right—even though our surrounding situation strongly persuades us to swerve.

Let us hold on to this hope because He who promised is faithful!  He WILL remain true to His Word!

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God Knows the Plans He Has for You

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

After whole-heartedly committing my life to the Lord as a teen, it intrigued me that this Big, Awesome God had plans for me.  God had thoughts concerning me.  Me—young, little Natalie.  I was on God’s mind.

One of my favorite verses was, and still is, from Psalm 139:

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:17-18, NLT).

Amazing, right?  God’s thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand.

As much as these verses have blessed me throughout the years, they have also driven me a tad bit crazy at times.

Being someone naturally inclined to plan absolutely every detail of their life, it kind of irked me that God knew plans about me I didn’t even know.

A part of me wanted to “be in the know” on these thoughts, and get a visual of what the “big picture” looked like for my life.

I can recall moments while being in a worship service and Spirit-filled people would feel led to pray over me, and I would get SO excited!  In my mind I thought: “This is it—I’m going to ‘get in’ on these thoughts God has for me, because this person is a spiritual Giant!  God is going to speak through them and tell me what His thoughts are!”  

And, yes, God would absolutely speak through them.  His words to me always remained the same on NUMEROUS occasions: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God sure does have a sense of humor…

I just concluded an online bible study based on the book What Happens When Women Walk in Faith, by Lysa TerKeurst. One of the “phases” in this walk of faith Lysa TerKeurst describes is called the “Death Phase.”  This is the phase we go through when we feel like God has forgotten us.  The phase where we feel as if our dream has died; hope is lost; there just seems to be no way.  It’s the phase I most identified with in my current season in my walk of faith.

So what do we do when we’re in the “Death Phase” and we feel forgotten?

Simply TRUST.

Lysa graciously reminds us God “…is still there on our bad days, singing over us (Zephaniah 3:17), wiping our tears (Isaiah 25:8), and taking care of our future (Jeremiah 29:11)” (Page 136).

Did you notice that last reference to that famous verse, Jeremiah 29:11?

All throughout these past five weeks of bible study, I have been constantly reminded that God knows the plans He has for me.  And, they are good plans.  They are not to harm me, but to prosper me and give me hope and a future.

God has not forgotten.  He sees and He knows.  He’s fully aware.

And, my role in all of this?  To continue walking in faith, having my eyes fixed on Him, trusting His plan is the BEST plan.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But, I’m thankful God does.

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