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The truth about marriage (1) - THURSDAY 11 MAY

‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:32 NLT

The idea of ‘the perfect marriage’ misleads and disillusions us, preparing us to walk away when fantasy clashes with reality. And it always does! Only when you accept the truth about frail, faltering, frustrating people – and you yourself are one – can you find lasting happiness in marriage. So for the next few days let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions about marriage. The love bug: We think if we’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right person, love will ‘bite’ us and we’ll embark on a lifetime of bliss. The trouble is, when we are worn out from taking care of kids, jobs, and mortgages, the love bug flies off. In the daily grind of dishes, nappies, and drudgery, something has to give. So romance vacates centre stage and reality takes over. And because we confuse romance with true love, we mistakenly think love has moved out and we need to follow it.

The truth is, love doesn’t die because romance bows to reality. If two people who fall in love are willing to stand together in love through the challenges of life, romance can blossom again stronger and more resilient than ever. Romance may bring us together, but unselfish love keeps us together. The Bible says: ‘Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have…Isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others…always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG).   

Put away the measuring stick! - WEDNESDAY 10 MAY

‘If you, LORD, kept a record of sins…who could stand?’ Psalm 130:3 NIV (2011 Edition)

We live in a results-oriented society where we’re rewarded for our performance in school, in sports, and on the job. But God doesn’t think like that. His thoughts and ways are far above ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). He’s not impressed by ‘empty rituals…He wants you to listen to him!’ (1 Samuel 15:22 MSG). Feelings and emotions are powerful, but they’re seldom objective. And when you base your worth as a Christian on your performance as a flawed human being, the enemy has a field day. Satan is called ‘the accuser of our brethren’ (Revelation 12:10 KJV); he wants you to run a checklist of your failures and mistakes. That way he can torment you by reminding you of all the times you lose your temper, criticise, fail to speak up for what’s right, or let a misconception go unchecked to make yourself look better.

David said if the ‘LORD, kept a record of sin…who could stand?’ Even the most disciplined believer has areas where he or she struggles and fails. It’s why we need God’s grace and forgiveness 24/7. ‘He knows how weak we are’ (Psalm 103:14 NLT), and He’s never surprised when, despite our best intentions, we fall short. Reimar Schultze says: ‘God doesn’t measure us by our performance, but by our love for Jesus. Indeed, in the Kingdom of God our love for Jesus is our performance. Everything else is secondary. Desire to be with Him, to abide in Him, to keep in fellowship with Him, to please Him, is what our Master longs for.’ So put away your measuring stick and be glad God’s not grading you based on your performance, but on Christ’s performance.

Humble yourself - TUESDAY 9 MAY

‘I…lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me.’ Daniel 4:34 NKJV

God always responds in love to a humble heart, and He always rejects a proud one. One moment King Nebuchadnezzar was boasting about having built the world’s most advanced civilisation. The next moment he’d lost his mind and was crawling on all fours, eating grass like an animal. But when he repented, God restored him to his throne. He said: ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me… Now I…praise…the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down’ (vv. 34, 37 NKJV).

To fall is bad enough; but to fall and not cry out for help, or refuse to repent of your sin, is worse than the fall itself. Maybe you’re ashamed to let anyone know you’ve fallen. Is your public image so important that you’re willing to continue on in your pitiful state? Are you so deceived that you refuse to acknowledge you need God? Stop being so proud! Isn’t that what caused you to fall in the first place? Pride is dangerous because it forces you to languish needlessly in a helpless state for days – sometimes years. The truth is, if you’d asked for help sooner you could have gotten up and gone on with your life. But the good news is – it’s not too late to repent and acknowledge your need of God. When Nebuchadnezzar did that, his reason and understanding returned, and he was restored to his kingdom. And the same can happen for you.

Change your thinking, change your life - MONDAY 8 MAY

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Romans 12:2 NKJV

Sometimes we try to excuse our negativity by saying, ‘It was just a thought, it didn’t mean anything.’ But it does! A wrong thought left to roam around in your mind can take root and grow into what the Bible calls a ‘stronghold’ (see 2 Corinthians 10:4). And when a thought becomes that strong, it begins to control your outlook, your attitude, and your actions. That’s why the Bible says, ‘Be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]’ (Romans 12:2 AMPC). Remember, where the mind goes, the man follows! We all face challenges and difficulties in life. You might allow yourself to think thoughts such as ‘I just can’t take any more,’ or ‘If one more thing happens I’m going to go over the edge!’ or ‘If things don’t change soon – I’m giving up!’

That kind of thinking prepares you to be defeated before you even encounter a problem. There is nothing strong, powerful, enabling, or victorious in thinking you will ‘go over the edge’ or in deciding to quit. Those are losing attitudes, not winning attitudes. Instead you should think, ‘If the attack is this great, then the blessing that lies beyond it is greater.’ Or, ‘If Satan is attacking me this hard, God must have something good in store for me!’ Become a person who is spiritually, emotionally, and mentally prepared for any challenge that crosses your path, and don’t allow yourself to be easily discouraged or defeated. And you do that by ‘the renewing of your mind’ with God’s Word.

Comfortable in uncomfortable places - SUNDAY 7 MAY

‘He comforts us in all our troubles.’ 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

God can make you comfortable in some of life’s most uncomfortable places. He can bring you through situations you think you won’t survive, or feel like you’ll be stuck in forever. He can give you peace when you’re under pressure. Before your life is over, you’ll experience loss. Indeed, losing some things will actually help you to appreciate the things you have. It’s the taste of failure that makes success so sweet. You’ll live not knowing what tomorrow holds, but knowing that God has all your tomorrows planned out. Your future isn’t in the hands of your boss, your banker, your spouse, or anybody else. Nor is it in your own hands to control. All your tomorrows are in God’s hands. And just because you don’t understand the path you’re on, doesn’t mean He isn’t leading you.

He promises: ‘I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them’ (Isaiah 42:16 NKJV). So get to know God, because you’ll need Him. And He will be there when everybody else has failed you. He will be there for you in the dark places. The psalmist writes, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5 NKJV). However long the night, morning will come – and with it His joy. Looking back, you’ll realise that His grace has protected you, provided for you, calmed you, comforted you, and brought you through. Times and seasons change, but not the Lord. He’s ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV).