Your Heart Is Dumb

Tags

, , ,

Todays Devotional
by Brook Bailey
January 31, 2019
 
I wanna love somebody, but I don’t know how.
— from Sucker’s Prayer by The Decemberists
 
When I was 6, my parents divorced. As a result, I didn’t really grow up with an example of what a loving relationship was supposed to look like. Everything I learned about matters of the heart came from Hollywood. I watched a lot of movies as a kid — romantic comedies with my mom, action movies with my dad. This approach was not helpful. Those movies weren’t about loving your partner every day, through good times and bad. At best, they only showed me how to get the girl, which involved either riding in on a white horse in a grand romantic gesture, or rescuing her from terrorist kidnappers by sailing in on a zip line with one hand, while using my other hand to blast the bad guys with my Uzi.
 
We couldn’t afford a white horse, and mom wouldn’t let me have an Uzi, so I was on my own. Unfortunately, that lead to a whole lot of trial and error. Mostly, I was just following my heart.
 
Free advice: Don’t follow your heart. Your heart is dumb. It doesn’t know the difference between love, lust and hormones. At least mine certainly didn’t.
 
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
 
It’s easy to look back on my high school days and be dismissive about my early romantic relationships. It was just puppy love, right? But, at the time, all the intensity, the passion, the drama and the hurt (usually caused by me) were 100% real. Puppy love can wreck your whole world when you’re a puppy.
 
Last Sunday at c|Life, the pastors delivered a sermon that I sure wish I could’ve heard as a teenager. It was full of practical guidelines for dating in a way that honors God. (If you missed it on Sunday, you can watch it here: youtu.be/kYjxhMmrcQc) I’m so thankful that both of my teenage kids heard the sermon as well. It gave us a framework that we can reference during the many conversations I plan on having with them about this topic (much to their horror, I’m sure). I didn’t have anybody to teach me this stuff, but I can walk through it with my son and my daughter. I’m actually looking forward to helping them develop boundaries and guardrails for their future relationships, not because I love shackling them down with rules, and not just to keep them out of trouble, but so they can experience the long-term, very best life that God has to offer them.
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

Unequally Yoked

Tags

, ,

Today’s Devotional
by Andrea Bailey
January 30, 2019
 
Growing up, I was blessed with the gift of watching a godly marriage in action. My parents served each other on a daily basis. They loved each other through every situation that life handed them with laughter and support. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to see their dating life in action, nor did they ever discuss with me how to find a spouse that loved the Lord. They were amazing parents, but we did not have difficult conversations about the big stuff like drugs and sex. So when it came to dating, I was all mixed up.
 
The romantic comedies of the late ’80s and early ’90s, like Say Anything, When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman, colored my view of how a man should treat a woman. I also relied on my friends for dating advice, which in retrospect, was a terrible idea because some of them knew less than I did. I let the world paint a picture of how I should act in a relationship. This led to so many mistakes while dating. Eventually, I ended up in a serious relationship with the man who became my husband, and because we were in college in different cities, we dated long-distance for four years.
 
I really wished that before Brook and I were married that I had come across James 4:8.
 
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
— James 4:8
 
I needed to draw nearer to God before entering into my marriage, and I needed him to come close to me. My loyalty was divided between God and the world, and this is not how to start a marriage.
 
So just like my parents taught me, I did not have any real conversations about big things with Brook before we got married. We thought we were having the big conversations, like where to live and how many kids we wanted, but the really big one that we left out was about our faith. I thought that because Brook had grown up in church, that his faith was like mine, but it wasn’t.
 
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
— 2 Corinthians 6:14
 
After we were married, I learned just how unequally yoked we were. While my time in college had brought me closer to the Lord, Brook had strayed from the Church and become filled with doubt. He began searching other belief systems. As I was looking for new churches to visit, he was reading about the Buddha. For the first seven years of our marriage, our failure to prepare our hearts while we were dating wreaked havoc. Every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, we fought. I wanted him to come with me to church, and he didn’t want any part of it. Sure, sometimes he’d come just to please me, but it never lasted. Thankfully, not long before we moved to Forney, the Lord softened Brook’s heart.
 
The picture of godly dating painted for us in Song of Solomon 2 shows us just how important preparation and purity are to building a solid foundation for a godly marriage. The choices that we make while dating can have lasting effects on our marriages, some of which may not surface until later. Mercifully, our past and current challenges can be redeemed if we show our spouses the grace and love that was modeled for us by our Heavenly Father. Romans 8:38–39 reminds us of the unstoppable love of our Lord. If we first focus on that love, then it is much easier to love each other in the same way.
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

Passion

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Today’s Devotional
by Andrew Knight
January 25, 2019
 
Have you ever seen a movie in which the main character dreams of being kissed by her beloved in the opening scene? Neither have I. Most of the romantic movies I have seen begin with a chance meeting of a guy and a girl early in the film. And if it’s a Hallmark movie (like the ones my wife watches), the two will usually hate each other at first, spend time together, soften toward one another, and then, somewhere around the 90-minute mark, we get the kiss. Films often crescendo to the kiss, but rarely lead with it.
 
But Song of Solomon gets right down to it from the very beginning:
 
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
— Song of Solomon 1:1–2
 
We don’t have to read far to figure out what this book is all about. It is about love, desire and passion.
 
In Old English, passion had one very specific definition: the suffering of Christ on our behalf. Nowadays it more often refers to ardor or intense desire, often sexual in nature. Is it odd that this word now has such divergent meanings?
 
Not really.
 
Christ’s passion for his Father, and his Father’s passion for us (John 3:16), led to Christ’s suffering on our behalf. No other act in history so clearly reveals God’s passion toward us. He loves us in a way that is unfathomable and beyond our comprehension.
 
The best example we have for this kind of love is the passion of a husband for his wife. While not sexual in nature, God’s love for us is every bit as ardent, intense and passionate as the desire of a man for his bride. In fact, the Bible teaches that a godly marriage is actually a picture of Christ’s love for his bride, the church. It is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32) but one that accurately represents God’s love for us.
 
In this sense, Christ’s call to us is a marriage proposal. Christ wants to be yours for life, and he wants you to regard him in the same way. Christ’s offer is free, but it carries with it ramifications that are significant and life changing. When a bride says yes to her husband, she is saying yes to a new name, a new reality and a new life. Our response to Christ can have no lesser consequences.
 
If you have never accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, you can do so simply by acknowledging your need for him because of the sin that separates you from God (Romans 3:23) and by trusting that his death and resurrection on your behalf pays the penalty for your sins. If you will freely receive his gift of salvation, today can be your wedding day. And a wonderful marriage awaits!
 
What is your response to Christ’s proposal? Will you take him to be yours? He has already done everything in his power to make you his.
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

The Greatest Love Song

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Today’s Devotional
by Laci Prewitt
January 24, 2019
 
After being single for five years, the idea of finding a guy was almost a joke to me. I mean, I liked myself, my dog, my house and my mom — what else did I need? True story, though — one Sunday morning, one of my Dream Teamers in KidsMin asks me if I had met his brother. I didn’t even know this guy existed, but Mason pointed at him from across the busy Sunnyvale foyer, and I promise you, in that moment, I knew something was afoot. It was not really like love at first sight. It was more like finding something that belongs to you that you didn’t know you were missing. We will celebrate our first wedding anniversary a month from today.
 
Attraction is an interesting thing, because when you feel it for another person, the first thing you do is try and make yourself as attractive as possible. We go to great lengths to catch someone’s eye, often working very hard, even if it results in the smallest of impressions.
 
You know when we don’t do this though? When it comes to connecting other people to Jesus. As Christians, we read about being a light to a dark world and salt to a tasteless worldview. As the American church, our response to that has been to become really good at doing all the right things, and we’ve done them so right for so long, it has given us the freedom to look down on those who don’t do it as well as we do.
 
Based on this, we pick our political candidates, the music we support, the movies we will watch, the stores we will shop in and the social media comments we leave behind. All of this has worked together to create this crater between us and the world that we no longer know how to cross. So much so, that when a certain Christian artist performs on a daytime talk show, we aren’t sure how to reconcile her motives. (“I heard she was rebranding herself as a secular artist now,” whatever that means).
 
We know we are not supposed to be attracted by the secular world, therefore we have made ourselves very unattractive to them.
 
We are quick to forget that Christ made himself attractive to us. Not physically, as Isaiah tells us:
 
… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
— Isaiah 53:2
 
But a God that was so intangible and indescribable took on a form we recognized, touching people with hands identical to ours, and reached out to the lowest on the societal totem pole to show that all are welcomed to him without regard. He did not change his principles or commandments, but he made himself reachable and knowable, that none may perish due to his great love for them. And then he left us with this part of his job.
 
In Song of Solomon 1:8, Solomon calls his wife “most beautiful among women,” but look at what the other ladies of the court say about the bride of Solomon:
 
…We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine…
— Song of Solomon 1:5
 
This is not our current branding. But what would happen if we daily put on love and mercy? If we sought understanding and showed compassion? What would it be like if we actually answered the call to become all things to all people?
 
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
— 1 Corinthians 9:22
 
What would the world think of us then? More importantly, what would they think of God?
 
As we work on our relationships this month, let us remember that the greatest love song we will sing is that of Christ’s love for all.
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

The Princess Bride

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Today’s Devotional
by Rebecca Spence
January 22, 2019
 
Did anyone else think of The Princess Bride a lot during this past Sunday’s sermon?
 
“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”
— The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride
 
When my husband and I had been married for about two years, our marriage went into crisis mode. With one foot in the marriage and one foot out, we had to do some serious soul searching to find out what we had expected in marriage, why we had expected that and what goals should we set now. Our romantic ideas that “wuv, tru wuv” would follow us “foweva” came into deep question. Things got much, much worse before they got better. And we’re still working on it to this day. Every day. I sure wish I had heard Sunday’s sermon 20 years ago.
 
Growing up, I loved it when I would overhear my mom bragging about me to someone else. The only thing that made me feel better than that was when she looked up from her coffee in the morning, seeing me sleepily walking into the room in my pajamas and exclaiming, “There she is!” as if she had been waiting for me to wake up and be with her. My mom did love right. I felt loved.
 
What my mom did naturally was publicly and privately express her love and affection for me. These were two of the tenets of love-done-well described in the sermon. And, wow, do they work.
 
The third tenet from Sunday’s sermon was to show love spiritually, to love God more than we love our spouse, which opens us up more fully to love our spouse. And to love others as we love ourselves, including our spouse.
 
I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to intentionally applying these three methods of showing my husband how much I truly love him!
 
Tweasure your wuv!
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

Appreciate The Other Things

Tags

, , , , , ,

 
Today’s Devotional
by Rocky Hernandez
January 21, 2019
 
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
Song of Solomon 1:2–4
 
I really believe that there is no stronger feeling in the world than young love. It’s that potent blend of hormones and poor judgment that make the feelings of 16-year-olds feel super intense! It is a pure chemical attraction.
 
I’m so glad that my body has calmed down, or at least my judgment has caught up to my body. As an adult, I realize that the things I need from a partner are more than just the physical draw to be with them. Could you imagine being an adult and trying to build an entire relationship around that one thing? That’s insanity!
 
In the Scripture this week, we read about the attraction between a man and a woman, and I am struck by verse 3: “your name is oil poured out; therefore the virgins love you.”
 
This Scripture means that people are drawn to this man because he has a good reputation, not just because he’s physically attractive. Take note: In your relationships, I hope that you are not just telling your partners how much you admire them in physical ways, but letting them know that you appreciate the other things, like godliness, integrity, service, joy, intelligence, and all the other things you love about them that are just as important.
 
Today I challenge you to appreciate the gift they are in your life and to let them know how much you appreciate all those things.
 
A note to those who are in the middle of it right now: I know that there is a chance you are not feeling or seeing those things. I would encourage you to cultivate those things in your partner by celebrating the good, even if they are not quite at a level you want yet, even if they are small. As David said in his sermon, “If you are not seeing what you are wanting to see, then you need to check what you’ve been saying.”
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<
by Rocky Hernandez
January 21, 2019
 
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
Song of Solomon 1:2–4
 
I really believe that there is no stronger feeling in the world than young love. It’s that potent blend of hormones and poor judgment that make the feelings of 16-year-olds feel super intense! It is a pure chemical attraction.
 
I’m so glad that my body has calmed down, or at least my judgment has caught up to my body. As an adult, I realize that the things I need from a partner are more than just the physical draw to be with them. Could you imagine being an adult and trying to build an entire relationship around that one thing? That’s insanity!
 
In the Scripture this week, we read about the attraction between a man and a woman, and I am struck by verse 3: “your name is oil poured out; therefore the virgins love you.”
 
This Scripture means that people are drawn to this man because he has a good reputation, not just because he’s physically attractive. Take note: In your relationships, I hope that you are not just telling your partners how much you admire them in physical ways, but letting them know that you appreciate the other things, like godliness, integrity, service, joy, intelligence, and all the other things you love about them that are just as important.
 
Today I challenge you to appreciate the gift they are in your life and to let them know how much you appreciate all those things.
 
A note to those who are in the middle of it right now: I know that there is a chance you are not feeling or seeing those things. I would encourage you to cultivate those things in your partner by celebrating the good, even if they are not quite at a level you want yet, even if they are small. As David said in his sermon, “If you are not seeing what you are wanting to see, then you need to check what you’ve been saying.”
 
>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

Resist

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

resist

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”                          

~ 1 Peter 5:8-9

As I read these two verses, what I hear old Peter saying is this: “Don’t be naive, brother. Don’t be gullible, Sister.” Don’t think your faith will somehow exempt you from trials and temptations and invoking the name of Jesus is a sure-fire devil repellant. Dealing with difficulties is a road all will travel at one point or another in life. Perhaps this is why the apostle writes in the preceding chapter:

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”

~ 1 Peter 4:12 NLT

There are so many difficulties out there making your navigating life a difficulty in and of itself: Sickness and disease, pain and loss, addictions, bad habits, obsessions, compulsive behaviors, mental anguish, anxieties and much much more. In our faith journey, every believer will face opposition, count on it. There will always be something or someone rising up to challenge your resolve, to hinder your spiritual growth and cause you to sometimes miss the mark. But let’s not make the mistake of assessing our spiritual progress, or worth to God based on performance. You will never be more righteous, more redeemed, or more valued by God than you were on the very first day you believed. Or perhaps better said: You cannot be any more or any less saved tomorrow than you are now. “How is that possible,” you ask:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

~ Romans 8:1

Regardless of how difficult the struggle you at any time may be going through or how defiant the stronghold in your life appears to be, continue to resist the temptation to give in or give up. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James 5:7 tells us. Believe me, if it were not possible, it would not have been written.

>We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please email info@clifec.com.<

Hindisght Isn’t Always 20/20

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

car-mirror

“For now we see in a mirror dimly. . .”  

—1 Corinthians 13:12

 

Sometimes looking back makes things clearer, but not always. Having gone through times of difficulty and struggle. It is helpful to (in review) see that big and obvious moment of breakthrough when Jesus stepped into your storm to say, “Peace, be still.” It makes the next difficulty not look so much like the tightrope stretched over Niagara Falls we thought the previous issue was and gives us the confidence to move forward in faith.

But there are times when in hindsight we reflect to see that defining moment when the curtain rolls back, and God comes on stage to part the seas of our perilous moment, but it isn’t quite so dramatic. There comes a calm, but we don’t see how he makes it happen, we don’t see him. Be assured of this, however, see or not see, God is there else you wouldn’t be here.

In business, a rate of growth that is too fast is dangerous often leading to loss and failure. A slower intentionally paced growth rate will allow a new company to adapt to changes in the economy and other unseen events and is much more likely to experience success and prosperity. The same can be true of believers in the spiritual sense.

God understands our eagerness to know but sometimes sees it best to pull in the reins revealing a little at a time rather than everything at once. Better it is to go wobbling across the floor of life in baby steps glancing back to know only that Jesus is there. It is enough.

Before You Head Off To Church

Here I go just thinkin’ again but I am truly concerned knowing each week a huge number of people will swallow (hook, line, and sinker) a well-prepared sermon devoid of any spiritually meaningful nourishment leaving that place of worship anemic. Walk with me, please.

To me, one of the most frightening aspects of church life today (one that scares the socks off of me) is the feel-good religious experience that is quickly replacing sound biblical preaching and teaching in many of America’s pulpits and some of the largest churches in the world. To this concern theological ethics professor at Duke University, Stanley Hauerwas, writes:

“The greatest enemy of Christianity is not atheism, but sentimentality.”

I find I must agree with Dr. Hauerwas.

Looking then to scripture, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 reads:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Sometimes bringing scripture into perspective for the modern reader requires a little touch-up. Here, I would make but one small change so that the verb tense causes the verse to read, “has come” rather than, “is coming.” Truly the time to which Paul referred is here and now, “has come.”

People in the religious community today want to feel good about who they are in spite of clear biblical teaching that may disagree with their self-assessments and certainly with their personal preferences. They look to align with a church and hear a message that will cause them to leave the building on Sunday morning feeling good about themselves, all footloose and fancy-free. They certainly don’t want to pass through the exit doors heavy-hearted, having just heard a message convicting of sin and knowing the next step may be to make things right with someone they have wronged or a change in lifestyle that they might look more like a follower of Jesus than of the world. No, no, no. People want to hear everything is okay, life is grand and the road ahead is pothole free. We want to hear about the benefits of being a Jesus follower, the entitlements that go along with the Christian life, not things like surrender, self-sacrifice and certainly not suffering.

But a church where the pastor’s messages fail to deliver the whole counsel of God, (including the not so pretty, sin is bad, and hell is real stuff also found in the bible) is a dangerous place for your family to spend Sunday’s. Jesus did not die to get a person’s name placed on the Who’s Who list, but to have it written down in the Lambs Book of Life. In my opinion, your best life now is not the one you will find at Barnes & Noble but the one you will see in a life committed to knowing God and fully surrendered to his plans and purposes whatever that might mean and however that might look. To without question whole-heartedly say as did Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!”

Rant over – for now.

Sandcastles and Marriages (A Devotional thought for Men)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
— Ephesians 5:25

My younger brother was at the Revere Beach Sandcastle Building Festival and Competition in Boston a few months back, admiring the incredible craftsmanship of the artisans whose work was on public display. The pictures he took were stunning. Mind-boggling, actually.

One work was of a fairy-tale like castle, reminiscent of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, complete with well-known storybook characters like Sleeping Beauty, Humpty Dumpty and the Cat in the Hat. Nothing at all ambiguous about the sculptor’s work either. The details were given such meticulous attention, every component of the sculpture was vividly clear and easily identifiable. You didn’t have to look twice to recognize that an oval figure seated atop the castle wall was Humpty Dumpty.

A successful marriage requires attention to details as much as prize-winning sandcastles do. I pray the love I have for my wife to be so clear that no one would have to take a second look to recognize it. However, that will happen only as I model the same honest, self-sacrificing love Christ has for his bride, the Church. Not just a “till death do we part” kind of love. But a love that is willing to part with one’s own life for the sake of his wife, as did Christ for the Church.

That is the standard Jesus set that marriage might always be rock solid, rather than on the rocks.

To be a husband is a responsibility.