Jesus & Marriage

The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with His Church.  The Church is a living body made up of people — men, women, and children — in right relationship with their Heavenly Father, who have trusted in the Lord Jesus and surrendered their lives to His saving grace. 

Each of us has broken God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, by lying, stealing, hating, and lusting.  Our relationships with others so clearly reveal our need for forgiveness.  Jesus taught that if you’ve been angry with your brother or called him a name, you’ll be held accountable for it when you stand before God on Judgment Day (Matthew 5:21-22).  When you hate someone, you’ve murdered him in your heart (1 John 3:15).  Human anger is often tainted by selfishness and ill motives.  “…Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20). 
Jesus knows every secret thought and attitude of our hearts.  He views all lustful thoughts and actions as adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).  If we come to God expecting to earn a place in Heaven because of our good works, we are in for a terrible surprise.  We deserve only God’s judgment in Hell.  However, He wants us to experience His love and a union with Jesus that marriage was designed to reflect.  He offers it to you today.
The good news is that God came to earth as Jesus.  He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose to life again.  Like a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will return again for all those who have turned from sin and put their full trust in Him.  Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves.  He paid the bride price with His own life.  Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and making personal sacrifices that their wives might draw closer to Jesus Christ. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by serving their husbands — that together the couple might be a ministry team for the Master.
Jesus is calling you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20). Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever.  Have you trusted Jesus?  Have you surrendered your heart and life to Him?  He’s calling you today.
Together, Bridget and I desire to create a home and marriage that reveals to all who encounter us, the beautiful heart of Jesus for His Bride. Would you join His Bride, the Church, today by turning from sin and trusting fully in Jesus to save and heal you?
For more beautiful truth about coming into a growing relationship with Jesus, please visit: www.needGod.com
www.areyouagoodperson.org and www.saveyourselfsomepain.com.
Scripture to consider:
On Marriage & the Gospel: 
Hosea 2:16 & 19; Isaiah 62:5; Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7
On the Powerful, Redeeming Love of Jesus:Titus 3:4; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; John 10:10-11; Luke 15; Isaiah 53; Genesis 3:15; Colossians 2:15
On the Reality of God’s Judgment and Hell:Hebrews 4:13; 9:27; Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:47-48; Luke 3:17; Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10 & 14-15; 21:8
man and woman s hands on top of ball bouquet
Photo by Wendel Moretti on Pexels.com

Miracle basketballs

 

This morning, I texted our school administrator at the Christian academy where I teach to let her know I needed two basketballs for my high school gym class last period today. She responded that the school does not have any but that she would check with the basketball coach to see if there were any we could borrow.
Shortly after we talked, an elderly man from our church who faithfully supports our school with ten dollars each week came into the office with a basketball under each arm. He said, “I read that the school was in need of some equipment, and I felt the LORD wanted me to bring in these two basketballs today.” It may seem simple, but this was a perfectly timed provision. Glory be to Jesus! He truly does know exactly what we need to carry out the task He has called us to each day. Have you been called to a task that seems like too much? Do your responsibilities feel heavy on your shoulders?
Our Savior has all the supply you need to accomplish His will for you today. Ancient rabbis, Jewish spiritual teachers, would call their life teachings their “yoke.” All they stood for, what they lived for, and all they taught would be entrusted to their followers to pass on to others. The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
I can hear the Lord Jesus say, “If your Heavenly Father provides basketballs for a Christian school teacher in his time of need, how much more will He provide what you need for life and ministry!” Let’s serve Him with abandon and watch in faith as He opens Heaven’s windows to pour out His extravagant love.


Also posted on Thrive80: http://www.thrive80.com/2011/11/miracle-basketballs/

Lessons from Nonna Maria

Nonna Maria, my maternal grandmother, is 91 years old. She and her husband, Nonno Ignazio, were married 44 years and 4 months. They emigrated from Sicily to Rochester, NY in 1956, over 50 years ago. Nonno passed into eternity in 1994.

 
Nonna worked as a seamstress for 20 years. She gets an $82.42 monthly pension because of her efforts. Most of her coworkers were Italian and her boss spoke Spanish, so they got along communicating without English. After decades in America, Nonna still speaks broken English. We speak Italian with her in our home. She loves to tell stories of her life in Italy.
 
Nonna’s mother, Giuseppina, was a generous woman of faith. When she cooked for her family, before they ate, she and her daughters would bring bowls of pasta and bread to those living on the streets in their village. One day, Nonna Giuseppina arrived home with only her slip on. When questioned about her appearance, she explained she had met a homeless woman. She knew she could buy or make herself a new dress, but that poor woman could not.
 
Nonna told of her mother faithfully attending church every weekend. When the children were young, she and her husband would attend mass at different hours, so one parent was home with the babies. When her husband traveled for business, Great-grandmother brought all her children to church with her. Nonna had nine siblings. At that time, two were still babies.
 
When the children grew noisy and restless. A woman sitting in the pew behind leaned forward to complain. Nonna’s mother told her, “I wanted to come to church. My husband’s on a business trip. If you don’t like the noise, go home.”
 
Nonna tells another story of her mother walking along the cobblestone street in their Sicilian town, warmly greeting everyone she passed. As they walked on, my Nonna, then a young girl, finally asked, “Do you know all these people?” Nonna Giuseppina answered, “No. But, the LORD knows all about them, and He wants me to greet them and give them His blessing.” Everywhere we go, we should be about the Father’s business. Everyplace you go, endeavor to bless it for Jesus. Be His witness, His ambassador, His representative.
 
As a boy, I’d often spend weekends at Nonna’s house. One weekend, I brought an empty notebook and asked Nonna if we could cook. Together we made everything from pasta sauce and chicken cutlets to chocolate cookies. I recorded these treasured recipes as best I could, trying to discern how Nonna’s “pinch” or “dash”  translated into standard measurements.
 
Once after Nonna came to live with us, she and I were watching a TV special about the persecuted church. A young Chinese girl refused to spit and step on an image of Jesus. Following her example, the rest of the children at her school stood firm in their faith. All the children were martyred. As the show was in English, Nonna did not understand. But looking up from her chair at my tears, she began to weep with me for our fallen brothers and sisters who laid down their very lives for the Lord Jesus.
 
Nonna says we are to live “tutto nel Signore,” meaning, “all in the LORD.” Nonna keeps it simple. When I ask her what she believes happens after we die, she says, “If you believe in Jesus, you go to Heaven; if not, you go to Hell.” She’s right.
 
I enjoy sharing these stories and lessons from Nonna. The Bible commands us to honor the aged. Proverbs teaches that gray hair is a crown of splendor for the old (16:31; 20:29). It’s good to be old. It means you’ve endured. If you’ve trusted your life to Christ, old age means you’re closer to Heaven.
 
While you’re alive, learn from those who have lived longer than you. Ask questions. Learn to be a wise listener. In those conversations, be bold in sharing the gospel of Jesus. It might be someone’s last day on earth. Redeem the time. The old have wisdom to share. Let’s listen.
 

Nonna has taught me to hold my life in an open hand and to seek the will of Jesus. She’s often said she would love to be at my wedding and to kiss my babies “se Dio vuole”—if God wills. Let’s flesh out our faith, seeking the will of Jesus that we might perform it and honor Him in all things until our last breath.

Nonna Maria, pictured at age 90
(photo by Joshua Harrison, Audio Scripture Ministries)

 

Bear much fruit

My Momma came bolting up the stairs nearly in tears. She was ecstatic. Something important had clearly transpired in her life. Why the excitement? Why the emotion? What was happening? She proceeded to explain in decibels that demonstrated the masterful design the LORD used in creating the human ear.


“It’s my fig tree!” she exclaimed. “It’s finally produced figs—three of them!”

How long and patiently she had waited for her fig tree to produce figs. My godfather Padrino Gino, a Sicilian immigrant, had given her this treasure two years before in the late summer. Growing figs is a time-honored, Italian tradition. Mamina planted it in an elephantine plastic pot and watered regularly. It displayed nothing but leaves for several years.

You started to wonder, “Is fig season ever coming?” She explained that she told the tree it would be cursed if it didn’t produce. A few short weeks later, her efforts paid off in the form of three plump, tasty figs.

In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus approaches a fig tree, looking for fruit. He is hungry but finds only leaves. He curses it, saying, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately it withers. Mark 11:13 adds the detail that it was not fig season.

According to Evangelist Ray Comfort, there are only two proper times to preach Word: in season and out of season. Many, who stall, delaying for the exact proper moment to share the Gospel, neglect the Scriptural command to witness and preach the Word in and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). There is no excuse for neglecting the ministry of the Gospel. We are called to be prepared. We must love, know, and study the Gospel so deeply that it flows from our lips with ease. Believers will continue to discover the glorious depths of the Gospel in Heaven as we pursue knowing Jesus for all eternity. On earth, we must rely on His Holy Spirit to be ever prepared to share His good news.

Jesus taught that true and false prophets are discerned by their fruit. Those without good fruit are cast into the fire of Hell. This fruit is more than good deeds. Jesus explained that unless our works flow from a genuine, personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus, they are worthless (Mt. 7:15-23; Lk. 6:43-45; 13:5-8). Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” and does good in His Name will be in Heaven. The true believer has surrendered his life to Jesus, and his life, transformed by the Holy Spirit, evidences it.

Paul urges professing believers to examine themselves to ensure they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). John the Beloved’s first letter was written as a test we can use. He penned, “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). James reminds us that a fig tree doesn’t produce olives, and a pure heart doesn’t praise and curse (3:9-13). The way we speak and live evidences our true heart condition.

Momma has placed her fig tree in the garage now to protect it from the coming frost. Last season, she covered it with a cardboard box in the garage away from the draft of the door. Once a month, she gives it a cup of water. This year, it’s blossomed so large that she may wrap it with a box and then cover it with a blanket. The leaves will all fall and only the stem will remain.

For those who live in falseness and pretending, the Bible gives a solemn warning. When their lives are called upon to produce figs seemingly out of season when they don’t expect it, their disobedience will be brought into the light, and they will be accountable for their neglect and ultimate fruitlessness. Be connected to the True Vine (Jn. 15:1-5). Bear much fruit.

Two of Momma’s first figs (7-12-10)