Biblical Faith – Part Two

Biblical Faith – Part Two
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Heb 11:3
There are two things God is showing us through this Scripture:

We understand ‘by faith’.
That which we see was not made of things which are visible. Therefore the building blocks of things in the natural come out of the spiritual.

Understanding faith
Very often we cannot comprehend Spiritual Truths with our intellect but it is by Faith that we understand them e.g. The question “Where does God come from?” Nowhere in the Scripture does God try and satisfy this question. The Bible simply opens in Gen 1:1 with “In the beginning God”. He has always existed and always will. We can’t work this out intellectually, but we understand by faith. Remember, your faith is… “the evidence of things not seen”.

Looking at your circumstances you may wonder: How can I get well? How can I have success? How can I prosper?  It is by faith in God’s Word that you will understand. Often in daily life you will come across circumstances that you cannot explain how they will work out. For example:

Financial The economy is poor, everything is negative. But God is not limited by the world and its systems. By faith, God will meet all your needs. We need to believe the Word of God in all our circumstances
Sickness: your doctor may tell you that you are dying, but by faith we receive our healing, irrespective of what we feel.

Faith is trusting in God
God wants to meet all of our needs, if we will just trust Him! We need a paradigm shift regarding the Father heart of God. The Bible says that We are rich because of Christ. However, make sure that you seek the Lord, and the blessings will follow – not the other way around. God wants your heart.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Heb 11:6. We can note two things from this Scripture:

God exists
God is a rewarder.

We often have the wrong idea of God. He is not an old man with a stick in His hand, ready to punish us. He is loving, caring and wants to reward those who seek Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God. The great law of faith is believing that God is. The first step in getting anything out of the invisible world is to believe that it truly exists.

Not only is God out there, but every blessing we need is out there and the first principle to obtain anything is to believe that it is. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has (past tense), blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly place in Christ” Eph 1:3. Is healing out there? Did Jesus die for your healing? Did Jesus die for your well-being? Blessings? Overcoming satan?

God is a rewarder
To seek God and know His blessings, you will have to:

Seek God in prayer (Jam 5:16b)
Read and study the Word (Mark 4:24)
Meditate in the Word (Josh 1:8) – to mutter, to utter the Word of God, speak it!
Do the Word. Act on what you see (Jam 1:22)
Faith is a way of life (Rom 1:17)

A lot of people try faith; but faith is not a formula to try in emergencies. It is a lifestyle – “The just shall live by faith.”

Faith comes by hearing the Word
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Rom 10:17. We need to live God’s Word, and faith will come by hearing the Rhema (spoken) Word of God. But be aware that satan will always try to come and steal the Word (Mark 4).

The best place to hear the Word of God is on your own lips (Rom 10:8; 2 Cor 4:13).

Faith grows out of the Word
Faith always comes – regardless of feelings! Prayer does not cause faith to work – faith causes prayer to work. Faith should never be left to stand still, Faith will never be static – it will either strengthen or weaken. Paul said to Timothy: “Preach the Word!” 2 Tim 4:2 It is only by hearing the Word of God that faith will rise in our hearts. The devil knows that if you hear the Word of God, faith will rise, and you will be pleasing to the Lord, therefore he will always try to steal the Word from you.

When trials come, hold onto the Word of God. The devil will try to stop you from hearing the Word, from going to church; but particularly he wants to stop you from doing the Word of God. If you allow the burdens and cares of life to get into your heart, they will choke the Word, and you will be unfruitful. Good soil receives the Word and produces faith. Whatever you put into your heart will come out: Word in, Word out!

Faith grows out of the Word
God is looking for people of faith, who face the storms of life with boldness, perseverance and confidence. If you hear the Word of God and do not apply it and let go of it, you will never live the victorious life God has called you to. The devil will try to throw temptation at you, so we need to apply the Word of God. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Mark 4:4

Skeptics Answered: Are All Religions the Same?

Skeptics Answered: Aren’t All religions the Same?
What is the difference between Christianity and all other religions? Time and again we hear people say: “All religions are the same! Why do you insist that yours is the only right one?”

“How can you be so narrow minded, bigoted and intolerant to believe that
Jesus is the only way to God?”

The new tolerance
In this decadent and immoral society the main virtue seems to be tolerance. And the worst vice is intolerance. However, what they mean by tolerance is something very different to what tolerance used to mean. Today tolerance has gone beyond what any previous generation would have understood to be acceptance and approval of deception and depravity.

The New Age tolerance seems to come to a screeching halt when confronted with Biblical Christianity. Any Christian who dares to stand up for basic Biblical beliefs is accused of intolerance! It seems a bit hypocritical of those who claim that all religions are right that they spend so much time declaring that Christianity is wrong. And they do seem to be very intolerant of Biblical doctrine…

Contrasts and contradictions
Yet, to those who claim that all religions are the same and all religious teachers basically teach the same principles, we need to point out to them what these religions actually do teach:
The Baha’i religion has formalised the New Age spirit into a religion which incorporates all other religions. The Baha’i claim that all religions are the same and they claim to follow Jesus Christ, along with Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Muhammad, Zoroaster and whole hosts of other gurus, ‘prophets’ and ‘holy men’.

Islam stands for a strict monotheism. They are adamant that there is only one God. However, Hinduism is polytheistic, recognising at least 330 million gods. How can monotheism and polytheism be the same?

Buddhism is pantheistic teaching that everything is god. Confucius recognised no god. How can Atheism equal Pantheism equal Polytheism equal Monotheism? It cannot!

Life vs Nirvana
Jesus Christ said that He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). However, Hinduism and Buddhism teach that life is a great evil. These religions teach that we should be seeking for an end to all personal life through ‘Nirvana’. As a drop of water falls back into the ocean and loses all individuality, so, through successive reincarnations and meditation, we should seek the cessation of personal consciousness.

As Buddhism and Hinduism regard life as miserable (that is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as paganism always tends to make life quite miserable) their goal is the extinguishing of life. How can Christ’s teaching about Spiritual Life, Eternal Life and Abundant Life be the same thing as ‘Nirvana’?

Incompatible ethics
Then there are the issues of ethics. Most religions teach polygamy – that a man may have numerous wives. Christianity has always stood for monogamy: one man married to one woman for life. Christ condemned divorce. Muhammad allowed for easy and quick verbal divorces. These two positions are incompatible.

Fellowship with demons
The Apostle Paul taught: “Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” 1 Cor 10:20
The Scriptures are clear that God is not pleased with all types of religious activity. The most condemned sin throughout the Scripture is that of idolatry. Most of the religions of the world are steeped in idolatry.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the Glory of the Incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” Rom 1:22

Are you a good person?
Most religions teach that people are basically good. The Bible is clear that people are basically evil. “As it is written: There is none righteousness, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God…for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Rom 3:10-23.

Beware of religious deception
Jesus warned us of false prophets (Matt 7:15), false teachers and false shepherds (Matt 23). “Take heed that no one deceives you.” Matt 24:4.

In the book of Revelation we are told that at the end God will send an Angel to bind satan “So that he should deceive the nations no more …” Rev 20:3. Plainly satan is deceiving nations today. We are involved in a colossal conflict, a world war of worldviews:
•    Atheism vs Theism
•    Polytheism vs Monotheism
•    Communism vs Christianity
•    Sharia law vs God’s Law
•    Polygamy vs Monogamy
•    Slavery vs Freedom
•    Abortion vs Pro-Life
•    Pornography vs Morality
•    Homosexuality vs Family Values
•    Disease vs Health
•    Lies vs Truth
•    Poison vs Purity
•    Death vs Life

Religions are man trying to reach up to God. Christ is God reaching down to man. Religions come from man. Christianity comes from God. Religions say: Try!
Christ says: Trust!

We, as Protestant believers believe in freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of worship. The Protestant Reformation gave birth to the very concept of religious toleration. However by tolerating the practice of other religions we are not saying that they are equally valid or true. That modern, New Age concept of tolerance is not what the word has historically meant.

What is the difference?
What is the difference between the Christian God and the gods of other religions? Well, first and foremost, the God of the Bible is real. The others are not. God exists. The others are figments of the imagination and demonic deceptions.

However, the differences between Christianity and all other religions is more than the way we look at everything and everyone, reality and responsibility, salvation and discipleship. It is much more than the truth about God, man, eternity and salvation. It is even more than life, both life here and now, and life in the hereafter. The chief and most critical difference between Christianity and other religions is our understanding of the Holiness of God and the seriousness of sin.

The Atoning work of Jesus
What is absolutely unique about Christianity, among all the religions of the world, is its central doctrine of a once for all, never to be repeated, substitutionary Atonement. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His sacrificial death on the Cross made Atonement for our sins and made possible the redemption of His people. Other religions either have a lower view of God’s Holiness or a lower view of the seriousness of mans’ sin, or both. Only Christianity maintains the balance of God’s perfect Holiness and merciful love.

The crucial question is: how can a Holy God reconcile sinful and depraved people and still maintain His justice? Only someone who was sinless could be an atoning sacrifice and only God Himself, coming as a man, could be that perfect sacrifice.

The life of Christ
Other religions are based on the teachings of their founders. Christianity, however, is based on its founder’s life. At the core of the Apostles Creed is Christ: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, He died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to Judge the living and the dead.”
Celebrating Christ

That is why the great festivals of the Christian Faith are: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Ascension Day. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation of God in human flesh, Emmanuel, God with Us; Good Friday, the atoning death of the Son of God for the sins of the world; Easter the victory of Christ over death, hell and the grave through the Resurrection. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of death” Rev 1:18

Above all authorities
The Ascension proclaimed the Lordship of Christ over all human institutions and authorities. Christ “has gone into Heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him” 1 Pet 3:22 “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matt 28:18-20 “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” 1 Cor 15:25 “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the Heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the Faith we profess.” Heb 4:14

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

The uniqueness of Christ
Jesus Christ didn’t claim to know the way, He is the Way. Jesus didn’t just teach the truth, He is the Truth. He does not just have life, He is the Life.
Confucius did not die for the sins of the world. He did not even believe in sin.

Only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, died an atoning death and rose from the dead. Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, and all the rest, died, are buried and have never been heard from since. However the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a unique historical fact.

The lifesaver
All humanity is drowning in an ocean of sin. The religions of the world are throwing out swimming manuals and seeking to give the drowning some instructions on how to swim. However, Jesus Christ is the Lifesaver who has plunged into the ocean to rescue the perishing, at the expense of His own life.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour? Or will He be your eternal Judge? The question is not will you bow to Christ, but when will you bow to Christ?

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in Heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

The first time He came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The second time, when He comes again, He will not come as a Saviour, but as a Judge, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, a conqueror, the eternal Judge.

We either bow to Him today in the day of Grace when salvation is freely available, or we will be forced to bow to Him on the Day of Judgement, when the door of Grace will be firmly closed, when all hope of forgiveness is extinguished. We either bow to Christ as Saviour and Lord now, or we will bow to Him as our Judge in condemnation on the Day of Judgement.

Is Jesus your Saviour, or your Judge?
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.
PETER HAMMOND is a missionary, Bible-teacher and author. For more information, contact:
021 689 4480;; or email

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The Thief Comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy

The Thief Comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy
In March 2008, our precious seven year old son Joel was diagnosed with brain cancer and given months to live. It is difficult and emotional for our family to view these pictures, they are a harsh reminder to us that the devil comes to rob, kill and destroy, and he has no preferences when it comes to race, age, gender or rich or poor. He wants to destroy anything that brings glory to God’s Name.

A lack of knowledge…
In 15 years of being a Christian we had never seen healings. Signs and miracles were not a preaching emphasis. The healings we heard and read about were nearly all associated with the intervention of medicine rather than Godly supernatural healings. So as parents we were faced with our son’s death sentence with not a single reference point to give us faith that God would heal him and no doctrinal underpinning to enable us to stand on God’s promises. We were in a place spiritually where the dominant view was that God would sovereignly decide who He would heal; so we were in His hands irrespective of what we did or believed for. After a brutal six months of two brain operations, extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, our precious ‘Sunshine’ was robbed from us and left a community broken, devastated family and hundreds of people who had prayed for him asking the big question – Why?

At our son’s memorial service well meaning Christians said that they did not know why God took Joel. Something about these sentiments didn’t agree with my soul, and I (Kevin) committed myself to discovering the answer to the big question of why our son had to die.

Searching for answers
Apart from reading the Bible, I literally spent hours  devouring books by John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, T.L. Osborne, F.F. Bosworth and just about every book I could get my hands on related to healing. I was given a copy of ‘The Divine Healing Technician’ – a John G. Lake Ministries training manual.

Finding out God’s Will for us
Probably because of the simple way in which it covers the subject of healing I was able to fully comprehend what the Scriptures had to say about God’s Will for healing as well as on whom He placed the responsibility to heal the sick. After months of relentless research and studying the Word of God, I had my answer to the “Why” question. I discovered that God loved us so much that not only had Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of every sin, He had also paid for the healing of every sickness and disease through the stripes that were laid across His back (see Psalm 103: 2-3 ; Isaiah 53:3-6  and 1 Peter 2:24).

I also realised that in Christ we have authority over sickness and disease and that God had given believers the responsibility to heal the sick (Mark 16:18 ; James 5: 13). As born-again believers we lack for nothing and are fully equipped to heal any sickness, raise the dead, cast out devils and cleanse the lepers. We do not believe in generational curses, and many other misconceptions such as, “It must have been some serious sin we had committed to allow the enemy access to take our son out.”

Witnessing miracles!
Armed with this new knowledge I stepped out with confidence and immediately began to see results. (Bear in mind that in 15 years of being a Christian, I had prayed for many sick people and had never seen one person healed)! This seems to be the testimony of most Christians I know. In the first week of praying for the sick with my new understanding of Divine healing, three deaf people were healed. Monique and I started praying about this new path God was leading us on, and though we both run our own businesses (Monique in landscaping and I run a microdot technology company combatting fraud), we felt that God wanted us to get more involved in John G. Lake Ministries.

We contacted Curry Blake who heads up the international ministry, and formed a relationship with him. Over the last 16 months we have witnessed close to 400 healings of just about every known sickness. We are excited about what the Lord is doing and though the pain of our loss is still very raw and very real but by the grace of God we are able to face each new day.

Biblical Renaissance: Storytelling in Africa

Biblical Renaissance: Storytelling in Africa
The story of Ardmore begins with Fee Halsted and Bonnie Ntshalintshali. Fee lived on a farm and noticed Bonnie, daughter of a farm worker with polio, couldn’t work on the farm because she could hardly walk. Fee, who worked regularly with ceramics, saw talent in Bonnie and asked her if she would like to learn.  Within five years the duo won the 1990 Standard Bank Young Artist Award. The artists were commissioned to create an exhibition for the following year. Bonnie created 12 ceramic pieces that told Biblical stories; one piece told the story of Jonah, the other Daniel and the lions den, the next of Adam and Eve, Joseph and Pharaohs Dream and so on.

Bonnie told Biblical stories through her sculptures through the use of stacking tiers as scenes. The first scene would begin at the base of the piece, and then the scenes would progress, each third telling a different part of the story, much like a media storyboard. However, neither Bonnie nor Hollywood claim the inventive right to storytelling through illustrated scenes. This form of storytelling echoes the method used in the early Christian art in the catacombs where Biblical stories were told in frames. Bonnie’s friends and family have since joined Ardmore.

Artists with a message
Arise Auction has the privilege of auctioning one of Ardmore’s most talented and inspired sculptor’s work, Petros Gumbi. His amazing creations have been exhibited all over the world and he has travelled with them to Kuala Lumpur and London where he participated in the Christie’s exhibition in January 2003, 2004, and 2007.

His ‘John Dunn’ historical sculpture was exhibited at the K.I.T. Trompen Museum in Amsterdam and in 2004 he was invited to participate with South Africa’s leading ceramicists in the prestigious Earthworks Claybodies exhibition in Stellenbosch.

Petros: Tell us the story of the vase that will be auctioned?
Like Bonnie’s pieces I have told a Biblical story through art. This vase is the story of Jonah: God sent Jonah to Nineveh and Jonah decided to go the other way. On the way he is swallowed by the fish and in the fish he turns his heart to go the same direction as God sent him.

In the waters the people represent the different tribes or nations that John the Baptist baptises and also turn their heart. At the top of the vase is Jesus, baptised with the Holy Spirit as a dove coming down and going up, arising. I did this piece for God not me. It is a ‘Jonahre’ vase telling the Truth from the Bible.

How does this story tell us about Jesus’ mission for the lost?
“As the people of different nations come to Jesus, kings and children and women of the nations come together as one, with love and the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ.” Biblically, the body of the vase, where the waters of the sea and the Jordan River merge, symbolises the people of the world uniting as one Body, through Christ’s sacrifice. The crowning glory of this piece is the dove descending on the head of Christ, the sign of Jonah and the sign of peace that Christ came to fulfil.

Fee: How do you see this commemorative Biblical renaissance piece also commemorating Bonnie and Ardmore’s Biblical storytelling beginnings?
Since Bonnie’s passing there are a select few artists who have emerged with as much passion and talent. This is a divine gift. Petros and Bonnie share a common faith in Christ and passion for telling Biblical stories. Ardmore is thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase storytelling from Africa through sculptural art. As a collectable recognised internationally we believe this piece will communicate its powerful message, much like Jonah, from Africa across cultures to foreign nations.

Africa’s storytelling can remind the Western world again of Biblical Truth, lived out in humility and appreciation as a family in the stories of the Bible.

Fee, do you feel Ardmore pieces can be labelled as ‘Jonahre art’ (Biblical storytelling through art)?
When we spoke about ‘Jonahre’ I remember relating so well. On a personal level, since the term is a play on the book of Jonah, I felt an instant connection as the artists have likened me to Jonah. On a practical level, I think it’s perfect to have a term for the pieces that tell Biblical stories, the Zulu culture is full of storytelling.

I have been awed how incredible Petros’ sculpture has turned out – it was as if God’s hand took over Petros’ hands giving him divine creativity. The Jonahre, Biblical storytelling pieces are so moving, there is no doubt that God is behind it and all that exists at Ardmore.

Participate in the art auction
Jonahre art is having a Biblical Renaissance. You are no doubt aware of this movement if you have been following JOY!’s series on the “Biblical Renaissance for Art.” Arise Auction will be celebrating this renaissance in conjunction with Desert Star Studios by auctioning off commemorative pieces as well as selling affordable replicas. The proceeds of the auction will go towards art initiatives within the global Church and compassion ministries within Africa.

To be part of this movement, go to and view the stunning pieces of work that have been created.

Turtles and Sharks in the Workplace

Turtles and Sharks in the Workplace
Workforce diversity is a blessing and challenge! In my work as a business coach, one of the most regular conversations revolves around the issue of conflict management. South Africans are blessed, but also challenged ,by an immensely diversified workforce, which often results in misunderstandings, different expectations and values – hence fertile ground for much strife!

The conflict profiles
Johnson (1986) describes five metaphorical conflict styles that people adopt when faced with confrontation, of which the ‘ferocious shark’ and the ‘meek turtle’ are the opposite extremes. We all know ‘sharks’ who always aim to be winners in any confrontation. They use tactics like attacking, overpowering, overwhelming and intimidating others, and are not concerned with the needs of the other party in the ‘war’. This is essentially an aggressive communication style, resulting in ‘win-lose’ outcomes.

At the other end are the meek little ‘turtles’ who withdraw into their shells to avoid conflicts at all cost. They see conflict as being destructive, and thus a threat to relationships. The person who has a passive communication style, thus never voicing an opinion and always ‘escaping’ is a perfect example. Turtles use avoidance strategies like leaving the room, outward submission and compliance, and the ‘silent treatment’ to deal with confrontation – never believing that there is a possibility for a good outcome. Another win-lose example!

Fear of man
Interestingly, both ‘sharks’ and ‘turtles’ usually fear conflict – they just respond to it differently! The one thinks that overpowering the ‘enemy’ would get the conflict out of the way soonest, whilst the other runs to the ends of the earth if necessary to avoid being drawn into a confrontation.

The underlying motivation of both these styles is the fear of man, something we as Christian’s are warned against in Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe”. A great role model is Jesus himself. Although He was the personification of a loving, caring servant, He never shied away from confronting others with the truth.

A paradigm shift is needed
Not all conflict is bad and to be avoided. In fact, constructive conflict is necessary for continued development and creative problem-solving, as it provides energy for growth. Conflict is also seen as an important characteristic of teams, ensuring creative problem-solving and as a prerequisite for cohesion. Thus teams that can confront each other constructively will have more team solidarity and loyalty to each other, as well as better output, than those with destructive conflict behaviours.

The ‘how-to’ of conflict
Johnson’s ‘owl’ is seen as the ideal conflict style. Owls view conflicts as opportunities for problem-solving and always go for win-win solutions. They are generally not satisfied until a solution is found that achieves the goals of both parties, and until the tensions and negative feelings have been fully resolved.

From Scripture we see that we should love other people as oneself (Lev 19:18; Mat 19:19) and behave according to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), seeking each other’s well-being before thinking of our own needs. Our attitude should always remain one of respect and love towards others, no matter how we disagree with someone else. We are to serve each other (Gal 5:13) and not harm another in any way whatsoever (Rom 13:10; Rom 15:2).

The assertive person would give his or her opinion truthfully, but with tact and love, to preserve both the rights of himself and the other party. Other guidelines include:

Respect others and their opinions
Be assertive, say what you think and need, be honest
Collaborate with others, don’t see them as the ‘enemy’
Work towards solving problems instead of blaming people
Go for win-win outcomes, even if you have to compromise
Forgive others for their offences against you.

Labour relations are another minefield of conflict and strife in the workplace, where both parties, employer and employee, focus on their own interests without regard for the others.

From a Christian perspective the prevailing attitude from all involved should be one of fairness towards others. Employers should treat employees with fairness concerning their wages (1 Tim 5:17-18), living conditions, work environment etc. In return employees should be loyal, submissive and fair towards the employer in doing the best job that they are able to do.

But even if the other party can be considered your enemy, Jesus still guided us toward forgiveness and love “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” Matt 5:44

Do You Have a Great Marriage – Or is it Just Good Enough?

Do You Have a Great Marriage – Or is it Just Good Enough?
If you’re like most couples, you launched into marriage as if it were a magic carpet ride to paradise. You were deeply in love and your wedding was a dream come true. Then came the dreamy, steamy honeymoon that you wished would never end! And when you moved into your first place together, you brought the honeymoon with you, right? You couldn’t keep your hands off each other!

But then, like most couples, that ecstasy started to fade. Now, we’re not saying that the honeymoon couple you used to be has mutated into a couple who never has any fun. But you’ve got to admit that, as the miles have rolled up on the odometer of your marriage, some of the chrome has lost its shine and the engine coughs now and then. Whereas your married life came off the starting line with the excitement of a sports car accelerating through hairpin turns, you have more or less settled into a freeway existence on cruise control.In reality, the intensity and ecstasy of the honeymoon never lasts for any of us. It wasn’t meant to. But that doesn’t mean you have to remain the victim of the status quo, or that you have to settle for a relationship that’s good enough – but not as good as it could be. Don’t we all want a great marriage?

Cruise control may be alright for your car, but it’s not alright for your marriage. Cruise control means that you’re simply maintaining, that you have settled into a groove and are just rolling along at a functional, but not very exciting pace. Your marriage may be good, but is it getting better? You may still be going together, but are you growing together? You need to guard your marriage against just being ‘good enough’. And here’s the thing: There is a subtle danger in just cruising through marriage. Unlike a car on cruise control, marriages can’t just maintain a constant speed. If your relationship isn’t growing deeper, it’s growing more vulnerable to relational disconnect, discord and even emotional divorce.

You may say, “Hey, no marriage is perfect,” and you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean your marriage can’t get better and stronger and more fulfilling as the years go by – no matter how many miles you’ve logged together. It takes effort and energy, purpose and planning, time and tenacity. But the first step to a great marriage is deciding not to settle for good enough.
If you’re concerned that your marriage may be stuck, ask yourself these questions:

I n what ways has your marriage relationship slipped into cruise control?
How might you have conveyed to your spouse the attitude that your marriage is ‘good the way it is’?
How many good books on marriage have you read in the last month/year?
What else have you done to grow as a husband or wife?
When was the last time you went away together for a day or two to talk and pray about your marriage, close the loop on any offences between you, set goals for yourselves as a couple, and just have fun together?

There are three major parts to making your marriage great: emotional intimacy, physical intimacy and spiritual intimacy.

Emotional intimacy
We hear from couples who work full-time, go to school, raise kids, serve at church (sometimes even more) and they wonder why they aren’t feeling more connected in their marriage. So many couples aren’t making their marriages a top priority. Instead, their relationship is put on the back burner. Everything else seems more important – careers, kids, hobbies and volunteer work.

We live with the lie we can have it all, we can do it all and we deserve it all. Many couples are so busy that they don’t take time to nurture the foundation of their family – their marriage and their relationship with each other. And when that marriage foundation begins to crumble, everything else comes down with it.

You need to set priorities, and your top priorities must be God, your spouse and your kids – in that order. You’ve got to make time to connect with your spouse and give your kids the security of their parents’ strong marriage.

One way to make your spouse a priority is to intentionally set aside time to connect to each other every day. We suggest you sit down together in a designated place and talk for 20 minutes.

Here’s an example of how we have made this work in our home. When our children were still at home we would eat dinner together as a family. Dinner was the time for our kids to tell us about their day and talk about what was happening in their lives. After dinner, it was our turn to connect with each other and we would sit down in two chairs in our living room to talk. The kids knew they couldn’t disturb us during that time unless it was an emergency. The time we invested by spending a little extra time in conversation each day made our marriage much stronger and will work in yours too.

Physical intimacy
It’s the understatement of all understatements: Men and women are different! If we tried to get into all the ways in which we’re different, we’d need a lot more space than we have in this article, that’s for sure! So instead, we’re going to focus on one area: Sex.

As you’ve probably discovered, men and women just don’t have the same needs when it comes to sexual intimacy. We’ve found that the problem isn’t that couples don’t know about gender differences. The problem is that even though we recognise the differences – many of us never take the time to study, appreciate and pursue those differences as being good and worthy. Instead, many couples continue to assume that the wife will respond like a husband, and the husband will respond like a wife. If you’ve bought into that line of thinking, let us remind you: That is never going to happen. Period. It’s that simple.

So what should a couple do? Should they resign themselves to experiencing a boring – or nonexistent – sex life? No! We want to encourage you to learn about and appreciate the differences between you and your spouse. The truth is, God made us different, but He also made us to be complementary – to balance each other, to fit together, to make us one.

To meet our needs, we have to meet our spouses’ needs. They are ultimately connected. Of course, that’s not to say that men only want the physical and women only want the emotional. Both need both. It’s just that we are wired to get both by coming at it from two distinct ways.

God wired a man to feel connected to his wife through sexual intimacy. The physical act of sex opens his feelings and allows him to become more vulnerable. Sex gives him a sense of closeness and intimacy. He is better able to concentrate on such things as his emotions. God wired a woman to feel connected to her husband by experiencing an emotional connection. Emotional connection gives her a sense of safety. She is better able to give herself to physical sex.

Make sex an important part of your marriage. God designed this part of marriage to be experienced to the fullest. Men and women may view sex differently but both need the emotional, spiritual and physical closeness that comes through sexual intimacy. And in order to take your sexual intimacy to the next level we suggest you pray over your marriage bed. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage should be honoured by all and the marriage bed kept pure.” Each morning when I (Barb) make our bed I pray over where Gary sleeps starting with his pillow, asking God to give him a ‘holy delete’ of any images that he has taken in during the day.

I then pray for where his heart lays in the bed, asking God to help him guard his heart and remain faithful. I pray at the place his feet rest asking the Lord to help Gary bring the good news of the Gospel with his feet.

I then go to my side of the bed and pray for my mind, heart and feet as well. Each day this ritual of praying over our marriage bed restores what the enemy has tried to steal and reminds me of the goal of sexual intimacy and spiritual intimacy that is blessed by God.

Spiritual intimacy
You may not realise the power spiritual intimacy can have on your relationship with your spouse. We often describe it this way: Emotional and physical intimacy ignite the rocket in your marriage, but spiritual intimacy fires the afterburners and gets you into orbit! Emotional and physical attraction is what drew you together, but the spiritual connection is what keeps you together. Just take a look at some of the benefits of spiritual intimacy in a marriage:

It allows you to connect at the deepest level
It links you with God’s purposes and plans for you
It brings your deepest values and desires into agreement
It opens the door to the deepest levels of communication
It empowers your marriage to survive
It connects you to a supportive body of fellow disciples.

So how can you and your mate begin to grow spiritually as a couple? Here are some of our recommendations:

Read the Bible. Schedule daily times to read God’s Word. Make an appointment with God, and keep it. Do a Bible study or a devotional book together, or work through a study independently and then discuss it together. Our book ‘Renewing Your Love’ is a 30 day devotional designed to help couples study a passage together, reflect on its meaning for their marriages, pray together and practice ways to love each other more deeply
Share the Word. Talk together about what God is teaching you
Pray aloud together. You can’t get any more intimate than praying together as a couple. If you haven’t prayed with your spouse before, start slowly – but start today. Be conversational in your prayers by expressing small and brief prayers one after another just like you would in a regular conversation
Encourage accountability to others. Help each other find an accountability group – men for him, women for her – that will serve as a sounding board and spiritual support. Choose groups that will ultimately strengthen your commitment to each other, not weaken it
Find mentors. Ask a mature Christian couple with a healthy marriage to mentor you as a couple
Speak up. When you see your spouse take steps of spiritual growth, compliment him or her about it. Cheer your spouse on to more of the same
Teach your children to follow God. One of the greatest responsibilities of your shared commitment to Christ is passing on your faith to your children. Strategise together about how to make faith vital for each of them, and act on your plans
Count your blessings. Set aside time to thank God for everything He does.

Work for intimacy
Don’t ever stop working toward building more intimacy together as a couple. One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is a lifelong commitment to growing closer to him or her through emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy and to not just settle for having a marriage that is ‘good enough’. Make it great!