A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one.  Our family is able to spend Thanksgiving Day with our kids and grandkids at the Central Coast. It is so good to be with them again. We are so thankful for them and for God’s grace in all of our lives. The following article is by one of the greatest evangelists of all time. I am thankful for Billy Graham’s ministry in my life and, when I read this article, I knew that this would be a perfect article to share this time of year. Enjoy! And . . . be thankful!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

HOW TO BE THANKFUL IN ALL THINGS

By Billy Graham, November, 2017

Introduction

Are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you have lost your job recently, as the economy has continued to struggle. Or you may have lost your health, or a loved one. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. Look with me at the story of a man who had every right to be bitter—but wasn’t.

Message

The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.

Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!

The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity.Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).

Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.

Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.

Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing:To be healed.

One day 10 lepers approached Jesus outside a village, loudly pleading with Him to heal them. In an instant He restored the mall to perfect health—but only one came back and thanked Him. All the rest left without a word of thanks, their minds preoccupied only with themselves, gripped with a spirit of ingratitude.

Today, too, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. Children forget to thank their parents for all that they do. Common courtesy is scorned. We take for granted the ways that others help us. Above all, we fail to thank God for His blessings.

Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that “although they knewGod, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21,NIV). An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent toHis mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are onGod for everything.

From one end of the Bible to the other, we are commanded to be thankful. In fact, thankfulness is the natural outflowing of a heart that is attuned to God. The psalmist declared, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving” (Psalm 147:7, NIV). Paul wrote, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15,NIV). A spirit of thanksgiving is always the mark of a joyous Christian.

Why should we be thankful? Because God has blessed us, and we should be thankful for each blessing.

Thank God for the Material Blessings That He Gives You

We seem never to be satisfied with what we have—rich or poor, healthy or sick. But what a difference it makes when we realize that everything we have has been given to us by God! King David prayed,“Wealth and honor come from you … We give you thanks, and praise your glorious name … Everything comes from you” (1 Chronicles 29:12-14, NIV).

Some years ago I visited a man who was wealthy and successful. He was the envy of all his friends and business associates. But as we talked, he broke down in tears, confessing that he was miserable inside.Wealth had not been able to fill the empty place in his heart.

A few hours later I visited another man only a short distance away. His cottage was humble, and he had almost nothing in the way of this world’s possessions. And yet his face was radiant as he told me about the work he was doing for Christ and how Christ had filled his life with meaning and purpose. I am convinced that the second man was really the rich man. Although he didn’t have much, he had learned to be thankful for everything that God had given him. Paul declared, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12,NIV). A spirit of thankfulness makes all the difference.

Are you constantly preoccupied with what you do not have? Or have you learned to thank God for what you do have?

Thank God for the People in Your Life

It is so easy to take people for granted, or even to complain and become angry because they do not meet our every wish. But we need to give thanks for those around us—our spouses, our children, our relatives, our friends and others who help us in some way.

I once received a letter from a woman who began by telling me how fortunate she was to have a kind, considerate husband.She then used four pages to list all his faults! How many marriages and other relationships grow cold and eventually are shattered because of the sin of ingratitude?

Do you let others know that you appreciate them and are thankful for them? The Christians in Corinth were far from perfect, but Paul began his first letter to them by saying, “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4, NIV). When a group of believers (whom Paul had never met) came out to greet him as he approached Rome, we read that “at the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged” (Acts 28:15, NIV).Thank God for those who touch your life.

Thank God in the Midst of Trials and Even Persecution

We draw back from difficulties, yet not one of us is exempt from some kind of trouble. In many parts of the world it is dangerous even to be a Christian because of persecution.

And yet in the midst of those trials we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer toHimself: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance”(James 1:2-3, NIV).

When the prophet Daniel learned that evil men were plotting against him to destroy him, “he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10, NIV). TheBible commands, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Paul declared, “You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light” (Colossians1:12, Phillips).

I don’t know what trials you may be facing right now, but God does, and He loves you and is with you by His Holy Spirit.Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trials and heartaches.

“God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven.”

Thank God Especially for His Salvation in Jesus Christ

God has given us the greatest Gift of all—HisSon, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).

The Bible tells us that we are separated fromGod because we have sinned. But God loves us—He loves you, He loves me—and He wants us to be part of His family forever. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we need to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. And if you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation?We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ.

Thank God for His Continued Presence and Power in Your Life

When we come to Christ, it is not the end but the beginning of a whole new life! He is with us, and He wants to help us follow Him and His Word.

In ourselves we do not have the strength that we need to live the way God wants us to live. But when we turn to Him, we discover that “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV). Jesus promised His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18, 20, NIV).

In many countries a special day is set aside each year for thanksgiving. But for the Christian every day can be a day of thanksgiving, as we are “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV).

Give thanks in Worship

Don Moen | God Will Make A Way & Give Thanks

https://youtu.be/Oe8L9b3hzmY

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
Joy is one of the hallmarks of Jesus Christ. He came that we might have fullness of joy! And, together, we can experience that in our marriages and in our church body. In today’s challenging times, there may not be a lot to be “happy” about but we can experience His joy every day in our lives because that’s Who He is! Joy! May I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus today and allow His indwelling life permeate you with His joy!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

MARKED BY JOY

A devotional from First 15

Introduction

Our God is the God of hope, and we, as believers, can be continuously filled with joy and hope as we focus on Him and follow His path. One of the ways He is known in the Scriptures is as “the God of hope” as evidenced in Paul’s letter to the Romans: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13 ESV

May we all experience His joy and peace as we believe and follow our God of hope!

Scripture

“The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.”

PROVERBS 10:28 

Devotional

C.S. Lewis said, “All joy emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” As pilgrims on the journey to boundless communion with our heavenly Father, we are called to be marked by a sustaining and transcendent joy. Our God is a God of joy. He is the creator of fun and the giver of abundant life. He longs for his children to taste and see his goodness (Psalm 34:8). He longs for us to open our hearts, cast off the cares of this world, and receive the joy that comes from living for heaven.

Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Proverbs 10:28 says, “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” We serve a joyful King. There is no greater joy than living in the fullness of relationship available to us in Christ. To live for heaven is to throw off whatever weight would entangle us to the depravity of this world and seek sustaining joy that comes down from heaven to fill our hearts.

Our Father cares deeply about the concerns of this world. He weeps over the lost. He becomes angry over the works of the enemy. He is deeply saddened when we choose the fleeting and unsatisfying ways of the world over his fulfilling and perfect plans. But in the midst of all his emotions, he is joyfully expectant for the age that is to come. He sees the depravity and wounds and celebrates that one day soon it will all be redeemed. He is elated over the day that “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). And there is sustaining joy available to us this side of heaven if we will allow him to fill us with his perspective.

James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If we will allow the Lord to redeem the trials and testing we endure in this life, we will begin to bear the fruit of joy in the midst of any circumstance. Unshakable joy is our portion. The heart of our Father is to make us a people marked by the joy of heaven. Take time today in guided prayer to throw off whatever is keeping you from experiencing the joy of the Lord. Rest in his presence and search out his heart. May you be a child marked by the joy of your heavenly Father today.

Prayer

1. Meditate on the importance and availability of joy to you.
Allow Scripture to fill your heart with a longing to pursue continual joy.“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

2. What is keeping you from experiencing joy?
What is weighing you down today? Ask for the Lord’s help in throwing off that which is robbing you of his joy. Ask him to guide you to a path of unshakable joy today.“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4“For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” Psalm 33:21

3. Take time to rest in the presence of your Father and search out his heart.
Ask him to share with you his perspective for your life. Ask him to help you care about only the things he cares about.“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7

May Romans 5:2-5 be your anthem of hope today:

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Go...

C.S Lewis is also quoted as saying, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” We are not to be flippant about our joy. To be marked by joy is to allow the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our lives. When we have genuine joy in the midst of trials and troubles, we declare to the world the unchanging and tangible goodness of our heavenly Father. When we meet challenges head-on with joy, we declare with our attitudes the hope we have for the age that is to come. Pursue joy wholeheartedly today and declare with your life the principles of God’s kingdom so that others might come to restored relationship with their Creator.

Extended Reading:

Psalm 16

Worship in Song

Garments, CoryAsbury
https://youtu.be/z17vNH9_BV0

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
As I meet with and talk to couples during these challenging days, it seems like a common theme arises in our conversations. Hope seems to be a fleeting reality in the lives of many of these couples. As we explore this topic it soon becomes evident that the focus of their hope has been their spouse . . . or their job . . . or the hope Covid-19 will disappear, or (you fill in the blank). Whenever the focus of our lives is on anything or anybody else than God, we can lose hope. In the Scriptures we have two very clear directives and that is to love the Lord our God and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37). Whenever we reverse that instruction and put our spouse or anything else before loving God, it doesn’t go well for us. Right? Our hope is not in our spouse or a “better me” but in the living and loving God of the universe. This devotional is a good reminder of that, with some great Scriptures to direct our thinking. Do you need renewed hope in your life and marriage? Seek Him first and watch what happens!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

A NEW AND LIVING HOPE

A devotional from First 15

Introduction

As children of God, we have been given a new home and a new hope. May your heart be set aflame by the joy and purpose of living out God’s command to live for heaven this week: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ inGod. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

Scripture

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

ROMANS 15:13 

Devotional

 The world is a fearful and unsatisfying place without the hope of eternal life with Jesus. Apart from the expectation that comes from the hope of heaven, our world is without cause for peace, celebration, or joy. There is life in hope. There is joy in hope. There is purpose in hope. Hope is to be at the foundation of all our decisions, emotions, and pursuits. Hope fills us with joy in the midst of trial and perseverance in the midst of failure. Hope guides us to abundant life.

Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” We have the promise of eternal life in perfect, unveiled relationship with ourCreator and Sustainer. The King of kings and Lord of lords waits patiently for the final redemption and restoration of all things (Revelation 21:1). He longs for the day when all pain, tears, disappointment, separation, and sin will end for good (Revelation 21:4). And he longs to fill us with the same hope and expectation he has within himself.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the HolySpirit you may abound in hope.” Our heavenly Father longs to make us a people of hope. He longs for his followers to live a lifestyle that declares to the world, “This life is not all there is.” He longs to fill us with a heavenly perspective that we might throw off pursuits of worldly pleasure and live for eternity with him.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The hope of eternal life with our Father is to be the guiding light set ever before us. Where have you set your hope? Where do the treasures of your heart lie? Placing our hope in heaven secures the treasures of our hearts with our heavenly Father for all of eternity. In contrast, when we treasure the things of the world, that which we accumulate will pass away as quickly as it came.

Take time in guided prayer to allow the Lord to fill you with a fresh hope for the age that is to come. Allow your perspectives to shift in light of the glory of an eternity spent in total communion with theCreator. May the hope of heaven guide you to a lifestyle of storing up your treasures, and therefore your heart, with your heavenly Father. 

Prayer

1. Meditate on the importance of hope. Allow Scripture to shift your perspectives and pursuits to living for heaven.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” Proverbs 10:28

2. Where have you placed your hope in the things of the world? What have you been looking to in order to satisfy your longings that is fleeting and temporary?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

3. Ask the Lord to help you place your hope in heaven alone. Choose to live your life for your heavenly Father instead of seeking worldly success and satisfaction. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you ways in which you can rid yourself of the world and receive the hope of heaven.

“‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Go...

May Romans 5:2-5 be your anthem of hope today:

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Extended Reading:

Matthew 6 

Worship in Song

Phil Wickham - Living Hope (Official Music Video)

https://youtu.be/u-1fwZtKJSM

 

 

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
The following article appeared in THE CHRISTIAN POST newspaper on Monday, November 2, 2020. I thought it had a solid, Biblical approach to how to view the election, regardless of the outcome. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Right?
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

5 TRUTHS TO HOLD ON TO NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS IN ELECTION

A devotional from THE CHRISTIAN POST

By Jason Jimenez, Op-Ed Contributor, THE CHRISTIAN POST

Elections matter. They matter a great deal. But no matter what happens after November 3, 2020, I want to remind you of five truths of far greater importance than who is elected to office.

I hope that as you read these truths, you will find your heart and mind settled on the simple fact that God is sovereign, and his divine plans will not be thwarted.

First Truth:

God is primary; a political party is secondary.  What matters more than anything is to be with the Lord. Paul reminds all Christians, "Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). Your final destination needs to be your primary focus, not mostly on the expectations you have on temporary matters. That doesn't mean you don't care about the affairs of the world. It's making sure that you don't let what happens in the world politically cause you not to effect change spiritually.

Second Truth:

You do not unite under a political figure but are united in the person of Jesus Christ.  The natural thing to do if your candidate doesn't get enough votes is to slip into depression. But, instead of fixating on the repercussions of your candidate not winning, be reminded that Christ came into this world to save you from sin and death. In the end, you might have to pay higher taxes but be encouraged that you are united with Christ in his resurrection (Rom. 6:4-5), adopted into his Sonship (Gal. 4:5), and have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heaven (Eph. 1:3).

Third Truth:

It's your faith that defines you, not politics.  Politics has become a religion for many people. But it shouldn't be for Christians. Your political party may win or lose, but that doesn't determine the outcome of your faith. John affirms, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith" (1 Jn. 5:4). Keep engaging the culture with the gospel despite who is in the White House.

Fourth Truth:

The Bible is your standard, not your political views.  After the election, your governor, senator, or even the President may not be a person who holds to the same beliefs you do. If that's the case, make it a priority to pray for them and take comfort in the fact that they are not your standard of how to live. The Bible teaches you how you ought to live. So, no matter what policies are legislated in your state or the country, keep turning to the infallible Word of God for direction and solace.

Fifth Truth:

Spend more time with Jesus than listening to political leaders.  Before reading this last truth, check your screen time first. How many hours did you spend on your phone already today? Or how much TV or YouTube did you consume in the last week? The point is, you can get so bombarded by the endless news clips, segments, and points of view —that it can bring you to a breaking point. It's good to stay informed, but not at the expense of not spending time with Jesus. You will find that the more you cultivate time with Jesus, the healthier you will be to counteract the falsehoods espoused in the culture.

Worship the Lord in Song:

Turn Your Eyes • The Glorious Christ Live

https://youtu.be/F2tKVqZZiI4

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
I love this devotional because it covers one of the fruits of the Spirit that we all desperately need (and possess in Jesus) during these trying times. Peace in the midst of uncertainty . . . peace in the midst of protests and unrest . . . peace in the midst of political upheaval, and . . . peace in the midst of relationship struggles. Read and meditate on this devotional and make a decision to revel in His peace in your life. Take your eyes off your struggles. Focus on what you DO have, the peace of Jesus Christ in your life! Hallelujah to the Prince of Peace!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

PEACE IN RELATIONSHIPS

A devotional from First 15

Introduction

One of the most powerful marks of a believer is transcendent peace. This world offers us no reason to be peaceful. It offers us no reason to be without stress, burdens, cares, and total frustration. But we serve a God who offers us peace in the midst of any circumstance. We serve aGod in whom all true peace finds its source. May you discover the heart of your heavenly Father to bring you peace this week.

Scripture

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” COLOSSIANS3:15

Devotional

Relationships are one of the parts of life that can most rob us of our peace in the Holy Spirit. Our lives are all in some way impacted by one another. If I am counting on someone and they don’t come through, it can profoundly impact my circumstances. If I truly love someone and they wound, neglect, or reject me, it can undoubtedly hinder my ability to enjoy the peace of God. But God offers us peace in the midst of all circumstances. Jesus maintained peace in the Holy Spirit in the midst of those he loved shouting, “Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21). May God lead us today to a path of continual peace founded on his love and truth.

Colossians 3:12-15 describes a road map to powerful, transcendent peace in our relationships. Scripture says,

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

The pathway to peace with others begins with choosing to die to yourself. We are completely unable to control anyone. Each person has a will and the power to love us or reject us. Even believers will consistently fail you. If the people of God could stand in the presence of God incarnate and shout, “Crucify him,” you can know others will reject you. But when you choose to continually humble yourself before others and serve, you will be filled with the “peace of Christ” (Colossians 3:15). When we choose to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” regardless of the actions of others, we position ourselves to continually bear the fruit of peace(Colossians 3:12).

We find our greatest example of this in the person of Jesus. Just as he could ask forgiveness from his heavenly Father by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as the soldiers who nailed him to the cross gambled for his clothing, you will have a supernatural peace when you choose to live selflessly in love (Luke 23:24). The Holy Spirit will fill you with peace in your relationships when you choose to live like Jesus.

Take time today to put on a “compassionate[heart], kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Choose to die to yourself and live forChrist. And watch as the Holy Spirit anoints you with the fruit of peace and love to live like Jesus did. May your relationships be filled with patience today as you live in obedience to the word of your loving heavenly Father.

Prayer

1. Meditate onScripture’s command to die to yourself and live like Jesus.

“If anyone would comeafter me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

“For whoever would savehis life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’swill save it.” Mark 8:35

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

2. What would it be like to live in a consistent posture of love and humility rather than in response to the actions of others? What sort of peace would you feel if your emotions and actions were less founded on others and more based on the unconditional love and commands of God?

3. Choose to live today in humility and service. Decide to die to yourself and live in total surrender to the Holy Spirit.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in theSpirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in ChristJesus.” Philippians 2:1-5

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

Go...

As you seek peace with others in your midst, may Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:12-15 be at the center of your heart and mind:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Extended Reading:

Colossians3

 

Worship the Lord in Song

Peace Be Still (Lyrics) ~ The Belonging Co ft. Lauren Daigle

https://youtu.be/VBzg4B3_yS8

 

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
ourselves as believers. In fact, it’s fair to say that God calls us to be involved in a community of faith in order to grow in our faith and walk rightly with Him. This devotional from First 15 directs us to some meaningful Scriptures and thoughts that can help propel us forward in our spiritual development. There are many ways to connect in our community of faith at Clovis Christian Church. There are weekly church services; the weekly men’s and women’s Bible studies; marriage fellowships and counseling; home fellowship groups; weekly youth groups and other Bible study groups. The point is, you can’t “go it alone” and expect to experience the kind of spiritual growth that the Lord expects from us. The table is set for all of us at our church. The spiritual meal is waiting in various venues but we have to show up to enjoy the spiritual food available for us. Won’t you come to the table and sit with other believers? Contact the church office if you’d like more specific information about how you can participate in our community . . . there’s a chair waiting for you! God bless you!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

SEEKING GOD THROUGH COMMUNITY

A devotional from First 15

Introduction

Learning to seek the face of God is the foundation for experiencing the amazing life Jesus died to give us. We have available to us through Christ all the wonders, excellences, and satisfaction we can fathom. God has granted us grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy, affection upon affection, and love upon love. When we pursue him through all the avenues available to us, a door is opened in which we discover all our heavenly Father longs to give us. May you grow in your pursuit of God this week as we study various ways we’ve been given to seek his face.

Scripture

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
HEBREWS10:24-25

Devotional

We were not created to go about this life apart from relationship with fellow children of God. Without our brothers and sisters, we will never experience the fullness of life God intends for us. In community, we discover our place in the body of Christ. In community, we learn what it is to serve out of love, honor, and respect. And in community, we receive the healing and love that can only come from those who share in the same Spirit.

Acts 2:42-47 says,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And theLord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts2 describes community that my soul longs for. We were made for honest, vulnerable fellowship. We were created to help each other, eat together, worship our God, and love others. Through engaging with fellow believers, we become a witness to the world of what happens when God works in the hearts of his children. We declare through our love for each other the life and joy that comes from relationship with our heavenly Father.

Scripture is clear that true community requires sacrifice and vulnerability. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 says, “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” God’s desire is for all his children to humble themselves and live as one body. When one part of a physical body hurts, the rest of the body feels the pain and works together to heal. God desires it to be the same among the spiritual body of believers. He desires to fill us with his love and use us to provide healing for one another. He longs to guide us to a lifestyle of humility and sacrifice in pursuit of being his hands and feet for each other.

It takes receiving the love of God to give love. It requires a work of the Spirit to fill us with courage to be vulnerable with our community in order to receive and give the love we’ve been given in Christ. So, will you be a child filled with the love of your Father today? Will you allow God to use you to help a brother or sister? Will you choose the purpose and joy that comes from living sacrificially and vulnerably? If so, you will discover a satisfaction only found in the edification that comes from believers loving one another. May you find the fellowship your heart longs for as you courageously love your brothers and sisters.

Prayer

1. Meditate on the importance of community. Allow Scripture to fill you with a desire to love and be loved by your community.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And theLord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47

2. Reflect on your need for community. Where do you need the healing that comes from relationship with others? What people has God placed in your life? How can you in humility reach out to them for help?

3. Take time and pray for an increase in God-filled community in your life. How does he want to use you to help another person today?How can you lead out in being courageously vulnerable? If you lack such a thing, ask God to provide you with this type of community to share life with.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of theLord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working… My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James5:13-16, 19-20

Go...

God doesn’t ask us to wait for others to step out and live in accordance with his Spirit before he calls us too. His will for us doesn’t hinge upon others’ obedience. God is calling you to a lifestyle of joyful service, sacrifice, and love regardless of people’s initiatives or responses. He longs to fill you with the courage to love others well and help them through their brokenness to a place of honesty and vulnerability. May you be the loving hands and feet of Jesus to your brothers and sisters who so desperately need a touch from God.

Extended Reading:

Philippians 2

WorshipHim in song

We Love Your Name (All Cry Glory) [LIVE] – Jaye Thomas& Chris Tofilon

https://youtu.be/csHLgIQ2TVc

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
One of the truths of living out our Christian life is that we have to be weak in order to embrace His strength. 2 Cor. 12:9-11, states,“ 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” It’s hard for many of us to embrace our weakness because we have been taught and conditioned to be tough and strong in our own resources. This can lead to destructive and unhealthy relationships. This devotional hits home because it focuses on the truth of “strength in weakness.” Enjoy!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

GOD MEETS US IN OUR WEAKNESS

A devotional from First 15

Devotional

The ways of God are radically different than what we experience in the world. The world tells us that only the strong survive. The world values those who can take care of themselves. We’re taught to look to our own strength as our source. We’re taught never to let others see our weakness. But God values those who acknowledge their weakness in humility.His heart is for the destitute, the needy, and the lost. Jesus spent his valuable, limited time with the prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and sinners. And as a result, we who can never be perfect, who even at our best still can’t cut it, have renewed hope.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes, “But he said to me,‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” True growth and transformation aren’t the result of working in our own strength. We can’t change ourselves no matter how hard we try. Transformation is only possible when we declare the truth of our weakness, stop living in our own strength, and receive the power of a loving, present God. Transformation comes when we make room for the Holy Spirit to fill us, empower us, and set us free, not because we are deserving of his help, but because he loves us.

Psalm 103:14 says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” God doesn’t expect perfection from us. He knows perfection is unattainable. And instead of perfection he asks for honesty. Instead of valuing our strength he values our humility. What he asks of us, all of us can give. All of us can boast of our weaknesses as Paul did.All of us can look at our lives and declare our need for God’s grace. And in doing so we receive power from on high. In acknowledging that “we are dust” we gain the help of an Almighty, all-loving, ever-present God.

Stop trying to attain perfection in this life.Stop finding your value and identity in what you do. And look to God as your strength. Allow his love, power, and help to be your source. Live in light of the truth that his strength is both able and available to you. May you enter into a season of peace founded on the limitless grace and power of your heavenly Father.

Prayer

1. Meditate on God’s heart to meet you in your weakness.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

2. In what ways are you living in your own strength? Where do you need to stop striving and receive the grace and help of God?

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

3. Declare your weakness to God and receive the power of his presence. Ask him how he wants to help you. Make space in your heart for the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and empower you.

Go...

Proverbs 22:4 says, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” God has riches, honor, and life in store for you as you live in his strength. He longs to lead you to fullness of life if you will be willing to enthrone him as Lord over your heart. May you be founded on the grace and help of God and experience fullness of life today in the presence of your loving Father.

Extended Reading

Psalm 103

WorshipHim in Song

Broken Vessels(Amazing Grace) - Hillsong UNITED

https://youtu.be/RLfOHwI6hcw

Chris Tomlin -Resurrection Power

https://youtu.be/AxH8Q8ue65o

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
The greatest thing I can do to love my wife and prove obedience to Christ is to love God with all my heart so that I can give that same received love from God to my wife. Matthew 22:34-40 - 34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” That’s why I’ve chosen to share this devotional from First 15, a devotional platform that covers this topic, “Renewal of Your First Love.”  After reading it and listening to the worship music, ask God to show you if you need to renew your first love with Him. What else is getting in the way of you doing that? Busyness, loving your spouse or yourself more than loving God? Loving something else in your life more than adoring the One who created you and called you to Himself? If any of these are true, repent, and seek Him with all your heart and put Him first in your life and be renewed in the spirit of your mind! Hallelujah to the King!
If you have questions about today’s devotional topic or would like to meet together as a couple to take your marriage from good to great, contact me at: ron@cloviscc.com or text me at 559-313-4226
Pastor Ron                                                                                     

RENEWAL OF YOUR FIRST LOVE

Scripture

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” REVELATION 2:4

Introduction

One of the best aspects of spending time alone with God is being renewed daily by his word and presence. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). When we make space for God in our lives, especially at the beginning of the day, he is faithful to renew and prepare us for all we will face out in the world. So as we enter into this week focusing on renewal, where do you need renewal? How greatly do you need God’s mercies in your life? May God teach and guide us into daily renewal as we make space every morning for him to fill.

Devotional

Out of God’s great desire to be truly loved by his people, we have been given the gift of free will to choose who and what we will give our affections to. God, knowing full well that not all of us would choose to love him, still created us out of his longing for close relationship with us. You see, so great is our heavenly Father’s desire for relationship with us that he suffers as he watches his children choose to love people, ideas, and possessions that will never fully love us in return. So great is his love for us that he responds to our sin of idolatry with grace and mercy every single time. And so vast is his affection for us that he sent his only Son so that we might be restored to close relationship with our heavenly Father once again. But still, we choose to love things other than God. Still we seek out satisfaction and love from creation rather than the Creator. Still we choose to place our hope and affections in the world instead of in God. If we are to live the life God intends for us, the only fulfilling life possible, we need a renewal of our first love.

Thousands of years ago, the church in Ephesus was much like we are today. Revelation 2:4 says in reference to the church in Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” The Ephesians were still working and waiting for God. They hadn’t abandoned their faith, just their first love. But Scripture makes it clear that when it comes down to it in the end, what will be most important is the way in which we have loved God. When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Loving God is our first priority. Our love for God is the foundation on which all of life is to be lived. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” This life is all about the posture of your heart.

Reflect for a minute on just how incredible the love of our God is. Scripture makes it clear that he isn’t after our service first, but our love. He only desires us to work with him if it is done out of our love for him. If we prophesy, show incredible acts of faith, or even give up our lives for him out of anything but love, he calls it “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” God is after your heart. More than anything else in the world, he wants to love you and be loved by you. Of course he wants you to co-labor with him and obey his commandments, but only out of love for him. Yes, he wants you to lead others to him, but out of the desire to share the incredible love you’ve been shown. Too often we size up our relationship with God based on how often we’ve gone to church, how many mission trips we’ve been on, how many people we’ve won to Jesus, how many committees we’ve served on, or how much of our finances we’ve given to God. And too often we do all of that trying to win over a God who already loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine. God is the father in the prodigal son story running out to meet you and celebrate you regardless of anything you’ve ever done or will do. He’s the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one. He’s the God who leaves his throne to die for the very people who shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!” And he’s the God who waits patiently every day to show you the depth of his love, that nothing you could ever do will change the way he loves you.

Nothing could be more important than living your life on the foundation of God’s greatest commandment: to love him. And while it’s incredibly important to spend your life loving God, he knows you will only be able to do so if you’ve encountered his love first. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Experiencing God’s love is the beginning and end to everything we do as his children. It’s out of encountering the affections of our heavenly Father that our hearts will be stirred to love him back. Let’s take time today to encounter the love of our heavenly Father and let his kindness draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Encounter the heart of God, and let his love renew within you your first love.

Prayer

1. Meditate on God’s love for you as revealed in his word.
Receive his presence. Let him speak his love straight to your heart.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

2. Reflect on your own life.
Where do you seem to chase after the affections of the world before God? What idols are in your own heart? Who or what do you love more than God?

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4

3. Ask the Lord to heal those places of your heart.
Be drawn to repentance from God’s kindness. Repent to him the places where you’ve idolized someone or something. Receive the healing that happens when you confess your sins.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Worship the Lord

First Love (Acoustic) Hillsong Young & Free

https://youtu.be/FoApqTlMwBg


Nothing Without You (Live) | The Worship Initiative ft. Bethany Barnard

https://youtu.be/ZQr8zNFMME4

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
Someone once said that growth in marriage is not static. A couple is either grow stronger in their marriage or they are growing weaker. The change can be so slight that they may not realize that they are going the wrong way. This newsletter, from our friends at Watermark Community Church, give some practical tips on how to grow your marriage during these uncertain times. Enjoy!
To reach out to Pastor Ron for help with your marriage, email him at ron@cloviscc.com or text him at 559-313-4226.                                                                                      

4 MORE WAYS TO GROW YOUR MARRIAGE IN A PANDEMIC (part 2)

A Newsletter from Watermark Community Church, Dallas, TX

Everyone is walking through the COVID-19 shutdown in different ways. For most of us, these are unprecedented times. Several nights I’ve fallen asleep wondering if I’ll wake up the next morning and find this was all a bad dream. I’ll also confess that many nights this was my prayer before drifted off to sleep.

Increased isolation, pressures of home school, an erratic economy, and financial challenges at work are plaguing most families. Millions filed for unemployment last week and many of us are grieving loss due to the Coronavirus.

As the struggles keep coming, our marriages are being challenged in new and unique ways. This post wraps up a 2-part series on how we can protect and grow our marriages during a pandemic.

1. Have some fun and play together.

With all the heaviness around us, how can we possibly have fun right now? Believe it or not, it is in these moments where we still need fun and laughter, maybe more than ever.

Ecclesiastes 9:9a says, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.” We need to learn to have more fun together in marriage. Yes, marriage will be challenging. In fact, the only promise about marriage in the Bible says that if you do marry you will have trouble in this life (1 Corinthians 7:28). But, thankfully, it’s not all misery and trouble!

Especially during a season like this one, we need to prioritize having fun together with our spouse. Avoid constantly talking about the tough stuff. Do the things you did in the beginning (Revelation 2:4). Remember when you intentionally pursued each before you got engaged? You were fun, creative, and selfless in how you spent your time. That doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. You are free to begin that again!

Cook a meal together or go for a daily walk. Read a book together and discuss what you learn. Grab take-out dinner from a new restaurant. We know these options might not be as romantic as a fancy date night, but try to make the most of the opportunity and do something fun together.

Challenge: What’s one new, fun activity you can do with your spouse? Is it a puzzle or new game? A daily walk around the block? Regardless of what you decide to do, put your phones aside and have some fun.

2. Don’t isolate.

We’re all learning new ways to engage with others during this pandemic. Whether we Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Jitsi, Hangout, Vox, Marco Polo, or go old school and talk to someone on the phone (GASP!), we still need time with friends.

We are so encouraged by the ways we’ve seen community groups connect online. We’ve been reminded that we need others—it is not good for man (and woman) to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Many of us now have evenings open as kid’s games and school concerts are cancelled. Make it a priority to connect with other couples in your life.

When you connect, share how you’re doing and invite others in to help bear your burdens (Galatians 6:2). We must not cease to sharpen and wound one another (Proverbs 27:17, 27:6). And we all need encouragement, every single day (Hebrews 3:13).

If you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out ron@cloviscc.com.

Challenge: Reach out to another couple today and schedule a time to “meet” online. Text some friends and thank them for your friendship.

3. Take good care of yourself (and your spouse).

One of the biggest challenges I’m facing (and I know I’m not alone) is dealing with so much time stuck inside the house. When we choose to protect ourselves and others by social distancing, we miss out on things like time at the gym, walks around the grocery store, and other social activities. Instead, we stay in our homes all day long. While this practice is highly recommended and cares for those at risk, it can take a physical toll.

The pantry and fridge are now only a few feet away. And unless we are intentional with our choices to work out at home, we’re not getting our steps like we used to. When we don’t take good care of ourselves, it affects everything about us, including our marriage. Here are a few suggestions to caring for yourself during a pandemic:

None of these suggestions are rocket science, but when we exercise, eat well, and sleep, we’re taking better care of ourselves. This will affect the way we interact with our spouse. The body of Christ doesn’t talk about this topic enough. Steward your body well (1 Corinthians 6:19) and it will help you grow your marriage.

Challenge: Go for a walk tonight with your spouse. Consider bringing the kids (if you have them), walk your furry child (if you have a dog), or make it a date.

4. Keep it real with your spouse.

Let’s all acknowledge this is just really, really hard. In general, life is filled with disappointment, unmet expectations, and brokenness. In marriage, even more so. When God brings two sinners together and they become one flesh, it’s the perfect recipe for challenges.

Now we add Coronavirus on top of it and things seem even more difficult. In different ways, we’re all grieving right now. While some of us are enjoying a slower pace in the evenings and weekends, we all see the news. We likely know friends or family who have lost jobs, are serving in the frontlines on the medical field, or who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19. These are scary, challenging, turbulent days.

If you’re married, God has gifted you a lifelong companion in the ups and downs of life. In Genesis 2:25 we see Adam and Eve together, naked, and without shame. You and your spouse should be able to be together, naked, and without shame, whether you’re completely naked or fully clothed. So keep it real. Pray together, confess when you fall short, celebrate the wins, and be intimate in every way (spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically).

Challenge: Share one way you’re grieving and one thing you’re thankful for with your spouse.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Brad Wilcox (Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies) wrote about two types of marriage.

Most Americans subscribe to a “soul mate model” of marriage where feelings form the foundation of marriage. This form of marriage is often selfish and is based upon emotions like happiness. Once the loving feelings go away and our spouse lets us down, so goes the marriage.

The other form of marriage doesn’t ignore feelings but is based on much more than emotions. In this model of marriage, husbands and wives learn to put others first and realize the gift their spouse is. This type of marriage will thrive in spite of any present-day challenges.

When we get to the other side of this pandemic, chances are many marriages around us will crumble. Our hope is that you choose a different path that leads to growth and commitment. We care about your marriage at Watermark. We’re praying that this unique season will help grow your love for the Lord and for your spouse.

Worship Him in Song:

Casting Crowns - Nobody (Live) ft. Elevation Worship

https://youtu.be/MjkQ6G4kbmk


The Blessing with Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes | Live From Elevation Ballantyne | Elevation Worship

https://youtu.be/Zp6aygmvzM4

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
Someone once said that growth in marriage is not static. A couple is either grow stronger in their marriage or they are growing weaker. The change can be so slight that they may not realize that they are going the wrong way. This newsletter, from our friends at Watermark Community Church, give some practical tips on how to grow your marriage during these uncertain times. Enjoy!
To reach out to Pastor Ron for help with your marriage, email him at ron@cloviscc.com or text him at 559-313-4226.

HOW TO GROW YOUR MARRIAGE DURING A PANDEMIC

A Newsletter from Watermark Community Church, Dallas, TX

More than likely you and your spouse have never lived through anything like what we’re in the middle of today. When you said, “I do,” you dreamed of being together in your home and longed for days of quarantine-like conditions without outside interruption.

However, you’re now a few days into the COVID-19 shutdown and likely can’t wait to be free again.Chances are, it didn’t take long before you started arguing about what to watch on TV, where to get takeout, and how you’re both going to work in your suddenly tiny home. If you have children, they are certainly not leaving you alone. Oh, and you’re also now a home school teacher on top of everything else.

You may be legitimately concerned about finances and how to pay the bills. If your parents are getting older, you may be concerned for their health.

We know tension levels might be high in your home right now.Know that you are not alone. We at Watermark want to help you grow stronger in your marriage even during this coronavirus pandemic.

In this post, we share four ways you and your spouse can thrive amid this chaos. Expect even more next week in Part 2.

1. Believe the best. Don’t assume the worst.

Sometimes we think we know what’s running through our spouse’s head and heart. We make poor assumptions about their motives and often negatively interpret what they say and do. When tensions rise, we’re even more prone to assume the worst.

As a married couple, remember you are one flesh (Genesis 2:24). In a mystery we can’t fully grasp, God sees husband and wife as one with each other.Therefore, when you assume the worst or make your spouse your enemy, you’re not just harming your spouse. You are also harming yourself.

We recommend starting with a posture of believing the best about your spouse. I Corinthians 13:7 says love believes all things. When we choose to believe the best about our spouse, we demonstrate this love. If you’re confused or unsure about their motive, then simply ask for clarification. Take time to understand how this pandemic is impacting them. The recent stress and sin in their life might be completely new to them. However, start by believing the best instead of assuming the worst.

Additionally, look for ways to affirm and encourage your spouse.Chances are good your spouse is currently struggling in some capacity(emotionally, relationally, spiritually, physically, vocationally). Every day consider writing down a new reason why you’re thankful for your spouse.

Challenge: Seek one way to encourage your spouse today.

2. Keep short accounts.

The more time you spend together, the higher the odds some thing our spouse does will frustrate us. Instead of growing bitter or keeping a mental list of their wrongs, make sure you address your frustrations with your spouse directly.

Often, couples will come to re-engage with years and years of bitterness and malice swept under the rug. Every day they grow a little more frustrated until one day the whole thing explodes.

In Ephesians 4:26 theApostle Paul writes, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This doesn’t mean every argument or conflict needs to be resolved before you fall asleep at night. However, it does mean that couples should make sure they’re not allowing unresolved conflict to lead to sin.

Keeping short accounts doesn’t necessarily fix every problem.Though it does prevent bitterness from setting in. When you have more time together, there will be more opportunities for conflict, anger, and bitterness.A few verses later in Ephesians 4:31, Paul says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” We stand with Paul—keep short accounts with your spouse. When you keep short accounts, you’re also more likely to believe the best about your spouse (#1 above).

Challenge: Deal with any unresolved conflict you have with your spouse.

3. Prioritize time together and time apart.

You can grow and protect your marriage by both connecting daily and by giving each other some space.

We know this can be challenging for those of you with young kids but look for ways to prioritize intentional time together as a couple. You’re going to have to say “no” to some good things to make time for better things.Carve out some couch time at night to catch up on your day and share how you’re doing. Kristen and I go for a walk together and grab time to catch up right before we fall asleep. Even though many of you are in the same confined space all day, you may not have much intentional time together as a couple. Try to figure out what works best for you and your spouse.

At the same time, make sure you each get some alone time. What a great opportunity you have to yield to and serve your spouse. If you have kids, watch them alone for a while and give your spouse a break. Let them spend time with Jesus, workout, or talk on the phone with a friend. The dads out there must create some space for moms, especially when (home) school starts back with gusto.

ChallengeGet practical and discuss with your spouse when you’re going to fight for some time together and time apart.

4. Share what the Lord is teaching you.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in married couples over the years is that it’s hard to share what we’re learning with each other. We either get insecure, prideful, or too busy to share. If there’s anyone in the world we should be honest with and share what we’re learning, it’s our spouse. Genesis 2:25 saysAdam and Eve were naked without shame. This means they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually naked with each other. There was no guilt, shame, or insecurity between them.

However, with the fall in Genesis 3, this all changed. Every married couple since Adam and Eve has struggled to be vulnerable and real with each other.

If you want to have a marriage that’s going to stand strong through a pandemic, you’ve got to be open and honest with each other spiritually.

Note that this is all assuming that you’re devoting daily and spending time with the Lord on your own. Check out Join the Journey, do an online equipping class (which are now free!), or dive deeper into the book of 1 Thessalonians as Todd teaches through it at weekend services. A health marriage starts with you and Jesus as you devote daily.

Then, as you spend time together (see #3 above):

  1. Share     with each other what God is teaching you.
  2. Be     humble and listen. Remind your spouse that hope is found in Jesus, not in     financial security, present circumstances, or even each other.
  3. Pray     together as a couple.

Praying together has been a challenge for me and Kristen for all18+ years of our marriage. I take the blame for not leading well. But for the last few weeks, we’ve prayed together consistently. In fact, we’ve prayed daily with and for each other. In a way I can’t explain, God is growing our marriage through being intimate with each other spiritually.

Challenge: Tomorrow, share with your spouse what God is teaching you. Take each other’s hands and pray together. Start simply, and simply start. You won’t regret it!

This extra time together in a confined space is either going to grow your marriage or tear it apart. How are you going to steward this opportunity?

Next week we will have Part 2 of this series on Growing YourMarriage During the Pandemic.

Worship the Lord in Song:

Unending Love - Hillsong Worship

https://youtu.be/Db-CF_rfZWs

Do It Again | Live | Elevation Worship

https://youtu.be/ZOBIPb-6PTc

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
It’s not always easy to forgive others, is it? But have you ever tried to forgive yourself and it seems like you just can’t “get there”?
One day years ago I went on a quest to find a specific Bible verse that states, “Forgive yourself!” Guess what? It’s not there! However, it is clear that we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We are forgiven by the Lord through His precious blood. Who am I to not forgive myself when He has already forgiven me? When you don’t forgive yourself, you are putting your standard of forgiveness higher than that of our Lord. So, how do you forgive yourself? Simply by accepting His finished work on the Cross and saying, “Thank you, Jesus, that I am forgiven and I embrace that same forgiveness and apply it to myself. I forgive myself because I’m already forgiven. Amen? Amen! Praise Him for His incredible grace and goodness.

FORGIVING YOURSELF

An article from First 15 Devotional posting

Devotional

As Christians striving to love others well and live in obedience to the commands of Christ, we often are harder on ourselves than our heavenly Father is. If we are ever going to experience the depths of God’s love in every season, we must learn to forgive ourselves. In Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, he writes a powerful statement that has the ability to both guide us to a greater lifestyle of peace and open the door of our hearts to greater affections from our heavenly Father:

But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely. In human form Jesus revealed to us what God is like. He exposed our projections for the idolatry that they are and gave us the way to become free of them. It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are—not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them. Though God does not condone or sanction evil, He does not withhold his love because there is evil in us.

Our Father loves us unconditionally. His grace and mercy will never run out. He is never surprised when we sin or fall short of the life to which we’ve been called because he knows our need of him. He knows that without his help we will never succeed in living a lifestyle of obedience. He knows that without consistent encounters with his love we will never be able to fully love others. And he knows that without being consistently filled with the Holy Spirit we will never be empowered to live in the freedom from sin Christ’s death affords us.

1 John 2:1 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” God does not condone our sin. He does not enjoy our mistakes. But he will meet us in our place of brokenness and need every time we fail. He will offer us mercy and compassion every time we come to him in confession and repentance. And nothing could ever cause him to stop loving us for even a moment.

Your heavenly Father is beckoning you to forgive yourself today. He’s waiting to fill you with his mercy and grace to overflowing. He’s ready to lead you into a lifestyle of loving yourself as he has loved you. Run out to meet him today. Allow him to clothe you with love, honor, and grace. Allow him to show you the depths of his compassion for you. And live today in light of the glorious grace of Jesus.

Prayer

1. Meditate on the importance of forgiving yourself. Allow Scripture to give you God’s perspective of grace and mercy.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:21

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

2. Where do you need to forgive yourself today? What mistake or failure are you carrying around like a weight? Where are you not offering yourself the grace and mercy offered by your heavenly Father?

3. Ask God to share with you his perspective. Ask him to help you see yourself as he sees you. Spend time resting in his love and compassion and being filled with his affections to overflowing.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

Go...

Often we carry the weight of our mistakes because we are unwilling to ask forgiveness from others. Confessing and repenting to those we’ve wronged is a vital part of the Christian life. Admitting our weaknesses and faults to others helps remove us from the pursuit of perfection and guide us to a life of surrender and humility. Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness from anyone you’ve wronged. And allow the forgiveness of your heavenly Father to fill you with joy, love, and freedom where only sin and shame abounded before.


Extended Reading
: Romans 8

Worship and thank God for His forgiveness

Matthew West - Forgiveness (Lyrics)

https://youtu.be/h1Lu5udXEZI

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
Please enjoy this article by First 15, the platform that brings us a daily devotional that is Biblically based and bathed in the grace of God. This article is key to understanding the depth of His forgiveness for us individually and how that works out in our marriage. Enjoy! If you’d like to have a Marriage Check-Up, reach out to me and we’ll make it happen.
No charge! ron@cloviscc.com

REPENTANCE AND GOD’S PROMISED FORGIVENESS

An article by First 15

Introduction

The biblical concept of being poor in spirit is foundational to every aspect of the Christian life. Foundational to salvation is a heart-level acknowledgment of our need for a Savior. Foundational to experiencing God’s love is acknowledging our great need of love. Foundational to heavenly peace and joy is an acknowledgment that this world truly offers us neither. If we want all that God in his grace offers, we must pursue a lifestyle of being poor in spirit. May you experience more of the depth of God’s love this week as you discover God’s heart to minister to those desperate for him.

Scripture

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” EPHESIANS 1:7

Devotional

In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning makes an incredibly astute observation of those who are poor in spirit. He writes, “The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” To be poor in spirit is to live in a constant state of repentance founded on the already promised forgiveness of a just and loving God.

Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” By the grace of God you and I are promised forgiveness every time we repent. We never have to question whether or not we have been forgiven. Every drop of Jesus’ blood proved God’s commitment both to justice and forgiveness. By the powerful sacrifice of Jesus, you and I have received reconciliation to a holy God, the greatest accomplishment of God’s continual forgiveness.

If we are going to experience the fullness of life made available to us by God’s continual forgiveness, we must seek to be poor in spirit. When we live as though we have it all together we blind ourselves to our continual need of repentance and forgiveness. When we compare our righteousness to other believers rather than God’s command in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” we adopt a posture of being rich in spirit. To believe we are spiritually rich is to miss out on the continual provision of God to those who are in need. Not one of us is spiritually rich in and of ourselves. Not one of us is without need of God’s forgiveness. Not one of us can step outside of completely depending on God and live the life Jesus died to give us.

By contrast, those who live in a constant state of being poor in spirit experience the abundant joy and peace that comes from being wholly met by God’s unconditional love. You and I don’t have to clean ourselves up to come before our heavenly Father. We don’t have to get our act together before we receive forgiveness for our sins. In fact, the quicker we turn to God in the middle of our mess the more we experience the ever-open arms of our heavenly Father running out to meet us (Luke 15:11-32).

There is joy in a holy, perfect God coming down to us at our greatest point of weakness. There is peace in knowing we are already accepted and loved by our heavenly Father. True life in the kingdom of God comes to those who respond with awe, reverence, humility, and an acknowledgment of their own depravity to God’s open invitation to receive his forgiveness and grace. Open your eyes to see your great need of God’s forgiveness and grace. Take an honest look at your life. And seek continual, immediate repentance for your sin knowing that you will always be met with instant forgiveness and compassion from the Father.

Prayer

1. Meditate on living a lifestyle of repentance from a place of God’s promised forgiveness. Reflect on the availability of continual forgiveness for your sin. Allow Scripture to fill you with a desire to continually and immediately repent to your loving heavenly Father.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

2. Take an honest look at yourself. Where do you have sin? What parts of your life are in desperate need of God’s help? Where are you not living holy as your heavenly Father is holy?

“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live in a continual state of need today. Take time to rest in his forgiveness and accept your need of his grace. Place yourself in the prodigal son story and see the heart of God in the character of the father (see below in the extended reading).

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7

Go...

To live in a constant state of repentance and receiving forgiveness is to live free from the weight of worldliness. There is joy in repentance. There is life in reconciliation. David declares in Psalm 40:1-3,

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

We live in the security of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness when we seek a lifestyle of repentance. May you discover the joy and peace available to you in the heart of God to show you grace and mercy in your weakness and repentance.

Extended Reading:

Luke 15:11-32

Worship Him now . . .

I Surrender - Hillsong Worship

https://youtu.be/s7jXASBWwwI

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
This article is much needed in my life and it may be needed in your life and marriage as well. As believers we have received the grace of God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result of receiving His grace, we have His grace to give to others, especially to the person most precious to us . . . our spouse. I hope you will read this article and take it to heart and give to your spouse what you have freely received . . . God’s grace!
ron@cloviscc.com
text: 559-313-4226

GIVING YOUR SPOUSE GRACE

An article by Greg Smalley, Focus on the Family, © 2016 Focus on the Family.

Grace believes the best about your spouse. It fights through the messiness of a particular moment or behavior and remembers that your spouse is a son or daughter of the Most High King.

Recently I was helping my wife, Erin, cook a family meal. My job was to cook the chicken. I was using Erin’s favorite cookware: a skillet and glass lid that she’d had for years. After the chicken was a savory golden-brown and placed on a platter, I removed the skillet and lid from the stove and placed them in the sink.

Immediately, from across the kitchen, Erin yelled, “Make sure that you don’t run cold water over the lid!”

I’m not an idiot, I thought to myself. I know how to wash dishes without instructions!

And then everything went chaotic. One moment I was rolling my eyes at Erin’s nerve to tell me how to clean up, and the next moment I thought I’d just been shot.

As soon as I ran cold water over the hot lid, the glass exploded. All I remember was hearing a loud popping sound and then glass was raining down everywhere. It sounded like gunfire, but instead of diving to the ground, I just froze, staring in disbelief at the wreckage around me. All that was left was a handle (which I was still holding) and a 12-inch metal ring rolling to a stop at the bottom of the sink.

I looked at Erin, who stood with her hands on her hips, shaking her head.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use cold water,” I said with a sheepish grin.

The most amazing part of this story was that Erin didn’t say a word in response to my bungle. She had every right to be upset and to feel frustrated with me. After all, I had ignored her warning and destroyed her favorite cookware. She would have been justified to lecture me or to demand that I clean up the mess I’d created.

But she did none of that. Instead, she calmly inspected my face for wounds from the exploding lid and then helped me sweep up the countless tiny pieces of glass that were strewn across the kitchen floor.

Later that night, I thought about this experience and how it had had the potential to hijack our relationship. Erin and I could have easily gone from cooking to conflict because of one broken lid. However, not only had there been no fight, but I actually felt closer to Erin through this shared experience. Why? What was the main difference? One word flooded by mind: grace.

Grace had been the difference between a husband and wife in conflict and a couple feeling connected. Grace truly is an amazing gift you can give your spouse!

Defining grace

Theologically speaking, grace is an essential way in which God expresses His love for us. The Oxford Dictionary defines grace as “the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” And the apostle Paul reminds us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace in marriage

God perfectly and consistently exemplifies grace because He is gracious by nature. But as fallen creatures, we often struggle to extend grace — and that can be especially true in marriage. How can you tell if grace is lacking in your relationship with your spouse? Consider the following questions:

If you answered yes to these questions, then you might be going through a difficult season in your marriage. It’s possible that grace has been replaced by hurt, frustration and resentment. These hurtful feelings toward your spouse could have been slowly building so that your heart has shut down or is hardening. And yet there’s hope.

Grace has a way of recalibrating our relationships. So how can we emulate God and apply this amazing gift within marriage?

Practicing grace

Grace is exactly what I need from my wife, and exactly what she needs from me — a commitment to love her exactly where she is. Grace looks past the things Erin does that frustrate me so I can see what’s true about her. It’s about remembering who Erin really is on the inside, not just how she’s irritating me in the moment.

Grace believes the best about our spouse. It fights through the messiness of a particular incident or behavior and remembers that our spouse is a son or daughter of the Most High King. He or she is made in God’s image and is of inestimable value — this is always true!

This is exactly what Erin did for me after I shattered her favorite cooking lid. Instead of focusing on what I did in that moment, she extended grace — she chose to focus on who I am, who I’ve been for the past 25 years. In that moment, Erin gave me the benefit of the doubt. This is a powerful attribute of grace. Instead of making assumptions about our spouse’s motives, grace tries to understand where he or she is coming from. It forces us to then ask: “I know your heart even though your present actions are perplexing. Help me understand what’s going on.”

Another part of Erin’s act of grace that evening was that instead of reacting to my blunder, she was “slow to anger,” which means she exercised patience when I was conducting myself like a difficult person. That was the key for us that night. After I messed up, Erin gave me grace and bestowed blessings in the form of patience, kindness and forgiveness. She forgave me as God has forgiven her. Erin lived out Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” I’m grateful — and your spouse will be, too.

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.

A love song to listen to with your spouse

When God Made You lyrics, Newsong with Natalie Grant

https://youtu.be/UexhvBe80mA

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
Someone asked me recently what I thought was the most important thing in marriage to make and keep it healthy and happy. There are so many aspects I could have listed in my response, but I answered with one word – humility. Close behind that would be apology and forgiveness. Humility is absolutely essential in order for God to have His rightful place in our life and relationships. Enjoy this blogpost by Gary Thomas and . . . take it to heart and practice humility in your marriage and all other relationships.
Let me know if you have any questions.
ron@cloviscc.com
text: 559-313-4226

DO YOU WANT A BETTER MARRIAGE?

From the blogpost of author Gary Thomas

There is one thing that could save you thousands of dollars in marital counseling.

It can turn a frustrating marriage into a delightful one.

It can turn a barren marriage into a fruitful one.

It can turn a hurtful marriage into an encouraging one.

Indeed, if we will more earnestly pursue this one spiritual truth every aspect of marriage will flourish. Whenever we lack this spiritual dimension, every aspect of marriage will suffer.

If you believe the Bible and if you trust in the wisdom of the Christian classics, it is impossible for us to truly love our spouse (or anyone else) without humility. If you want to pursue intimacy, if you want to pursue deeper relationships, joy, and peace, you must pursue humility.

What is humility?

In his book, “Called to Be Saints,” Gordon Smith summarizes the early Christian Fathers’ view of humility with three ideas. I’ve been a devoted reader of the classics for about three decades now, and from that perspective, I believe Smith nails it:                                                              

1. I am not the center of the universe.

Let’s be honest. Don’t most marital arguments turn on precisely this axis: “Do things my way, do what pleases me, and we’ll be fine?” The problem is whenever you have a relationship of two or more people, eventually that philosophy is going to be impossible to fulfill. If we think of our comfort and our desires as dictating how others should treat us or as the axis around which the family or marriage should revolve, our marriages will suffer dramatically.

Humility makes two individuals becoming one possible. Two arrogant people cannot have an intimate marriage.

2. Complete dependence on God for the grace to live the Christian life.

I wrote in “A Lifelong Love” that the high call to love our spouse so extravagantly all but forces us to be ever dependent on God’s Holy Spirit. It’s a display of God’s brilliance: I’m going to call you to something so humanly impossible (loving my wife like Christ loves the church!) that you will be forced to depend on me every day.

Without worship, my heart closes off. When I don’t receive God’s love, I can’t pass on God’s love. Without listening to God, I talk myself into selfishness, resentment, and bitterness. The Holy Spirit talks me into service, love, and encouragement. To have a truly glorious marriage, we have to recognize God must be at the center of our individual lives.

It isn’t just stupid to think we can be “good Christians” on our own strength – it’s blasphemous. The Holy Spirit isn’t just the ribbon on an otherwise elaborately wrapped present, put there almost as an afterthought; He is the present. Without Him, there is nothing.

3. Proper ordering of the affections

Gordon Smith writes, “The greatest threat to our capacity to love, whether to love God or to love others, is our misguided desires, longings, and aspirations. And when our affections or passions are disordered, we are blinded, we are not free. Freedom, including the freedom to love the other, can come only with the ordering of the affections.”

Some spouses think that because they want something, their spouse is obligated to rovide it. This can be true in the bedroom, the kitchen, or the living room. But if we accept that we have disordered affections that blind us then we realize the fulfillment of a disordered affection will ruin us. Pride says, “If I want it, give it to me.” Love says, “I will do only what is spiritually healthy for you and I want you to offer only what is spiritually healthy for me.” If your spouse desires something that is destructive or unbiblical, offering it is not an act of love, it’s an act of hatred.

So, as a spouse, humility means I understand that I live with disordered affections. Christian growth is largely about learning to desire what God wants me to desire. Desire is a good thing, pleasure is a wonderful thing, but humility reminds me that sometimes I can desire the wrong things. My desires alone must not dictate what my spouse is obligated to do. I have to surrender my desires to God’s will and God’s law.

Adopting the attitude that our affections need to be reordered on its own would dispel eighty percent of marital disagreements.

So, do you want a better marriage? Do you want to feel closer to your spouse? Do you want your marriage to reflect God’s reality and glory? Then chase after an ancient spiritual virtue: Humility.

A Prayer to Pray: “Lord, thank you that you have provided the only way of salvation. Thank you that you died on the cross, rose from the dead, and sent your Holy Spirit to live in me (us). Because of that, the Humble One lives in me and I give you permission to lead me into humility and a supernatural loving relationship with my spouse. May all that I say and do with my spouse be glorifying to You, Lord!”

Humble King - Vineyard Worship from Hungry [Official Lyric Video]

https://youtu.be/YV_3l6Ng5lA

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
The following is the daily devotional from FIRST 15, the website that I have shared on this platform before. FIRST 15 provides a Biblical, daily devotional that is grounded in the truth of God’s powerful truth and is applicable to every area of life. I thought this devotional was especially helpful in that it focuses on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and how we need to depend on Him and the grace He freely gives us in Christ. We need this reminder in our marriages, don’t we? As we repent of our own selfish ways  and are “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith“ (Hebrews 12:2a), we are able to draw on His indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all the truth and love and respect our spouse, from a foundation of His grace, mercy and love and supernatural power. Enjoy this devotional and . . . why not get the app and enjoy FIRST 15 every day? Go to the play store, or wherever you get your apps (it’s free) and download it to your phone.
Let me know if you have any questions.
ron@cloviscc.com
text: 559-313-4226

MAKE HIS GRACE THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR MARRIAGE!

Introduction

Grace is a gift most of us don’t know how to receive. We’ve been so inundated with the earthly systems of give-and-get and work-and-earn that grace is a concept few ever fully grasp. Yet it’s grace alone that has the power to transform lives. Grace alone has the power to bring freedom to the captives. By grace alone we are saved. There could be no better use of our time than consistently and passionately pursuing a greater revelation of God’s grace.

Scripture
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 CORINTHIANS 15:56-57

Devotional

We live in a world built on transaction. We give and we get. We only receive what we earn or deserve. We’re hired and fired based on our abilities and performance. We commit our lives to this system of cause and effect, relishing the days of success and wincing at the thought of failure. And often as believers we take this system of works we’ve grown so comfortable with and apply it to our relationship with God. We operate with God much like we operate with an employer. We think if we can go to church, give God our money, spend enough time with him in the morning, be happy, and help people, then God will like us. If we can stop sinning, then God will love us more. But God’s ways are not like ours. The New Testament names this transactional relationship with God as living under the law and tells us of a new system through Christ called grace.

God established the law as a system for his people to be cleansed through sacrifice. For thousands of years God’s holiness required his children to pay a price for their sin in order to be in relationship with him. Sin separated us from our heavenly Father like a cell wall separating a prisoner from freedom. Our only hope for guidance and love was living by the commands of our just and holy God, and we failed miserably. So grace stepped in where works could never prevail. Galatians 4:4-7 says:

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Jesus lived the perfect life none of us could, and then offered himself as the final and resounding sacrifice, buying freedom for all who would believe in him. He saved you and me from the law and offers us grace.

But still we persist in paying the penalty for our own sin as if the death of Jesus wasn’t enough. Still we choose a transactional relationship over one of grace. But what we often don’t understand is how foundational grace is to freedom from sin. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we live under the law we are bound by sin and separated from victory in Christ. And Romans 6:14 says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” It’s by living in grace that we experience continual freedom from sin. In our own strength we are powerless against the schemes of the enemy. But in God’s grace we live by his strength. In acknowledging our need of God’s grace and help, we live by the power of God.

You see, we are meant to be fueled for freedom by the unconditional love of our heavenly Father. He offers grace-filled love to guide us out of the systems of this world. It’s the power of restored relationship that lays the foundation for us to choose satisfaction in him over the world. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” You are no longer enslaved to the law. Christ has set you free. So you have to choose to submit to the life of grace you’ve been offered. You have to choose to live in light of God’s power working in you instead of leaning on your own works to get you through. You have to choose to acknowledge your weakness to receive the strength his grace offers you.

Free yourself from the bondage of living life in your own strength. Cast off the chains of pride that bind you to a lifestyle of sin and receive a fresh revelation of the unconditional love of God. Your heavenly Father loves you simply because he loves you. There is nothing you can do that will make him love you more, and there is nothing you can do that will make him love you less. Allow his grace-filled love to transform your heart today and guide you into a life of freedom.

Prayer

1. Meditate on the importance of living under grace instead of works.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

2. Confess any ways in which you’ve been pursuing relationship with God through works. Have you had any thoughts of needing to do something or be something to gain his affections and approval? Have you veiled your heart in any way as the result of sin or misunderstanding?

3. Choose today to live a life free from sin under the power of grace. Lean on him for guidance and power. Acknowledge your weakness and receive the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit weaving the story of grace into every page of your heart.

Go...

May you receive the peace that can come only from living your life in total submission to God. Pride will only burden you. Trying to prove to yourself and others that you have what it takes will only bring failure, frustration, and sin. As a desire to elevate yourself creeps back into your heart, remind yourself of where the paths of law and grace take you. Choose to live your life in response to God’s grace, work out of the revelation that you are already loved, and discover newfound freedom from sin.

Extended Reading:

Romans 6

Worship time!

This is Amazing Grace! Amen?
Phil Wickham - This Is Amazing Grace (Official Music Video)
https://youtu.be/XFRjr_x-yxU

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
The following ten ways I list are from my own perspective from counseling couples for over 35 years. Hope they are encouraging and helpful to you in your own relationship! Scripture references are from The New Living Translation. Reach out to me with any questions, at ron@cloviscc.com

The Top Ten Ways To Have A Successful Marriage

1.     Have a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions. There should be five hugs, compliments or squeezes of the arm for every roll of the eyes, every criticism, or every episode of blaming.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. (10) Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10

It’s so easy to allow criticism and other negative things into our marriages. No one likes to be put down, ignored, etc., and that tends to happen in marriages where there isn’t the five-to-one ratio of positives to negatives. I encourage spouses to look for what your partner is doing right and then compliment them, even if it does scare them at first!

2.     Forget about getting your needs met. (You might say, “but that’s why I got married!”) Getting your needs met is a failed concept for couples. Focus on your spouse and what you can do for them. This is the best way to bring out the best in both of you.

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

We are naturally self-centered. That is evident from the very beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden. Today we live in a ‘me-me-me’ society that focuses on self-fulfillment. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy but how do we go about that? The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Don’t merely look out for your personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In another Scripture, he says, “Consider others more important than yourselves.” Are you doing that with your husband or wife? With your friendships? Serving one another is key. You might ask, “Is there anything you need from me today?”

3.     Be relentless in your pursuit of growing in your personal life and trying to be a better spouse. Healthy marriages tend to grow and change. This means that you must be willing to try on new behaviors and to take some risks.  Marriage is not static . . . it is dynamic!

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

May I encourage you to read a good book on marriage, or watch some videos or DVD’s on marriage communication or even attend a marriage workshop. Three excellent books that I’d recommend are, “Cherish” and “A Lifelong Love”, by Gary Thomas, and “Love Like You Mean It,” by Bob LePine. There are numerous video series out there, including “Love and Respect,” by Emmerson Eggerichs.

4.     Take care of yourself. If you’re all stressed out and unhappy, you’re going to be a bear to be around. Make sure that you follow a program of self-care that allows you to give energy to the relationships.

In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” Ephesians 5:28

This means body, soul, and spirit. Exercise and eating healthy. Having healthy friendships, accountability, and feeding your soul with regular Bible study and fellowship.

5.     Make your marriage full of special surprises. Marriages are more alive and exciting when there are surprises sprinkled in to them. Surprise your spouse with a vacation, a special date night, flowers, candy or anything else that excites them.

Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.Romans 12:10

Know your spouse’s love language. Here are the five that Gary Chapman writes about in his book on The Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gift Giving, Acts of Service.

6.     Develop a common interest that you can share together. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together. It’s nice to have an activity to share that helps you to enjoy that time together. Whether it’s golfing, traveling, or shopping, find your common interests and turn them into pleasurable experiences.

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” Romans 12:16

7.     Keep some meaningful rituals in your relationship. Whether it’s having a dinner conversation after work every night or taking a long walk, have something in place that allows you to stay in touch with each others’ lives.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

8.     Focus on being kind and not on being right. It’s easy to spend time showing your spouse that you’re right. Focus on being kind instead and you’ll argue less and enjoy each other more.

“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” Romans 12:16

9.     When things do get heated, commit to a plan that works. Don’t say things in the heat of the moment that may do damage to your relationship. Have a plan in place that may include: walking away, continuing the discussion at a later date, or some sort of relaxation response.

“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’” says the Lord.  Romans 12:19-21

10.  Develop a great network of support around you. Be positive and anticipate what God wants to do in your life and marriage. Join a support group or Home Group where you can grow and receive support from others.

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12

Talk through this: Read through this list together out loud and discuss the ones that you can improve on individually and as a couple.  Then, listen to the following worship songs together, ending in prayer for each other.

You can skip past the ads in these videos

The God Who Stays | Matthew West (lyric)

https://youtu.be/QPwd_TQpsHY

Grace Wins - Matthew West

https://youtu.be/3a1WKcB7umU

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries
The next few weeks I will be focusing these marriage articles on what it takes to bring glory to God in your marriage as well as what creates joy in a marital relationship. Today’s article is a testimony from a wife who realized something very important that brought her and her husband closer together. Enjoy!

An anonymous testimony from a grateful wife

“Good morning.” He hesitated, but then bravely leaned in to kiss my cheek. I shrugged him off, still seething from an argument the night before.

“Leave me alone,” I hissed over the dishes I was washing. He backed away.  “So we’re going to keep this fight going, huh?” He waited, but I offered nothing. I focused on the stream of water dividing around the cup in my hands.

Our five-year old daughter, eyes still swollen from sleep, wandered over to him, her arms raised. He scooped her up. She clung to his neck, melting into him like warm candle wax.

He kissed the top of her head, carried her into the living room, and dropped her neatly on the couch beside her big brother.  He gathered his wallet and car keys and left for work, letting the front door slam behind him.

I let out a long deflating breath. My throat felt bruised from holding it all in.   I dried my hands, making my way into the living room to flip on the television, hoping to keep the kids occupied until I could gather myself.

Over the earlier weeks, my husband and I had argued over everything from financial burdens to the way he slurped his coffee.  I felt voids everywhere, convinced he wasn’t living up to be the husband I thought I needed.

Some days I’d cry out to God in frustration, “Don’t you see how he is failing me?  When are you going to fix him?”

In response, God would consistently shine the light back on me, convicting me to change. My soul would scream in protest.

But why me, God?  What about him?  I am in the right, not him!

Eventually I’d stopped taking my complaints to God. But then, that morning…

I watched my daughter scoot across the couch towards my son, digging her tiny body in as close to him as she could get. She leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder and draping her arm over his chest. She exhaled a blissful sigh as she settled in.  I felt myself smiling genuinely for the first time in days.

But I noticed how my son’s body stiffened. The day before he’d caught her in his bedroom, dismantling some of his most prized Lego creations. Still harboring bitterness over it, he looked down at her with annoyance.  In one exaggerated move, he rose up, throwing himself on the other end of the couch.

My daughter tried to steady herself as her head slipped off his shoulder and her body fell into the cushions. She sat up, confused looking after him. As the rejection slowly registered, her countenance crumbled.  Her spirit seemed to collapse within her while my son stared indignantly at the television.

I felt disappointed in my son’s inability to rise above what she’d done and extend her some grace. I was in anguish for my daughter. My entire being wanted to protect her, revive her sense of value and mend her bruised spirit.   Then God unveiled His heart in the gentlest whisper.

This is how I feel when you treat Bill that way.

Suddenly my perspective shifted in a way that rocked me to my core. That simple revelation, at that specific moment, was the perfect antidote for the crusty shell encasing my heart. It cracked wide open and revealed the simple bottom line. It was as if God himself had turned my chin, saying,

Your husband is also my child. Put me first and all else will fall into place.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37

Once I understood the significance of that verse, I was free to experience marriage the way God designed it.

It must start with a genuine love for God. It’s the power source that melts hearts, crushes attitudes and administers deep compassion for one another.

That’s why He must come first, above everything else.

When I consider all that God has done for me in the midst of my imperfections, grace is abundant.  Forgiveness is swift and easy.

Now my husband is the runner-up, behind God, in the order of my heart and yet somehow, I love him more now, than I ever have before.\

Question:

What about you? Do you need to love God more than your spouse?

Personal Reflection:

Spend some time in prayer, asking God to give you His humble heart in your marriage relationship. Realize that He has given you His Holy Spirit to enable you to do what He’s called you to do.

Worship Him in humility:

Humble King [LYRIC VIDEO] Vineyard Worship | VineyardSongs.com

https://youtu.be/U7Rohc92j9M

On Bended Knee by Don Moen

https://youtu.be/KIXZKLJm0cM

Being Thankful in our Marriage & Family During Covid-19

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1Thessalonians 1:16-18

A Message from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

The other day I looked at a friend and said, “These are the weirdest times I’ve ever lived through,” to which he replied, “Well, duh!”  Okay, I know it’s obvious but I had to say it. And to be honest, sometimes I find myself focusing on the negative things that are happening in our world. I won’t enumerate them here because, you already know them and the purpose of this short article is to remind us that we need to focus away from those negative things and onto being thankful for all the blessings we have, even during this difficult time. Right?

I believe God is inviting us into a deeper trust in him. We can use this season of social distancing and quarantines as an opportunity to draw closer to the heart of God. When we “set our minds on things above and not on things on earth,” (see Colossians 3:1-4), we can receive His peace and calming assurance that He is in control. He’s got this! You are not forgotten.You are not abandoned. God is ever-present, even in the midst of all your struggles and doubts. May you hold onto a heart of gratitude as you experienceGod today. A benefit in our marriage and family relationships is that when we grow closer to God and receive His love and grace, we’ll have that reservoir to draw from to give to those around us.

It can be difficult to know where to put our trust when everything around us seems to be changing. What was true about our economy two weeks ago is not necessarily true today. What was true about our schedules two weeks ago is not necessarily true today. Yet even in the chaos of our changing world, God’s character has not changed. His economy is not at risk. His plans are not thwarted. He is still present, he is still good, and he is still providing for us.  Amen?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

Hold onto the truth today that you have a loving and generous Father that longs to take care of you. Difficult circumstances are nota reflection of his love for you. He is inviting you to turn towards him today, and to experience the comfort and stability that come from trusting in a generous God.

Where will you choose to focus your attention today? Will you let these challenging days pull you away from God’s goodness, or will you lean into him and experience his love and presence even now? As you move into a time of guided thankfulness, seek to grow in gratitude in the presence of your loving God who gives good gifts even in the midst of a pandemic.

Thankful Exercise

1.    Find a journal or notebook and write down somethings you are thankful for in this season. What has he blessed you with in the past few days? What has he blessed you with in the past year? Can you think of a time where God provided for you in an unexpected and generous way?

2.    Give thanks. Thank God for all the things you just wrote down. Thank him for his continued faithfulness even in the midst of the struggle.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34 3.

Think about this:
Oneway to cultivate gratitude is through generosity. As we look to the needs of others, we recognize how much that we’ve been given. Ask God to bring someone to mind that may be in need of encouragement or support today. How can you showGod’s provision and faithfulness to those that may need it? Is there someone you can talk with on the phone or schedule a Zoom call with? Is there a neighbor that may need some of your extra supplies? Does your spouse need a break from watching the children? Let’s show our gratitude for God’s blessings by being generous with others.  

Worship Goodness of God - Bethel Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvSuGyJQ6oM

Does Your Marriage Need Romance?

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

This week’s marriage emphasis brings some needed insight and experience on the topic of romance in your marriage from Pastor Jimmy Evans, Founder & CEO of Marriage Today. To read other helpful articles and check out other marriage resources he offers, go to: www.marriagetoday.com  

Enjoy this article and discuss it with your spouse sometime in the coming week. There are a couple of worship songs to click on, also, to enjoy worshiping our Lord together.Pastor Ron

Dear Friend,

Energetic pursuit is one of God’s laws for marriage. Pursuing your spouse means putting effort into the relationship. When you don’t work at it, your marriage will suffer. One of the best ways to practice energetic pursuit is through romance.

We tend to think of romance as a feeling (or a section of the bookstore featuring dramatic covers of beefy, shirtless men). But romance isn’t an entertainment category. Romance is an action. It’s something every marriage needs every single day. Most importantly, romance is for everyone.

Here are the four ingredients of romance:

Ingredient 1: Meeting an unspoken need or desire in your spouse.

When a couple starts dating, you study each other. You find out as much as possible about each other. You try to do the things you partner likes and avoid doing the things he or she dislikes. You pay close attention. This kind of attention is what makes a man and woman fall in love.

Romance says: You’re on my heart. I’m thinking of you, even when I don’t have to. When you send flowers or a card, that’s what it communicates. There may be times when your spouse has to ask you to meet a specific need. But romance is about anticipating a need and meeting it ahead of time.

If you have to keep telling your spouse about your needs, you’ll quickly realize that your spouse isn’t paying attention. This will make you feel bad. But attention is at the core of romance because it communicates desire—which makes you feel good. It’s hard to love a person who makes you feel bad about yourself.

Ingredient 2: Speaking love in your spouse’s language.

Men and women are both romantic, but we are romantic in different ways. The major needs of men are respect, sex, friendship with their wives and domestic support—in that order. Likewise, the major needs of women are security, open and honest communication, non-sexual affection and sacrificial leadership.

Romance means going into your spouse’s world and meeting those needs. It means understanding the things that make your husband or wife tick, and then doing your best to supply and nourish those things—even if you don’t identify with those same needs! It means meeting needs you may not even understand.

Romance is not you speaking your language. It is you speaking their language. Great marriages are emotionally bilingual. It’s a wife understanding and anticipating her husband’s emotions, and a husband doing the same for his wife. You have to go into their world.

Ingredient 3: Communicating unique value to your spouse.

When I’m being romantic with Karen, I’m telling her she has a place in my thoughts and a place in my life that no one else has. It shows her that she is my absolute priority. She feels special when my words or actions communicate this to her.

We also show value through the things we are willing to give up for each other. Early in our marriage, I hung up my golf clubs for a period of time in order to save our relationship. I gave the time I’d spent playing golf back to Karen. Being generous with time—and doing so with a good attitude—communicates the special priority we give to a spouse.

Ingredient 4: Empathizing with your spouse.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. This is one of the truly unique human abilities God has given us. Animals can’t do that. Only people can. Some people—including Karen—are more gifted at empathy than others.

In marriage, empathy gives you the ability to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes: “How do my words make them feel? What is it like to be married to me?” Romance means being able to ask these question, work out the answers, and then take the steps to make appropriate changes when it’s necessary.

If romance is missing from your relationship, think about whether you need to add or increase one of these ingredients. In Revelation 2, God told the church at Ephesus it had fallen out of love with Him. He told them to repent and do the things they did at first.

What did you do “at first” in your relationship? You pursued each other with energy and passion. You understood romance was an action and you took action. You were thoughtful. You paid attention and met needs before being asked. It is always possible to return to romance. You can start doing those things again today.

Blessings,
Jimmy Evans
Founder & CEO of MarriageToday

Worship songs to draw you closer to Jesus as a couple

Draw me close to You - Hillsong

https://youtu.be/IdJBYyNsQd0

In Christ Alone - Kristian Stanfill

https://youtu.be/wNRFumI2ch0

RUN TO THE WORD FOR COMFORT, COUNSEL, & GUIDANCE!

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

This week I came across an article from Stacey Salsbery that seemed appropriate for all of us at CCC since we have been going through Psalm 119 in our personal devotions. Here is a summary that she put together of 20 benefits of spending time in God’s Word, according to Psalm 119. Enjoy!

20 BENEFITS OF BEING IN GOD’S
WORD ACCORDING TO PSALM 119

Stacey Salsbery | Bible Reading & Memorization

The Word of God is my anchor. It tethers my mind to the truth when the lies of the enemy are readily available. It wraps me with security when my future is uncertain. It pulls me back into the presence of God when I’ve sought the company of lesser pursuits.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know who I’d be apart from the LORD and His Word. Probably riding the raging rapids of doubt, despair, and discouragement, unable to lift myself from the frenzy of darkness. But with God there is hope. And in His Word, I find encouragement, peace, and satisfaction. I find solid ground to stand on.

If only the world could grasp the benefits available to the soul who seeks God through His Word—willing to see it as truth, clinging to it at every turn. For the Word of God is life-changing and life-sustaining and life-giving. And it’s so much more, as the author of Psalm 119 testifies. The psalmist offers us numerous reasons to run to the comfort of Scripture and never turn away from it.

Twenty Benefits of Being in God’s Word

1. It leads to joy.

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart. (v. 2)

The NLT translates the word blessed as joyful. The word can also be translated happy. Knowing and seeking God through His Word is a joy-filling activity, and who among us doesn’t need some joy?

2. It can keep us from sinning.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (v. 9)

God’s Word is like a trained guard put in place to keep the peace. When we use it accordingly, it can keep us from straying, but when we ignore it we have little hope of not wandering.

3. It offers free counseling.

Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (v. 24)

How many times have I needed advice? Lots. How many times have I needed perspective? Too many to count. God’s Word is the best kind of counselor.

4. It guards against the trap of self-seeking.

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! (v. 36)

Why is this so important? Because self-seeking is a trap. It does not lead to the fulfillment it promises, but to a pervasive emptiness. Yet to pursue God above our own interests is to find the gratification we’re really looking for.

5. It gives us hope.

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. (v. 43)

We have hope in God’s rules not because they are restrictive, but because they are redemptive. Where God commands He also promises. Where God gives little room for wavering He makes great space for blessing.

6. It grants us freedom.

And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. (v. 45)

True freedom is not found in living however I want. True freedom is found through living in right relation to God. God’s commandments provide the boundaries for doing so.

7. It brings comfort in affliction.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. (v. 50)

No matter the circumstances the Word of God offers relief when nothing else can. His promises are true and stand firm through every situation.

8. It gives us something to sing about.

Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. (v. 54)

When is it that we tend to sing? When we’re happy, right? As we make our way through life, the assurance of God’s Word and His faithfulness to it fills us with joy. This gives us much cause to sing.

9. It’s an anchor of truth amid a sea of lies.

The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts. (v. 69)

The psalmist goes on to say, “The sum of your word is truth” (v. 160). No matter what, God’s Word is always true and able to keep us from falling for the vast and persuasive lies of the devil.

10. It allows us to be an example to others.

Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies. (v. 79)

How many of us feel confident in our ability to lead others? Maybe some. When we live according to God’s Word we can be sure of our ability to lead rightly—especially when teaching our children.

11. It offers us hope while we wait.

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (v. 81)

Waiting is equal partners with faith and an inevitable part of life. But while we wait, it’s God’s Word that offers us hope.

12. It sustains us during hard seasons.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (v. 92)

Have you ever felt so down and out you didn’t think you could go on? So did the psalmist, yet the Word of God sustained him, even in the hardest of moments.

13. It is life-giving.

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. (v. 93)

I once was lost, but now I’m found. I once was dead, but now I’m alive. How? The Word of God and the Spirit of God working powerfully in me.

14. It gives wisdom and understanding.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. (v. 99)

There is no wisdom apart from God. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). To know the Word is to know Christ, and to know Christ is to know God, and to know God is to know wisdom.

15. It lights the path we should take.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (v. 105)

Are you unsure about which way to go? The Word is a light to the right path. This path will always lead to God and not away; it will lead toward righteousness and not toward sin.

16. It keeps us from falling into the enemy’s traps.

The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. (v. 110)

Navigating difficult people can be well, difficult. But God’s Word lends us the proper course to keep us upright.

17. It acts as a shield around us.

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (v. 114)

God’s Word is our defense, for it will never fail us. God’s Word is a refuge, for it will never leave us. There is one place we can always hide when the enemy comes calling: God’s faithfulness to His Word.

18. It helps us know the character of God.

Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. (v. 137)

The Word reveals who God is and what He has done. Apart from the Word we’d never know Him and His righteousness.

19. It’s how we experience the faithfulness of God.

Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. (v. 140)

If we don’t know what God says, how will we know that He’s faithful? And if we don’t trust Him to fulfill His Word, how will we ever notice His providence? Knowing and trusting in God’s Word is experiencing His peace-filled, steadfast, constant deliverance.

20. It gives us peace.

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (v. 165)

God made our souls to live in accordance with Him and His Word. So when we don’t, something feels off. But when we make God’s Word our priority, we find a refuge of peace.

Precious friend, we have no reason not to sink ourselves deep into the Word of God and every reason to do it right now. Don’t wait. Let the Word of God be the daily mediation of your heart, so that you too can know the life-giving, life-sustaining, joy-filling, peace-providing abundance of God’s Word.

Worship Him for His powerful Word!!!

Amy Grant - Thy Word (Live)
https://youtu.be/9OTVuGaiTsE

THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME, WE’RE JUST PASSING THROUGH!

A note from Pastor Ron McLain, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

Every once in a while Facebook has meaningful and helpful posts that give us perspective. It’s easy to let the constant bombardment of negative and fearful social media and other media posts and broadcasts lead us down the path of anxiety. Well . . . there is hope and even joy as we remember that we are sojourners here on this earth, preparing for a glorious eternity with the Lord. Amen?
The following Facebook post by Pastor Don Green from Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, gives us excellent perspective about who we are, remembering the story of those who have gone before us, and where we are headed! Thanks to Pastor Green for his insight and timely perspective!!

Pastor Don Green

Facebook post from June 27 at 7:12 AM

As unruly, disruptive, and uncertain as 2020 has already been, my friends, it will probably get worse from a human perspective. It is, after all, a U. S. presidential election year. All sorts of articulate Christian and secular observers will flood us with analysis and projections of the consequences of this or that outcome for the future.

Well, let me speak into the wind again with an observation for which not many will want to take time. My Christian friends, we really need to develop a more biblical and mature perspective on the outworking of the purposes of God.

For one, He has predestined all things that will occur (Ephesians 1:11). History unfolds according to His purpose and calendar. What looks chaotic to us is in perfect order in the mind of God.

Secondly, we may not at all understand what He is doing. Like Habakkuk, it may all seem violence and injustice to us. God’s ways are not our ways (Habakkuk 1:2-5; Isaiah 55:8-9).

Further, our Sovereign King has seen fit to let His people suffer oppression, suffering, or obscurity for lengthy periods of time. He doesn’t resolve things immediately or according to the current news cycle.

Think about these examples, which are not at all exhaustive.
His people suffered slavery in Egypt for 400 years between the time of Joseph and Moses. A generation wandered and died in the wilderness under Moses for 40 years.
Later on, they spent 70 years in exile in Babylon.
At the conclusion of the Old Testament, God’s people endured 400 years of prophetic silence.
Christ Himself spent 30 years in obscurity before His public ministry began.
According to church tradition, eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred and the other spent his latter years in exile.
You really don’t need me to multiply other examples, do you? (See Fox’s Book of Martyrs if you think I’m overselling my point.)

Look. We Christians live as transient pilgrims here. This world is not our home. Maybe things will get better over the next few months for our world. Like you, I hope so. All this bad news and turmoil is getting old. But maybe they’ll get worse. We don’t know. My concern for us in this already-too-lengthy post is this. We can’t tie our hope or our view of God to the events through which we now live. God reigns in unhindered majesty. We worship and trust Him in light of that, come what may. He knows what He is doing. He loves us. He won’t lose track of us along the way.

Christian brethren, look to His sovereign wisdom and love for His people and find your peace there. In this world you will have tribulation. And that tribulation may last a very long time. But take heart. Christ has overcome the world.

But we have to wrestle through this fundamental question in our hearts to have peace. What are you living for?

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
(Matthew 6:19-21).

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Worship Him in Song

In Christ Alone (Virtual Choir #3 / A Cappella) by David Wesley Virtual Choir

This virtual choir a cappella performance features the voices of 48 singers from 14 countries. It was a labor of love lasting 5 months, and many dozens of work hours. We pray that you are blessed by the music and the message of this modern hymn.

https://youtu.be/RY4CW5pte98

"My Life is in Your Hands" sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

https://youtu.be/AS6tQYJVO80

 A note from Pastor Ron, Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries 
The following article is written by Pastor Lynn Kauffman, a compassionate man who I have known for several years. I thought it would be good to share this information because of the anxiety that exists in our culture right now.Christians are not immune to anxiety and this article gives some goodScriptural input and advice for those of us who struggle with the uncertainties of life during these days. Let me know your thoughts, by emailing me atron@cloviscc.com

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT COVID-19!

Reflections on peace from Philippians 4:6-7

By Lynn Kauffman, (reprinted with permission of author from Christian Leader, the magazine of the U.S. Mennonite Brethren, March 26, 2020)

Lynn Kauffman lives in Sanger, California. He works as apart-time chaplain at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. Kauffman and his wife, Mary, served as missionaries in Spain for 20 years with MB Missions and have pastored several USMB congregations in the Fresno area.

Be anxious for nothing including COVID-19, but with every news report and update by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds inChrist Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NASB adapted).

Recently our local Walmart was out of milk. Mary, my wife, asked me later if I had taken a look at the aisle where the toilet paper is. I hadn’t. But if I had, I am sure I would have found more empty shelves. Lastweek while having a McDonald’s coffee with a friend—the restaurant is now closed to in-dining—I noticed the parking lot of an adjoining supermarket was the fullest I had ever seen it.

Many of us are anxious and fearful people because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. We are like the church in Philippi to whom Paul says,“Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing” (Wuest translation). Good words for worrying people.

I must confess my own anxiety at times. The other day as I watched a televised presidential update, I frequently glanced at the live DowJones index at the bottom right of the screen. When the index went up, I was delighted. When it went down, which was pretty much the trend that day, my heart kicked into anxiety mode.

Last week California’s governor Gavin Newsom announced that about 56 percent of the state’s population—25.5 million people—could be infected with the novel coronavirus within the next eight weeks if precautions were not taken. I live in California! I don’t like this kind of news. Really, who does?

Experiencing emotional peace

In the midst of all the unknowns surrounding us now, emotional peace can be found. Let me state that again: real inner peace can be our lot.From a state of anxiety, we can move toward peace in the here and now and for tomorrow.

Paul said it. I believe it. And this because our HeavenlyFather’s signature at the end of the Philippians text promises it. As one NewTestament commentator so aptly says, “God’s peace, like a sentinel, mounts guard and patrols before the heart’s door, keeping worry out.”

To make this peace a blessed reality we only need to present our requests to God by prayer. Asking by prayer is the key. Both petition and prayer are needed. With our Bibles before us let’s look more closely at what asking by prayer really involves.

Petition and “gone fishin”

The verb “to ask” (aitéō) means to request, petition, beg, solicit, etc. According to Vine’s Dictionary of New TestamentWords, it is the petition “of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made” (i.e. a child to a parent, a slave to his master, a human to God).

I believe the modus operandi of many Christians today is to askGod to do something and then move on to another activity. They feel their responsibility is over because they asked: “God will take it from here.” And they call this prayer.

This type of religious activity, as noble as it is, is not prayer, at least biblically speaking. Perhaps this is why many Christians don’t find that much-desired consolation in these troubling times. They have petitioned God, but they have not prayed to God. They have asked, but not by prayer.

Petition and listen

The second element needed to experience God’s antidote to anxiety and fear is prayer. To pray (proséuchomai) means to wish for, to vow or to desire something before somebody. That somebody is God.

The difference between asking and praying is this: When we askGod for something we are initiating an action called asking. We control the action when asking. When praying, God is in control. We only take part in his plans. We participate in an action that he has already initiated. Koine Greek grammar teaches us this; we act “with a view to participation in the outcome.”It’s not just stating a petition and moving on.

Eugene Peterson says it well. “We welcome God’s will in our lives, and we participate in what he is doing in the world. God involves us in his plans… I will to participate in what is willed.” Perhaps for this reason, prayer is sometimes translated to vow.

Knowing how to participate requires hearing God’s voice. And for us to hear his voice, especially when seeking to leave behind worry and move into the arena of emotional peace, we need solace and solitude.

Interestingly in Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:5-13, where the verb “to pray” (proséuchomai) appears six times, Jesus talks about this place of solace. With our door closed we can present these and similar petitions to him and then learn how to walk alongside him. These seven petitions serve as a model for when we pray. With each petition, he will reveal how and when we are to participate. Again, we only listen and obey.

Perhaps the last two petitions in verse 13 best relate to how to petition and listen when facing anxiety and fear. An adapted reading of this verse might look like this: “And don’t let us yield to the temptation to be anxious and fearful during the COVID-19 pandemic but rescue us from the evil one” (NLT).

I believe we can experience true emotional peace as we petitionGod, listen to him and obey him. He will define how to proceed.

Perhaps, the primary life-experience God is inviting us into in the midst of our present crisis is to trust him. Knowing each of us is unique and that each is facing this crisis with different concerns and realities, God has a perfect plan appropriate for each disciple.

·      “Trust me and live in my peace if you have already contractedCOVID-19. I will show you the way.”

·      “Trust me and live in my peace if you are in an age group with a higher health risk factor. I will show you the way.”

·      “Trust me and live in my peace if you are facing employment concerns and wondering about next week’s meals and rent. I will show you the way.”

·      “Trust me and live in my peace if you are concerned about your investments. I will show you the way.”

·      “Trust me and live in my peace if you are concerned about your parents, children or grandchildren. I will show you the way.”

God was already aware of our present dilemma in eternity past.His solution also originates from then. But he is inviting us to participate in his perfect solution now. Perhaps instead of petitioning God we should beasking God how we could best plug into his perfect plan.

Our petition by prayer carries a sense of urgency, given that the word “supplication” in our Philippians 4 text denotes a cry for God’s help that exposes our inability to meet our own needs. We listen with urgency.

The same could be said about the word “thanksgiving,” also inverse 6. While Paul doesn’t mention those things for which we should be thankful, when we thank God for his wisdom, presence and willingness to include us in his plans in times of challenge, we are providing some likely reasons for which to be thankful.

Another helpful tool is to realize we sometimes don’t know how to pray. Paul confesses this when he writes in Romans 8:26 to a people who were facing even harder times than ours: “for we do not know how to pray as we should.” (The word “pray” is the same Greek word we find in Philippians 4:6.)God knows our hearts and needs even when we don’t.

God’s will and God’s peace

It is interesting to note in our reading of Philippians 4 thatGod doesn’t promise to fulfill our every wish and desire. Some of us may become infected and die. But even in light of this possible eventuality, “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19).

He also promises peace. When petitioning by prayer we must always consider the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” Sometimes God challenges us to change our petitions as we listen to him in order to bring them more in line with his will. In the end he desires we experience emotional peace regardless of the outcome.

Recently, a Christian brother told me he is certain the coronavirus will not infect him or his family. “Just like the Spirit of theLord passed over the Israelite first-borns in the book of Exodus,” he stated,“so will my family be protected by the blood of Jesus.”

Such a certainty is possible, but only if the Father has clearly revealed that to him. If not, he may be setting himself up for failure and disappointment if infection and sickness and/or death should happen. Also, young believers and children around him may suffer a crisis of faith if such an infection should happen.

We should always keep before us 1 John 5:14 when stating any promise: “This is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” There is no room for reckless thinking if we haven’t clearly heard from God.

But even if infection and sickness and/or death should occur we have the promise that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).I am confident that you, like me, have heard some exceptional stories about howGod is working our present world tragedy into something good. Perhaps the greatest example would be those Jesus disciples who are walking in peace during this time of social and emotional unrest.

Pondering, practicing continually

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, continually dwell on these things.The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, continually practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (adapted).

Recently I met a man with Christian leanings who was emotionally distraught, but not due to COVID-19. In my years of pastoring and chaplaincy work, I have never met a person so anxious and fearful and filled with hopelessness and negative thinking as this person. It was as though I was holding a gun to his head and he was desperately pleading for mercy. His tears were many. His pleading was constant. His very real despondency reminded me of where worry and fear can take us if we don’t act appropriately.

Amidst the sobs, we read these verses from Philippians 4. I spoke to him about his true identity in Christ and how valuable, precious and important he is to God and his Kingdom. “God indeed is fond of you right now” I said and encouraged him to consider these things. And over the last fifteen minutes of our visit, his demeanor slowly changed. It was remarkable. He was eventually dried eyed. Hope seemed to be breaking into his heart.

What I failed to do was remind him that Satan was not giving upon him and that he should do as Paul counsels in verses 8 and 9 and continue thinking and practicing these things. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to say this to him in the future. It’s one thing to begin a race. It is quite another to finish this race. Much perseverance is required.

In the end, as we parted ways, he stood up and asked if he could hug me. Immediately I thought about social distancing! When I was about to recommend “an elbow-to-elbow bump” I found his arms tightly wrapped around me.I had no choice. As he was walking out the room he said, “I haven’t smiled like this for a long time!”

Such can be our song of salvation and emotional peace as we petition and listen, and then do what God tells us to do!

Spiritual Exercise:
Spend a few moments in prayer and praise, thanking God for His provision of His Holy Spirit who indwells us and can give us peace that passes understanding, even in the midst of an unpredictable storm!

Casting Crowns -Praise You In This Storm
https://youtu.be/0YUGwUgBvTU

Celtic Worship -In Christ Alone
https://youtu.be/8kvFtXphmMU

To Love and Cherish…

5/14/2020
Encouragement from Mike Alvord, OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leader
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” - Ephesians 5:29

Do you remember your wedding vows? I’m guessing that like ours they included something along the lines of a promise to "love and to cherish,” your spouse. In the years that followed our wedding, Vanessa and I strove to walk out the love part. When the struggles increased, we grit our teeth and held on. Blinded by daily challenges, we strained to treat each other lovingly and didn’t even think in terms of “cherishing” one another, probably because we didn’t know there was a difference. The Bible tells us that this is not the experience of marriage that God planned for us. Paul exhorts us to rise above our selfish impulses and learn how to cherish our spouse, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” (Ephesians 5:29).

As an earthly image of what our relationship with God is designed to be, we are designed to thrive as a couple through everyday actions that honor our spouse, cherishing them as Christ does. So, how do we rewind to our wedding vows and renew our marriage in actions that cherish? In a RightNow Media series called Cherish, bestselling author Gary Thomas addresses how to properly cherish our spouse and unlock the blessings God intended. We must act to cherish our spouse by protecting our relationship and empowering their unique God-given qualities. Then, and only then, may we be truly open to the blessing that God set before us. I encourage you to watch the Cherish study series as a couple and prioritize cherishing your spouse.

COUPLE ACTIVITY

Spend a few minutes discussing the Scripture listed in this article (Philippians 4:11) and pray together. Check out the six-part study series Cherish by Gary Thomas on RightNow Media:
https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/402713
Have questions? You can connect with Pastor Ron at ron@cloviscc.com or our OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leaders via office@cloviscc.com

Click on and listen to the worship songs below:

More Like Jesus - Passion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bKxYbVCXoQ

There Will Be A Day - Jeremy Camp
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vj_o6GvTBs

6/04/2020
A note from Pastor Ron McLain,
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

How is it going in your household during these challenging times? It’s not unusual for people’s emotions to fluctuate up and down depending on what’s going on around them and what’s happening in our world. Anger is one of our most destructive emotions if it is not controlled. To take out our anger on our spouse or kids (or even ourselves), is not healthy and can lead to all kinds of behavior that doesn’t honor the Lord. The Bible is clear,
"Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil." (Ephesians 4:26)
The Mayo Clinic published a helpful article recently about how to tame your temper and I thought it might be helpful for us to have this information, understanding that these principles can be very helpful when empowered by the Holy Spirit Who gives us the ability to carry out healthy behaviors. Why not print these 10 tips out and share it with your entire family?

Anger management:
10 tips to tame your temper
?

Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips — from taking a timeout to using "I" statements — to stay in control.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion — but it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships.

Ready to get your anger under control? Start by considering these 10 anger management tips.

1. Think before you speak

In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

2. Once you're calm, express your anger

As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

3. Get some exercise

Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren't just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.

5. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child's messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and might only make it worse.

6. Stick with 'I' statements

To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use "I" statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes" instead of "You never do any housework."

7. Don't hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

8. Use humor to release tension

Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what's making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

9. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

10. Know when to seek help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

Couple Activity:

Go over these 10 tips as a couple and share the ones that have been helpful for you when needing to calm down. Print it out and put it up on the refrigerator for the family to see to remind everyone of these healthy tips.

Pray and praise God together by listening to the following songs:

Matthew West - Forgiveness (Lyrics)

https://youtu.be/h1Lu5udXEZI

CeCe Winans - Holy Spirit, Come Fill This Place

https://youtu.be/-Tqf6V9Xfow

5/28/2020
Encouragement from Pastor Ron McLain,
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

This article is directed specifically to husbands. I am encouraging husbands to step up in their relationship with their wife. We are called to be lovers, leaders and servants to the one whom God entrusted to us. This article suggests that there are at least 5 things that our wives desire and deserve. I’d love your feedback and also encourage you to email or text me at:
ron@cloviscc.com to set up a 30 minute marriage checkup, all intended to encourage you to grow in positive ways in your marriage.

5 Things Every Wife Desires and Deserves

by Dave Willis, from the blog post of “Marriage Today,” a ministry that has been helping marriages thrive since 1994.

Husbands, let’s rise to these challenges and love our wives well! Your marriage not only impacts your wife, but your children and future generations. By how you love your wife, you are teaching your sons how to treat women and you are teaching your daughters what they should expect from men. Let’s commit to giving our wives and families our very best!

This is not a comprehensive list, but here are five things most women desire and deserve
from their husbands (in no particular order)…

1. Open, honest, consistent communication
Communication does for a marriage what breathing does for your lungs. Be willing to turn off ESPN and put your iPhone down and engage in meaningful conversation. Most women have a need for communication in marriage that is ever bit as strong as the typical man’s need for sex. Make communication a priority. Never hide anything from her! Build a foundation of trust, honesty and open communication. Every one of your words and every action is either building more of her trust or eroding her trust in you. Remove distractions and make communication a high priority. It will make her feel secure, connected, loved and respected.

#2 is something she might never ask for specifically, but she desires it daily…
2. Protection (Physical, emotional and financial protection)
You should be the one who wipes away your wife’s tears; not the one who causes them! Develop the discipline to work hard inside and outside the home to make your wife feel like the safest and most secure woman on earth. She should never feel safer than she feels when she is with you. Have the courage to fight for your family and the faith to recognize that you will often need a power greater than your own. The Bible challenges us by saying…“Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14)

#3 is one of the primary ways she’s likely to measure your commitment to her…
3. Your time (Both “quality time” and “quantity time”)
Time is the “currency” of relationships, so invest as much time as you can into your marriage. Never make her feel like you love your career or hobbies more than you love her. That other stuff can’t love you back! You need to make money, but don’t use your career as an excuse to be absent. When you are home, be present, not distracted or glued to a screen. Work hard, but also remember that your family can do with less of almost anything if it means having more of you.

#4 is something every wife needs, but most husbands aren’t giving…
4. Continuous pursuit
For most of us, we gave our wives the best we had in the very beginning, but just like a cable TV company that offers their best package, pricing and service at the beginning and then changes all the rules after the “promotional period” expires, many of us have stopped giving our wives the best of ourselves. We’ve allowed romance to fade. She needs to feel loved and adored by you and she’ll feel most loved when she feels most pursued. Our wives need and deserve our continued adoration, thoughtfulness and love. Give her your very best each and every day!

#5 might be the most important one on the list…
5. Put her first
NEVER make her feel like she has to compete with anything or anyone else for your love. Never make her feel like you have an exit strategy. Have eyes only for her. Treat her like a priority; not like an interruption. Give her your best; not your leftovers. She needs and deserves your very best. When you give her your best, it will bring out the best in your both and the best in your marriage!

Dave and Ashley Willis have built a strong following, reaching millions of married couples through their blogs, books, and videos. Their mission is to create resources focused on building Christ-centered marriages and families. They are the authors of the new book, “Naked Marriage”, that sheds light on the common marriage pitfalls couples experience and reveals the secrets to a thriving relationship.

Couple Activity:

This week will be a little different. Men, take some time and read and pray through these five things that your wife desires and deserves. Maybe for her it would look a little different. Ask her opinion about this article and learn how you can tailor make your focus on her to show your love and devotion for her.  Then, take a few moments and praise Him together in prayer and song. A couple of song suggestions are below.

To schedule a zoom or phone 30-minute “Marriage Check Up” coaching time with Pastor Ron, connect with him by emailing him at: ron@cloviscc.com or texting him at 559-313-4226.

Celine Dion & Josh Groban Live "The Prayer"
https://youtu.be/DbviXG_56ss

Casting Crowns – “Broken Together” - with Lyrics
https://youtu.be/8W7mFMlDFbI

ENCOURAGING THOUGHTS FROM THE YOUNG AND THE YOUNG AT HEART DURING COVID-19 . . . AND A HELPFUL WELLNESS TOOL FOR YOU!

5/21/2020
Encouragement from Pastor Ron McLain,
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

[To schedule a zoom or phone 30-minute “Marriage Check Up” coaching time with Pastor Ron, connect with him by emailing him at:
ron@cloviscc.com or texting him at 559-313-4226]

From a young lady who loves Jesus, Aliya Smithson:

Find Joy

I was seriously this excited to go to town to run errands with my dad today!

Funny how that works. I usually hate going to town. Making the trek from my home in the hills, having to deal with soooo many people, traffic, it's such a hassle for errand purposes!

But today, I was so excited to get out of the house for longer than 10 minutes.

I've been at home with my family for two months in self-isolation. While I am definitely blessed to be up in the hills, with my family and we are all safe and sound, the isolation was definitely getting to me. I know it's been getting to everyone else having to deal with it. And worse still for all of the brave first responders. So what can we do in this season of waiting? What HAVE we been doing in this season of waiting?

Trusting in God's plan.

Reaching out to our loved ones more.

Being creative.

Working to have a virtual way of earning income to sustain us.

Working on ourselves.

I struggle a lot with change, so not being able to move around go to church, be with my friends and family . . . it's been hard, to say the least. So I've been working on finding joy in every moment and trying to stay positive throughout the while situation.

My family is safe.

We are all together.

Because of technology we can still create functioning ways to earn an income.

I've learned a lot in this time and have been able to still grow spiritually, mentally, and physically. And so have many of the people I hold closest to me! For that, I am blessed and excited to see how else we will grow in the future!

So I'll keep looking up and looking forward to the exciting things that are coming our way! And when I get to go to town you can BET YOUR ICED TEA I'm going to be taking a goofy picture in front of Starbucks!

Let me be excited!!

Aliah Smithson

Aliah attended our youth group at CCC until Covid-19 hit. She will be 19 in a few weeks, and is enrolled and will be taking classes at Clovis Community in the fall to work on getting her Bachelor’s degree in Business Entrepreneurship. She took a gap year between high school and college so that she could figure out exactly what she wanted to major in. She went to public school and wrestled, played water polo, was involved in a minimum of 4 music groups and graduated valedictorian. Oh, and she loves the Lord!!!

From a seasoned missionary (the young at heart!)

Have Patience!

Someone recently said that among the most worthless gifts received for Christmas 2019 was a “2020 planner”. Maybe you relate to that as our world

reels from the impact of Covid 19. A struggle we all face at some level or

another is not being able to plan or to be in control of our lives. One of the questions asked in our ZOOM Connections class this week was “What has God been teaching you about yourself during this isolation time?”

A consensus in our breakout group was the need for patience. It kind of reminded me of the kids “Music Machine” song by Herbert the Snail “Have Patience, Have Patience, don’t be in such a hurry, when you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too, and think of all the times that others had to wait for you.”

I’ve often said that I don’t like praying for patience, because Rom. 5:5 reminds us that “Tribulation produces Patience” and I don’t want any more of that. The good news is that patience is a natural fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our lives, and as we remain connected to the vine, patience is a natural outgrowth. May God grant us all the refreshing fruit of His Holy Spirit during this time of isolation.

Wellness Tool

And now, here is a wellness TOOL for you, shared from a post by Kay Warren, the wife of Pastor Rick Warren, Lead Pastor at Saddleback Community Church in Southern California. It’s from her ministry, “2020 Hope For Mental Health”.

The Bible encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). It’s always good to meditate on His Word. The following Wellness Tool is something that you can click onto, print out, and put on your mirror or refrigerator and refer to daily!  It is broken down into:

1.    Affirmations and Promises from God’s Word.

2.    God’s Attributes

3.    Names of God

Here is the link for the Wellness TOOL:

https://bit.ly/3gbknXs

Couple Activity:

This week share the positives you are finding during Covid-19. What are you grateful for? What new things are you learning about life that can motivate you moving forward? Print out the Wellness Tool and read through it together, taking one or two Scriptures each day.  Then, take a few moments and praise Him together in song. A couple of suggestions are below.

To schedule a zoom or phone 30-minute “Marriage Check Up” coaching time with Pastor Ron, connect with him by emailing him at: ron@cloviscc.com or texting him at 559-313-4226.

Joy Of The Lord - Rend Collective

https://youtu.be/x3gLeCiMJqI

What A Beautiful Name - Hillsong Worship

https://youtu.be/nQWFzMvCfLE

Busters & Boosters
in Your Marriage Relationship

5/14/2020
Encouragement from Pastor Ron McLain,
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

[To schedule a zoom or phone 30-minute “Marriage Check Up” coaching time with Pastor Ron, connect with him by emailing him at:
ron@cloviscc.com or texting him at 559-313-4226]

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) NASB

Jim and Amy (not their real names) recently shared with me how the Covid-19 crisis has affected their marriage relationship. And it isn’t good! If I could summarize our Zoom session, they were allowing three relationship “busters” to dominate their marriage.
Here they are:

BUSTERS (what they shared with me)

1.    Neither person was spending quality time with the Lord in devotions, prayer, study and praise. This resulted in a lack of humility, gentleness and patience with each other.

2.    They were focused mostly on all the negative aspects that Covid-19 was bringing into their home via the news, social media, etc.

3.    When they were talking with each other, they were often “short” and didn’t have much good to say to each other about the other person or the situation they were in and were bringing up past issues that hadn’t been resolved.

Add all three “busters” up and you have a recipe for a big blow up and that’s exactly what was happening on a regular basis in Jim and Amy’s relationship. Are any of these “busters” present in your marriage relationship?

Here are some “boosters” that I shared with them and they both agreed that they individually needed to heed this counsel and apply it in their relationship.

BOOSTERS (what I shared with them)

1.    The Apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians to,“walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love. . .” (Ephesians 4:1-2). Your walk with Jesus calls you to spend quality time with Him, to be transformed by His Spirit and to be filled and controlled by His Spirit. Only then can you walk in a manner worthy of your calling. Jim and Amy agreed to start having a quiet time daily with the Lord and add in a dose of praise music to turn their affections toward Him!

2.    They also agreed to “keep seeking the things above” and to “set their minds on things above, not on things on earth,” as prescribed by Paul in Colossians 3:1-2. Keeping your focus on Jesus certainly gives you a much healthier outlook on life, especially when almost everything around you is negative and sometimes painful.

3.    Good communication is essential in a healthy relationship. The first step to accomplish this is to “put away” the caustic aspects of how you relate to one another. It’s necessary to get rid of your bitterness and anger toward each other and anyone else that you might be holding a grudge against. To put away is one thing but the negative has to be replaced with the positive and that is to “be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” We forgive because we have been forgiven. When you are angry with each other, you are actually giving the devil a foothold in your relationship (see. Ephesians 4:26-27) and that never ends well!

Our good friends at FIRST THINGS FIRST, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have put together a Couple’s Guide for, “What to do when your spouse is getting on your nerves.” We are including the link below if you’d like to click on the link and read it (or even print it out). It has many practical suggestions on how to communicate in a healthy manner. You may want to review it together as a couple. Our thanks to Executive Director, Julie Baumgardner, for allowing us to share this guide.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR SPOUSE IS GETTING ON YOUR NERVES

MYM_SG_WhatToDoWhenYourSpouseIsGettingOnYourNerves.pdf

Couple Activity: This week, review the “Busters” and “Boosters” in your relationship and agree together today to lean into the Lord’s grace and love for yourself and your spouse.  Click on and read through the Guide above from FIRST THINGS FIRST, “What to do when your spouse is getting on your nerves” and pick out two or three things you can apply in your marriage (and family). Then, take a few moments and praise Him together in song. A couple of suggestions are below.

To schedule a zoom or phone 30-minute “Marriage Check Up” coaching time with Pastor Ron, connect with him by emailing him at: ron@cloviscc.com or texting him at 559-313-4226.

Michael W. Smith - Waymaker ft. Vanessa Campagna & Madelyn Berry

https://youtu.be/SE_M9noEhNE

Michael W. Smith - Draw Me Close [with lyrics]

https://youtu.be/7d_oYr-P16M

“Parenting with perspective”

5/7/2020
Encouragement from Mike Alvord,
OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leader


“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” - Philippians 4:11, ESV

Marriage and parenting is so frequently a battle between what we “could” do and what “we have time” to do. I have often watched this battle play out in my own home as a plethora of activities and pursuits seek to drown us. Over the last few years, Vanessa and I have sought to wage war on the daily schedule as we mournfully watch others around us be consumed by the onslaught of “good things”. Then, a few weeks ago everything shifted dynamically when the world reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many parents (including us) are at home fighting to keep their kids educated and occupied, while simultaneously working. With this new daily schedule comes added stress and uncertainty. Traditionally, Christian parenting resources have centered on the scriptural principles of love (1 John 4:19), respect (Philippians 2:3), forgiveness and grace (Matthew 6:14-15). So, where do we find help in managing daily schedules in both the pre- and post-COVID world?

Turning to Paul’s letter to Philippi, we see the apostle didn’t base happiness on his current circumstances. Rather, he found contentment by  trusting in Christ and the promised future. We can learn from Paul that perspective is key in parenting and navigating schedules that have been turned upside down. Case in point, I recently stumbled across a social media post that called readers to not lose perspective in the midst of COVID-19, and stay focused on shaping our kids for the things to come.

****** This is a reproduced version of the social media post ******

In 2030

College kid: “In history class, we learned that the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 was really bad. What was it like?”

Parent: “Well, everything was shut down in an attempt to stop the virus, but not everyone followed the order to quarantine for 15 days, so it lasted longer than anyone expected. Many people died who shouldn’t have. Grocery stores were out of everything, because people were hoarding as much as they could. We were scared of economic failure for our country and for ourselves as so many people including ourselves couldn’t go to work. Don’t you remember it? You were 8?”

College kid: “All I remember was the school closing and being homeschooled. I remember doing scavenger hunts in our yard. I remember eating meals as a family for a change. I remember getting great sleep, because I wasn’t up late with homework or getting up early for school. I remember playing board games as a family. I remember watching our pastor on the laptop. Honestly, it was the happiest time of my childhood.”

Don’t lose perspective.

***************************************************************************

From this short example, it is plainly clear that perspective can greatly influence how we walk through various seasons of life. Vanessa and I have sought to model Paul’s approach to contentment by finding satisfaction in whatever our daily schedule looks like. We have been more purposeful to change or deviate from a plan or schedule in order to seize opportunities when and where we are. In our home, we have set a daily schedule that begins with bible study and schoolwork. However, each day we leave ample time for projects and seek to adapt the schedule as momentary opportunities arise. For instance, while having my morning coffee and chatting with Nathan, our oldest, he mentioned that he didn’t like doing chores. I paused my studies to ask follow up questions and reveal his heart on the matter. Being purposeful in this moment uncovered his dislike for chores stemmed from doing them before lunch, when he was hungry. We agreed to try flipping chores and lunch that day. Flexing the order of our schedule brought a great deal more satisfaction and peace to us all. 

Over the past few weeks, we have started two gardens (one at home and one at church), and the kids have been encouraged to pursue games, swimming, exercise, nerf gun wars, etc! There is still structure to our day, but it is much more flexible than before and as a result our kids are thriving! Just like the social media post example, in a season when many adults are depressed by the chaos, we have a great chance to mold the perspectives held by our kids. As we submit to the power of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit can teach us to apply Paul’s words and be content right where we are. So in this time of broadcast news doom and gloom, what is driving your perspective? When “normal life” returns, how will you remain in Christ’s power to be satisfied in your daily life so your marriage, and your kids can flourish?

COUPLE ACTIVITY

Spend a few minutes discussing the Scripture listed in this article (Philippians 4:11) and pray together. What does being content look like in your family? How can flexibility be incorporated to build a life of contentment? Have questions? You can connect with Pastor Ron at ron@cloviscc.com or our OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leaders via office@cloviscc.com Click on and listen to the worship songs below:

It Is Well (Lyric Video) - Kristene DiMarco, Bethel Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Wb_WD1emFQ 

Satisfied by Chris Tomlin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF7bb_gR8ZA 


STRESS, CABIN FEVER AND ZOOM MEETING MADNESS --
FINDING TIME TO DATE YOUR SPOUSE DURING COVID-19

4/30/2020
Encouragement from Mike Alvord,
OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leader

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV

Our daily lives prior to COVID-19 had all kinds of worries and stressors like work, bills, kids, and in-laws. For those of us who are married, these were often compounded by sharing in the worries of our spouse. During these abnormal times, all of our worries have been combined with the craziness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout scripture, God calls us to leave anxiety and burden behind to lead a life of peace. How do we practically live out a life of peace when we are trapped at home going crazy staring at the walls, or are swamped working in a critical career field, or are stuck in a never-ending loop of Zoom meetings?

Over the last several weeks Pastor Ron has given us a number of tips for daily life to stay healthy in mind and spirit. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus Christ also instructs us on how to find peace, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus calls us to focus on Him, our Lord and Savior. When we focus on Christ and practice healthy self-care, we can find personal peace even as the world around us descends into chaos.

Achieving personal peace is only part of our call though. God also calls us to thrive in our marriages, even during challenging times. In fact, Ecclesiastes pulls back the curtain on God’s grand design when it says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

In God’s perfect wisdom, He created us to depend on one another. Each of our marriages have been uniquely purposed to find uncommon strength and peace, so that His glory may shine through the darkness of a world-closing pandemic! So, how do we tap into this power? Prioritize quality time. Make a special effort to spend time together and rest in the blessings of God’s design. At the marriage dinner in February, the OMEGA Marriage Ministry provided a list of 12 date night ideas. Things have changed since then, but Prepare-Enrich has posted a quarantine friendly version of six date night ideas to help you thrive:

● Create the ultimate movie/Netflix-binge experience. Well, let’s be real. We’ve probably all been doing our share of this lately. But think of how you could make it fun, special, or different. Maybe you make it a theme night, or randomly pick a movie and see who can write the funniest review to share after.
Give an in-depth lesson. Take turns teaching each other about one of your favorite subjects or hobbies. Keep in mind that the “learner’s” engagement is key to making this fun.
Have a picnic – whether it’s in your backyard or your bedroom. Cook or order in your favorite meal or build an appetizer tray from whatever is in your pantry. Make it feel special by dressing up a bit and playing some music for ambience.
Watch a sunrise or sunset. Grab some coffee or a treat and scope out a spot with a view (even if it’s just the bay window of your living room). Reflect on the day ahead or behind you after enjoying nature’s colorful show. Share three things you’re feeling thankful for.
Take a hike. In areas where outdoor activities are still encouraged while practicing social distancing, scout out a park or hiking/walking trails near you and throw on your comfy shoes. Enjoy the fresh air and each other’s company.
Exchange gifts. This probably sounds like an odd one, especially if you don’t have a gifting occasion coming up – although do you really need one? You’re probably not going to go out shopping for one either. Here’s where the fun comes in! Create a gift out of things you already have around the house, hiding in a closet, or a box of old memorabilia in the basement. The thought- and creativity- is what really counts here.You can check out the Prepare-Enrich blog post on quarantine dates here or the original 12 month date guide here.

COUPLE ACTIVITY
Spend a few minutes discussing the Scripture listed in this article (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) and pray together, thanking God for His design in your marriage. Read the date ideas above, choose 1 idea for a date this month, then plan 1 for next month. Questions? You can connect with Pastor Ron at ron@cloviscc.com or our OMEGA Marriage Ministry Team Leaders via office@cloviscc.com Click on and listen to the worship songs below:

Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA

Nobody Loves Me Like You by Chris Tomlin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG_IXFEO8yE

CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETIES ON HIM – AND LET THE LORD LEAD YOU THROUGH THIS

Encouragement from Pastor Ron

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7 ESV

In these uncertain days, it seems that anxiety is an everyday part of our lives. We keep hearing from healthcare experts, “we’ve never lived through anything like this before!” It makes sense, then, that we are all just learning about how to deal with this new way of life and the challenges that come with it. And we all respond in different ways, don’t we?

I remember a time about 20 years ago when I had a panic attack. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was about to speak to a room full of people and I started to feel anxious, which wasn’t unusual for me, but the level of my anxiety was higher than normal. As I focused on my high anxiety I began to feel anxious about being anxious and . . . boom! My heart started racing and I just wanted to run out of that room. Thankfully, I had a short break and re-focused my thoughts on reality and I calmed down before I spoke.

I’d like to say that was the only time I’ve experienced panic and anxiety but it wasn’t. I eventually went to my doctor, who shared with me that I was experiencing anxiety. No kidding! What was hard for me was to admit it and work with my doctor on a treatment plan to overcome it.

Anxiety and its cousins—panic, worry, fear and dread— is complex. There are spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, genetic, and circumstantial factors that can cause us to fall into the grip of depression, pulling us away from those we love and interfering with our ability to deal with everyday life. I’ve talked with several people who are experiencing varying emotions of feeling out of control and even scared about what’s going on in this pandemic. You’re not alone!

Peter gives us an admonition to “unload” our anxiety and it’s found in I Peter 5:7.

1 Peter 5:7 invites you to, “cast your anxiety on Jesus, because he cares for you.” I love the mental picture of us throwing our anxiety onto Jesus -- offloading what's troubling us onto him.

I’m especially glad that the Lord doesn’t limit us to the number of times we can “offload” our anxieties during the day. He never gets tired of taking our burdens. He’s always right there, with arms open wide to you! Thank you, Lord!

In the original Greek language, the word used in this verse for anxiety means to divide, or to pull apart. That's what happens to our hearts when we are anxious about something. So what is the offer? We can transfer the worry that's pulling our heart in two to Jesus and find rest for our souls.

Perhaps you are struggling in your marriage right now. Again, you are not alone. Anxiety often leads to short tempers, pulling away from each other, blaming each other, and feeling hopeless. It’s like being totally alone with seemingly no help in sight. Similar, perhaps, to how David may have felt as he expressed himself in the beloved Psalm 23.

As David writes Psalm 23 he is facing life-threatening danger, but he is confident in his Shepherd. He describes it like this, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v.4 ESV).

Two lines in this verse are calling out to you with hope.

1. For you are with me. No matter how deep the pit, nor how dark the night, you are not in this all by yourself. God Almighty is right there with you. I get that you may not be able to sense or see him. But no darkness can hide his presence from you. In another psalm David writes:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7,11-12 NIV)

2. Even though I walk through the valley. God is not leading you TO the valley you’re in. He promises to lead you THROUGH it. This place of struggle will not be the end of you.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NIV).

Amen!

Practical Tips for your Mental/Emotional Health During these Times (continued from last week)

From a psychologist in New York State:

After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all. I can't control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.

MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE (in last week’s newsletter, we covered 10 tips . . . here are the remainder of the psychologist’s tips for you)

11. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.

12. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of meaning when things seem out of control.

13. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

14. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

15. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

16. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

17. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

18. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

19. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

20. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

21. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

COUPLE ACTIVITY

Spend a few minutes discussing the Scriptures listed in this article and pray together, thanking Him for His constant presence with you and His invitation to take all of your anxiety and worries from you.  Read the tips above (take turns reading every other one), and discuss. Choose 3 of these tips that are especially helpful to you. Questions? To connect with Pastor Ron, email him at ron@cloviscc.com

Click on and listen to the worship songs below:

I Cast All My Cares Upon You
A song written by Kelly Willard, performed by Joy Mcilwrath and Andrew Fynn.
https://youtu.be/SYKi7LuxRTs

You Never Let Go (lyrics)
Matt Redman
https://youtu.be/qFIDj5QF1vI

April 17th, 2020

Ron McLain
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

SETTING YOUR MIND – Encouragement from Pastor Ron

In uncertain times like this, it’s not unusual to struggle with anxious thoughts and feelings about what is going on (or not going on) around us. When we focus on the fear of the unknown in our lives, it can lead to great stress and unrest in our marriage and family relationships. That can lead to arguing, unhealthy communication and sometimes even physical abuse.

The healthiest thing to do during these times is to embrace what you’re feeling (that means to admit your feelings) and then shift your thoughts (set your mind) to the positive Scriptures and steps you can take to get back on a good mental and emotional track.

Colossians 3:1-4 is an encouragement for Joan and me during these times. Paul admonishes the church at Colossae, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What a great message we received from Pastor Cameron along with the renewed hope we have in the fact that Jesus overcame death and is alive today, sitting at the right hand of God. We know from Scripture that we, too, have been crucified, buried and raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:6). That’s where our security lies --- in Him! We are as secure as we can possibly be, seated with Him in heaven, far above all rule and authority. And, “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (See Romans 8:31-39).

When we meditate on the truth of His Word, we can bask in His peace and the reality that our security is in Him! These are the kind of truths that we need to “set our minds” on and meditate on so that we can think correctly about what is real and lasting.

Every day we have a choice. We can either immediately start worrying about the uncertainty of what is going on around us or we can start by focusing on what is certain, by SETTING OUR MIND on things above, and by thanking God and worshiping the risen King. That focus can immediately set our mental and emotional baseline from which to live our daily lives.

The Scripture is clear, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”

Yes! Set your mind on Jesus and His Word! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).”

So, as an individual and as a couple . . . set your mind and let Him transform your thinking from stress to peace, from uncertainty to certainty, and from fear to security . . . in Him!

Below are ten practical tips and advice that can help you through these trying times. They were written anonymously from a psychologist who has recent experience dealing with people worried about COVID-19. I’m listing ten tips this week and will feature a few more in next week’s e-newsletter.

Practical Tips for your Mental/Emotional Health During these Times

From a psychologist in New York State:

After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all. I can't control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.

MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE

1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc. — your kids miss their friends, too!

6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

8. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

9. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

10. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

COUPLE ACTIVITY

Spend a few minutes discussing the Scriptures listed in this article and pray together, thanking Him for His salvation and security that you have in Him.  Read the 10 tips above (take turns reading every other one), and discuss. Choose 3 of these tips that are especially helpful to you.

Click on and listen to the worship songs below:

Peace Be Still (with Lyrics) by Lauren Daigle
https://youtu.be/VBzg4B3_yS8

Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet (with Lyrics) by Amy Grant
https://youtu.be/a6LC8cu03Ig

April 9th, 2020

Ron McLain
Associate Pastor of Marriage Ministries

Who would have imagined that in these days we would find ourselves in a situation where . . .
* we would be sheltering in place in our homes for weeks?
* we would be watching more than 181 countries pretty much “shut down” from an  invisible virus?
* we would be prohibited from meeting in groups of more than 10 and prohibited from enjoying in-person church services?
* we would be living day after day 24/7 in close proximity with our spouse and kids?
* we would see people standing in line at stores hoping and praying for . . . toilet paper?

Combine these and other stresses along with dozens of unknown and unanswerable questions about the future and you have recipe for relationship chaos within our homes. And . . . it’s happening. Couples are reporting that tensions are up, arguments are the norm and it feels almost unbearable to think that this could go on for weeks or even months. Right?

The truth is . . . it is a very stressful time and there are a lot of questions we have that only lead to speculation and the rising anxiety inside of us. We just don’t know the future and what it holds.

But what we DO know is the One who holds the future, Jesus Christ.  He said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Rev. 22:13)  Nothing catches Him by surprise. And while we may not know everything that is going to happen, we can lay our anxiety and fears and tears at the foot of the Cross, knowing the One who holds the future in His hands. Amen?

This is holy week, with both Good Friday and Easter Sunday coming our way. In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, we can have both HOPE as we contemplate all that Jesus accomplished on the Cross, and JOY and POWER TO LIVE as we revel in His resurrection from the dead.

Let me just share a thought or two about these two special days. Good Friday represents the fact that Jesus suffered, shed His precious blood, and died on Calvary’s Cross. He took our sins and actually became sin so that we might be forgiven past, present and future for all of our sins. Amazing! His sacrifice allows us to become new creations in Christ, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Cor. 5:21)

His resurrection from the dead insures that we, too, will live with Him in glory for all eternity if we have repented of our sins and received Him as Savior and Lord. What a comfort that is! We can have this assurance because of what He has done. It’s all about Him and His mercy and grace! Thank you, Lord!

You might be thinking, “yes, Pastor Ron, this is all well and good, and I know that we will be with Jesus in heaven but what about the here and now? I mean, how does His resurrection apply to us now?” Great question!

Present Risenness!

A concept that author Brennan Manning brings up in one of his books to ponder and even meditate on is, “Present Risenness” and yes, it definitely applies to us in the here and now.

Here is an excerpt from Manning’s work from Reflections for Ragamuffins:

“The Present Power of His Resurrection.”

“Too often, we make the mistake of relegating the importance of the resurrection of Christ to the future. While it is true that we shall one day reign with him in glory, and that his resurrection will one day be our own, by focusing only on the future, the risen One is pushed safely out of the present. Limiting the resurrection either to the past or to the future makes the present risenness of Jesus largely irrelevant, safeguards us from interference with the ordinary rounds and daily routine of our lives, and preempts communion now with Jesus as a living person.”

“We need to experience the resurrection as “present risenness.” Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) If we truly believe that, then we believe that he is actively present in our lives. If our faith is alive and luminous, we will be alert to moments, events, and occasions when the power of resurrection is brought to bear on our lives. Self-absorbed and inattentive, we fail to notice the subtle ways in which Jesus is snagging our attention.”

Isn’t that encouraging, to know that as a believer the resurrected Christ presently lives in you? The same power that raised Him from the dead currently lives in you! So while we may be suffering and/or feeling upset about what happened in the past and perhaps anxious about what tomorrow brings, I would encourage you to enjoy today.  Yes, today . . . the present risenness of Christ, to bring you joy, peace, and power to face whatever comes your way . . . today! Look to Him and His indwelling resources now as you face this day together individually and as a couple! He’s alive and He’s living in you! Rejoice!

Home Activity: As a couple, read this article together and talk about it and how it applies to you. Then, listen to the two worship songs noted below (just click on the link and the song will come up). One song is about the Cross (Good Friday) and the other one is about the resurrection (Easter Sunday!)  Pray together and thank God for His present risenness in your lives.  Watch this Sunday’s Easter service at 10 a.m. on the Clovis Christian Church website or CCC Facebook page. Enjoy and celebrate your Resurrection Marriage together!

If you have questions, or want to send me a confidential prayer request, my wife, Joan, and I will lift your requests up to the Lord. My email address is ron@cloviscc.com                                      

Let me know what you thought of this article and share any concerns you have that we can pray about.


Worship Songs:
(listen & watch on YouTube)

“At the Cross” – Chris Tomlin

https://youtu.be/SUvpBphq5og

“He’s Alive” – David Phelps & Gaither Vocal Band

https://youtu.be/0gGa1w_bnvM