Read: Psalm 136:1–9
Bible in a Year: Exodus 36–38; Matthew 23:1–22
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
I came across a solitary flower growing in a meadow today—a tiny purple blossom “wasting its sweetness in the desert air,” to borrow from the poet Thomas Gray’s wonderful line. I’m sure no one had seen this particular flower before, and perhaps no one will see it again. Why this beauty in this place? I thought.
Nature is never wasted. It daily displays the truth, goodness, and beauty of the One who brought it into being. Every day nature offers a new and fresh declaration of God’s glory. Do I see Him through that beauty, or do I merely glance at it and shrug it off in indifference?
All nature declares the beauty of the One who made it. Our response can be worship, adoration, and thanksgiving—for the radiance of a cornflower, the splendor of a morning sunrise, the symmetry of one particular tree.
Author C. S. Lewis describes a walk in the forest on a hot summer day. He had just asked his friend how best to cultivate a heart thankful toward God. His hiking companion turned to a nearby brook, splashed his face and hands in a little waterfall, and asked, “Why not begin with this?” Lewis said he learned a great principle in that moment: “Begin where you are.”
A trickling waterfall, the wind in the willows, a baby robin, the blue sky, a tiny flower. Why not begin your thankfulness with this? —David Roper
Father, may we always be reminded that You have placed beauty here because it reflects Your character. We praise You! What are you thankful for today?
[God] is the beauty behind all beauty. –Steve DeWitt
INSIGHT: This worship song praises the wonders of God’s creation and His providential intervention for His people. The repeating refrain is, “His love endures forever.” The list of items for which to thank God, our Creator, are vast and extensive: God is good (v. 1), He is over all other “gods” (v. 2), He is the Lord of lords (v. 3), God alone does great wonders (v. 4), God by His understanding made the heavens (v. 5), He placed the earth on the waters (v. 6), He made the great lights (v. 7), He made the sun to govern the day (v. 8), and He made the moon and stars to govern the night (v. 9). As we behold the wonders of nature, we marvel at their Creator. Dennis Fisher
Human trafficking fuels the growth of organized crime, undermining health, safety, security, and the basic needs of humanity. It is the fastest growing crime in the world.
A21 EXISTS TO ABOLISH INJUSTICE IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
We are a non-profit organization who believes that we can end human trafficking together.
Would you like to get involved?
Grab your stationery and pull out a pen! The simple act of writing to a survivor in one of our homes is an incredible encouragement to survivors along their journey. But don’t be surprised if it has a great impact on you too.
We would love for you to write a letter or card to the girls in our shelter. Address your letter along the lines of “Dear Beautiful” or “Lovely,” and write an encouraging note that places value and worth upon the girls.
In the contents of your letter, be sure to refrain from stating your own beliefs or talking too much about your job or lifestyle, as these girls have all come from differing backgrounds and deserve to be respected and not made to feel bad about their situations. Obviously, they have been through a lot, and we ask that in your letters you do not claim to understand their situations or try to relate to what they have been through.
Please end your letter by signing with your first name only, and do not include any personal details. These letters are for the purpose of encouragement and support.
These letters can be mailed to:
California (Head Office)
The A21 Campaign
427 E. 17th Street #F223
Costa Mesa, CA 92627 USA
Simple question/Complex answer: “What Does It Mean To Be Equally Yoked?” Equally yoked is a biblical phrase referred to in the Christian community that is oftentimes used to justify a decision made about a relationship or marriage. I have heard people say that they were not equally yoked with someone because of a different upbringing, decision making process, beliefs, finances, education, location and even appearance. That stuff has nothing to do with being equally yoked! What’s funny is that the phrase “unequally yoked” does not specifically refer to marriage. Actually, the phrase “equally yoked” is not even in the bible. II Corinthians 6:14 (KJV) says, “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. . .” It doesn’t say relationships, it doesn’t say marriage but its implication is that of any relationship with another person. A relationship with another person could be a marriage. I want to answer the question at hand in a manner which provides couples with the information necessary to determine their “Yoke Status.” To get to that answer, the first thing we have to do is discuss what has absolutely nothing to do with being equally yoked.
If two people go to church together that does not mean that they are equally yoked. If two people don’t go to church together that does not mean that they are unequally yoked. If one person goes to one church and the other person goes to another church, can they still be equally yoked? Well, maybe. If one person goes to church and the other person does not go to church can they still be equally yoked? Well, maybe. Both people have to be Christians. Being equally yoked does not apply to unbelievers. Unbelievers don’t have a yoke. Reading the bible together does not make you equally yoked but we are getting warmer! Being in love does not mean that you are equally yoked. Being married does not mean that you are equally yoked. Having a great friendship does not mean that you are equally yoked. Having things in common does not mean that you are equally yoked. If you are not equally yoked can you still get married? Yes . . . if you take II Corinthians 6:14 out of the bible. If you determine while married that you are not equally yoked can you get a divorce? No. I will explain why later. If you are equally yoked with someone, do you always stay “in yoke” with them? Maybe, maybe not. Can you not be in love with someone and still be equally yoked to them? Yes. Can you be equally yoked to two people at the same time? Yes. I will explain later. . . on second thought I better explain that one right now.
Being equally yoked initially doesn’t have anything to do with your love for another person or your relationship or marriage to another person. The first thing you have to do is be a believer in God’s word. Two people who are believers that are in a relationship or marriage ARE equally yoked. Don’t celebrate just yet! Being equally yoked does not guarantee any sort of successfulness for your relationship or marriage. Confirming that two people are equally yoked is what we should do at the beginning of a relationship. Confusion sets in when we are trying to figure out what it means to be equally yoked. In my humble opinion, being equally yoked is about two believers sharing a spiritual connection with God. For example one person can go to church and another person may not be attending church and they could still be equally yoked if they are believers who share a spiritual connection with God. (The person that does not go to church needs to be in fellowship with other Christians at some capacity on a regular basis.) I am a relationship expert but I can’t tell you if you are equally yoked to another person because I don’t know how you know God. I don’t know how your partner knows God. I definitely can’t tell you anything about the spiritual connection to God that you share with your partner either. Two couples could have two different levels of spiritual connection with God. Couple A could be on “Spiritual Connection Level 8” together and be equally yoked. Couple B could be on “Spiritual Connection Level 4” together and be equally yoked. Let’s say that we have an individual on “Spiritual Connection Level 7” who wants to marry an individual on “Spiritual Connection Level 5.” Should they get married? It depends. They will need to agree on what level they both can share a spiritual connection for God. Maybe they can meet on level 6. I know what you are wondering! “Is this spiritual connection stuff in the bible?” The answer is NO but the problem is that if I said yes, too many people would believe me. That is actually kind of funny. I cannot define for you what “Spiritual Connection Level” you are on because . . . well, I made it up. If you didn’t know that I made it up you need to get that anointed oil in your life.
Here is an example of two people meeting on the same spiritual connection level. One of my friends goes to church all the time. I mean, she is in church all the time!!! She recognizes that the man that she may marry may not want to be in church all the time. She said that as long as he attends church regularly and that he is a praying man then that’s enough for her. She is figuring out what the lowest level of spiritual connection a man must have with God in order for her to be in a relationship with that man.
I have traveled the country talking to Christians and unbelievers about relationships and marriage. I have disappointing news about my travels. Marriage is just as difficult for Christians as it is for unbelievers – How is this possible? I get the same relationship questions from people who hear me being interviewed on HOT 97 in New York as I get from the people who hear me on gospel radio in Chicago. I get the same relationship questions from people I talk to at one of my book signings at a night club in Atlanta as I do at singles ministry at a church in Dallas. Again, I ask, how is it possible for marriage to be just as difficult for Christians as it is for unbelievers? Christians have simple instructions and/or examples to follow that will afford them a foundation from which to build upon to have a successful marriage. God says that marriage is a mystery but the bible does give us the direction necessary to build the foundation needed to place our marriage on. Let’s a review a few of these directions:
He took Adam’s rib and made woman.
– A wife is a gift from God. Man, she was created from you for you.
Wives submit to your husbands.
–He submits to God, you submit to him. God left Adam in charge, woman!!!
Man leaves his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife.
– I will never understand why more men do not take the title of “Husband” more personally. There is no greater title for a man to have. Not president, not rapper, not actor, not football player, not doctor, not attorney, etc.
Wives respect your husbands.
– Every day I talk to more and more women who intentionally disrespect their husbands. I hereby cancel the “Women’s Independence Movement.” Women, instead of saying, “I am an Independent Woman,” start saying that, “I want a Dependable Man.” (I know, I know, that’s a whole nutha article that I already wrote. Look it up.)
He who finds a wife, finds a good thing. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
– Too many men don’t understand the value of a good woman. President Obama is Presidential with or without Michelle but I promise you that he would not be the President without her. Shoot I need my wife too! Hey Boo!
The serpent said to the woman, “Go ahead on and eat the fruit.”
– The serpent has many forms. Could be Momma, could be Sister, the serpent could be your best friend that wants your husband.
I could go on, but then I would have to take up a collection.
Christians are either not following these directions or they are following the directions of the unbelievers. Unbelievers have no guide, instruction or direction to follow in terms of how to be successful at marriage. Two Christians that are married should never get a divorce because we should be constantly and consistently trying to grow closer to God. If the husband and wife are both trying to grow closer to God, then the only place that they can meet at is at God. LOOK AT GOD! Christians should know love because we know God’s love. Unbelievers only have the capacity to love themselves, that’s why their marriages are failing. Christians know of compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice and compromise. These characteristics/traits are necessary to be successful at marriage. Unbelievers don’t know nuttin bout dat stuff. Christians got direction from God and the bible and they have all of these cool characteristics and traits that help build the amazing foundation of which the institution of marriage will reside upon. So why is marriage just as difficult for Christians as it is for unbelievers? I submit to you that the answer to that question is that our leadership has not taken a harder stance against divorce. Yes, divorce is in the bible but God hates divorce. We got Pastors, Deacons, Ministers and Bishops getting divorces every day. I am not saying that people should stay together and be unhappy. I am saying that people hate their jobs and they figure out how to get up and go to work every day. Quitting a job because you are disenchanted with it is not an option for most people and God don’t even care about your job. I believe two things about marriage that I need you to tell a friend to tell a friend about.
1. Marriage Is For Everyone – You are to be Married, Celibate or Fireproof.
2. Divorce Cannot Be An Option – The institution of marriage is perfect. God created it. Man-up or Woman-up and figure out what is wrong with YOU! Get prayed up and fix your marriage! Again, I am not saying to stay and be unhappy in marriage. I am saying to focus all your energy on figuring out how to have a happy, successful marriage.
At the age of 25 I got a divorce. You know what I learned about that divorce? I learned that I was not man enough to stay in the marriage. I learned that some of the problems that I have had in my current marriage are some of the same problems that I had in my first marriage. I learned that a lot of marriages have the exact same problems. Luckily I am not the same man that I was 10 years ago. The grass is greener in my current marriage, but it is not magically greener. In this marriage I plant seeds, water the lawn and keep that edge up RIGHT!
(Oooooh Weeeee this is going to be a good speech! I can’t wait!)
Steven James Dixon