“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Col 3:18, 19)
The Bible has clear marriage guidelines. These commands apply only to the believers. An unbeliever may read them and try to apply Biblical precepts to make his marriage better, but he cannot really obey the Word of God. For us, the children of God, the Bible is our Life Manual. The Word of God is written to us, sinners who are saved by grace. In the marriage set up, there are two basic rules: The wives submit to their own husbands (as Christ submitted to God the Father). Secondly, the husbands must love their wives, not their own way, but ‘as Christ loves the church’ (Eph 5:25). The husband and wife are equal before God. Their salvation experience is the same. But in the area of marriage these simple rules must be obeyed: wives submit and husbands love! Both these actions are first of all spiritual and they must glorify Christ, our Lord! The submission and the love are inspired by Jesus Christ and must give Him alone the glory! The Holy Spirit gives both the husband and wife the power to obey.
In the scripture above there is another element. It says that the husbands should love their wives and ‘do not become bitter towards them’. This is a special warning giving to the married men. Please pray for understanding! It means that the husband must recognize the tendency to become bitter against their loving wives. They must fight the strange temptation to become bitter as husbands at home. This is warning. What does this bitterness mean?
Bitterness is a terrible thing. It is an emotion very difficult to bear. A root of bitterness ‘defiles many’ and fights against the grace of God in marriage (Heb 12:15). Marital bitterness poisons the home and makes everybody miserable. A bitter person makes others sad or angry. When you see a man or a woman afraid to marry, it is because they have experienced this bitter taste in a previous relationship. To them, marriage is like drinking poison every day, like having with an incurable disease, with no hope of being happy ever again. That is why they prefer staying single. Bitterness causes piercing, sharp emotional pain, like the sting of a wasp. The wounds of bitter words are long lasting and difficult to forgive or forget. In particular, a bitter husband is harsh, hot tempered, holds grudges, is mean, greedy, hard hearted, stubborn and difficult to teach. In Nigeria people say that ‘love has become sour’. As a pastor I counsel many women who suffer terribly in a marriage with a bitter man who discourages them to be happy. Only God can help!
This tendency to bitterness is more common to husbands but it can be found in all careless relationships. What is the cause of this bitterness found in some husbands? The main cause I see is disappointment with their wives. At the beginning they love their wives. No bitter man wants to marry. To marry you need to be happy. Love comes before bitterness. But this is the danger: It is possible for a man to truly love his wife at the beginning of the marriage, but later, he becomes bitter towards (or against) her. It is like a good fruit that becomes rotten with time. Why? What causes this change from good to bad?
Thru prayers and the study of the Word I discovered that husbands become bitter towards their wives, when the wives fail to meet up with their husbands ever growing spiritual and physical needs. This problem may be hidden when they are young and they are still busy ‘making money and rising children’. But after some time, the husband may desire to become more spiritual, to draw closer to God. He may desire that they should improve their standard of living. If the wife is ignorant of the source of this ‘midlife crisis’, as she may call it, the husband will become disappointed in her. He will resent her words. He will complain against her choices. This bitterness may manifest itself in one particular, small area. For example, he says: ‘My wife is a good woman. She works hard. She is a good mother to our children. I love her very much. But… she does not respect me… she talks to much… she spends too much money on nonsense…’ These excuses are not big enough to make a husband so bitter but if the wife does not change to make him happy, to better understand him, he will begrudge her silently in his heart. That is the seed of marital bitterness. In a way, both of them are guilty. The bitter husband has tried, but failed, to help the wife grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. She is left behind, like the statue of a bride, smiling on her wedding day, but the dress is now thorn and faded, the artificial lashes are gummed on her wrinkled cheek. They are still living together but the sweet wine of early romantic love has gone, leaving behind the bitter taste of native medicines and imported bleach in the dry old mouth.
I am a woman. I am a wife. I had to study this subject because I need to fight the demons that will attack my husband. He does his own fight. But I am his helper. I should not be ignorant of this temptation. I must help him fight bitterness and not foolishly add to it. As a wife, I have tried to keep close to my husband, spiritually in particular. It pains me when he quotes a Bible verse or teaches me something new, and I am totally ignorant of that subject. I challenge myself to study the Word of God so that when my husband needs somebody to talk to about the Bible, I am ‘current’ with it. I have learned many things about subjects that I do not like in particular. I know much about politics and current affairs in Nigeria. I am not a politician, but I need to know these things, if they are good or bad. Ignorance has never helped anybody. I need to know my husband’s plans, dreams and God’s purpose for his life. I need to pray for those. I need to grow as he grows. We are not competing one against each other. But we must complement each other. To complement my husband I need to grow too. As the vision for our lives and ministry increases with time, so we must grow with it. To be left behind spiritually, to be a passive wife, it is sin. If I am lazy or careless with our relationship, and I just walk too slowly behind him with nothing new to add to our marriage, that sin is almost like spiritual adultery. My husband will be tempted to be worried, angry, disappointed and bitter against me, his wife, helper and friend. As a wife, I should not be found to be too fast and lead my husband. I should also not be found to be too slow and leave him alone. Marriage is two people learning to be one. Each one of us must grow in grace towards God and towards one another. I should not take his love for granted. I should be watchful for any virus of disappointment towards me that I sense in my husband. I must be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I will help him be the man God wants him to be. We both work hard at making our marriage a success. But the hard work is bringing a greater than expected harvest of peace, joy and ministry to those who call us parents in Christ. I boldly declare that in Christ alone, our marriage is free from the virus of bitterness! Love has won the battle! May these words challenge you! God loves you! God loves your marriages! Glory to God!
“I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3)
Are you a parent or are you a baby seater? There is a big difference between these two. When all things are well they all look the same. But crisis, even though painful, reveals the truth! For example, in a case of an emergency, when the child has fallen and is injured, the baby seater calls the parents. Once they arrive she is free to leave. But the parents never leave. They suffer with the child. They stay with the child. They wait with the child until the healing comes.
Jesus is our Father! Jesus is our good Shepherd! Hirelings scatter and squander! Family stays together! God may use hirelings but He is the God of families! If you belong to a good natural family and you also belong to a good living church, you are double blessed! This evening, please thank God for all parents! It is God’s purpose to bless the families!
Trials are like tunnels. Before the train enters the tunnel, it is light. Suddenly darkness comes. For a time it seems as though the darkness will never end. That pain, that weeping, that loneliness… it seems like it will go on forever. But at the end of the tunnel, sun shines once more. Tunnels are not graveyards. We are just passing through. All these trials and temptations, all these things you battle with, they only come ‘to pass.’ Our life should not depend on the circumstances. Christ is our life. Our faith is rooted in the Cross and in the Promises of God. Heaven is our destination. Joy is our portion. Eternal life is our inheritance. These are the blessed things that have come to stay.
Excerpt from The Doe of the Morning by Silvia Lia Leigh (available on Amazon)
HAPPY WITH CHURCH TONIGHT
“On the third day of the fast, Esther put on her royal robes and entered the inner court of the palace, just across from the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court, he welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. Then the king asked her, “What do you want, Queen Esther? What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!” And Esther replied, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a banquet I have prepared for the king.”
The king turned to his attendants and said, “Tell Haman to come quickly to a banquet, as Esther has requested.” So the king and Haman went to Esther’s banquet. And while they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “Now tell me what you really want. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!” (Esther 5:1-6)
Each year the women’s fellowship in our church, we fast daily during the month of January. We identify with Queen Esther in the Bible. We pray for ourselves, our husbands, our marriages, our children, our ministries and the work of our hands. Then we invite our husbands to a banquet called Esther’s banquet. We do not hire anybody. We decorate and cook by ourselves. It is a love feast. The single sisters who are thirty years and above are all dressed with ‘Royal garments’ and serve at the tables. By faith, they will marry soon, so that next year they too will join us and sit at the table. The older couples came forward. The husbands told us about true love and the secret of long lasting, successful and happy marriage. Then we danced… And ate (Jolof rice, banga rice, coconut rice, banga soup, Egussi soup, vegetable salad, fried chicken, fried meat, beans and dodo… ) very tasty food… And we ate the Royal cake … By faith we declare that God is in our side, the victory is ours, the enemy is defeated and the glory goes to God alone! Two doves in love stayed on the roof of our church during this banquet. All the prophetic signs confirm that this will be a very good year for us, the married couples in Father’s House Bible Church! Glory to God!!!
(In the pictures you see my Husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh and I -dressed for the occasion, as Queen Esther and King Xerxes. You see the two doves on the roof of our church, witnessing the sweet marriage love bellow. You also see some of the couples from our church, young and old. The Nigerians are generally shy when it comes to displaying love in public. They are not too ‘romantic’. But, as you can see, the Holy Spirit is changing people here. To God alone be all the glory!)
“How beautiful you are! How lovely, O LOVE, with your delights!” (SS 7:6)
This is so wonderful to me. These days I pray to remember good and useful memories from my sin-to-grace past. At the time when these events happened, I did not see much value in them. But now, from the perspective of mature victory, I see them as pearls of great price picked from the ocean of God’s love. I am talking about things I had experienced as a woman of God, wife, mother and recently, grandmother. Some of these memories were painful. At that time I prayed that I will forget them. But God has healed my heart. Now, because I had removed the sting of the bee and I am enjoying the honey left behind. I am now praying to remember them… How time changes our desires and perspectives…
About 1998-1999, my husband and I were living in Houston, Tx. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit called us to duty. He said that we should leave the children behind and go back under a missionary anointing. We were to start a church called Father’s House, in Warri-Effurun, Nigeria. That was a hard word for both of us. It was especially difficult for me, because it meant leaving our children behind, alone, in a difficult place called America. The hardest was the leave our youngest daughter Jemine who was just 16 at the time. She already got admission and scholarship in the University of Houston and she wanted to stay there. Before going to the US we worked as medical doctors and my husband was also a successful national politician. Both of us, we did not go to Bible School. By faith alone, we obeyed God’s Word and we started this church. We were surprised at the success of the ministry. To God alone be all the glory!
Thank God for the people who invented the phone and the internet. God bless them! Our elder daughter Alina was shuttling between America and Nigeria. But Jemine was there alone. Thank God that she kept in touch all these years. Even up till today, we still talk on the phone about things, daily events, big or small. We pray. We dream. I rebuke. We encourage each other. All these things thru the phone!!!
One serious problem I had in particular was that Jemine was changing into an ‘American girl’. Trying to belong to a foreign system, she started doing like they do. I was worried that what she considered ‘normal’ over there, for me was called ‘backsliding’. For example, the idea of dating a boy, to me it was worldly. Of course, ‘living together’, better called fornication, was not acceptable. Almost nothing she would say to me was right in this area of ‘American romance’. For me, the worst of all was the Valentine day and Halloween day. I used to tell Jemine to run away from boys; to be careful with boys; to remember that she is there alone and boys will deceive her… I spent a lot of money on phone cards telling Jemine to run away from ‘fake love’. Thank God that even when she was angry at me, she could not keep the anger for too long. She will eventually see the wisdom of a mother’s words and come back ‘to her senses’. Her father and I prayed daily for our children. I was personally worried that she will be trapped in a ‘self-pity poisonous circle’ of terrible loneliness. Especially on Valentine Day, she will cry on the phone: “Malia… I am so lonely… Nobody wants to invite me out… Nobody sent me even half a rose… Nobody loves me here… If I will continue like this, I will never marry…. Malia…pray for me…” It is not easy to hear your child cry. I will pray in the Spirit and try to find words of wisdom and love, to help her go on. She will say: “Malia, you have taught me to drive men away. You said I should say No No No to all men who are not serious. Ok! I am very good at that. Now, they have all left me alone. Nobody greets me anymore. When will I marry? I am getting old… When will I say Yes?” Me too I did not know when… She was a born again Christian, a worship leader, well educated, having a good job, beautiful and all… But no husband … GOD!!!!!!… Many times I told her: “Jemine, your dad and I, we are in this with you, together. Your pain is our pain. Your prayer is our prayer. Just trust God!”
Then about 5 years ago her dad and I we went to visit her in the US. We were relaxing in the sitting room when Jemine said that a young man who plays the keyboard in her church wants to ‘take her out’. This was scary for me… ‘Take out????” This ‘outing’ was a first after so many years of staying home alone. It just coincided with our annual visit. I did not know if it was God or the devil… But trust God to perfect the good things He started! My husband and I felt like we are on the threshold of a miracle. I was in the kitchen, cooking Nigerian stew (Jemine’s favorite) when the young man came in. He shyly said: ‘Good evening Sir! Good evening Mam! My name is Matthew. Can I take Jemine out, to see a movie? We shall come back in time…” Tali said: ‘Of course…’ but I saw that he was ‘eyeing’ the young man from head to toe. Tali and Matthew and another Nigerian visitor sat down waiting for Jemine to get ready. They were discussing recent events. I observed that Matthew (a white boy) was behaving like a good ‘Nigerian Yoruba boy’. He was the youngest among the three men there. He did not speak too much. He waited for his ‘turn’. He addressed both Tali and the other man with ‘Sir’. When Tali stood up to take something, he stood up too. He did not insist on his opinions (like the young Americans do). He did not raise his voice. Wow… Turning the stew on the stove, I was thinking: ‘This boy has good ‘home training’. Thank God for his parents…I was impressed… But, can this be Jemine’s prince we have been praying for? Is this the special man who will kill Jemine’s loneliness? She said so many: ‘No No No’ to other men. Can this be the ‘Yes’ man?” Will this young man change her Valentine? This is how the mind of a mother works…. I hope you understand…
They went to a movie and came back that evening. I could not rest. I was waiting for the ‘report’. Jemine knew that I will still be in the kitchen, waiting…. I decided to cook Nigerian beans too. Just to waste the time… When Jemine came she was overwhelmed. She told me that they went to the movies and when another man was talking ‘nonsense’ to her he stood up to protect her. Then they went to eat dinner and he insisted that he will pay for both of them. She was impressed because at that time, he was still a student in the university but she was already working. He said that his mother ‘will kill him’ if she hears that he invited a girl out and waited for the girl to pay the bill (even if she has more money). Jemine said that Matthew opened the door of the car for her to enter. She said that since she has been living in America, no young man has even done that. It was only the old men who do that ‘nice thing’- she said. It has never happened to her. She was totally impressed. The look on her face reminded me of the time when I met her dad, many years ago… Because I experienced true falling in love, I could smell the perfume of it… After so many ‘No No No’, we are finally entering the blessed ‘yes’ hour! God has answered our prayer. Six months later, Matthew and his beautiful family came to Warri and Jemine became his wife. And they live happily ever after… This is a true story! My family’s story!
Jemine may remember this event in a more romantic way. She may have forgotten the beans and stew she ate that night. She may add some sweet details I have forgotten. But one thing is clear! It is a story of true love! Be encouraged! God loves His children and He answers their prayers, more than they will ever imagine! Dear young people, both boys and girls, please take this mother’s advice: there are many No-s in life abut only one Yes! Wait for the yes! The journey may be long and lonely. But trust God to the end! Serve God before you can serve men! You too will one day be grateful for the pain becoming a fruitful testimony. Glory to God!
(In the pictures, Matthew and Jemine Oakes on their Nigerian traditional and church wedding day)
“Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Ps 103:1-4)
This morning a sister In Christ sent this letter. She is about 30, not married yet. She is very hard working and a committed Christian. She was healed by God from a strange sickness. The doctors did many tests but could not find the reason why her feet were always swollen. She tried medicines and diets but nothing worked. Until recently! God healed her! This testimony is given to the glory of God, to the shame of the devil and for the encouragement of many others who wait unto God for their miracle! God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one! They will answer your prayers too! Nothing is impossible for God to do!
“Good morning Malia. Abba Father did and is doing good to me. For some time now (about two years) I ve been having one health challenge that always worries me sick. It is painless though but very uncomfortable. My legs would just start swelling from my toes to my knees and I can’t wear shoes or slippers for long. I went to hospitals I did some tests but nothing was found. I was told to always elevate my legs especially when sleeping but it didn’t help. I took drugs to help me urinate all the fluid they said was being stored under my tissues but that didn’t help. I did water therapy as recommended but no help. After some time it stopped on its own only for it to resurface this year. Since January they became so swollen that it made me ashamed and scared. I felt how can a young girl like me be having swollen legs like this? The devil started reminding me of my elder sister who died in 2002 and had similar issues and many other terrible symptoms before she finally died. The devil told me that I was going through the same thing that I will die. And I believed for some time until I got angry in the spirit and started praying and rebuking the devil and his lies. I cried to Father. I told Him to help me since I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any money to run expensive tests or treat expensive sicknesses. I prayed and cried to Him that night and slept off with peace. I started ignoring the swelling people told me to go and check my kidneys and the devil came again saying ‘ yes the kidneys may be faulty like your sister’s probably was’. I said no. God my Father is on it He will heal me without me wasting money.
One night in a dream I saw a beautiful chimpanzee clouded with the colours of the rainbow smiling at me meanwhile on my bed in reality I was experiencing what medicine calls sleep paralysis I knew it was a spiritual attack. I tried to get up but couldn’t I tried to shout the name of Jesus but couldn’t… then back in the dream the chimpanzee was speaking a language I could understand. It said ‘you are like this (all the colours of the rainbow). You can pray in the spirit to overcome this demonic oppression. Start praying in tongues since you can’t pray physically’. Emediately I started praying in tongues in the dream the heavy weight that was on me that prevented me from moving and opening my mouth left and I woke up. To thanked God! I have been praying since then. The Holy Spirit told me to sweat. Yes. He said: ‘sweat!”. So I started making sure that I sweat. I would put on sweaters and no fan or air conditioner, drink hot tea… To my surprise, it worked. Malia!!! My legs now are perfectly normal! The swelling is gone and for the first time this year I can see and touch my ankle bones. And I didn’t take any drug. God is indeed the GREATEST physician. He knows my body more than me! He knows how it should function since He is the MANUFACTURER! My testimony is to the glory of God! PRAISE THE LORD!!! Your daughter…”
HAPPY WITH CHURCH TONIGHT
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you shall be My witnesses…” (Ac 1:8)
The prayer meeting this evening was wonderful. For whatever reason, the instrumentalists did not come. We only had a drummer, a young man, who tried to drum a little, but later lied down under the anointing. So, no music tonight… Sister O led us in worship with a simple chorus, singing: “Jesus, I come to You to draw, draw, draw once again…Jesus”… The Holy Spirit used this little song to draw us closer to His Majesty. We prayed on and on. When you see a group of Christians praying with passion and tears, without stopping to clean their faces, you know that the Holy Spirit has come. To hear the sound of congregational prayers is a royal privilege! The hall became hot. I don’t know if the ACs stopped working. But nobody paid attention to such details. Nobody was fanning looking for a better place in the room. Everybody was singing, dancing, clapping hands and sweating. Each one was in love with Jesus. When you find yourself in the presence of the King, nothing really matters. We came to Jesus; few ready and running; some walking; many crawling on the floor. It does not matter how fast you run this marathon. Just finish it!
We all needed a touch from the Father. We all needed a sip of the water of life. We all needed a smile from Jesus. We all needed a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit. We prayed in English and in tongues. From the top of our heads to the soles of our feet, the fire of God was burning. We became living torches, too hot for any viruses (spiritual and natural) to survive. The fire of the Holy Spirit is power, is healing, is freedom. We were baptized afresh with this holy fire. We did not need money. We only needed faith in God. If you trust the bank to give you a loan, how much more you should trust Jehovah Jireh to give you all the money you need to pay off your debts, to buy that land and to build that house? If you trust your doctor to heal you, how much more you should trust Jehovah Rapha to search your heart and heal all your diseases? I am always surprised how the Holy Spirit loves Nigeria! This evening we danced in the rain of joy. The grace rainbow appeared in the room… Each drop of this wonderful supernatural rain washed and cleansed our hearts. Sweating and with tears running on our faces, we may have looked dirty to cold un-invited visitors who pay money for church entertainment. But I am a witness for Jesus! I declare that all I saw tonight was only purified hearts and glory bathed worshippers.
‘Be sure you know the condition of your flocks…for riches do not endure forever…the lambs will provide you with clothing and the goats with the price of a field’ (PV 27:23, 26)
This is a Word given to shepherds. Pastors and parents are spiritual shepherds. In Hebrew, the word translated ‘condition’ means ‘face, personal favor or intimate presence’. This is God’s command: Make every effort to know ‘the faces’, the hearts, of your children, be they natural or spiritual! Your sons and daughters should not intimidate, manipulate or confuse you. God forbid! Parenting is much more than buying baby clothes or paying school fees! Pastoring is much more than preaching a sermon and collecting offerings! Your love must be sacrificial! Your very spirit must be involved! You should be wiser, spiritually stronger, more mature and more loving than they. Your children, when they are small and even when they are grown, should not be a mystery to you! You teach them, you lead them, you bless them! As parents, you need to intercede for them! I mean pray for them! Daily call their names before the throne of mercy and grace! God will show you His purpose for their lives! Flow with that revelation! Even before they tell you about their struggles, the Holy Spirit will reveal to you their inmost hearts, their pains and their dreams.
As a mother, as a father, if you truly love them then you will be willing to help them grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. You will join your spiritual ‘shoulders’ to theirs, so that their burdens of life will be lighter. This is called spiritual parenting. Even if they are adults, keep your children close to your heart. Do not be a passive ignorant parent or a hireling pastor! Grieve when they go astray, pray them back into the fold when they backslide and rejoice with their successes! If your child is obedient (a lamb) or more difficult (a goat), continue to care for them! Christ rewards His shepherds because He too has a Shepherd’s heart. Be strong, you pastors! Be encouraged, you elders! Be comforted, you parents! Your happy mature strong and spiritual children will give Glory to God! Their good godly lives shall be your reward!