marriage

Why I’m Happy Russell Wilson Is Waiting For Ciara’s Goodies.

It’s not everyday abstinence becomes a headline.

But when it involves a Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawk quarterback and the Princess of Crunk — it gets everyone talking.

When news broke Russell Wilson and Ciara weren’t having sex, social media exploded. wpid-wp-1436295373225.jpeg

During an interview at The Rock church in San Diego, Wilson explained they decided to practice abstinence after God spoke to him. Wilson says God told him, “I want you and need you to lead her.” After he heard from the LORD, Wilson asked Ciara, “What would you do if we took all that extra stuff off the table and just did it Jesus’ way?”

And for many of us, that’s what we would love to hear a man say.

Just take the extra stuff off the table and do it Jesus’ way.

No sex just hand holding and a hug in between. Maybe a kiss but no humping and fornicating.

To some it may sound old fashioned, but it’s the way God intended things since the beginning.

In our culture, there’s so much pressure to have sex and do it right way so a man will stick around and stay. Could you imagine being with a man who didn’t want to work your body but get to know you, the fearfully and wonderfully made human being?

By taking sex off the table, it not only opens doors for a new way of dating, but it gives a man a chance to lead you in the right way.

And that’s the kind of love Ciara taught us to wait for back in the day.

When her debut single “My Goodies” dropped in 2004, it became the anthem for millions of teens and young girls. Her words not only empowered us, but taught us the importance of keeping our goodies in the jar and not giving into every man that we see.

Now sing along…

I bet you want my goodies

Bet you thought about it

Got you all hot and bothered

Mad cause I talk around it

Looking for the goodies

Keep on looking cuz they stay in the jar

Ciara warned us about the wolves and why we shouldn’t throw our pearls to the pigs. (Sorry fellas if that was a bit harsh). But even though a lot of us didn’t heed her wisdom when we went off to college and entered the real world, there’s no doubt there’s a lot of truth in that song.

And that’s the reason why I’m not surprised God called Russell Wilson to lead her to abstain from sexual immorality. God’s giving Ciara something back that she and many of us have lost along the way.

Faith to maintain purity. 

When we were younger, it was cool to wait. (Okay, maybe at least at my school). But once many of us went off to college and got caught up in romantic rendezvous and relationships, we felt the pressure to give it all away. Many of us have regretted it and would do anything to get it back. Others feel they’ve messed up so bad, there’s no way God can restore their past.

But I think Russell and Ciara’s decision sends a very strong message to young woman: it doesn’t matter if you’re a virgin or had sex a hundred times; you’re still worth the wait and there’s men out there who want to lead — not lust after you.

This kind of leading without lusting is biblical, too. We see it in a love story between a prophet and a prostitute. God called Hosea to marry Gomer even though she ran off and cheated with other lovers. Despite these setbacks, Hosea’s love and commitment to Gomer didn’t change because of her choices and circumstance. And that’s the same kind of love God wants for Ciara and us, too.

For many people, it’s hard to believe why Russell Wilson wouldn’t want to go ahead and have sex with a woman like Ciara. She’s a beautiful and talented superstar. But I believe their decision to wait is creating a platform to show the world what Christ-centered relationships really look like.

Because at the end of the day, love isn’t about how many times you lay down with a person — it’s about how many times you lay down your life in order to do right by them.

So Ciara and Russell, I’ll be praying for you because I know how hard it is not to give up your goodies and remain intentionally abstinent in a relationship.

Here’s some words of encouragement I have for the both of you as you continue down this road of celibacy together:

Set boundaries. “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Proverbs 25:28. If you don’t want to have sex, you have to take practical steps to prevent it. Spending the night and spending long periods alone will only tempt you. The good news: the boundaries will build stamina that will benefit your relationship in the long haul.

Get accountability. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall.” Proverbs 11:14. Just because you’re grown, don’t think you can do this alone. Ask for pastors and other spiritual mentors to pray and check in on the both of you. Accountability will not only help you have respect for one another, but grow an even deeper reverence for God.

If you can’t wait, set a date. “It’s better to marry than burn with lust.” 1 Corinthians 7:9. It’s no secret waiting is hard. But if holding out is getting to be too much for you, seek the LORD on whether or not to move forward with marriage. There’s no denying men and women have needs. If God gives the green light to jump the broom, there’s no need for a long engagement. The wedding is a covenant and celebration of how God brought together the two of you.

By Sydni Grant
sydni@areyoushe.com
Photo: people.com

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Love Me Like The Gospel.

With wedding season in full swing, many of us are thinking about the day we get to say ‘I do’.

I know I can’t wait until I stand in front of a man and tell him, “I waited my whole life for you.”

Throughout my single days, I’ve made lists about my standards and how I hoped me and my man would live happily ever after.

But the reality is, love isn’t all what the media and music industry crack it up to be.

It takes a lot of work and sometimes, it can be a bit scary.

When I was in the middle of a rocky season of my relationship, a woman from my church once told me that I was going to have to learn to love my man unconditionally.

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I heard what she said but didn’t realize what her words meant until recently.

While sitting in a room having a conversation with God about why someone would want to marry me, the LORD dropped something in my spirit that changed my perspective on everything.

Too often when it comes to love, we try to find all the reasons why we should break something off instead of looking to the cross.

If we believe the gospel applies to ourselves and the rest of humanity, then why is it so hard for us not to have the same grace for a potential spouse? When we see the depth of their sin and shame, why do we question taking their last name?

Because the world doesn’t teach us to love that way. Everything is about attraction, chemistry and compatibility these days. Love isn’t measured by action but a level of affection.

So with that being said, I only have one expectation for my future husband:

Love me like the gospel. 

That’s what the bible says to do in Ephesians 5:22.

A man is called to love his wife like Christ loves the church.

And future hubby, wherever you are, that’s all I want from you.

Because I believe, if you love me like that, everything else will fall into place.

We’ll be equally yoked, in one accord and loving one another unconditionally because we’ll be following Christ and not what we want each other to do.

The bible breaks down loving like the gospel in this way:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

In marriage, that’s what we’re called to do. Loving beyond feelings. Looking beyond flaws. Staying committed to a person even when they fall. Loving like no end and to be an intercessor and a best friend. Marriage is not about the big house and big ring. It’s about life and death and everything that falls in between. It’s about sacrifice when it doesn’t feel right and turning the other cheek when you’re about to throw down and fight. It’s about totally loving beyond your means.

That’s what loving like Christ, loving like the gospel means.

And ladies, that’s the kind of love worth waiting for.

By Sydni Grant
sydni@areyoushe.com
Photo: istockphoto.com

Why I Don’t Need Marriage.

I never thought I would say this.

But I don’t need to get married.

Don’t get me wrong – I really want to but it’s not something I need.

This became clear to me after I heard these words by pastor Dan Mohler:

People love out of need instead of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Whoa. That’s the woman I used to be.

I loved out of need instead of Jesus’ reality.

I wanted a man to be my provider and protector before God became those things to me.

Those words made me realize my relationship was out of order and just the thought of that really stung me.

What Dan Mohler is essentially trying to say is that we need Jesus’ love more than anything.

More than a marriage. More than a man. And more than that coveted diamond ring.

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We need to live in light of His love and the revelation of who He’s called us to be.

That’s more important than holy matrimony.

For many of us, we’ve been led to believe the day we say I do is more important than the day we gave our lives to Christ.

There’s also been the lie that a relationship resulting into marriage will make you feel more complete.

But that’s the very reason Jesus came to save you.

We know John 3:16 by heart but the verse that comes after it is equally as important.

“For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

The word “saved” in Greek is translated as sozo which means delivered, healed and made whole.

That’s what Christ came on the earth to do. Only He can be our deliverer, our healer and the one who makes us whole.

But often times, we’re trying to make a man fill those shoes instead of Jesus.

I’ll never forget the words from my old pastor at Epiphany Fellowship Church in Philadelphia:

Dr. Eric Mason said, “A man can’t complete you — he can only compliment you. Only Christ can complete you.”

Instead of looking to a man, God should be our source and the rock of our salvation. We should seek Him first when it comes to love and determining our worth.

My mentor and accountability partner Rev. Dionne Edmonds, explained to me that marriage works when two people who love God are devoted and surrendered to Him.

That means they’re more dependent on God than one another. They need His love to sustain the relationship rather than their own. That’s why we don’t need marriage but need Christ. The more we realize that, we’ll take the pressure off men to fulfill our needs and put our focus back into the Father.

In this season of waiting, I’m realizing I need the revelation and reminder of Christ’s love and sacrifice more than anything.

By Sydni Grant
sydni@areyoushe.com
Photo: ehow.com

The Case Of My Ex

This isn’t a post to bash my ex. This is not a post to bash relationships. This is a post to shed light on dark situations we all may face. This is a post to shed light on my story.

I was in a relationship with my ex for about a year and a half. At the time, that was my first “serious” relationship. I was in college and thought my relationship was everything. It was all about me and him as we squeezed God in between where we thought He could fit. Our focus was simidolatryply on each other as we tried to build our relationship around Christ. We were unequally yoked. Also, we were trying to change each other to make our relationship work. For a period of time in our relationship, because our focus was extremely on each other, I would get sick during and after an argument. I literally got sick. I would throw up and I lost weight. I wanted the relationship to work so bad that it made me sick when I thought it might not work out because of x, y, and z.

At the time, my relationship with God was mediocre. I read my Bible because I thought I had to in order to be a “good Christian.” I did not have accountability. In fact, I didn’t even know how crucial having an accountability partner was at the time. When I learned about it, I figured it was important, but I thought my boyfriend and I could manage without it. We were only deceiving ourselves. We were in love, fell in lust, and it was all about us making it work. It didn’t.

Over the years, I’ve truly grown since then. It took some heartbreaks and plenty of mistakes. But God showed me HE is my priority. I think that’s what we can easily miss. God will humble us in order to make us realize anything or anyone we place before Him is an idol.

— “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Jonah 2:8 ESV

It can be difficult because in this world today being in a relationship and being married are idolized. There’s nothing wrong with being in a relationship that God ordained or a marriage God ordained. There is an issue when it stops there. Being married is NOT the goal of Christianity. It does not stop there. That’s where my issue resided. I look back on my past relationships and being in a relationship and marriage was my idol.

As believers, we have to self-evaluate our motives and our hearts daily.

— “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV

Question yourself to see what it is that is causing this desire? Ask yourself, “What is it that is distracting me because I have a desire for _________ instead of being content in Christ alone?”

Sometimes the things we struggle to let go of the most are our biggest idols.

 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV

By Ashley A. Johnson
ashley@areyoushe.com

Photo: IM Creator

Take My Hand: Jesus’ Proposal During Holy Week

Spending time in the secret place, reflecting on the resurrection of Christ during Holy Week, it suddenly hit me:

Jesus offers us His hands in marriage. 

When the word says, “See, I have inscribed you in the palms of my hand,” in Isaiah 49:16, it’s the first time we see God making a proposal for eternal matrimony.

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As He laid stretched out on that cross in Calvary, His hands are beckoning us to be His bride.

But often times, just like the Roman and Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, we are full of too much pride instead of accepting the Messiah as our LORD and Savior with arms wide open. We push Him aside, denouncing His sovereign divinity that so humbly died for all of humanity.

A few weeks ago while sitting in church, a freestyle song from the worship leader totally wrecked me. As she sang softly, it sounded directly from the throne room of heaven, a message from our Eternal Creator: Will you marry me? 

Curled up in my seat, reflecting on the moments of my life — all the ups and downs, the wildernesses and the mountaintops, the joy and the pain — with tears streaming down my face, I said yes. 

So on that day, I married God. And it’s not until now that I’m realizing the weightiness of my answer.

I’m not in a relationship with Christ so I can just experience eternity. I’m in a relationship with God because without Him, I feel that very same separation that Adam and Eve did.

There’s not a day I don’t want to go into His presence. It’s the only place where His promises and purposes for my life become so clear to me.

We can say all we want we’re walking with Christ. But what I’ve realized is that there’s a difference when we consider Him much more than just our LORD and Savior, but actually give the Holy Spirit permission to be our eternal spouse.

A life centered on Christ is about taking that hand that died on Calvary.

When Christ died and bore our sins on that tree, it was a declaration of His great love for all of humanity.

What’s so remarkable about this God is that He doesn’t force His love upon us.

He gives us the option on whether or not we want to walk in holy matrimony with Him.

By Sydni Grant
sydni@areyoushe.com

20 Things My Twenties Have Taught Me.

It’s a decade like no other. Our twenties can be some of the craziest, most transitional times of our lives. We graduate from college, land a full-time job and hope to find love along the way.

Even though I’m over my mid quarter-life crisis and still have three years to go until I hit 30, my twenties have been quite the spiritual journey. And since I turned 27 over the weekend, I thought what better what to celebrate my birthday than to share the wisdom God has given me.

Here Are 20 Things My Twenties Have Taught Me:

1. When doors close, let ’em. There’s no need trying to open a door when God has clearly closed it. “What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.” Revelation 3:7 (NIV) If you’re not walking into something you really want, there’s a reason for it. Christian film executive Devon Franklin explained it in this way in his book, Produced By Faith: “If He prevents you from getting something that you were aching for, it’s because it would not have turned out to be the blessing you expected.”

2. Not everyone can go where you are going. If friends fall off, it’s okay. The process isn’t easy but it’s necessary. People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Sometimes we have to let people go because they are not on board with our vision or plan God has for our lives. Just like Gideon’s 300 men, God chooses certain sister-friends for the battlefield. “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there.” Judges 7:4 (NKJV)

3. No one has life figured out. If you don’t have it together, you’re not alone. Somewhere along the way, we’ve believed the lie that we’re supposed to have life mapped out before we turn 25. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We’re all in this boat of life together, trying to figure life out. That’s why it’s important to put your hope and trust in God–not man. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

4. The devil attacks your identity. We all know the enemy is about low blows. And if you ever noticed a pattern with spiritual warfare, he always goes after your identity. He’ll tell you you’re not a great writer or your business plan is terrible. But that’s when you have to turn off the chatterbox going on inside your mind and remember all the great things Jesus has said about you instead. “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, AMP/NKJV)worship

 5. Worship is your weapon. There’s no greater way to fight than on your knees. Singing praises and giving adoration to God sets a ring a fire around you and protects you from your enemies. This scripture lays out the battle plan so beautifully: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you…and Jehoshaphat bowed his head down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 20:17-18

6. We’re all addicted to something. Addictions aren’t just physical. They’re also spiritual. We’re all quick to point out the alcoholic or the drug addict without really taking a good look at ourselves. Addictions are things that take a tight grip on us, causing us to fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). It’s important for us to recognize the things that try to pull us away from walking with Christ. Addictions nowadays can look like pornography, lust or the need for continuous monogamous relationships. “Someone may say, “I’m allowed to do anything,” but not everything is helpful. I’m allowed to do anything, but I won’t allow anything to gain control over my life.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (GWT) .

7. The wilderness is inevitable. “You’re either going in or you’re out.” That’s how one of my spiritual mentors explained the wilderness to me. The Israelites went through it. And Jesus experienced it too. So don’t be surprised if the wilderness is right around the corner for you. The process can be painful but the breakthrough is one of the most beautiful experiences of your life. It’s in this place where tragedy and tribulation turns into triumph. “Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)

8. We have to come to the end of ourselves before God can begin. Caterpillars shed many layers before they become a butterfly. And the same thing happens to us. God has to strip us from hate, doubt and fear. When the Spirit comes upon us, that’s when the miraculous metamorphosis begins. Shedding dead mindsets gives us the ability to spread our wings and fly. Rebirth allows us to walk into the revelation of the promise. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)healed

9. We’re called to birth spiritual things. Women don’t just birth babies — they push out promises. In Hebrew, Eve’s name is Chavah which means “to give life”. According to an article written by Sara Esther Crispe for Chabad.org, chavah embodies both the essence of life itself and the creative ability to grant life to others. Women are called to birth both joy and pain, new realities and revelations. As females, we are constantly delivering things naturally and spiritually, both within ourselves and for those around us.“Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” Genesis 3:20 (NKJV) 

10. God is our first husband. Our relationship with Christ is a marriage more than anything else. All throughout the bible, the word tells us we are the bride of Christ. Jesus died on the cross for us so we would be presented without blemish or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:27). He wants to spend the rest of our lives with us in holy matrimony. But before we even get this revelation, we’re more caught up with getting a man. How can we be faithful to a man if we’re not even faithful to God? That’s what God put on my heart one day. God wants us to make a covenant with Him first before He gives us away to another man. “For your Maker is your husband. The LORD of hosts is His name.” Isaiah 54:5 (NKJV)

11. The right one will wait for you. That’s what my best friend Shannon from college told me when I wanted to give up on waiting to get married. Her words not only encouraged me, but sparked a new mindset in me. Waiting doesn’t just come from your end; the guy you’re with has to be willing to wait for you too. The one God has purposed for you will be convicted of this truth before he even meets you.“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” Song of Solomon 8:4 (NLT) 

12. In sexual sin, we violate the sacredness of our own bodies. That’s the translation from The Message version of the bible for 1 Corinthians 6:18. That scripture is not only potent but powerful. I would meditate on those words day and night during my seasons of singleness. No matter how jacked up my relationships with other men would be, I would speak those words of truth and love over me. It changed my whole way of thinking. It challenged me to view sex as something sacred — not just something to do to validate a dating relationship.

13. Marriage is supposed to make you holy not happy. That’s the greatest lesson I learned from Pastor Brian Edmonds while taking pre-marital classes with my man at Macedonia Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. Even though I’m not married yet, I know my pastor’s words are key for a successful and godly marriage. We spend more time planning for the wedding than actually preparing for the marriage. God’s purpose for marriage is for the couple to reflect Christ and be a living example of God’s love.“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8″

14. The word of the LORD gets tried. If you receive a prophecy, you best believe it’s going to get tested. When words of life are spoken over us, the enemy will do anything and everything he can do to choke out the seeds of our destinies . That’s why it’s so important to stand on the word of God and use it as your weapon during prayer and intercession. When we declare and decree the promises of God, it’s one of the ways that helps us win the war. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried. He is a Shield to all those who trust and take refuge in Him.” 2 Samuel 22:31 

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15. He wants us healed and made whole. Therapy and inner healing doesn’t mark the end of our journeys. They’re just a sign of the beginning. I received the revelation many women are healed but not yet whole during a night of worship for women. During my own season of life coaching, my mentor taught me healing isn’t a point, but a process. God doesn’t just want to mend our hearts; He wants us to discover completion comes from Him.  “And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Your faith has made you whole.” Mark 5:34 (AKJV) 

16. God revives dreams that have died. We can be our own dream killers because of fear and doubt. But God is always on standby, preparing for our planes to land. No matter whether you’ve given up or lost hope, the LORD will bring dreams back to remembrance. What God put in you, no one can take away from you. It’s up to you to give your dreams a fighting chance.“For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29

17. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Anytime I argued with my man, I saw how my words would hurt and not help the progression of the relationship. Over and over again, the Spirit would remind me of Proverbs 18:21. We can either speak life or speak death into our situations and over our lives. If we’re not careful, our tongues are like a flame a fire, threatening to destroy the blessings God has put in our lives.

18. Watch out for little foxes. Boundaries are essential for maintaining healthy and godly relationships. My accountability partner, Rev. Dionne Edmonds taught me you can’t just let anyone come into your garden. It’s up to a couple to water it, till it but more importantly, protect it. That’s why it’s important to have a conversation with your partner about past relationships with the opposite sex and set up guidelines for certain situations. When you’re courting and called to be married, you have to protect the relationship from tactics the enemy may use to destroy it. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15 (NIV) 

19. Put it on the altar. There’s no use holding on to something God doesn’t want you having anyway. Even though it hurts, sometime you have to pray, asking God to take it away to make sure your will isn’t getting in the way. So many times I’ve put relationships and job opportunities on the altar just to make sure I’m walking in alignment with the Father. “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 (NKJV) 

20. Our scars are what makes us beautiful. The ugliest things become part of our destines. I never thought my story of surviving sexual abuse would become such an integral part of my testimony. But like my pastor and friend Shirly Lyle once said so eloquently, the pain pushes us towards our purpose. It’s through the scars where vulnerability never looks so beautiful. God gives us beauty for even the most darkest ashes.

“…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) 

By Sydni Grant
sydni@areyoushe.com