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Archive for the ‘Decision-making’ Category

35 Reasons Not to Sin

by Jim Elliff

  1. Because a little sin leads to more sin
  2. Because my sin invites the discipline of God.
  3. Because the time spent in sin is forever wasted.
  4. Because my sin never pleases but always grieves God who loves me.
  5. Because my sin places a greater burden on my spiritual leaders.
  6. Because in time my sin always brings heaviness to my heart.
  7. Because I am doing what I do not have to do.
  8. Because my sin always makes me less than what I could be.
  9. Because others, including my family, suffer consequences due to my sin.
  10. Because my sin saddens the godly.
  11. Because my sin makes the enemies of God rejoice.
  12. Because sin deceives me into believing I have gained when in reality I have lost.
  13. Because sin may keep me from qualifying for spiritual leadership.
  14. Because the supposed benefits of my sin will never outweigh the consequences of disobedience.
  15. Because repenting of my sin is such a painful process, yet I must repent.
  16. Because sin is a very brief pleasure for an eternal loss.
  17. Because my sin may influence others to sin.
  18. Because my sin may keep others from knowing Christ.
  19. Because sin makes light of the cross, upon which Christ died for the very purpose of taking away my sin.
  20. Because it is impossible to sin and follow the Spirit at the same time.
  21. Because God chooses not to respect the prayers of those who cherish their sin.
  22. Because sin steals my reputation and robs me of my testimony.
  23. Because others once more earnest than I have been destroyed by just such sins.
  24. Because the inhabitants of heaven and hell would all testify to the foolishness of this sin.
  25. Because sin and guilt may harm both mind and body.
  26. Because sins mixed with service make the things of God tasteless.
  27. Because suffering for sin has no joy or reward, though suffering for righteousness has both.
  28. Because my sin is adultery with the world.
  29. Because I will review this very sin at the Judgment Seat where loss and gain of eternal rewards are applied.
  30. Because I can never really know ahead of time just how severe the discipline for my sin might be.
  31. Because my sin may be an indication of a lost condition.
  32. Because to sin is not to love Christ.
  33. Because my unwillingness to reject this sin now grants it an authority over me greater than I wish to  believe.
  34. Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it, never because it is worth anything on its own.
  35. Because I promised God He would be Lord of my life.

 

Relinquish Your Rights – Reject the Sin – Renew the Mind – Rely on God

 

 

Decision-Making: Christian Liberty in the Gray Areas of Life

(Adapted from Ethics for a Brave New World by John Feinberg & Paul Feinberg)

The Bible offers guidelines that can help Christians decide which activities are acceptable for them. These guidelines may be stated as eight questions (tests) that each Christian must face when deciding whether or not to indulge in a given activity. If one answers any negatively, he should not do it. Each person must ask and answer for him self alone before the Lord.

  1. Am I fully persuaded that it is right?       Paul says (Rom. 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not, we doubt rather than believe we can do this and stand acceptable before God. If there is doubt, though, Paul says there is sin. So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed so one could indulge; but while there is doubt, he must refrain.
  2. Can I do it as unto the Lord?          Whatever we do, Paul says we must do as unto the Lord (Rom. 14: 6-8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving Him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.
  3. Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ?      Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20-21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For the one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.
  4. Does it bring peace?    In Rom. 14:17-18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.
  5. Does it edify my brother?     The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities, which both bring peace and edify.
  6. Is it profitable?     In 1 Cor. 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits playing cards, but if my card playing causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.
  7. Does it enslave me?     (1 Cor. 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.
  8. Does it bring glory to God?     Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Cor. 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

7 Ways to Make Bad Decisions

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I’ve made lots of bad decisions in my life. That includes my time in leadership — both in business and ministry, but I’ve also made plenty of bad decisions in family and personal situations. None of us set out to make bad decisions, but sometimes the way we make them can significantly increase or decrease the chance the quality of our decisions.

Granted, I’ve learned from every bad decision I’ve made. And, I’ve even repeated a few of them a few times — and still learned something. But, as much as I can, I want to make better decisions — the first time.

In my experience, there are a few common factors that lead to me making a bad decision.

Here are 7 ways to make bad decisions:

Make them too fast – I’ve learned that haste does indeed make waste. I make lots of decisions each day. I would be a poor leader if I couldn’t make most of them quickly. I’d always be stalled from my potential. When the potential outcome is significant, however, the more time I can give to it the less likely I am to make a mistake — certainly the ones that could have been avoided with more thought. Learning when to wait, seek God, the counsel of others and for better personal discernment is part of maturing, but can help us avoid some of the more costly bad decisions.

Make them too slow – Equally true, there are times when a fast decision is easy; even prudent. If I know the right answer — if it has a Biblical basis, for example, or my conscience is clearly convicted — but it is simply hard to implement, I’ve learned that waiting seldom makes the decision easier and often only complicates the process. I’m more likely to make a bad decision the longer I wait.

Make them to keep people happy – The right decision is seldom the popular decision. People-pleasing as a decision motivator rarely accomplishes matters of worth. It often makes the worst decision of the options available.

Make them when angry – I don’t know about you, but I don’t think clearly when my emotions get in the way. If I’m angry — or emotional in any other way — I tend to overreact or under-react. Emotionally based decisions, especially immediate decisions, are often ones I tend to regret later.

Make them alone – “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) A part of leadership involves standing alone at times, but rarely are we really alone. We should always walk in the counsel of God’s Spirit, and, in my experience, even when I have to make the decision seemingly alone — if I’m making wise decisions — it’s not really that I’m alone. I’m just ahead of where others know we need to go, but haven’t yet been willing to go. Building a collaborative environment as much as possible helps me avoid bad decisions.

Make them reactionary – Ultimately we want to work from a plan. We want to make decisions before the decision is needed. We want proactive decision-making. That’s obviously not always possible, but in my experience, I’m more likely to make a bad decision when I’m reacting to a situation, rather than having thought about the scenario and my response beforehand.

Make them out of fear – We are called to walk by faith, yet fear is often a more powerful initiator. But, I’ve learned, when I decide because I’m afraid to — or not to — do something, I almost always make a mistake. Following my faith gut, even when afraid, is part of leadership. And, part of life.

DECISION MAKING AND THE WILL OF GOD (Adapted from the book by Garry Friesen)

The expression “will of God” is used in the Bible in two ways. God’s sovereign will is His secret plan to determine everything that happens in the universe. God’s moral will consists of the revealed commands in the Bible that teach how we ought to believe and live.

The Nature of God’s Moral Will

  1. It is the expression, in behavioral terms, of God’s character.
  2. It touches every aspect and moment of life: goals, attitudes, and means (why, how, and what).
  3. It is fully revealed in the Bible.
  4. It is able to equip believers for every good work.

For God’s children, all things within the moral will of God are lawful, clean, and pure. In decisions that are made within that moral will, the Christian should not feel guilty about his choice; neither should he fear that his decision is unacceptable to God. God has made it clear what He wants: His plan for His children is for them to enjoy the freedom that He has granted.

What One Must Do To Acquire Wisdom
Have the right Attitude

  1. Reverence
  2. Humility
  3. Teachableness
  4. Diligence
  5. Uprightness
  6. Faith

Take The Right Approach

  1. Ask God for Wisdom
  2. Seek Wisdom in the pages of Scripture
  3. Seek Wisdom through personal research
  4. Seek Wisdom through wise counselors
  5. Seek Wisdom from life itself

To sum up: The ultimate Source of the wisdom that is needed in decision-making is God. Accordingly, we are to ask Him to provide what we lack. God mediates His wisdom to us through His Word, our personal research, wise counselors, and the applied lessons of life. Regarding counselors, one should seek two kinds: Of those who possess deep spiritual insight, the question should be asked: “Are you aware of any biblical principles that touch upon my decision?” To those who have gone through relevant personal experiences, the question should be: “When you went through a similar experience, did you gain any insights that would be of value to me?”

Principles of Decision Making – The Way of Wisdom

  1. In those areas specifically addressed by the Bible, the revealed commands and principles of God (His moral will) are to be obeyed.
  2. In those areas where the Bible gives no command or principle (non-moral decisions), the believer is free and responsible to choose his own course of action. Any decision made within the moral will of God is acceptable to God.
  3. In non-moral decisions, the objective of the Christian is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual expediency. Spiritual expediency, put simply, means what works best to get the job done within God’s moral will. Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
  4. In all decisions, the believer should humbly submit, in advance, to the outworking of God’s sovereign will as it touches each decision.

God’s Sovereign Will and Decision Making

  1. God’s sovereignty does not exclude the need for planning; it does require humble submission to His will.
  2. Circumstances define the context of the decision and must be weighed by wisdom — not “read” as road signs to God’s individual (as opposed to His moral) will. Such events are determined by God, to be sure, but they are not to be viewed as “signs” to be read. Circumstances must be evaluated, not to determine some clue from God, but to help decide the advisability of a given course of action. Circumstances indicate many of the pros and cons, but they carry no “yes” or “no” tags.
  3. Open doors are God-given opportunities for service — not specific guidance from God requiring one to enter. Opportunities, like everything else, come through God’s sovereignty. The nature of such opportunities indicates that most of the time “open doors” should be utilized as part of wise, resourceful living for the Lord. If a greater opportunity or more pressing work is at hand, it is acceptable and proper to pass by the open door. An “open door” is not a direct providential sign from God telling the believer to go in a certain direction. A door is used, not because it is a sign, but because doors facilitate entrance. Considering the concept of “closed doors,” if one were sovereignly prevented from pursuing a plan, and yet the plan itself was sound, one simply might wait and try again later. In this view, a blocked endeavor (i.e., closed door) is not necessarily a sign from God that a plan was faulty. One might accept the fact that he could not pursue it at this time and continue to desire, pray, and plan for the eventual accomplishment of the goal.
  4. “Putting out a fleece” is an invalid practice that sometimes works when it is really wisdom in disguise.

Applicational Solutions of the Wisdom View

  1. Ordinary Decisions: One should exercise good judgment and not waste time.
  2. Equal Decisions: One should thank God for the opportunity to select from acceptable alternatives, and choose one’s personal preference.
  3. Immaturity: One should apply maturity by gathering and evaluating data, devoting sufficient time to the process, giving personal desires their proper place, and basing the decision on sound reasons.
  4. Subjectivity: Since God’s moral will has been completely revealed and the means of acquiring wisdom has been explained, the knowledge required for decision making is fully attainable.

The believer already has at his disposal everything that God is going to tell him about his decisions.

The moral will of God is objective, complete, and adequate. God’s Word does not tell one what to decide in every situation; it teaches how to come to a decision that is acceptable to God. It is from Scripture that we learn the necessity of determining those choices that are both moral and wise.

It is the Bible that tells us to acquire wisdom and apply it to our decisions. It is the Bible that tells us where wisdom is to be found. It is the Bible that tells us of God’s involvement in giving us wisdom. It is the Bible that established the objective standard by which we may define and recognize what is moral and wise. It is assumed in Scripture that knowledge of God’s moral will and the necessary wisdom for good decision-making are attainable.

The Bible indicates that one’s depth of wisdom and knowledge of God’s moral will certainly will increase progressively over a period of time. The believer is expected to study the Word sufficiently to become personally convinced of its meaning. As he grows in spiritual insight and understanding of God’s Word, his convictions will be appropriately revised, his judgment will mature, and his decisions will reflect greater wisdom. But at any given point, the believer can acquire a sufficient knowledge of God’s moral will and an adequate level of wisdom to make a decision that meets God’s approval.

Wisdom Signs Pointing to God’s Moral Will and Wisdom

  1. Bible
  2. Inner Impressions
  3. Personal Desires
  4. Special Guidance
  5. Circumstances
  6. Mature Counsel
  7. Common Sense
  8. Results

Impressions can come from a multitude of sources. They must be judged by the moral will of God and by wisdom. On the basis of that evaluation, the believer determines his response to the impression. Those impressions that conform to God’s moral will and to wisdom may be followed.

The presence of peace or the lack of it may or may not mean a decision is the best. The lack of peace may indicate immaturity, fear of one’s inability to keep a potential commitment, concern about the wisdom of a course of action, or uncertainty about one’s judgment in the decision at hand. The way of wisdom judges the emotional makeup and momentary emotional state of the believer himself as one of the valid circumstances in the situation. That “concerned feeling” should be judged by wisdom. One’s emotional makeup should be judged by wisdom. In the final analysis, every good thing comes from God. So any thought, impression, or feeling that is both moral and wise has its ultimate origin in Him.

According to the Bible, God is involved in our decision making at several levels.

First, He has provided the resources for making decisions that are acceptable to Him. He has revealed His moral will in its totality. He has instructed us in His Word to seek wisdom for making decisions, and has informed us how to do it.

Further, He has given us a new nature which makes obedience of His moral will possible. As a loving Father, He has equipped us with everything we need to make decisions that are pleasing to Him. As we work through the process of arriving at a decision, God is continually present and working within us. The words of Paul remind us that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Specifically, His grace enables us to trust in Him (Acts 18:27). He gives the believer the desire to obey His will. By His Spirit, He provides the enablement to keep His commandments.

Furthermore, it is God who sovereignly opens doors of opportunity for us. When we ask for wisdom, He gives it through the channels He has established for our benefit. He also answers the related prayers we offer concerning our decisions. And He brings to successful completion those of our plans that are within His sovereign will. Along the way, He utilizes the circumstances and the very process of decision- making to change our character and bring us to maturity.

Finally, He works through our decisions to accomplish His purposes – not only in us, but through us. We can trust that if anything more is needed for guidance – such as an audible voice, an angelic messenger, or some other form of supernatural revelation – He will supply it just as He has when it was necessary in times past.

Decision Making and the Will of God

How to Get Past the Fear to do Really Hard Things

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Fear is the biggest obstacle we all deal with. The nature of fear is to get in the way. When we want to do something, or we want to learn how to do something, but we hold back because it seems like the thing we want to do will be too hard — that’s fear.

I would like to suggest a way of looking at hard things that may be new to you. There are no hard things. There is only new things. When you are facing a daunting task, it’s not that this thing is really hard to do, it’s just that you don’t know how to do it yet and you’re afraid to give yourself over to the possibility of failure.

Something that is hard is a challenge. It’s a challenge to yourself — are you going to grow or are you going to stay the same?

Human beings sent other human beings to the moon. You are reading this on a device that translates ones and zeros into something you can read, and it was made by people. Thousands of airplanes fly safely across the world every day. Submarines are currently circling the depths of the oceans. Somewhere out there, right now, a person is learning to speak their fifteenth language. People everywhere are solving problems and discovering new ones.

At this very moment, future Olympians are beginning their training. They’re kids. And at this juncture, they are terrible at their sport. I’m not being a jerk. They’re lousy. Their performance is indistinguishable from all of the other kids who will not go on to the Olympics. Also happening right now, at this very second, a young woman is writing a short story. Some day she will go on to write a celebrated novel. It will be marketed with quotes from the New York Times that praise its dazzling prose… but this short story she’s working on right now? It is laughably bad. If you read it, you might charitably encourage her to consider another line of work.

When we see high performers, it is tempting to ascribe their success to natural gifts. And to be sure, aptitude plays a role. But the far bigger component of their success is that they are unafraid to do bad work. Doing poorly does not discourage their persistence. The willingness to endure repeated failures in order to improve is the defining characteristic of every success story.

You can plot the progress of any achievement by the number of failed attempts as a ratio to the number of successful attempts. Starting out, you might have 100 failures for every small victory. Soon, you’re successful 1 out of every 50 attempts. If that sounds discouraging to you, you’re not doing the math right. That is twice as good as when you started out. Over time, the rate of failure decreases, and the rate of success increases. What once seemed hard is now just something that you do the right way most of the time.

This is true of every single thing you may wish to do, but presently believe that you cannot do. It does not only apply to big newsworthy achievements. It applies just as well to everything in our lives. We learn. Human beings were designed to improve.

Exercise, weight loss, making friends, learning job skills, cooking, playing the piano, kayaking, having intimate conversations, telling the people in your life that you love them, respecting yourself… Becoming excellent at every single one of these things is down to persistence.

So if all it takes is persistence to accomplish virtually anything, why are there so many people who are inept at what they want to be doing? The catch is that time and energy are finite resources.

There is an opportunity cost to every choice that you make. People become Olympians by prioritizing their training over everything else in their lives. Learning to write code involves spending months alone in a room staring at a computer screen, being confused and writing a lot of lousy code. Becoming a pilot involves thousands of hours of training, and many more hours of comparatively low paying work before you are experienced enough to land a better job. That might mean delaying family planning, or going without a lot of the niceties in life.

The good news is that the stakes are not always so high when it comes to doing most things. You don’t have to forgo everything in your life in order to learn how to do anything new. But you do have to make choices. When you set out to improve in some area, the only way that you will succeed is by committing to becoming a changed person at the end of the process.

The person you are today thinks that this new thing is hard to do. The person you must become in order to do that thing does not think it is hard to do. It is just something they know how to do. The person you are today might spend a lot of time watching TV, having a really active social life, going to the movies, eating out at nice restaurants. The person you must become may not have enough time or energy to do those things.

That is the choice you are making when you decide whether you want to grow or stay the same.

THE SIN OF PROXIMITY: RUN!

SOURCE:   Living Free

Run from sexual sin!

No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.

For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

When it is in our power to change a situation that will likely cause us to sin and we choose not to act to change it, we are guilty of the sin of proximity—sometimes called the sin before the sin.

The sin before the sin involves the little decisions we make that set us up for temptation and sin. If we are to overcome the strongholds in our lives that constantly pull us in the wrong direction, we have to come to a place of radical obedience and do everything possible to eliminate those occasions for sin that are in our control.

Failing to take appropriate actions to eliminate the stumbling blocks that lead us to sin is a serious issue for many of us. Sexual temptation has presented itself to most of us at some time in our lives.  Scripture advises us to run from sexual sin.

With sexual sin, the longer we are in the presence of temptation, the less likely we are to escape without sinning.

It is so much better to avoid the sin before the sin.

To run from the sin of proximity . . .

Stay in fellowship with Jesus.

Turn to him for the strength you need.

With him, you can do all things.

Prayer . . .

“Lord, help me to run from all temptation to be involved in sexual sin. 

Help me to run from the sin and run to you.

In Jesus’ name …”

Make Up Your Mind to Manage Your Mind

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

The reason why most people are ineffective in life is that they’ve never learned how to fight the battle of the mind.

If you want to learn to manage your mind, you have to be delivered from destructive thoughts. That isn’t easy, because there are three enemies that keep you from fulfilling all your good intentions of changing your life.

  1. The first enemy is your old nature.

Paul says in Romans 7:23, “There is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (NLT).

Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t really want to do? That’s the battle in your brain between your old, sinful nature and your good intentions.

  1. The second enemy is Satan.

Satan cannot force you to do anything, but he can make suggestions, and those suggestions are incredibly powerful. He is constantly planting negative thoughts in your mind. He’ll use other people or he’ll use the TV or he’ll just throw a thought in your mind.

  1. The third enemy is the world’s value system.

Does anything in our society encourage self-discipline? Not much. Advertisements tell us, “You deserve a break today. Have it your way. We do it all for you.”

The Bible says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV).

With enemies like that, no wonder we struggle with discouragement and despair and failure!

So how do you fight this battle? Look at what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

You have a choice. Your mind has to listen to you. God didn’t give you just a mind. He gave you a will! The best time to win the battle with temptation is before it begins.

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

What You Think, You Are

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

Change requires new thinking. In order to change, we must learn the truth and start making good choices, but we also must change the way we think.

I’ve talked about this before: The battle for sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior.

The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with the way you think.

Think – Feel – Act

For instance, I could say, “I need to love my kids more,” but that isn’t going to work. Or someone could say, “I need to love my spouse more,” but that isn’t going to work. You can’t fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act.

The Bible says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

Let me sum it up this way: You are not what you think you are; rather, what you think, you are.

The battle for sin, the battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don’t like, starts in your mind. If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, you start with your thoughts and your attitude.

The renewal of your mind is related to the word repentance. I know repentance is a dirty word for a lot of people. They think it means something bad, something you don’t really want to do, something painful. They think of a guy standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Repent! The world’s about to end!”

Repentance has nothing to do with your behavior. It is about changing your mind, learning to think differently. “Repent” simply means to make a mental U-turn. It’s something you do in your mind, not with your behavior. Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and your behavior.

When I repent, I make a mental U-turn. I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light. I turn from hell to heaven. I turn from hatred to love.

I also change the way that I think about God. He’s not mad at me. I’m deeply flawed, but I’m deeply loved.

I change the way I think about others, I change the way I think about my kids, and I change the way I think about my wife. I change the way I think about the world, I change the way I think about the economy, and I change the way I think about my past, my present, and my future.

Phases of Life-Controlling Problems

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Living Free Ministry

Phase One: Experimentation

  • I learn that experimenting with the substance/behavior makes me feel good.
  • I don ‘t really see any serious negative consequences.
  • I learn to trust the substance/behavior to make me feel good or help me escape every time I use it or do it.
  • I learn how to use the substance/behavior to make myself feel great.

Phase Two: Social Use

  • I begin to use or practice more regularly.
  • This behavior or substance becomes a part of my social life.
  • I use or practice in times and places that are socially acceptable.
  • Daily lifestyle choices begin to be affected by my focus on this substance/behavior.
  • I make rules for myself about my use/practice to make me feel safe.
  • My use/behavior becomes a problem without warning.

Phase Three: Daily Preoccupation

  • My use/practice becomes a harmful dependency.
  • I begin to lose control over my use/practice.
  • I violate my value system.
  • I cannot block out the emotional pain.
  • My lifestyle is centered on this compulsive behavior.
  • Unresolved problems produce more stress and pain.
  • I break my self-imposed safe use/practice rules.
  • My life deteriorates in all areas, including health, spirituality, and relationships.

Phase Four: Using/Practicing Just to Feel Normal

  • I lose touch with reality and experience delusions and paranoia.
  • I may try to escape my problems by running away.
  • I lose my desire to live.
  • I have no desire for God I am spiritually bankrupt.
  • I lose control and dignity.
  • My problems grow in a snowball effect.
  • My family relationships are destroyed (Lee, 22-23).

Biblical Examples
Genesis 4 records the account of Cain and a problem that mastered his life. He and his brother, Abel, brought their offerings to the lord. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s fruits of the ground were not received by the lord. Cain became very angry, and his face displayed his feelings. The Lord saw his anger and facial expressions and encouraged him to do what was right so that his offering and he would be accepted.

The Lord followed with a statement which illustrates how problems can become our master. But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7). The Lord recognized a potential life-controlling problem crouching and ready to pounce on Cain if he opened the door. Cain opened the door, and anger became his master. He invited Abel to the field and killed him. When the Lord asked where Abel was, Cain responded by trying to cover his evil actions by denying any knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts.

Allowing anger to rule his life, Cain committed murder, became a restless wanderer, and went from the presence of the Lord, thus alienating himself from God. Fed by jealousy, rebellion, and unbelief, anger became a stronghold in his life. This is an example of a life-controlling problem that is permitted to continue without intervention.

The concept of life-controlling stages is addressed in James 1:14-15: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The downward spiral starts with temptation (an attraction to). The second stage is desire (to long for). Desire conceives and gives birth to the third stage, sin. The final stage is death.

James’ concept of life-controlling problems can be compared with a marriage to an addiction. The marriage begins with courtship. Although initially, the victim may not recognize the courtship as such because it is appealing, the victim is tempted and drawn to an addiction. The victim is enticed and allured into a relationship and gives consent. An addiction takes hold with a conception of a problem that now starts to master a person’s life.

Months or even years later, there is the birth of a child (trouble). The fruit of the life-controlling problem causes all kinds of problems in the home, church, school, and workplace. The relationship arrives at a place of completion. In this stage, the marriage has become fatalistic (destructive relationship) to the victim and has hurt those who are close. The end result is corruption. If the relationship is not broken by the addiction, death always follows: spiritual, emotional and physical.

There are certain stages involved in David’s sin with Bathsheba as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. In stage one, From the roof, he saw a woman bathing (v2). David entered stage two when he sent someone to find out about her (v3). In the third stage, David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her (v4). To further complicate matters, David tried to cover up his sin which led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.

Joshua 7 discusses Achan’s sin of disobedience which led to his death. After the Lord delivered Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelites, they were commanded to stay away from the sacred things which included all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron (6:19). Achan’s sin was a violation of this command and was committed in stages. In the first stage, he saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels (7:21). Achan followed his temptation by coveting the riches (stage two). Then, he took the riches (stage three) and hid them. In addition to his own death, his sin adversely affected the entire nation of Israel just as life-controlling problems often go beyond the victim’s hurting only himself.

As a rule with few exceptions, life-controlling problems do not occur overnight. I have met with parents who have tragically lost a child to chemical dependency. Many times they wanted to think the child had just started using drugs. There was the wife who caught her husband entertaining a prostitute, and she believed his insistence that this was the first time. Actually, for those who have reached the ultimate end of their addiction, whether physical death or emotional and spiritual death, their death occurred on the installment plan. They died one phase at a time. Paul writes: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

On the way from my motel to the airport in Oklahoma City, the taxi driver explained how his life had been totally destroyed by gambling. Not knowing that his passenger had just taught the phases of life-controlling problems at a seminar, he proceeded to tell me how phase by phase he became controlled by gambling. At one time the head of a corporation with a salary of six figures, he started experimenting by playing the state lottery. Gambling became a social part of his life in which he bet on various sporting events. The infrequent big wins kept him coming back for a larger win. Gambling became the center of his life and progressed to become his one and only master. He not only lost his position and dignity but his family as well. In the ten minute ride to the airport, he explained in detail the process I had just taught.

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Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries

Having Boundaries Means Taking Responsibility for Our Choices

SOUrCES:  Henry Cloud/John Townsend

Any time is a great time to take stock of boundaries in our lives and renew the desire to take responsibility for our choices. This leads to the fruit of “self-control.” A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay the responsibility for them on someone else.

Think for a moment how often we use the phrases, “I had to” or “She (he) made me” when explaining why we did or did not do something. These phrases betray our basic illusion that we are not active agents in many of our dealings. We think someone else is in control, thus relieving us of our basic responsibility.

“I really need you to watch your nephew,” Tiffany said.

“What does she mean by ‘need to’?” Kyle thought to himself.

“Adam has been out of town for work. I’ve got a million things I’ve got to do, and I think you should help me out here. I’m you’re sister, and you should do this for your nephew!”

“Look, Tiffany,” Kyle said. “I’ve got plans with Stacey. You know I love my nephew, but we’ve had this date night planned for awhile.”

We need to realize that we are in control of our choices, no matter how we feel. This keeps us from making choices to give reluctantly or under compulsion. Making decisions based on others’ approval or on guilt breeds resentment, a product of our sinful nature. We have been so trained by others on what we “should” do that we think we are being loving when we do things out of compulsion.

Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.

Chastity by C.S. Lewis

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by  C. S. Lewis/Mere Christianity

We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity…..

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the hypothesis of “starvation” the only one
we can imagine. Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

Here is a third point. You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean two things. They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body–which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other
religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.” If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.

What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it. A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, “Oh Lord, make me chaste,” his heart had been secretly adding, “But please don’t do it just yet.” This may happen in prayers for other virtues too; but there are three reasons why it is now especially difficult for us to desire–let alone to achieve–complete chastity.

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural, so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humor. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth–the truth, acknowledged above, that sex in itself (apart from the excess and obsessions that have grown round it) is “normal” and “healthy” and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and “nature,” but between Christian principle and other principles in the control of “nature.” For “nature” (in the use of natural desire) will have to be controlled anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. The Christian principles are, admittedly, stricter than the others; but then we think you will get help towards obeying them which you will not get towards obeying the others.

In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity–like perfect charity–will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting: the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the Human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

Mere Christianity, 1945

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Why I Never Drink Alcohol

SOURCE: MICHAEL BROWN/charismamag.com

I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

Forty-six years ago, in 1971, the Lord graciously saved me from a life from sinful destruction, which included very serious drug abuse and some heavy drinking as well. From that day until today, I have never abused drugs again or had a sip of alcohol, other than taking Communion with a taste of wine when that was the only option.

Do I believe that the Scriptures require total abstinence for all believers? No, I do not.

Do I believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine in John 2, even if the wine was not as fermented as today? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that some Christians can drink some alcoholic beverages in moderation without sinning before God? I certainly do.

So, I am not here as anyone’s judge or jury, nor am I trying to force my convictions on anyone else. I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

First, although I loved getting high on drugs and getting drunk before I was saved, I did not enjoy the taste of alcohol. Once I gave up getting drunk, I had no interest in drinking at all. There was no temptation or desire.

Things were very different for my wife Nancy, who was born again in 1974. She really enjoyed the taste of alcohol and also got drunk before she was saved. So, for her, there was no question at all that she should avoid even the taste of alcohol once she was in the Lord. Why play with fire? Drinking only had sinful connections in her life.

Second, the church in which Nancy and I came to faith practiced total abstinence, so this became our practice as well.

I honestly don’t remember the pastor teaching on it in those early, formative years. Instead, we learned it from the other believers, some of whom used to be heavy drinkers before they were saved as well. For them, too, it was quite natural to cut that cord of attachment with the world.

Third, I began preaching in 1973 at the age of 18, so I was quickly looked to as a leader on some level. What kind of example was I setting? If others followed my lead, would they be helped or hurt?

For me, this was another good reason not to drink socially, since so many believers struggled with drinking before they saved, and some continued to struggle after they were saved. Why put another stumbling block before them?

Fourth, I have heard the same sad story many times over the decades, and it gives me real pause.

A former alcoholic sees another brother or sister have a glass of wine with their meal, or they visit your house and see that you have beer in your refrigerator. They then think to themselves, “Well, if it’s OK for them, I guess it’s OK for me,” and they have one drink—just one—and quickly find themselves enslaved again, sometimes for years.

So, your liberty, which might be totally fine between you and the Lord, ends up destroying a precious brother or sister.

Paul addressed this in the context of food sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same: “and by your knowledge [meaning, the knowledge that food itself doesn’t defile us] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? When you thus sin against the brothers, wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, least I cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:11-13).

The lesson here is that we should put greater emphasis on helping weaker brothers and sisters than on enjoying our liberty.

Fifth, I minister in many different church cultures, some of which also practice total abstaining, therefore I take the more stringent road as a way of life.

For example, I’ve ministered in Italy and England on 40 different trips, and on my occasions, I’ve had meals with other Christian leaders who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.

I’ve never seen them drunk, nor have I felt they were doing something wrong. It’s their culture, and this is between them and God. (If this seems to be in violation of my last point, it’s not. I’m sharing my own counsel and convictions, not imposing them on others.)

I’ve also ministered in Asia on more than 40 different trips, most commonly in India, and I’ve never once seen a believer drink alcohol there, nor have I seen it on my few trips to Africa.

Again, for my own life, I’d rather live the same way in both cultures. In that way, if I’m ever asked about my personal practices in the stricter environment, I can say that I never drink at all.

Sixth, we are commanded in Scripture to be sober and vigilant (for example, 1 Pet. 5:8), whereas alcohol can easily lead to sluggishness, impaired judgment, sloppy thinking and acting, and outright drunkenness.

Since I believe in fleeing from that which destroys (see, for example, 2 Tim. 2:22), I run towards sobriety and away from anything that leads to drunkenness.

Seventh, I do not want to be enslaved by any earthly habit. (For decades, I was a chocoholic. By God’s grace, I’ve been totally free that from enslavement, along with other food addictions, for more than three years now—and I emphasize the words “by God’s grace.”)

It’s so easy to become dependent on that one drink just to calm your nerves, that one drink just to take the edge off, that one drink to quiet your fears, that one drink.

Perhaps you’re leaning on that one drink rather than on the Lord? Perhaps you’re becoming dependent on it? Perhaps one drink will lead to two or three or more?

Despite the lies of the flesh and the world, sin never satisfies. Instead, it leads to more sin, then to worse sin, and then it enslaves.

Which direction is your drinking taking you? Are you now getting into alcohol in general? Are you now trying out harder and harder liquor and encouraging your friends to do the same? Are you even having some drinking parties where you glory in your “liberty”? Have you had more to drink than you planned, even getting mildly drunk?

Again, I’m not playing God here, and I’m not sitting as your judge. But if you said yes to any of these last four questions, I can almost guarantee you that you’re on a slippery slope in the wrong direction and that, soon enough, your “liberty” will turn to bondage.

That’s also why I have a personal problem with the whole “beer and Bible” approach to ministry.

On the one hand, I understand that churches want to meet sinners where they are and invite them to study the Word in a comfortable environment. But at what point do these sinners hear the message of repentance, which includes repenting of drunkenness? And how many former alcoholics in the church now stumble and fall because of this environment?

To say it again, I’m only sharing my personal convictions here, and I’m quite familiar with the argument that those who have learned to drink in moderation all their lives will not struggle with getting drunk.

For many, that is true, just like in traditional Jewish culture, where small amounts of wine are incorporated into various meals and rites.

But in a country like America, where there is so much drunkenness and decadence, I’d rather err in the opposite direction and simply have nothing to do with alcohol in this world. And yes, once more, these are simply my own views, which I share because I’m often asked about drinking.

And even in biblical days, where alcoholic beverages may not have been as fermented as today and where most believers certainly did not practice total abstaining, we still have this warning: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

The bottom line is that there are far more important things than food and drink, which is why Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

May we all pursue that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” in a manner fitting as a kingdom of priests before our God.

How Boundaries Give You Choices Against Toxic People

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When I was still doing my radio show, a woman called into our program and said that she was going to visit her family for Christmas. She was depressed because she knew her grandfather would make things miserable, just as he always did. She dreaded hearing his criticism of her and her lifestyle. We asked her why she had to listen to that, and she responded, “I just have to, that’s all. I have no choice. That is what he does.”

This woman lost her freedom the minute she walked in the door of that family gathering. She didn’t realize that no one can take away your freedom: she chose to give it up. She was letting her grandfather have power over her, but what she didn’t realize is that she didn’t have to give him permission. She felt that the pressure from her family to just “take it” was so strong, that this is the place where she lost her choices.

As we kept talking, we quickly thought of several choices she could make:

  • She could choose not to attend.
  • She could choose to accept that he would be who he is, but she could give up the desire for his approval. That would empower her to ignore his remarks.
  • She could empathize with him, “Grandfather, it seems like it’s frustrating to you to have me be like I am. That sounds hard.” She did not need to get hooked into convincing him of anything.
  • She could steer clear of the grandfather at the gathering.
  • She could call a friend throughout the gathering and give reports on how crazy he was, and they could laugh it off together.
  • She could call him beforehand and ask if he planned to put her down this year as he had before. If he said yes, she could inform him that she might just go in another room when he started his put-downs. She wanted him to understand this beforehand, so he would not be surprised at her action.

The caller actually began to feel relief. Just the reminder that she did always have choices made her feel better.

We were designed to be free, and in some ways, life is a continual struggle to gain, regain and live out our freedom from internal and external forces that would take our freedom away.

Find out where your circle of freedom ends and take steps to enlarge it until you can feel free, no matter where you care, by remembering one thing: you always have choices! Ultimately, no person, or no circumstance, has control of you – that control belongs to you and only you.

5 Ways to Deal with Your Past

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I’m a huge proponent of moving forward. I’ve never been a fan of remaining in the past.

This could be because I’ve had some past I’d rather not remember.

It could be because I am very forward-thinking.

Either way, and it’s probably the first, I’d prefer to reconcile the past, make the most of it, and get on with my life.

Bottom line, however, is that there are really a few choices when it comes to dealing with your past.

Here are 5 ways to deal with your past:

Forget it – If you choose to and you are really skilled, you can block all memory of the past from your mind. In extreme settings, I have seen people do this naturally, but I must admit, it’s rare. And, because I believe we learn from mistakes, I wouldn’t even recommend it.

Misuse it – You can twist the past for your benefit – gain sympathy, make people feel sorry for you, and use it as a personal advantage. You could be a martyr. The people who choose this option, in my experience, are usually as phony as the story they share. It’s often hard to trust them.

Ignore it – You can pretend your past never happened. You can make up your own version of your past, make it prettier and live in a false reality. With the people I’ve seen do this it seems you never really know the true person behind the stories they tell. They are always hiding a part of themselves.

Excuse it – You can blame every bad decision you ever made on someone else or every future mistake you make on your past. After all, it was “his” fault”, right? I’ve known people with this excuse who never own up to responsibility – and they always seem to find a reason for not doing so. They never take ownership of their actions.

Use it – In my humble opinion, as one with plenty of brokenness in my story, the best way to deal with your past is to use it for a greater good. How could your story benefit someone else? How could God use your brokenness to bless others? What have you learned, which others need to hear? Let your past help build your — or someone else’s — brighter future.

I’m not pretending this will be easy. It will probably involve hard decisions and choices such as forgiveness, confession, and being vulnerable with people. But, the reward for allowing God to use your past for a greater good and being freed from the weight of your past will be worth it.

How to Turn Your Pain into Something Positive

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Can pain ever be good?

That’s a fair question, but mostly an intellectual one to me, until recently. You see I’ve been blessed with good health and without much physical pain for most of my life. But a recent injury put me in a season of constant and intense back pain. For quite a while, I was getting just a few hours of sleep a night, sometimes feeling lost in an emotional fog. Even though it’s been a painful setback, it’s got me thinking about the importance of pain, and asking some big questions:

What will I do with my pain? How can I turn my pain into something positive?

Whether pain is physical or emotional, it can be used for good, to make a positive impact on others.

As I wrote about in my book, All Pro Dad, here are a few ways that pain can be used for something good and positive:

Pain can bring clarity to what is most important in life.

Yes, pain can create an emotional fog and make it hard to think straight. But it can also force you to an off-ramp in life for a while that can help you take stock of your priorities. As I’ve been working through the pain and fog, I’m also finding some clarity on things that are important in my life. It’s been a good time to take stock of my usage of time and resources to ensure I’m being a good steward of what’s been entrusted to me and my family.

Pain can be a bonding agent in relationships.

Pain allows you to identify with another person who is going through something very similar. Empathy is an important character trait of a loving leader. When you empathize with others, you experience similar feelings, thoughts, and emotions and then take action based on what you’ve experienced to meet the needs of others. It’s often the things we have in common that create or deepen our bonds.

Pain can change your trajectory.

Past pain can motivate us to look outward instead of just inward. Sometimes pain is paralyzing, and we get very self-focused as we deal with it. But as we do, pain (especially relational pain) can eventually help us to see the need to work towards helping others. Maybe it’s breaking a cycle of dysfunction or brokenness in a family tree that we’ve experienced, or picking up the pieces from an addiction we’ve battled that has hurt more than just ourselves. Eventually, we face a choice: stay focused on self or be motivated to help others.

Pain can give us credibility and opportunity to help others.

When we have endured pain we’ve never experienced before, we have the power of empathizing with others going through the same pain, not just those suffering in general. As a result, others are aware that we know what they are going through and will listen to what we have to say, perhaps even more so than others who try to speak into their lives but haven’t shared the same pain.

Pain can give us a future message of hope to others.

As we deal with the pains of our past or present, God gives us hope and healing that can become a very meaningful message to others. The pain can become a purpose for our voice as well as the message of hope our voice proclaims to the world.

To Change How You Act, Change the Way You Think

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes”

(Ephesians 4:23 NLT, second edition).

Change requires new thinking.

In order to change, we must learn the truth and start making good choices, but we also must change the way we think.

The battle for sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with changing the way you think.

For instance, I can say, “I need to love my kids more,” but that isn’t going to work. You can’t fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act. The Bible says, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT, second edition).

Let me sum it up this way: You are not what you think you are. Rather, what you think, you are. The battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don’t like starts in your mind. If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, start with your thoughts and your attitude.

The renewal of your mind is related to the word “repentance.” I know repentance is a murky word for a lot of people. They think it means something you don’t really want to do or something painful. They think of a guy standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Repent! The world’s about to end!”

Repentance has nothing to do with your behavior. It’s about learning to think differently. “Repent” simply means to make a mental U-turn. It’s something you do in your mind, not with your behavior. Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and your behavior.

When I repent, I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from Hell to Heaven. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light!

That’s the kind of change I need to be able to change the rest of my life.

11 Rules on Marriage You Won’t Learn in School

SOURCE:  Dennis and Barbara Rainey/Family Life

Here’s some practical, counter-cultural advice on how to make marriage work.

For many years, e-mails have circulated the country with the outline of a speech attributed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates titled “11 Rules You Won’t Learn in School About Life.”  It turns out that Gates never wrote these words nor did he deliver the speech—it was all taken from an article written by Charles J. Sykes in 1996. And it really doesn’t matter that Gates wasn’t involved, because the piece does a great job of unmasking how feel-good, politically-correct teachings have created a generation of kids with a false concept of reality.

I thought I’d not only pass on these rules, but also make a few of my own—on marriage.

First, here are the 11 rules of life that you won’t learn in school:

Rule 1: Life is not fair—get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 per year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping—they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault.  So don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself.” Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Sage advice.

After reading this piece, I was inspired to take a crack at something I’d been chewing on:  “11 Rules on Marriage You Won’t Learn in School.”

Rule 1: Marriage isn’t about your happiness.  It’s not about you getting all your needs met through another person.  Practicing self-denial and self-sacrifice, patience, understanding, and forgiveness are the fundamentals of a great marriage.  If you want to be the center of the universe, then there’s a much better chance of that happening if you stay single.

Rule 2: Getting married gives a man a chance to step up and finish growing up.  The best preparation for marriage for a single man is to man up now and keep on becoming the man God created him to be.

Rule 3: It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeat your rookie season.  You will make rookie mistakes in your first year of marriage; the key is that you don’t continue making those same mistakes in year five, year 10, or year 20 of your marriage.

Rule 4: It takes a real man to be satisfied with and love one woman for a lifetime.  And it takes a real woman to be content with and respect one man for a lifetime.

Rule 5: Love isn’t a feeling.  Love is commitment.  It’s time to replace the “D-word”—divorce—with the “C-word”—commitment.  Divorce may feel like a happy solution, but it results in long-term toxic baggage.  You can’t begin a marriage without commitment.  You can’t sustain one without it either.  A marriage that goes the distance is really hard work.  If you want something that is easy and has immediate gratification, then go shopping or play a video game.

Rule 6: Online relationships with old high school or college flames, emotional affairs, sexual affairs, and cohabiting are shallow and illegitimate substitutes for the real thing.  Emotional and sexual fidelity in marriage are the real thing.

Rule 7: Women spell romance R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P.  Men spell romance S-E-X.  If you want to speak romance to your spouse, become a student of your spouse, enroll in a lifelong “Romantic Language School,” and become fluent in your spouse’s language.

Rule 8: During courtship, opposites attract.  After marriage, opposites can repel each another.  You married your spouse because he/she is different.  Differences are God’s gift to you to create new capacities in your life.  Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Rule 9: Pornography robs men of a real relationship with a real person and it poisons real masculinity, replacing it with the toxic killers of shame, deceit, and isolation.  Pornography siphons off a man’s drive for intimacy with his wife.  Marriage is not for wimps.  Accept no substitutes.

Rule 10: As a home is built, it will reflect the builder.  Most couples fail to consult the Master Architect and His blueprints for building a home.  Instead a man and woman marry with two sets of blueprints (his and hers). As they begin building, they discover that a home can’t be built from two very different sets of blueprints.

Rule 11: How you will be remembered has less to do with how much money you make or how much you accomplish and more with how you have loved and lived.

Pass on the rules to a friend who will enjoy them!

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Adapted from Preparing for Marriage Devotions for Couples, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Copyright © 2013. Used with permission from Regal Books

 

Relationships: Seeds of Change

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by PREPARE/ENRICH

Like nature, change in our relationships is inevitable. Our response to change in our relationships likely varies from excitement and newness to anxiety or heaviness.

The same way we can’t make the leaves or the temperature change, we can’t make our partners change. Sometimes we can’t change our situations, but we can work on changing ourselves. Often, changing ourselves starts with humility. A wise man once said, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” [The Counseling Moment editor’s note:  Romans 12:3, Holy Bible, New International Version]

Actions start as thoughts. Relationship author and speaker, Mitch Temple, writes “Thoughts and attitudes are like the engine of a train and our emotions and behaviors are like the caboose.” How is your thought management? Are you too focused on what seems to be missing or lacking? Have you become critical or negative? How has your thinking about your spouse changed? How does it need to be changed? What if today you chose to be more thankful and positive?

Horticulturists say that fall is a great time to plant certain seeds. Fall planting results in earlier spring blooms, there is more time to plant in the fall and weeds are easier to control. Why not plant some seed of change in your relationship this fall. Here are some seeds you can “plant” today:

  • Greet your partner with a smile
  • Offer a word of encouragement or affirmation
  • Choose to give your partner the “benefit of the doubt”
  • Touch your partner
  • Confess
  • Pray for your partner
  • Forgive
  • Ask your partner about his/her day
  • Journal about your relationship

Come spring you may find blossoms of new communication patterns and habits. You may find blossoms of new understanding and perspectives on your relationship. You may find a new depth of love blossoming for yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Don’t underestimate the power of changing a little thing in how you interact with your partner. Whether or not it changes them, it might change you!

Psychiatric Meds: Should I or Not?

SOURCE:  Brad Hambrick/CareLeader

“Pastor, should I take psychiatric meds?”

Let’s begin this discussion by placing the question in the correct category—whether an individual chooses to use psychotropic medication in his struggle with mental illness is a wisdom decision, not a moral decision. If someone is thinking, “Would it be bad for me to consider medication? Is it a sign of weak faith? Am I taking a shortcut in my walk with God?” then he is asking important questions (the potential use of medication) but placing them in the wrong category (morality instead of wisdom).

 Better questions would be:
  • How do I determine if medication would be a good fit for me and my struggle?
  • What types of relief should I expect medication to provide, and what responsibilities would I still bear?
  • How would I determine if the relief I’m receiving warrants the side effects I may experience?
  • How do I determine the initial length of time I should be on medication?

In order to answer these kinds of questions, I would recommend a six-step process. This process will, in most cases, take six months or more to complete. But it often takes many months for doctors and patients to arrive at the most effective medication option, so this process does not elongate the normal duration of finding satisfactory medical treatment.

Having an intentional process is much more effective than making reactionary choices when the emotional pain (getting on medication) or unpleasant side effects (getting off medication) push a person to “just want to do something different.” With a process in place, it is much more likely that what is done will provide the necessary information to make important decisions about the continuation or cessation of medication.

Preface: This six-step process assumes that the individual considering medication is not a threat to self or others, and is capable of fulfilling basic life responsibilities related to personal care, family, school, and work. If this is not the case, then a more prompt medical intervention or residential care would be warranted.

If you are unsure how well your church member is functioning, then encourage him to begin with a medical consultation or counseling relationship. If he would like more time with his doctor than a diagnostic and prescription visit, suggest that he ask the receptionist if he can schedule an extended time with the physician for consultation on his symptoms and options.

Step 1: Assess life and struggle

Most struggles known as mental illness do not have a body-fluid test (i.e., blood, saliva, or urine) to verify their presence. We do not know a “normal range” for neurotransmitters like we do for cholesterol. The activity of the brain is too dynamic to make this kind of simple number test easy to obtain. Gaining neurological fluid samples would be highly intrusive and more traumatic than the information would be beneficial. Brain scans are not currently cost-effective for this kind of medical screening and cannot yet give us the neurotransmitter differentiation we would need.

For these reasons, the diagnosis for whether a mental illness has a biological cause is currently a diagnosis-by-elimination in most cases. However, an important part of your church member’s initial assessment should be a visit to his primary care physician. Encourage your church member to:

  • Clearly describe the struggles/symptoms he is experiencing.
  • Describe when each struggle/symptom began.
  • Describe the current severity of each struggle/symptom and how it developed.

As the person prepares for this medical visit, it would be important for him to also consider:

  • What important life events, transitions, or stressors occurred around the time his struggle began?
  • What is the level of life-interference he is experiencing as a result of his struggle?
  • What lifestyle or relational changes would significantly impact the struggle that he’s facing?

Step 2: Make needed nonmedical changes

Medication will never make us healthier than our current choices allow. Our lifestyle is the “ceiling” for our mental health; we will never be sustainably happier than our beliefs and choices allow. Medication can correct some biological causes and diminish the impact of environmental causes to our struggles. But medication cannot raise one’s mental health potential above what that person’s lifestyle allows.

Too often people want medication to make over their unhealthy life choices in the same way they expect a multivitamin to transform an unhealthy diet. They assume that the first step toward feeling better is receiving a diagnosis and prescription. This may be the case, and there is no shame if it is, but it need not be the guiding assumption.

Encourage your church member to look at the lifestyle, beliefs, and relational changes that his assessment in step 1 would require. If there are choices he could make to reduce the intensity of his struggle, is he willing to make them? Undoubtedly these changes will be hard, or he would have already done so. But let him know that they are essential if he wants to use medication wisely.

As your church member identifies these changes, he should assess the areas of sleep, diet, and exercise. Sleep is vital to the replenishing of the brain. Diet is the beginning of brain chemistry—our body can create neurotransmitters only from the nutrition we provide it. Exercise, particularly cardiovascular, has many benefits for countering the biological stress response (a primary contributor to poor mental health). The first “prescription” should be eight hours of sleep, a balanced diet high in antioxidants, and cardiovascular exercise for at least thirty minutes three days a week.

A key indicator of whether your church member is using psychotropic medication wisely is whether he is using medication (a) as a tool to assist him in making needed lifestyle and relational changes, or (b) as an alternative to having to make these changes. Option A is wise. Option B results in overmedication or feeling like “medication didn’t work either” as he continually tries to compensate medically for the volitional neglect of his mental health.

Step 3: Determine the nonmedicated baseline for mood and life functioning

This is an important, and often neglected, step. Any medication is going to have side effects. The most frequent reason people stop taking psychotropic medications, other than cost, is because of their side effects.

If your church member is not careful, he will merely want to feel better than he does “now.” Initially “now” will be how he feels without medication. Later “now” will be how he feels with medication’s side effects. In order to avoid this unending cycle, there needs to be a baseline of how he feels when he lives optimally off of medication.

One of the reasons postulated for why placebos often have as beneficial an effect as psychotropic medication is the absence of side effects. Those who take a placebo get all the benefits of hope (doing something they expect to improve their life) without any unpleasant side effects. Getting the baseline measurement of how life goes when one simply practices “good mental hygiene” is an important way to account for this effect.

“As I practice medicine these days, my first question when a patient comes with a new problem is not what new disease he has. Now I wonder what side effects he is having and which drug is causing it,” says Charles D. Hodges, MD, in his book Good Mood Bad Mood.

There is another often overlooked benefit of step 3. Frequently people get serious about living more healthily at the same time life has gotten hard enough to begin taking medication. This introduces two interventions (medication and new life practices), maybe three or four (often people also begin counseling or being more open with friends who offer care and support), at the same time. It becomes very difficult to discern which intervention accounts for their improvements.

Writing out his answers to the following questions will help your church member discern if he needs to move on to step 4 and make the needed assessment in step 5.

  • What were the struggles that initially made me think I might benefit from medication?
  • How intense were these struggles, and how did they manifest themselves?
  • What changes did I make in my lifestyle and relationships to alleviate these struggles?
  • How effective was I at being able to make the needed changes?
  • How much relief did the lifestyle and relational changes provide for my struggles?
  • How do I anticipate medication would assist me in being more effective at these changes?

Step 4: Begin a medication trial

If your church member’s struggles persist to a degree that is impairing his day-to-day functioning, then you should encourage him to seek out a psychiatrist or other physician for advisement about medical options. In this conversation, he should consider asking the physician the following questions:

  • What are the different medication options available for the struggle I’m facing?
  • What does each medication do that impacts this struggle?
  • What are the most common side effects for each medication?
  • How long does it take this medication before it is in full effect?
  • If I choose to come off this medication, what is the process for doing so?
  • What have been the most common affirmations and complaints of other patients on this medication?

These questions should help him work with his doctor to determine which medication would be best for him. Remind your church member that he has a voice in this process and should seek to be an informed consumer with his medical treatment, in the same way he would for any other product or service.

In this consultation your church member will also want to decide upon the initial period of time to remain on the medication (unless he experiences a significant side effect from it). In determining this length of time, he would want to consider:

  • His physician or psychiatrist will make recommendations based upon additional factors (beyond the scope of this article)
  • Staying on the medication a minimum of at least twice the length of time it takes to reach its full effect
  • Significant life stressors that would predictably arise during this trial period (e.g., planning a wedding)
  • How long it would take to make and solidify changes that were difficult to make without medication (see step 3)

Once this set period of time is determined, your church member’s goal is to continue implementing the changes he began in step 3 while monitoring (a) the level of progress in his area of struggle and (b) any side effects from the medication.

Step 5: Assess level of progress against medication side effects

Near the end of the trial period, your church member should return to the life assessment questions he answered at the end of step 3. He should compare his ability to enjoy and engage life at this point with his answers then. The questions to ask are:

  • What benefits have I seen while on medication?
  • What side effects have I experienced?
  • Is there reason to believe my continued improvement is contingent upon my continued use of medication?
  • Are the side effects of medication worth the benefit it provides?

The more specific he was in his answers at the end of step 3, the easier it will be for him to evaluate his experience at the end of step 5. At this point, encourage him to try to be neither pro-medication nor anti-medication. His goal is to live as full and enjoyable a life as possible. It is neither better nor worse if medication is part of that optimal life.

Step 6: Determine whether to remain on medication

At this point in the process there are several options available to the individual; this is more than a yes/no decision. But any option should be decided in consultation with the prescribing physician or psychiatrist. Your church member can decide to:

  • Remain on medication because the effects are beneficial and the side effects are minimal or worth it.
  • Opt to stage off the medication because the benefits were minimal or the side effects were worse than the benefits.
  • Stage off the medication to see if the progress he made can be maintained without medication, knowing that if not, he is free to resume the medication without any sense of failure.
  • Opt to try a different medication for another set period of time based on what he learned from the initial experience.

Regardless of what he chooses, by following this process he can have the assurance that he is making an informed decision about what is the best choice for him.

40 REASONS YOU SHOULD QUIT WATCHING PORN TODAY

SOURCE:  Fight The New Drug

With the shockingly quick and easy access to an unlimited, ever-increasing supply of porn these days, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both science and personal accounts are coming out by the day, exposing the negative impact porn has on peoples’ lives. If you’ve come across these types of articles here and there but still haven’t found the motivation you need to kick your porn habit, we’ve got 40 good reasons for you.

1. Have Better Sex

Perhaps the biggest lie porn sells is that its fantasy world is filled with sex positivity: sexual education, more sex, better sex, etc. What it doesn’t mention, however, is that the deeper a user dives into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Porn is complicated, the science is simple: the more pornography a person views, the harder it becomes for them to be aroused by a real person or a real relationship. Ditch the shallow counterfeits and put the “sex” back in sexy!

2. It’s like a drug!

On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but more and more studies are coming out showing that viewing pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals as drugs. Much like a drug, when these pleasure chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin pulse through the brain, they help to create new brain pathways that essentially lead the user back to the behavior that triggered the chemical release in the first place, mimicking a drug addiction. Porn is a drug injected through the eyes, and although quitting can feel just as daunting and impossible as quitting a substance, the support out there is making it more possible than ever and the reward will feel just as liberating!

3.  Habits and Addiction Can Escalate

Because of its addictive nature, in order to retain the same level of interest and excitement, an individual usually needs an ever increasing dosage of porn and constantly evolving material. Over time, their appetite pushes them to more hardcore versions just to achieve the same level of arousal. The unshackling feeling that comes from breaking free from addiction before it escalates will empower you to live your life to it’s fullest potential!

4. Improve Behavior 

Sooner or later, users start to find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or that go against what they think deep down is right. Once they start regularly watching extreme and dangerous sex acts, these porn users are being taught that those behaviors are more normal and common than they actually are. There’s an obvious destructive behavior pattern caused by porn that compromises beliefs, changes ideas and turns relationships sour when pressure is placed on a partner to perform or live up to the standards set by porn. Reversing destructive behavior will happen soon after deciding to cut this hazardous influence from your life.

5. Form Deeper Connections 

The porn industry objectifies people and commoditizes the act of sex. There’s nothing romantic or realistic about porn sex, and it seriously puts a disconnect between the viewer and reality. This makes it hard for them to have an intimate connection with a real person. You’ll only feel complete when you disconnect with porn and connect with real person!

6. Appreciate Your Body

The makeup, surgery, Photoshop and acting that goes into porn gives us an unrealistic view of the human body and sexuality. We start to subconsciously compare ourselves to what we’re seeing, causing overthinking and low self-esteem when it comes time to being intimate. Kicking your porn habit will restore a healthy body image and reinstate the sense confidence that you deserve.

7. Appreciate Those You’re Attracted To

In addition to affecting the way we see ourselves, porn causes us to under-appreciate the opposite sex by training us to see them as sexual objects and not as humans with beautiful and unique features. It’s likely due to the fact that porn promotes a completely fictional version of how people look and behave, and creates a false exciting reality that their partners can never live up to. One of the first positive effects that people report soon after quitting porn is the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of the opposite sex without constantly undressing them in their mind.

8. Prevent Sexual Dysfunction (ED)

This one is for the guys out there. The fact is porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex. For a surprising amount of viewers, porn eventually means no sex at all. Regular viewing of porn has been found to affect the brain in such a way that it hinders sexual performance when they get with an actual human being. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a real thing in men, a side effect of watching porn that they probably never see coming until it’s too late. The only cure is to quit porn and let their brain “rewire” and return to normal.

9. Stop Supporting Sex Trafficking 

The facts are there: clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex trafficking. There are a countless victims of human sex trafficking that are forced to have sex on camera. Even in the “legitimate” adult industry, porn stars are frequently victims of violence and drug abuse. There’s no just no way to know the dark origins behind what we’re watching. By refusing to click, you’re refusing to contribute to the demand for sexual exploitation.

10. Porn Promotes Violence Against Women

From making actors participate in unsafe sex to the countless real stories of actresses speaking out about the rape, violence and drugs behind the camera, there is certainly a dark reality to this industry. Porn tries to normalize this exploitation but we’re not buying it. To watch porn is to support a questionable industry that abuses it’s actors in addition to harming those who watch it. Not cool.

11. Porn Can Lead To Violent Behavior

It’s true that not all porn is the same, but the reality is that the majority of even the most mainstream porn is packed full of women being physically and verbally abused—and watching it takes a serious toll on the viewer. Even the non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive sex objects. But unlike violence in movies where someone gets mad and fights back, research has shown that 95% of the victims of aggression in porn scenes reacted neutral or responded with pleasure. This confuses frequent viewers to believe violence is sexy, and can lead them to hurting women in real life during sex. Unlearning this violent behavior will undoubtedly benefit you, your partner and your sex life.

12. Increase Your Creativity

We believe that in order to be truly creative, you have to connect with deepest most honest parts of yourself. Porn clogs up your imagination with cheap content that disconnects you from feeling real passion and motivation. Once you let explicit images stop distracting you from inspiration, you’ll feel more imaginative than ever! (Read: Why Your Porn Habit Might Be Killing Your Creativity.)

13. Live A More Honest Life

Not every porn viewer lies about their addiction, but most feel ashamed and obligated to hide it. Whether they admit it or not, they know that their partner wouldn’t like the idea of them sexually bonding to a computer screen. When you live a lie for long enough, you start to convince yourself of it as well and the more lies you tell, the harder it becomes to tell the truth about anything. Bring your dirty little secret out into the light and we guarantee you’ll feel more free than ever before.

14. Free Up Some Time

You’ve probably realized by now that porn takes up a lot of your time! Porn viewers spend anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours daily consuming these harmful images. Anyone who frequently watches porn knows that as the years have gone on, they watch harder material for longer periods of time. Think of it this way: if you spent just 10 minutes a day watching porn, that’s over 60 hours at the end of the year you could have spent doing something beneficial to your life! Time is precious; spend it on making memories that last, not on images that disappear with a click.

15. Find Someone Special

In porn, everything from the way people look to how and why they have sex is a lie. Porn viewers often get so obsessed with chasing something that isn’t real that they miss out on actual relationships. Research has even shown that less men are getting married because they feel porn takes care of all their sexual needs. Ditch the lies and go find the the love of your life! They’re waiting for you!

16. Be A Better Partner

Porn doesn’t just affect you, it affects your partner as well. While a great deal of information exists for those suffering from addiction, partners are often left feeling alone with equally real wounds of their own. Partners of porn viewers commonly feel betrayed and neglected when their significant other chooses to share their sexuality with a screen instead of them. When you cut porn from being the third party, you’ll find it easier to build a healthier relationship emotionally and sexually.

17. Become A Better Parent 

The harmful effects of porn don’t always revolve around romantic partners like boyfriends/girlfriends or husbands/wives. There are countless stories, like this one, that show how porn can isolate, consume, and eventually even destroy families. Additionally, children and teens these days  are exposed to hardcore porn at a young age, and many receive their sex-ed from porn which depicts unrealistic portrayals of human sexuality, leading to lifelong issues in the bedroom. Promote healthy displays of affection in your home and promote a porn-free life for your future family.

18. Become A Better Friend

Your porn habit can isolate you from valuable social time with friends and the shame that comes with watching porn can cause you to be distant at social gatherings. When you no longer allow yourself to be a prisoner to this habit, you no longer have to worry about the chains that come with it.

19. Maintain Mental/Emotional Health

Being tied to a consistent porn habit requires you to spend a lot of time alone and can quickly make you uninterested in the every day pleasures of life such as having conversations with real people and being active. Research has shown that frequent porn viewing is connected to mental/emotional health issues such as anxiety and depression. There is a strong victory over these challenges that comes with quitting porn that can be truly liberating.

20. Take Back Control

One in five people who regularly watch porn admit to feeling controlled by their own sexual desires. As a result, many viewers start feeling like something’s wrong with them because they don’t know how to be turned on by a real person. This only leads to watching more porn because it’s the only escape that works. Quitting porn allows you to take back control of your sexual desires and connect with a real person.

21. Don’t Believe the Fantasy

With the exaggerated bodies and rehearsed scenes in porn, viewers can quickly lose perspective on their own natural desires, as well as their partner’s. Unplugging from porn will help you become more in tune with what you and your partner want instead of influencing you to reenact what you’ve seen in porn. Be the author of your own sexuality, not an imitation of something that isn’t even real.

22. Increase Sexual Energy

If you’re watching porn, you’re probably also doing something else that’s giving you a sexual release. Many people deep in their porn habit do this multiple times a day. If you’re too busy venting your sex drive this way, you’re not going to have much interest in real sexual intimacy with a partner. You may have already experienced a lack of drive or the inability to perform with your partner. By quitting porn, you’ll reclaim that natural energy.

23. Increase Overall Energy 

It’s obvious that porn consumes your time and your sexual attention, but do you think about how that doesn’t leave you with energy for much else? A demanding porn habit will definitely drain your body of the mental and physical energy it needs to keep up with the daily hustle of life. By turning off the monitor, you can focus on being productive and making a difference in your life and others.

24. Regain Focus 

People often watch porn as an escape when they become overwhelmed by the daily decisions of life. Quitting porn allows you to assume responsibility and become accountable for your own goals. By getting this distraction out of your life, you can start to focus on the things that really matter to you.

25. Reclaim Self-Confidence

A belief in yourself is a huge casualty of consistent porn viewing. People who feel they are addicted who porn believe they are broken human beings with a damaged capacity to love and feel joy. These negative feelings come from your own negative feelings about porn mixed with your inability to quit, or from any of the negative side effects that go with repeatedly watching porn. By kicking the habit, you begin to be happy, which will fuel your confidence in all aspects of your life.

26. Protect Your Marriage

Addiction to pornography is cited as a major reason couples divorce annually around the world. Whether you are currently married or one day hope to be, it’s a sure bet that porn is a poisonous ingredient in a marriage. When porn is preferred to a healthy sexual relationship with a spouse, the outcome is often a broken home. With a risk as serious as this, it makes sense to remove porn from your life all together and avoid a bunch of issues in marriage.

27. Save Your Money

Porn is a global, $97 billion industry, with $12 billion of that coming from the United States. How much have you spent on it? Even if the answer is nothing, think about it this way: your time spent watching porn could have been spent on either A) making money or B) performing better at work where you could now be making more money. Time is money after all, and by focusing your time on porn you’re being very unproductive to say the least.

28. Maintain Your Natural Sexuality

Porn removes the concept of intimacy from sex. It teaches that sex is about taking selfish pleasure rather than giving love. When you fill your mind with the explicit material porn offers, it takes away the excitement of intimacy and even distorts your sexuality. By kicking the habit, your brain can return to normal and reset your arousal patterns to normal.

29. Protect Your Passions

The more you watch porn, the less you desire the things that previously got you excited. Hanging out with friends, playing sports, making music, etc., all these things lack the “shock factor” that porn gives the brain. Soon, you start to lose interest in anything that doesn’t bring the ultra-arousal of pornography. But not to worry, the sooner you cut out porn, the sooner you can restore a healthy and fulfilling approach to the things you care about most.

30. Prevent Sexual Compulsion/Addiction

Addiction is never a good thing, regardless of what it is. Porn can create a constant need for sex/sexual material that needs to be fueled, but is never truly satisfied. This cycle can quickly grow into an obsession for the viewer, which inhibits their ability to function like a normal person in the company of people, especially the opposite sex, and can also lead to serious harmful behaviors like soliciting prostitutes to act out what they’ve seen in porn. Not making porn a part of your life is a sure way to not step foot down a potentially life changing road.

31. Don’t Bond To A Screen

Oxytocin is commonly called the love hormone or the “bonding chemical” because it plays an important part in intimacy by connecting two people. Because the chemical is naturally released during sex, watching porn triggers the release of oxytocin as well, tricking your brain and essentially bonding you to the computer screen. Keep love real, and don’t take fake.

32. Prevent Anxiety

As talked about earlier, porn can be the onset of a number of different anxiety problems. When viewers feel like they have to be watching porn or can’t stop thinking about it, it creates serious anxiety. Not to mention, this anxiety can transfer over to the bedroom and contribute to porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Anxiety can be extremely crippling and most people experience it to on some level from the daily stresses of life as it is. Why add to it?

33. Prevent Depression

We know that pornography and other addictions are used as self-medicating tools which only lead to feeling worse than before. The momentary escape only leads to feeling lower than before. Porn is a negative influence in your life, and an easy way to start feeling happier and more free is giving it the boot.

34. Live Without Shame

It’s pretty simple: no porn equals no shame. The secrecy surrounding your habit can have huge negative effects on your life and shame can quickly settle in. You may find yourself watching things you find disgusting, but can’t seem to stop. When this feeling starts to take its toll, it usually leads to medicating with more porn. You’re guaranteed to feel relief when you break the chains of this vicious cycle.

35. Increase Productivity

Think about what more motivation could mean for you. Do you want to be more ambitious and driven? Are you wanting to achieve your goals? A survey of a Reddit community called NoFap, which is committed to breaking free from porn, found that 67% of those who quit had an increase in energy levels as well as productivity. Put it to the test for yourself. What are you waiting for?!

36. Be Better At Your Job

Besides the obvious fact that porn is a waste of time, viewing it can also make the viewer depressed and anxious, and make them perform worse at their job. In fact, real stories of people being caught watching porn at work prove that more and more people are putting their jobs at risk by looking at porn during work hours. Don’t let this destructive material ruin the things that matter most for your daily life.

37. Prevent STD’s

Researchers have repeatedly found that people who have seen a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, and to engage in riskier kinds of sex, putting them at greater risk of getting sexually transmitted infections.

38. Be Proud of Yourself

By quitting porn, you’re taking a stand against a dangerous, exploitive industry and becoming an advocate for positive personal and social change. This is definitely something you can feel proud of. Change yourself, and change the world.

39. Better the World

Every single click made on a porn site is counted by the greedy companies that make that content. Clicking fuels the demand for more, feeding and growing a dark industry that harms society as a whole. For all of the harmful reasons mentioned above, stop contributing to something that ruins people’s lives and supports sexual exploitation. This negative influence doesn’t have to affect you, your peers or the countless people in the industry who are forced, coerced, and abused behind the camera. Take a stand and be the change you want to see in the world.

40. Love 

This is by far the most important reason to quit porn. Above all, porn can seriously come between you and your partner. It distorts the meaning of love and intimacy. The most common true stories we receive are from partners who lost the love of their life due to a struggle with porn that tore their relationship apart slowly but surely. We all want and need love. It’s the most important thing we can experience in life. If fighting for love isn’t the best reason to stay away from porn, we don’t know what is.

Porn kills love, but it doesn’t have to.

Choose love, not porn.

An Open Letter to Someone Having an Affair

SOURCE:  Adapted from articles by Brad Hambrick/Biblical Counseling Coalition

BCC Staff: In  blogs for [4/11/16 and 4/13/16], we have an opportunity to read an imaginary response to a person who is involved in adultery and yet struggles with what choices to make about both intimate relationships. With his usual sensitivity and tactic, Brad Hambrick gently challenges the adulterer to consider the realities of being stuck between a marital “rock” and adulterous “hard place.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Friend,

I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. I can only imagine that it is hard for you to believe that anyone can understand what you’re going through. You are making some of the hardest decisions of your life in the name of love, and no matter what you do, people you love are going to be hurt deeply. That would leave most people feeling both trapped and highly defensive.

To make matters worse, those who knew you and your spouse as mutual friends or have a Christian background overwhelmingly take the position that you should end your affair and pursue your marriage. They make it sound “easy” and “obvious,” which only supports your belief that no one understands.

Furthermore, it leaves you feeling very alone and feeling as if your adultery partner is the only one who can sympathetically understand. Who do you talk to in order to get unbiased advice? Is there unbiased advice? After all, you’re going to choose one path and radically alter the lives of many people you love dearly. That’s likely why you’ve tried to live in two worlds until now.

Let’s start with this reality: you are going to choose. You are going to choose to pursue a life with your spouse (and children, if you have them) or your adultery partner (with your children, if you have them, passing between homes). Unless you delay until your spouse and/or adultery partner abandons you, you will make a choice between these two options.

More than mere choosing, you are going to choose not knowing the outcome. You do not know if your current marriage will get better (I suppose you had grievances about how it was before). You do not know if your spouse will be able to forgive you or will be willing to work on restoring the marriage.

But, your potential future with your adultery partner is equally uncertain, although it likely doesn’t feel that way now. To this point the affair has been a fantasy. In reality, you know less about what this relationship will be like than you knew about what your current marriage would be like when you were dating and engaged. An affair is a relationship built on deceit and artificially fueled by the passion/allegiance of a shared secret and not having to bear the weight of day-to-day life. The story line of “forbidden love” evaporates as soon as there are “shared responsibilities” and no “them” to keep “us” apart.

This begins to get at why you haven’t already chosen. If you are like most people in your situation, you are looking for the route by which no one gets hurt, or for those who get hurt, to get hurt the least. This is another fantasy. Sex forms a bond (I Cor. 6:16). When you sever either relationship, there will be pain. One or both relationships will die, and your choices will be the largest deciding factor in which one. This is not meant to be a guilt-statement, but a reality-statement to sober you to the situation you have created.

Please keep reading. I recognize these words are painful. But if they are true, which I doubt you can deny, they merit your attention. This is not a choice you want to make by accident. It is too important to too many people you care about to allow that to happen. If you love anyone in this scenario besides yourself, you will quit stringing everyone along.

You’ve probably come to this point many times in your own internal dialogue since your affair began. The dead end has likely been, “But what do I do? There doesn’t seem to be any good options.” Then life goes on, so you continued living a double life.

In this letter, I want to offer you a path forward. I do not pretend it will be easy. But, be honest; neither path is going to be easy, so that shouldn’t be a criterion.

  1. Choose. The longer you delay, the more angst you create for everyone and the more pain that will result when a choice is finally made. You do not honor or care for anyone well by delaying. It is the epitome of selfishness to make people you allegedly care about to wait. The fact that you’ve allowed things to go this long should cause you to humbly question how wise and loving your intentions have been about this affair.
  2. To honor God, choose your marriage. Your spouse is not the primary person you’ve offended with your unfaithfulness. To make this decision as if your happiness and pleasure is the primary concern reveals a decision-making process that will undermine either relationship. It is not hyper-spiritual to say that self-centeredness will destroy any relationship. It is common sense. I encourage you to reflect intently on Luke 9:23-24 as you consider this decision and the overall direction of your life. If you are a Christian, this is the life you chose. It is a good life with a faithful God, if you will return to him and trust him with your life and marriage.
  3. Be honest. Often, in a crisis, we believe a “step in the right direction” is a monumental step of faith. We want full credit for partial honesty. This is why too many marriages die the death of a thousand confessions. It’s not the infidelity that kills them, but the pattern of incremental-partial honesty. Don’t say “yes” to “Have you told me everything?” unless the answer is actually “yes.” More damaging than your infidelity is your post-infidelity dishonesty. You might ask, “How much detail is needed to be honest?” That is a fair question and here is guidance on the subject.
  4. End the affair definitively. The longer you vacillate, the more pain and turmoil you will create for everyone. There is nothing pleasant about this step. Rarely does it provide the emotional affirmation that often comes with making a right choice. But it is essential to restoring any emotional or relational sanity to your life. “Closure” in an adulterous relationship is a fiction that inevitably leads to relapse.
  5. Don’t do this alone. As your affair grew, you began to separate yourself from the people you previously considered to be trusted voices and examples of character. It is hard to be around people you respect when you are knowingly doing something dishonorable. Reconnect with these relationships. This will require a comparable level of honesty as you’ve given your spouse in point #3. But, unless you let these people in, then the only voice advocating for your walk with God, the restoration of your marriage, or providing you emotional support will be your hurt spouse.
  6. Have a process to guide you and your spouse in the recovery process. “What will we do after I open the Pandora’s Box of being honest about my affair?” Realize this box will be opened either voluntarily or involuntarily. This is the question that keeps many people in your situation silent. The False Love (for you) and True Betrayal (for your spouse) materials are meant to be complementing studies to guide couples in situations like yours. They can be studied with a pastor, trusted mentor couple, or counselor (see point #5).
  7. Don’t confuse marital restoration with marital enrichment. This is the most common mistake after a marital crisis and will result in comparing dating-phase-affair with recovery-phase-marriage. Doing the things you should have been doing all along (dating, listening, flowers, sex, etc…) will not resolve infidelity. Marriage restoration is taking a relationship that is broken and making it functional. That is the focus of the False Love and True Betrayal seminars. Marriage enrichment is taking a marriage that is functional and making it excellent. That is the focus of the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series; which would be a quality series to study when you complete the False Love and True Betrayal materials.

These steps may seem daunting, and they are challenging. But I believe they represent what it means to honor God in your situation. As you’ve wrestled with the question of, “What do I do now?” I believe you will come to see that they do represent God’s best for you and your family; as such, they are for your good and not just your moral obligation.

As you come to the end of this letter, I would ask you to do two things. First, sincerely pray. Don’t just reflect in your mind and see what feels best, but have a conversation with God about what he would have you do. Ask God, “What would honor You most in my situation?” Second, call a friend. Quit waiting and talk with someone who has the best interest of you and your marriage at heart. Isolation will result in continued procrastination. Don’t leave yourself the option of waiting.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I pray you will follow its counsel and walk in integrity and faith. Yes, the road ahead is hard, but any alternative road without the blessing and favor of God is harder.

Brad

 

Natural Recovery: Recovery From Addiction Without Treatment

SOURCE:  A. TOM HORVATH, PH.D., ABPP, KAUSHIK MISRA, PH.D., AMY K. EPNER, PH.D., AND GALEN MORGAN COOPER, PH.D.

The most common approach to recovery is natural recovery. Natural recovery is recovery that occurs without treatment or support groups (NIAAA, 2012). When people recognize the cost of their addiction exceeds the benefits, and correct this, they become the “heroes” of addiction recovery. We don’t hear about these folks too often. However, we can learn a great deal from them. Specifically, there four key ingredients in any successful recovery process. These are 1) humility, 2) motivation, 3) sustained effort and 4) the restoration of meaning and purpose. We will discuss each in more detail.

Four key ingredients to recovery from addiction

1. Humility

At the most basic level, recovery is about humility. Some people independently solve their addiction problem (natural recovery). Others ask for help. In both cases, it is a humbling experience to face the reality of addiction. This humility extends to treatment professionals as well. To quote the famous French surgeon, Ambroise Pare (c. 1510-1590), “I bandaged him and God healed him.” Treatment professionals can point the way. However, each person’s recovery is ultimately a personal triumph and victory.

Professional treatment for addiction is really the path of last resort. Think about it for a moment. At its most basic level, treatment involves asking for help. Ordinarily, we don’t ask for help until faced with the realization we need some! An analogy might make this more sensible. Suppose you want to drive your car to an unfamiliar location. Perhaps you never visited this destination before. Do you immediately drive to a gas station and ask for directions? Or, do you first attempt to navigate there on your own?

Until we realize we are lost, we do not consider pulling over and asking for directions. Of course, different people will arrive at this conclusion more quickly than others. Some people are fiercely independent. The notion of asking for help is akin to admitting defeat. Other people are more prone to pull over and ask for directions at the first hint of trouble. The same is true with recovery from addiction. By the time people come in for treatment, they have usually attempted to recover on their own. They’ve reached their own individual tolerance level for “being lost” and decided they could use some “navigational” help.

Treatment is a type of navigational help. Let’s continue with our previous example. When we pull over and ask for directions, we don’t expect someone to jump into our car and drive us to our destination! Sure, we’ve asked for help. Hopefully, we received some helpful directions. Nonetheless, we still have to drive ourselves to the desired location. This is true of addictions recovery. Ultimately, everyone must drive themselves down the road to recovery. Therefore, even with “navigational help,” recovery still involves natural recovery.

But wait, you say. Does natural recovery mean that people addicted to heroin or alcohol stopped on their own? Are there are more of these “natural recovery” folks than people who successfully complete addictions treatment? Yes and Yes. Heroin use is a classic example. Many Vietnam veterans were addicted to heroin when they returned home. Public health officials were quite concerned about this. What would happen to the government’s financial resources if all these heroin-using veterans sought treatment? What if they didn’t seek treatment? Would there be a devastating surge in heroin use? None of these outcomes occurred. Most heroin-using veterans simply quit on their own (Robins, 1973). How did they do it? The short answer is natural recovery. Of course, not all veterans fully recovered. Some developed other addictions when they gave up heroin. Others only partially gave up heroin. However, in general, natural recovery occurred for most.

Smoking is a more familiar example. If you have been around since the 1960s or 1970s, you own experience will confirm the following facts. Tens of millions of Americans have quit smoking. Very few of them sought treatment or attended a support group. How many rehabs are you aware of for quitting smoking? If quitting smoking were easy, these results would not surprise us. Most people recognize that quitting smoking is quite difficult. Yet almost everyone who quits smoking does this without specialized help or treatment. It may take a handful of serious attempts in order to finally succeed.

A similar result has been found for alcohol (NIAAA, 2012). Most individuals who stopped or reduced their alcohol use have done so on their own. Unless you are a student of addictions research, you might not know there are so many of these successful quitters and moderators. Indeed, it would be quite unusual to hear someone say, “I used to have a really bad drinking problem. You might have even called me an alcoholic. But you know, I just cleaned up my act on my own.  Now I don’t think about it much anymore.” It’s quite sensible that someone wouldn’t advertise these facts about themselves. Unfortunately, this silence means most people are unaware of the ways people recover from addiction without help. Researchers became aware of this because of large-scale, federally-funded surveys.

2. Motivation

A second crucial ingredient is motivation. During interviews with naturally recovering people, a common theme was found. The need to change finally became important enough. In other words, the benefits of change outweighed the costs of remaining addicted. This realization provided sufficient motivation to make needed changes. People who succeeded in natural recovery were able to accurately evaluate the costs and benefits of their addiction. Not all individuals appear to be able to do so. This is where treatment can be very helpful. Treatment can help people take an honest, hard look at their situation. This helps them to evaluate the costs and benefits more accurately. This will then provide the motivation to make needed changes. Motivation is so important that we’ve devoted an entire section to discuss it.

3. Sustained effort

The third key ingredient to successful recovery is sustained effort. Whether you recover on your own or with treatment, recovery requires a sustained effort. Sustained effort is needed to persevere through the initial periods of discomfort. This lesson is clear from smokers who quit. People who successfully quit smoking spend a substantial amount of time preparing to change. They experience varying degrees of discomfort getting through the transitional period from smoker to smoke-free. Many people who do not succeed in their first recovery effort under-estimated how much effort it would involve.

4. Restore meaning and purpose to life

Finally, it is necessary to restore meaning and purpose to your life. At some point, it will become evident that your world revolved around your addiction. To succeed in recovery, something else must fill that void. At the onset, build your recovery around things that give your life meaning and purpose. This might mean spending more time with your kids. It might mean enjoying the benefits of healthy recreation such as hiking or going to the gym. Perhaps you’d like to revive your social life. Maybe you would enjoy some meaningful volunteer work. You might like becoming more active in your church or to work for political cause. Maybe it just means feeling more rested and refreshed by getting to bed earlier every night. Whatever it is, begin to recognize and enjoy the benefits of your freedom from addiction.

We know these four ingredients are common ingredients of successful recovery. However, we also know there is no single, correct path to recovery. Expect to find your own road to recovery. Seek information and input. Then consider carefully what makes the most sense for you. Go ahead, try it. If it doesn’t work, try something different. A common expression is very fitting. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Realize that very few people are successful with just one attempt. Assume that there are many different roads to recovery just as there are many different people.

Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

SOURCE:  /Lifehack Magazine

I love to workout, but sometimes the aches and pains of advancing years make me want to throw in the towel and quit. But rolling over and playing dead is not my style. Recently, I started switching up my routine from P90x to Jillian Michaels. Her workout videos are no joke. I love what she says in one of her tapes: “Most people don’t show up in their own lives.”

If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the pants, I read another article by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt, she quoted her cycling instructor as saying, “Remember, ultimately you are in control of your workout! I can motivate you to push harder. I can try to keep you from giving up, but in the end, it’s all up to you.” Wow.

All this is so true and it speaks to the lack of ownership we take in so many areas of our lives. Sometimes we don’t show up because we’re tired, lack effective leadership skills, or we’re passive.

As a therapist, I see people giving up control over important areas of their lives all the time. Passivity can originate from fears of facing conflict, how we’re genetically wired, fears of less than favorable outcomes when we act assertively, and a whole host of other things.

For example, I work with a lot of clients who struggle with eating disorders. These folks can lose their identity in the battle with food when it’s not even about the food! It’s about controlling something in their lives when everything else seems unmanageable. They really want to take charge of something, but they aren’t taking the authority where it counts. Often times they are afraid of sitting with difficult feelings or managing difficult situations — so they hide.

Then there are those folks, myself included, who struggle with anxiety issues. We give anxiety the power to control our emotions. Others give husbands, bosses, or friends the power to decide because they feel worn out or defeated by the relationship. We all struggle in different ways, but the lack of owning up to personal responsibility, the fear of showing up in your own life, and the consequences all this brings in each of our lives can be summed up in two words: conflict and frustration.

If you are sick of not being authentic and want to take control of life by facing your fears, the following suggestions can help get you going.

How to Start Showing Up

The first step is to decide how you want your life to look? Then look at what’s holding you back. What are your fears? What obstacles do you believe you’re facing? Showing up in your own life doesn’t mean you have it all together, it just means you’re willing to set goals, plan, face obstacles head on, be assertive, and get honest with yourself and others. Failure is OK. So many notable and famous people have failed. The key is to learn and grow through your mistakes.

Face your Fears

Being scared doesn’t have to mean you lack courage; it’s going ahead and facing the giants anyway. Courage means you step out and take a risk. Behind all our fears are beliefs, ways we have interpreted and given the events of life meaning. For my ED clients, they don’t starve, over exercise, or binge and purge because they like it, they do it because they hold beliefs that having a thin or in shape body will give them the acceptance, adequacy and value/worth they crave. Dig deep and look at your insecurities. Decide what beliefs are driving your fears.

Small Steps

The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. You will become overwhelmed. Instead, decide what’s timely, what’s attainable, and what’s realistic. Ask yourself the following questions:

What is the state of my readiness for change in any particular area?

How badly do I want what I say I want?

How hard am I willing to work?

What incentive do I have for pursuing change?

How do I get what I want or need?

First Steps toward Change

Now that you know what you want, what do you need to do? Explore strategies for getting where you want to go. Ask yourself what actions will get you where you want to go. Where can you start? What do you need to do right away and what can you do later? Then list strategies to action by examining what strategies will actually be most helpful and best for your situation.

Craft a Plan

A plan gives you a road map. Plans are crafted to drive you to action. They keep us from being overwhelmed and help us find useful ways to get our goals accomplished. Ask yourself what actions will get you to the desired goal? Also consider how you can plan for obstacles and be flexible if plans have to change or be modified.

These strategies will help you change your life if you are intentional about putting them into practice. Don’t wait. Start now and take ownership of your life. You’ll feel empowered by stepping out and risking change. Remember, it’s all up to you!

Sensual Temptation: RUN!

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll/Insight for Living

Run for Your Life!

The appeal of sensual lust works like a magnet, drawing two “sudden and fierce” forces toward each other—inner desire and an outer bait.

Let’s face it, you can’t escape the bait if you live in the real world. In fact, even if you somehow manage to shut yourself away from the real world, your mind will not let you escape the outer bait. But keep in mind that there is no sin in the bait. The sin is in the bite. When the lust of another tempts you to give in to your own lust, so much so that your resistance weakens, you have been enticed. You have given in to the lure of temptation. The secret of victory is modeled beautifully by Joseph. He refused to weaken. He continued to resist.

Potiphar’s wife dropped the bait day after day after day. And each time Joseph refused to take it. “No, no, no!” he replied. Not only did he not listen to her, it got to where he did not even want to be near her. She was not safe to be around.

Joseph had rebuffed her time and time again, refusing to yield to her advances. Finally, she set a trap for him.

Joseph had come into the house to do his work one day. He noticed the house was quiet. There were no servants nearby. She was alone with Joseph in the house, and she again made her move. Only this time she would not take no for an answer. She went beyond verbal advances and physically grabbed hold of Joseph. She held on so tightly that when he jerked away from her and dashed out into the street, he left his outer robe in her hands.

What a clear image! What a practical spotlight on truth from Joseph’s life. What strong biblical counsel.

Whenever the New Testament lingers on the subject of sensual temptation, it gives us one command: RUN!

It does not tell us to reason with it. It does not tell us to think about it and claim verses. It tells us to FLEE!

I have discovered you cannot yield to sensuality if you’re running away from it. So? Run for your life! Get out of there! If you try to reason with lust or play around with sensual thoughts, you will finally yield. You can’t fight it.

That’s why the Spirit of God forcefully commands, “Run!”

 

6 Awful Relationship Habits and How to Break Them

SOURCE:  Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D/Psychology Today

Habits can be hard to break, especially when they’ve developed over the course of a long-term relationship. You know when your relationship is suffering from the effects of bad habits when you feel like something is off, or missing, in your time with your partner. You can’t quite put your finger on it, and there may be no one really to blame, but you know that things have changed.

A bad relationship habit is one that continues to occur even though it causes you or your partner distress. It may develop independent of the personalities, beliefs, or values of each individual, or it may reflect good intentions gone wrong in the way you two interact. You want to be positive, you want to be loving, but you can’t quite seem to pull it off. When alone, you build up your resolve to change, but when you’re back with your partner, that resolve melts and you’re back where you started.

Not all relationship habits are bad. The good ones allow you and your partner to function more effectively as a twosome or as part of a larger family or group. Just as your personal habits allow you to get out of bed and start your day with a minimum of mental effort, these habits being stability and predictability to your life. Knowing that your partner hates purple, for example, means that you don’t have to stop and ponder whether to buy a purple shirt you see on sale. And knowing your partner’s habits is itself a good relationship habit. It signifies that you have a pretty good understanding of your partner, even if you don’t agree with all those preferences. (And sometimes you may wish to change those habits if they’re detracting from your partner’s well-being, but that’s a different story.)

Bad relationship habits, by contrast, work against your relationship—and if they’re bad enough, they can destroy it. Here are six to watch out for, along with suggestions for counteracting each one:

1. Wait for your partner to initiate shows of affection.

The tendency to believe that you need to be approached first by your partner in displays of affection is more prevalent in women, as shown by research on who is more likely to initiate a relationship. If you hold to this belief, though, it will lead you to the habit of always waiting to be approached by your partner even after your relationship is well-established. Not only can this habit keep you from fulfilling your own needs (whether in a new or long-term relationship) but it can send the wrong signals to your partner that you’re “just not that into” him or her.

To counteract this bad habit, do what researchers do to prompt subjects to feel more in control of their destinies: Recall times when you were in control and the outcome was positive. This doesn’t have to involve relationships; it can be any time that you took action and the result benefited you. This can be enough to prompt you to feel that it’s OK to exercise control in your relationship as well. The results will probably surprise you in that your partner may very well be delighted that you’re willing to start the romantic ball rolling.

2. Argue about the same things all the time.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in arguments, especially ones that keep repeating. You might be able to predict, with depressing accuracy, the result of a disagreement with your partner over one or another weekly chore or duty. Before you slide into the routine set of complaints about having to clean the bathroom yet again, try to find a time when you can both talk calmly about the recurring problem and come up with a plan to end it. As is true for changing your own bad habits (such as giving into a daily craving for a donut), you can set up a schedule of small change comparable to going for one day, then two days, etc. without the donut. If you both decide this is fair, it will eventually produce a desired outcome of making those arguments go away.

Of course, if your partner uses the occasion to bring up a habit of yours that’s been a source of contention, be ready to make similar changes in return. Increasing your sense of personal control has the added benefit of making it easier for you to change your own bad habits. A review of six studies involving nearly 2,300 people (Galla & Duckworth, 2015) showed that people who feel a greater sense of self-control have a variety of beneficial life outcomes, including being able to overcome bad habits.

3. Take your partner for granted.

This is a very easy habit to slide into if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time. In a way, taking your partner for granted is a good sign because it shows that you and your partner feel you can rely on each other. It’s nice to know, in a way, that your partner will be able to tolerate your occasional bursts of anger or irritation, and that you can dress however you feel like around the house when no one else is there. It’s also comforting to feel that your partner will help you when you get into a jam. On the other hand, taking someone for granted also includes maybe not saying “thank you” as much as you should because you’ve come to expect favorable treatment. Take the time to recognize what your partner contributes to your life and let him or her know how much it means to you.

4. Be too serious.

You may find that you laugh with friends or colleagues outside the home more than you do when you’re with your partner. The preoccupation of having a home and family can lead people to forget that sometimes things happen that are just plain funny. You might see a Facebook post or text that makes you laugh, but when you’re in the middle of your habitual routine, you may feel that you don’t have the time to spare to take a break. However, research shows that having a laugh together may be just the boost your relationship needs. If all else fails, go to a romantic comedy together just to be able to share some silly time.

5. Not have a meal together.

The fast pace of life, particularly when we have to balance home and work roles, can lead couples to get into the habit of catching their meals on the go. Daily schedules being what they are, you and your partner may just barely see each other as you pass in the hallway. If you’re not living with your partner, it may seem impossible to schedule a time to go out or cook a meal together. Yet, having that meal together may remedy some of the other bad habits, such as taking each other for granted or being too serious. To break this habit, commit to at least one shared meal per week, or on whatever regular basis you can arrange. During that meal, get rid of your phone, play some relaxing music, and enjoy each other’s company. If your partner has cooked the meal, be sure to say “thank you,” and express that you liked it.

6. Spend too much time plugged into your devices.

MIT Professor Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation (link is external) argues that we’re losing the ability to talk to each other in a face-to-face setting. Being on your devices while you’re apart may be a way of maintaining connection through texts and status updates, but when you’re with your partner, the devices offer nothing but distraction. That you can’t get through a meal without having your phone next to you may be a symptom of a larger problem in your relationship and if that’s the case, the other suggestions above (laughing together, avoiding repeat arguments, showing affection) can be vital ways to turn things around.

Reference

Galla, B. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). More than resisting temptation: Beneficial habits mediate the relationship between self-control and positive life outcomes. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 109(3), 508-525. doi:10.1037/pspp0000026

Take Action Against Adultery

SOURCE:  Josh Squires/Desiring God

Three Steps to Avoiding It

I love premarital counseling. It’s a nice respite from what is so often crisis response. Instead, I get to see two incredibly happy people excited for the day when they shall become one flesh. My job in these sessions is to listen, laugh, and challenge.

I typically do three sessions. The first two are certainly a joy, but the last one, if I’m honest, is my favorite.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but I want couples to have a little bit more realistic picture of what life will be like after the cake has been cut and toasts have been given. To this end, I have at least one private meeting with each person where I ask this question, “What are you going to do the first time you begin to feel about someone else the way you feel now about your significant other?”

A Ring Won’t Restrain Sin

It’s a nasty question, I admit, and one that most couples don’t see coming. The very idea that they could begin to have amorous feelings toward someone other than their betrothed — at any point in their lives — seems like an assault on their love and their moral fiber. But don’t be deceived. Putting a ring on your finger does nothing to restrain the rebellion that is in your heart. According to The Truth About Cheating by M. Gary Neuman, nearly seventy percent of men who had an affair thought that they would never do such a thing.

Further, those who affirmed the statement, “I would never cheat on my spouse,” were at an exponentially greater risk of actually having an affair later in life. Satan would love for you to believe that you are invulnerable to some category of sin because then you will stop protecting your soul from its terrible effects. As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Or as Robert Murray McCheyne once wrote, “The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.”

Warning Signs

Once the indignity of the question has begun to dissipate, we can move on to the second step: Have a plan. People rarely (only six percent, according to Neuman) just “fall into bed together.” The vast majority of time when an affair is consummated, it is done with someone that they’ve known at least a month and with whom they have had multiple interactions. That means that there is time to notice the warning signs. And time to do something about them well in advance of something egregious. Some of those signs may include,

  • you really look forward to seeing this person
  • you are willing to go out of your way to make sure that you have regular interactions with them
  • you rearrange your calendar to find ways to sneak more time in with that person (like early morning meetings, long lunches, late evenings, and more)
  • you are growing increasingly critical of your spouse, especially as compared to that other someone special
  • you are looking for reasons to be out of the presence of your spouse
  • your recreational life becomes more and more exclusive of your spouse
  • your desire to be intimate, physically or emotionally, with your spouse is dwindling.

What happens if you notice some of these warning signs in your life? Here are three steps, among others.

1. Cut the relationship off.

If you can cut them out of your life completely, do it. But sometimes because of work, church, or family, that is difficult or impossible. At that point, you need to cut them off from anything resembling emotional intimacy.

Emotional intimacy is the lifeblood of an affair. Sometimes people disclose their feelings for one another hoping that it will help keep them from acting, but all it really does is provide gasoline for a budding romantic flame. You want to starve, not feed, that fire.

2. Get help.

Find someone who will encourage Christian growth in your covenant relationship. One of the worst things that can happen is to find a friend who is actually sympathetic to any wandering tendencies. More than three-quarters of men that had an affair had a friend who did the same. As Proverbs 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Or as Paul states it more bluntly, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

It’s best if this friend or even mentor can be found in advance. I often encourage my premarital participants to identify in advance who the person is that they could call in the middle of the night and confess, “I think my heart is beginning to wander.” More importantly, let that person know who they are, and allow them to check in with you about this issue from time to time.

3. Renew your commitment to a happy marriage.

Contrary to what movies and songs often lead us to believe, only around ten percent of those that cheated did so with someone they considered “more attractive” than their spouse. Men and women who have an affair often do so because of emotional needs rather than physical ones. For men, it is usually the need to feel appreciated, respected, and valued that leads to an affair; whereas for women, it’s the drive to feel heard, loved, and cherished.

When you perceive a lack of these in your own marriage, be willing to pray together, go to counseling, read books, attend workshops and seminars and conferences —whatever it takes in order to rekindle your own passion in your marriage.

Most importantly, be willing to own your own mistakes, and try to display something of the love of God to the one whom you made that promise in the first place. As Ligon Duncan says, “People don’t just fall out of love; they fall out of repentance and forgiveness.”

In the midst of all the prep for that special day, it’s never too early to plan for the day when it could all hang in the balance. Recognize your own propensity to sin, have a plan to deal with it the moment it rears its ugly head, and stand strong in your commitment to rejoice in the wife (spouse) of your youth (Proverbs 5:18).

Do You Want To Change Your Habits?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ken Sande

A five year-old child was sitting alone in a room with a marshmallow placed a few inches in front of her. She was told that she could eat it immediately, but if she waited just fifteen minutes, she would be rewarded with an additional marshmallow.

Six hundred other children were invited onto the campus of Stanford University in the early 1970’s to take the same test, which became known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (delightfully illustrated in the following video).

Only one out of three children were successful in waiting the full fifteen minutes to earn the second marshmallow. In followup studies of both groups of children, researchers found that the ability to defer gratification correlated to a wide range of positive life outcomes, including:

  • Better social competence (emotional and impulse control)
  • Higher cognitive skills (as measured by SAT scores)
  • Better ability to cope with frustration and stress, and
  • Healthier lifestyles (as measured by body mass index).

These results should not surprise anyone who reads the Bible. Scripture repeatedly commends the ability to control our impulses, to resist temptation, and to cultivate self-control (see Prov. 16:32; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 9:25-27; Gal. 5:22-24; James 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-6), which are key elements of two of the core disciplines of relational wisdom: self-awareness and self-engagement.

The development of these character qualities is heavily dependent on our God-given ability to change our habits (see, Eph. 4:20-24).

[If] you learn to apply these insights to one simple habit (which we call a “keystone habit”), it can start a cascade of changes in other areas of your life, whether it’s the ability to resist a marshmallow and improve your health … or to control your emotions and improve your relationships.

3 Excuses We Use When We Mess Up

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Adam Highfill

Most of us get shy and shameful when we hear the word “self-control,” mainly because most of us aren’t good at it. Self-control is discipline’s ugly big brother that is almost impossible to get right, and nearly as difficult to talk about. Every since I was eight years old, the very term has made me fidget in my chair. It’s uncomfortable for me because I’m bad at eating healthy and I really like buying shoes.

On a deeper level, there are other things I want to abstain from in my mind and my spirit, but my human greed wants them so bad it hurts. That is where it gets tricky. It a challenge, but if we can watch out for the right things, we can all get better at self-control. Maybe if we can manage to stand up to ourselves in the same way we stand up for ourselves, it would change the trajectory of our thought processes. Of course, there’s grace when we mess up (because we will mess up, and often). But learning to recognize and guard against the big enemies of self-control can help free us from bad habits—and the guilt that often comes with them.

In the face of a generation that says spontaneity only involves “doing what you feel” and chalks most poor decisions up to #YOLO, self-control introduces a different perspective.

Here are a few enemies of self-control to be aware of in moments of weakness.

1. “I Just Feel Like It!”

The idea of risk reversal was created long ago to help ease a buyer’s mind in the buying process. This is where all the “love it, or your money back, guaranteed” stuff comes from.

Unfortunately, however, life can’t be undone and exchanged for store credit. Mistakes that don’t wear price tags can cost you much more than you bargained for. Ephesians 5:15-16 warns us about these kinds of decisions. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says, “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.” Being a proactive and wise person requires the ability to recognize your own impulsiveness, pause before you make a snap decision, and ask, “How does this fit into the value lane I’ve created for myself?”

Ahhh mannn! That’s boring, right?

The truth is, this doesn’t have to be restricting. In the face of a generation that says spontaneity only involves “doing what you feel” and chalks most poor decisions up to #YOLO, self-control introduces a different perspective. Choosing a few areas in your life as non-negotiables can actually provide incredible freedom and clarity, and help you define what you want your life to look like in 10-20-30 years.

If you hold onto those values with everything you have, you can be free to live incredibly spontaneous and whimsical in all the other areas of your life, without fear of flying off the tracks.

2. “Just This Once”

Another large threat against self-control is the whisper that says “It’ll be OK just this time.”

Clay Christensen, a Harvard business professor and world-renowned innovation expert, addresses this brilliantly in his book How Will You Measure Your Life. He says,

Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.” In our minds, we can justify these small choices. If you give in to “just this once,”… you’ll regret where you end up.

It’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. The boundary—your personal moral line—is powerful because you don’t cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there’s nothing to stop you doing it again.

Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.

The ability to delay gratification—and choose sustainable happiness over short-term pleasure—has been proven to be a core quality of successful, happy people.

It is easy to slip into bad habits and temperaments when you accept a “just this once” mentality. But this causes us to live in fear of the unknown, wondering if we’ll have what it takes to make the right choice tomorrow or next week.

But self-control says, “I will stand up to myself, and conduct myself against the same code whether the moment is chaotic or calm, complicated or clear.”

3. “It’ll Make Me Happy!”

Where the Fruit of the Spirit live in Galatians 5, the word self-control in the original language is closer related to the ability to master desires and passions, especially sensual appetites. One of the ugliest ways to undermine self-control is through pleasure, settling for the immediate “good feeling” over the longer-term, sustainable benefits.

A popular study done by Stanford University tested preschool-aged children’s ability to delay gratification. They sat a child down in a private room with a single marshmallow in front of them on a table. The mediator told the child that he was leaving the room, and the child could eat the marshmallow while he was gone. But if the child did not eat the marshmallow, they would be rewarded with two marshmallows when he returned. But if the child chose to eat the marshmallow, they would not receive another.

It was a choice of one now or two later.

No surprise, the camera footage of the children alone in the room was quite hilarious. Some ate the marshmallow as soon as the door shut. Others squirmed for a few minutes examining, or even licking, the marshmallow before choosing to devour it piece-by-piece. But there were a few who chose not to eat the treat.

Though this experiment became quite popular when it was published in 1972, the really interesting reports didn’t come until years later. After performing follow-up studies over the next 10-12 years, the researchers found that the children who were able to wait for the two marshmallows were found to have higher SAT scores, lower susceptibility to substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better social skills and better response to stress.

The ability to delay gratification—and choose sustainable happiness over short-term pleasure—has been proven to be a core quality of successful, happy people. Just take it from the kids: pleasure is not happiness, and we’d do well to consciously choose the latter.

Counterfeit Hopes: Five Myths About Change

SOURCE:  Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp/Family Life

Our culture abounds with hollow and deceptive theories of change that masquerade as biblical wisdom.

We live in a culture of false promises—a world that promises us we can avoid chaos, live in freedom, and keep our own agenda and pride intact.

When you are seeking true life change, it’s important to understand the counterfeit solutions that the world offers to the problems in your life. As the apostle Paul said to his fellow believers,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing   with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends

on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:6-8, NIV)

Paul is concerned that we not allow ourselves to be taken “captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy.” The Greek word translated “taken captive” is actually closer to “abducted” or “kidnapped.” Paul’s point is that we can be abducted by falsehood when we least expect it. He urges us to live with our eyes open to the cultural influences that seek to gain our allegiance when we are not really paying attention.

Paul tells us that we get captivated by hollow and deceptive diagnoses and solutions that present themselves as superior to Christ. Our culture abounds with hollow and deceptive theories of change that masquerade as biblical wisdom, often because they borrow some aspect of biblical truth. Yet they are hollow because they miss the center of biblical wisdom, which is Christ. In some way, they allow the person to live independent of Christ and avoid the deep heart transformation that only Christ can bring about.

What deceptive and hollow alternatives exist in our culture? Following are five myths about how to change:

Myth #1: “I just need to change my circumstances.”

The most popular simplistic approach to change focuses on external circumstances:

  • “I need more money.”
  • “If I could change my looks, my life would be better.”
  • “If I could get married, life would sing.”
  • “If I could get out of this marriage and find someone who appreciates me, I wouldn’t be so depressed.”
  • “If my children respected me the way they should, I would be nicer.”

Finger-pointing is the strategy, and the goal is to change my life by changing the circumstances around me.

In the garden of Eden, Adam was the first to employ this approach by blaming Eve (and God) for his own sin: “It was the woman whom you gave to be with me.” (Genesis 3:12, ESV). It’s the other person’s fault. If it is not another person, it’s something else—the hard day at work that leads me to snap at you; the lack of money that leads me to cheat on my taxes. In every difficult situation, temptation abounds to blame others.

This approach to change is not only deceptive, but hollow as well. It misses my need for Christ’s redeeming grace, and it places the blame on my sin at God’s doorstep! We blame God for placing the problem, person, or circumstance in our life. We question God’s wisdom, goodness, and character. Obviously, with this approach, the grace of God will not be sought or received.

Myth #2: “I need to change my behavior.”

Sometimes we are willing to acknowledge that the need for change is a little closer to home:

  • “I should be more patient and nicer to my wife.”
  • “I have to stop blowing up at my kids and start to give more to my church. I should reach out to my neighbors and quit visiting those Internet sites.”
  • “I shouldn’t let people’s opinions drive me crazy!”

Very likely, all of these statements are true. Your behavior does need to change! But this approach only addresses external actions. It does not go after the reasons why you continue to do these things. Instead, you simply hope to replace bad behavior with good.

The Bible passages that emphasize the need for new behavior are all built on the foundation of God’s grace at work to change our hearts through the power of the Spirit. The Word and Spirit work together, enabling us to see Christ in all his power and mercy. This leads to heart change at the level of what we worship and cherish at any given moment. This kind of radical heart change reorients me vertically—person to God—and I repent of what I have cherished in place of Christ. This vertical change then leads to new behavior on the horizontal, person-to-person, plane.

An approach to change that only focuses on external behavior is never enough. Biblical change is so much more!

Myth #3: “I need to change my thinking.”

You’ve seen the TV ads. They focus on a social malady like racism or sexually transmitted diseases and end with an upbeat message that education changes people. In this approach to change, your thinking needs to be adjusted so that your behavior will reflect appropriate thoughts about your circumstances.

This view of change is closer to a truly biblical understanding of change, but it is not sufficient. Our expectations and desires do play an enormous role in determining our actions and responses to life, and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the Person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think His thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” If you have a problem with anger, you are told to memorize certain verses so that you can recite them in moments of anger. If you struggle with fear, you should read Scripture passages that focus on trusting God when you are afraid.

This emphasis fails to introduce the Person who has come not only to change the way we think about life, but to change us as well. We are more than thinkers. We are worshipers who enter into relationship with the person or thing we think will give us life. Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.

Myth #4: “I need to change the way I see myself.”

“Believe in yourself!”

“You’re a good, gifted person. Go for it.”

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

This approach to change looks within oneself for the power to change. This seems deeper because it addresses our innermost feelings.

This view begins with a positive view of our innate goodness and the need to affirm our goodness. The more we do, we are told, the more we will be able to love ourselves and others. The great commandment is often cited as biblical proof for this theory of change: “You can’t love God or others if you don’t first love yourself.”

It all sounds so biblical! But it makes assumptions about the human heart that the Bible does not.

The most important assumption this theory makes is that our hearts are empty and need to be filled. But the Bible does not say that we are empty. Rather, it says that we are a cauldron of desires for everything but the true and living God. This approach says that if we feel hollow, it is because the things we pursue are not enough to satisfy what only God can satisfy.

But we are not empty beings! We are rebels against God.

The “self-esteem” solution is deceptive because it seems to capture how we feel inside, but it makes us look far more passive and innocent than we really are. The Bible describes us as defectors and enemies of God who want to fill ourselves with things in creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:21-25). This view flatters us far more than we deserve.

Scripture’s approach calls us to forsake the things we have sought to fill our emptiness. Before we can be filled with God’s grace, we must engage in intelligent, honest repentance. We have to forsake and demolish the god-replacements that have supplanted the true God in our lives.

Repentance is a form of emptying the heart. James 4:1 says that we fight with others, not because we are empty, but because we are full of desires that battle within us. Along with deep repentance, Scripture calls us to faith that rests and feeds upon the living Christ. He fills us with himself through the Person of the Holy Spirit and our hearts are transformed by faith.

The Bible agrees that guilt and self-loathing can hinder change. On a superficial reading, it would seem plausible that we need lots of affirmation: If I can just deal with this oppressive guilt and increase my self-esteem, then I will be free to live and love.

But this approach is hollow because it does not offer good news for the guilty and self-loathing person. Instead of connecting our guilt and shame to our own sin and rebellion against God, this view downplays our guilt and misses a great opportunity to call us to esteem Christ’s work on our behalf. It obscures the path to real forgiveness, joy, and peace at the cross.

Similarly, the person who labors under a false sense of guilt and shame because of the sins of others against her needs more than affirmation and boosts to her self-esteem. She needs to see that the cross clarifies that she is responsible only for her own sins, not the sins of others that have so deeply wounded her. God’s view of sin lifts her shame and self-loathing by giving her an identity that is rooted in Christ, not in the evil she has experienced.

The cross of Christ shows me how glorious, merciful, and forgiving God is and how great His love is for me in Christ. This recognition of my guilt and God’s glory is the only thing that can eradicate shame and self-loathing. And it is found outside me, not within me. I am called to esteem God, not myself.

Myth #5: “I just need to trust Jesus more.”

You may be surprised we listed this as a myth. The key here is understanding the Jesus I need to trust. In some approaches to change, Jesus is merely a therapist who meets all my needs. But is Jesus my therapist or my redeemer?

If He is my therapist, then He meets my needs as I define them. If He is my redeemer, He defines my true needs and addresses them in ways far more glorious than I could have anticipated.

If Jesus is my therapist, He is the One who comes to affirm me. Instead of trying to love myself, I think about how much Jesus loves me.

Of course, God does shower His love upon us in Christ. Everyone who reads the Bible knows this. But Jesus is not a vending machine who dispenses what we want to feel good about ourselves. He is the Holy One who comes to cleanse us, fill us, and change us.

He does not do this according to our agendas. He will not serve our wayward needs. He loves us too much to merely make us happy. He comes to make us holy. There will be many occasions when He will not give us what we think we need, but rather, He will give us what he knows we need.

You are full in Christ

Everything about God has been revealed in Christ, and when someone becomes a Christian, all that fullness dwells in him. We don’t need anything else to fill us up—we have Christ. This is staggering when you consider the greatness of our glorious, mighty, gracious and holy God.

In 2 Peter 1:4, the Bible says that believers “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire.” We do not become divine, but we have the Divine One living in us from the moment we trust in Christ. We have everything we need to live in godly ways. There is no need to be seduced by deceptive and hollow promises of change that lead us away from Christ. These promises will prove to be forms of bondage that enslave us to ourselves and our self-sufficiency. They “protect” us from giving up control and wind up enslaving us to our own agendas.

The fullness of Christ gives us two things: It cleanses us from sin and it raises us to new life! Paul is stressing that the forgiveness of sins brings us freedom over the powers of evil. Our new record and new power are never separated in Scripture and we must keep them together in our lives as well.

Nothing is subtle about the ongoing war that rages throughout the Christian life. Trials and temptations abound, but we respond to them from a new vantage point. J. C. Ryle captures the active reliance upon Christ that is necessary for our sanctification: “Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do nothing at all, and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to him.”

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Taken from How People Change, by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, New Growth Press, 2006

 

5 Things To Do in Times of Crisis

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Ron Edmondson

Here are 5 things TO DO in times of crisis:

Stay. I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come. At the beginning of the crisis is not the time. Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course. Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times. Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. I share this from very hard personal experience. We sold a business — walking away simply to start over — and looking back we may have recovered had we suffered through it a little longer.

Stand. Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life. Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if those choices seem to be the quickest solutions. Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. You’ll be glad you did when the crisis is no longer a crisis.

Glean. Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be. Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently. And, most leaders who have led for any significant period of time have either endured through a crisis or, even if they failed miserably, learned valuable lessons they would do for the next crisis.

Examine. I said in my last post not to do this immediately. We tend as leaders to quickly want to blame someone — mostly ourselves. This is never a helpful process initially, but at some point you’ll need to ascertain how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again? If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something? Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world or things were out of our control. Don’t be afraid of that answer, but don’t default to it either. We all make mistakes and we have to own them.

Learn. Allow every crisis to teach you something about God, yourself and others. If you have this ambition and mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to suffering through it and dealing with it emotionally will be. God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and ultimately about Him.

5 Things NOT to do in Times of Crisis

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Ron Edmondson

Here are 5 things NOT to do in times of crisis:

Panic. The word panic means “a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior” (Dictionary.com) If you panic when crisis occurs you’ll almost always make bad decisions and cause yourself more pain. Calm down, come to your senses, and
think and pray so you can make wise decisions.

Quit. When I was in a business that was struggling the worst reaction to my situation, which was the one I chose most often, was to run from the problem. I would disappear for hours. Looking back, it never solved anything. Reflecting on those days I wish I had stayed the course, because when I gave up, so did those I was supposed to be leading.

Blame. This includes kicking yourself for being in the crisis. Figuring out who is at fault when you are in crisis-mode is probably not as important as figuring out what to do next. There will be time to analyze later — and that should happen — but don’t become paralyzed with it now.

Refuse Help. I have learned by experience — sometimes when God is allowing a crisis to occur He is also stirring people to intercede on behalf of the suffering. It’s amazing how it happens. He may have prepared someone else, through their own season of crisis, intentionally so they can help others — people like you. Don’t deny someone their opportunity to be obedient to what God calls them to do, even if it means swallowing your pride, raising the white flag of surrender and letting them help.

Deny God. People (including pastors and leaders) either run towards God or away from God in times of crisis. You can probably figure out which option works best. This is a time to pray like never before and learn to fully rely on God. He’s never taken off guard or by surprise. He always has a plan. It’s always good. Lean into Him.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR CHRISTIANS WHO BELIEVE THE BIBLE SUPPORTS GAY MARRIAGE

SOURCE:  Kevin DeYoung/The Gospel Coalition

So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage.

You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus andbecause you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good.

As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able to enter into the institution of marriage–both as a legal right and as a biblically faithful expression of one’s sexuality.

Setting aside the issue of biblical interpretation for the moment, let me ask five questions.

1. On what basis do you still insist that marriage must be monogamous?

Presumably, you do not see any normative significance in God creating the first human pair male and female (Gen. 2:23-25; Matt. 19:4-6). Paul’s language about each man having his own wife and each woman her own husband cannot be taken too literally without falling back into the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage (1 Cor. 7:2). The two coming together as one so they might produce godly offspring doesn’t work with gay marriage either (Mal. 2:15). So why monogamy? Jesus never spoke explicitly against polygamy. The New Testament writers only knew of exploitative polygamy, the kind tied to conquest, greed, and subjugation. If they had known of voluntary, committed, loving polyamorous relationships, who’s to think they wouldn’t have approved?

These aren’t merely rhetorical questions. The issue is legitimate: if 3 or 13 or 30 people really love each other, why shouldn’t they have a right to be married? And for that matter, why not a brother and a sister, or two sisters, or a mother and son, or father and son, or any other combination of two or more persons who love each other. Once we’ve accepted the logic that for love to be validated it must be expressed sexually and that those engaged in consensual sexual activity cannot be denied the “right” of marriage, we have opened a Pandora’s box of marital permutations that cannot be shut.

2. Will you maintain the same biblical sexual ethic in the church now that you think the church should solemnize gay marriages?

After assailing the conservative church for ignoring the issue of divorce, will you exercise church discipline when gay marriages fall apart? Will you preach abstinence before marriage for all single persons, no matter their orientation? If nothing has really changed except that you now understand the Bible to be approving of same-sex intercourse in committed lifelong relationships,we should expect loud voices in the near future denouncing the infidelity rampant in homosexual relationships. Surely, those who support gay marriage out of “evangelical” principles, will be quick to find fault with the notion that the male-male marriages most likely to survive are those with a flexible understanding that other partners may come and go. According to one study researched and written by two homosexual authors, of 156 homosexual couples studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity, and of the hundred that had been together for more than five years, none had remained faithful (cited by Satinover, 55). In the rush to support committed, lifelong, monogamous same-sex relationships, it’s worth asking whether those supporters–especially the Christians among them–will, in fact, insist on a lifelong, monogamous commitment.

3. Are you prepared to say moms and dads are interchangeable?

It is a safe assumption that those in favor of gay marriage are likely to support gay and lesbian couples adopting children or giving birth to children through artificial insemination. What is sanctioned, therefore, is a family unit where children grow up de facto without one birth parent. This means not simply that some children, through the unfortunate circumstances of life, may grow up without a mom and dad, but that the church will positively bless and encourage the family type that will deprive children of either a mother or a father. So are mothers indispensable? Is another dad the same as a mom? No matter how many decent, capable homosexual couples we may know, are we confident that as a general rule there is nothing significant to be gained by growing up with a mother and a father?

4. What will you say about anal intercourse?

The answer is probably “nothing.” But if you feel strongly about the dangers of tobacco or fuss over the negative affects of carbs, cholesterol, gmo’s, sugar, gluten, trans fats, and hydrogenated soybean oil may have on your health, how can you not speak out about the serious risks associated with male-male intercourse. How is it loving to celebrate what we know to be a singularly unhealthy lifestyle? According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the risk of anal cancer increases 4000 percent among those who engage in anal intercourse. Anal sex increases the risk of a long list of health problems, including “rectal prolapse, perforation that can go septic, chlamydia, cyrptosporidosis, giardiasis, genital herpes, genital warts, isosporiasis, microsporidiosis, gonorrhea, viral hepatitis B and C, and syphilis” (quoted in Reilly, 55). And this is to say nothing of the higher rates of HIV and other health concerns with disproportionate affects on the homosexual community.

5. How have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long?

Christians misread their Bibles all the time. The church must always be reformed according to the word of God. Sometimes biblical truth rests with a small minority. Sometimes the truth is buried in relative obscurity for generations. But when we must believe that the Bible has been misunderstood by virtually every Christian in every part of the world for the last two thousand years, it ought to give us pause. From the Jewish world in the Old and New Testaments to the early church to the Middle Ages to the Reformation and into the 20th century, the church has understood the Bible to teach that engaging in homosexuality activity was among the worst sins a person could commit. As the late Louis Crompton, a gay man and pioneer in queer studies, explained:

Some interpreters, seeking to mitigate Paul’s harshness, have read the passage [in Romans 1] as condemning not homosexuals generally but only heterosexual men and women who experimented with homosexuality. According to this interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstances. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any Jew or early Christian. (Homosexuality and Civilization, 114).

The church has been of one mind on this issue for nearly two millennia. Are you prepared to jeopardize the catholicity of the church and convince yourself that everyone misunderstood the Bible until the 1960s? On such a critical matter, it’s important we think through the implications of our position, especially if it means consigning to the bin of bigotry almost every Christian who has ever lived.

Don’t Surrender To Hard Times

SOURCE:  Charles R. Swindoll

Going On

1 Samuel 30:1–6

Flying ace Chuck Yeager has written a book with an inviting title: Press On! A guy with his adventurous background, plus a chest full of medals to prove it, probably has a lot to say about “pressing on.” Few will ever know the thrill of breaking sound barriers, but all of us live with the daily challenge of pressing on.

The question is how?

How does the patient go on after the physician breaks the news about the dreaded biopsy?

How does the divorcée go on after the divorce is final?

How does anyone press on when the bottom drops out?

I have recently discovered some principles from Scripture that have certainly come to my rescue.

They emerge from the life of David when he and his fellow warriors were returning from battle. Exhausted, dirty, and anxious to get home, they came upon a scene that took their breath away. What was once their own quiet village was now smoldering ruins; their wives and children had been kidnapped by the same enemy forces that had burned their homes to the ground.

As if that were not bad enough, David’s own men turned against him, and talk of mutiny swirled among the soldiers.

If ever a man felt like hanging it up, David must have at that moment. But he didn’t.

What did he do instead? Read this very carefully: “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6).

He got alone and poured his heart before the Lord . . . got things squared away vertically, which helped clear away the fog horizontally. He did not surrender to hard times.

Why not? How did he go on?

By refusing to focus on the present situation only.

What happens when we stay riveted to the present misery? One of two things: Either we blame someone (which can easily make us bitter), or we submerge in self-pity (which paralyzes us).

Instead of retaliating or curling up in a corner and licking his wounds, he called to mind that this event was no mistake. The Lord wasn’t absent. On the contrary, He was in full control. Bruised and bloody, David faced the test head-on and refused to throw in the sponge.

When we get things squared away vertically,
it helps clear away the fog horizontally.

 

SIX STEPS TO CHANGE OUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

SOURCE:  David Murray

Feelings have big muscles.

They are often the most powerful force in our lives. They can bully our minds, our consciences, and our wills. They can even knock out the facts and bring truth to its knees.

This is perhaps okay when the feelings are good, when we experience joy, peace, and happiness. But more often anxiety, fear, sadness, and guilt rear their ugly heads and start shoving us around. That vicious tag team can quickly bruise and bloody us, confusing our minds and blurring our vision. Nothing looks good when we’ve gone a few rounds with them. We just want to slink out of the ring of life and crawl back into bed again.

How then can we get our emotions under control? How can we knock down guilt and wrestle fear to the ground? How can we summon allies like joy and peace to our side, especially when we often feel so alone in the fight of our lives? How can we be happy when there is so much to be sad about?

The Bible trains us to think ourselves out of bad moods and painful feelings. Consider, for example, Asaph’s experience in Psalm 77.

Step 1: What are the facts? Asaph’s life situation is not defined in detail in Psalm 77. Asaph calls it “the day of my trouble” (v. 2), a deliberately general description that fits many life situations.

Step 2: What does he think about these facts? When he considers the troubles in his life, Asaph concludes that God has rejected him, doesn’t love him, has broken His promises, and has even changed in His character (vv. 7–9). As a result, he thinks that the past was great (v. 5), but the future is bleak and gloomy (v. 7).

Step 3: What is he feeling? He is inconsolably distressed by his trouble (v. 2) and overwhelmingly perplexed when he even thinks of God (v. 3). He feels abandoned by God and pessimistic about enjoying God’s love and favor again (vv. 7–9).

Step 4: Can he change the facts? There’s no evidence that Asaph could change the facts or that his situation changed.

Step 5: Can he change his thoughts about the facts? At the end of verse 9, he pauses, and he takes time to be quiet, to still his soul and calm down. When he does that, new thoughts begin to form, transforming his perspective and outlook.

In verses 10–12, he deliberately forces his mind to think new thoughts, to explore new areas for meditation. He says, “I’m not going to think like this anymore. I’m going to change my thinking habits and patterns.” He firmly resolves:

I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord.
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And [I will] talk of Your deeds. (vv. 10–12)

Notice that he refocuses his thinking upon God’s powerful acts of providence through the centuries (vv. 13–20). Specifically, he notes how God sometimes leads His people through deep waters (v. 19) and sometimes through the wilderness (v. 20), but ultimately He leads them to the promised land (v. 20). For the believer, this is not just about thinking better; it’s also about believing better. It involves thought patterns in the head, but it also involves faith patterns in the heart.

Step 6: What is he feeling now? Judging by Asaph’s words in verses 13–20, there’s a very different tone in his voice. He no longer questions God’s existence, character, and providence but praises Him:

Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people. (vv. 13–15)

Instead of doubt, there is confidence; instead of pessimism, there is optimism; instead of vulnerability, there is security; instead of distress, there is comfort. Asaph’s facts have not changed, but his feelings have because, with the help of God’s Word and works, he has changed his thoughts about the facts. We can see similar patterns of spiritual and emotional therapy in Psalms 42 and 43; Job 19; and Habakkuk 3.

Notice, I’ve asked six questions in two groups of three. The first three—about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us identify our thoughts and recognize how they affect our emotions and behavior.

The second three—also about facts, thoughts, and feelings—help us challenge our thoughts, change them, and so change our feelings and actions. That’s fairly easy to remember, isn’t it? In summary:

  • How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.
  • How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, and feelings.

The key is to identify which specific thoughts drive particular emotions. If I think about loss, I’ll be sad. If I think about sin, I’ll feel guilty. If I think I’m too thin or too fat, I’ll feel embarrassed.

But if I think about God’s gifts, I’ll be thankful; if I think about God’s beauty, I’ll be inspired;  if I think about God’s sovereignty, I’ll feel peaceful.

Develop an ability to challenge and change your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions by using this biblical pattern.

——————————————————————————————————————

This article was extracted from Dr. David Murray’s new book, The Happy Christian (2015).

Q&A: He’s Sorry Now. Do I Wait?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question:  My husband has had several affairs. One sexual and the others emotional. After each one I have tried to work on me and felt they occurred because I needed to fix things in my own life. I needed to be more loveable, appealing and easy to be with. In so many ways I have been completely humbled and broken, but despite the changes in my own life I recently discovered he had resumed calling the woman he had been having an emotional affair with 4 years ago. In addition, he has confessed to having a sexual addiction or integrity issues involving pornography and pleasing himself sexually. Yet, even while he has been doing this, I have felt loved and cared for by him most of the time.

My biggest concern has been however, when we have discussions, I feel very intimidated by him and end up backing away or apologizing profusely because I’m afraid of his anger and intimidation. I’m not perfect and see so many of my own faults and insecurities but I desire to have intimacy with God.  I’m fit, I have a great profession, close relationships and work at being a good parent to my son (16) and daughter (18).

So here is my dilemma. My husband and I are separated. After the last affair, it was agreed if he ever did this again it would mean automatic divorce, no more counseling, etc. When we first separated I felt scared, but now after 5 months I’m fine and our children are fine.  They say they prefer him gone and we have needed time to heal. Before, I tried so hard to rebuild my marriage that our children took a back seat. Now I’m enjoying the peace of our home instead of always being anxious that I would make a mistake that would drive him into the arms of another woman.

I’m thriving, going to a great Christian counselor and reading and trying to understand sexual addiction. However, my husband wants another chance and feels he now understands why he made so many hurtful choices. He periodically meets with a pastor from our church but has not sought counseling or a recovery group. He seems softer, has realized much and constantly says he misses me and loves me, but I have lost my desire for him. I almost would be embarrassed to put myself through this again but feel guilty or unsure if I’m disobeying God. Isn’t God a God of second or fifth chances?

I have never been good at discerning when my husband was betraying me how can I ever trust him. How do I know if he is fully recovered? Am I being disobedient by not giving him another chance?

Answer: Oh how we wish life’s decisions could be black and white and that God would just tell us what to do. I struggle with the same dilemma of “not knowing” the future, or the reliability of a person’s words.  Talk is cheap and insight, even good and truthful self-awareness, is still a long way off from faithful and consistent change in a person’s heart and habits.

The good news is you don’t have to decide just yet about whether or not to follow through with divorce. Although you certainly have biblical grounds. You indicate you are getting good counsel so I’m going to give you some things to talk about with your counselor to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

First, pay attention to your feelings but don’t allow yourself to be ruled by them. You feel anxious about his anger and intimidation. Is this true in other relationships or mainly with him?  You indicate your own insecurity issues and sometimes people who fear rejection are easily intimidated into compliance because they fear disapproval or loss of relationship even when the other person isn’t intentionally trying to be controlling.

This season of separation can be a good test for you to observe the fruit of your change as well as his.  Are you able to speak up and say no, even if you still feel anxious or intimidated? And, can he hear and respect your “no” the first time, without arguing, trying to change your mind or threatening you with loss of potential reconciliation? If you’re still not able to be clear and direct with what you want or don’t want because of fear, you need to figure out why.  Is it him or it is your need to please, to not disappoint, to be a good Christian girl, and/or to always be the accommodating one?

Your husband has done great damage to your family and marriage yet he doesn’t seem to be working very hard to make sure he never does it again. That does not sit well with me at all. Why has he not gone to personal counseling, joined a recovery group or taken other steps to deal with his problems? You say you’re reading about sexual addiction, but is he? You seem to have done lots of work to mature, grow, and become a more godly woman but what exactly has your husband done to identify his problems and change them?

From what you describe, it seems to me that your husband has been ruled by a selfish and a lazy heart. (These are defined more fully in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship). Pornography is a selfish and lazy way to have sexual pleasure and release without the responsibilities of relationship or mutual giving. It’s all about him!  From what you describe, most of the marriage has been all about him and what you’ve lacked or not done to make him happy or keep him faithful to you.

Affairs are also selfish and indulgent. He wasn’t thinking of you or your children, only about what he felt and what he wanted. From my vantage point what you describe as your husband’s change is really just more of the same but now instead of the other woman, you’ve become the desired object he wants.

Yes, God is a God of second chances, of fifth chances, of hundredth chances, but you are not God. You do not know his heart.  Only God can discern his true motives. However, you can use the growth you’ve achieved to speak the truth in love, ask him to do the work required in order for you to be willing to consider reconciliation and build trust again and see what happens. If his heart is truly changed, he will. If not, he will get angry, blame you and want you to do the work to trust him. You’ve already been around that bend several times and you’re wise to not repeat it.

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