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Archive for the ‘God’s Will’ Category

Finding Hope in the Midst of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from a book by Ed Hindson

The first key to growing through failure is realizing that God is greater than your mistakes.

Second, failure is a universal part of being human.

God wants us to learn from failure. We especially need to learn how not to make the same mistake again. We need to face our weaknesses. Whatever can be changed needs to be changed; wherever we can improve, we need to improve.

If you cannot succeed in a certain area of life, it may very well be that it’s not the will of God for you to pursue that area. You might love to play football, but if the doors aren’t opening for you to play professionally, then most likely that’s not God’s calling for your life. You may enjoy singing, but perhaps your voice isn’t of the quality that’s necessary to be a recording artist. If you aren’t achieving the goals you’d like to reach, that doesn’t mean you need to feel like a failure. It just means that God intends for you to succeed elsewhere.

Don’t let some initial failure cause you to go away discouraged, angry, and upset, or you will never accomplish what you could have had you just kept trying.

What Is Your Definition of Success?

In order to address the problem of failure, we have to start with a question about success. Does God really want us to be successful? There are some pious believers who say, “Oh, the Lord really doesn’t intend for us to be successful. We can be failures to the glory of God. The more everything goes wrong, the more spiritual we can become.” Then there are those who are bent on success at any cost. Their attitude is, “Do whatever you have to do to succeed, whether it’s biblical or not. After all,” they rationalize, “God wants us to be successful. He doesn’t need any more failures.”

But how does God’s Word define success?

Read Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” By this definition, success is doing the will of God. We may think that certain things we do will make God happy with us, but that’s not the way it works. Everything we do for God needs to be done according to the Word of God in order for it to be done in the will of God.

By some standards, Abraham was a total failure. Leaving Ur, the greatest city of his day, he went out to the middle of nowhere to the land of Canaan and there lived and died in obscurity. Yet he is one of the most illustrious men who ever lived. Moses led the slaves of Israel out of Egypt into a wilderness and never entered the Promised Land. He died a failure by modern standards, yet he is one of the greatest men God ever used. Christ died on a cross, initially appearing to be a failure, and yet by His death He won us an eternal victory. For in that death, He atoned for the sins of mankind.

Jesus talked about failure and success in the story of the successful Pharisee and the sinful publican, both of whom went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9–14). The Pharisee’s prayer was boastful—unlike others, he had never let God down. By contrast, the publican stood afar off and bowed his head in humility and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Commenting on this incident, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man [publican] rather than the other [Pharisee], went home justified before God.” The man who appeared to be successful was a spiritual failure. The one who appeared to be a failure was the one who was truly successful. Humility, not ability, is the only true success before God.

When people fail, they usually do one of two things.

Either they confess their failure, repent of it, and get right with God, or they go around making excuses for their failure. Those who confess get back on track and ultimately turn their failure into success. The latter never honestly face their failure. They never solve the problems that led to it, and their lives never get turned around. God wants us not only to repent and erase our failure; He wants us to go on and find real success in serving Him.

The Failure Factor

Understanding Failure Orientation
Failure orientation is that self-perception found in some people that limits not only their self-confidence, but even their ability to trust God as all-sufficient Lord. Individuals with a failure orientation are haunted by a sense of failure, which comes from one of two sources:

1. How we think we appear to others. If we are prone to a failure orientation, we tend to develop “ears” for negative feedback from others. Blocking out or downplaying positive feedback, the failure orientation makes us morbidly sensitive to any negative response we’re getting from others. Unfortunately, we tend to limit the feedback we receive—thereby limiting whatever useful information we might glean from the comments of others. We need feedback from others to help us develop the foundation stones of our value system, self-concept, and understanding of behavior.

Sometimes individuals with a failure orientation have trouble distinguishing between negative feedback directed at them personally and negative feedback simply directed at their behavior. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two in interpreting feedback. “Failure” that may come in the form of a negative response to one’s behavior is usually short-lived and may be overcome. Such “failure” should not be mistaken for a negative response to one’s own person or self-integrity.

As Christians, we may fail, but we are not failures. No matter what others choose to think of us, we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus Christ, who loves us (see Romans 8:37). From time to time, others may praise or ridicule us, but we must never lose our true identity and sense of purpose in the quicksand of struggling to prove ourselves acceptable to others. Scripture describes clearly how we should envision our efforts as we strive to achieve our goals in this life: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.… It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24 NASB).

2. How we view ourselves. Frequently, people with a failure orientation have an artificially high, unrealistic, or even perfectionistic set of expectations for themselves. When asked to rate their accomplishments in almost any area on a scale from one to ten, such persons inevitably rate themselves at five or worse. They rate themselves harshly, even when by all objective standards their performance is far above average. These individuals tend to categorically classify themselves as total successes or total failures. They have an “either-or” mentality when viewing their own accomplishments. They see their output as fully acceptable or totally worthless—more often the latter.

Such a sense of failure often paralyzes initiative. These individuals become cautious, diffident, unwilling to take risks their own judgment tells them are perfectly acceptable. Such persons need a comparison group of other individuals who are at a roughly equivalent skill and attribute level with whom they can identify and derive a sense of belonging without either being intimidated or bored.

Overcoming Failure Orientation
How can we overcome failure orientation? Here are some suggestions:

1. Fully analyze and understand our own failure-prone thinking. Analyzing the negative thinking and feelings of failure within us can help in identifying the various areas or aspects of life in which they appear. We need to try to delineate these areas as specifically as possible and look for hidden irrational ideas or unbiblical beliefs that serve to undermine our sense of God-given worth.

Usually, we can trace our failure orientation back to various setbacks and misconceptions coming from ideas about ourselves, our friends, job, parents, brothers and sisters, church, or school. Rather than perceiving the world through our mind’s “failure filter,” we need to analyze and approach situations from a biblical perspective. One way to do this is to write down every irrational or unbiblical idea we can pinpoint in our thoughts. Then match it with a passage of Scripture that refutes it.

2. Choose goals and objectives that will improve our self-concept. It is advisable to begin with an area in which we have a reasonable amount of self-confidence. A success-oriented self-concept is contagious within our own personality. When we are able to establish goals and begin to reach them, the belief that “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” begins to take on genuine reality in our own experience. From one area of success, this attitude of confident capability will snowball into other personal and professional areas of our lives.

3. Break the objectives down into bite-sized components. Once we have begun to take on an objective, it is necessary to approach that goal through a series of small steps. No one can jump from the ground onto the roof of a house, but ten or 12 small steps on a ladder will enable us to get there. By breaking the goal down into a series of smaller bite-sized behaviors and objectives, we simplify our task and heighten our chances for success. These smaller objectives should be undertaken in logical sequence, moving from shortest to longest or easiest to hardest. Here, the wise and thoughtful counsel of a spiritually mature person is invaluable, whether we need advice or just encouragement.

4. Implement a plan of action. This is the trial-and-error step. It will involve developing persistence above all else. It will involve the discipline to be well prepared for a task, and sensitivity to remain teachable and flexible. A change in a personal failure orientation of a longstanding nature won’t happen overnight. Many times, in fact, we will find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back, but time is on our side, and the outcome is guaranteed. We can be confident, that “he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Turn Your Failure into Success
Many people never overcome their failures because they never really forgive themselves for failing. They continue to punish themselves with self-inflicted guilt rather than moving beyond failure to success.

1. To fail is to be human. All human beings fail. God is fully aware of our limitations: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). True success is not avoiding failure, but learning what to do with it.

2. To fail is not be a failure. Studies show that the most successful people often fail. For example, Babe Ruth not only set the record in his day for home runs in a single baseball season—he led the league in strikeouts, as well. However, that didn’t make him a failure. Many Christians who have achieved a number of successes are quick to call themselves failures when they suffer a few strikeouts in life.

3. No one is ever a failure until he stops trying. It is better to attempt much and occasionally fail than to attempt nothing and achieve it. No one learns the limits of his ability until he has reached the point of total failure. Thomas Edison tried over 5,000 different types of light-bulb filaments without success before finding one that would work. His willingness to endure many failures without branding himself a failure gave us the electric light.

4. Failure is never final as long as we get up one more time than we fall down. Fear is much more damaging than failure. If you’ve failed, admit it and start over. Forgive yourself and learn to forgive others. Don’t be controlled by what has happened to you, but rather be motivated by where you are trying to go. Focus on your goals, not your failures. Move ahead with determination, for nothing worthwhile is accomplished without some risk. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). God has given you certain gifts and abilities to serve Him. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. Go and do it to His glory!

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Hindson, E. E. (1999). God is There in the Tough Times (62–68). Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Would a Loving God Wound Me?

SOURCE:  Greg Morse/Desiring God

Of the few things I recall from my short season attending the church, the message covering the wall remains the strongest: “Prepare to meet your God.”

It was the big “E” on the eye chart; to not notice it confirmed blindness. Even when one did not wish to see it, the command stared at you.

With every distraction from the sermon it spoke — Prepare to meet your God. When attention began to drift in prayer, it found me — Prepare to meet your God. I prayed harder, sang louder, and listened better because of that inescapable command ever surveying as a watchman from his tower.

Agonizing Invitations

I also remember the day I gathered the nerve to look up the ominous words. Amos 4:12, the wall told me. I began in verse 6, where the Lord spoke these words to his people:

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

“I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest . . . yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

“I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 4:6–12)

Prepare to meet your God. This was not a call to worship for a Sunday service. It was a terrifying summons for an adulterous people to brace themselves to meet their jealous Husband in judgment. Yet this alone did not trouble me. All that God did before the severe warning also shook me.

“God will not leave us to perish. When we wander toward cliffs, he corrals us with his rod back toward heaven.”

Did you catch them?

God desired for Israel to return to him, so what did he do? He gave them cleanness of teeth (meaning he starved them); he withheld rain from them, tanking their food supply and economy; he destroyed their vineyards; he spread diseases among them; he killed young soldiers, repossessed their warhorses, and decimated their forces; he ordained for flames to overtake cities. God afflicted them in order that they should turn and seek him.

They refused. And since none of these trials brought the people to him, he would go to the people. “Prepare to meet your God.”

Fiercer Than We Expect

Is this picture incompatible with the God you worship? The God who, out of love for you, will harm you in order to save you? A love that will cut, break, and cause you to bleed — like an expert surgeon — in order to heal you? How many pews, I wondered, would have emptied if the verse crawled from the wall into the pulpit?

Many are content with God’s love consisting in only tender kindness and unbroken gentleness. They wish for his love to be wholly devoted to their immediate happiness — however they choose to seek it. Tenderness seems to be the unimpeachable disposition some imagine of God. Tender toward our dreams. Tender toward our desires. Tender toward our bank accounts and sins. This “god of love” takes no miracle of grace to adore; the atheist doesn’t mind this God.

Yet God’s love, as found in the Bible, is a fire that consumes dross, a chisel that molds into his own perfection, an eternal embrace that chokes out all rivals, a sharp scalpel intended to give real life and strong happiness far beyond the grave. This love has greater aims than our comfort, our health, or our safety — in this life. This love is fiercer and deeper than we often assume, better and stronger than we often want. This love can harm us, and this love can kill us.

He Scourges Those He Loves

God’s love does not orbit around our felt needs. He has our best, not our easiest, in mind. His love — dangerous, jealous, possessive — is the love that will consistently wound us to save us.

Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5–6)

“Chastises” here can be translated “scourges” or “whips.” It is something to endure. Something unpleasant and rather painful. Something we wouldn’t sign up for. Something we’re tempted to despise. Something that doesn’t feel tender, gentle, or loving in the moment. But his whippings are just that. Look at the text.

He strikes those he loves and harms every son whom he receives. He doesn’t discipline Satan’s children, only his own (Hebrews 12:8). These undesirable corrections, these marks of adoption, bring us to “share his holiness” and enjoy that “peaceful fruit of righteousness” leading to eternal life (Hebrews 12:10–11).

His love has sharp edges — not to destroy us, but to sever us from all that threatens to. Instead of what we often perceive to be the stormings of our angry God, proof of his disgust with us, these corrections are, in fact, the unlikely evidences of his love. As Calvin put it,

It is an inestimable consolation — that the punishments by which our sins are chastened are evidences, not of God’s anger for our destruction, but rather of his paternal love, and are at the same time of assistance towards our salvation, for God is angry with us as his sons, whom he will not leave to perish.

He will not leave us to perish. When we wander toward cliffs, he corrals us with his rod back toward heaven. What feels to be the glory of the “god of love” — being left to our own way — is, in reality, his wrath, which bears the refrain: “God gave them up . . . gave them up . . . gave them up” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).

Even Death Can Be Love?

That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. . . . But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30, 32)

God’s love does not sit by quietly, contentedly, while we wander off into destruction. It does not stand by and watch his bride play the whore. It finds us. Redeems us. Washes us. Transforms us. Disciplines us. And sometimes it kills us.

Such love came unrequested to some Corinthians. They began to eat the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. They did not examine themselves. They ate and drank judgment. How did God respond? “That is why,” the apostle explains, “many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Some were sick due to God’s discipline. Some were weak. Others died. Funerals were held because of God’s discipling his church.

Why would we be disciplined, even unto death? “So that we may not be condemned along with the world.” There is something worse even than death. God’s love sometimes stops our breath to save our souls. This love, unlike our puddle-deep assumptions, is an ocean, raging and beautiful. If God loved us like we love us, we would be lost.

To Be Loved by God

Oh, the fearsome, wonderful love of God. This God is so serious about having his own that he will starve them now to feed them forever, kill them now to keep them forever. His enemies may call him a monster, but his saints sing, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3).

To be loved by God is to be made holy, to be dressed for heaven, fitted for eternity, brought through the howling wilderness of this world, across the raging river Jordan, and secured within the Promised Land of a new creation. This love will not spare us the bumps, bruises, and bleedings to ready us for his presence.

To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because he is what he is, his love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us he must labor to make us lovable. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 41)

“God’s love does not orbit around our felt needs. He has our best, not our easiest, in mind.”

And he does just that. Having forgiven us, he makes us beautiful. He bends all circumstance, works all things for good — every wound and every joy — for our everlasting glory of being conformed to this Son’s image (Romans 8:28–29).

God’s love embraces his children where they presently sit (he died for us while we were yet ungodly) — we do not make ourselves worthy of his love; we cannot. But his love, when it finds us, will not leave us where we are — we are destined to be holy and spotless before him in love.

With All His Heart and Soul

Yet this does not imply that he blesses and bruises equally, nor that he stands indifferent to our cries or our pain. Just the contrary. In the middle of a heart-wrenching lamentation over the Lord’s chastisement of Israel, Jeremiah reminds us,

The Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:31–33)

“He does not afflict from his heart.” His delight is not to wound us. He is not like the boy at recess burning worms with a microscope. Even when he lays the heaviest afflictions upon us, it is not his joy to do so. Rather, Jeremiah records his heart toward the church this way:

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:40–41)

This love — the only love strong enough to spare us from hell, to make us pleasing in his sight, to delight us for eternity — does not leave us alone to our pet sins and damnable devices. His love puts fear in us that we may not turn from him. He wants us where he is, with all his heart and all his soul.

He proved the imponderable depths of his heart for his people once and for all when Jesus Christ came to bear the wrath of God for our sins. It should not surprise us that God would crush us for our sins; it should surprise us that his love would crush the Son for us. No matter how God chooses to afflict us for our good, the heaviest blows are never what our sins deserve. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.

Listening and Guidance

(Adapted from The Disciplines of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan)

We have been created to be in a listening relationship to God. As we draw near to God, we begin to hear His voice and receive affirmation, encouragement, correction, and direction for our lives. Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice (John 10:14-16). We listen in order to receive guidance! The outcome of a close relationship with God is guidance and invitation into partnership with Him.

Jesus didn’t get up in the morning and say, “What great thing can I do for God today?” He said, “Father, what are you doing today? Show me what you are already doing so I can do it with you. I will do only what I see what you doing” (see John 5:19, 30). Jesus’ secret of guidance was His relationship of dependence on the Father – listening for God’s voice, being observant of His Father’s work, paying attention to His Father’s leading in every circumstance of His life.

Do you believe God talks to people? That He wants to talk to you? Do you think it strange or unusual to hear His voice or to receive regular guidance and direction form Him? Jesus believed that listening was fundamental to the Christian life and a natural consequence of deepening relationship with God. He encouraged believers that if they belonged to God, they should expect to hear from God. He rebuked the unbelieving religious leaders of His day saying, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47). As we draw near to the One who comes to us to draw us to Himself, we enter into the disciplines of listening and guidance. We learn to hear the Shepard’s voice, to distinguish it from the many voices that compete for our attention, and to know and respond to his wooing and guidance.

Hearing from God is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes God’s will clear to us as we engage in the discipline of listening and guidance. Jesus promised us His own guidance through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). When the Spirit of Truth comes, Jesus says, “He will guide you into all truth. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you: (John 16: 13-14). The truth John speaks of here is not an idea, concept, or doctrine, but a true relationship. To be led into truth is to be led into the same relationship with Jesus that Jesus has with the Father.

G. Campbell Morgan encourages the believer to wait for guidance:

To the individual believer, who is, by the very fact of relationship to Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.

The Apostle Paul emphasized that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the deep things of God to us. We are so affected by our sin and rebellion that we cannot understand the things of God unless the Holy Spirit reveals it. He is our teacher. In reading the Scripture, we must sit before the Holy Spirit and respond to His leading. As we pray, we must expect that answers will come as the Holy Spirit guides us to Scripture, or through circumstances or wise counsel, or through personal words or a divine encounter.

Our Part in Listening and Guidance:
* Let the Spirit build in you a desire to be yielded and obedient to God’s will and plans.
* Starting where you are, seek after God with your whole heart, striving to know him intimately.
* Resolve to want to glorify God and bring honor to His great name in all things in your life.
* Be alert and sensitive at all times for the Spirit’s promptings. Seek guidance from God; watch for it, expect it. Remember that the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
* Take time daily to listen and be in conversation with God. Get in the habit of asking questions like, “What are you doing, Lord? What do you want me to see and understand in my current   circumstances?”
* Wait for confirmation. “Test everything” (1Thess. 5:21). God isn’t in a hurry. Trust that He will confirm His will through Scripture, wise counsel, and circumstances.
* Take steps to respond obediently to the guidance you receive; trusting that God will provide confirmation and blessing (See James 1:22; 2:17).

Means of Guidance:
* The Bible, God’s Word – God speaks primarily through His Word, as we read and meditate on it. The Scripture is our standard of measure for all other forms of guidance. What the Spirit guides us into will always be consistent with the teaching of the Bible and will never contradict it. In addition, we must be careful to interpret the Bible accurately.

* Prayer – Conversation with God – Prayer is not just talking to God, but dialogue with God. We listen for, and hear, God’s voice in the midst of prayer.

* Godly Counsel – God often speaks to us through the wise counsel of mature Christian believers – pastors, church elders, leaders, accountability partners, counselors – people who walk closely with God and who know Him intimately.

* Providential Circumstances – God can work through even our most difficult circumstances to guide us in a particular direction.

* Sanctified Common Sense – As we think and engage in theological reflection, and weigh the pros and cons of options open to us, God works through our reason in bringing us to a decision. Even when it seems God has not spoken clearly, there may be times we have to choose an option because it is not possible to wait further. In such cases we need to use our best common sense to choose the alternative that will bring glory to God as the Holy Spirit leads us (1Cor. 10:31).

* Inner Witness and Peace – Generally, the Holy Spirit confirms God’s will to us by giving peace in our hearts (Col. 3:15). However, this does not mean we will always – or immediately – receive peace regarding God’s guidance. There may be anguish or struggle, such as Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane in the process of obeying Gods’ will to go to the cross and die for a sinful world. Jesus prayed and was obedient to God’s leading, but experienced peace only later (Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22: 39-44).

* Inner Promptings of the Holy Spirit – Based on 1Cor 12:8, 10, the Holy Spirit can guide us through factual truths we did not know before and through wisdom or the specific applications of God’s Word or Truth to a particular situation. Such words generally come in the sense of a subjective inner voice, but at times they can seem to be audible words (1Sam. 3:2-14). God has spoken to His people through visions and dreams in the past and certainly can do so in the present (Dan. 2:19; Acts 9:10-16; Acts 10:9-23; 18:9-10).

* Nature – God has revealed Himself generally through nature and His creation. However, there are times when God touches us afresh and guides us through some part of the beauty of His creation – the grandeur of the stars on a clear night or the colors of a sunset.

* Heavenly Visitation, or the “Hand of the Lord” – There are times when God reveals Himself by an angel or special manifestation of Himself (Acts 8:26, 29; 9:3-6; Dan. 9:20-23).

We are meant to be in a listening relationship with God. At any moment, anytime, day or night, in the midst of ministry or the most mundane tasks of living, God can and will speak to us.

Increasingly Aware of God’s Presence
We can grow in listening and guidance until we are “practicing the presence of God,” increasingly aware of His presence and gentle leading in all the circumstances of our living. This kind of living does not happen effortlessly. We must desire it and seek it with all our hearts. It requires choosing a course of action that will draw us into constant communion with God. It means entering strongly into the disciplines of listening and guidance as a crucial means of experiencing deeper intimacy with God and receiving His transforming power. Listening becomes a launching pad for effective service and ministry in partnership with God; guidance brings confidence and peace that we are indeed in relationship with the living God; and hearing God’s voice brings events of the Bible alive for us and allows our faith in the Truth of the Word to rise beyond abstract conviction to heart knowledge of the truth.

The Process of Guidance

Here’s how George Muller sums up the way he entered into a “heart” relationship with God and learned to hear and discern God’s voice:

I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusion. I seek the Will of the Holy Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me rightly and fully. Thus, 1) through prayer to God, 2) the study of the Word, and 3) reflection, I come to deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.

We open ourselves to mistakes if we allow the opinions of others to sway us from the clear instructions of Scripture, or if we are impatient in waiting for God’s timing, or when our own wills are so strong we cannot get our hearts ready to respond to the guidance He gives. Guidance from God is seldom a simple occurrence; it is almost a process of listening, testing, and discerning that leads to confident obedience. F.B. Meyer describes the process of guidance as follows:

God’s impressions within and His words without are always corroborated by His providence around, and we should quietly wait until those three focus into one point.  If you do not know what you ought to do, stand still until you do, and when the time comes for action, circumstances, like glow-worms, will sparkle along your path, and you will become so sure that you are right, when God’s three witnesses concur, that you could not be surer though an angel beckoned you on.

The Holy Spirit seldom uses all the means of guidance, but usually does bring several together in a process that brings conviction to an individual or group along with confidence to respond in obedience.

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 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

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

============================================

No More Dragons

Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

SOURCE:  Dr. Dave Currie with Glen Hoos/Family Life

These nine suggestions will help you re-establish a loving connection with your spouse.

It’s a complaint I hear regularly from people looking for help for their marriages: “I feel distant from my spouse.” “I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.” “My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.” “I don’t know if I love him anymore.”

What we’re talking about here is emotional abandonment.

Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death.

How does a marriage reach this point?

Sometimes it’s a slow slide into complacency, and other times it’s a little more sudden. Realize that if it’s a sudden abandonment, there likely is some precipitating event or incident between the two of you that needs to be resolved. On the other hand, if the deterioration has been more gradual, there are probably a lot of little things that have gone unresolved and are taking their toll on the relationship.

Here are some of the specific, primary causes of emotional distance between mates:

  • Unforgiveness: Emotional abandonment is unforgiveness taken to its extreme conclusion. When we feel that our spouse has hurt us and we refuse to forgive them, we look for ways to protect ourselves from being hurt again in the future. Closing off our heart from the other person is an easy way to do this, but it has deadly consequences. Unforgiveness always leads to isolation. Overcoming unforgiveness requires a willingness to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness when we have hurt our spouse, and it also requires that we be willing to graciously extend forgiveness when our spouse has hurt us. This forgiveness step is based on a desire to re-unite.
  • Callous treatment: When I am careless in how I treat my spouse, it gets old really quickly. Whether it’s discourteousness, unkindness, or something worse, it creates hurt that may start out small, but can grow into deep wounds as it festers over time. To avoid this, each partner needs to look at their own behavior regularly and consider whether they are treating their spouse well. A mate, above all people, needs to be treated with gentleness and respect. Remember, your spouse is God’s gift to you, and they deserve to be treated as something precious.
  • Lack of effort: Sometimes the problem is a little less obvious than unforgiveness or harsh treatment. It is easy, especially for men, to just assume that the relationship is going along just fine, and so we don’t put in as much effort as we once did. We start to take our spouse for granted, leading them to think that they are not important in our lives. When the marriage slips from being one of the top priorities in the heart of one or both spouses, the other person feels abandoned. This causes them to feel unwanted and then to withdraw into their own world.
  • Lack of time: Many of us simply try to pack too much into a day. Ruled by the urgent, we fail to make time for the truly important: things like romancing, talking about issues and really developing a friendship with our spouse. We stay constantly busy, erasing quality “couple times” from our schedules. A marriage relationship cannot thrive if our contact with one another is limited to a quick bite of supper or a brief chat before bed. A good marriage requires weekly face-to-face time – both talk and fun.
  • Fear of talking through issues: Emotional detachment does not just happen out of the blue; there is always something behind it. If one or both of the spouses has an inability or fear of talking through the issues in their relationship, then this kind of disconnect will be the likely result. Usually both know there is something wrong, but they are hesitant to bring it up because they fear their spouse’s reaction. Or perhaps they feel like they’ve been through this before and it hasn’t helped, so why bother? In these cases, there needs to be a clear second look at what it means to resolve conflict in a marriage – how to have a “good fight,” as it were, that really bring things to resolution. Without these skills, and a real courage to step up and deal with problems, the emotional distance will just continue to grow.
  • Living in denial: A lot of times, when things have started to go a bit sideways in the relationship, we don’t want to admit that it’s happening. Often the person truly needing to make some significant changes is most content to deny the existence of any real issues. We kind of live in denial, as if it’s not really happening, or it’s not that bad, or things will get better in time. But living in denial doesn’t fix things; it only causes the marriage to deteriorate to the point where the couple just does not feel close anymore.

Working through the emotional distance

The first step to dealing with emotional abandonment is to identify the root cause and to begin to deal with it. Don’t settle for living in isolation. Ask God for more in your marriage and then trust Him as you faithfully try to make changes. Here are some suggestions for re-establishing a loving connection with your spouse:

1. Agree to talk: At some point you have to agree to talk about the problems that exist between you. If you’re going to resolve issues, there needs to be a mutual commitment to listen to the other person’s concerns and to work towards improving the situation. Don’t corner your spouse with an unexpected lecture, but set a time and agree to start to work through your issues.

2. Be prepared: Before you have the talk, take the time separately to think through the unresolved issues that you’ll be discussing. What are your concerns in the relationship? In what areas do you feel you need to improve? What are your expectations of your spouse? To put your thoughts down on paper may be best, but either way, be prepared to be open and honest with each other about the real issues between you. Be sure to take the time to really listen to what your spouse is saying. Give each other uninterrupted time to share your view on things.

3. Be direct but gentle: Neither of you has anything to gain by holding back your true feelings. Remember: unresolved issues lie at the heart of emotional detachment. So lay all your cards out on the table by sharing your hurts clearly. Don’t allow things to get out of hand. Be committed to talk through things sensibly. Take breaks to cool it if necessary but agree to continue. Ask each other the tough questions, and talk through the difficult issues that have been eating away at your relationship. Regardless of which partner initiated the wrong, you both need to work at resolving the problem.

4. Begin to meet unmet needs: Often a person pulls back from the relationship because, in their mind, their needs are not being met. A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. Seek to understand your spouse’s needs and ask yourself how you can start to better express love by meeting these needs. Make your spouse and sorting things out your new priority.

5. Deal with your own stuff: If I am feeling abandoned by my spouse, I need to ask myself a tough question: What have I done to drive my spouse away? Now it may not be only your responsibility. Nevertheless, you have to find out what you are responsible for and take ownership for your actions. Really listen to your spouse. Of course, there are things that your mate needs to deal with, and they may be withdrawing from you for selfish reasons, but that can’t stop you from taking the steps that you know you need to take. Both parties must be prepared to make apologies and extend forgiveness as part of your recovery from the emotional detachment.

6. Intentionally re-engage: If you are to re-establish your emotional connection, it won’t happen by accident and it won’t happen overnight. You need to agree to make your relationship a priority and spend some quality time together. Plan a few dates and put each other in your schedules. It’s time to re-enter one another’s lives again.

7. Act kindly: This may not be a revolutionary new idea, but it can have that kind of an effect on your marriage. You must act kindly toward your spouse. Small gestures of warmth, acts of kindness, and efforts to rekindle the romance between you will go a long way toward renewing your bond with one another. Do this from the heart with real commitment to make the necessary changes.

8. Love unconditionally: Somebody has to break out of the negative cycle of eye-for an eye, poor treatment for poor treatment. You need to step out of the insult-for-insult cycle and respond differently. You cannot control your spouse’s behavior, but you can control your own. Regardless of how your spouse responds, you must choose to treat them with love. This is not easy to do when your partner is not reciprocating, but it is what you vowed to do when you promised to love each other “for better or for worse.” And nothing breaks down emotional barriers like unconditional love.

9. Allow God to work: I’m going to challenge you to ask God to change you. God wants your best and He’ll always be ready to take full responsibility for any life that is totally surrendered to Him. That also includes re-engaging with your spouse and getting attached in love again. God wants that and He will guide you in that, if you’ll allow Him to.

We’ve all got issues to work through in our relationships. Whether your problems stem from bitterness, unforgiveness, dishonesty, lack of kindness, unfaithfulness, or something else, God offers you His power to enable you to live in a way that honors Him. There’s no doubt in my mind that God wants your marriage to work and that you desire to have warmth and a close connection with your spouse. That’s His design. Let’s go after it.

Receiving Direction without Doubt

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by InTouch Ministries/Charles Stanley

[Based on Psalm 25:8-9]

God wants us to make right decisions, which means choices that align with His will. He has promised to give us instruction and direction so we’ll know how to proceed (Ps. 32:8).

One way to discover the Lord’s will is by following  [this pattern] — First, make sure you have a clean heart, clear mind, surrendered will, and patient spirit. Then, add these steps: praying persistently, trusting God’s promises, and receiving His peace.

Although we all want quick answers from the Lord, Scripture tells us to pray tirelessly, without giving up. I remember praying daily for six months before I received a response about one need. During this time, the Lord showed me that He’d tried to give direction earlier, but I hadn’t listened. Fear of failure had been my stumbling block. Once I surrendered my fear, He gave instructions and empowered me to obey. When we persist in prayer, God has the opportunity to draw us closer to Him and prepare us to hear His response.

Knowing and trusting in God’s promises will lift us above our doubts into a place of quiet rest. We may not have an answer yet, but as we wait on Him with hopeful expectation, we’ll experience His peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).

Scripture urges us to be persistent in prayer, trust in God’s promises, and let Christ’s peace rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). Doing so will help us find our way past confusion and receive His clear direction without doubting. Discovering Gods will is worth every effort we make and any time spent waiting.

A Prayer Upon Receiving Troubling News

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Dear Lord Jesus….

Last evening’s troubling stories shape today’s morning prayer. I went to bed last night, wearied with woes of friends. I arise today hungry with hope in you, our great and gracious Savior.

Thank you for being honest with us about life this side of the new heaven and new earth. You’re not an on-demand panacea, promising the elimination hardships and heartaches. You’re not a miracle-computer, passively waiting to be programmed, as we exercise the right formula.

You’re so much more; so much better. You’re a very present help, pledging your presence in every circumstance and trial—committed to working in all things, for our good and your glory. Troubling news doesn’t have to cripple our hearts. Indeed, may it carry our hearts to you today, for you are ever so trustworthy, Lord Jesus.

For our friends stunned with breath-taking health news, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. How we long for the day when words like cancer, dementia and heart disease will no longer appear in our vocabulary. Until that Day, we unabashedly and earnestly pray for healing, and we trust you for all-surpassing peace and more-than-sufficient grace.

For friends saddened with heart-ripping issues with their children, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. Few reports carry more power to dishearten us than those related to our children.

Whether they’ve been vandalized by others’ darkness, or victimized by their own foolish choices, it hurts real bad and real deep. We appeal to your covenant faithfulness and your powerful reach: capture the hearts of our children, Jesus, and help us love them well in the chaos and the crisis.

For friends waking up to pink slips, financial burdens and no apparent options, we declare our trust in you, Lord Jesus. Things impossible with man are possible with you. We pray, not only for your provision, but also for our generosity with one another. May the law of love be fulfilled as we bear one another’s burdens—spiritually and emotionally, physically and fiscally.

Lord Jesus, we can “trust in you as we trust in God,” for you are God—the Son of God and God the Son. We can “take heart” because you took our sin, and have already overcome the world for us.

In the world we will have tribulation and broken stories, but in you we are given all the grace, peace, and hope we need.

So very Amen we pray in your kind and overcoming Name.

Handling Your Personal “Jericho”

Source:  Taken from an article by Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Rae Lee

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)

It takes tremendous courage to persevere in the face of overwhelming problems.  And faith in God is the only thing that makes that kind of courage possible.

Joshua, a godly hero in the Old Testament, persevered by holding on, standing firm, keeping his course, and being patient. His persistence was based on his faith in God’s promises.

The city of Jericho blocked the entrance to the Promised Land for the children of Israel. This land belonged to God’s chosen people. He had promised it was theirs. However, there was an obstacle: the daunting fortified city of Jericho.

Joshua turned to God for guidance. What did God tell him to do? March around Jericho for seven days, then shout and blow horns! This may have seemed strange to Joshua, but it was God’s plan. God’s wisdom versus human wisdom.

Joshua chose God’s plan . . . and the Israelites won the victory.

Every Christian has to deal with a personal Jericho from time to time. Sometimes these obstacles seem impossible to overcome from a human perspective. But with God . . . all things are possible.

Are you facing an obstacle? It could be anything. Debt. Health. Relationship. A habit or addiction. The list of possibilities is endless, but the answer is always the same: Jesus.

[The above] scripture, God says not to be afraid. He is here to help you.

Turn to God. Turn to his Word. Place your faith in him. He will give you the strength to persist. As you trust in him and him alone, be persistent as you wait for the walls of your Jericho to fall. In his way. In his time.

Father, I feel overwhelmed by this problem in my life. Thank you for reminding me that you are with me. Help me stop focusing on the problem and turn my focus to Jesus. To your Word. Help me overcome fear by trusting you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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


These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. 

Do You Avoid God’s Will Because It Hurts?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network

I was recently in a situation in which a close friend revealed some information that was quite surprising.

After absorbing the information and then prayerful consideration, I knew what God wanted me to do. Discussing with my friend what God laid on my heart was going to be uncomfortable for me. And I knew it would be even more uncomfortable for my friend to hear. Actually, I was concerned that sharing what God put on my heart might actually end this important friendship. I could have avoided the conversation and saved myself some pain (seemingly), but that would have been ignoring and dishonoring God.

Well I said it. I told him my views on his situation and advised what I would recommend as next steps. This is what he asked of me. We processed it and he agreed with my view. After consideration, he disagreed with my recommendation of next steps to apply that principle to end some of his sinful behavior, but we remained friends.

I know you’ve been in a situation, too, when it was necessary to confront a loved one with the truth you knew he wouldn’t like. How did you feel?

Incidents like this in the past really pushed me to examine myself, and I had to admit that at times, I actually feared the will of God.

That is, I actually feared doing what God told me to do because I was afraid of the material sacrifices or human relationship disruptions that might occur if I do the right thing. I have a fear that totally aligning my life with the will of God will actually cause me pain. So unfortunately, I would do what I want, avoid what God wants, and seemingly minimize my immediate discomfort. Then I realized my mistake. My fear was an emotional response.

Emotions are a great warning system of potential trouble or danger. But God never intended that we make decisions based on our emotions. Basing my decisions on His will, not my need to be comfortable, is the only way to be spiritually at peace. Then I will also have the fruit of the Spirit, psychological growth and peace, and brain chemistry renewing as bonuses.

One of Satan’s greatest lies is getting us to believe God’s way is costly … that Satan’s way (or our fleshly way) is on-sale, cheaper, better and less costly. Satan’s ways will always result in immediate spiritual, psychological, and physiological (actual brain) damage. The enemy’s solutions also cause long-term damage in the 3 spheres of spirit, mind, and body. They aren’t cheaper at all. That is just a sales gimmick. Satan’s answers are way more costly. How sad that we don’t see the cost even though the fruit of the flesh is clearly described to us.

The Word of God continually calls us to transcend living … to go beyond what is natural and to do what is supernatural. God’s will is so much deeper than our own understanding. And though His will may entail sacrifice and pain, it’s important to remember that His will not only does what is good for Him … it does what is best for us. Following God’s will always accomplishes what is best for you and those around you. The best part: it is way cheaper than Satan’s heavily advertised false imitations that masquerade as solutions.

Today, practice submission to authority. Stop at every stop sign, don’t go over the speed limit, pass up that cookie or extra serving, go to bed at the right time, don’t look at that cleavage, hold your tongue, serve your spouse, and you can think of others. Write a thank you letter to the King of the Universe who is giving you and your life special attention, guidance, and instruction.

Take a deep breath and dive into the depths of absolute trust in Him. Do the right thing regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you or how the other person might feel. Live by faith … not by sight.

The agenda, God’s will or your fleshly needs, that drives you is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I confess that while I pray for Your Will to be done, I am often afraid of the discomfort this will actually cause. I know that at times Your Will includes pain. When I am hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually … I search for ways to relieve or escape my pain. The escape becomes my focus as I obsess about how I will solve my problems. I pray to You, Father, to help me really believe that Your way is perfect. Help me to rely on your peace and comfort. I pray in the name of the One who always followed Your will, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
As for God, his way is perfect … He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.

2 Samuel 22:31

We live by faith, not by sight

2 Corinthians 5:7

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:19-23

5 Questions to Discern God’s Will

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I am often asked how to know if the plans we make are God’s will for our life. This is a common concern. Most of us want to do God’s will, but God seems to give us a tremendous amount of freedom. If you’re like me, you’re fully capable of making a mistake. I’ve made many.

Here are 5 Questions I often ask myself to help discern God’s will:

Does what I’m doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?
God’s will never will. God is always true to Himself and His Word is the best place to start. We may differ in interpretation of a passage, but if it’s clearly spelled out in Scripture, then we clearly know His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with the counsel of others?
God uses others to confirm His will. I am thankful for the people in my life, including my wife and sons, who have helped shaped the path of my life. Often they see things I can see or believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. God sends the body of Christ to encourage, challenge and strengthen the body. (Don’t be confused, however, with times God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy. See Noah about that one.)

Does what I am doing conflict with the spirit within me?
God sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. He guides us with an inner peace or a holy unrest. If Christ is in you, He will not leave you to make a decision completely alone. Often God provides a peace or a lack thereof when He is trying to confirm His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with my life experience?
God uses our experiences in life to teach and mold us to His will. Often it isn’t as unusual of a path when we look back over our life experiences. Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also.

Does what I am doing conflict with my passion for life?
God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire. He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. When I look at Bible characters like Joseph, David, the disciples, Abraham or Paul it appears their calling matched their wiring. Paul was zealous for whatever he did. God used that passion for good. What’s your passion? God may work within it to confirm His will.

Try those 5 questions together and see how they line up to help discern God’s will as it relates with your plans.

Here’s some good news.

I fully believe God works all things for good even when we miss His will in individual decisions. You can make a bad decision, but God retains the right to finish your story His way. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

God, You Are Soooo Stubborn!

SOURCE: James MacDonald

GOD’S RELENTLESS LOVE

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

—Psalm 23:6

Are you experiencing a season of defeat and discouragement?

At times like these, God can seem far off and distant from your life. But if you are one of His children—if you have turned from your sin and embraced Christ by faith as the only basis for your forgiveness—you have this Psalm 23 promise in your pocket:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Look at the two key words in this phrase.

Goodness means bounty or blessing. Mercy can also be translated loving-kindnessfavor, or steadfast love. It comes from the Hebrew word hesed, used 246 times in the Old Testament. Half of those occurrences are found in the Book of Psalms.  Hesed was David’s favorite word to describe the attitude of God toward His children.

In Psalm 33:5, David observed, “The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” In Psalm 86:13, “For great is your steadfast love toward me.” In Psalm 98:3, “He (the Lord) has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness.”

The loving-kindness of God—His goodness and mercy—is eternal. It’s persistent. It’s a stubborn love God has for His children. He won’t turn His back on us. And He won’t give up on us or let us go.

God’s hesed love brings Jonah to mind.

Jonah could run, but he couldn’t hide or get away from God. The Lord used a storm to get Jonah’s attention and a very large fish to transport Jonah back to the shore where he had made his wrong turn. Even the hardship of Jonah’s experience was God’s loving-kindness. He could have wiped out the wayward prophet in a heartbeat. But, determined to show His loving-kindness to the huge city of Nineveh through Jonah, God kept him alive.

Likewise, God is relentless in His pursuit of you.

No matter what choice you make or where you go, He will come after you. God has a plan for your life, and He will go to great lengths to complete the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

If you have become a follower of Jesus Christ, God is all over you and your situation. He is pursuing you—relentlessly.

That’s the meaning of the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.”

It also means your very best days are ahead. As a child of God, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done—your greatest days of usefulness and service to His kingdom can be in the future, followed always by His goodness and mercy!

MANAGING ANGER: Seeing RED !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:11 (NIV)

“In your anger, do not sin.” Apostle Paul

Throwing a chair across the basketball court… Slamming a fist through a wall… The frustration when someone cuts you off in traffic… Those feelings you get when someone tells a trusted secret… How a child feels when dad doesn’t come home.

When life isn’t the way we think it should be, it’s easy to get angry. God wired us that way.

Anger is one of the most often misunderstood, yet significant concepts in life. Best understood as A state of preparedness” to respond to a real or perceived wrongdoing or injustice in life, anger motivates a person to action.

Paul taught in Ephesians 4:26 (NIV), “In your anger, don’t sin.”  While anger always finds an expression, what you decide to do in your “state of preparedness” determines whether or not you will “sin”.

Anger management starts when we:

  1. See it — Identifying the cause of anger in your life especially opens your spirit for God’s help. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness…” (Romans 8:26 ESV)
  2. Delay it — Learn the value of “calming” to allow the anger to subside. “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29 ESV)
  3. Control it — Control your response rather than reacting emotionally. “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32 NIV)
  4. Settle it — Commit to not only “doing” the right things, but also “being” the right person. “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV)

When you invite God to help you identify your anger and take positive action, anger becomes a servant rather than a master.

In your anger — choose not to sin.

It just might turn your life around.

Why does God allow bad things?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

“Who sinned, this man or his parents?” the disciples asked Jesus when they saw a man who had been blind his entire life (John 9:1). They wanted to know why God allowed this terrible affliction.

This is the same thought Job’s friends had when they saw Job suffering through the loss of his children, his prosperity, and his health. “Job what did you do?” How have you sinned?” You must have angered God in some way,” they echoed.

As a counselor and coach, I find people ask God the why question when they face the big difficulties of life like blindness, a rebellious child or the death of a marriage. But they also ask God why with the minor irritants of daily life like when they burn dinner just before company arrives or they can’t find their car keys or cell phone when they have an important appointment to keep. We want to know why God? Why this? Why now?

We all want to understand why bad, inconvenient, or troublesome things happen to people don’t’ we? If we could know why, then maybe we can change or do something to prevent those bad things from happening to us.

Jesus answered his disciples’ question by telling them it’s not about who sinned. We’re all sinners. Rather, he told his disciples that in this situation, the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

At first glance, Jesus’ answer sounds unfair, harsh. Why was this man singled out for affliction so God could display his power? No one would willingly sign up for that. You’re right, and it’s good God doesn’t ask our permission because most of us would say “No thanks.”

One of the most influential women in my life has been Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident when she was only 17 years old. I have followed her story, read her books and listened to her speak since I was in college over 30 years ago.

God uses Joni’s life to show me, as well as thousands of others, the reality of Christ’s mercy, love, and grace. It’s not too hard to praise God when everything in your life is going well. It’s another story to continue to praise God and give him thanks when your life falls apart. That gets people’s attention, and they sit up and take notice. What is the secret to this person’s joy and peace? It’s not natural. That’s right. It’s God.

There are only certain individuals whom God trusts with such deep suffering. Joni is one of them. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was another. Spurgeon, a renowned preacher, prolific author and beloved pastor during the 1800s, battled depression throughout his life. He was refreshingly honest with his struggle and never pretended he didn’t feel what he felt. Yet he always found hope in looking for God’s purposes in it. He wrote,

“Any fool can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws

inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around him

any man can sing to the praise of a God who gives a plenteous

harvest…It is not natural to sing in trouble…Songs in the night

come only from God; they are not in the power of man.”

Perhaps you are one like Joni or Spurgeon, whom God trusts with his severe mercy. If so, our world desperately needs to see Jesus in you.

For the rest of us, how might God want his works to be displayed in us in the midst of our inconvenience or daily disappointments? When we’re aggravated waiting in a long line with a clerk who isn’t moving fast enough for us, how might we move beyond thinking only about how we feel or what we’re not able to do and, in that moment, express the fruit of the spirit like love, or patience or self-control?

Do you think that God might also arrange or allow the minor afflictions of life so that the works of God might be displayed in us to a world so desperate to see him?

Marriage: Does God Want Me To Suffer?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

This week’s topic is one that underlies most Biblical counsel women in destructive marriages receive. It is something that we must understand if we are going to wisely deal with a destructive spouse. It is the issue of suffering

Suffering is universal, and we will all experience it at some point in our lives. Although most of us would never willingly choose suffering, the Bible clearly tells us that it is used by God to help us see him more clearly (1 Peter 4:13), to help us be done with lesser things (1 Peter 4:1-3), as well as to help us mature in our character (Romans 5:3-5).

Over the past weeks, I’ve been deluged with e-mails from women in terribly destructive and abusive marriages, and the common theme in each of their struggles is this question:

Is Christ calling them to suffer by patiently and quietly enduring harsh and abusive treatment within their marriage?

The passage that is usually cited by church leaders to support a “yes” response is found in 1 Peter 2:13-3:22 where Peter writes to believers who face mistreatment for their faith.

There is much to say about this passage and the entire book of 1 Peter has to do with suffering, but I want to focus only on a few points to help us understand what Peter is trying to teach us about suffering especially for women in destructive marriages.

Peter anticipates that the new believers will be persecuted for their faith. Therefore, instead of talking about the normal mutual household duty codes between slaves and their masters and husbands and wives that Paul already covered in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, Peter zeros in on where the relationships are not mutual or reciprocal. Peter wants to talk about what Christians should do when the government or slave owner misuses his power or is abusive or when a husband is a non-believer and isn’t following the mutual household duty codes that Paul spoke about such as “husband’s love your wives as Christ loved the church.” To a non-believing husband, those words would hold no weight.

First, Peter is clear that believers should be respectful to all persons, not because the person deserves our respect, but because they are created in God’s image and, for that reason alone, we choose to honor them regardless of their behaviors towards us. Often in destructive marriages, a woman who is regularly verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused starts to lob some verbal bombs of her own. Instead of learning to handle such mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband and God by her reactions and responses.

Peter strongly cautions us against that kind of behavior and, when we try to keep our mouths shut in the presence of such provocation, we may indeed suffer. In fact, the psalmist talks about his struggle with keeping quiet in Psalm 39 when he says, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me. But as I stood there in silence – not even speaking of good things – the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words.” (Psalm 39:1-3)

Second, Peter reminds us that God sees our mistreatment and is pleased with us when we bear it without retaliating. Peter encourages us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus who, when reviled, did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:22-23). In not retaliating or executing our own revenge, we may suffer, but we can do so knowing God is pleased with us.

Third, Peter says, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” It’s important that we understand that the good Peter is talking about is a moral good, a doing the right thing kind of good. It may not necessarily feel like good to the other person.

For example, Peter himself suffered for doing good when he was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been told to cease. Peter refused to submit to the authorities (even though he said we’re to submit to them) because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19; 5:17-42).

[W]hen a wife stands up for her children who are being verbally abused, refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself, she is honoring God and doing her family good.

She will suffer because it’s unlikely that her husband will view her actions as good and thank her. Instead he will get angry, defensive and retaliate against her for what she’s done, but that’s the kind of suffering Peter is talking about. He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive or fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. Peter is saying that when we do what is right and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.

Lastly, when Peter writes that unbelieving husbands who refuse to obey the word can be won by the conduct of their wives when they observe their respectful and pure conduct, he’s saying that our actions and non-verbal attitudes are far more influential toward winning our husband over to Jesus than our words are.

He’s right, but I don’t believe Peter’s instructions preclude a wife from respectfully implementing appropriate consequences (her respectful and pure conduct) that hopefully will influence her husband to look at his destructive behaviors differently and repent, coming to Christ in the process.

Counselors and pastors often advise a wife that God calls her to suffer in her marriage while continuing to provide all the privileges and benefits of marriage regardless of how her husband treats her, provides for her or violates their marital vows. This stance only reinforces the delusion of the destructive spouse who believes he can do as he pleases with no consequences. Marriage does not give someone a “get out of jail free” card that entitles a husband to lie, mistreat, ignore, be cruel or crush his wife’s God-given dignity.

To believe otherwise is not to know the heart of God.

The alternative interpretation, that a wife should stay passive and quiet and do nothing to help her spouse see the damage he is causing his family, harms him. It enables him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways which is not good for him, for her or for their family.

When a woman takes these brave steps of implementing consequences, she will still suffer. She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her. She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse. She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, or disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken.

My colleagues, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, write in their book, How People Grow:

Sometimes people have difficulty understanding when they should suffer and when they should avoid it.”

A person in a difficult relationship may endure abuse thinking that this is part of the path of suffering when actually this suffering can injure her soul and also help her abuser stay immature.

Peter reminds us, “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

Waiting Upon the Lord

SOURCE:  Peter Martyr Vermigli

It especially torments the saints when in their afflictions they are not heard at once.

For their carnal nature taunts them: “Why doesn’t that God of yours hear you now?”

These insults must be blunted by great faith. Let us remember that Christ when he prayed in the garden, also was not heard at once but rather after His resurrection. And when He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross, they were not saved at once, though many of them were later converted to God after Peter addressed them.

If, therefore, in Christ’s case, vows and prayers were delayed, and if God held back His gifts from Him for a short time, why are we, on our part, so very frustrated that we are not heard sooner?

God does not act cruelly but prudently. As He knows what is useful for us,  in the same way He alone knows the right times, occasions and opportunities to give things to us. So let us not prescribe the hours for Him rashly. If we do not dare to do this with a medical doctor, why with God?

And because we are not heard so quickly, we ought not on that account to desist from what should be the beginning of our praying. We are instructed to “pray without  ceasing.” For prayer may never be without fruitful results for us. And often fruits that are late ripe and long expected are better and more fit than those that are premature, sudden and unseasonable. What is more pleasant than grapes or figs that are nonetheless a year tardier than all the rest? The Lord’s incarnation was long requested by the father’s and it was given late. We too “wait” avidly for the blest hope, that is “the advent of Christ and the great God” which, however, is given last of all. If we can wait in the case of these serious matters, for as long as it should please God, why cannot we wait when it comes to our own longings, often so much less serious?

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–Peter Martyr Vermigli “Commentary on Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah” — (1499 – 1562),  was an Italian theologian of the Reformation period.

MARRIAGE: God’s Idea

SOURCE:  Living Free/Jimmy Ray Lee

THE FIRST MARRIAGE

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:22-24 NIV

The first marriage was built on a foundation of five principles.

First, today’s scripture clearly shows God is the creator of the marriage relationship. Marriage was not dreamed up by a sociologist, nor did it come about because of a consensus reached through a poll.  Instead, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Second, heterosexuality is God’s pattern for marriage. Adam was male and Eve was female (Genesis 2:23; 3:20; Leviticus 18:22).

Third, monogamy is God’s design for marriage (Genesis 2:22-24). God gave Adam one wife.

Fourth, God’s pattern for marriage is for physical and spiritual unity. God describes this union as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-5). They are to cleave to each other, to be glued to each other.

And fifth, God designed marriage to be permanent (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). When two people who are glued together are pulled apart, it causes pain. Divorce brings pain to everyone involved.

As we trace God’s plan for marriage and the family, we see its significant role in the Ten Commandments. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12 NIV). This is the fifth commandment and serves as the centerpiece of all the others. The first four deal with our relationship with God, and the last five focus on social relationships. The commandment serves as a bridge from our focus on God to our focus on relating to people.

If the focus on God is not present in the home, social relationships in all society including church, school, our nation, and workplace will suffer for lack of respect, direction, and purpose. Rules will change frequently without an anchor, and subsequent ethical decisions deteriorate.

We need to live according to God’s pattern in the home. To honor him. To be a living example to our children. We need to teach this kind of respect and honor to our children.

Father, help us to pattern our family relationships according to your family plan. In our home, help us to love and respect one another and above all to honor you. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …


Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
 by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Partial Conversion + A Little Gospel = A Dangerous Thing

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson/The Gospel Coalition

Exodus 8Luke 11Job 25 – 261 Corinthians 12 

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING PICTURES of what might be called a “partial conversion” is found in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus teaches that when an evil spirit comes out of someone, it “goes through arid places seeking rest ant does not find it” – apparently looking for some new person in whom to take up residence. Then the spirit contemplates returning to its previous abode. A reconnoiter finds the former residence surprisingly vacant. The spirit rounds up seven cronies who are even more vile, “and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant, as it were.

There are three lessons to learn.

First, “partial conversions” are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enough to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:4-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

The third lesson is inferential. This passage is thematically tied to another large strand of Scripture. Evil cannot simply be opposed – that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good.


Article printed from For the Love of God: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod

40 Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Four decades ago, I married Barbara Ann Peterson. Looking back now on the first 12 months of our marriage, I’d have to describe myself then as an idiot—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

But after six children, 19 grandchildren, and decades of married life, I’ve learned some things. I think of them as 40 lessons from 40 years of marriage … and family … and life.

1. Marriage and family are about the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27 makes it clear, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” From the beginning, marriage has been central to God’s glory on planet Earth. The Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage. What God designed, lifted up, and gave a transcendent purpose, man has dumbed down.

Many today make the purpose of marriage to be one’s personal happiness—of finding another person who meetsmy needs. God created marriage to reflect His image, to reproduce a godly heritage, and to stand together in spiritual battle. Your marriage, your covenant-keeping love, will be your greatest witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is about the glory of God—not about the happiness of man.

2. Marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

Satan’s first attack on the image of God was to destroy the image-bearers’ relationship with Him. Then Satan went after Adam and Eve and their relationship with one another. If he targeted marriage to begin with, why would we think our marriages would be any different?

I think we often forget that our marriage—our family—can be targeted by the enemy to destroy the image-bearers, to destroy the legacy that is passed on to future generations.

I believe that the very definition of marriage is under attack today because of who created marriage, God.

3. Your spouse is not your enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Have you ever looked at your spouse in the morning as your enemy, asking God, “What did you do in bringing us together?” I have.

But the Scriptures tell us, your mate is not your enemy. Your mate is a gift from God to you. In all his imperfections—in all her imperfections—God has given you a gift. You can either receive it by faith, or you can reject it.

4. The couple that prays together stays together.

In the first months of my marriage, I went to a friend named Carl Wilson and said, “Carl, you’ve been married 25 years. You’ve got five kids. What’s the best single piece of advice you can give me, as a young man who’s just starting out his marriage?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “Pray with your wife every day.”

I said: “That’s it? ‘Pray with your wife’?”

“That’s it.”

So I went home, and Barbara and I started praying together. This worked really well for a couple of months … until the night when we went to bed facing opposite walls. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable position physically, it expressed where we were spiritually and emotionally.

There seemed to be a tap on my shoulder that night, and it wasn’t Barbara. God was speaking to me in my conscience. He said: “Hey, Rainey! Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” I said, “I don’t like her tonight!”

He said, “Yes, but you made the commitment to pray every day with your wife.” And I said, “But God, you know that in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong!”

God said, “Yes, but it was your 10 percent that caused her to be 90 percent wrong.”

I wanted to roll over and say, “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” But after the words got caught in my throat, I said, “Will you forgive me for … ?”

Barbara and I are both strong-willed, stubborn, rebellious people. But we’ve been transformed by praying together. Now we are two strong-willed people who bow their wills before almighty God, on a daily basis, and invite Him into our presence.

Praying with your spouse will change the course of your marriage and legacy.

5. Isolation is a subtle killer of relationships.

Genesis 2:24 gives us a prescription from Scripture: Leave, cleave, and become one. The enemy of our souls does not want a husband and wife to be one. Instead, he wants to divide us.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for the church to be one. He realized that when we are in isolation, we can be convinced of anything.

Isolation kills relationships.

6. It’s easier for two broken people to build a marriage and family from the same set of biblical blueprints.

What would a physical house look like if you had two different architects, two different builders, and two different sets of blueprints? You’d get some pretty funny-looking houses, wouldn’t you? The same thing will happen in your marriage if you and your spouse are building your relationship and family from different plans.

For the past 37 years, FamilyLife has hosted Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. If you haven’t been to this with your spouse, I encourage you to go. Weekend to Remember speakers explain God’s blueprints for a successful marriage and family, and transparently share from their own lives.

7. It is healthy to confess your sins to your spouse.

James 5:16 reminds us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

If you want to be healthy, develop a marriage relationship where your spouse has access to the interior of your soul. Are you struggling with bitterness over a betrayal? I’ve been through that. I’ve asked Barbara, “Will you pray for me?”

Maybe you’re struggling with a bad attitude … a sense of rebellion … toying with something you shouldn’t be toying with. Bring your spouse into the interior of your soul so that you may be healed.

8. It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being lavish in your forgiveness of one another.

Ephesians 4:32 says we should forgive each other “just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Failing to forgive or to ask for forgiveness kills oneness, and unity, and life in a marriage.

I love this statement by Ruth Bell Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Why is this true? Because forgiveness means we give up the right to punish the other person. In a marriage relationship there are plenty of things (either committed or omitted) where you’re going to have to give up the right to punish the other person. Bitterness does not create oneness.

9. One of the greatest threats in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Most of us do all we can to prevent a heart attack. Why? Because there’s a simple equation: If the heart dies, you die.

The Bible is filled with references to the heart. In fact, the Great Commandment is one that calls our heart to love God totally and fully, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Pay attention to your heart. Guard it lest it become hardened or not teachable.

A teachable heart is a spiritually-receptive heart. When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you? When did you last listen to a child who had perhaps been hurt by you?

Remember, from the heart flows the springs of life.

10. Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.

Who’s your couple? Who’s your person? If you’re a newlywed, you need someone to coach you on the habits you establish at the beginning of your marriage. If you’re starting out with your kids, you need someone just to say: “You know what? This is normal. This is the way it happens.”

Even if you are moving into the empty nest with adult children, I’ve got news for you: You really need a mentor in that phase! Relating to adult children has been more challenging than the terrible twos—not because our kids are bad kids. It just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it.

Who’s your mentor? Be careful about who’s speaking into your life.

11.  What you remember is just as important as what you forget. 

We tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia.  Wanting to remember God’s faithfulness, I started a spiritual milestone file in 1998. It now has 920 reminders in it—remembrances of the little things, and the big things, that God has done.

Milestones remind us of three things: what God has done; who God is—His provision, care, and deliverance; and the need to trust God and walk by faith.

When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.

12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”  And Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep …”

I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife.  She is a partner in ministry.  We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way.  We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we increasingly share it as we move toward the finish line.

The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room in two chairs that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece.  They’ve been reupholstered three times.  We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?”  I turned to her and I said:  “You know what?  We have not given our lives to stuff.”

Now, do we live in a nice home?  Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely. But as imperfect as we are, as many struggles as we’ve had, we are headed toward the same mission.  We are a part of the Great Commission.  We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together as a couple.

My challenge to you is this: As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little. Remember what A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”

Life can wear you down.  It can wear you out.  Disappointment chips away at faith.  As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.

13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

The lessons that you learn need to be applied. It’s not good to repeat rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.

14. Never use the d-word in your marriage.   

Never threaten divorce in your marriage. Never let the d-word cross your lips, ever!  Instead, use the c-word—commitment, covenant, covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”

I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old and divorce was not in vogue.  Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you communicate when you disagree. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.

15. Honor your parents.

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Our marriage was brought to life as we honored our parents.  We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment.  It is time for us to return home to our parents with honor.  A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute and, then, by reading it to them.

Instead of giving your parents a dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them a tribute, thanking them for what they did right.  Barbara did this with her parents.  I did it with mine.  Honoring your parents is a life-giver.

16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different.  When Barbara and I moved into the empty-nest phase, we discovered that we are much more different than we ever imagined.  Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that God has brought to your life to complete you.

Barbara’s an artist and as we began our empty-nest years I told her, “Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.”  You see, I didn’t appreciate beauty.  I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.

17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

Being married to Barbara and having six kids has saved me from toxic self-absorption.  The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ.  It is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, then to your spouse—serving them.

I have a confession to make.  I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. Now I think that He gave me six children, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up.  Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice and following God’s Word than loving and leading my children.

18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple. 

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru in the United States), said countless times that a man’s wife should be his number one disciple.

Husbands, help your wife grow as a Christian. It’s the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well.

19. Go near the orphan.

When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart.  Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted one of our six children. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of choosing a child and unconditional love. This[F1]  is pure and undefiled religion.

20. Make your home a storm shelter.

I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans. It was a musty smelling place. I was down there trying to dodge a tornado that never hit.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares two builders of two homes—both in storms.  We should get a clue from that: We’re going to build our marriage, our family, our home in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.

Barbara nearly died on four different occasions; she had a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I often imagined life as a single dad, until we got her heart problem fixed. And then there was a 13-year-old son, our athletic son, who was stricken with a rare neurological disorder.  There was a prodigal.  There was the day my dad died.  There were short paychecks in ministry.  There were challenges in my ministry—all kinds of issues with people.

Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime.  It is for better and for worse.

Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in a storm.

21. Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.

Scripture teaches that our response to God and His Word is the difference-maker in how we handle suffering.  You and your spouse have to decide to suffer together rather than falling apart.

22. Men and women process suffering very differently.

It is a wise husband who gives his wife space and grace to process loss and suffering differently from how he processes it. After Barbara recovered from several near-death experiences when her heart raced over 300 beats a minute, I remember wanting her to flip a switch and move on with life.  That was easy for me to say. I hadn’t been the one who they took away in an ambulance with a heart beating so fast that the bed was shaking.

23.  Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.

How you and your spouse process loss, by faith, will determine whether you grow old and bless others, giving them life, or whether you grow old and curse others, becoming a bitter crotchety old person.

Process loss well.

24. Communication is the life-giver of a relationship. 

Simply put, find a way to get five, ten, fifteen minutes together to talk every day.  Turn the TV off, set the computer aside, take a walk, and just talk with each other.

Barbara and I used to do this and walk in our garden.  The kids thought we were just going out there to see the flowers bloom.  We were going out there to get away from them, so we could have a complete sentence between each other.

25. No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow. 

You are the guardian of your marriage and family’s direction and vision. C. H. Spurgeon said, “It was by perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Sliming my way to the finish line is the great hope for me as the spiritual leader of my family.  After you fail (and you will), get back up.

When the kids were young, our family devotionals were chaos—flipping peas, spilling milk, crawling under the table.  Who knows what they heard?  No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

26. Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete. 

Ephesians 5 talks to men about loving their wives as they love their own bodies. Help your wife accomplish everything that God has in mind for her.

Do an inventory of her gifts, her talents, her passions.  What motivates her?  What demotivates her?  Pray for her and her vision.  What are her core competencies?  Dream some dreams together, and don’t wait until you’re in the empty nest to dream the dreams.  Start dreaming even when you’re building your family.

27. Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank. 

Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands.  Ladies, keep in mind that 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal.  How are you expressing belief in your man non-verbally?

Barbara’s belief in me as a man has helped me excel.  It’s not a blind belief, but it’s a belief that speaks the truth in love.

28: Women spell romance differently than men. 

Women spell romance r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p. But men spell it: s-e-x. God, in His cosmic genius, has brought two very different people together in marriage who are to dance together. And what an interesting dance when I think that I understand my wife. For example, I bring her roses, and I write her a note, and I fix dinner, and put the kids to bed, and that equals sex.

So, as a man, I begin to think, “A+B+C=D.  It did last night.”  So, I try it again the next night or perhaps a few nights later.  Roses, a nice meal, put the kids to bed—“Huh?”  Nada.  “Huh?”

So, I went to Barbara: “What’s the deal?  You changed the equation.”

Would you like to know what she said: “As a woman, I don’t want to be reduced to an equation.  I want to be pursued as a person relationally.”

29. Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids. 

Our romance gave us children, and our children tried to steal our romance.

Barbara and I had to make an effort to have special dinners together and go on short getaways two or three times a year. We fought to keep these times on the schedule.  It was a hassle finding a babysitter, but time alone together was worth it.

30. Build too many guardrails around your relationship rather than too few. 

Men, don’t trust yourself alone with the opposite sex.  I have asked people to go out of their way to take me to speaking engagements instead of one woman taking me.  I’ve got a friend who won’t get in an elevator alone with a woman.  You may say that’s a little extreme.  Let me tell you something.  Given the fallout today in ministry, I’m not sure it’s extreme.

31. Wives generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life. 

I think that one of the mistakes we make when we read chapters 5-7 in Proverbs (which is a father’s advice to a son about the harlot) is to believe that sexual power over a man is limited to just a woman in the streets.

I think Proverbs 5-7 gives women an interesting glimpse into how to encourage and bless her husband—by speaking love to him in the language that would encourage him.  Ladies, use your sexual power liberally with your husbands.

32. The first essence of rearing children is “identity.”

This has to do with disciplining your child to know his or her spiritual destiny and spiritual address.  It also has to do with his or her sexual identity as well.  This culture is seeking to distort the image of God imbedded in boys and girls; we have to help our children know how to navigate those waters.

33. The second essence of rearing children is “relationship.” 

Disciple your child to know what real love is, how to love another imperfect person, and how to experience love as a human.  The Great Commandment makes it clear (Matthew 22:34-40). Life is about relationships.  It’s about a relationship with God, loving Him, and it’s also about loving others on the horizontal.

34. The third essence of rearing children is “character.”

The book of Proverbs talks about this, obviously.  It is disciplining your child to be wise and not be a fool.

35. The fourth essence of rearing children is “mission.” 

It is no mistake that the Scriptures compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior.  Arrows are meant to be pulled back by an archer, aimed at a target, and let go.

What are you aiming them toward?  What are you challenging your children to give their lives to?  The Kingdom’s work is paramount.  We’re going to need another generation to carry on should Christ tarry.

36. Determine your core values as a couple.

In the early years of Barbara’s and my marriage, we went on a little retreat together. She got alone and wrote down the top ten core values that she wanted to produce in our children.  I got alone, separate from her, and wrote out my top ten core values for the kids.

Then we got together and prioritized them, agreeing on our top five.  Those five helped us to not compare our family with other families, but to do just what God had called us to do.  And it helped us be one as a couple

37. Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons not to be clueless.

May I suggest two books that I wrote: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date and Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys?

In today’s culture, even our little eight year old/nine year old boys are being preyed upon by older girls. It is bizarre.

I was recently told about a young man who went away for a Passport2Purity® weekend, which is a weekend getaway, with his father.  He was 11 years old.  After learning about the birds and the bees for the first time, he arrived back home. Two days later, two eighth grade girls asked him to have sex with them.  He said, “No”—told them to leave.

38.  Become smaller, not bigger, in the lives of your adult children.

As Barbara and I have watched our grown children manage their own families and extended families, we have learned that we must become small.  By this I mean that we cannot fix their problems. We can give advice when asked, but not unless we are asked.

39.   As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little. 

40. Have a view of God that will guide you all of your days.

What you think about God is important. Your view of God, of who He is and the blueprints of His Word, will guide you all your days through many valleys and mountaintops in ministry.

Lord, Loosen My Addiction — Tightly Grip Me

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Untie from Your Addiction — Be Tied Together to God  

According to the latest statistics, compulsive addictions torment tens of millions of people in the USA. Taking into account caffeine addiction and overeating, 40-50% of the U.S. struggles with compulsive behaviors that are harmful.

An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself or any other person. That drug or behavior is the path to the supposed relief they deeply desire. To a large degree, our society denies the addiction problem. Many of you might even scoff at the numbers. The walking wounded are usually on their own to get help for themselves or their loved ones as treatment centers and state hospitals close, program funds diminish, and insurance reimbursements for treatment decrease.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Addictions are the number one killer in the U.S. High blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer, headaches, sleep problems, liver disease, impaired immunity, infections, irritability, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, poor frustration tolerance, loneliness, poor motivation, disconnected from God, lack of purpose, no passion, and no peace are all common consequences of various addictions (and this was just the start of the list!)

Regardless of the type of addiction, an addictive lifestyle causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word ”religion” receives? It’s no longer regarded as the original word suggests. The Latin root of the word is “ligio,” meaning to tie or bind together. An example is a woman having her tubes tied, or a tubal ligation. To “re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God. Then they disobeyed God, causing the original tie of perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does all the work. We just need to accept His payment for our debt.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. We become untied from God because of our addiction. Where we invest our time, money, and energy becomes our god. Then, like the object we worship, we become a cheap imitation of what we were really meant to be. I am always amazed when I consider the things I used to pursue, and sometimes continue to pursue, to soothe my discomfort instead of going to God first. Sadly, I have endured dire spiritual consequences for the sake of momentary thrills or escapes.

Today, God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore those who have been carried away by addictions. If you have an overt addiction, let Him in and trust His ways, not yours.  Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, and be restored to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items before God. Don’t be embarrassed, just be honest. Your journey closer to God and the Mind of Christ is your decision, so choose well!

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the self-destructive effects of mood-altering chemicals and mind injuring behaviors. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful, comforting, and re-tying name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

Fighting Sin Hurts

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Doesn’t it seem good and right to fight against sin in such a way that it physically hurts? To say “no” when everything inside us wants to say “yes”?

And the last time that happened was . . .

Sin takes different forms such as pride, unbelief and lust. It is lust in particular— reckless desire, covetousness, I WANT!—that hurts when taken to task.

Desires that exceed God’s boundaries exist in every human heart. There is always an I WANT! that stalks us. Sex, gluttony, addictions are common ones. Look for anger and you’ll find it. Search your imagination—I WANT is there.

Now imagine saying “no” to these desires in such a way that you would feel something close to actual pain. It hurts but it’s also good. But let’s not stop there.

Imagine something even better. You say “no” and it hurts—then temptation fights back—and you say “no” again. This puts you among the spiritual elite though it is what we expect in the normal Christian life. Jesus went into the desert and said “no” to the tempter in order to demonstrate his messianic credentials and to succeed where we failed. His success grants us new power to fight as, by faith, we are joined to him.

There is a beauty in saying “no” and using those dormant muscles of self-control. And, because it is the Spirit’s power in you, you don’t become a dour ascetic, but discover hints of contentment and satisfaction. These are marks of the Spirit. And with the Spirit’s power, you have undeniable evidence that you belong to your Father. No mere mortal can persevere in a painful battle with renegade desires.

As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)

Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. We don’t know what pushed Felix over the edge; it might have been the judgment. We do know that Paul placed self-control among the central features of our human dilemma, and he proclaimed a gospel that offered compelling answers. He argued that self-control was a great gift and was now available to us in Jesus. No doubt he would have emphasized self-control if most of us were sitting next to him too.

Anybody hurting?

If so, no wonder Scripture calls you a holy one, beloved and mighty—you are a delight to your Father.

If so, you have made the power of God known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms—you are a menace to the Devil.

If so, you are blessed. The battle is worth it.

If so, pray that the rest of us would have that same power.

And tell your story.

God’s Working It All Out………

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  The below commentary by D.A. Carson reminds us of the mysterious, but always sovereign ways of God.  It is helpful to be reminded of this as we experience life in a world that seems chaotically out-of-control in just about every aspect.  Carson also reminds us how the Bible so honestly portrays the truthful condition of God’s people as well as humankind — family dysfunction (see first paragraph) is nothing new.  It has been with us from the very beginning, and we all are still dealing with it. 

Praise God for His patient sovereignty as He works all out according to His will……

The Providence of God

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson  

Genesis 27 is in many ways a pathetic, grubby account. Earlier Esau had despised his birthright (25:34); now Jacob swindles him out of it. In this Jacob is guided by his mother Rebekah, who thus shows favoritism among her children and disloyalty to her husband. Esau throws a tantrum and takes no responsibility for his actions at all. Indeed, he nurses his bitterness and plots the assassination of his brother. The family that constitutes the promised line is not doing very well.

Yet those who read the passage in the flow of the entire book remember that God himself had told Rebekah, before the twin brothers were born, that the older would serve the younger (25:23). Perhaps that is one of the reasons why she acted as she did: apparently she felt that God needed a little help in keeping his prediction, even immoral help. Yet behind these grubby and evil actions God is mysteriously working out his purposes to bring the promised line to the end he has determined. Certainly God could have arranged to have Jacob born first, if that was the man he wanted to carry on the line. Instead, Esau is born first, but Jacob is chosen, as if to say that the line is important, but God’s sovereign, intervening choosing is more important than mere human seniority, than mere primogeniture.

In Matthew 26, the authorities hatch a nasty plot to corrupt justice and sort out a political problem; Judas, one of Jesus’ intimates, sells his master; Jesus is in agony in Gethsemane; he is arrested and betrayed by a kiss; the Sanhedrin condemns and brutalizes its prisoner; Peter disowns Jesus. Yet who can doubt, in the flow of the book, that God remains in sovereign control to bring about the desired end? Jesus will give his life “as a ransom for many” (20:28), and all the failures, pain, and sin in this chapter issue in redemption.

The book of Esther does not even use the word God, but here too, even Haman’s gross government-sanctioned genocide is heading toward God’s salvation. And Paul (Acts 26) apparently would have been acquitted if he had not appealed to Caesar — yet that very appeal brings him in the end to declare the Gospel at the heart of the Empire.

Providence is mysterious. It must never be used to justify wrong actions or to mitigate sin: Isaac and his family are more than a little sleazy, Judas is a deceitful wretch, Haman is vile, and the Roman court trying Paul is more than a little corrupt. Yet God sovereignly rules, behind the scenes, bringing glory out of gore and honor out of shame.

Darkness – Not Always Bad

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

We typically think of darkness as something negative or bad, and it’s often associated with evil. Nightfall, devoid of light, blackened, lost, secret, closed, blinded. The Bible often uses darkness to portray “not in God’s light” … certainly a place we don’t want to be.

For a time as a child, I was afraid of the dark.  Some people even carry these fears through their teens and into adulthood. However, I have learned through personal experience that darkness is not all bad. And darkness does not have to be synonymous with the absence of God. Sometimes when darkness comes, it signifies that we are under the shelter and in the shadow of our Lord. (Psalm 91:1) Know that as a child of God, nothing happens to you that He has not allowed.

During times of darkness, there are actually treasures to be found (Isaiah 45:3), along with learning and growth. When darkness comes, most people run from it and consequently don’t see God’s protection or the lessons God has for them. Others distract or soothe themselves from the uneasiness of the darkness by turning to food, fear, alcohol, porn, power, control, anger, or other patterned or habitual knee jerk responses. Some simply sleep through it as if nothing is happening.

When events don’t go our way and we feel emotionally uncomfortable, our natural reaction is to assume the situation is against us. This leads to believing the lie that nothing positive can come from the situation, even though we know from experiences in school, sports, or the arts that we have to practice to get good results.

The “no pain, no gain” maxim is true for spiritual growth as well. When we are born again, we aren’t mature, fully equipped believers. Spiritual transformation is a process that involves work, effort, self-reflection, self-examination, learning from mistakes, and applying our new skills and relationship in times of adversity. So we must embrace the dark times as opportunities for growth.

Today, when you find yourself in the midst of physical and spiritual darkness, turn to your God for strength. Don’t run. Rather, look for the treasures in those secret places. While in the dark, turn to His Presence … His Word … His Spirit. And you will soon see His Lighthouse guiding you step by step. Look for how He wants to grow or strengthen you, especially in the areas of life that are holding you back. Always search for the positives in the storm, because they always are there.

Running from adversity or growing in it is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I know that You are perfect in all Your ways … therefore it is impossible for You to be careless. Nothing happens to me that You have not allowed. When I experience times of darkness – times that You could have prevented – it sometimes feels as if You are being careless with me. Thanks for always having a plan for my growth and success, and giving me courage to follow Your perfect plan instead of my inadequate one. I pray, Father, that You equip me to navigate in the darkness … and that You will teach me how to use that equipment. I pray this in the name of Jesus, who experienced the darkest of times while paying for my sins;  – AMEN!

The Truth

I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. 

Isaiah 45:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

Isaiah 41:10

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 

Psalm 91:1

 

Addictions – the Stone Gods

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

As kids, none of us sets out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction. Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, enslavement is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors.

In certain key situations, addictions become our masters, the key authority in decision-making moments. So by definition, God is then subject to the addiction. A small percentage of people can feel the enslavement and lack of control. But most of us are fooled into thinking we aren’t enslaved, thinking we still have control, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a long period of time. The reality is that we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the pathway to enslavement.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, alcohol, caffeine or pain pills. Subtler and more frequent options include control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parenting tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless! Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble. Yet you still do them! That is enslavement. In the end, we exalt ourselves above God and we want to feel good … no matter what.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered our life as a useful coping skill, tool, friend, or savior, quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that we choose them because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, and we give them priority and ultimately, our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long-term relief that going to God will actually bring in full.

Today, readily admit you have an addiction. Be open with another person about what your top addiction objects are. Know as a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is in you to empower your pursuit of putting God on the throne of your heart, moment by moment.

Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ. therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us and in Him we are free. We slip daily. But don’t let Satan roll you over. Confess and understand why you turned to your idol instead of to God. With steady honesty and submission, and by applying God’s instruction and promises, you will be set free. When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. God or ??? It’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, my dreams, and my hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Galatians 2:20

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  

I am a “co-dependent”.

I just realized this about a year ago and with God’s love and help, I am learning to think about myself and others differently, in the context of God’s love and my purpose in Him. I have read material from various sources, some with very helpful information, and I keep reading about people meeting my needs. This is the mindset I grew up with, but it left me empty for years. When I read the Bible and listen to the Spirit, the message I hear is that God will meet my needs. He works through people to meet my physical needs, but if I continue to look to people to meet my emotional or spiritual needs, I will be on a life-long search with no satisfaction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Answer:

Let me lay the foundation.

God created human beings to live in dependence to him (not people).

When the Lord instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, he wanted them to completely rely on him for all things good. Sadly, they chose to go outside the boundaries God established. They rejected the God ordained limits of their humanness and believed the lie that they could be as god (Genesis 3:5). As a consequence of their disobedience, we all have the same bent. We strive to be god instead of worshipping and depending on the one true God. We deny our position as dependent creatures and we also put our dependence on people or things instead of wholly on God.

It’s true. God intended us to have relationship with people, and all healthy relationships have some degree of interdependence. However, the only person who should be totally dependent on someone else to meet all of his or her needs is an infant. Once an individual starts to mature, he or she becomes less and less dependent on one person (mom or dad) for her entire well-being and learns to assume some responsibility for herself. She also grows to trust that God uses variety of people to meet some of her needs, including a spouse, but accepts that a husband or one person will never meet all of her needs or wants.

That said, there are two types of unhealthy dependence that will cause a marriage (or any other adult relationship) to become destructive.

The first kind of dependency is where I NEED you to love me in order for me to be okay.  This person puts another individual in God’s place as his or her foundational source for love and acceptance. They seek a love object to fill them up, to complete them, to rescue them or make them happy. They feel empty inside with no strong core of who they are. Therefore, they come to a relationship starving; looking for someone to nourish them like a baby seeks a mother or a tic seeks a dog.

Elise came to counseling feeling suicidal after a breakup initiated by her boyfriend. She sobbed, “What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t he love me?” No amount of rational talk about personality differences, him not being the right one, or God’s will could soothe Elise’s broken heart. His rejection of her defined her. She said, “What’s wrong with me? I feel so unworthy, I want to die.”

This kind of thinking is dangerous and destructive. Even if Elise found a man to love her, what mere mortal could fully fill her empty love tank? And when he fails (as he will), what happens to her or to him?

In the movie “Jerry McGuire,” women in the audience collectively swooned when Tom Cruise told Rene Zellweger, “I love you. You complete me.” It’s a nice line for a Hollywood movie, but don’t fall for it. The truth is, if we need someone to complete us, we won’t make a good marriage partner or a good friend. No other human being can complete us if we are not whole ourselves. Only God completes us.

It is quite seductive when a man whispers in our ear, “I love how you love me.” Or, “I need you to complete me.” But stop for a minute and listen to the words. The emphasis is on the word me. It’s a selfish love because it’s self-focused and toxic to the person who is being loved. It’s not I love you, but rather I love you loving me.

Ava was married to a man whose love started to suffocate her. She said, “I can’t breathe. My husband sticks to me like a barnacle. I’m exhausted trying to meet his constant demands for reassurance, attention, and sex. There is no room in this relationship for me to be me or for him to love me. I exist to take care of him.”

Oswald Chambers writes,

“If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because he knows that every human relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.”

That’s why I’m very wary about relationship books where the main emphasis is how to meet one another’s needs. It sets up unrealistic expectations that a human being can or should fulfill another’s needs. If they don’t, or can’t, the person is left empty. God may indeed use a spouse or parent or friend to meet some of our needs, but there is no human being that will ever be able to meet all of our needs or wants.

When we put another person in God’s place, it is idolatry and it will always leave us feeling empty.

10 Things to Pray for Your Wife

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

It is a beautiful thing — a miracle — when we become as invested in the sanctification of others as we are in our own.

And, of course, the best place to start is with our spouses.

So men, here are ten things to want from God (and ask from him) for your wife:

  1. God, be her God — her all-satisfying treasure and all. Make her jealous for your exclusive supremacy over all her affections (Psalm 73:24–25).
  2. Increase her faith — give her a rock-solid confidence that your incomparable power is only always wielded for her absolute good in Christ (Romans 8:28–30).
  3. Intensify her joy — a joy in you that abandons all to the riches of your grace in Jesus and that says firmly, clearly, gladly: “I’ll go anywhere and do anything if you are there” (Exodus 33:14–15).
  4. Soften her heart — rescue her from cynicism and make her tender to your presence in the most complicated details of dirty diapers and a multitude of other needs you’ve called her to meet (Hebrews 1:3).
  5. Make her cherish your church — build relationships into her life that challenge and encourage her to walk in step with the truth of the gospel, and cause her to love corporate gatherings, the Lord’s Table, and the everyday life of the body (Mark 3:35).
  6. Give her wisdom — make her see dimensions of reality that I would overlook and accompany her vision with a gentle, quiet spirit that feels safe and celebrated (1 Peter 3:4).
  7. Sustain her health — continue to speak your gift of health and keep us from presumption; it is by blood-bought grace (Psalm 139:14).
  8. Multiply her influence — encourage and deepen the impact she has on our children. Give her sweet glimpses of it. Pour her out in love for our neighbors and spark creative ways to engage them for Jesus’s sake (John 12:24).
  9. Make her hear your voice — to read the Bible and accept it as it really is, your word… your very word to her where she lives, full of grace and power and everything she needs pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
  10. Overcome her with Jesus — that she is united to him, that she is a new creature in him, that she is your daughter in him. . . No longer in Adam and dead to sin; now in Christ and alive to you, forever (Romans 6:11).

And then a thousand other things.  Amen.

God Makes NO Mistakes

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/Tollelege

“The eternal counsels of the Trinity”

“There is a mine of deep truth in the words before us, which deserves close attention. They show us plainly that all our Lord’s sufferings were undergone voluntarily, and of His own free will. He did not go to the cross because He could not help it.

He did not die because He could not prevent His death. Neither Jew nor Gentile, Pharisee nor Sadducee, Annas nor Caiaphas, Herod nor Pontius Pilate, could have injured our Lord, except power had been given them from above.

All that they did was done under control, and by permission. The crucifixion was part of the eternal counsels of the Trinity. The passion of our Lord could not begin until the very hour which God had appointed. This is a great mystery. But it is a truth.

The servants of Christ in every age should treasure up the doctrine before us, and remember it in time of need. It is ‘full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.’

Let such never forget that they live in a world where God overrules all times and events, and where nothing can happen but by God’s permission. The very hairs of their heads are all numbered. Sorrow and sickness, and poverty, and persecution, can never touch them, unless God sees fit.

They may boldly say to every cross,—’Thou couldst have no power against me, except it were given thee from above.’ Then let them work on confidently. They are immortal, till their work is done. Let them suffer patiently, if needs be that they suffer.

Their ‘times are in God’s hand.’ (Ps. 31:15.) That hand guides and governs all things here below, and makes no mistakes.”

———————————————————————————————————————————–

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 21. Ryle is commenting on John 7:25-36
.

Not Health–Not Happiness, BUT Holiness!

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

. . it is written, ’Be holy, for I am holy’ —1 Peter 1:16

We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life.

We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness.

Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. Many of them may be right, noble, and good, and may later be fulfilled, but in the meantime God must cause their importance to us to decrease. The only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs, a person must have the right relationship with God.

Do I believe I need to be holy?

Do I believe that God can come into me and make me holy?

If through your preaching you convince me that I am unholy, I then resent your preaching. The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it is designed to reveal my unholiness, but it also awakens an intense yearning and desire within me. God has only one intended destiny for mankind— holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity— He came to save us because He created us to be holy. Atonement through the Cross of Christ means that God can put me back into perfect oneness with Himself through the death of Jesus Christ, without a trace of anything coming between us any longer.

Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God.

Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind— placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself.

Holiness is not simply what God gives me, but what God has given me that is being exhibited in my life.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

As biblical counselors our goal is to help marriages stay together but we must be careful to not be like the priests in Jeremiahs’ day who healed God’s people superficially by saying peace, peace, when there was no peace.

When working with couples in destructive and abusive marriages, I think it’s important that we understand what it takes to put their marriage back together in a godly way.  And, if one of them won’t do the work required, then what?  Do we encourage them to stay legally together even if they’re relationally separated or divorced?

God gives us a means for healing damaged relationships, but his blueprint is not unilateral.  Healing a destructive marriage can never be the sole responsibility of one person in the relationship.   It always takes two people willing to work to achieve godly change.  There needs to be forgiveness sought, and forgiveness granted.  There needs to be amends made and a willingness to rebuild trust.  There needs to be constructive feedback given and willingly received.  When one person refuses to participate or take responsibility for his or her part, healing or restoration of the relationship cannot fully take place.

As biblical counselors, working with individuals and couples in destructive marriages, I want to give you a few mile markers that will help you identify where you are on the healing journey or whether or not you’re even on the right path toward getting there. [I’m] going to talk about the importance of safety.

Safety

Safety in an intimate relationship such as marriage must never be underestimated. You cannot put a marriage together in a healthy way if one person in the marriage feels afraid of the other. Without question, whenever there has been any kind of physical abuse, destruction of property, and/or threats against one’s self or others there is no safety.

Shirley e-mailed me.  She wrote, “My biblical counselor says that I must allow my husband back into the home if we want our marriage to heal. He said, ‘How can we work on our marriage when we’re not living together?’

“What are your concerns about him moving back home?”  I asked.

“We’ve been separated for over a year after he gave me a black eye. It wasn’t the first time he hit me, but it was the worst. I never pressed charges or called the police, but I told him he’d have to move out. Honestly, I haven’t seen any real change in him. My counselor says that Ray is changing.  He hasn’t hit me for a long time. I agreed, but his underlying attitudes of entitlement are still there.”

“Give me a few examples,” I said.

“He badgers me to give in to him when I disagree. When he visits with the kids at the house and I tell him I’m tired and I want him to leave, he says I’m selfish and only thinking about myself. He thinks it’s okay if he walks into our house without knocking even though I’ve asked him not to.  If he won’t respect my requests when we’re separated, how will he do it if he moves back home? “

“He won’t. ” I said. “Either he’s not willing to respect you or he’s not capable of doing it but either way you are not safe until he learns to do this.  Please, stick up for yourself with your counselor.  Before you can work on the marriage, your husband need to value the importance of your safety and demonstrate that he can control himself and honor your feelings and boundaries without badgering or retaliation.  If he won’t do this much, you cannot go any further to repair your relationship. ”

There are other issues of safety that also must be resolved to some degree if a marriage is going to be wisely restored. For example, Kathy still loves her husband despite his sins against her. She longs for Jeff to be the man she knows he could be. Yet she must not throw caution to the side and be fully reconciled with Jeff without the proper safety measures in place.  She knows Jeff has a problem with sexual addiction.  He has a long history of pornography, affairs, prostitutes and one night stands.

Does God ask Kathy to ignore these dangers to her health and safety in order to reconcile her marriage?  Or, is it both in her and Jeff’s best interest that she stay firm and not resume sexual intimacy with Jeff until he gets a clean bill of health as well as demonstrates a change of heart and some progress in his change of habits?

In a different situation, Gina’s husband, Matthew, feels entitled to keep his income in a separate bank account with only his name on it.  He gives Gina an allowance each week for household expenses but requires her to give him give a detailed account of everything she spends.  Gina is an RN, but she and Matthew agreed it was best for her to stay home with their four children.  Gina does not feel safe financially or emotionally.  She feels like a child when she has to give an account, yet Matthew refuses to let Gina know what he’s spending.  He says it’s his money.  Gina feels vulnerable and scared whenever Matthew travels, especially overseas.  What if something happened to him and she ran out of cash?  When she’s expressed her concerns to Matthew, he tells her not to worry, nothing will happen to him.

Legally Gina is an adult and considered an equal partner in their financial responsibilities, yet she has no voice, no power, and no idea what is happening with their assets. Should she submit to Matthew when he says she’s not allowed to have a credit card even though she’s never been irresponsible with money?   Gina’s observed Matthew being deceitful at times in his business expenses. What if Matthew has been deceitful in other ways?  What if he has underreported their income tax?  Gina would be held equally responsible even if she didn’t know.   What if he is not paying their mortgage or their home equity loan faithfully?   The financial consequences of his irresponsibility would fall equally on her shoulders. Gina and Matthew will never have a healthy marriage if these issues aren’t discussed with the underlying imbalance of power and control changed.

I’m dismayed by the number of people helpers, pastors, lay counselors, marriage mentors and professional counselors who don’t understand safety issues must come first. There can be no constructive conversation about other marital issues nor can there be any joint marital counseling  if one person has no say or isn’t safe to tell the truth or disagree without fear of physical, emotional, sexual, financial or spiritual retaliation.

Forgiveness: At Holiday Events or Special Family Gatherings

SOURCE:  Anna McCarthy/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Heartache During the Holidays: A Look at Biblical Forgiveness

Many can say that they have “forgiven” a past offense with a family member or friend, yet once confronted with that person at a holiday event or family gathering, all of their past hurt begins to quickly make its way to the surface. And, instantly, it’s as though they are re-living the hurt all over again.

So, what does real biblical forgiveness look like?

Does it mean we are “fine” so long as we don’t have to see the one who hurt us?

Although, in some cases, distance may be needed in order to fully heal, I have seen time and time again where even the smallest of grievances can cripple someone from remaining healthy while in the presence of someone who has hurt them. Deep-rooted bitterness and a lack of ability to function around certain people this time of year may be a sign of unforgiveness.

I’ve come to the conclusion, having personally experienced abuse, that biblical forgiveness is part of God’s perfect plan for healing, even when restoration of the relationship is not possible. God, in his gracious wisdom, biblically designed the format to wholeness, no matter how deep the wound. God never planned for us to only function in certain places or specific situations. He desires our freedom—freedom to be exactly who he made us to be no matter where we are and no matter what has happened to us.

So often, especially within churches, our desire to please God and please others leads us to dismiss any pain or heartache we are experiencing. We must validate and give the heartache we experienced a place of importance. This simple first step quickly exposes any disconnection we are experiencing with God. Because, if we truly believe that God is for us and that he came to heal the broken hearted and bind their wounds, then we would not be ashamed to admit we are wounded. We do not need to hide our brokenness from God in order to please him.

This quickly reveals how much (or how little) we trust God.

Biblical forgiveness cannot begin until trust in who God is, has been restored. In any area where forgiveness is needed, somewhere in the midst of that event, trust was broken. As humans, we quickly engage protective measures to ensure that disappointment and pain does not happen again. This is where, almost simultaneously, distrust in God takes place as well.

Once trust in God’s full desire to heal has been restored, the door can open to trust him with forgiveness. Choosing to fully put God’s Word into practice in forgiveness requires a tremendous amount of faith. Webster’s defines forgiveness as: to cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong).

God states in his word that his plan is to heal and restore us (Isaiah 61:1-3Jeremiah 30:17). In this plan, he includes forgiveness. We must trust him enough to relinquish our rights to what has been wrongly done, in order to walk out his divine healing.

I’ve often been asked the question, “I prayed and told the Lord that I had forgiven them. But, I don’t feel any different. Now what?” Often times, we overlook the portions of Scripture that follow the decision to forgive.

The choice to forgive is one of many steps on the road to biblical healing. The step following the decision to forgive is one that again, requires a tremendous amount of trust in God. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

These verses defy our nature.

You will not find in anyone who has been hurt a natural desire to want to love that person, which is exactly why we need Jesus. This kind of love doesn’t just happen overnight and it doesn’t just magically appear. This love comes from obedience to a God who you recognize that you desperately need and who you begin to fully trust.

On our own, it’s impossible to love this way. But God didn’t provide commands in Scripture to frustrate us; he gave them out of his mercy to protect and heal us. This supernatural love comes from a choice to obey and trust. And, this kind of love exposes God’s divine healing on a platform louder than any other. But, most importantly, this part of biblical forgiveness ultimately grants freedom; freedom to be exactly who God made you to be, no matter who you are with over the holidays.

Note: This [article] is not intended to encourage those who are being abused to remain in that situation. Safety is of upmost importanceIf you are struggling with forgiveness, seek help from a pastor or Christian counselor.

 

Why Do We Pray?

Source:  Taken from the book  The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Battle by John Bornschein

In the powerful work, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Gary T. Meadors observes that dialogue with the Almighty is part of the fabric of the Bible: “Genesis 4:26 first mentions that ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord,’ and Revelation 22:20 closes the Bible with the prayer, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (compare 1 Cor 16:22).

The entire history of redemption is framed in prayer. In between these terminal references we find a database about prayer that is so large it requires description beyond simple definition.”1

Why do we pray? Here are a few key reasons:2

1.  We love Him. Just as a man and woman in love desire to be together and communicate, so we, if we love God, will desire to be with Him and to fellowship with Him in proportion to our love for Him.

2.  We depend on God. He is our source. He is our life (Col 3:4). Through prayer, we receive the comfort, strength, and all the other resources we need in life, both naturally and spiritually. Prayer—relationship with God—is as necessary to the spiritual life as air is to the natural life.

3.  Prayer allows us to resist temptation. Jesus warned His disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41 NKJV). Living a life without prayer can leave us weak and exposed, giving an opportunity for the enemy to gain ground and potentially lure us into sin.

4.  Prayer is necessary for people to invite God to act in salvation. God gave the earth to Adam and his descendants, so we must invite God to work here. If no one invites Him to work on earth, Satan—the “god of this age” because of humanity’s universal rebellion (2 Cor 4:4)—will dominate human affairs, and eventually the judgment of God will come. By inviting God to intercede often and specifically, multitudes can be saved who would otherwise be lost.

5.  God commands us to pray. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). Jesus also encouraged His followers to pray: “Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NKJV).

The need to pray is as great as the authority of God, who commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17 NKJV). Prayer is so vital to all that God wants to do on the earth, and it is so essential to us, that He commands us to do it all the time. We should even deny ourselves sleep and food at times to pray more and with greater power (see Matt 6:16; Luke 6:12; 21:36; Col 4:2; 2 Cor 11:27).

Or, as John Chrysostom wrote:
Prayer has subdued the strength of fire. It has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, burst the chains of death, expanded the fates of heaven, assuaged diseases, dispelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, staid the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In this communion with God, there is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!3

—————————————————————————————-

Genesis 4:26 And as for Seth, he also fathered a son, and he called his name Enosh. At that time he began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Revelation 22:20 The one who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Gary T. Meadors, “The Bible and Prayer,” in Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry, comp. Dan R. Crawford (Terre Haute, IN: Prayer Shop Publishing), 10.

Adaptation of list compiled by AllAboutGOD.com, cited in “Why Pray?” National Day of Prayer Task Force, http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org (accessed October 6, 2010).

Colossians 4:2 Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving,

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to show that they must always pray and not be discouraged,

Luke 6:12 Now it happened that in these days he went away to the mountain to pray, and was spending the whole night in prayer to God.

John Chrysostom, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith That Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 263. Day*� Pa�E �) Force, http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org (accessed October 6, 2010).

Bornschein, J., Butts, D., Branzell, K., & Elmore, D. (2012). The front line: A prayer warrior’s guide to spiritual battle. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

How will I know God’s answer to my prayer?

Source:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

 God often answers prayer in the following ways:

1.  “Yes, you may have it.”
2.  “No, that is not good for you.”
3.  “Wait, I have something better for you.”
4. “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9).

When He answers yes, it’s easy to say, “Praise the Lord!”

But when He says otherwise, we have a hard time finding reasons to praise Him.

Sometimes we don’t take “no” for an answer, and we keep praying!  Or we look for a reason why He didn’t answer our request.  But Scripture never says God will give us exactly what we ask for every time.  He is sovereign.  He has the right to say “no” according to His infinite wisdom.  Oftentimes, it’s for our protection.

Sometimes, God wants to answer our prayer, but the timing isn’t right.  As I reflect on my life, I realize that if God had answered certain prayers according to my schedule, I would have missed His best in every single case.  He may have been waiting for me to grow spiritually in some area so that I could more fully experience the blessings He had in store (Eph. 1:3).  Again, He is sovereign, and His timing is perfect.

God also answers “My grace is sufficient.”  We may pray for years, yet our circumstances remain unchanged.  God seems unresponsive and heaven is silent.  In many cases, the problem isn’t the length, intensity, or nature of our prayers. Oftentimes, God is up to something we don’t know about, something much bigger than we were expecting.  Something that may require a different answer than the one we anticipated.

But rest assured that if God isn’t removing your particular “thorn,” His grace is sufficient.  By an act of our will, we can decide to trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when there’s no logical or rational explanation for our circumstances.  The Father is not offended when we ask, “Why?”  But He’s overjoyed when we trust Him, even though He may choose not to explain.

God always answers the prayers of His children.  As we learn to pray, we will learn to discern His methods.

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