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The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning, an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

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

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MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME

SOURCE:    Robert Boyd Munger-1954-InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, we find these words:  “That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

Without question one of the most remarkable Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ Himself through the presence of the Holy Spirit will actually enter a heart, settle down and be at home there.  Christ will make the human heart His abode.  Our Lord said to His disciples, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).  It was difficult for them to understand what He was saying.  How was it possible for Him to make His abode with them in this sense?

It is interesting that our Lord used the same word here that He gave them in the first part of the fourteenth chapter of John:  “I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, ye may be also.”  Our Lord was promising His disciples that, just as He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and would welcome them one day, now it would be possible for them to prepare a place for Him in their hearts and He would come and make His abode with them.

They could not understand this.  How could it be?

Then came Pentecost.  The Spirit of the living Christ was given to the church and they understood.  God did not dwell in Herod’s temple in Jerusalem!  God did not dwell in a temple made with hands; but now, through the miracle of the out-poured Spirit, God would dwell in human hearts.  The body of the believer would be the temple of the living God and the human heart would be the home of Jesus Christ.

It is difficult for me to think of a higher privilege than to make for Christ a home in my heart, to welcome, to serve, to please, to fellowship with Him there.  One evening that I shall never forget, I invited Him into my heart.  What an entrance He made!  It was not a spectacular, emotional thing, but very real. It was at the very center of my life.  He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light.  He built a fire in the cold hearth and banished the chill.  He started music where there had been stillness and He filled the emptiness with His own loving, wonderful fellowship.  I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will—not into eternity!

This, of course, is the first step in making the heart Christ’s home.  He has said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).  If you are interested in making your life an abode of the living God, let me encourage you to invite Christ into your heart and He will surely come.

After Christ entered my heart and in the joy of that new-found relationship, I said to Him, “Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours.  I want to have You settle down here and be perfectly at home.  Everything I have belongs to You.  Let me show You around and introduce You to the various features of the home that You may be more comfortable and that we may have fuller fellowship together.”  He was very glad to come, of course, and happier still to be given a place in the heart.

The Library

The first room was the study—the library.  Let us call it the study of the mind.  Now in my home this room of the mind is a very small room with very thick walls.  But it is an important room.  In a sense, it is the control room of the house.  He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the wall.  As I followed His gaze, I became uncomfortable.  Strangely enough, I had not felt badly about this before, but now that He was there looking at these things I was embarrassed.  There were some books there that His eyes were too pure to behold.  There was a lot of trash and literature on the table that a Christian had no business reading and as for the pictures on the wall—the imaginations and thoughts of my mind—these were shameful.

I turned to Him and said, “Master, I know that this room needs a radical alteration.  Will You help me make it what it ought to be—to bring every thought into captivity to You?”

“Surely,” He said.  “Gladly will I help you.  That is one reason I am here.  First of all, take all the things that you are reading and seeing which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out!  Now put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible.  Fill the library with Scriptures and meditate on them day and night.  As for the pictures on the wall, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but here is an aid.”  He gave me a full-sized portrait of Himself.  “Hang this centrally,” He said, “on the wall of the mind.”  I did and I have discovered through the years that when my thoughts are centered upon Christ Himself, His purity and power cause impure imaginations to retreat.  So He has helped me to bring my thoughts into captivity.

May I suggest to you if you have difficulty with this little room of the mind, that you bring Christ in there.  Pack it full with the Word of God, mediate upon it and keep before it ever the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus.

The Dining Room

From the study we went into the dining room, the room of appetites and desires.  Now this was a very large room, I spent a good deal of time in the dining room and much effort in satisfying my wants.  I said to Him, “This is a very commodious room and I am quite sure You will be pleased with what we serve here.”

He seated Himself at the table with me and asked, “What is on the menu for dinner?”

“Well, “ I said, “my favorite dishes: old bones, corn husks, sour cabbage, leeks, onions and garlic right out of Egypt.?”  These were the things I liked—worldly fare.  I suppose there was nothing radically wrong in any particular item, but it was not the food that should satisfy the life of a real Christian.  When the food was placed before Him, He said nothing about it.  However, I observed that He did not eat it, and I said to Him, somewhat disturbed, “Savior, You don’t care for the food that is placed before You?  What is the trouble?”

He answered, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.  My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.”  He looked at me again and said, “If you want food that really satisfies you, seek the will of the Father, not your own pleasures, not your own desires, not your own satisfaction.  Seek to please Me, and that food will satisfy you.”  And there about the table He gave me a taste of doing God’s will.  What a flavor!  There is no food like it in all the world.  It alone satisfies.  Everything else is dissatisfying in the end!!

Now if Christ is in your heart, and I trust He is, what kind of food are you serving Him and what kind of food are you eating yourself?  Are you living for the lust of the flesh and the pride of life—selfishly?  Or are you choosing God’s will for your meat and drink?

The Drawing Room

We walked next into the drawing room.  This room was rather intimate and comfortable.  I liked it.  It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase, sofa, and a quiet atmosphere.

He also seemed pleased with it.  He said, “This is indeed a delightful room.  Let us come here often.  It is secluded and quiet, and we can have fellowship together.”

Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled.  I could not think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes apart with Christ in intimate comradeship.

He promised, “I will be here every morning early.  Meet with Me here and we will start the day together.”  So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the drawing room and He would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase.  He would open it and then we would read together.  He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truths.   He would make my heart warm as He revealed His love and His grace toward me.  They were wonderful hours together.  In fact, we called the drawing room the “withdrawing room.”   It was a period when we had our quiet time together.

But, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened.  Why, I don’t know, but I thought I was just too busy to spend time with Christ.  This was not intentional, you understand; it just happened that way.  Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss a day now and then.  It was examinations time at the university.  Then it was some other urgent emergency.  I would miss it two days in a row and often more.

I remember one morning when I was in a hurry, rushing down the steps, eager to be on my way.

As I passed the drawing room, the door was ajar.  Looking in I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there.  Suddenly in dismay, I thought to myself, “He was my guest.  I had invited Him into my heart!  He had come as Lord of my home. And yet here I am neglecting Him.”  I turned and went in.  With downcast glance I said, “Blessed Master, forgive me.  Have You been here all these mornings?”

“Yes,” He said, “I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you.”  Then I was even more ashamed.  He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness.  I asked His forgiveness and He readily forgave me, and He does when we are truly penitent.

He said, “The trouble with you is this:  You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to Me also.  Remember, I love you.  I have redeemed you at a great cost.  I desire your fellowship.  Now,” He said, “do not neglect this hour if only for My sake.  Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!”

You know, the truth that Christ wants my fellowship, that He loves me, wants me to be with Him, wants to be with me and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact.  Don’t let Christ wait alone in the drawing room of your heart, but every day find some time when, with the Word of God and in prayer, you may fellowship with Him.

The Workshop

Before long He asked, “Do you have a workshop in your home?”  Down in the basement of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it.  Once in a while I would go down and fuss around with a few little gadgets, but I wasn’t producing anything substantial or worthwhile.

I led Him down there.

He looked over the workbench and what little talents and skills I had.  He said, “This is quite well furnished.  What are you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?”  He looked at one or two of the little toys that I had thrown together on the bench and He held one up to me.  “Are these little toys all that you are producing in your Christian life?”

“Well” I said, “Lord,  that is the best I can do.  I know it isn’t much and I really want to do more, but after all, I have no skill or strength.”

“Would you like to do better?” He asked.  “Certainly,” I replied.

“All  right.  Let Me have your hands.  Now relax in Me and let My Spirit work through you.  I know you are unskilled and clumsy and awkward, but the Spirit is the Master-worker and if He controls your hands and your heart He will work through you.”  And so, stepping around behind me and putting His great strong hands over mine, controlling the tools with His skillful fingers, He began to work through me.

There’s much more that I must still learn and I am very far from satisfied with the product that is being turned out, but I do know that whatever has been produced for God has been through His strong hand and through the power of His Spirit in me.

Do not become discouraged because you cannot do much for God. Your ability is not the fundamental condition.  It is He who is controlling your fingers and upon whom you are relying.  Give your talents and gifts to God and He will do things with them that will surprise you.

The Rumpus Room

I remember the time He inquired about the playroom.  I was hoping He would not ask me about that.  There were certain associations and friendships, activities and amusements that I wanted to keep for myself.  I did not think Christ would enjoy them or approve of them, so I evaded the question.

But there came an evening when I was leaving to join some companions—I was in college at the time—and as I was about to cross the threshold, He stopped me with a glance.  “Are you going out?”  I answered, “Yes.”  “Good,” He said, “I would like to go with you.”

“Oh,” I replied rather awkwardly.  I don’t think, Lord, that You would really want to go with us.  Let’s go out tomorrow night.  Tomorrow night we will go to prayer meeting, but tonight I have another appointment.”

He said, “That’s all right.  Only I thought when I came into your home we were going to do everything together.  We were going to be partners.  I want you to know that I am willing to go with you.”

“Well,” I said, “we will go some place together tomorrow night.”

But that evening I spent some miserable hours. I felt wretched.  What kind of a friend was I to Christ, when I was deliberately leaving Him out of my associations, doing things and going places that I knew very well He would not enjoy?  When I returned that evening, there was a light in His room and I went up to talk it over with Him.  I said, “Lord, I have learned my lesson.  I cannot have a good time without You.  We will do everything together from now on.”

Then we went down into the rumpus room of the house and He transformed it.  He brought into life real joy, real happiness, real satisfaction, real friendship.  Laughter and music have been ringing in the house ever since.

The Hall Closet

There is just one more matter that I might share with you.  One day I found Him waiting for me at the door.  There was an arresting look in His eye.  He said to me as I entered, “There is a peculiar odor in the house.  There is something dead around here. It’s upstairs.  I think it is in the hall closet.”  As soon as He said the words, I knew what He was talking about.  Yes, there was a small hall closet up there on the landing, just a few feet square, and in that closet behind lock and key I had one or two little personal things that I did not want Christ to see.  I knew they were dead and rotting things.  And yet I loved them, and I wanted them so for myself that I was afraid to admit that they were there.  I went up the stairs with Him and as we mounted, the odor became stronger and stronger.  He pointed at the door and said, “It’s in there!  Some dead thing!”

I was angry.  That’s the only way I can put it.  I had given Him access to the library, the dining room, the drawing room, the work shop, the rumpus room, and now He was asking me about a little two-by-four closet.  I said inwardly, “This is too much.  I am not going to give Him the key.”

“Well,” He said, reading my thoughts, “If you think I am going to stay up here on the second floor with this odor, you are mistaken.  I will take My bed out on the back porch.  I’m certainly not going to put up with that.”  And I saw Him start down the stairs.

When you have come to know and love Christ, the worst think that can happen is to sense His fellowship retreating from you.  I had to surrender.  “I’ll give you the key,” I said sadly, “but You’ll have to open the closet.  You’ll have to clean it out.  I haven’t the strength to do it.”

“I know,” He said, “I know you haven’t.  Just give Me the key.  Just authorize Me to take care of that closet and I will.”  So, with trembling fingers I passed the key over to Him.  He took it from my hand, walked over to the door, opened it, entered it, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there and threw it away.  Then He cleansed the closet, painted it, fixed it up, doing is all in a moment’s time.  Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!.

Transferring The Title

Then a thought came to me.  I said to myself, “I have been trying to keep this heart of mine clear for Christ.  I start on one room and no sooner have I cleaned that than another room is dirty.  I begin on the second room and the first room becomes dusty again.  I am so tired and weary trying to maintain a clean heart and an obedient life.  I just am not up to it!”  So I ventured a question:  “Lord, is there any chance that You would take over the responsibility of the whole house and operate it for me and with me just as You did that closet?  Would you take the responsibility to keep my heart what it ought to be and my life where it ought to be?”

I could see his face light up as He replied, “Certainly, that is what I came to do.  You cannot be a victorious Christian in your own strength.  That is impossible. Let Me do it through you and for you.  That is the way.  But,” He added slowly, “I am not owner of this house.  I am just a guest.  I have no authority to proceed since the property is not Mine.”

I saw it in a minute and dropping to my knees, I said, “Lord, You have been a guest, and I have been the host.  From now on I am going to be the servant.  You are going to be the Lord.”  Running as fast as I could to the strong box, I took out the title deed to the house describing its assets and liabilities, its situation and condition.  Then returning to Him, I eagerly signed it over to belong to Him alone for time and eternity.  “Here it is, all that I am and have forever.  Now You run the house.  I’ll just remain with You as houseboy and friend.”

He took my life that day and I can give you my word, there is no better way to live the Christian life.   He knows how to keep it in shape and deep peace settles down on the soul.  May Christ settle down and be at home in your heart as Lord of all.

What To Do When You Want to Quit Marriage

SOURCE:  Barbara Rainey/Family Life

Though most every spouse marries with stars in their eyes and expectations that scrape the Milky Way galaxy, there isn’t a spouse on earth, on any continent, in any country, who hasn’t experienced harsh unexpected disappointments.

Like piles of heavy wet snow on power lines and branches, accumulated hurts and disillusionment threaten to snap personal resolve as easily as limbs surrender to the overwhelming weight of winter’s crystals.

Have you too entertained the thought of quitting at some level?

My husband’s and my overarching marriage narrative is a wonderful one because it is a tale of redemption. But in those hard places, before the redemption came, before it was spring again, we both experienced the pain of disappointment and loss. I wondered if we’d ever see beauty once more, or if we’d have to settle for a long winter.

I wanted to quit my marriage, not end it entirely as in get a divorce, but I have wanted to stop trying so hard in the cold heavy parts of our relationship.

I have felt, This is too hard, we aren’t getting anywhere. I have been tempted, and it is a real temptation from the enemy of our souls, to

  • quit sex,
  • quit working so hard to understand and be understood
  • quit serving and giving myself
  • quit biting my tongue and watching my words
  • quit trying and settle into détente.

Quitting any area of marriage is slamming a door shut on intimacy. Like a thermometer, intimacy is the rising or falling temperature of your marital oneness and depth.

Intimacy is not just sex. It’s communication, sacrificial love, self-control, courage…and sex.

Why did we all expect marriage to be so happily ever after?

Ponder this question in reply: why do you think Jesus spent so much time with tax-gatherers and sinners as the Pharisees so sharply accused?

Quite simply because He knew that they knew their inadequacies and failures. Jesus saw hope for new life, new light in those men and women and children who understood they were broken needy sinners.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Simply stated, we can’t receive the gifts of the kingdom unless we know we cannot attain them or buy them or earn them on our own.

We struggle and want to quit in our marriages because we underestimate the sinful natures of our spouse and ourselves. Marriage is hard because it’s the union of two sinners.

In my Bible study this year, our class is going through Romans which has reminded me afresh “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). My wanting to quit has so often been because I expect too much of my spouse and myself and underestimate our depravity.

I still remember some of those crisis points in our marriage. I felt frightened a few times, fearing we’d never find common ground again. I felt lonely, knowing we weren’t operating out of oneness and because I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. I felt unappreciated that my efforts to love, serve and help weren’t met with the gratitude I had expected. To quit trying appeared like the relief of a desert mirage.

At the core, I wanted to quit because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Life wasn’t working the way I thought it shouldI wasn’t able to make it all work. Paul said basically the same thing when he wrote“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

Though I felt emotions that scared me, God wasn’t bothered by my wanting to surrender and quit trying. In fact, He kinda liked me in that barren winter place…discovering that my expectations weren’t working…finding I wasn’t sufficient in myself to make everything work in my marriage. He knew I was disappointed with Him, too, and that too didn’t bother Him a bit.

True marriage is the union of three, not two.

In those alone moments when I had nothing else to try, no book with ten tips waiting on my nightstand, I prayed one of many desperate prayers over the years. I told God, I have no idea what to do next, no idea what to say or try. Will You show me? Will you guide me?

Never was there an immediate reply. I always wished for one, but learned to rest in His mysterious ways…to trust He could somehow break the ice…make a way…open our eyes to His beauty.

And that is what He wanted. “Come to Me,” Jesus said.

I was inadequate…my own attempts a failure…I needed Jesus and only Jesus.

So what do you do when you feel hope is lost and you want to quit?

Come to Jesus.

  • His strength will help you resist the darkness that threatens; the darkness of unbelief & resignation…the darkness of lost hopeIF you will ask and IF you really want to follow Him.
  • His light will shine on your heart to illumine false thinking, small and large steps of new understanding. IF you are willing to see your sin, If you are willing to change. (Is there that much sin in me? Oh yes there is.)

When you come to Jesus, the third Person in your marriage, remember:

  • He is always praying for you to choose His way. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
  • He is your husband when yours fails, “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5).
  • He is your dearest Friend when you have no one, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
  • He is your Comforter when you feel all alone; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
  • He waits to guide you by His Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Your challenge and mine is to believe all this is true and walk by faith when our feelings tell us the opposite. It’s what Jesus did all His life, but especially on the cross. And because He did, He can help us follow His steps.

God’s greatest joy is to rescue, resurrect and restore. It’s His specialty. He LOVES to take broken hearts, fractured relationships, shattered hope, and restore it to better than it was before.

I pray you will make your marriage health your highest goal, seeking to grow your relationship with your husband and your Savior this year.

May you too be counted among those who didn’t quit and because you didn’t discovered the wonder of the resurrection!

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Don’t Stuff Your Pain, Tell God About It

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19a NCV).

Think you’ve had a bad day?

The biblical character of Job had a Ph.D. in pain and loss.

In the very first chapter of Job, after everything fell apart in his life, “Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped”(Job 1:20 GW).

Job expressed his pain to God. When you have a major loss in your life, the first thing you need to do is tell God exactly how you feel.

This may surprise you, but God can handle your anger and frustration. He can handle your emotions. Why? Because he gave them to you. You were made in the image of God, and he is an emotional God.

When your 2-year-old has a temper tantrum and beats on your knees, you can handle that. In the same way, God is bigger than your emotion, and it’s okay to tell him exactly how you feel. When you prayed for a promotion but it didn’t happen, when a loved one walks out of your life, when you get the dreaded call saying, “It’s cancer,” you can tell God, “I’m mad. I’m upset. I’m sick. I’m frustrated. I’m ticked off. I doubt.” God can handle your complaints, your questions, your fear, and your grief. God’s love for you is bigger than all of your emotions.

My kids know I love them. They know that I’ve been on this planet longer than they have and that I’ve had more experience than they have. But my children sometimes question my judgment. Can you believe that?

I’d rather have an honest, gut-level conversation with them than have them stuff their frustration and disappointment inside. God is the same way! He would rather have you wrestle with him in anger than walk away in detached apathy.

The right response to unexplained tragedy is not “grin and bear it.” Lamentations 2:19a says, “Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (NCV).

Trials: When God Calls You Out

SOURCE:  Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:9

If we don’t sometimes feel like we’re “in over our heads,” it may be that we’re not following Jesus where he calls us.

Paul names it the “sentence of death” — that’s how he felt about the sufferings and complexities of his ministry. It was true affliction, a burden so heavy that he admits he lacked the strength to carry it. He was sinking, despairing even of life itself. The apostle Paul — to the extreme — was “in over his head.” And God did this in order to, as Paul says, “make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

The situations that stretch us come in varying degrees. Some are intense like Paul’s, others are scattered along the spectrum of the great unknown, where fear runs rampant and our faith feels small. But whatever they are, however hard they feel, we know why they come. It’s just what Paul says.

God brings trials into our lives to give us more of himself. Their purpose is that we might not rely on ourselves — not look to ourselves for salvation or hope or joy — but that we might rely on him. The purpose is that we would lean on God, that we’d fix our eyes on his glory, clinging to the truth that in Jesus he is always enough for us. Always.

This is the truth that resounds in the depths to which God calls us. He invites us to step out and follow him. To dream. To plan. To build. He invites us to put our hands to work for his name’s sake, not based upon our expertise or know-how or giftedness. He invites us here based upon who he is himself.

“His sovereign hand is our guide. His heart of mercy is our anchor. He will make our faith stand.”

He invites us here because he knows that it is here, unlike anywhere else, that our souls must rest in his embrace. It’s here, above and beyond every other place, where his children must grasp the wonder of what it means to be his own. Because of the cross and victory of Jesus, we are his and he is ours. We are his people and he is our God. We are his children and he is our Father. He is enough.

And he will prove his enough-ness to us. He will show us time and time again that all we need is found in him. All that we lack finds an abundance in his grace. Yes, we would fail. The weight is too much and, like Paul, we can’t carry this in our own strength. But God is here. His sovereign hand is our guide. His heart of mercy is our anchor. He will make our faith stand. He will be our God in Jesus Christ.

And so, let us go. Let us step out, following him farther than our feet could ever wander. Let us walk upon those waters, in over our heads, not relying on ourselves, but holding fast to him, trusting in him, casting all our hope on him. Because he really is enough.

The Basics for Living a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

(1) The most important decision in life is the one made by you concerning Jesus Christ.

God has said that everyone who sins must pay the penalty for his/her sins, and there is no one, including you, who is righteous and free from sin. There is no payment you can possibly make, nor nothing that you could do that would satisfy a Holy and Just God. The penalty or payment due for your sin is eternal death and separation from God – forever.

The only hope you have is to recognize you are a lost, helpless sinner before God, be genuinely sorrowful, and ask God for forgiveness. Then you must realize that God loves you so much that He planned and provided for you a once-for-all-time opportunity to accept His forgiveness, His free gift of eternal life, and adoption into His family.

You do this by believing in and accepting the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior and Lord of your life. Jesus, being the sinless and perfect God-Man, willingly took upon Himself your penalty for sin (as your substitute) thereby completely satisfying God’s righteous-holy wrath against you. Jesus died acually to pay for your every personal sin – past, present, future. Jesus was resurrected from the dead which showed God’s approval and acceptance for what He did for you.

After you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord and, as a result, are eternally saved and now are in a “forever relationship” with God, there are some important next steps to begin growth and maturity in Christ:  (a) be water-baptized – an outward sign of the inward cleansing you have received; (b) become active in worshipping God in a Christ-centered church; (c) daily, call upon Jesus for the filling of the Holy Spirit, strength, guidance, and empowerment to live as He requires in the following key areas, which will lead to a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly life:

(2) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your (spouse/others) as you love yourself.

(3) Seek to know God, His Ways, and His Word before anything else – even more than desiring solutions to your problems. Trust that the Lord knows you and your needs better than you do.

(4) Seek knowledge, wisdom, and understanding from the Holy Spirit.

(5) Invite the Holy Spirit to totally empower and control you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

(6) Pray continually. Meditate and fast. Seek to be joyful/content always, giving thanks for God’s loving control in sending or allowing all circumstances in your life. Choose to believe in God’s goodness no matter what the circumstances.

(7) Choose to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Continually ask Christ for forgiveness of your daily sins He makes you aware of. By faith, receive and give thanks for His forgiveness.

(8) Think of others as better than yourself. Do nothing out of selfish ambition/pride. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.

(9) Excel in the grace of giving – time, money, and devotion/worship to God. Allow yourself to be a living sacrifice to God.

(10) Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Think about whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, good. Avoid anger, rage, filthy language, sexual immorality, evil desires, greed.

(11) Mutually submit to each other. Husband-love your wife as yourself and even sacrificially as Christ loved you enough to suffer and die for you. Wife-respect and submit to the position your husband has been placed in just as Christ submits to the Father. Parent-be reasonable in your love and discipline toward your child(ren) – avoid extremes. You must honor and respect all those in authority over you as well as those who are under you.

(12) Bless and pray for any that mistreat you. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Allow love to cover many shortcomings of others. Do not repay evil for evil. Let God repay as He determines.

(13) Trust in the Lord always; Do not depend on your own understanding; acknowledge Him in everything and all circumstances. Realize your powerlessness to face any issue, and look only to God for guidance, help, and hope.

(14) Choose Life over Death (right over wrong) in every life situation. Trust God to bring your choice about and make it happen. Realize the Lord is your life.

(15) Seek to live and act holy just as God is holy. Seek to fear/honor/respect God and keep His commandments. Don’t grow weary in doing good.

Reference Notes

1) Joel 2:32. Mt. 16:16. Lk. 1:77-78. Jn. 3:16-18, 36; 5:24; 6:29, 40; 8:24; 14:6; 20:31. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; 10:43; 13:39; 15:11; 16:31; 22:16; 26:18. Rom. 3:10-12, 20, 22-26; 4:22- 25; 5:1, 6, 8; 6:9-10; 8:1-2, 24a; 10:9-10, 13. 2 Cor. 5:21; 7:10. Gal. 2:15-16; 3:13-14. Eph. 1:3-8; 2:8-9. Col. 1:21-22; 2:13-14. 2 Thess. 1:8-9. 1 Tim. 2:3-6. 2 Tim. 1:9-10; 3:15. Tit. 3:5-8. Heb. 5:8; 9:12, 22; 7:25-27; 10:10, 25. 1 Pet. 3:18. 1 Jn.3:1a; 4:9-10; 5:1, 11-12, 17.

2) Deut. 6:5; 10:12-13. Mt. 10:37-39; 22:36-40. Mk. 12:30-31. Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

3) Job 28:24. Ps. 119:11, 168. Mt. 6:8, 25-33; Lk. 12:31. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 3:16-19; 5:10, 17. 2 Pet. 3:3-8.

4) Prov. 2:6, 13-15; 8:10; 16:16. Col. 1:9-12; 2:2-3. Jas. 1:5.

5) Jn. 16:13. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 5:18.

6) Job 42:1-2. Ps. 119:68; 136:1. Eccles. 12:14. Mt. 6:17-18; 7:7-8; 17:21. Rom. 8:28; 12:12. Eph. 3:12. Phil. 4:4-7, 11-13, 19. Col. 4:2. 1 Thess. 5:16-18. 1 Tim. 6:6-10. Jas. 5:11. Heb. 13:5. I Pet. 5:6-7. Ps. 119:48, 78, 97.

7) Ps. 103:1-5. Mic. 7:18-19. Mt. 6:9-14. Lk. 11:4a. Eph. 4:30, 32. Col. 3:13-14. Heb. 12:15. 1 Jn. 1:9-10.

8) Rom. 12:3, 9. Gal. 6:3-5. Eph. 4:31. Phil. 2:3. Col. 3:1-10. 1 Thess. 5:21-22. 2 Tim. 2:22. Jas. 4:7-8a.

9) Rom. 12:1. 2 Cor. 7: 16b; 8:7; 9:6-15.

10) Gal. 5:22-23. Eph. 4:2. Phil. 4:8. Col. 3:2, 5, 8, 12.

11) Eph. 5:21-6:9. Col. 3:18-4:1. Heb. 13:17. 1 Pet. 1:13, 18; 3:1-8.

12) Mt. 5:44. Rom. 12:14, 17-21. 2 Thess. 1:6-7a. 2 Tim. 4:14. Jas. 1:19. 1 Pet. 3:9; 4:8.

13) 2 Chron. 20:12, 15. Job 41:11b. Prov. 3:5-6. Ezek. 37:1-14. Dan. 3:16-18. Hab. 3:17-19. Jn. 5:16-18. Rom. 15:13. 2 Cor. 12:9, 10b. Gal. 2:20; 3:3; 5:16-18. Heb. 4:7-8.

14) Deut. 6:18; 30:11-20. Eph. 1:11b. Phil. 2:12-13. Heb. 13:20-21.

15) Lev. 19:2. Eccles. 12:13. Is. 40:28-31. Mt. 5:48. 2 Cor. 13:11a. Gal. 6:9. Eph. 5:1-2. Phil. 1:9-11. 2 Thess. 3:13. Heb. 12:14. 1 Pet. 1:15.

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